I have just heard the very sad news that one of the giants among Methodist scholars has gone to be with the Lord today. It was already a sad day due to the loss of John Glenn, a hero of a different sort. But Tom, whom I knew personally, was a hero of the faith. Having cut his teeth on liberal theology, a Jewish friend, colleague, and mentor told him at one point– ‘you’ll never amount to much until you immerse yourself in the great wealth of the Patristic Fathers’. Tom took this to heart, and did just that. Indeed, he helped launch the project of bringing those fathers to a current audience on a level they could digest in the Ancient Christian Commentators series (IV Press). And on the basis of that, he went on to produce a Systematic Theology enriched from that immersion in Fathers like the Cappadocians and my personal favorite John Chrysostom. Tom even coined a phrase for what he was producing— paleo-orthodoxy— the old old song, sung in new theological language.
In some ways I wish Tom had been granted two lifetimes. While he was a strong supporter of Evangelical Methodism and the Good News Movement and the John Wesley Fellows, there was not world enough and time for him to produce for us a good Wesleyan theology at a scholarly level. Indeed, we are still awaiting such a work, not least because we are still producing annotated edition of John Wesley’s works— a project I helped get launched working with Frank Baker at Duke to get Methodist Church to support. Perhaps it will fall to the next generation of scholars, perhaps to a John Wesley Fellow, to finally produce a work the equal to Luther’s great tomes, or Calvin’s Institutes once we get the whole annotated works in print. We live in hope.
In the meanwhile, we will sorely miss you Tom. You were a good model of how to be a committed orthodox Christian while being irenic and open to dialogue. I imagine about now, you are happy to be hearing the words of the one you loved the most say to you— ‘Well done good and faithful servant, inherit the Kingdom.’