Gordon-Conwell Blog

Racial Reconciliation Series: A Conversation with Dr. Emmett G. Price III

October 20, 2017

As part of the release of fall 2017 edition of Contact Magazine, the Office Hours Faculty Blog is proud to present a 6-week series on racial reconciliation featuring articles written by experts, scholars and ministry leaders from Gordon-Conwell. The inaugural article entitled A Coversation with Dr. Emmett G. Price III by Anne Doll will kick off the weekly release each Friday and will include articles Beyond Colorblind, Ministering to Families in the Urban Context, How Do We Learn to Love Our Neighbor, Racial Reconciliation: My Personal Experience and Can We All Get Along.


A Conversation with Dr. Emmett G. Price III

Anne Doll, Interim Director of Communications & Marketing


COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON ON THE ROOTS OF RACISM?

Dr. Price: “Racism has been studied by philosophers, sociologists, theologians, even musicologists. It spans the intellectual pursuit and even theology. It evolved out of the sinful nature of humanity, and the failure to see one another as the imago dei, as image bearers of God. Those who have been colonialists, those who have been imperialists, have used their authority to subjectify and objectify others into subordinate and condescending roles and functions. 

“And so across time, we find humans mistreating and abusing one another. Whether you look at the colonialization, the slave trade, the early American history of the genocide of indigenous peoples, you find the same thing over and over and over: the racialization of one another, the desire of an oppressor to ‘other-ize’ another person based on their racial identity. 

“And it’s a sinful thing. God did not create racists; God created humanity. We were dispersed across the planet into peoples and tongues, as many Bible interpretations have stated. Racism and racialization and the concept of race is a human oriented thing that is used to separate and segment us, which again is sinful because it goes against the nature of the imago dei, the ability to see each other as God’s image bearers. 
 

IT SEEMS AS IF, IN THE U.S., THERE HAS BEEN MORE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BLACK INDIVIDUALS THAN OTHER MINORITIES OF COLOR.

Dr. Price: “I think the indigenous have been discriminated against the most and the longest in this country. We don’t have a huge population of indigenous in the country anymore, and those remaining have been ostracized and disrespected—which is a huge atrocity. Next in terms of discrimination would be African descendants, because chronologically, the Africans were brought here as indentured servants and slaves. That legacy of servitude and subordination is horrific. The reason why the Black narrative has emerged as prominent is because discrimination of Blacks still remains. We, those of us who are here, need to tell these stories, even in the midst of it.

“As we have recently celebrated the Fourth of July, which was a declaration of independence against the British Empire that led to the emergence of this nation 241 years ago, that document was signed and celebrated even in the midst of slavery. Even in this great nation, there is a conundrum, because as much as we celebrate citizenship, freedom and liberty, not everybody is granted full citizenship, freedom and liberty. And, unfortunately, much of that is based upon race and gender. So in that Declaration of Independence, where it suggests that all men are created equal, the word ‘men’ was not a substitute for mankind or humankind. The framers meant that all white men were created equal. If you were not a white man, you did not fit the mold.”

DO YOU SEE THE RECENT DEMONSTRATIONS AND EMERGENCE OF GROUPS LIKE BLACK LIVES MATTER AS A ‘BOILING OVER’ RESPONSE TO LONGSTANDING DISCRIMINATION?

Dr. Price: “I think it’s a progression. I don’t see it as much worse now than ever. I think the challenge is that because there have been violent atrocities against black bodies in our recent and past history, we’ve become immune to it. We have said, ‘As long as it doesn’t happen here…’ The challenge is that now it is happening here, and in a digitized era when we have video cameras in our hands at all times. These ‘live’ recordings, and the ability to replay, send and share videos make it seem as if it’s a new thing. 

“But if you go back to Emmet Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy whose brutal lynching death in Mississippi is credited with galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement, and if you go back beyond that, if you look at the maiming and torturing and murder of black bodies, both male and female, and the lynchings—back to many other horrific examples of this senselessness across the history of our country, I don’t see a new thing. I see it as a progression, although now with video proof. And the hope inherent in that for many Blacks, for people of color and also many whites, is that somebody with authority will do something about it, because there is an awakening consciousness.

“So the whole notion of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not to suggest that black lives matter more than any other lives. But the reality is that until we all agree that black lives matter, too, or matter just as much as white lives, then we’re going to continue to have issues.” 

YOU TAUGHT A COURSE LAST YEAR, THE PROJECT OF RECONCILIATION: INTERSECTION OF CHURCH AND CULTURE. YOU HAVE DESCRIBED THAT COURSE AS ‘A VERY DETAILED PREPARATION OF SEMINARIANS ON HOW TO LEAD LOCAL CHURCHES AND THE NATIONAL AND GLOBAL CHURCH, KNOWING THAT WE HAVE A HUGE UPHILL BATTLE AGAINST US, BUT KNOWING THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN.’ COULD YOU PLEASE EXPAND ON THIS?

Dr. Price: “You cannot deal with anything if you don’t acknowledge that it exists. And factions of the Church historically have either taken a blind eye or a slighted eye to racism. I believe that until we recognize the sin of racism and the sin of not seeing one another as image bearers of God, then we’re sweeping things under the rug. The moment we acknowledge that these issues exist, then we are able to open our eyes and learn how to relate with one another, ask the questions that seem silly about one another, spend time together, fellowship and break bread with one another in our churches and be able to take leadership from clergy together. 

