Tag Archives | William H. Willimon

Which Narrative | William H. Willimon

William H. WillimonThe modern world said, That’s only a story. The postmodern world has realized, There’s only story. So the question is not, Shall our lives be narratively constructed? But, Which narrative shall form our lives?

— Willimon, Calling and Character, 110.

Calling and Character | William H. Willimon

The cover of Willimon's Calling and CharacterWe clergy ought not to flatter ourselves, as if our clerical vocation somehow placed a greater burden upon our backs than the challenge that taking up the cross and following Jesus holds for any disciple. (9)

These words, from the first paragraph of the introduction, indicate the unconventional wisdom of William H. Willimon. He turns many of the common perspectives about the life of the pastor on their head. For another example, consider his thoughts on burnout:

The great ethical danger for clergy is not that we might “burn out,” to use a metaphor that is popular in our time, not that we might lose the energy required to do ministry. Our danger is that we might “black out,” that is lose consciousness of why we are here and who we are called to be for Christ and his church. (21)

In every page of Calling and Character, Willimon reminds clergy of “why we are here and who we are called to be” (21). The call to ministry is a high calling. Rather than waste time lamenting the “pedestal” we’re sometimes placed upon, clergy should buck up and wear the mantle. To nuance that metaphor, it is incumbent upon clergy to develop a virtuous character so the mantle actually fits.

Richard B. Hays used three biblical images to frame his ethics: community, cross, and new creation. Willimon uses this threefold framework to develop his ministerial ethics. Clergy are those people “who embody Christian community, cross, and new creation in their lives” (59).

You may agree wholeheartedly with everything Willimon has to say—or not. Regardless of your position on the various issues, Willimon will challenge you to examine your life and practice in light of a high clerical vision.


Willimon, William H. Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.

 

Good News in Exile | Copenhaver, Robinson, & Willimon

This book is what happens when three pastors rethink their theology and praxis. With the help of Brueggemann, who provided a foreward and clearly inspired their reflections, Copenhaver, Robinson, and Willimon sketch out how the liberal church can be relevant in a world where liberal religion is no longer mainline.

After three quick biographic sketches, these authors dream how the more theologically liberal denominations can again be effective in the areas of scripture, preaching, sacrament, discipleship, mission, and conversion.

This was an interesting read for me, since I come from a theologically conservative background. Even so, I saw numerous similarities between the state of the liberal church they described, and the state of conservatives. The prefix, “post” has been worn out in the years since this work was published, but that’s what they’re looking for. What does post-liberal religion look like? How can it be meaningful in a world that’s moved on?

Good News in Exile is not about liberal pastors turning conservative: it’s about theologically honest pastors finding their way forward.

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