Sane Action in a Crazy World—A Meditation on Jeremiah 32

Seven weeks ago, while I was in Australia as part of my sabbatical, I preached a sermon on Jeremiah 32 at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide. Of the four lectionary texts that week, I chose to focus on the prophet Jeremiah during the Babylonian siege, while touching on the other three texts (portions of Psalm 91 on God’s protection, a passage from 1 Timothy 6 on the dangers of wealth, and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16).

The actual lectionary readings were Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31. These four texts can be accessed here.

It has struck me that my reflections might be helpful to those struggling to come to terms with the current political situation in the US, even though it wasn’t written with this situation in mind.

Although parts of my sermon were specifically contextual, directed to Christians living in Australian society, most of the sermon is broadly relevant to what our response should be in a time of crisis. At one point I noted: “We feel under siege. Life has begun to get constricted; the walls are closing in. We need breathing room.”

I have reproduced the entire sermon below in this blog. Or you can download it as a PDF file.


  • Sane Action in a Crazy World
  • J. Richard Middleton
  • Sermon for St. Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide
  • Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, 25 September 2016
  • Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

* * * * * *

The year is 597 B.C.

The prophet Jeremiah had been proclaiming the word of God to the people of Jerusalem and Judah for close to forty years; he’s an old man now.

But his words have fallen mostly on deaf ears.

Repent, he had exhorted them; change your ways; seek to fulfill God’s purposes in the way you treat your neighbour, and do not pursue your own selfish desires. Don’t just claim to trust in God, but bring your life into conformity with the claim.

Otherwise, you presume on God’s grace, and make a sham of true religion.

But Jeremiah wasn’t just a moralist, telling people to “act nicely.” He was calling them to covenant fidelity to God. He was calling them back to their fundamental identity as God’s people—a people with a vocation, a calling of exhibiting God’s rule to all the nations of the world—by how they lived.

And he warned of coming disaster. Initially, he spoke of an enemy coming from the north. Then later he put the name Babylon on this threat—Babylon, the great superpower of the sixth century B.C.

But the people ignored his message. The priests didn’t listen; the other prophets disdained him. His own family shunned him; various kings had him put into stocks or thrown into a pit, and the latest king (Zedekiah) put him in prison.

So here is Jeremiah, confined to the court of the guard in Jerusalem. Trapped; bound; constrained.

And wouldn’t you know it—his prophetic warnings have come true. Indeed, Zedekiah was only appointed king, ten years earlier, when the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem and the previous king surrendered as a way to save the city.

But now the end has come. Even the puppet king Zedekiah (placed on the throne by Babylon) has rebelled against his overlords, and the Babylonian armies have again marched on Jerusalem.

And there are the armies of Babylon, surrounding the city, settling in for a siege. Many Judeans in the countryside have already been killed. And the people of Jerusalem are panicked.

This is the end; Jeremiah knows it. The city will fall; the temple will be destroyed; many people will die; others will be taken into exile; they will become war refugees fleeing their land, which will be taken over by a foreign empire.

So Jeremiah is trapped, confined not just in the court of the guard; but even if he was let free, the city is surrounded. There is no way out.

* * * * * *

There may well be some of us here this morning who can identify with Jeremiah. Our siege may be different. It may be the breakdown of a marriage (maybe it’s been coming for ten years); or the loss of a job. Possibly it’s a financial crisis we don’t know how we will get through. Or it could be a betrayal by a friend. Maybe it’s a son or daughter who has disappointed us, rejecting all we hold dear. Or perhaps our own faith is fraying.

We feel under siege. Life has begun to get constricted; the walls are closing in. We need breathing room.

* * * * * *

Some of us are like the rich man in our parable (from Luke 16)—though we don’t like to admit it; we typically pay no attention to the suffering of the Lazaruses around us. Truth be told, we’re oblivious to them in the mad rush of our lives. As the reading from 1 Timothy puts it, in our “eagerness to be rich” we have “wandered away from the faith” (from faithfulness to God)—while remaining (respectably) in the church. Yes, that is entirely possible.

We don’t need Jeremiah—or anyone else—to tell us this. We are aware (if we’re honest) that we have (slowly, at first) begun to buy into the shallow values of this world, placing wealth and success above people and above compassion. Until we’ve bought in, whole hog.