“What I’m looking at here is Acts 2:42-47, an example of the first Church and what those folks did. They broke bread and fellowshipped together. The churches in the New Testament wrote the very first script, and we can follow that New Testament model of what it means to spend time and learn and be with one another, to share heritages, to hear stories and share testimonies and realize that God has been working in your life just as God has been working in my life. 

“And what that does is remove the fear of the unknown. It removes the anxiety of saying something that may be presumed prejudiced or discriminatory, because nobody wants to be called a racist. And, unfortunately, many of us see life and the world in a racialized perspective until we’re called to be aware of it.” 

BUT THERE IS GOD…

Dr. Price: “I do believe there is hope for those of us who follow Christ and believe that God is sovereign, that there is a time and a place we look forward to where we can eradicate this evil sin of racism, and see one another as image bearers of God—to the point of calling one another brothers and sisters in Christ.” 


TOWARD THAT END, HOW DO CHURCH LEADERS ENGAGE AND HELP THEIR CONGREGATIONS ENGAGE IN REACHING ACROSS THE DIVIDE TO HEAR ONE ANOTHER’S STORIES?

Dr. Price: “There are a number of ways to do this, and many organizations are doing great work. The challenge is that certain organizations concentrate on certain people, some on intellectuals and some on youth and some on women. Some focus on churches, others, on people in the streets—those who are beyond the churches. I don’t think there is any one way to do anything. They’re all important. 

“However, the critical piece is that there have to be some people of color who are able to take a leadership role in the conversation. And the problem with many of the organizations is that they are run and led by people who are not of color. It becomes a challenge if you want to get a critical mass of people of color, because the notion is that you are still asking us to submit to the authority of a person who is not of color. There have to be a number of organizations and entities that are led by people of color.”

DO YOU SEE SOME POCKETS OF THAT OCCURRING?

Dr. Price: “Many organizations nationwide are doing that. African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Indigenous—we always forget about our Asian brothers and sisters and our indigenous brothers and sisters, both of whom are making great strides. This is the space the Institute wants to sit in as well. As a leading seminary in the country and in the world, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has made a commitment to explore these questions, these challenges, in a way that no other seminary has endeavored to do. While many seminaries focus on Black Church Studies, we’re looking at the Black Christian Experience, which is global, which is diasporic, which is inclusive. And so in that sense, we have a broader swath and much more flexibility to be inclusive, and encompass the narratives and stories of many folks who often get ostracized and left out.”

LET’S SUPPOSE THAT I AM A READER OUT IN THE HEARTLAND, AND MY HEART IS BREAKING FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR WHO HAVE SUFFERED SO UNDER RACISM. I WANT TO DO SOMETHING. I WANT TO TAKE THE FIRST STEPS. HOW DO I EVEN BEGIN?

Dr. Price: “That is a beautiful question, one that is challenging for all of us. I think the first step is to do a self-examination, and really wrestle and reflect on whether you have been part of the problem in the past. We have to change behavior in order to create a different future. A lot of people suggest that whites join black churches or make a black friend. I think those are great examples of forward progress, but those don’t do any good if you don’t reflect, to make sure you’re not part of the problem, whether implicitly or explicitly. 

“The second step is prayer. We forget that God reveals so much to us when we quiet ourselves and spend time deliberately with God. Can we enter a season of personal prayer that would allow God to illuminate and show forth various ways that may be specific to each of us, of what we can do and how to do it. I don’t believe in a one-equation-fits-all situation. 

“And the third step would be to reach out prayerfully to a person of color to initiate a safe conversation within boundaries and perimeters that is focused on race and racial relations. The reason I say ‘with boundaries and perimeters’ is that these kinds of conversations can go on for four or five hours. You may want to establish a weekly dialogue, a time where you could set aside 45 minutes or an hour and a half, so that that you can initiate a series of conversations. Keep in mind that many such conversations need time to breathe. So take a few days to think about what you heard, what you said. Then maybe start off again by debriefing your last experience. This process helps us to grow. 

“We forget that moving to a place where we eradicate racism and prejudice and discrimination means that we have to grow. We have to grow spiritually, emotionally and intellectually…and that takes time.” 

Prior to Dr. Emmett Price’s arrival to Gordon-Conwell, he served as an Associate Professor of Music at Northeastern University (Boston) for 15 years. From 2008 to 2012 he also served as chair of the Department of African American Studies. He is a former research fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, where he was lead scholar on the Rhythm & Flow Initiative. Dr. Price is also Founding Pastor of Community of Love Christian Fellowship in Allston, MA. In addition to the M.A. in Urban Ministry Leadership from Gordon-Conwell, he earned a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and both MA and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

 

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Drs. Hollinger and Mason testify on House Bill 119A, relative to end of life options

October 04, 2017

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D. , President & Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics and Dr. Karen Mason, Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health at the Massachusetts Statehouse regarding Physician Assisted Suicide and House Bill 119A, An Act Relative to End of Life Options. The following are their transcribed testimonies.

Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D.,
Testimony on Physician Assisted Suicide

There have been at least three major ethical arguments given to support physician-assisted suicide.  While these arguments at first glance seem laudable, each carries with them logical and ethical flaws.

