Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Introducing the Center for Open & Relational Theology

by R.E. Slater 

What Is Open and Relational Theology? "Open and Relational Theology is an umbrella label under which a variety of theologies and believers reside." It asks the questions of the future of Christianity in a cauldron of polypluralistic societies each sorting both themselves and their neighbors out - "Whether to love one another or exclude and hate one another."
It also asks the questions of sin and evil and divine sovereignty - "Where is God in all this mess?" Not very surprisingly, though many think so, God is here with us in all its awful and joyous moments.
A process based faith shares how this is so by removing the God of transcendent judgment into the realms of infilling grace and mercy. There is no "God up there, I am here" teachings in process theology. Just the opposite. "God is here as God ever has been here with creation. We, conversely, God's disbelievers, are the ones being asked to invite God into our lives which translate into loving each other even as God loves us." It is this latter invite which threatens most as it asks us, who prefer to exclude and hate, to stop, and learn to love." - res


What Is Open and Relational Theology?

“Open and Relational Theology” is an umbrella label under which a variety of theologies and believers reside. This variety shares at least two ideas in common:

  • God experiences time moment by moment (open)

  • God, us, and creation relate, so that everyone gives and receives (relational)

  • Most open and relational thinkers also affirm additional ideas, such as the idea love is our ultimate ethic, creatures are free at least to some extent, all creation matters, life has purpose, genuine transformation is possible, science points to important truths theology needs to incorporate, and more.

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What Is Open and Relational Theology?
Premiered Oct 15, 2020

This 2-minute video offers a brief introduction to Open and Relational Theology.
For more information, visit the Center for Open and Relational Theology website 

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10 Myths of Holiness
Holiness Lecture 1 (Final)
by Thomas Oord - May 22, 2020

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News & Events



John Sanders - Open Theism
This bibliography is arranged in five categories: (1) multi-views works, (2) works supporting open theism, (3) works engaging open theism, (4) works against open theism, and (5) doctoral dissertations and masters theses engaging open theism. Updated November 2018     Read More >>

Center for Process Studies Library
The Center for Process Studies library is the world’s largest collection of writings in process-relational thought–consists of more than 2,400 books, 750 dissertations, and 12,000 articles.    Browse Library >>

Whitehead Research Library
The Whitehead Research Library provides open access to archival material related to the philosophy and life of Alfred North Whitehead. It includes electronic versions of student lecture notes, letters, and photographs.    Browse Library >>

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        • Catherine Keller (Homebrewed Christianity) 
        • Chris Fisher (God is Open) 
        • John Haught (Homebrewed Christianity) 
        • John Sanders (Homebrewed Christianity) 
        • Open and Relational Q&A with Thomas Jay Oord and Tripp Fuller (Homebrewed Christianity) 
        • Open and Relational Theology Throwdown (Homebrewed Christianity) 
        • Open and Relational Theology Series (Laity Podcast) 
        • Thomas Jay Oord (A Better Story) 
        • Thomas Jay Oord (Homebrewed Christianity)

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Videos & Online Courses
        • A People’s Theology
        • An Introductory Introduction to Process Theology (John Cobb) 
        • An Introduction to Process Theology (David Ray Griffin) 
        • Animal Suffering (Bethanie Sollereder) 
        • Dancing with God in a World of Crucifixion (Karen Baker Fletcher) 
        • God and Suffering (Tim Reddish)
        • Homebrewed Christianity
        • Open View of the Future (Greg Boyd) 
        • Open Theism (Greg Boyd) 
        • Open Theism (William Hasker) 
        • Panentheism and Panpsychism (Thomas Jay Oord) 
        • The God of Noncoercive Love in the Face of Randomness and Evil (Thomas Jay Oord and Tripp Fuller) 
        • What in the World is Process Theology? (Theology Matters)  
        • What is Open Theism? (Chris Fisher) 
        • What is Process Theology? (Thomas Jay Oord) 
        • Why Go Process? (Monica Coleman and Tripp Fuller) 
        • Process and Faith Lectionary
        • Click the image below to view the Process and Faith Lectionary