And the result, to use language from 1 Timothy, is that we have “pierced [our]selves with many pains,” driving people away from us, leading to a shallowness of life that we are always subliminally aware of, only to push the thought away—until it comes back to haunt us in the dark hours of the night.

And we wonder how we can begin to extricate ourselves from these prisons of our own making. What can lift the siege?

* * * * * *

But there are others here this morning who can’t identify with the besieged prophet. Life seems pretty smooth for us right now. Things are going well. Investments are paying off. We’re successful at work, in relationships.

We could almost recite Psalm 91. It feels like we’re living in the shelter of the Most High, protected by the shadow of the Almighty.

Of course, we might not actually want to recite Psalm 91, not explicitly. Yet there are many in the church—and in society—who assume the posture of this psalm.

If we are good people (and, of course, we are), then God will deliver us from the snare of the fowler; God will cover us with his wings; and we won’t fear the terror by night or the arrow by day—all metaphorical language. But we know what it means. God protects good people (like us) from disaster.

It’s interesting that those putting together the lectionary left out the really extreme verses: “A thousand may fall at your side, / ten thousand at your right hand, / but it will not come near you. / You will only look with your eyes / and see the punishment of the wicked.”

Of course, none of us really believes that—that’s just too self-serving; and too arrogant.

And yet . . . if we are honest (if I am honest) we may admit that we try to sneak in some sort of magical idea of God’s protection of “us good people,” while (maybe subconsciously) looking down our noses at those “wicked” who suffer difficulty and disaster.

It’s interesting that archeologists have turned up a number of amulets, Israelite amulets that Israelites wore to fend off evil, that have verses from Psalm 91 inscribed on them.

It goes pretty deep, this magical idea that we can somehow be protected from trouble, that we are immune to disaster.

* * * * * *

But no-one is immune; not Jeremiah (who was a righteous prophet), not us (with all our moral ambiguity), not even Jesus. You do know about the cross—this Roman instrument of torture that he was executed on?

In fact, two of the verses missing from our Psalm 91 lectionary reading were quoted by the devil to Jesus in the wilderness: God “will command his angels concerning you / to guard you in all your ways. / On their hands they will bear you up, / so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

And do you remember Jesus’s response? “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Because he knew that the servant of the Lord, the one who wants to be faithful to God, cannot live immune to suffering.

* * * * * *

The question before us this morning is not how to avoid suffering, but what do you do when the walls are closing in? It’s not how to prevent disaster, either personal (our own prison, in the court of the guard) or communal (with the siege ramps going up around our city); the question is whether we give up hope in a time of crisis, when things look bleak, either for us personally or perhaps when our society seems to be crumbling—when priests are complicit in sexual abuse, when terrorists bomb marketplaces, when little girls like Tiahliegh Palmer go missing and then turn up dead, discovered by fishermen.

This is a world in which aboriginal peoples do not receive justice, where race and class and wealth tilt the balance against so many; this is a world where—to put it bluntly—Babylon seems to dominate the landscape, and the city of God is compromised by the power and weapons of this world.

So it’s way too late to ask how we can avoid suffering. The question is: what will we do in the face of a world wracked by suffering, a world out of joint with God’s purposes of shalom and justice for all?

* * * * * *

It was in such a world that Jeremiah received a word from God. Or, at least he thought it was a word from God. Because it was a very strange word.

He thought he heard God telling him that his cousin Hanamel was going to pay him a visit and suggest that he buy a bit of real estate off him, some land he owned in Anathoth, not three miles north of Jerusalem. Since this was land that the Babylonian army was occupying, and Judah was sure to fall to Babylonian control, the land would be useless to Hanamel. So, no wonder he wanted to palm it off on Jeremiah!

But then this very strange word was fulfilled. Hanamel came, just as God said, and offered him the sale. “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord,” said Jeremiah.

And he goes ahead with the crazy deal. Jeremiah not only buys the land (that is overrun by Babylon), but he goes through the process of having the deed signed (with two copies) and attested by witnesses, with both copies kept safe so that future generations might know what he did.

But why did he do such a crazy thing?

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

In other words, this was a radical act of hope in the midst of what looked like a hopeless situation. It was staking a claim on a future that looked closed off. It was affirming that God was not done with his people or with this world.

* * * * * *

And some of us have heard a word from the Lord; or we think it might be from God (it’s hard to figure out if it’s really God speaking or just our crazy ideas, sometimes).