 

Compassion

The most frequently heard appeal for medical assistance in dying is that it’s only compassionate to end the agony of a person in severe pain by taking their life.  As human beings we of course have moral obligations to show compassion to all humans, and especially those enduring extreme hardship, suffering and injustices.
   
But compassion is not a moral principle isolated from other principles and virtues.  In other words, compassion is not the moral trump card.  And as the late Dr. Edmund Pellegrino (Georgetown U.) once put it, “Compassion should accompany moral acts, but it does not justify them.”  
   
The word compassion comes from the Latin term, meaning to suffer with.  We do not suffer with a dying patient in pain by ending their life, but by providing compassionate care that aims to mitigate the pain and suffering.  Palliative care (the art of pain control), hospice care and terminal sedation (an induced continuous sleep mode) are all means of providing compassionate care at the end of life.  These are clear alternatives to assisted suicide.

Autonomy/Freedom

A second major argument for physician-assisted suicide is that since we are autonomous beings we should have, in the face of pain and suffering, the freedom to end life as we see fit; and that entails medical assistance.  This is an old argument for euthanasia as Seneca, the Roman Stoic Philosopher once contended, “As I choose the ship in which I sail and the house in which I shall inhabit, so I will choose the death by which I will leave life.  In no matter more than in death should we act according to our desire.”
   
But there are fundamental flaws in this argument.  First, physician assisted suicide is never an autonomous act.  It involves doctors who must acquiesce to the request, nurses who accompany the act, families who are impacted by the act and the whole of society to which the person belongs.  An isolated autonomy denies the bonds of solidarity and community in which all humans reside and through which they find meaning, solace and identity.  Moreover, the principle of autonomy or freedom as a grounds for assisted suicide “accords rights only to those who are fully autonomous, putting the demented, the … [mentally impaired], or the permanently comatose at serious risk.”   Autonomy, applied to medically assisted dying, discriminates against suffering patients who are unable to make autonomous judgments.

Assisted Suicide is No Different than Treatment Termination

A third argument for assisted suicide is that it is no different than treatment termination, in which medical support is withdrawn and the patient dies.  Treatment termination is widely accepted and practiced everyday in hospitals around the world.  In both treatment termination and assisted suicide death is the outcome, thus goes the argument, there is no moral distinction between the two.

But there is a major flaw in this argument.  Namely, in treatment termination the disease takes the life, while in assisted suicide a human action involving death inducing drugs takes the life.  As Oxford ethicist Nigel Biggar points out, this argument for assisted suicide “suffers from a major flaw… by its implicit denial of any moral difference between involuntary homicide and murder, the outcome—death—being the same in both cases.”   In one action the intention is death.  In the other action the intention is to let nature or divine providence take its course.

Conclusion

Assisted suicide suffers from major flaws logically and morally.  But beyond that human life is a gift to be protected, nurtured and honored.  We do not protect, nurture and honor life when we grant a legal right to actively terminate it. 

 

Karen Mason, Ph.D.,
Testimony on Physician Assisted Suicide

Legalizing Aid in Dying may open the door to suicide because of the interrelationships between suicide and Aid in Dying procedurally, morally and psychologically.

1. Procedurally

Despite Section 18’s effort to distinguish Aid in Dying from assisted suicide, Aid in Dying is a type of assisted suicide in which the victim self-administers the means to death. In suicide, the victim procures the means and administers them. In Aid in Dying, the doctor prescribes the means and the victim administers them.
 

2. Morally

  • I came to realize this moral interrelationship while interviewing 15 Catholic, Jewish and Protestant clergy about their moral deliberations on suicide, ending futile medical treatment, Aid in Dying and euthanasia using vignettes (Mason, Kim, Martin & Gober, 2017). What struck us is that the respondents used the same moral principles to deliberate morally on vignettes depicting each of these types of death. The primary principles used were sanctity of life and the preservation of the natural course of life and others.

o   A Jewish rabbi said this about an Aid in Dying vignette: “If [a person] takes her life [through Aid in Dying] she also needs to take into account the negative impact this could have on society, on her family, on her sister. All of that does something to lessen the unshakable value of life.”

o   I work to prevent suicide and am against House Bill 1194 because I believe that a society ought to affirm the unshakable value of life.

3. Psychologically

Another interrelationship is psychological. What has struck me is the similarity of the underlying psychology in those who request Aid in Dying and those at risk of suicide.

Herbert Hendin (1997), former Medical Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, New York Medical College has written that seriously or terminally ill people who wish to end their lives are not significantly different from other suicidal people.
 

 Burdensomeness:

  • One psychological similarity is feeling one is a burden to others. A person who is depressed may be unable to go to work or contribute positively to the family. If this depressed person perceives him/herself to be a burden, she or he may make the mental calculation “my family would be better off without me,” “they would be better off if I were dead.” This thinking is a robust predictor of suicide risk (Chu et al., 2017; Kanzler, Bryan, McGeary, & Morrow, 2012).
  • Some who request Aid in Dying similarly dread dependence on others. Legalizing Aid in Dying will result in an erosion in the belief that people, even those who cannot contribute productively, are not burdensome because life in all its forms is valued.
  • Ganzini, Silveira, and Johnson (2002) found that patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who were interested in assisted suicide had greater distress at being a burden than ALS patients not interested in assisted suicide.
  • Ganzini and Back (2003) found that people who requested Aid in Dying had a life-long value of control, dreaded dependence on others, were ready to die and assessed their quality of life as poor.
  • Kaplan and Schwartz (2008) conducted psychological autopsies on Kevorkian’s 93 Aid in Dying cases. More than one-third (37%) of the decedents for whom depression data was available (the first 47 cases) were described as depressed. This percentage was higher for women (40%) than for men (30%). 90% of the first 47 cases were reported as having declared that they had a high fear of dependence on others in their disabled condition.

