Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1920s’ Category

Feast of Henry Van Dyke (April 10)   4 comments

Above:  Henry and Ellen Van Dyke, Between 1910 and 1915

Image Source = Library of Congress

Image Publisher = Bain News Service

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-17998

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HENRY JACKSON VAN DYKE (NOVEMBER 10, 1852-APRIL 10, 1933)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer

Henry Van Dyke was a Presbyterian minister, a diplomat, a poet, a theologian, a liturgist, and an author of pious fiction.

The great man debuted at Germantown, Pennsylvania, on November 10, 1852.  He graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, Brooklyn, New York, in 1869.  Then he studied at Princeton University (B.A., 1873; M.A., 1877).  Next Van Dyke traveled abroad before returning to the United States.  He became a Presbyterian minister in 1879.  Our saint married Ellen Reid of Baltimore, Maryland, in December 1881.  The couple had five children:

  1. Frances (age 16 at the time of the 1900 census);
  2. Terticus (1887-1956), a poet who wrote a biography (1935) of his father;
  3. Dorothea (age 12 at the time of the 1900 census);
  4. Elaine (age 8 at the time of the 1900 census); and
  5. Paula (age 1 at the time of the 1900 census).

Van Dyke served as the pastor of two congregations.  He was at the United Congregational Church, Newport, Rhode Island, from 1879 to 1883.  Then he served at The Brick Presbyterian Church, New York, New York, from 1883 to 1900.  Our saint became a respected scholar and writer, as well as a popular orator.

Two of Van Dyke’s gifts were poetry and prose.  He brought these to this position as a Professor of English Literature at Princeton University, starting in 1900.  Our saint also brought his literary skill to bear on The Book of Common Worship (1906), the first formal liturgy the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. authorized, created, and published, although not the first formal liturgy it published.  He served as the chairman of the committee that produced the volume, which many in the denomination considered too Roman Catholic.  During his time at Princeton Van Dyke also served as the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1902-1903), was a lecturer at the University of Paris (1908-1909), became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (in England, 1910), and began to serve as the President of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (starting in 1912).

Van Dyke’s life became more international in 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson, his friend and former boss at Princeton, appointed him to serve as the Minister  (Ambassador) to The Netherlands and Luxembourg.  Our saint resigned that post in late 1916 and returned to the United States.  The following year he became a U.S. Navy chaplain with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  Van Dyke, a Commander of the Legion of Honor since 1918, returned to civilian life in 1923 and devoted himself primarily to literary matters.

Van Dyke, who received many honorary doctorates, made one final contribution to Presbyterian liturgy.  In this late seventies he served as the chairman of the committee that produced The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932).

One might know of Van Dyke as a writer, probably for The Story of the Other Wise Man (1895) and/or his most famous hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” (written in 1907 and published two years later).  The list of our saint’s publications long and impressive, including even a play.  I refer you, O reader, to archive.org, where you can find electronic copies of many of Van Dyke’s published works, not least of which is The Poems of Henry Van Dyke (1911).

I have added some of our saint’s hymns addressed to God at my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Van Dyke died, aged 80 years, at Princeton, New Jersey, on April 10, 1933.

His legacy survives.  His hymns survive, although most have fallen into disuse.  The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which published the sixth incarnation of the Book of Common Worship in 1993, is working on the seventh version.  [Aside:  The versions were those of 1906, 1932, 1946, 1966, 1970, and 1993.]  And, of course, one can read what he published.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

PALM SUNDAY:  THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASILDA OF TOLEDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Henry Van Dyke)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Feast of Howard Thurman (April 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Howard Thurman

Image in the Public Domain

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HOWARD WASHINGTON THURMAN (NOVEMBER 18, 1899-APRIL 10, 1981)

U.S. Baptist Minister, Mystic, and Theologian

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The religion of Jesus makes the love-ethic central.

–Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949; 1996 reprint, page 89)

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Howard Thurman was an important force for social justice in the United States.  Although he was not on the front lines of the civil rights movement, he did produce a theology of reaching beyond fear and hatred that inspired many who were on the front lines.

