Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Announcing Sources of Light: Resources for Baptist Churches Practicing Theology

The National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion​ has announced the publication of Sources of Light: Resources for Baptist Churches Practicing Theology, which Amy L. Chilton and I co-edited and co-authored along with 21 other contributors. The book is the third volume in the Perspectives on Baptist Identities series sponsored by the NABPR and will be released by Mercer University Press​ this May. As the release date nears, Ecclesial Theology will share more information about the book; in the meantime, see the NABPR web site for details.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Receptive Ecumenism and the Reconstruction of Christian Identity in Christian Higher Education

My essay "Receptive Ecumenism and the Reconstruction of Christian Identity in Christian Higher Education” has been published in the Easter 2019 issue of The Cresset: A Review of Literature, the Arts, and Public Affairs. It's adapted from my plenary address for the National Conference of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts at Hope College, Holland, MI, October 13, 2018. The contents of the whole issue are linked here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Women in the Baptist/Free Church Tradition course

The School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University is offering a new “hybrid format” Master of Divinity course (online delivery plus 3 face-to-face class meetings) in the Summer 2019 term:
Women in the Baptist/Free Church Tradition (3 credits)
Dr. Amy Chilton (Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Wingate University and Adjunct Professor of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary) and Dr. Steven Harmon (Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity), professors
This course will explore the role of women in the life of the church in the Baptist and broader Free Church tradition, including but not limited to the role of women in ordained ministry. The three face-to-face meetings will be held on Gardner-Webb’s Charlotte Campus on the following three Saturdays, 9:00 AM-noon: June 8, June 29, and July 20. Assignments will include readings, online and face-to-face discussion, written papers, and oral presentations (no exams). The course content will include interaction with the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE) on the theme “TogetHER: Re-Imagining, Re-Reading HERstory in the Church” sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance in Nassau, Bahamas, July 5-7, 2019. Co-professor Dr. Amy Chilton is one of the BICTE program personalities.
(Plenary sessions of BICTE will be available via online video; travel to the BICTE meeting is encouraged, but not required—students will have access to presentations online, and no institutional travel funding is available for the course.)
This course satisfies general elective requirements for all M.Div. concentrations and designated elective requirements in historical and theological studies in some concentrations. There are no prerequisites, and it may be taken for credit by “special students” who meet admission requirements but are not yet seeking admission to the M.Div. degree program. Prospective students interested in admission to this course as special students should contact Kheresa Harmon, Director of Admissionskharmon@gardner-webb.edu, 704-406-3205. The registration deadline is May 20, 2019.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

National Association of Baptist Professor of Religion 2018 annual meeting at Gardner-Webb University

The 2018 annual meeting of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion will be hosted by Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, May 21-23, 2018. Below is the latest update to the program for the meeting, with registration and lodging information.

The National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion

Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC

May 21-23, 2018

Greetings from the Executive Secretary-Treasurer

Welcome to the Annual May Meeting of NABPR.
Save the date for 2019:  Campbell University School of Law has committed to host our meeting on May 20 – 22, 2019.  The 2019 meeting will be a joint meeting with the Baptist History and Heritage Society.
The November meeting in Boston was successful.  Mark your calendar for November 17.  Dr. Nancy Ammerman did a wonderful job as our plenary speaker.  We plan to keep the Saturday morning tradition alive in Denver.
Many thanks go to Doug Weaver, our President, and the Gardner-Webb University faculty and staff who have worked hard to bring about another successful meeting.  The online registration and payment portal made the logistics much easier.
I look forward to seeing you in Boiling Springs.
Daniel Mynatt
Executive Secretary-Treasurer 

Greetings from Gardner-Webb University

Gardner-Webb University had the privilege of hosting the Annual May Meeting of the NABPR in 2011, and we are delighted to do so again this year. Welcome to Boiling Springs, North Carolina and the Gardner-Webb campus. We hope you enjoy the conference and your time in our town and the surrounding area in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Steven R. Harmon
Associate Professor of Historical Theology
Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity
NABPR Vice President



