Archive for the ‘UGA’ Tag

UGA and Me   22 comments

UGA and Me or:  Time and Grace Heal

Once I had a tee-shirt I acquired at a Lay Ministries Conference in the Diocese of Georgia.  On the front was the shield of The Episcopal Church.  The back of the garment read,


(Grace is certainly preferable to what usually precedes “happens.”)  The shirt became a casualty of too much wearing and washing over the years, unfortunately.

I have experienced abundant grace throughout my life.  Some of that grace has occurred in the context of The University of Georgia (UGA), at which I arrived as a doctoral student in 2005.  Within sixteen months, however, my dreams had turned to ashes, and my major professor (as I write these words, in legal and professional jeopardy for domestic violence recorded on camera) had blackballed me.  I, embittered, dropped out of UGA at the end of 2006.

That bitterness has departed from me, by grace.  I would have been superhuman not to have been very angry at some point, but I would have also been wrong to have remained embittered for a long time.  The burden of the anger became so great that I gave it up to God.

I thank God for removing my bitterness.  Now, as I contemplate the legal and professional predicament into which my former major professor has gotten himself, I feel only sadness and pity for him and his family.  The man does have much to contribute to the academy and the world, after all.  I also pity the defenseless son.  I am morally incapable of rejoicing the in the plight of the professor who harmed me academically.  That fact is to God’s credit, not mine.  Also, just as the professor is responsible for his character, I am responsible for mine.  I seek to be a merely decent human being.

My once-uneasy relationship to UGA has changed.  Reasons for this include grace and the passage of time.  Another reason is the architectural change on campus since my time as a student.  Now I can (and do) go to campus and feel comfortable; my time as a student seems to have been from a previous life.

It was a previous life, in a way.

Perhaps the time to commence a new relationship to UGA is near.  I am open to that possibility.  UGA is, after all, an institution at which I should be able to find a niche into which to fit, given my bookishness and natural ease on a college campus.





Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain


I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.




Eleven Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment


Above:  City Hall, Athens, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain


On the morning of Tuesday, August 9, 2005, I moved from East Dublin, Georgia, to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to begin doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA).  My major professor, to whom I refer to as “John Doe” in this post, dashed my hopes and killed my program within sixteen months, however.  I dropped out of UGA in December 2006, for I knew that I would have no third year and perceived no reason to complete the second year.  The graduate supervisor of the department advised me take a M.A. degree instead.  I informed him that I had one already.  Take a second one, he replied; the second M.A. will be from a “superior institution.”  My succinct reply, via email, copied to my negligent major professor, who was stingy with feedback, was, “No.”  The powers that were in the Department of History had tried to convert me into something I refused to become:  someone who could not pass five minutes without saying or thinking “subalternate.”  I liked people who changed the course of history and left documentation about it.  Subalternates did not interest me very much.  I finished Fall Semester 2006, holding myself together with the emotional equivalent of twine and duct tape.  Blazing Saddles, in five-minute-long increments, also helped greatly.  (Thank you, Mel Brooks!)  “To thine own self be true,” as Shakespeare wrote, placing those words in the mouth of Polonius in Hamlet.  I maintained my integrity in the face of pressure to do otherwise.

I still find subalternates boring.  Institutional and Great Man and Woman history retain my interest.

I also refuse to call what happened to me anything other than what it was:  academic abuse.  Judgment and mercy on the guilty parties rest entirely in the purview of God, I am not the judge of Dr. Doe and those in the department who made excuses for him.   Grudges do not build me up anyway, and any quest for revenge would damage me and be contrary to my Christian principles.  The trauma of my short-lived doctoral program has left much spiritual scar tissue; I need not add any more to it.  On the other hand, my stress levels today are much lower than they were when I was a graduate student at UGA.  I conclude that the Department of History was not a healthy milieu for me at that time.

Athens, however, has become my home.  Of all the places I have lived it is the one in which I fit best.  The intellectual life of the city is agreeable to me.  And, after all those years of feeling like the damned, marginalized liberal and heretic in South Georgia, I find myself slightly to the right of the center in most circles in which I move.  I have not even changed my opinions much.  I have, however, ceased to be an outcast.  I also refuse to make those to my left feel like outcasts, for I have no desire to do unto others negatively as others have done to me negatively.

I have never lived in one place this long.  I, born in Rome, Georgia, spent my earliest years in Chattooga County, Georgia–a few years in Trion but mostly in the ancestral family home in Summerville.  When I was six years old my parents moved my sister and me to South Georgia.  Starting in 1980 we took the grand tour of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  From kindergarten to Twelfth Grade I attended schools in six counties.   Then I attended college in three more counties and lived in four other counties prior to relocating to Athens-Clarke County.

I have changed spiritually since I arrived in Athens in 2005.  I have, by grace and through trauma, become a better human being.  I am more aware of my weaknesses and my complete dependence upon God.  I am more forgiving, of both others and myself, for being weak.  I am more aware of my responsibilities to others, especially my students.  I know what St. Paul the Apostle meant by “dying to self,” although I cannot express that meaning in words.  I have received abundant grace via human beings and know of my responsibility to function as a vehicle of grace for others better than I did.  I have experienced spiritual death and rebirth.  I know well the pain of the death and the elation of the rebirth.  I am quite aware of my dark side, of my unworthiness, and of the immeasurable riches of the love of God.  I know that the light shines most brightly in the deepest darkness.

