Sojourners Board Member

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Wesley Granberg-Michaelso, a Sojourners board member, is the author of Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage,  From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Churchand Future Faith: Ten Challenges for Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century (Fortress Press). 

He served as General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America for 17 years from 1994 to 2011. Previously he held the position of Director of Church and Society at the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Earlier in his career he served as Executive and Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield (1968-1976) and then as the Associate Editor of Sojourners magazine when it was founded. He played a leading role in establishing Christian Churches Together in the USA, and presently helps guide the development of the Global Christian Forum. Over the course of his ministry his ecumenical work has taken him to all corners of the world. He is the author of Underexpected Destinations: An Evangelical Pilgrimage to World Christianity and Leadership from Inside Out: Spirituality and Organizational Change, as well as four other earlier books. His numerous magazine articles have appeared in Sojourners, The Christian Century, Christianity Today, The Church Herald, Ecumenical Review, and other publications.

In the fall of 2012, Granberg-Michaelson was appointed as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. While there he researched and wrote the book, From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church (Eerdmans, Fall 2013). The book deals with the effects of the shift in world Christianity to the global South, and impact of global migration on congregational life and society in the global North. It was chosen to be part of the 2013 National Book Festival in Washington, D. C.

Granberg-Michaelson is a graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, both in Holland, Michigan, and was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America in 1984. Presently he continues his work in ecumenical organizations, in writing and public speaking on issues facing world Christianity, and consulting to church-related organizations, including Bread for the World. He serves today on the governing boards of Sojourners, Church Innovations, and the Global Christian Forum. His wife, Karin Granberg-Michaelson is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, and they have two children. Wes and Karin make their home in Santa Fe, N.M.

Posts By This Author

Faith Communities Can Build a Movement for Cease-Fire

A woman looks on at the site of an Israeli strike on a house in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 18, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The prevailing public narratives we have used to justify military strategies amid diplomatic fantasies are being exposed as meaningless: Unfettered Israeli military power can never impose a lasting solution nor quench Palestinian aspirations for sovereignty and justice. Likewise, Palestinian armed factions can never defeat Israel’s military power, backed by the unequivocal support of the U.S. These exclusionary self-vindicating visions dominate in a completely zero-sum game. Escalating violence wantonly kills, intensifying the compulsion to eradicate the human dignity of the “other.” In short, there is no military solution to the raging warfare spilling over our screens and tearing our hearts asunder.

Amid Horrific Violence, the Gospel of Peace Feels Foolish. It's Not

A woman mourns Danielle, 25, and Noam, 26, an Israeli couple who were killed in a deadly attack by Hamas gunmen from Gaza as they attended a festival, during their funeral in Kiryat Tivon, Israel on Oct. 12, 2023. REUTERS/Shir Torem

We all are shocked by Hamas’ horrific, inhumane attacks on the people of Israel, which killed more than 1,000 people, according to recent estimates. Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes have killed at least 1,000 more; thousands of people on each side are wounded. In both Israel and Gaza, innocent civilians are bearing the brunt in this latest round of indiscriminate, militarized lethal violence — violence that will solve nothing and only further entrench mutual mistrust, hatred, and the thirst for vengeance.

Christmas Is Irrational. That’s Kind of the Point

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows star formation with orange dust against a blue background.

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth. Photo via NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

When the biblical writers penned words about the “creator of the heavens and the earth,” they didn’t have the faintest idea of what they were really saying. Yet Christian faith asserts the power that created galaxies full of black holes and dark energy is the same power that became mysteriously embedded in the uterus of a poor teenage girl in a forsaken village in present-day Palestine. The first chapter of the gospel of John describes Jesus’ arrival this way: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (1:3). That defies all boundaries of rationality.

Where 3000 Global Christians Gather, There Bubbles Burst

On Sept. 8, participants say goodbye during the closing prayer service of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Karlsruhe, Germany. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/WCC

The WCC convenes an assembly only once every eight years. The agenda always includes electing a new, 150-member Central Committee, approving reports and making formal statements on pressing international issues. But that’s not at the heart of what happened in Karlsruhe, nor has it been in the four previous WCC Assemblies I’ve attended.

