Bill Wylie-Kellermann is a retired Methodist pastor, nonviolent community activist, teacher, and author. His next book is forthcoming this summer: Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection (Cascade, 2021).
Posts By This Author
Space for Grace
This is a book that takes your breath away and at the same time gives it back. I have every suspicion, and say it with a sigh, that Heidi Neumark has written a classic to be.
Breathing Space defies genre, or at least mingles them. Part diary of a city priest, part Bible study, part theological reflection on years of urban ministry with an undercurrent of journalized griefwork, part social analysis with patches of homily - yet always pure prayer and even pure poetry. All these are woven in centered self-awareness by a concrete and thoroughly unaffected wordcraft. This is one way of saying that, as a pastor, Heidi Neumark is the real deal - and, as a writer, she has the gift.
The title is only passing reference to the Louisville Institute sabbatical that occasioned its writing. It certainly names the contemplative process of penning pastorally on the run. But like the biblical notion of Sabbath year itself, "breathing space" reflects worship infused with justice. It is the sanctuary of ministry and community constructed with residents of the South Bronx, whose dumping-ground neighborhood was just surviving beneath the atmosphere of environmental racism and more, air violently stretched, literally toxic, inflicting countless cases of asthma. Which is to say, every pastoral act recounted here is political, an engagement of the powers that be.
Same-sex marriage and sacramental unity
In 1963, William Stringfellow - movement theologian, Sojourners mentor, and gay man - had the following to say about mainline churches who were pondering whether to join the struggle for African-American civil rights:
The issue here...is not some common spiritual values, nor natural law, nor middle axioms. The issue is baptism. The issue is the unity of all humanity wrought by God in the life and work of Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of that unity of all human life in God.
False Gods and the Power of Love
Corporate dominance of world affairs seems almost god-like.
A Word of Hope in the Rubble
Our broken hearts are indeed the proper place to begin theological reflection. Wounded hearts, the tears of suffering and death, however, can lead divergent ways.
Self-Interest, Solidarity, and Power
God Is My Palm Pilot
Is technology the tool of the devil? The primrose path to a better life? Or something in between?
God is My Palm Pilot
Extended content available only online.
The Power of Alliance
Healing People for the Struggle
There is a key spiritual gift that the church may bring to labor struggle: pastoral care.
Exorcising an American Demon
More Than a Coin Toss
Resisting Death Incarnate
Readers Before Profits
Jacques Ellul: A Hopeful Pessimist
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Jacques Ellul died on May 19. The Washington Post noted his passing in a few scant paragraphs. It went unnoticed here in Detroit. Sojourners could readily devote an issue to him—and did just that in June 1977, acknowledging a debt to his thought and witness. He tutored many of us in theology and social history.
Personally, I was introduced to Ellul’s writing as a seminarian through Dan Berrigan, who was then reading the signs of the time with the Book of Revelation in one hand and Jacques Ellul’s Presence of the Kingdom (1948) in the other. Presence was Ellul’s postwar manifesto—and nearly five decades later it still rings true with an uncanny discerning prescience.
Removed as a professor of law by the Vichy government in 1940, he spent World War II in the French Resistance, spiriting Jews to safety. His postwar take on the times? Hitler won the war. The Nazi spirit triumphed. The atom bomb was emblem of the necessary "fact," the apotheosis of technique—of means overwhelming and supplanting ends.
Faithful to the Word
The Spirit's Call of Freedom
The remaining gospels of eastertide play out Jesus farewell discourse in the latter chapters of John.
An Easter Cliffhanger
There is no more brilliant literary surprise, I think, in all of scripture than the shocking cliffhanger abruptness of Marks resurrection account.
God's Downward Mobility
Prior to Constantine, when the church was outlawed and, with some regularity, systematically persecuted, the reception of members was a rigorous and risky proposition.
Called by the Light
This season begins and ends in light.
A Countercultural Season
Advent couldn't be more out of step with the doings of the dominant culture.