Conference Fee:  Before May 1: $95. | After May 1: $125.
All graduate student registration is compliments of NABPR.
We regret that on-campus housing is not available for this meeting; There are multiple hotel options. The first hotel listed is located near the Gardner-Webb campus and has a block of rooms reserved for our conference at a discounted rate.
The registration fee covers the conference meetings, the banquet on Monday, lunch on Tuesday, light breakfast on Tuesday and Wednesday, and coffee breaks.
If you wish to bring a guest to Monday’s banquet, the cost is $22.50 per unregistered guest. This option is available through the online registration.
All conference sessions will take place in the Tucker Student Center, located on Lake Hollifield between the Ernest W. Spangler Football Stadium and the Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center.
Plenty of unrestricted parking will be available adjacent to Tucker Student Center in the large parking lot in front of Lutz-Yelton Convocation Center as well as in other spaces designated for visitor parking in lots throughout the campus.
For those traveling by air, the Gardner-Webb University campus is located 47 miles from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (estimated 55 min. drive) and 47 miles from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (estimated 59 min. drive).
If you have questions or concerns, email Danny Mynatt at dmynatt@umhb.edu.  Danny will forward your question to the appropriate person.

Monday, May 21

  • 3:00-6:00 — Registration/Check-in (Faith Hall Foyer, Tucker Student Center)

  • 3:30-5:00 — Executive Committee Meeting (Room 353, Tucker Student Center)

  • 6:00 — Dinner: Stewart Hall (Tucker Student Center)

    • Program:
      • Joseph S. Moore, Assistant Professor of History, Chair of the Department of Social Sciences, and Special Assistant to the Provost for Academic Enhancement at Gardner-Webb University and author of Founding Sins: How a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2015).
The Break Area for the conference will be located in the Foyer outside Stewart Hall in Tucker Student Center.

Tuesday morning, May 22

  • 8:00-8:30am — Continental Breakfast — Stewart Hall foyer, Tucker Student Center

  • 8:30–10:15 — Tuesday, May 22 –Session I

    • Old Testament I — Chapel (Room 228, Tucker Student Center) — Presiding: Gerald Keown
      • The Theology of Joel in Aimee Semple McPherson’s Sermons and Writings
        Lacy K. Crocker Papadakis
        Baylor University, Doctoral Student
      • Hawkman, Wonder Woman, and Manasseh: the Contextualization of a Figure
        P. Scott Henson
        Gardner-Webb University
      • The Ascension of Enoch and Muhammad: A Comparative Analysis of 2 Enoch and the Bukhari Hadith
        Zachary J. Dey
        Gardner-Webb University, Master of Divinity/ Master of Arts Student
    • New Testament I — Hope Hall (Tucker Student Center) —  Presiding: Jim McConnell
      • Echoes of Exodus in the Epistle to the Hebrews
        David M. Moffitt
        University of St Andrews
      • Mercy as “Clemency”: Paul’s “Mercy” Language against a Roman Imperial Backdrop
        Gregory M. Barnhill
        Baylor University, Doctoral Student
      • A Shift in Eschatological Thought from The Similitudes to Mark 13
        Jeremiah Hamby
        Gardner-Webb University, Master of Divinity/ Master of Arts in Religion Student
    • Church History I — Room 139 (TSC) — Presiding: Glenn Jonas
      • Reclaiming the Bible: Martin Luther and LGBTQ+ Inclusion
        Adam Peeler
        MacAfee School of Theology, Master of Divinity Student
      • Baptist Theological Education and the Politics of Space
        Andrew Gardner
        Florida State University, Doctoral Student
    • Theology I  —  Room 141 —  Presiding: Kent Blevins
      • Watery Vulnerability and Impious Resistance:  Perpetua’s Martyrdom, Our Baptism
        Mark S. Medley
        Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
      • Relational Theopsychology: Trinitarian Theology and Matrixial Anthropology for Psychosocial Transformation.
        Matthew Beal
        Boston University School of Theology, Doctoral Student 
      • Sharing in Salvation: The Ritualizing Martyrdom and Eucharist in Early Christianity
        Kenneth A. Vandergriff
        Florida State University, Doctoral Student
    • Pedagogy I —  Room 353 —  Presiding: Tim Crawford
      • Privilege and “Standard” English:  Reframing Expectations of Student Writing
        Dalen C. Jackson
        Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
      • Which Way has the Pendulum Swung? Exploring Biblical Ignorance vs. a Fundamentalist Shift in Students in Baptist Higher Education
        Amy Stumpf
        California Baptist University
      • The Telos of Theological Education: Knowledge or Formation?
        Seth Heringer
        Toccoa Falls College