Thurman, born on November 18, 1899, at Daytona, Florida, was a son of the church.  His father was Solomon Thurman (a railroad worker) and his mother was Alice Ambrose Thurman (a domestic worker).  Our saint learned much about the Bible from his maternal grandmother, a former slave.  Thurman, educated at Florida Baptist Academy, Jacksonville, Florida (1915-1919), then at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (1919-1923), became a Baptist minister in 1925.  His first church as pastor was Zion Baptist Church, Oberlin, Ohio.  The following year our saint graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary.  Then Thurman continued his education at Oberlin School of Theology and Haverford College.  At the latter institution he learned from Rufus Jones (1863-1948), a prominent Quaker philosopher.  In 1929 Thurman became both a professor of religion and the director of religious life at both Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, Atlanta.  While in Atlanta he married Sue Bailey, in 1932.

From 1932 to 1943 Thurman served on the faculty of Howard University, D.C.  He, President Mordecai Johnson, and Dr. Benjamin Mays (the Dean of the School of Religion), provided leadership at that institution and beyond.  Thurman’s titles were Chairman of the Committee on Religious Life and Professor of Christian Theology.  Our saint worked behind the scenes with many of the early leaders of the civil rights movement.  These great men and women included W. E. B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Mary McLeod Bethune.  During a tour of India in 1935 and 1936 Thurman met Mohandas Gandhi and became convinced of the wisdom of applying nonviolence to the struggle for civil rights in the United States.  Our saint also expanded his understanding of religious freedom with regard to human freedom and the struggle for it.

Thurman left Howard University in 1943 to co-found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, San Francisco, California, an early example of a multicultural congregation in the United States.  His co-pastor was Alfred G. Fisk, who was white.   While in San Francisco, Thurman wrote Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), in which he laid the theological foundation for the use of nonviolence in the civil rights movement and portrayed Jesus as one who helped disinherited people as they dealt with oppression.  Black Liberation Theology, which James Cone went on to develop, grew out of this volume, a copy of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., carried with him.

Our saint left San Francisco in 1953, when he accepted the job as Dean of the Marsh Chapel and Professor of Spiritual Disciplines and Resources at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.  That year Life magazine described Thurman as one of the twelve greatest preachers of the twentieth century.  He applied that rhetorical skill at the Marsh Chapel until 1965, when he retired.

For the rest of his life our saint directed the Howard Thurman Educational Trust.

Thurman died at San Francisco on April 10, 1981.  He was 81 years old.

His message of nonviolent resistance to oppression is timeless, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYRES, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Lydia Emilie Gruchy (April 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lydia Emilie Gruchy and the Ministers who Ordained Her, 1936

Image in the Public Domain

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LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY (SEPTEMBER 5, 1894-APRIL 9, 1992)

First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada

In 1936 Lydia Emilie Gruchy became the first woman ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada.

Gruchy’s journey toward that recognized vocation started at Asnieres, France, where she debuted on September 5, 1894.  Our saint was the eighth of ten children.  Gruchy lost her mother to death when she was eight years old.  From then until 1913 our saint moved from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other in the company of various members of her immediate family.  She and two brothers (Arthur and Victor) were in Saskatchewan together before she and her sisters attended a boarding school in Seaford, England, starting in 1905.  Our saint took a business course in London and worked as a civil servant for a year before she and sisters Florence, Hilda, and Elsie moved to Saskatchewan in 1913.  There Gruchy completed high school, worked as a housekeeper for a year, and trained to become a teacher.  From 1915 to 1923 she taught recent immigrants in one-room schools.  Along the way Gruchy earned her B.A. degree (University of Saskatchewan, 1920), received the Governor-General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence and leadership (1920), and studied theology at Presbyterian College (later St. Andrew’s College), Saskatoon (1920-1923).

Meanwhile, World War I affected Gruchy.  Brothers Arthur and Bert died in the war.  Another brother, Stanley, suffered injuries.

