Sharon Galgay Ketcham (Gordon College): Christian Theologians to Read and Follow

Sharon Galgay Ketcham (Gordon College): Christian Theologians to Read and Follow November 30, 2020

Sharon Galgay Ketcham, Professor of Theology and Christian Ministries, Gordon College, MA

Why do you love teaching and researching about Christian theology?

I love teaching theology to undergrads for two reasons. First, it provides an opportunity to introduce them to the long and varied ways in which Christians have made sense of faith and life. For many students, they are familiar with the biblical narrative and some theological terms. Yet when they learn about the early councils, the differences between a sacrament and ordinance, or the multiple reforms that were part of the Reformation era they often feel introduced to their unknown family story.

Second, students frequently have negative experiences with theology and equate it with arguing. I try to teach a generous approach for engaging across theological differences, which I hope alters their posture with others (and my own). Researching theology is an opportunity for me to stand on the shoulders of the Christian tradition. I get to retrieve what we’ve forgotten, repent over damaging errors, and construct meaningful ways to call the Church to faithfulness in response to the Gospel. What an honor! As a practical theologian, informing lived Christian faith is always my focus.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

There is a new misconception of the church as a service such that Christian fellowship can be reduced to a mere benefit for personal spiritual gain. I hope to inform free church ecclesiology by describing the essential, reciprocal relationship among people of faith. If God is forming a people, and the Spirit moves among us, I want to reinterpret and construct Christian practices that are community-forming. This is true evangelism!

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

Just one? >Sigh<…Moltmann – he looks at the theological terrain, assesses it, finds missteps, roots his work in liberation, and constructs a path for us to build upon. The Coming of God is an excellent example of this.

What books were formative for you when you were a student?  Why were they so important and shaping?

Undergrad: Charles, Sheldon, In His Steps – I grew up in a mix of mainline and conservative Protestant circles. The divide between evangelism and justice was quite evident! Reading this book helped heal the divide and begin making sense of the radical implication of the Gospel.
Grad: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorium Communio – Our “differing wills” are the location for Christ’s ongoing redemptive work among us.

Read Ketcham’s Work

Reciprocal Church

The church faces an unprecedented loss of rising generations. Young adults who were active and engaged in the local church are more frequently leaving the community behind after high school. What can we do? Responding to these concerning statistics, Sharon Galgay Ketcham reflects theologically on the church community and its role in forming faith. She exposes problems in the way leaders conceive of and teach about the relationship between personal faith and the local church, and offers fresh solutions in the form of values and practices that can shape a community into a place where faith will flourish in those both young and old.

Follow Ketcham Online

If you ran into me at a conference and didn’t want to talk theology, what would you want to talk about?

I really enjoy cooking especially with my kids. During quarantine we’ve had fun making homemade tortillas and soups. Next up: homemade pasta. I also just really like my teenage kids. 🙂

What is a research/writing project you are working on right now that you are excited about?

Following the four community-forming values in Reciprocal Church, I will define practices related to memory, mutuality, contribution, and maturity. For example, reinterpreting the practice of hospitality with mutuality pushes me to define roles of BOTH guest and host and when to pivot between them.

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