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Web Essays & Sites

Select Blog Essays:
        • “An Open and Relational God” – Scott McKnight
        • Andrew Davis
        • “Is Open Theism a Type of Arminianism?” – Roger Olson
        • “Open and Relational Theology” – TC Moore
        • “O is for Open Theology” – Bo Sanders 
        • “Relational Power” – Jay McDaniel
        • “Ask an Open Theist” – Rachel Held Evans
        • “Summary of Open Theism” – John Sanders
        • Resource Websites:
        • Academia Open and Relational Papers
        • Bruce Epperly
        • Catherine Keller 
        • Debates on Open Theism.org
        • God Can’t Website
        • God is Open – Scripture Sources 
        • John Sanders 
        • Keith Ward
        • Mike Edwards
        • Open and Relational Reading Group 
        • Open Horizons Website
        • Open (Access) Theology Journal
        • Process Essays – Religion Online
        • Process Studies Website 
        • ReKnew Website 
        • Thomas Jay Oord 
        • Tom Torbeyns
        • Tripp Fuller 
        • Uncontrolling Love Essays

Concluding Remarks, by William Willimon

Wikipedia - William Henry Willimon (born May 15, 1946) is an American theologian and bishop in the United Methodist Church, retired, who for eight years served the North Alabama Conference. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Duke Divinity School. He is former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University and is considered by many as one of America's best-known and most influential preachers.[1][2][3] A Pulpit & Pew Research on Pastoral Leadership survey determined that he was one of the two most frequently read writers by pastors in mainline Protestantism alongside the Roman Catholic writer Henri Nouwen.[4] His books have sold over a million copies. He is also Editor-At-Large of The Christian Century.[5] His 2019 memoir Accidental Preacher was released to wide acclaim, described by Justo L. Gonzalez as "An exceptional example of theology at its best."[6]