Putin’s Religious Vision Underscores the Danger of Christian Nationalism

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew hands over a vessel of myrrh to the Head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Epiphanius during a religious service near St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 22, 2021

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew hands over a vessel of myrrh to the Head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Epiphanius during a religious service near St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 22, 2021. Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto

Put is committed to see the glories and geography of “Mother Russia” restored. Religiously, he claims this is preserving “Christian civilization” against the secular decadence of the West. And for that, his transactional alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church is essential. Like the czars, he wants to see Moscow as the center of political and military power over an empire that is sanctified by the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church. And he wants an Orthodox Church he can control to reign in Ukraine.

For Lasting Peace, U.S. Must Stop Enabling Israeli Occupation of Palestine

A Palestinian man looks out as the remains of a building, which was destroyed in Israeli air strikes, are reflected in a window in Gaza, May 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

The images of civilian deaths and escalating violence in Israel and Palestine are heartbreaking. As this moral, political, and humanitarian catastrophe continues, we must urge our elected leaders to call for an immediate cessation of the current wave of violence, while also building the political will to interrogate the root causes of the crisis.

A Word for All the President's Enablers

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), poses with newly elected Republican senators, left to right, Sen.-elect Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville, (R-Ala.), Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Sen.-elect Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Nov.9, 2020. Ken Cedeno/Pool via REUTERS

When Republicans talk about having the “right” to pursue legal challenges, they are technically correct and morally shameless. Put simply, they are indulging a narcissistic bully on the political playground, damaging trust and community for all. Any psychologist or pastor will tell you that just trying to give a vengeful narcissist more time to calm down, and “let things play out,” will only make matters worse. We’ve tried that for almost four years. And it has gotten worse. The same will happen after four more weeks, or four more days, or four more hours.

Your Soul Cannot Stay Still

How pilgrimages can open our imagination and help us walk away from empire.

FOR AGES, THOSE living as monks, cloistered nuns, hermits, and wandering pilgrims have mastered the art of turning loneliness into solitude, creating a real presence to themselves, and to God. These spiritual explorers were often confined—as many of us are now—into narrow spaces, yet pilgrimage to the authentic self explores an interior landscape. The exterior pilgrimage often reflects the interior path of spiritual imagination conducted in confinement. Their lessons and practices are not cloistered today; they offer liberating tools that can resurrect and protect the space for real presence for all who desire detachment from the omnipresence of screens. Simply consider this: You can’t walk on unexpected pathways while looking at screens.

Untethered from normalcy

Pilgrims move in two directions at the same time—an outward direction toward a holy destination and an inward journey seeking an encounter with the sacred. Two of the best academic scholars of pilgrimages, Victor and Edith Turner, explain it in this one sentence: “Pilgrimage may be thought of as extroverted mysticism, just as mysticism is introverted pilgrimage.”

Pilgrimages, they suggest, were, and are, no walk in the park, or plain, or mountain. Embarking on such a journey, we become untethered not just from our physical normalcy. These uncertain, trusting steps also move us out of our spiritual familiarity. The pilgrim is invited not only to walk out of boxes of dogmatic beliefs but also to walk away from practices of comfortable spirituality.

This article is adapted from Without Oars: Casting Off Into a Life of Pilgrimage (Broadleaf Books, November 2020).

The Final Nail in the Coffin for the ‘Two-State’ Solution?

A Palestinian woman takes pictures of her friend posing in front of the Israeli barrier with a mural depicting Iyad al-Halaq, an unarmed and autistic Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli police, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

The tangled web of some U.S. and international evangelical and Pentecostal leaders blessing Israel’s expansionist ambitions toward the West Bank and more has a long and complicated history. President Trump has wrapped his political arms around those religious allies today in a craven attempt to preserve his evangelical base. But other Christians – including many prominent evangelicals – have consistently refused to condone Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as a supposedly “biblically sanctioned” real estate plan.

'I Can See Him in Your Face'

Photo by Lucas Soares on Unsplash

What faces we see, either in person or in our hearts, carries a sacred and saving significance. Those of us with the luxury of being able to shelter in place because we have adequate space, who can maintain physical distance because there’s no need to be crowded, and who can wash our hands because we never have to think about soap and hot water, can exchange post-Easter greetings in safety, probably on Zoom. We treasure those bonds with one another in a socially isolated time.

Sin Helps Spread COVID-19, But Not In the Way You Might Think

Image via REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Ruling authorities were concerned primarily about their image and standing with the public. The threat of the coronavirus was downplayed and ignored. They changed course and acted only after the evidence became undeniable. Even then a main concern has been to shift blame to others. Their obsession was with their reputation. Self-righteous defensiveness and pride governed power, rather than compassion and commitment to the common good. That is social sin.