Our saint perceived a vocation to become an ordained minister.  In 1923 she applied to become a Presbyterian minister; the synod turned her down.  For more than a decade Gruchy worked as a lay missionary.  From 1923 to 1927 she served as a missionary to the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan.  Meanwhile, in 1926, the Kamsack Presbytery and the Saskatchewan Conference of the new United Church of Canda (created via a merger the previous year) petitioned the denomination to ordain her.  The question of ordaining women was a matter of official study from 1927 to 1931, however.  As the United Church studied Grouchy worked as a lay missionary in Wakaw, Saskatchewan.  Our saint took a sabbatical to Long Beach, California, in 1931-1932; she visited relatives there.  Then she served as a lay missionary to Kelvington, Saskatchewan, from 1932 to 1936.

The United Church of Canada was finally ready to ordain women in 1936.  So, on November 4, 1936, at St. Andrew’s United Church, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Grouchy became a reverend.  At first she assisted the senior minister at St. Andrew’s Church, Moose Jaw (1936-1938).  From 1938 to 1943 she was the secretary for the Committee on the Deaconess Order and Women Workers, Toronto.  Then our saint served as pastor at Simpson (1948-1952), Cupar (1952-1957), and Neville-Vanguard (1957-1962), all in Saskatchewan.  She also received her Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, in 1953.

Gruchy retired in 1962.  She and a sister relocated to White Rock, British Columbia, where our saint died, aged 97 years, on April 9, 1992.

Pioneers such as Lydia Emilie Gruchy have enriched the life of the institutional church and paved the way for other women to pursue their vocations from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Lydia Emilie Gruchy,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (April 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Stamp

Image in the Public Domain

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DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (FEBRUARY 4, 1906-APRIL 9, 1945)

German Lutheran Martyr

Instead of writing a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I refer you, O reader, to the following links:

  1. Link #1
  2. Link #2
  3. Link #3

Now I reflect on his legacy.

Bonhoeffer opposed the regime of Adolf Hitler, who sought to make Germany great again and wrecked the country and committed genocide in the process.  This opposition made our saint an associate of men who plotted to assassinate Hitler.

Sometimes making moral choices is relatively easy.  Much–perhaps most–of the time, however, life exists in shades of gray, not black and white.  Much of the time the best we can do is to select the least bad choice.  The fact that this is true as often as it is indicates that we live in a world in which sin has infected social institutions.  Bonhoeffer found himself in a difficult situation not of his making.  In that context he made the best choice he could.  That led to his execution shortly before the fall of the Third Reich.

Bonhoeffer understood that grace is free yet costly.  We cannot purchase grace yet it does require a response.  That response in the life of our saint led to martyrdom.  As Bonhoeffer wrote,

When Christ calls a man to follow him, he bids him come and die.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC

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Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life,  you gave grace to your servant

Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ,

and to bear the cost of following him:  Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example,

may receive your word and embrace its call with an undivided heart:

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

Romans 6:3-11

Matthew 5:1-12

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 317

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Feast of Randall Davidson (April 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Archbishop Randall Davidson

Image in the Public Domain

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RANDALL THOMAS DAVIDSON (APRIL 7, 1848-MAY 25, 1930)

Archbishop of Canterbury

Randall Davidson was the Archbishop of Canterbury for about a quarter of a century.  The native of Edinburgh, Scotland, born on April 7, 1848, grew up a Presbyterian.  The son of Henrietta Swinton and Henry Davidson, a grain merchant, grew up in The Church of Scotland.  Our saint, educated at the Harrow School and at Trinity College, Oxford, converted to Anglicanism.  He, ordained in 1875, became the chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury Archibald Campbell Tait in 1877 then to Edward White Benson, Tait’s immediate successor.  Davidson married Tait’s daughter, Edith (died in 1936), in 1878.  Our saint gained the confidence of Queen Victoria and advised her regarding ecclesiastical appointments.  Through her favor he succeeded to the posts of Dean of Windsor (1883), Bishop of Rochester (1891), and Bishop of Winchester (1895).  In February 1903 he succeeded Frederick Temple as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Davidson had a passion for reconciliation, ecclesiastical and political.  He sought to find common ground in theological arguments (such as the one regarding ritualism), favored the League of Nations, and became an ecumenical leader.  Our saint supported Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, favored closer Anglican-Eastern Orthodox ties, and argued for retaining the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.  He also opposed religious persecution in Russia and spoke out on behalf of the rights of indigenous peoples, thereby making the work of Anglican missionaries easier.