Sole Author

  • Lord of the Congaree: Wade Hampton of South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina: Sandlapper, 1972
  • Between Two Advents. Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. [Clergy Services and Supplies], 1978.
  • Eating with Jesus: Biblical Background on the Lord’s Supper. Leaflet 6. Graded Press, 1978.
  • The Gifts of God for the People of God: Theological Background on the Lord’s Supper. Leaflet 7. Graded Press, 1978
  • Saying YES to Marriage. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1979.
  • Worship as Pastoral Care. Nashville: Abingdon, 1979.
  • Word, Water, Wine, and Bread: How Worship Has Changed over the Years. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1980.
  • Remember Who You Are: Baptism, A Model for Christian Life. Nashville: Upper Room, 1980.
  • Integrative Preaching: The Pulpit at the Center. Nashville: Abingdon, 1981.
  • The Bible, A Sustaining Presence in Worship. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1981.
  • The Way. Nashville: Graded Press of the United Methodist Publishing House, 1981.
  • The Service of God: Christian Work and Worship. Nashville: Abingdon, 1983.
  • What’s Right With the Church: A Spirited Statement for Those Who Have Not Given Up on the Church and for Those Who Have. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985; New Orleans: Insight, 1998.
  • (Lesson analysis with Charles M. Laymon) The International Lesson Annual, 1984-1985, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984.
  • (Lesson analysis) The International Lesson Annual, 1985-1986, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985.
  • Sighing for Eden: Sin, Evil, and the Christian Faith. Nashville: Abingdon, 1985.
  • (Lesson analysis) The International Lesson Annual, 1986-1987, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  • Promises of Marriage: A Guide for Couples Seeking Advice While on the Brink of Matrimony, or for Couples Renewing Their Love. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1987.
  • (Lesson analysis) The International Lesson Annual, 1987-1988, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987.
  • Acts. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Atlanta: John Knox, 1988.
  • Clergy and Laity Burnout'. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989.
  • Making Disciples: A New Approach to Confirmation. Confirmand’s Journal and Mentor’s Guide'. Inner Grove Heights, Minnesota: Logos, 1990.
  • Making Disciples: A New Approach to Confirmation. Coordinator’s Guide'. Inner Grove Heights, Minnesota: Logos, 1990.
  • (Lesson analysis with Pat McGeachy) The International Lesson Annual, 1991-92, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991.
  • Good-bye High School, Hello College. Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1992.
  • (editor). The International Lesson Annual, 1992-93. Lesson Analysis by Pat McGeachy. Nashville: Abingdon, 1992.
  • (editor). The International Lesson Annual, 1993-94. Lesson Analysis by Pat McGeachy. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993.
  • Advent/Christmas: Interpreting the Lessons of the Church Year. Proclamation 5, Series B. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993.
  • (editor with Patricia P. Willimon). The International Lesson Annual, 1994-95. Lesson Analysis by Pat McGeachy. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.
  • The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994.
  • On Your Own But Not Alone: Life After College. Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1995.
  • Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life. Nashville: Abingdon, 2000.
  • Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.
  • (editor) The Sunday after Tuesday: College Pulpits Respond to 9/11. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.
  • A Peculiar Prophet: William H. Willimon and the Art of Preaching, edited by Michael A. Turner and William F. Malambri, III. Nashville: Abingdon, 2004.
  • Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.
  • Conversations with Barth on Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon, 2006.
  • United Methodist Beliefs: A Brief Introduction. Louisville: John Knox, 2007.
  • Who Will Be Saved? Nashville: Abingdon, 2008.
  • A Guide to Preaching and Leading Worship. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
  • This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice. Nashville: Abingdon, 2010.
  • Preaching Master Class: Lessons from Will Willimon’s Five-Minute Preaching Workshop, edited by Noel Snyder. Eugene: Cascade, 2010.
  • The Best of Will Willimon: Acting Up in Jesus’ Name. Nashville: Abingdon, 2012.
  • Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question. Nashville: Abingdon, 2012.
  • Incorporation: A Novel. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012.
  • Incarnation: The Surprising Overlap of Heaven and Earth. Nashville: Abingdon, 2013.
  • Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins. Nashville: Abingdon, 2013.
  • Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love'. Nashville: Abingdon, 2016
  • Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, Revised Edition. Nashville: Abingdon, 2016.
  • I’m Not From Here: A Parable. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2017.
  • Who Lynched Willie Earle?: Preaching to Confront Racism. Nashville: Abingdon, 2017.
  • Accidental Preacher: A Memoir. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019.
  • Aging: Growing Old in Church. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2020.
  • Stories by Willimon. Nashville: Cokesbury, 2020.
  • Leading with the Sermon: Preaching as Leadership. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2020.

Collaborative Efforts

  • (with Patricia Willimon and Hoyt Simmons) Turning the World Upside Down: The Story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke. Columbia, South Carolina: Sandlapper, 1972.
  • (with John H. Westerhoff, III) Liturgy and Learning Through the Life Cycle. Akron, Ohio: OSL, 1980.
  • (with Harriet Willimon Cabell) Family, Friends, and Other Funny People: Memories of Growing Up Southern. Orangeburg, South Carolina: Sandlapper, 1980.
  • (with Charles M. Laymon) The International Lesson Annual, 1984-1985, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984.
  • (with Pat McGeachy) The International Lesson Annual, 1988-1989, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988.
  • (with Pat McGeachy) The International Lesson Annual, 1991-1992, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991.
  • (with Stanley Hauerwas) Preaching to Strangers. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992.
  • (with Patricia P. Willimon, eds.) The International Lesson Annual, 1994-95. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.
  • (with Thomas H. Naylor) The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1995.
  • (with Thomas H. Naylor) Downsizing the U.S.A.. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1997.
  • (with Stanley Hauerwas) Resident Aliens. Tokyo: Kyo Bun Kwan, 1999.
  • (with Martin B. Copenhaver and Anthony B. Robinson) Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999.
  • (with Stanley Hauerwas) The Holy Spirit. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

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Books by William Willimon

* * * * * * * *

Concluding Remarks
by William Willimon

Karl Barth’s theological revolution began in 1918 through a close, creative reading of Paul’s Letter to the Romans -- and after a frustrating decade of attempting to preach. That which Barth received from Romans, leading to his bombshell of a book, was, “We have found in the Bible a new world, God. God’s sovereignty, God’s glory, Gods incomprehensible love. Not the history of [humanity], but the history of God!”  Pauline Christology in all of its unmanageable, cosmic grandeur.