Congress Can Restore the Balance of Government

Image via REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In the aftermath of Vietnam, Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973, over the veto of President Nixon. It stipulates that the president should inform Congress 48 hours after initiating the military in any hostile action, and then limits the president for 60 days in carrying out such actions before Congress declares war or passes a proper authorizing action. It was an attempt to find a compromise between Congress’ power to declare war and a president’s need to take immediate military action in certain situations. Nearly ever president since, Republican and Democrat, has bristled under its provisions. Further, Congress has largely abdicated its responsibilities to enforce the War Powers Act provisions.

Before We Sing Silent Night

The scriptures assigned to the church during these days of hopeful waiting are filled with warnings against unjust rulers. This is repeated frequently in the Psalms, in the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and in the prayerful praise offered by Mary. The Magnificat, whose words are sung and prayed hundreds of thousands of times during these days, speak forcefully about the demise of the proud and conceited — and rulers who act like tyrants.

Ignoring the Facts to our Spiritual Peril

Former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (left) in Brussels on May 2, 2019. Alexandros Michailidis /; Rev. Franklin Graham in Lincoln, Neb., during his Decision America tour in 2016. Matt Johnson / Flickr

The facts in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump are compelling and beyond dispute. But for many, the facts simply do not matter. Republicans are trying to defend the indefensible. For many who watch Fox News, however, a defense is hardly necessary. For them, “fake news” is being propelled by a Democratic witch hunt.

The Embodied Joy of the Global Church

Gathering in Mount Tabieorar. Image from Wes Granberg-Michaelson


One year ago this week, I walked into the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, completing my pilgrimage there. This week I witnessed a different pilgrimage as about 100,000 people made their way to Mount Tabieorar, in Ogere Remo, Nigeria. They clothed themselves with white robes, took off their shoes, danced, sang, and prayed through the night and into the early morning with uninhibited joy. This was the 83rd time the Tabieorar celebration has gathered in this holy space.

'Lulled into a Nightmare'

FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks at the National Association of Realtors' Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Mueller report is all but forgotten — its limited focused also not remembered. Mueller’s assignment was to look only at Russian interference in the election and the possibility of a criminal conspiracy with the Trump campaign to assist this. Opponents of Trump labeled this “collusion.” Weeks before the report’s release, I argued that no such conspiracy would be found because none was needed. Putin detested Hillary and his apparatus of political infiltration was smart enough to know how to undermine her campaign. It did.

'No Collusion'

Russian flag flies with the Spasskaya Tower of Moscow's Kremlin in the background in Moscow, Russia Feb. 27, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

President Donald Trump is convinced he can sweep aside all his high crimes and misdemeanors if Robert’s Mueller’s report finds that Trump never called up President Vladimir Putin and enlisted his help in the election. Whenever the Mueller Report comes out, all Trump wants to do is continue chanting, “No collusion.” He knows that Fox News will join the chorus and expects that the sound of all else will be drowned out, certainly for his base and maybe beyond.

Keeping Hope Alive on the Korean Peninsula

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, on March 1, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

I worshipped at Seoul’s Myungsung Presbyterian Church, the largest Presbyterian church in the world with a membership close to 100,000, and preached at its English-speaking service. At the main Korean worship service I attended (one of five services that they offer each Sunday), I heard prayers for the reunification of Korea at least three or four times, which is a repeated intercession. Moreover, Myungsung is known for its daily prayer services. One of these gatherings that takes place every Monday is focused on praying for re-unification. It has been doing so for 10 years, normally drawing about 3,000 people.

Not a 'White' Christmas

In 1980, for the first time in 1,000 years, more believers following the babe in Bethlehem lived in the global South than the North, and in four decades since then this has accelerated. Growth in Latin America means 600 million exchange “Feliz Navidad,” or “Feliz Natal” (Portuguese) during these days in crowded Catholic cathedrals, megachurches, and Pentecostal storefronts. This is an increase of 10 million in the past year.

My Foolish Hope

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

White evangelicals hold more extreme, negative views regarding immigrants, refugees, and the prospect of the nation’s racially diverse future, than any other group in the country. It is a devastating indictment of the failure of white evangelicals to live as faithful disciples of Jesus in these crucial areas. Further, it confirms how this group, comprising about 25 percent of those who vote, is a core component of President Donald Trump’s political support, with his angry, racially laden appeals to an exclusive ethno-nationalism.