Maybe we’ve heard a word suggesting some crazy, counter-cultural action—like stepping back from the rat race, putting the brakes on our climbing the ladder of success—to spend time with people.

Maybe with the adult son or daughter who has been pulling away. Could that be the word of God whispering in our ear to book a lunch date with them, to just find out how they’re doing, and show interest in their lives—no strings attached?

Or is that a word from God suggesting that we pay attention to our neighbour who has been going through a difficult time (that neighbour might be right beside us in this church, or down the street, or in our work place)? That neighbour might need financial help; or just a friend to talk to.

Perhaps the word we sense (is it from God?) has been prompting us to get involved in our city, entering the political process, to put into action our passion for justice and transformative change.

Maybe the word in our ear or in our heart has been suggesting that it’s high time we took seriously the racism in Australian culture, especially towards aboriginal peoples, and find concrete ways to made a difference.

Or is the whisper we hear telling us to pay our employees a living wage, to re-think the pay structure of our organization, so that people are treated with dignity and humanity, and not just as “workers.”

And, of course, God could be telling us something that no preacher could guess; but we know what the prompting is.

* * * * * *

What is the plot of land that God is prompting each of us to purchase?

What great or (perhaps) small action is God asking of us, that would be an investment in the future? That would be a signpost of hope in a world of corruption and despair?

Yes, this is a time of great upheaval, with climate change impacting many coastal peoples, including Pacific islanders. This is a world of political corruption and senseless crime; a world in which millions of refugees flee their homes, trying to find a safe place to live.

And we may personally be under siege.

The Babylonian armies may be encamped all around.

But precisely in this time of crisis God gives Jeremiah a word of hope: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

For this is the world that God loves, that Jesus died for. And God has never abandoned this world; God has never given up on us

“This is my Father’s world,” wrote a clergyman (in 1901) who lived not a hundred kilometers from my current home in Rochester, NY. “This is my Father’s world.” And he goes on to say: “And let me ne’er forget / that though the wrong seems oft so strong, / God is the ruler yet.”

And those words, like the words of the Lord to Jeremiah, give us hope.

But hope that is not acted on soon fades and dies.

Hope needs to be lived out, in concrete action.

And the claim that “God is the ruler yet” will not be believed—not even by ourselves—if we do not seek to manifest this rule in our lives.

And so the word of God comes to each of us, as it came to Jeremiah, saying: “Buy a plot of land.”

I know it sounds crazy. But if we are open to that voice, maybe some Hanamel will come to us and confirm the whisper we have heard, until—like Jeremiah—we just know that this is the world of the Lord.

And then we act on it.

Indeed, this may be the most sane action we can take in a crazy world.

Amen.

* * * * * *

The entire sermon is downloadable as a PDF file.

Earth Day in the Bible

Today is Earth Day, when we attend to the health of our earthly environment. The first Earth Day was observed in 1970, when the environmental movement was born in the wake of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

The Original Earth Day

But there’s a sense in which Earth Day goes back to Genesis 1, when God looked at what he made and saw that it was good. We could say that was God’s “observance” of Earth Day.

But then came human sin, which brought ruin to the world. We today can understand very well how human evil can taint our earthly environment. But it’s quite an achievement for the ancient author of Genesis to understand how inextricably humans are bound to the earth.

We see the human effect on the earth when we read on in Genesis.

Take the contrast between Genesis 1 and 6. Whereas God had looked at the initial world he made and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31), later we are told that when God looked he saw something quite different—that human evil was great on the earth (Genesis 6:5), and that the earth had as a consequence become become corrupted or ruined (Genesis 6:12).

Later, in the New Testament, Paul can talk about not just human beings, but creation itself, groaning in bondage to futility and yearning for liberation (Romans 8). This is something we today can understand with perhaps other levels of meaning than first-century Christians could—we who live in a world of global warming, melting icecaps, toxic waste, bleaching coral reefs, and rapid species extinction due to habitat erosion.

The Pain that Plagues Creation

Just yesterday I was listening to an old song (from the eighties) by Mark Heard, called “The Pain that Plagues Creation.” It’s very appropriate for Earth Day.

Mark Heard was what we might call an alternative Christian singer/songwriter, who was not quite in the mainstream. He died young, and Bruce Cockburn wrote and recorded a song about him called “The Strong Hand of Love” for a tribute album.