Depression:

  • Since Ganzini & Back (2003), a number of studies have found a relationship between depression and considering Aid in Dying (Marrie et al., 2017). Depression is also related to suicidal thinking (Franklin et al., 2017). Depression can distort judgment and affect the capacity to make an Aid in Dying decision (Quill, Back, & Block, 2016).
  • Hendin offers this example: “A 64-year-old woman with advanced lung cancer requested death. She was treated with a combination of analgesics (morphine and acetaminophen) on a regular basis…She was also started on antidepressants … and agreed to talk with a psychiatrist. Her mood improved rapidly, there was dramatic reduction in her pain, and she began to view her life more positively. She spoke openly about dying but wanted to be alive as long as her pain could be controlled. When asked whether the doctors should have “killed” her when she requested it, she responded with a definite no, recognizing that pain had so depressed her that she could only wish for death” (p.  211).
  • Smith et al. (2015) compared 55 Oregonians who requested Aid in Dying with 39 Oregonians with advanced disease who did not pursue Aid in Dying. The predictors of requesting Aid in Dying included: increased education, higher levels of depression, hopelessness, and higher levels of dread of dependence and lower levels of spirituality. No differences were found on pain or perceived level of social support

Conclusion:

I am concerned that legalizing Aid in Dying may be related to an increase in suicide.

  • Jones and Paton (2015) found that in Oregon and Washington, legalizing Aid in Dying was associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides (including assisted suicides). The increase was 14.5% in individuals over 65 years old. More research like this is needed to clarify the relationship between Aid in Dying and suicide. Some have argued that Aid in Dying prevents suicide because Aid in Dying provides people with terminal illnesses the opportunity to wait longer before death, knowing that Aid in Dying is available. This study found no evidence that Aid in Dying was associated with significant reductions in suicide for either older or younger people, and, there was NO significant decrease in suicides, even among those older than age 65.

 

 Additional Resources

 

References

Edmund Pellegrino, “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide,” in John Kilner, Arlene Miller and Edmund Pellegrino eds., Dignity and Dying:  A Christian Appraisal (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1996), 110.
Seneca, Laws IX: 843.
Pellegrino, 109.
Nigel Biggar, Aiming to Kill:  the Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia (London:  Darton, Longman and Todd, 2004), 67.


Chu, C., Walker, K.L., Stanley, I.H., Hirsch, J.K., Greenberg, J.H., Rudd, M.D., & Joiner, T.E. (2017). Perceived problem-solving deficits and suicidal ideation: evidence for the explanatory roles of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness in five samples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Doernberg, S.N., Peteet, J.R., & Kim, S.Y.H. (2016). Capacity evaluations of psychiatric patients requesting assisted death in the Netherlands. Psychosomatics: Journal of Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry, 57(6), 556-565.
Franklin, J. C., Ribeiro, J. D., Fox, K. R., Bentley, K. H., Kleiman, E. M., Huang, X., & ... Nock, M. K. (2017). Risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors: A meta-analysis of 50 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 143(2), 187-232.
Ganzini, L., & Back, A. (2003). From the USA: Understanding requests for physician-assisted death. Palliative Medicine, 17(2), 113-114.
Ganzini, L., Goy, E.R., & Dobscha, S.K. (2008). Why Oregon patients request assisted death: family members’ views. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(2), 154-157.
Ganzini, L., Silveira, M. J., & Johnston, W. S. (2002). Predictors and correlates of interest in assisted suicide in the final month of life among ALS patients in Oregon and Washington. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 24(3), 312-317.
Goy, B.R., Carlson, B., Simopoulos, N., Jackson, A., Ganzini, L. (2006). Determinants of Oregon hospice chaplains’ views on physician-assisted suicide. Journal of Palliative Care, 22(2), 83-90.
Hendin, H. (1997). Seduced by Death: Doctors, Patients, and the Dutch Cure. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.
Jones, D.A., & Paton, D. (2015). How does legalization of physician-assisted suicide affect rates of suicide? Southern Medical Journal, 198(10), 600-604
Kaplan, K.J., & Schwartz, M.B. (2008). A psychology of hope: A biblical response to tragedy and suicide. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Kanzler, K.E., Bryan, C.J., McGeary, D.D., & MOrrow, C.E. (2012). Suicidal ideation and perceived burdensomeness in patients with chronic pain. Pain Practice, 12(8), 602-609.
Marrie, R.A., Salter, A., Tyry, T., Cutter, G.R., Cofield, S., & Fox, R.J. (2017). High hypothetical interest in physician-assisted death in multiple sclerosis. Neurology, 88(16), 1528-1534.
Mason, K., Kim, E., Martin, W.B., & Gober, R.J. (2017). The moral deliberations of 15 clergy on suicide and assisted death: a qualitative study. Pastoral Psychology, 66(3), 335-351.
Pereira, J. (2011). Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls. Current Oncology, 18(2), e38-e45.
Quill, T.E., Back, A.L., & Block, S.D. (2016). Responding to patients requesting physician-assisted death: physician involvement at the very end of life. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 315(3), 245-246.
Smith, K.A., Harvath, T.A., Goy, E.R., & Ganzini, L. (2015). Predictors of pursuit of physician-assisted death. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 49(3), 555-561.

