Comments: opinion

So, according to Jerry Bowyer, if all Christian ministers simply become less-educated rubes who know how to spout the conservative line about gays, women, capitalism, the "right" answer about environmental issues, etc., if they know how to please the congregational masses, why, they'll be quite successful.
Jerry Bowyer sneers at well-educated ministers being the Green Party at prayer. It sounds like his successful ministers are the Tea Party at prayer.
I'm sorry, but I think I'll listen to Episcopal priests and Reform Jewish rabbis who have undergone a thorough education, who know that the world and theology are complex, who are aware that we have to struggle to find answers, and think for ourselves, not just blindly follow some guy (no women, remember) with a gift of gab.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 5:29pm BST

Bowyer's ignorance about seminary education is only trumped [Trumped?] by his prejudice.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 7:32pm BST

I'd have to say that Bowyer is right, even if I don't like the theology or politics of those he says are more successful financially. I'm looking forward to the next articles, to see if I'm just being overly trusting.
Note that Bowyer does NOT say that he agrees with what his stereotypical non-seminary preacher believes or says, only that mainline churches would do well to pay more heed to good preaching (which is not the same as good teaching) and possibly less to the educational format required for employment. Scholarship should inform preaching, but a detailed lecture on the finer points of textual criticism is not the same as helping a congregation find a contact point between themselves, their neighbor, and God.
I'm a singer, but if I sing the most wonderful, meaningful song in the world but don't convey 1) that I have understood it deeply, 2) that it matters to me, and 3) that it matters to me so much that I want it to be meaningful to you also, I've failed. To me, that's the difference between lecturing or chatting, and preaching.

Posted by RobinD at Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 11:41pm BST

RobinD, you seem to be calling for a prophet-less ministry, free of those who tell their congregations precisely what they DON'T want to hear.

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 8 May 2011 at 7:34am BST

".. translation is no mere tool for study; its effect is the effect of the incarnation and the cross. It becomes a kind of sacramental act – remembering that, for the Reformed theological tradition in England, the sacraments were both a ‘text’ in which the godly might read the full meaning of the recorded acts of God and a demonstration of the effects of the passion of Christ." - Abp. Rowan Williams -

This little gem, in the middle of this very long appraisal of scriptural interpretation by the ABC, spoke volumes to me - about the incarnational thrust of those parts of the scriptures that link the written Word, to the Word-made-flesh of Christ in the sacraments.

Until the words of scripture become en-fleshed by an experience of the Living Word, they may just be an exercise in semantics - not much use as a guide to the pilgrim way of God-in-Christ.

I must confess I do find Archbishop Rowan sometimes rather hard to follow, but i think he really has a point to make here that could be worked upon by preachers and teachers.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 8 May 2011 at 11:19am BST

No, not advocating a prophet-less ministry - just that the prophets among us might do a better job of preaching their prophecy. It's a matter of process, not content, and it just happens that many of the people who minister to conservatives do a much better job of telling their story. I frequently get the feeling (as a progressive myself) that mainstream clergy aren't quite sure what they themselves believe, and therefore are not emotionally (or technically) equipped to rouse their congregations. I also feel that even in congregations devoted to justice issues, those preaching are reluctant to challenge their flocks.

Surely if we believe that we are called to stand for certain concepts and beliefs, we should be able to get more than an academic assent from likeminded people, and should hopefuly be able to change at least some hearts among those who previously did not agree.

Yes, there are exceptions, but as an Episcopalian I've yawned through way too many sermons...

Posted by RobinD at Sunday, 8 May 2011 at 7:30pm BST

"I'd have to say that Bowyer is right, even if I don't like the theology or politics of those he says are more successful financially."

Yes, I was nodding through the first half of the piece and then there was an unpleasantly sharp turn halfway through.

Posted by Geoff at Sunday, 8 May 2011 at 9:21pm BST


I've yawned through quite a few myself...but I think the problem is that many Episcopalian preachers don't know when to shut up. They feel the need to make their point over and over and over and don't really know how to close out a speech.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 9 May 2011 at 1:57am BST

One of my mentors at Virginia Seminary was Churchill Gibson, whose advice on preaching was brief: "A good sermon is about God and about ten minutes."

When I read Mystery Worshipper accounts of services, I notice that most of the sermons times at [Holy Cow!] 50 minutes are NOT preached in Anglican or Episcopal churches.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 9 May 2011 at 1:28pm BST

RobinD has a point. Parish ministry is a preaching ministry. For most people, the vast proportion of the contact they have with their priest/pastor is in church and the sermon is his/her primary opportunity to connect with his/her parishioners. Seminaries should put maximum effort into equipping their students to construct and deliver a sermon (without neglecting all the other tools they will need, which includes a solid academic grounding), otherwise they are failing both their students and the churches they serve. And bishops might do well to take into consideration candidates talents in public speaking before sending them to seminary.

Posted by Fr Levi at Monday, 9 May 2011 at 8:03pm BST

And a sermon any longer than 10 minutes tops makes me want to doze off. Thing is, at my cathedral we have different preachers and each has his/her own style and interpretation of the propers for that day - to me it's a challenge to see how they tackle the propers and tie them to some thing relevant for today...

Posted by Jay Vos at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 2:45am BST

Why in the world should the ministry be a "preaching ministry?" Isn't there supposed to be something in there about actually giving care to individual people? Are we really just concerned about getting a bunch of dynamic attention-seekers?

Doesn't anyone else feel terribly embarrassed by and uncomfortable for priests or deacons who are so terribly "slick" and polished in their delivery?

You're not selling a product, and you're not a news presenter. You're not even a standup comic.

Education *is* vitally important - deep and broad - but don't teach glad-handing. Nobody has ever gotten much from a sermon they couldn't get from a book, or a self-help seminar, but God can LIVE through the interaction of person to person, not person to audience.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 6:53am BST

Yes, Mark. You're so right, the Word has to be allowed to become flesh!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 10:45am BST

As reported by contributors here, 'eutychitis' is a familiar condition first described in Acts 20:

'And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.' (Acts 20:9)

As with all scripture: Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 12:04pm BST

Live Aid 1985
Udo Lindenberg: '40 thousand children die every day at the hands of this military built-up. It is a crime that this madeness has now moved into another dimension. These governments in Washington and the Kremlin are sick in their heads...We see our song as a demonstration of those people who will no longer condone this insanity - we rise up against it.'

Versus Preaching:
Bob Geldof: Mick and Dave did that video specifically so that you could give something, but it’s not happening enough.
You know, you’ve got to get on the phone and take the money out of your pocket. Don’t go to the pub tonight, please. Stay in and give us the money. There are people dying NOW. So give the money and here’s the numbers.
David Hepworth: Let’s just get the addresses.
Bob Geldof: No. (expletive deleted) the addresses. Let’s get the numbers ‘cos that’s how were gonna get it!

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 1:58pm BST

Uneducated and backward clergy leading uneducated and backward people-reinforcing their prejudices and shunning anything and anyone they don't agree with. What could go wrong?

Posted by Adam Armstrong at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 1:59pm BST

This article from its original site.

Posted by Adam Armstrong at Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at 2:07pm BST
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