I was recently interviewed by the Hagerstown, MD Harald-Mail as a part of a series of articles covering an abuse coverup at a prominent Christian school there. I spent quite a bit of time with the reporter on the phone, and she did an excellent job putting this together. The newspaper article is largely just reporting her interview with me.
In the interview, I say some things that I think all church leaders should know about responding to abuse. If you are a church leader, I encourage you to read the article and leave a comment if you would like more resources.
Thanks so much to Tamela Baker for her excellent work on this story, and to her colleague Alexis Fitzpatrick who teamed up with her on this project to break the story of abuse and coverup at the school there. In the process, they show the important role that journalists play in shining light on the truth when institutions fail to do that. The greatest recent example of this was the Boston Globe’s reporting in the Spotlight project, which blew the lid off of the clergy abuse scandal in this country. A fantastic movie was made about this that every Christian should watch. While this set of reporting will not likely end up on the silver screen, it demonstrates the vital role that local journalists play. Remember, it was the journalists at the Indianapolis Star, who were willing to run with the story that Rachael Denhollander was pitching them, that exposed and eventually took down Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics.
Here is the article. I hope it both informs and challenges you.
To our Congregation (and other interested parties):
I’m writing to let you all know that I have received an amazing opportunity to teach the Ancient and Medieval Church History course at Covenant Seminary this fall. Just to alleviate any concern right off the bat, this is a part-time adjunct appointment which does not signal the change (or any intention to change) of my role at Christ Our King.
This course is a part of the core curriculum for all those training for the pastorate at Covenant Seminary. The subject is right in the area of my PhD work (I majored in Medieval and minored in Ancient). This is a wonderful opportunity for my career, as I seek to develop my involvement in academics, and also, I believe, for our church.
The course meets twice a week (Tues/Thurs) at 8:30AM, so I will have to travel to St. Louis two mornings a week. This amounts to a full day’s work per week. This will not affect any of the commitments I currently have in weekly church events, which for now happen on Wednesday or Sunday. The seminary is providing a teaching assistant to help lessen the work of grading (this is a huge blessing!).
While we are on this topic, let me take a moment to describe how I see myself pursuing the academic side of my ministry so as to hopefully alleviate any potential concerns. I feel strongly called to be a pastor-scholar. This means that I really enjoy and feel called to the pastorate. I enjoy being your pastor. I’m not looking at the pastorate as a stepping stone to an academic career. Yet, at the same time, I have gifts and a calling to the academic side of ministry as well. I am seeking to find the balance of old struck by pillars such as Augustine and Ambrose who were both pastors and scholars to the great benefit of their own congregations and the church at large. This is not to say that I think of myself on their level (how ludicrous would that be?), but that I look to them as a model for ministry.
So, to be clear, this does not in any way signal that my real desire is to be a professor and that this is just the first step back into that world. No, I want to be a pastor-scholar, and what this signals is that I am seeking to be faithful to the gifts God has given me and with the education I have been given, both in the pastorate and in the academic world.
Please give thanks with me for this wonderful opportunity, and pray for me as I seek to balance my life between these two pursuits this fall.
I haven’t posted for a while because I have been busy preparing for my dissertation defense. Many folks have been asking me about the details of the defense, so I decided to compose a blog post to fill everybody in.
The defense was a wonderful experience. My director, Dr. James Ginther and my two readers were very complimentary of my work. First, I gave a short presentation on my dissertation to introduce it for the sake of the audience. Then were many questions and answers from my committee and the audience. After this, my committee went outside the room to deliberate and came back with their decision. My director pronounced a welcome in to the community of university masters (in Latin!) and presented me with my doctoral hood.
Here is the abstract of my dissertation that I composed for the defense program:
Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus of Corbie were two ninth century monks who each wrote treatises on the topic of the Eucharist—both with the same title, De corpore et sanguine Domini. During the sixteenth century Reformation an historical narrative and interpretation was established which posited Paschasius and Ratramnus as bitter rivals in a eucharistic controversy. Ratramnus was claimed by the Reformers as one who shared their view of the Eucharist, and Paschasius was claimed by the Roman Catholics as one who shared theirs. This common interpretation has persisted to this day. However, in the last 25-30 years there has been some call, led by the French scholar Jean-Paul Bouhot, to theorize that there was no controversy between Paschasius and Ratramnus. These more recent scholarly questions led me to discover that there were two lacunae in modern scholarship surrounding Paschasius: no one had ever attempted to read Paschasius’s text in its own particular context and in its own terms, and no one had explored the role of the theology of corpus in his text and how that might lead to developments in its overall interpretation. The purpose of this dissertation is therefore to carefully explore the historical and theological context surrounding the writing of Paschasius’s treatise. In doing this I was very careful to isolate Paschasius’s text from his supposed interlocutors, with whom I argue he had no interlocution, in order to discover its inherent meaning. When applying this method I was able to articulate Paschasius’s doctrine of eucharistic presence, which I label “Eucharistic Motion,” and to articulate a cohesive theology of the concept corpus, which serves as the hermeneutical key to his treatise. Finally, I argue in this dissertation that the entirety of Paschasius’s writing and theologizing was for the purposes of promoting unity in the church through the means of worthy eucharistic reception.
Here is a link to the audio from my defense that Jeff Meyers recorded:
Here is a link to the program for my defense:
Here are the last two paragraphs of my dissertation that I used to close my presentation at the defense:
Which leads me to the final aspect of my conclusion: my estimation, or hopes rather, for the ultimate impact of this study. I am a Presbyterian minister. I did my doctoral work at a Jesuit university. I have rubbed shoulders with many followers of Christ from different, often warring, ecclesiastical traditions: Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox. I have seen that a great deal that holds us apart is our view of the Eucharist. This is utterly absurd when we stop to think about it! A table that was meant to unite has become a table of division. Devils rejoice at the thought.
My hope is that this study will help to show that we can all agree on the Eucharist. I believe that Paschasius’s doctrine of the Eucharist presents us all a way forward, a way of conceiving of the Lord’s Supper that we can all agree with. A Eucharist that is powerful. A Eucharist that distinguishes between the bodies of Christ. A Eucharist that insists upon its mystical nature. A Eucharist that eschews Berengar’s oath. Paschasius’s theology pre-dates our disagreements. His theology represents an era before our Church was rent asunder. If I a Presbyterian pastor can work to rehabilitate a Roman Catholic saint, attempting to show that his theology presents us all with a way forward, cannot we all give a little ground? What beauty would it be – What glory! – if this text, a text that has been used as a blunt axe to split the Table of the Lord in to pieces, could finally be used as it was originally intended: a text to bring us all to the Eucharist together and to make us all one.