Davidson retired, aged 80 years, in November 1928, shortly after the Parliament refused to approve the proposed Book of Common Prayer, meant to replace the Prayer Book of 1662.  He had hoped that Parliament would approve the proposed Prayer Book.  He died on May 25, 1930, aged 82 years, in London.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, SAINT RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZGURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT

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Heavenly Father, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church,

including your servant Randall Davidson.

May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith,

so that we may serve and confess your name before the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Blessed Mariano de la Mata Aparicio (April 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Mariano de la Mata Aparicio

Image Source = catholicsaints.info

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BLESSED MARIANO DE LA MATA APARICIO (DECEMBER 31, 1905-APRIL 5, 1983)

Roman Catholic Missionary and Educator in Brazil

Blessed Mariano de la Mata Aparicio, born at La Puebla de Valdavia, Palencia, Spain, on December 31, 1905, became a great missionary in Brazil.  His parents were Manuel and Martina de la Mata Aparicio; he was one of eight offspring.  After studying at Valladolid, Spain, our saint followed in the footsteps of three of his brothers and became an Augustinian on September 9, 1921.  He made his vows on January 23, 1927.  He studied philosophy in Pisuerga, Spain, then went to the Monastery of St. Maria La Vid, Burgos, Spain.  De la Mata Aparicio, ordained a priest on July 25, 1930, taught at the College La Encarnacion, Llames, Spain, briefly.

Our saint spent most of his life in Brazil, however.  He went to the Augustinian vice-province of Brazil in 1931.  Then he served in a variety of functions during the following 52 years.  He was a priest, of course; pastoral roles were part of his work.  Of special concern to de la Mata Aparicio were the poorest of the poor.  Our saint also taught and coordinated education.  On the vice-provincial level de la Mata Aparicio was an administrator, a secretary, a prior, and a counselor.

De la Mata Aparicio was a kind and sympathetic man quick to smile.   He was kind and sympathetic, of course, to those who received little comfort from the world.  He was also kind to plants, which reminded him of the greatness of God, their creator.  Our saint took care of them and spoke to them as part of his panentheism–recognizing God in nature.  De la Mata Aparicio also had devotions to Mary and the Holy Eucharist.

Our saint died at Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 5, 1983.  He was 77 years old.  Pope John Paul II venerated him in 2004.  Pope Benedict XVI beatified de la Mata Aparicio two years later.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, SAINT RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZGURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom

the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Emil Brunner (April 5)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dr. Emil Brunner

Image in the Public Domain

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HEINRICH EMIL BRUNNER (DECEMBER 23, 1889-APRIL 6, 1966)

Swiss Reformed Theologian

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The Protestant theology of our day is in a state of rapid dissolution….The substance of Christian theology, the content of Christian faith, is in a state of compete decomposition.  Christianity is either faith in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, or it is nothing.

–Emil Brunner, in The Theology of Crisis (1930); quoted in Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, editors, A Handbook of Christian Theologians–Enlarged Edition (1984) page 410

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Emil Brunner and Karl Barth were the most influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century.  The latter, however, has become more famous than the former.  Furthermore, Willard Learoyd Sperry was openly critical of their Neo-orthodox theology.  Coincidence has caused the feasts of Brunner and Sperry to fall on the same date on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  This project of mine has sufficient breadth to include theologians who criticized each other.

Brunner was Swiss, as was his contemporary and critic, Barth.  Brunner, born on December 23, 1889, at Winterthur, drew from a variety of influences.  One early influence was pastor Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), of southern Germany.  Another influence was Hermann Kutter (1863-1931), a student of Blumhardt.  Brunner studied theology at the University of Zurich.  His professor, Leonhard Ragaz (1868-1945), taught him the works of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who influenced our saint profoundly.