 

The Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience (ISBCE) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary joins numerous Christian organizations and institutions in denouncing the hateful speech and domestic terrorism that lead to the loss of life in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend. In addition to many physical injuries, many more across the country and globe have injured hearts and spirits. Hatred, in all of its forms, is evil. White supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies grounded in racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and bigotry is evil and a perversion of God’s creation of humanity as image bearers. The violent activities in Charlottesville should cause all of us to pause, reflect, pray, lament and commit to action. While some are visibly shaken, others are paralyzed and silently fearful of how to respond, if at all. We at the ISBCE believe that silence cannot be the response of leaders of the Church. In the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Over the coming weeks, a new website will feature the initiatives and projects of the Institute as we work diligently to expand our reach to each of our campuses. In addition to sharing the expansive influence and impact of the diasporic Black Christian Experience with the Global Church, we are poised to teach, train and lead the Church in accomplishing meaningful work in the areas of race relations and racial reconciliation. Over the coming months, the ISBCE will take a leading role in developing resources and leading conversations around the country to aid in the eradication of hatred in all of its forms. The Institute and the Seminary are both committed to making sure that every member of our community is safe and respected as we lead the Church and our nation towards the healing that Christ’s love makes possible.

Prayerfully,

Emmet G. Price III, Ph.D.
ISBCE Executive Director: Dean of Chapel; Professor of Worship, Church & Culture

 

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Racism & Hatred: President Hollinger, Gordon-Conwell Grieves with the Heart of God

August 15, 2017

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary grieves with the heart of God over the recent expressions of racism and hatred, most visibly demonstrated in Charlottesville, VA. Sadly the act of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville is symptomatic of an unleashing of hatred, and racial supremacy that is growing in our society.

Racism and movements of racial superiority are in direct opposition to the fabric of Christ’s Kingdom. Being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), all human beings throughout the world have a dignity and value that must be protected by Church and society. Christ’s death on the cross brings reconciliation between fallen humans and their maker, but is also to result in reconciliation between people and groups who have been divided by walls of hostility and suspicion (Ephesians 2:14-19). God’s call to justice is a non-negotiable call for followers of Christ, and thus we renounce the injustice of racism in all its forms.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Charlottesville, VA, including some of our alumni ministering there, that they will experience God’s shalom and be salt and light in the midst of the bitterness, violence and hatred. But we also pray for ourselves, that any sense of latent prejudice or racism in our own hearts will be rooted out by the power of Christ’s transforming love.

May God give us the courage and wisdom we need for desperate times like these.

Dennis P. Hollinger, Ph.D.
President &
Coleman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics



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Remembering the Legacy of Our Friend and Mentor, Dr. Haddon W. Robinson

July 28, 2017

Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D.

President & Coleman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics
 
Haddon Robinson was not just a great preacher and professor of Preaching. He was also a mentor to many, including myself. When I arrived at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary as President in the summer of 2008, Haddon was completing a one-year interim presidency. He met with me bi-weekly throughout my first year as I transitioned into the role. I continue to thank God for his mentoring.

In those meetings with Haddon, he listened, asked thought-provoking questions and offered wise counsel and insights. His knowledge of the challenges, and his wisdom for making decisions facing the seminary were invaluable to me as I inherited the mantle of leadership from him. Haddon frequently reminded me that he and his wife, Bonnie, were regularly praying for me.

Through those mentoring sessions it occurred to me that what Haddon was imparting was precisely what we needed to be doing as a seminary in the formation of pastors, missionaries, teachers, counselors and para-church workers. Yes, Haddon was a great preacher and we want to continue that rich legacy in our graduates. But he also knew that all forms of ministry call for wise leadership, high moral character and a deep walk with the Triune God.

Most people will remember Haddon for his clear sermons and his teaching that built precision, clear exegesis, and relevant application into our own preaching. But I will also remember him as a mentor who encouraged me, sustained me and enabled me to avoid some grievous leadership pitfalls. I desire the same for all of our students at Gordon-Conwell.
 
 

David A. Currie, Ph.D.

Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program & the Ockenga Institute, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology
 
Haddon Robinson is primarily known as a creative communicator and influential author –and rightfully so. Less well known, but equally important to his legacy, has been Haddon’s role as an innovative educator, particularly in reshaping the character of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Gordon-Conwell and beyond.
 
Working with his colleague, Alice Mathews, Haddon reconfigured the program from being course-based with a student taking various courses with various professors  —what I call “masters on steroids”— to cohort-based with specialized tracks. This approach creates a mentored learning community, focusing on a shared passion for a particular area of ministry among the same group of students and faculty over the course of three years. Students learn with and from one another, sharing life as well as learning. 

As hundreds of Haddon’s D.Min. students would attest, the result has lit fires in the spirit of learners ever since, fulfilling his own definition: “Education isn’t filling a pail with information; it’s lighting a fire in the spirit of a learner.” D.Min. programs around the world increasingly have adopted this cohort model that Haddon helped to pioneer, often consulting with Gordon-Conwell in the process.