Here’s a recording of “The Pain that Plagues Creation,” and you can follow along with the lyrics below.

As this planet falls around the sun
Trapping us in the orbit
Creation groans in unison
Like a race of frightened orphans

The darkness of this raging storm
Is covering up our portals
But a yearning for the light is borne
In the heart of every mortal

Day to day we ache
With the pain that plagues creation
Night to night we lie awake
And await its restoration

Heaven knows our lonely ways
Heaven knows our sorrows
And Heaven knows things that we don’t know
And the joy of eternal tomorrows

But through this glass we dimly see
This world as it was made
Oh and the good we know must surely flow
From the heart of a kind Creator

Refrain

So hold on in this restless age
And do not fear your shadow
Your alternating tears and praise
Are prayers that surely will matter

Refrain

Mark Heard, “The Pain that Plagues Creation”
From the 1983 album Eye of the Storm
© 1983 Bug ’n Bear Music

New Earth Day

Yes, there is a pain that plagues creation—both human beings and the earth and its varied lifeforms. But the Bible envisions a great change coming, an end to pain when tears will be wiped away.

In the book of Revelation, John tells us: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). He sees the New Jerusalem (representing the renewed community of believers) descending from heaven, and he hears a voice from the throne declaring God’s permanent dwelling with us on earth, since the curse is removed.

Then comes the amazing announcement: “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

For those (ancient or modern) who know the ruined earth, its hard to take this seriously; so the voice adds: “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Since I’m preaching this Sunday at Community of the Savior (my home church), I’m aware that Revelation 21:1-6 is one of the scheduled lectionary readings, along with Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, and John 13:31-35.

It isn’t exactly clear how all these texts fit together—and it isn’t every week that those who organized the lectionary intended all four assigned texts to mutually illumine each other.

But in this case I think the lectionary texts fit together remarkably well.

And that’s what I’m going to try and communicate in my sermon for this Fifth Sunday of Easter (a.k.a. Earth Day Sunday).

And for my Jewish readers this Friday afternoon, Shabbat Shalom!

___________________________

Click here for the audio of my sermon (“Enlarging Our Vision: God’s Plan for All Creation”), and click here for the written text.

 

Northeastern Seminary—A Hidden Gem

Note: This post has been updated April 2017.

I started teaching biblical studies at Northeastern Seminary in 2011, having previously taught for ten years at Roberts Wesleyan College and for six years before that at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (all in Rochester, NY).

Northeastern Seminary was founded in 1998 by faculty from the religion, philosophy, and history departments at Roberts Wesleyan College (in consultation with Wesleyan theologian Tom Oden from Drew University). This was the fruition of a multi-year exploration of the possibility of a graduate-level theological institution on the Roberts campus.

Although Northeastern Seminary is, in effect, a graduate school of Roberts Wesleyan College, it is institutionally and legally separate, with its own charter and accreditation.

 My Teaching at Northeastern Seminary

I learned about Northeastern back in January 2002 when I began teaching Old Testament and Hebrew to undergraduate students at Roberts. My faculty position at the College included a part-time appointment at the Seminary, to teach one or two courses per year, plus serve as guest lecturer in various faculty’s courses as needed. After teaching a couple of Master’s-level elective courses at Northeastern, I settled into teaching a “Scriptural Foundations” course for the fledgling D.Min. program, which began in my second year at Roberts.

My teaching at Northeastern currently includes a Core course called “Biblical Worldview: Story, Theology, Ethics” and an introduction to Biblical Exegesis (both courses are taken by all Masters students in their first semester), plus a number of advanced courses in Biblical Exegesis, which have variable content (I have taught sections of Genesis, 1 and 2 Samuel, the Psalms and Job, and case studies in the New Testament use of the Old Testament).

My goal in these courses is to introduce students to the comprehensive, holistic, life-giving vision of the Scriptures (“Biblical Worldview”) and to hands-on, detailed, close reading of biblical texts (“Biblical Exegesis”). Both sorts of courses are intended to help students become responsible interpreters of Scripture for teaching and preaching in the church.

