My faith was nurtured in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the Christian Reformed Church, a late-nineteenth-century immigrant importation from the Netherlands, and in the Christian schools of that denomination through high school. Our family landed there almost accidentally, as my father and mother were respectively low-church Episcopalian and Lutheran by background (without a drop of Dutch blood between them), having courted at a premier “Catholic” parish of the Episcopal Church and subsequently become anglophiles over the course of years living in England. It seemed natural, therefore, that we should, in the late 1970s, find a home in a progressive Christian Reformed congregation replete with weekly celebrations of Holy Communion and a liturgy haunted by the Book of Common Prayer. When I returned to church in college after a time away, I found myself unable to resist the seemingly familiar, beautiful cadences of prayer book and hymnody at the local Episcopal parish.
Unable to resist seems the right phrase in light of attempts by friends to talk me down, as it were, from the ledge of Episcopalianism, surely half-jokingly but therefore half-seriously as well. From the left, one United Church of Christ confidante worried that Episcopalian aestheticism functioned as a thin veil for its half-hearted commitment to pursuing justice. From the right, Lutheran and Roman Catholic companions conveyed their conviction that one’s church should first and foremost be capable of articulating precisely what it believes and why. In part through wrestling with these questions I began to imagine that studying and teaching theology could be a vocation, even as a fulfillment of my labors in the vineyard of social justice. For here was an urgent need that demanded a similar passion: building up the churches in love, the better to equip them to “bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk. 4:18-19).
If this blog is to do anything useful for the Kingdom of God, I hope that it will above all wrestle with this prophetic and practical Word, in the tradition of the disciples who invited the Lord to “stay with us,” to “be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope,” in the words of the collect. He is the one who causes our hearts to burn as he opens Scripture, not least when we are “slow to believe,” stumbling over the necessity for the Messiah to suffer before entering into glory (Lk. 24:25-26; cf. 24:32). And which of us has not hesitated before, or turned away from, our Lord’s passion, even after recognizing our complicity in his death? Thus, more than any other “issue” of our day, the greatest spiritual and intellectual challenge for me has been the shocking counter-witness of Christian churches arrayed against one another in the name of mission itself, or a bid to survive, or because they have “reconciled” themselves to the diversity of broken communion as a kind of permission of providence. A false gospel to be sure, and yet I have been, and remain, one of its apostles, despite my best efforts at renunciation.
There is, however, hope in the fact that, facing Christ on the cross, our feints at separation and autonomy may be seen to be not only unworthy but in a real sense ineffective — though they are painful! — and in fact impossible, according to the perfect will of the Spirit who marks us as Christ’s own forever. If we are “in Christ Jesus” despite our failings (Eph. 2.13), the question is: what one hope, faith, and baptism do we presently share, appearances to the contrary (see Eph. 4:4)? The answer of the ecumenical movement, the only faithful answer that I know, is that we shall learn the answer as we offer ourselves in humility to the One in whom we come to “know love …, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 Jn. 3:16). Thus, dying with him, we are taken, blessed, broken, and given, that we “may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10-11).
Executive Director of The Living Church Foundation, Sept. 2009-present. Responsibilities include oversight of 7-person staff, budget, fundraising, development, marketing; editing of The Living Church magazine, including writing editorials and columns; articulation of the evolving mission of the Living Church Foundation in collaboration with elected leadership; teaching ministry and ecumenical service in the wider Church, incorporating scholarly activity
“The Universal Church of the Covenant: Called and Conscripted” in Pro Communione: Theological Essays on the Anglican Covenant, ed. Benjamin Guyer (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2012)
“Word of Love: The Sacramental Itinerary of 1 Corinthians,” Anglican Theological Review, 93/4 (2011), pp. 581-98
“Cross as Curriculum for Catholic Unity,” The Living Church, Nov. 29, 2009
“The Singular Grace of Division’s Wound,” Ecclesiology 5/1 (2009), pp. 7-27
“Problems with the Path of Phillips Brooks: Agreeing and Disagreeing with Gillis Harp,” Journal of Anglican Studies, 6/2 (2008), pp. 213–40
“The Burden and Grace of Roman Catholic Leadership: An Anglican Response to the CDF,” Pro Ecclesia, 17/1 (2008), pp. 7–12
“Wounded in Common Mission, Called to Common Conversion: The Spiritual Basis of Communion,” Anglican Theological Review, 90/1 (2008), pp. 23–46
Affiliate Professor of Historical Theology, Nashotah House Theological Seminary
Board member of American Friends of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Jan. 2012-present
Theological Consultant to Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the U.S. (ARC-USA), Jan. 2011-present
Fellow of Episcopal Church Foundation, 2005-present
Lay deputy from Northern Indiana to General Convention of Episcopal Church, 2006 and 2009; member of “Special Commission” that produced One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call (2006), and subsequent “Special Committee 26” charged with handling Windsor-related resolutions; member in 2009 of committee on ecumenical and interreligious affairs
Member of Commission on Ministry, Northern Indiana, 2005-08
Member of Board of Examining Chaplains, Northern Indiana, 2006-09
[Corps Member, City Year, Boston, 1991-92]
BA, St. Olaf College (1996), with majors in American Studies and Religion
[Member of community, Lee Abbey London, 1996-97]
MAR, Yale Divinity School (2000)
PhD in Theology, University of Notre Dame (2008); dissertation, “Sacraments of the Incarnate Word: The Christological Form of the Summa theologiae”