Haddon served as Senior Director of the D.Min. Program when I became Director, and continued teaching and mentoring until his retirement. I was a little apprehensive about working with a “big name,” but I quickly discovered that his heart was far bigger than his name. He never told me what to do, but he was always available for me to talk and pray through decisions, saving me from many missteps. I’m reminded of his legacy each day as I sit at what was his desk in what was his office, knowing that I can never fill his shoes, but hoping that I can continue to guide the program on the path that he laid out. 

While Haddon Robinson will be missed by me and many others as a communicator, author, educator, and mentor, he will not be forgotten. His death is a great loss, but his hope in Christ is even greater, as he is now experiencing even more fully. We celebrate his life as we seek to serve Christ as he did, by faithfully preaching, teaching, and living out the Word of God.

 

Scott M. Gibson, D.Phil.

Haddon W. Robinson Professor of Preaching and Ministry
 
There are those who are deluded, who think more highly of themselves than they ought—legends in their own minds. Haddon Robinson was not a self-absorbed, self-deceived legend. But to be sure, he was a legend, while living and now in his death. Haddon W. Robinson was the dean of evangelical preaching, a masterful preacher himself, and the author of one of the most significant textbooks on homiletics, Biblical Preaching.
 
For 21 years I served as a colleague in teaching preaching with Haddon. I was a neophyte professor of preaching whom he took under his wing and showed me the ropes. I began teaching preaching in the fall of 1991 and he started his time in the classroom at Gordon-Conwell in the spring of 1992. He mentored me as we ate, drank and talked homiletics.

Those 21 years were golden. Students were being turned on to preaching and turned into preachers. They were seeing the connection between biblical exegesis and biblical preaching—all because of Robinson’s commitment to, and philosophy of, preaching.

Haddon Robinson not only taught me about preaching, but also about ministry, life, generosity and leadership. He invested in people. His Doctor of Ministry students would attest to that. He also invested in me, for which I’m grateful to him and to our Lord.

When my wife, Rhonda, and I were married, there were two people we wanted to conduct our wedding: Haddon Robinson and Ken Swetland, Senior Professor of Ministry, who both shared the honors.

Haddon Robinson was a legend, a legendary preacher whose impact will long be felt in future generations of students and in their churches. I’m privileged to have known him as a mentor, colleague and most of all, friend.
 

Additional Haddon W. Robinson Resources

 

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A wry smile and a wink and I knew we were of the same mind. That was my first impression when I met Haddon Robinson in 1992. For the next two years I had the privilege to talk with him, listen to him and learn from him. Now that he is gone from us he is with the Lord and I must smile and wink and know that he is now listening to and loving his Lord. Though it has been many years since we last spoke, I so vividly remember his kind and wise words, his way of engaging his listener or listeners as if they were the only ones in the room. His word pictures took his listeners to a most vivid point. The Holy Spirit greatly used those word pictures, those connections, to bring many to understand the gospel and respond. Haddon Robinson stood as the proverbial giant among men in my opinion. As Scott Gibson noted above, it was not about him. Haddon did not seek nor need the praise of men. He knew it's danger and charm. He had his quite way of letting the controversies swirl around while he stood his ground and then offered a well reasoned response when asked. I learned much from him in that regard in a short period of time. For his words and, more important, his example, I am grateful. As I carry out my work today I benefit greatly from those lessons learner. We must connect with others if they are to hear us. We must speak in a language our listeners can understand. We must develop a relationship with the listener if we are to be heard at the heart level. Haddon was a gentle master of those skills. Might we all seek to live out our lives in a focused and firm way as did Haddon.
Ronnie L. Booth 10:55AM 08/07/17

13 Reasons Why: A Gordon-Conwell Professor's Response

May 26, 2017

A family and church response to 13 Reasons Why (TV Series 2017; creator: Brian Yorkey)

Karen Mason, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Author of Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors (2014, IVP)

Parents and churches are in the position of having to respond to the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Parents and churches alike should consider that the series presents suicide as a reasonable choice, but it also portrays bullying, teen sex, underage drinking and drug use, fast driving, fist fighting, lying to parents, parental neglect, teen homelessness, a copycat suicide and graphic portrayals of a car death, two rapes, and suicide. That’s at least 13 reasons why I wouldn’t want any child to see the series.

As a suicide preventionist, I would not want any children to see the series because of suicide contagion. Suicide contagion is defined as “exposure to suicidal behavior of others through the media, peer group, or family.” Contagion can happen whenever anyone is exposed to suicide. But just as you catch the measles only if you are susceptible, not everyone will catch the disease, in this case, suicide. Those who tend to be susceptible to contagion are adolescents  and young adults with small intense social networks, fringe individuals or people who are depressed  or have attempted suicide or have lost someone to suicide. There is a lot of evidence for contagion. For example, in Germany, a fictional six-week TV show, broadcast in 1981 and again in 1982, portrayed a 19-year-old male dying by jumping in front of a train. Up to 70 days after the first episode, the number of railway suicides increased most sharply among 15- to 19-year-old males (up to 175%).

Add the facts that in 2015, in the US, suicide was the third leading cause of death among 10- to 14-year-olds and the second leading cause of death in the 15- to 34-year-olds.  These statistics suggest that your child or youth group may be exposed to suicide in other ways besides 13 Reasons Why. Use the current discourse about 13 Reasons Why to have a discussion about this major public health problem.