In a sermon on 1 Kings 17 Fleming Rutledge asks, “Why are the mainline churches having so much trouble?”  She answers that mainline preaching is,
Not about a God who judges and redeems, who causes great movements to come to pass, who puts down the mighty from their seats and exalts the humble and meek. Instead, the messages are about human activity. They are about human potential, human hopes, human wishes, human programs and agendas….  The living God of Elijah does not seem to be in view.
Mainline, liberal preachers in my part of the world preach mostly from the gospels, rather than the earlier letters of Paul. Is that because the gospels, replete with Jesus’ words and deeds, couching Christology within narrative, appear to encourage human agency? Christ, the great exemplar of goodness, hanging out with the good country folk of Galilee, giving them a gentle nudge to love their neighbor as themselves, Christ, the beloved teacher who told stories that brought out the best in us, Christ, of use in our projects of the moment.  Anthropology rather than Christology is all the rage in contemporary American preaching.  This is the major reason why our preaching isn’t that interesting. 

Maybe Christ as exemplar of good behavior is a First World problem. Paul, at work in 1 Cor. 15, is strikingly disinterested in details of Jesus’ birth, life, and death, as if the sheer, luminous identity of Christ overshadows his deeds and words, as if in his resurrection, Christ -- bodily presence of God’s eternal benevolence -- needs no bolstering.  God raised crucified Jesus; God raised crucified Jesus; God raised crucified Jesus. This, the sermon Paul was dying to preach, news that propelled Paul all over Asia Minor, planting churches where nobody knew they needed a church.  Is Paul’s “Gospel of God” (Rom 1:2-4) too hot for accommodated, well-adjusted-to-decline-and-death, self-help, bourgeois, Progressive Christianity to handle?

Years ago the errant Jesus Seminar caused a stir by attempting to isolate and identify the “authentic” words of Jesus, only to be surprised that Christians don’t worship the words of Jesus; we worship the Word. While it’s fair for preaching sometimes to offer helpful hints for persons in pain, therapeutic advice for the wounded, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a spiritual boost for the sad, a call to arms for social activists, human helpfulness can never be preaching’s main intent because such concerns are of little concern to Jesus.

Christ’s identity makes preaching in his name is cosmic in its intentions: 

You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you…. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God,… in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Col 1:5, 13-15, 16-20)

Paul’s story of God coming alongside us in the history of Jesus Christ, Son of God, clashes with what we think about God. So the Good News bears repeating.  Preaching is difficult because of Christ, God unexpected, God daring to entrust “the message of reconciliation” to frail envoys (1 Cor 5:19).

It’s fine for preachers to call out human sinfulness, screwedupness, bias, and idolatrousness. I do so frequently; helps me to feel better about my moral compromises.  Yet we are not free to belabor human depravity without stressing that we are sinners to whom God in Christ has turned, “For us and for our salvation,” as the creed puts it.  Moralistic, judgmental preaching “is often mistaken for prophetic preaching,” says Richard Lischer, moral hectoring rather than proclamation.  The good news is not that we are making moral headway but rather that the God from whom we sinners turned away has come out to meet us. 

Woe to the preacher who cuts Paul’s Christ Pantocrator down to our size.  Years ago, faced with the challenge of preaching four baccalaureate services to diverse congregations (that is, congregations clueless about Christ) I took the easy way out and preached Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15) as a story about what sometimes happens when graduates at last leave home. Jesus, human relations expert. The congregations received my conventional wisdom with a collective yawn.  If Paul’s claims for Christ are true, there’s no way Jesus would have told that parable for that purpose.  Fretting over better family life, what to do after graduation; too small potatoes for one who on his way to a new heaven and earth.

