In the fall of 1964, I entered seminary for ordination having just returned from a year of study in Europe. I had left the United States the year before, shortly after the bombing of an Alabama church in which four young black girls had been killed. I returned to the United States shortly after Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Those two events were formative in defining the issues of the decade. And one of the most important voices with respect to both of those issues was an Episcopalian lawyer and lay theologian by the name of William Stringfellow.
Not long after beginning seminary, I first learned of Stringfellow with the publication of his book My People Is the Enemy. It was based primarily on his experiences living in East Harlem, first as a staff member of the East Harlem Protestant Parish and then on his own. For a generation of seminarians anxious to redress social injustice, Stringfellow symbolized, through his life and his writing, an advocacy stance on behalf of the poor that the times, and the gospel, seemed to demand.
Until his death in March 1985, Stringfellow was a prolific writer and frequent speaker and lecturer, often in spite of severe health issues that finally claimed his life at the age of 56. Now, 10 years after his death, none of his books are in print, and this current generation of seminarians (as well as most contemporary Christian laypeople) hardly know his name.