  • 10:30-1:15 —  Tuesday, May 22 — Plenary Session I

    • Annual Business Session
    • Lunch
  • 10:30-11:45  —    Plenary Session I   —   Room: Stewart Hall (Tucker Student Center) 

A Multi-Disciplinary Response to Ryan Andrew Newson's Inhabiting the World: Identity, Politics, and Theology in Radical Baptist Perspective (Perspectives on Baptist Identities series; Mercer University Press, 2018)
Presiding:  Alicia Myers, Campbell University
  • Panelists:
    • Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University (Historical Theology)
    • Diane Lipsett, Salem College (New Testament)
    • Kristopher Norris, Wesley Theological Seminary (Ethics and Public Theology)
    • Amy L. Chilton, Azusa Pacific University (Systematic Theology)
    • Ryan Andrew Newson, Campbell University (Theology and Ethics)
  • 11:50-12:15  — Business Session
  • 12:15-1:15 — Lunch — Location: Faith Hall (Tucker Student Center)

  • 1:30-3:15 —  Tuesday, May 22 —  Session II

    • Old Testament  II —  Chapel (Room 228, Tucker Student Center) — Presiding: W. H. Bellinger, Jr.
      • Enemies and Evildoers in Book V of the Psalter W. H. Bellinger, Jr.
        Baylor University
      • Violence and Lament in the Digital Age: A Year of Teaching Psalm 137 Online Kim Bodenhamer
        University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
      • Sing It Again, Psalm: The Rhetorical Dynamics of Story and Refrain in Psalm 136 Rebecca W. Poe Hays
        Baylor University, Doctoral Student
    • New Testament II  —  Chapel Room 228 (Tucker Student Center) — Presiding: Mitchell Reddish
      • Jesus the Anti-Prophet (?) Cody Carpenter
        McAfee School of Theology, Master of Divinity Student
      • Subjecting and Confining: The Language of Conflict and the Structure of Romans 1–11 Scott C. Ryan
        Baylor University
    • Church History II  — Spectrum Theater, Room 139 (Tucker Student Center)— Presiding: James Byrd
      • The Gospel in Flames: Lynching and Orthodoxy Glenn Jonas
        Campbell University
      • David Gordon Lyon (1852-1935): Forgotten Baptist Scholar, Adopted Harvard Son, Faithful Friend and Colleague Mikeal Parsons
        Baylor University
      • Harry Marsh Warren and the Baptist Roots of Modern Suicide Prevention John Inscore Essick
        Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
    • Theology II — Room 141 (Tucker Student Center) — Presiding: Mark Medley
      • Humans as Animal Loquens; or Recovering James McClendon’s Lost Strand Brandon Morgan
        Baylor University, Doctoral Student
      • Recovering the Spirit of Ubuntu: Toward an African Political Theology Jackson Adamah
        Duke Divinity School, Master of Theology Student
  • 3:30 – 5:00 — Tuesday, May 22 — Plenary II

  • Plenary Session II — Room: Stewart Hall, Tucker Student Center
  • Race, Memory, and Violence in the Future of Baptist Studies: Latino/a, Black, and White Perspectives

    • Presiding:  Doug Weaver, Baylor University
    • Panelists:
      • João Chaves, Baptist University of the Américas
      • Malcolm Foley, Baylor University, Doctoral Student
      • Christopher Moore, Catawba Valley Community College
    • Response:  Doug Weaver, Baylor University
  • 5:15 — Tuesday Evening, May 22 — Free Time and Dinner on your own

  • 8:00-8:30AM  — Wednesday Morning, May 23 

    • 8:00-8:30AM — Continental Breakfast —  Stewart Hall foyer, Tucker Student Center

  • 8:30-10:15  — Wednesday, May 23 —  Session III

    • Practical Studies I  — Room 141 (Tucker Student Center)— Presiding: Eric Holleyman