When some challenged Paul’s preaching, Paul’s defense was, “For I want you to know,… that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12).  Paul’s apostolic defense applies to every preacher.  Authorization rests not upon an orthodox, faithful reiteration of church tradition, ecclesiastical reinforcement, certainly not upon the expertise of the preacher; sanction is “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” or nothing.

I know. This bodacious claim of reception of revelation could lead the claimant to self-delusion in which we preach ourselves as exemplars rather than Christ crucified (2 Cor 4:5). I’ll admit that there are pompous preachers, though the world is giving most preachers less to be pretentious about.  Few preachers would declaim with Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). More typical is to mumble, “Ur, uh, this is just how I see it.”

In handing over what they receive (I Cor 4:7), preachers are given an assignment, commissioned as missionaries.  Luther tells his flock that when we, “hear how Christ comes here or there, or how someone is brought to [Christ], you should therein perceive… he is coming to you, or you are brought to him.  For the preaching of the gospel is nothing else than Christ coming to us, or we being brought to him….  Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift…. [then, after having received Christ] it is necessary that you turn this into an example and deal with your neighbor in the very same way, be given to him as a gift and an example.” Listening to a sermon risks Christ’s coming “to you, or you are being brought to him,” and being placed under compulsion to hand over Christ to the neighbor.   

Paul preaches to the Corinthians as an externally authorized spokesperson for Christ: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,. . .. . .” (1 Cor 1:1)  And though he begins with praise for “the church of God that is in Corinth,…called to be saints,” Paul brags that he wasn’t sent by Christ “to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power” (v. 17).  Then Paul waxes homiletical: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (vv. 23-24).  

To bolster his argument for the wise foolishness of preaching, Paul appeals to the Corinthians’ experience of vocation, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are” (1Cor 1:27-28). 

Preachers work with no foundation for preaching, no authorization, no safety net beneath our high-wire act except Deus dixit.  

On the Sunday after the 2016 presidential election debacle I preached in a United Methodist church in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The pastor expected to lose as many as thirty families—Obama political appointees sure to be purged. My text was the assigned epistle, Romans 5, “Christ died for the ungodly.” I reminded the faithful that gracious Jesus died for sinners, only sinners, and that Jesus liked nothing better than to party with tax collectors and whores. 

My sermon concluded with, “OK, good for us. We have elected a lying, adulterous, draft-evading, bankruptcy-declaring, misogynistic racist, riverboat gambler with tacky gold plumbing fixtures. He is a national disgrace and [pause for effect] one whom Jesus Christ loves, saves, and for whom he gave his life. [leaning over the pulpit, looking into the whites of their eyes] Are you sure that you want to worship that Savior?”

I preached not as I pleased that Sunday and let Paul do the talking.  As usual, Paul wanted to talk about Christ rather than ourselves.


Portions of this essay are from Will Willimon, Preachers Dare: Speaking for God
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2020).

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William H. Willimon is a Bishop in The United Methodist Church in the USA, currently serving in North Alabama. He is best known ...
A service of worship in Duke University Chapel. The Rev. Dr. William Willimon delivers a sermon titled "Waiting for God." Preacher ...
Preached during our Spring Convocation at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.
The Rev. Dr. William Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School, was one of the presenters ...
This morning we continue to celebrate Jesus' Easter victory, and in today's Scripture passages we see two of Jesus' resurrection ...
The Rev. Dr. William Willimon, Bishop of the United Methodist Church for North Alabama, talks about heaven as the place where ...
How often do we hear the pastor congratulate us on Sunday morning for being in church and participating in worship?
Bishop Will Willimon returns to Day1 and sits down with Day1 host Peter Wallace to discuss the future of the church, the work of ...
Will Willimon is a bishop in the United Methodist Church and one of the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.
A sermon preached at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, by guest preacher Bishop Will Willimon on .