A Unique Tradition and Perspective

Northeastern Seminary continues the tradition of Roberts Wesleyan College, which was founded by B. T. Roberts in 1866. Roberts was an advocate of Wesleyan “social holiness,” so his Christian faith led him to oppose slavery and oppression of the poor, and to support women’s right to vote and even ordination (his book Ordaining Women was published in 1891). Along with a number of others, he founded the Free Methodist Church in 1860.

https://i1.wp.com/media.salemwebnetwork.com/Christianity/HistoryTimeline/20725.jpg

While the Seminary derives from the Free Methodist tradition and is nourished by the vision of B. T. Roberts, it is ecumenical in scope, with students from over thirty denominations, including Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, independent/ non-denominational, United Church of Christ, Anglican/ Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and various Wesleyan traditions (Free Methodist, United Methodist, Nazarene, Wesleyan, AME, AME Zion, CME).

The student body currently numbers 165 and includes about one-third African-Americans. The average age is 42 (though students range from those just out of college to those in their sixties or seventies).

The Seminary curriculum was developed to cater to working people (both ordained and lay), so courses are offered in the evenings, and students from distance locations in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany are linked by video conferencing. Since it opened its doors in 1998 Northeastern Seminary has graduated about 400 students, serving in widely different forms of ministry in North America and throughout the world.

The Seminary is committed to grounding students in the classic tradition of theological orthodoxy (reaching back through the ecumenical creeds to the Bible) with relevance to the current needs of church and society in a postmodern age.

The Core Curriculum at Northeastern

Northeastern Seminary has an unusual Core curriculum, which includes a sequence of four semesters of comprehensive, interdisciplinary, foundational courses (labeled BHT for Bible/History/Theology). Each course is organized around a different historical period:

Semester 1: Biblical Worldview: Story, Theology, Ethics (taught by Dr. J. Richard Middleton).

Semester 2: The Formative Era: From Synagogue to Cathedral – Growth and Change in the Early and Medieval Church (taught by Dr. Rebecca Letterman).

Semester 3: The Protestant Era: Reformation and Revival in the Church (taught by Dr. Josef Sykora).

Semester 4: The Modern and Postmodern Era: The Church in an Age of Science, Technology, and Secularization (taught by Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt).

These four interdisciplinary courses are each combined with an accompanying Core course in Biblical Exegesis: Introduction to exegesis the first semester, then case studies in various texts of the Old and New Testaments in the following three semesters.

These courses are accompanied by four semesters of an intentional spiritual formation component, which includes retreats, chapel services, and faith sharing groups directed by trained spiritual facilitators, each of whom mentors a group of 6-10 students.

There are also a variety of post-Core courses in Bible, theology, ethics, history, ministry, pastoral/ spiritual formation, and field education that students take (the particular combination depends on which degree program a student is enrolled in).

The curriculum exposes adult learners to serious study of Scripture and to the ecumenical church in its complex development throughout history, while equipping them with practical courses in ministry. This rigorous academic approach is intertwined with spiritual formation so that students integrate their biblical and theological learning with their growing faith.

Programs of Study at Northeastern Seminary

The seminary currently offers five degrees, all of which are fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (professional), the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (regional), and the New York Board of Regents (state).

Four are Master’s degree programs:

  • M.A (Theological Studies)
  • M.Div.
  • M.A. in Theology and Social Justice
  • M.A. in Transformational Leadership

The fifth is a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree.

While the first M.A. is the degree of choice for those desiring an academic grounding in theological studies (with the possibility of a thesis), the others are explicitly professional degrees, meant to prepare students for various forms of ministry in the church and the world.

The D.Min. is an advanced professional development degree for those with a minimum of three years ministry experience after the M.Div. (it requires a major research project or dissertation).

Northeastern Seminary has worked out an arrangement with the graduate department of Social Work at Roberts Wesleyan College to allow interested students to complete either the M.Div. or the M.A. (Theological Studies) in tandem with an M.S.W., with less time than it would take to do both degrees separately (due to course overlap).

The Seminary has also entered into an agreement with the religion and philosophy department at Roberts, which, when NY State approval is received, will allow religion students to enter the Seminary after three years of undergraduate study instead of four (students would jointly receive their B.A along with their Seminary degree).

Northeastern Seminary Faculty

The Seminary has seven regular faculty, who teach the Core courses and electives; some faculty are also involved in administration and supervise Field Education.

