Wesley Granberg-Michaelson 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 Church, and 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
A Word for All the President's Enablers
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
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?
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'
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
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
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
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
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'
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.
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
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
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.
The Most Disheartening Survey of Voters
Of all the various surveys and polls I’ve seen leading up to today’s election, one was the most disheartening and depressing: The 2018 American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. While examining voters’ attitudes on a wide range of issues facing the electorate, most revealing are the views of white evangelicals. This constitutes nothing short of moral and ethical indictment, documenting with irrefutable evidence the failure of this group to embody many values of the gospel they confess.
Partisanship Reigns Supreme
Thursday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) changed the narrative from the weight of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's compelling testimony to a matter of completely partisan loyalty against the Democrats, who of course had their own partisan motives. But the greatest blame, in my view, rests with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who made the most partisan move in the history of Supreme Court nominations by refusing to even consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for an entire year. That poisoned the Senate "well" for Supreme Court nominations in toxic ways.
Crimes Against Creation
I confess it is so easy, and tempting, for me to become exorcised over Donald Trump’s daily deceits, narcissism, and shredding of public virtue. But a deeper threat looms, begun many decades before. Humanity is destroying the integrity of God’s creation. The most flagrant and catastrophic assaults are now altering the globe’s climate in ways that already are impacting the world’s most vulnerable people and threatening us all. President Trump’s policies are aimed at liberating constraints on the burning of more coal and carbon, come hell or high water.
The Walls of the Camino
I kept examining these ancient walls. Often, they were slabs of granite laid on top of one another, with thousands of pieces. Their age and the constant moisture of the air in Galicia, blowing from the sea miles away, meant walls were covered the moss, and vegetation wove through them like a net, holding them in place. Certainly, some of this was engineered as the pilgrimage gained in popularity, and political and religious authorities invested in the Camino’s infrastructure.
All Are Pilgrims
The day that I and my three American companions left the Albergue Turistico de Salceda and walked our final 20 miles into the Santiago, arriving exhausted but thrilled in front of the Cathedral, the city was thronged with pilgrims. This happens day after day. But who are these people? Why do they make this journey? And what does this say about the future of faith?
Hospitality on the Way
Walking the Camino with my companions I’ve tried so far, as a spiritual practice, to stop thinking about American politics and Donald Trump. But then I’ve been given tomatoes, and orange juice, and coffee by total strangers, wishing me well on my pilgrimage. I’ve been a vulnerable one on a journey in a strange place.