Some ways to have this discussion that may help to counteract the potential effects of contagion:

1. Invite your child or your youth group to reach out to you to talk about any questions they have about the series or about suicide. If you need more training yourself on how to recognize suicide warning signs and how to intervene, some good options are LivingWorks.org or qprinstitute.com or theconnectprogram.org.  If you need more information about suicide prevention, consult these excellent resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.TALK https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center: www.sprc.org
  • The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Faith. Hope. Life. campaign:
  • http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/faithhopelife-0
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org
  • American Association of Suicidology: www.suicidology.org

2. Study what the Bible says about suicide prevention. God doesn’t shy away from difficult problems that affect people, including suicide, which is mentioned at least six times in the Bible. But God also gives us an example of suicide prevention. Study Acts 16:22-28, where Paul prevents the Philippian jailer’s suicide by giving him a reason to live, not 13 reasons to die. Consider talking about God not wanting even a “bad guy” like the jailer to die because God values all life (Deut. 32:39). List 100 reasons to live that we as Christians have. Consider talking about the fact that, in the midst of challenges, we have hope because God is loving and faithful (Lam. 3:22). Consider talking about lament psalms (e.g., Ps 13) as a response to difficult situations and then write a lament psalm about bullying. Consider contrasting how Christians live life differently from the actors in 13 Reasons Why by loving each other (Jn. 13:35), including by watching out for each other and helping each other reach out for help if needed. Like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 and the friends of the paralytic in Mark 2:3-4, Christians reach out for help and help each other get help. Make sure your teen or youth group knows to reach out to a trusted adult or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).

3. Closely monitor susceptible children or students. Asking them directly about their suicidal thinking won’t give them the idea to kill themselves.  If the young person is thinking about suicide, have him or her evaluated immediately by a mental health professional or hospital emergency room. And then make sure that the young person follows up with counseling. The majority of people who think about suicide are struggling with a problem like depression, a highly treatable illness.

4. Increase the sense of connectedness in your family or youth group by spending more family time with your children or increasing the sense of unconditional acceptance and belonging in your youth group. For example, have dinner together as a family several times a week or send all your youth group students a note expressing your love for them.

Suicide is not always preventable because some people don’t reach out to us for help. Stigma gets in the way. Use the current discourse on 13 Reasons Why to fight that stigma and have the needed conversation about 100 reasons to live.

For further reading on this subject matter, check out Karen Mason's book Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors

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Great article. There is also a distortion of the truth with suicidal depression. The book, 13 Reasons Why, does depict Hannah's increasing isolation, but it fails to point out that reality is distorted by her depression and self imposed isolation. She invests and reinvests in people who have proved themselves unworthy of trust, ignoring her parents and others sources of genuine help. This is a popular fiction that plays on the sensational. Its danger is that suicide seems glamorous and a genuine means of revenge; it has no value as a deterrent. As a parent of a daughter who attempted suicide in this exact way at the same age, with hindsight I see how my child's reality was distorted by depression, and this kind of depression is often invisible. The Church needs to boldly address this issue, to have a strategy for safe awareness discussions and prevention, to know the signs and have the ministry tools to deal with suicide before it happens, and to compassionately and consistently care for those who attempt suicide and survivors of completed suicides.
Rev. Elizabeth Stone 8:49AM 06/05/17

Where No One Has Heard: J. Christy Wilson Jr.: His Endearing and Enduring Legacy

December 09, 2016

Historic Gordon-Conwell ad used when J. Christy Wilson Jr. was on faculty.

Historic Gordon-Conwell ad used when J. Christy Wilson Jr. was on faculty.

By Ken Wilson, (GCTS MATS 1984)

This blog is adapted from the biography of Christy Wilson, Where No One Has Heard, published in 2016 by William Carey Library (www.missionbooks.org).

Many may know of J. Christy Wilson Jr. as a beloved professor of world evangelization at Gordon-Conwell during the latter decades of the twentieth century. When Christy’s former students share memories of their time with him, their stories all sound remarkably consistent: he would pray with you anytime and anyplace, he knew your name long before you knew his, he loved to tell stories of what God is doing throughout the world, he had a contagious smile and an infectious laugh, and he gave us a picture of what it looks like to be a lover of Christ.

However, as rich as Christy’s GCTS legacy may be, the life of this tender yet tenacious man of God included so much more.

He was born and raised in Tabriz, Persia (now known as Iran); ran cross country and was captain of varsity track at Princeton University; helped launch what became the triennial Urbana missions conference; pioneered Christian work in Afghanistan when others thought it impossible, entering the country as one of only a few Christians in a nation of approximately twelve million Muslims; taught private English lessons to the crown prince of Afghanistan; founded a mission that remains vibrant to this day; reintroduced the biblical idea of leveraging one’s profession for the kingdom of God with the term “tentmaking”; and faced danger on numerous occasions.

While in Afghanistan, he pastored the only Christian church permitted on neutral soil in the entire nation for two decades. It was constructed following a personal assist from President Eisenhower. The Afghan government permitted this place of worship only for use among the foreign community; it was never to be used by the Afghan people.