      •  Preaching by Immersion: Homiletics for the Age of Virtual Reality Jennifer Garcia Bashaw
        Campbell University
      • Feeling the Weight: Re-Conceiving a Baptist Theology of Ordination After #MeToo Kathryn H. House
        Boston University School of Theology, Doctoral Fellow
      • Blessing or Blessed? Toward an Ethic of Hospitable Service
        Tom LeGrand
        Gardner-Webb University
    • Old Testament III  — Room Hope Hall (Tucker Student Center) — Presiding: Kim Bodenhamer

      • The Makings of a Despondent Queen: An Analysis of Esther 2:12-18 Mariah Q. Richardson
        Gardner-Webb University, Master of Divinity/Master of Arts in Religion Student
      • Comparing Rhetoric in Art and Text: Considering the Rhetorical Function of Images Richard Purcell
        Emory University, Doctoral Student
    • Theology III — Room: Room 228 (Tucker Student Center) —  Presiding: Ryan Andrew Newson

      • Baptists Hearing Voices and Seeing Things: Imagining Radical Practices of Local Church Theology Amy L. Chilton, Fuller Theological Seminary/Azusa Pacific University and Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity
      • Aquinas on Grace and Altruism Daniel W. Houck
        Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Research Fellow at the Henry Center
    • Church History III — Room 139 (Tucker Student Center) — Presiding: Loyd Allen

      • According to Luther: The Nature, Role, and Purpose of Women Joe Early
        Campbellsville University
      • Martin Luther’s Influence on the Religious Education of Children: The Centrality of the Gospel and Laity Involvement in Faith Development
        Emily Buck
        Fuller Theological Seminary, Doctoral Student
  • 10:30-12:00 — Wednesday morning, May 23 – Plenary Session III

    • Plenary Session III  — Stewart Hall, (Tucker Student Center)  —  Presiding: W.H. Bellinger, Jr.

      • Panel: Discussion of Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons, Acts of the Apostles Through the Centuries (Wiley, 2016)
      • Panelists:
        • John Essick, Baptist Seminary at Kentucky
        • Alicia Myers, Campbell University
        • Scott Shauf, Gardner Webb University
      • Response: Mikeal Parsons, Baylor University
Save the Date!
2019 Annual Meeting

May 20 - 22, 2019
Campbell University 
School of Law 
Raleigh, NC

Monday, June 5, 2017

Feeding Christ's Lambs, Teaching Theology, and Carrying the Cross

Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs
Yesterday I returned home from Rhode Island, where at Salve Regina University in Newport I participated in a joint meeting of the College Theology Society (an organization of predominantly Catholic professors of theology) and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion Region-at Large (program viewable via preceding hyperlink). On Saturday evening of this conference each year those in attendance participate together in the Catholic Mass, at which the Baptist scholars are not able to receive the Eucharist but instead receive a blessing from the priest. On Friday evening each year there is a joint evening prayer service planned by the Baptists but with scholars from both organizations leading various acts of worship. I was asked to share a meditation for this service based on the Scripture readings specified in the daily lectionary in the missal for June 2, which was also the feast commemorating Saints Marcellinus and Peter, early fourth-century martyrs. Below is the prepared text for the meditation I shared:

Feeding Christ's Lambs, Teaching Theology, and Carrying the Cross (John 21:15-19)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Our lesson from John’s gospel is significant—significant in more ways than one. But its significance isn’t necessarily in the exegetical details. Some interpreters find significance in the different Greek verbs for loving in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter, and in the varied language for feeding and tending and lambs and sheep, but that’s not what seems most significant here. I’m convinced by the commentators who contend that these words function synonymously, and their message is this: the one who loves Jesus will take good care of the people who belong to Jesus.

