Alternative Narrative, Part 2

“After graduation from college I was hired/called to be the Minister of Christian Education at a church in Burien/Seattle. I found the senior minister to be crude and boarish. Simultaneously, I was discovering how very introverted I am and, although I did not know it at the time, how deeply wounded I was by my first 18 years. This woundedness is the stuff I have felt OK about sharing through all of these years. The intellectual context in which I raised myself I have kept to myself. I realized that my background was not appreciated by my colleagues at college or by the people in the pews. So, I threw my thoughts into dormancy except in papers or private conversations with professors and a very small group of friends.

“I hit my stride in seminary. I pulled out all the stops and spoke as loud and as obnoxiously as I possibly could. The first semester was intended, I am sure, to intimidate us and to weed out those who just didn’t have ‘the stuff.’ I really enjoyed learning about Tillich and Bultmann. We didn’t study much Bonhoeffer. I knew Life Together but that was about it. The same was true about Newbigin. But when we studied Origen, a Neoplatonist, I found language I could relate to. We studied Church history and the names and thoughts of Church fathers filled me up.

“I was fascinated by the profound causes for Church reforms and the Reformation. I was struck by the pettiness and banality of the origins of my own Church reform, the so-called Restoration Movement. But then one can say the same things for most reforms. I became an ecumenist. I was also an avowed theological liberal. I was pastorally inspired by the likes of Phillips Brooks, Walter Rauschenbusch, Charles Kemp, and feminist thinkers like Rosemary Radford Reuther and other Christian feminists as well as ancient strong female voices such as Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, and Hildegard of Bingen, and contemporary women of faith like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day.

“Although I was a pacifist, I joined the Air Force to be a Reserve Officer in a Chaplain Candidacy program. This to please my father. This turned out to be a happy place because of the extreme ecumenical nature of serving people of all faiths as a single person of my particular faith tradition.

“Besides the chaplaincy, I served two rural churches and was a half-time staff person in the fine arts library at the university. I was a busy boy in seminary.”

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