One Sunday morning, only three years after the sanctuary’s dedication, soldiers arrived and began to hack away at the wall between the street and the church building. One gentleman in the congregation went to Kabul’s mayor and prophetically warned, “If your government touches that house of God, God will overthrow your government!” The mayor responded by ordering the congregation to turn over their church for destruction.
“This building does not belong to us but to God,” the people of the church replied. “We can’t turn it over for destruction.” And they proceeded to serve tea and cookies to the soldiers who were destroying their place of worship.

Finally, on Tuesday, July 17, 1973, the Afghan soldiers completed their destruction of the church building. That very night, King Mohammed Zahir Shah, who had ruled for forty years, was overthrown in a coup, and the 227-year-old monarchy in Afghanistan came to an end forever.
When Christy heard the news, he fell to the floor and wept. He had recently been declared persona non grata by the Afghan government. Students were becoming followers of Christ, and certain Afghan officials were determined to rid themselves of the corrupting influence who was behind all of this. As Christy departed the land and people he loved so much, he wiped the dust from his feet.

Billy Graham said, “J. Christy Wilson will go down in history as one of the great and courageous missionaries for the gospel in the twentieth century.” Christy Wilson left an endearing and enduring legacy, and his life continues to grow God’s kingdom and to reveal the splendor of the God he loved so much and served so well.
 

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I love that story and the many other stories Christy told us in class of mighty ways God worked in Afghanistan. His faith and witness greatly affected my life. I consider myself so fortunate to have known him and even more fortunate to have stayed in his home one night because it was Mr & Mrs Wilson's practice to pray for people who stayed in their home on their birthdays thereafter! So from that night, I knew that every year on my birthday they were praying for me! When we get to heaven, I think there will be great rejoicing as we learn the effects of those prayers for the many people who stayed in the Wilson's home. When I moved to NZ and started working with a Hungarian couple with very little English, Christy connected me with another GCTS student working in Hungary who sent us Christian study materials in Hungarian. His life has just blessed mine in so many ways. I am sure that the story of his life will be an powerful inspiration to many!
Kathleen Andreae 11:21AM 01/11/17

Learning Before the King's Throne

December 05, 2016

By James R. Critchlow,
Ranked Adjunct Assistant Professor in Old Testament

There are many aspects of discipleship in the Old Testament. The LORD God mentored Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam mentored Eve on their responsibilities. Noah trained his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, in their ark duties. Joshua acted as Moses’ understudy for 40 years. Deuteronomy 10:12-13 explains what the LORD required of all the people of Israel:

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (ESV).

The five infinitive constructs (to fear, walk, love, serve and keep) specify what the LORD demanded of Israel. If the people were careful to do these, they would be successful. But what did the Law given at Mount Sinai by the LORD assert about the leadership of Israel after the period of the Judges and Priests? In Deuteronomy, the LORD gave provisions for the day when Israel would demand a king "like all the nations.” He anticipated the occupation of the land of Israel and the precipitous demand for a king that would occur in 1 Samuel 8. Deuteronomy 17:14-17 provides the template for this future king whom God would choose:

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to
return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he acquire for himself  excessive silver and gold” (ESV).

There are clear stipulations that prevent the king from seeking martial, personal or financial power in horses, marriage alliances or wealth. The passage continues in 17:18-20, instructing the future king of Israel to write a personal copy of the law under the supervision of the priests. This book was to remain in his personal possession, and its daily study was an essential aspect of his royal duties.

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (ESV).
 
Just as in Deut. 10:12-13 cited above, the majority of the verbs in this royal prescription are infinitive constructs, functioning as result clauses. These establish the LORD’s desired outcome, i.e., that the king would fear the LORD, keep His Law, do as He instructs and not exalt himself above his fellow citizens or turn away from the commandments and instructions. It was for these reasons that the use of the infinitive construct was especially revelatory. “In governing his own life by the same Torah that regulates the whole nation, the king reins in his exercise of power.” The priests would be there to ensure proper letter formation and spacing—which might delay the process—particularly if the royal writer made an uncorrectable mistake.

Not only must the king produce the copy (mishneh), he must have it with him and read from it daily. Under the over-watch of the priests, this was probably to be a scheduled activity. There should be no business that was to displace this practice in the king’s day. Even the time when the king marched out to war was to be preceded by the reading of the Word of God.

It has been my practice to aspire to this Old Testament discipleship pattern. Although I will never be a king, I am in training as a servant of the Great King. I struggle to read the whole counsel of God in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and then record 7-15 verses in my Day-Timer™. Wherever
I go, this copy of the Bible is my companion. It is my daily study, rule, guide and reminder. 

I have emphasized the value of daily study of God’s Word for all my students. Nothing should ever displace this practice. No exam, sermon, project or event should displace our time in the Word of God. For those who have gone well beyond their educational years, this principle is still in force. God desires us to know His Word. He wants to speak to us through His revelation. Whether we use the original or a modern language, this directive for leadership was appropriate for ancient Israelite kings. It is also good for King’s kids.

James R. Critchlow, Ph.D., Ranked Adjunct Assistant Professor in Old Testament, joined the seminary in 2008, and has also taught at Bethel Seminary of the East. Prior to his academic career, he served in leadership capacities with the U.S. Army for 20 years. His deployments included two years at the Pentagon, and took him to Germany, Iraq, Bosnia, Korea and many other countries. He holds M.Div. and M.A.B.L. degrees from Gordon-Conwell and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh.

 

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