It’s significant in light of the nature of our gathering that Peter in particular is the one who’s told this, that Peter in particular must express his love for Jesus by taking good care of the people who belong to Jesus. We are Catholic theologians and Baptist theologians, and it goes without saying that we have differing perspectives on the question of Petrine primacy (and some of those differences may be with each other within our respective communions!). But it’s not a uniquely Catholic position that here and elsewhere in the New Testament Jesus is commissioning Peter to a distinctive role of leadership in the church. Many Protestants, Baptists among them, have been glad to take up Pope John Paul II’s invitation to engage in a “patient and fraternal dialogue” about how the Petrine office might serve the whole church. But the patristic interpreters of this text didn’t relate Jesus’ charge to Peter to feed and tend sheep and lambs to the question of primacy. For them, this text was about the bishop’s responsibility to serve the church through pastoral care, which included not only the ministerial practices of presence and comfort and counsel, but also catechesis—teaching. Not all of us are clergy, but as Catholic and Baptist theologians we do have a certain function as doctores ecclesiae, teachers of the church, in our varied institutional contexts.

In that connection, in relation to our shared work as teachers of theology, doing our own work of feeding Christ’s sheep, there’s something significant about where Jesus says the task of feeding his sheep will take Peter. And that brings us to the literally significant language in our text. Jesus says to Peter, “‘When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,

and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.” In this Gospel full of signs, surely this is the oldest reference in Christian literature to that which symbolizes the cross—in this case, hands outstretched in cruciform posture signifying a death like Christ’s death. There’s no sign more symbolic of the essence of the Christian life than the sign of the cross. I began this meditation with the ancient practice of the sign of the cross, first attested by Tertullian but no doubt practiced long before. Many of the earliest symbols in Christian art signified the cross—Christ as the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep, carrying a sheep across the shoulders as if the beam of a cross; the anchor; the chi-rho symbol. Perhaps the earliest was the orant. The orant was originally a figure of a pagan priest with arms outstretched in prayer, but Christians repurposed it as a figure whose very posture in prayer is cruciform, imagining the life of prayer as one of the ways we take up our cross and follow Jesus.

The New Testament offers us two overarching paradigms of the Christian life—the cross and the resurrection. We’re almost through our seventh week of celebrating resurrection. But at the end of the final week of Eastertide it’s appropriate that we be reminded that the dominant paradigm for the Christian life, this side of our own resurrection, is the cross. Today the sanctoral reminds us of that. June 2 is a feast day commemorating two early fourth-century martyrs, Saint Marcellinus, a priest, and Saint Peter the Exorcist. We know little about them, besides their beheading in Rome during the persecution under Diocletian and the traditional location of their tomb in the Roman catacombs that bear their name. But they’re familiar to many because they’re named among the martyrs invoked in Eucharistic Prayer I in the Missal, just before Felicity and Perpetua.

What might it mean for our vocations as theologians to be cruciform? How might the martyrdoms of St. Peter the Apostle and Saints Marcellinus and Peter the Exorcist serve as examples for the way we take good care of the people who belong to Jesus? How might we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus in our teaching, in our research and writing, in our various forms of service to both academy and church? Are we willing for our theological vocation to lead us where we do not want to go, stretching out our arms in following our crucified Lord for the sake of the other, in a world that seems more and more averse to welcoming the other?

With very specific application: what might it mean for us to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to be led where we may not want to go, in taking on the brokenness that Jesus continues to suffer over the brokenness of his body—the brokenness that we have inflicted on Jesus through the divisions that we’ve inflicted on one another, the body of Christ? Tomorrow we’ll experience that brokenness at the Eucharistic table that we will not share. And so will Jesus. As my Baptist theologian friend Curtis Freeman who’s here with us said to me earlier this week, if anything’s going to change about that, it will have to be the church’s theologians who insist on raising the question and challenging our failures in working toward one Eucharistic fellowship. Might that be one way we can take up our cross and follow Jesus in our teaching vocations, so that Jesus’ lambs might be fed?

