The Gospel according to William Stringfellow

The writing of Episcopal lay theologian and activist William Stringfellow is featured in a new collection published this week.

The lastest installment in Orbis Books’ Modern Spiritual Masters Series is William Stringfellow: Essential Writings.

John Dear S.J. reviews the book in National Catholic Reporter:

In the early 1990s, while in graduate theology school, one of my professors invited us to write about a theologian we had never studied. I picked William Stringfellow, the legendary lay theologian, Episcopalian and social critic. He had been a friend of many of my friends and though I once had a chance to make a retreat with him, we never met. A few years after his death in 1985 at age 56, I began staying regularly in a cottage on his property on Block Island, R.I. That cottage became a second home.

So that semester, I read every published work by Stringfellow. “My concern is to understand America biblically,” he wrote at the start of An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land. “The effort is to comprehend the nation, to grasp what is happening right now to the nation and to consider the destiny of the nation within the scope and style of the ethics of the ethical metaphors distinctive to the biblical witness in history. The task is to treat the nation within the tradition of biblical politics, to understand America biblically — not the other way around, not (to put it in an appropriately awkward way) to construe the Bible Americanly.”

With those opening sentences, I was hooked. Stringfellow’s been part of my regular spiritual diet ever since. He tried to keep the Word of God and apply the Word of God to our national and global predicament; that is, to Death and the powers and principalities.

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  1. Geoffrey McLarney

    I have to say I find the term “lay theologian” a particularly unhelpful equivocation.

  2. tgflux

    I agree w/ Geoffrey: assumes a “theologian” is clergy, unless otherwise specified? [Although mentioning he was a lawyer is informative]

    Stringfellow was a great theologian (and ethicist), period.

    JC Fisher

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