  • Dr. Douglas R. Cullum (Ph.D., Drew University), Vice President and Dean; Professor of Historical and Pastoral Theology
  • Dr. Elizabeth Gerhardt (Th.D., Boston University School of Theology), Professor of Theology and Social Ethics.
  • Dr. Nelson J. Grimm (Ph.D., University at Buffalo), Director of Field Education and Professor of Applied Theology.
  • Dr. Rebecca S. Letterman (Ph.D., Cornell University), Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation.
  • Dr. J. Richard Middleton (Ph.D., Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis.
  • Dr. Esau McCaulley (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews), Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity.
  • Dr. Josef Sykora (Ph.D., Durham University), Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program; Assistant Professor of Biblical Interpretation.

There are also faculty members at Roberts Wesleyan College who hold special appointments as part-time faculty at the Seminary .

  • Dr. David Basinger (Ph.D., University of Nebraska at Lincoln), Professor of Philosophy and Ethics.
  • Dr. Scott Brenon Caton (Ph.D., University of Rochester), Professor of History and Culture.

The Seminary also has numerous adjunct faculty from the College and the community who teach a variety of elective courses on different topics (some are pastors, others teach in other institutions).

D.Min. Dissertations and M.A. Theses that I’ve Supervised

Although Northeastern Seminary has as its goal the preparation of women and men for various forms of ministry in the contemporary church and world, the curriculum allows for those who desire to pursue academic research in a variety of areas.

Since I began teaching full-time at Northeastern in 2011, I’ve supervised quite a variety of D.Min. dissertations and M.A. theses. Some of these have addressed topics at the interface of theology and biblical studies, while others have explored theological issues in connection with philosophy, ethics, liturgy, and cultural studies. You can get a good sense of the interdisciplinary nature of the Seminary from the titles of the dissertations and theses I’ve supervised:

  • Reclaiming the Biblical Message: A Caribbean Theological Perspective (Ajilon Ferdinand)
  • The Open Vocation of Humanity as Established in the Genesis Cosmogonies and Its Implication on Scripture (Traci Birge)
  • Indwelling the Biblical Story: The Liturgical Grounding of the Church’s Identity and Mission (Jonathan Poag)
  • Living Sacramentally: The Problem of Being and Doing with Special Reference to Thomas Aquinas (Margaret Giordano)
  • The New Creation Fugue: The Interweaving of Individual, Community, and Cosmos in Paul’s Theology of New Creation (Calvin Smith)
  • Two Pauline Ways to Describe the Ethics of the Resurrection Life (Matthew Davis)
  • Introducing the Incarnate Christ: How John’s Logos Theology Sets the Stage for the Narrative Development of Jesus’s Identity (Christopher Cordell Sullivan)

An Open and Ecumenical Orthodoxy

Northeastern Seminary combines the best of classical theological orthodoxy with a generous openness to a variety of viewpoints from many ecumenical traditions. The Wesleyan theological roots that nourish the Seminary are characterized by fidelity to Scripture and the ecumenical creeds of the church, while the contemporary plant puts out shoots in multiple directions and flowers into an open-ended exploration of how the faith (once for all delivered to the saints) relates to the contemporary world, with its often difficult questions and issues.

Northeastern Seminary could therefore be characterized (as I myself was once described, when being introduced as a retreat speaker) as being “more conservative than the conservatives and more liberal than the liberals.” Without wanting to claim that every faculty member is just like me (they are certainly not), I think this paradoxical summary gets at my experience of the Seminary as transcending the typical “culture wars” approach to life found in many theological traditions.

In classes, faculty and students engage in guided investigation of Scripture, tradition, and the world around us, grounded in our commitment to the triune God revealed in the incarnate Christ, yet without narrow assumptions that prejudge important questions in advance.

Our full- and part-time faculty come from Methodist, Lutheran, Charismatic, Episcopal/Anglican, Brethren, and Roman Catholic traditions, and most have been shaped by complex denominational experiences beyond their current church membership (including Presbyterian, American Baptist, Primitive Baptist, and Missionary Church).

While each faculty member has their own theological orientation and disciplinary specialization, we all respect each other and honor both our common faith in Christ and the diversity and expertise we bring to the table. One important clue to the atmosphere of the Seminary is that faculty meetings are often characterized by laughter—we really like each other!

Northeastern Seminary—A Hidden Gem

In short, Northeastern Seminary is a hidden gem. I’m delighted to be teaching at this unique theological school.

If you’re interested in learning more about Northeastern Seminary, you can can find answers to many of your questions on the FAQ page. Further inquires can be directed to the relevant admission staff members.