If we are reconciled to God in one body through the cross, as the writer of Ephesians suggests, taking up the cross ourselves is how we participate in the reconciling, one-body-making work of God. The cruciformity of the Christian life is an ecumenically shared conviction, and it’s an ecumenically shared set of practices. If we love Jesus, we will take good care of the people who belong to Jesus by teaching these things and practicing these things, that together we might join God in God’s reconciling, one-body-making work in the world. May it be so, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future's release anniversary

My book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community was officially released by Baylor University Press a year ago today. Since then I've enjoyed opportunities to speak about the book and participate in conversations engendered by it (and continue to be available for such opportunities). I've also appreciated the reviews that have begun to appear. Some are available online: An issue of the Pacific Journal of Baptist Research published extended responses to the book by David Wilhite, Amy L. Chilton Thompson, Courtney Pace, and Andrew Christopher Smith, and the American Academy of Religion's review site Reading Religion recently published a review by Spencer Boersma. Other reviews are in press in print journals. Excerpts from some reviews are gathered on the book's page on the Baylor University Press site, from which the book may be ordered; it's also available via Amazon.

Monday, February 27, 2017

AAR's Reading Religion reviews Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future

The American Academy of Religion's online review site Reading Religion has published a review of my book Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community (Baylor University Press) by Spencer Boersma. Excerpts from the review appear below:

Steven R. Harmon’s Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future: Story, Tradition, and the Recovery of Community is perhaps the most constructive proposal of ecumenical reflection for Baptists to date.

Anyone acquainted with Harmon’s work will know that this is not a recent interest. In particular, his work, Towards Baptist Catholicity (Pasternoster, 2006), can be regarded as this book’s prequel. In Toward Baptist Catholicity, Harmon proposed a recovery of the authority of tradition and its content (i.e., the use of creeds, church fathers, sacramental theology, liturgy, etc.) in wider theological discussion and shows how Baptists are already indebted to this. Thus, a more conscious retrieval of tradition in Baptist theology will be beneficial. Now ten years later, Harmon presents a more refined proposal....

....Harmon’s book offers the research and wisdom of a Baptist thinker at the forefront of ecumenical work. His methodical analysis of Baptist history and ecumenical documents, coupled with practical constructive proposals for congregations to change, has made this book original, essential, and necessary to the future of Baptist life. (read the full review at Reading Religion)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Baptist World Alliance news: statement on refugees; dialogue with World Methodist Council

The Baptist World Alliance, the Christian world communion to which I belong, has issued two press releases this week of interest to readers of Ecclesial Theology.

Today (February 3) the BWA issued a statement on refugees that "decries recent actions by the United States Government to issue a blanket travel ban on seven countries that specifically targets refugees and that seems to especially affect Muslims" (click on hyperlink for full statement).

Earlier this week delegations from the BWA and the World Methodist Council convened in Jamaica for the fourth annual session of a five-year bilateral ecumenical dialogue between the two communions, February 1-8 (click on hyperlink for press release).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why I marched in the Women's March

I've never before participated in a public demonstration, but today I marched with my wife and son in the Women's March on Charlotte, North Carolina. I did so because I'm trying to follow Jesus in a culture in which patriarchy is still a thing--a thing that has manifested itself in truly nasty ways recently. I marched to show solidarity with my wife and all women who have been demeaned by this nastiness. I marched because I want my son to grow up to regard women as equals and treat them with respect. It was a small symbolic act, but signs can be effective. (Here I'm echoing language some theologians have employed with reference to the sacraments as "effective signs"--symbols that have an effect upon the lives of those who participate in these symbolic acts of worship.) I hope and pray that these symbolic acts of solidarity that took place in over 60 countries around the world today (even on Antarctica!) will have a transformative effect on our world.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A vision incompatible with Christian faith and faithfulness

Earlier this afternoon America and the world heard and read President Trump announce in his inaugural address that "from this day forward a new vision will govern our land." If the new vision is that "from this day forward it's going to be only 'America first! America first!'," American Christians must reject and resist it from the outset. For followers of Christ, our vision in relation to the polis is summarized in the Epistle to Diognetus in the 2nd century AD: "[Christians] live in their respective countries, but only as resident aliens; they participate in all things as citizens, and they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign territory is a homeland for them, every homeland foreign territory."

Therefore we must reject and resist also this expression of the new vision: "At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, 'How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.'" NO! Our total allegiance is to Christ alone, and then comes our obligation to the global community--God's world in which God's reconciling work is to make the community for which God created the world--of which our national community is a part, and only then our national community in relation to those larger loyalties. There must be no giving it a chance and seeing how it goes--the vision has been clearly articulated, and it is one incompatible with Christian faith and faithfulness.