Brunner traveled and lectured around the world.  He studied in Berlin for a semester in 1911; he found both the city and Adolf von Harnack 1865-1923) unimpressive.  Our saint visited England in 1913-1914 and quickly became fluent in English.  He was back home, serving in the Swiss army, in 1914-1916, before becoming the pastor at a church in Obstalden, in the canton of Glarus, in 1916.  Brunner studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, in 1919-1920.  In 1924 he became Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at the University of Zurich.  He also continued to preach in churches.  Throughout the 1920s Brunner lectured in the United States and in the United Kingdom.  The Third Reich banned his books and forbade him to teach in Germany, but he did not slow down.  From 1938 to 1939 Brunner was a visiting professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.  He was also active in the Faith and Order Movement and the Life and Work Movement, forerunners of the World Council of Churches, organized in 1948.  After World War II Brunner became a theological advisor to the Y.M.C.A.  In 1949, for the Y.M.C.A., he traveled and lectured in Asia.  From 1953 to 1955 our saint was a professor at the International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.  There he engaged in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues.  In 1955, on the way back to Switzerland, Brunner suffered a stroke, which slowed the previously vigorous pace of his scholarly work.

In 1916 Brunner married Margret Lauterberg, niece of his mentor, Hermann Kutter.  Our saint was a loving husband and father.  The couple raised four sons, two of whom they buried.

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A person literate in Christian theology can understand why one can find criticisms of Brunner from both the right and the left on the Internet.  According to certain critics from the left, he was much too traditional.  Yet, according to those who condemn our saint from the right, he was a heretic and a destroyer of faith whose insidious influence remains.

Brunner, who considered himself neither a traditionalist nor an innovator, held to a theology based to two related factors:  love and the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  He rejected fundamentalism and dogmatism on the right  and vague religious values on the left.  Brunner was, simply put, in the middle, with many critics from both his right and his left.  For example, as our saint stressed the primacy of Jesus as the Word of God and insisted upon the unique and unrepeatable nature of the Incarnation, he remained skeptical regarding the Virgin Birth.  The miracle of the Incarnation, Brunner wrote, was greater with a human father.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, one need not affirm the Virgin Birth as being essential to accepting the divinity of Jesus.

Brunner also pondered how God and mere mortals can relate to each other.  Our saint, being himself, rejected the extremes of literalism and dogmatism on the right and of experience and feeling on the left.  He wrote that God and people meet in Jesus Christ and that only God can take the initiative to bridge the gap.  People, he argued, have the ability to reject God or to accept God.  Furthermore, the revelation of God is ongoing–via the Holy Spirit, including in the scriptures at the present time.  The reign of God on earth will become a reality also.  In the meantime, Brunner argued, there must be a point of contact in sinful human nature for one to perceive the divine revelation.  This assertion prompted Barth too write his famous rebuttal Nein! (1934), in which he argued that divine revelation creates its own point of contact ex niliho.  Brunner referred to Nein! as “that terrible book” as late as the 1950s.

For Brunner the definitive Christian virtue was love–self-sacrificing love, the kind Jesus had.  This love, our saint wrote, Christianizing Martin Buber‘s I-Thou theology, binds people to God and to each other in relationships.  The responsibility to live in community with each other and with God, Brunner wrote, is inherent in us.  Furthermore, we might be unaware of this duty or even reject it, but we can never escape it, he argued.  The basis of this responsibility, according to Brunner, was the image of God.  He criticized violations of this responsibility, wherever he saw them–in capitalism, communism, Christian congregations and denominations, et cetera.  Worse than the scandal of schisms, Brunner wrote, was the lack of spiritual brotherhood in Christian community.

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Brunner, a man well-informed in matters of theology, science, music, and painting, died at Zurich, Switzerland, on April 6, 1966.  He was 76 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

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

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted by your servant Emil Brunner,

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

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  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 Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

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