Feast of Vernard Eller (June 19)   2 comments

Above:  Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren, Pomona, California

Image Source = Google Earth

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VERNARD MARION ELLER (JULY 11, 1927-JUNE 18, 2007)

U.S. Church of the Brethren Minister and Theologian

Vernard Eller comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, because (1) he was a Christian, (2) he has died, and (3) I like him.  I add an objectively correct note in two parts.  Eller was an Anabaptist who, by definition, recognized two ordinances, not sacraments.  I am an Episcopalian (to be precise, an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic) who acknowledges seven sacraments.  Unlike many Roman Catholics, I affirm Transubstantiation.  O reader, know that I have some major theological disagreements with Eller.  Many of them pertain to baptism and the Eucharist.

For those interested in reading much or a little of Eller’s writings, I include this link.

Eller, born in Everest, Washington, on July 11, 1927, became an author of profound theological works that were also accessible and rooted in the Gospel.  He wrote more than 20 books, all but one published from from between 1967 and 2003.  The Illustrators of The Mad Morality:  or, the Ten Commandments Revisited (1970) worked for Mad magazine.  The Sex Manual for Puritans (1971) came in a plain brown wrapper.  His End Up:  Getting God into the New Theology (1969) made a lasting impression on me because of both its content and literary style.  Eller’s assertion in The Beloved Disciple:  His Name, His Story, His Thought:  Two Studies from the Gospel of John (1987) that the Beloved Disciple was St. Lazarus of Bethany, not St. John the Evangelist, has arched many eyebrows and made me want to read that book.  Eller completed yet could never find a publisher for Could the Church Have It All Wrong?, about sacramentalism, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.  That text is available here.

Our saint grew up in the Church of the Brethren, an Anabaptist denomination and one of the Historic Peace Churches.  (Other Historic Peace Churches include varieties of Quakers, as well as other Anabaptists, mainly the Mennonites and their more conservative offshoots, the Amish.)  Eller remained within the Church of the Brethren all his life.  Our saint, a son of Jay and Geraldine Eller, graduated from La Verne College, La Verne, California, in 1949.  Then he earned his B.D.  from Bethany Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois; and his Ph.D. from the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California.  Eller married Phyllis Kulp on July 9, 1955.  They raised three children.  That marriage lasted for more than half a century.  Eller, based in Elgin, Illinois, served as the editor of youth publications for the Church of the Brethren from 1955 to 1958.  Then he was Professor of Religion at La Verne College (renamed the University of La Verne) from 1958 to 1992.  He was also a free minister attached to Fellowship Church of the Brethren, La Verne.  After that congregation merged with Pomona Church of the Brethren, in nearby Pomona, to become Pomona Fellowship Church of the Brethren, Eller became attached to that congregation.

Above:  La Verne and Pomona, California, Near Los Angeles

Image Source = Google Earth

Our saint, an expert on Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), also served on the denominational General Board and on the Board of Bethany Theological Seminary.

Topics of Eller’s books and articles included worship, morality, war and peace, ordinances, Christian anarchy, simple living, language, the Book of Revelation, church history, and ethics.  In an article about traditional worship and contemporary worship, our saint favored the former.  Contemporary worship, Eller wrote,

seeks only self-enjoyment

and

the riotous noise of the world,

but traditional worship seeks

quiet contemplation.

Our saint also had no use for nationalism in religion.  Jesus, he insisted, had primacy over powers.

Eller, unfortunately, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease during his final years.  He, aged 79 years, died in Ontario, California, on June 18, 2007.

His wit, faith, and scholarship can still inspire, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERMANUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE, AND DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND SAINT DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF PAUL MAZAKUTE, FIRST SIOUX EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROGER SCHÜTZ, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZÉ COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF SYLVESTER II, BISHOP OF ROME

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom,

and to another the word of knowledge,

and to another the word of truth.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Vernard Eller,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge

of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 38

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2 responses to “Feast of Vernard Eller (June 19)

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  1. Definitely a deep thinker!

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