I do not know how long I will remain in Athens or its vicinity.  Neither do I know how long I should continue to live here.  I hope and pray that I will remain here as long as that is appropriate and that I will then move along to the proper subsequent location.  Meanwhile, I am glad to reside in Athens-Clarke County.

May my twelfth year in Athens be positive.





Of “Statesman” and “Stateswoman”   Leave a comment


Above:  Stateswoman

Writing and Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Years ago, when I was a graduate student and teaching assistant at The University of Georgia (UGA), Charles, one of the other teaching assistants with whom I shared an office in the basement of LeConte Hall, asked me to proofread something he had written for an assignment.  I was glad to do so.  I proofread the text and used the the spellcheck function of Microsoft Word.  The spelling and organization of the text was excellent, by the way.  The spellchecker did, however, flag the word “statesman,” which Charles used to describe Willy Brandt (1913-1992), the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969 to 1974.  I recognized no need to recommend that Charles change the word.  After all, Brandt was a man.  I told Charles of the spellcheck result.  He agreed with my conclusion.

Today is, on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, the Feast of Flora MacDonald (1926-2015), whom I describe as a “Canadian Stateswoman and Humanitarian.”  I have no hesitation describing her as a stateswoman, for she was, obviously, a woman.

Accuracy and precision in language are wonderful.




Feast of Jim McGown (March 7)   2 comments

James Hewitt McGown

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor




Seldom do I have the privilege of meeting, much less knowing, people I add to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  This time, however, I write about someone I not only knew but considered a friend.

Jim McGown was born in Lynbrook, New York, in 1946, son of Hewitt Roe McGown and Jeanette McDougal McGown.  He grew up in Garden City, on Long Island.  Jim, a graduate of McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, came to Athens, Georgia, for the first time as a naval officer in training at the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School.  During that stint he met Jane Foster, whom he eventually married in September 1972.  They settled in Jane’s hometown, Athens, the following year, remaining there and moving into their most long-lasting home in 1987.

Jim and Jane raised two sons—Evan Hewitt McGown and Todd Foster McGown Elihu.  Their home was a site of much love, personal warmth, and generosity of spirit.  Jim lived long enough to see Todd marry and welcome visits by his daughter-in-law, Baraka, and his granddaughter, Akasha.

As Jane described Jim to me recently, “God’s love smiled through him.”  Thus Jim loved Christ in his neighbors near to home and far away.  He helped to found the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, served on the board of the Samaritan Counseling Center of Northeast Georgia, mentored community youth, taught computer classes, and lobbied for Palestinian rights.  And Jim and Jane helped me on more than one occasion, even allowing me to live upstairs for a few weeks in 2007, when I was between long-term housing arrangements.  Jim recommended good books to me, gave me some, and offered me sage advice.  The last book he gave me—a Lenten guide which N. T. Wright wrote—has become an especially prized possession.

Jim held various jobs over the years, including a position at Jane’s family business, Foster’s Jewelers.  He also operated a business, Vintage Jim’s, and mentored many students at the Presbyterian Student Center near The University of Georgia (UGA).  That was where I met him during an ecumenical excursion.  His kind counsel helped me through some difficult periods in my life, especially UGA-related ones.

Jim, raised a Roman Catholic—once even a member of a religious order—became a Presbyterian.  He, a member of First Presbyterian Church, Athens, served there as an elder.  He also attended General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a delegate and mentored Education for Ministry (EFM) groups at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens.  Jim, a warm-hearted man with an inquisitive mind, read scholarly books (especially ones about religious topics) and returned to UGA in his retirement, earning his M.A. in religion.  He died after having attended a lecture on the university campus on March 7, 2013.  It was appropriate that Jim’s final act was an academic one.

Jim was a great man who left the world better than he found it.








Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil

and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Jim McGown,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, 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

Feast of Gene Britton (April 22)   1 comment

Gene Britton 02

Photograph Courtesy of Nicola Britton



Episcopal Priest

Gene Britton was born at LaGrange, Georgia, to Wayne Prather Britton and Willie Ruth Smith Britton.  Our saint, a member of the Moultrie High School, Moultrie, Georgia, Class of 1949, graduated from The University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1954.

Before Britton graduated, however, he stood up for what was merely right and politically unpopular.  In 1953 he and the rest of the editorial staff of The Red and Black, the campus newspaper, published a series of editorials condemning racial segregation.  Roy V. Harris, a member of the state Board of Regents and a staunch segregationist, censured the journalists—Britton; Walter Lundy, Editor-in-Chief; Bill Shipp, Managing Editor; and Priscilla Arnold—and arranged for the Board of Regents to withhold funding for The Red and Black unless or until the editorial board backed down.  The University imposed editorial veto power on the publication.  Then the journalists resigned.

Britton’s immediate post-University life consisted of a series of milestones and a journalistic career.  He married Laurie Lindebaugh in 1954.  For two years he served in the United States Army Signal Corps before writing for the Atlanta Constitution then running the Atlanta bureau of the Macon Telegraph and News then, from 1963 to 1965, serving as the Director of Information and Research Services of the Georgia Education Association.

Our saint’s ultimate vocation, however, was religious.  In 1968 he graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary with his Master of Divinity.  He served at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, as a transitional deacon and young priest before serving St. Margaret’s Church, Carrollton, from 1970 to 1976.  In 1977 Bennett J. Sims, Bishop of Atlanta, appointed him to St. Clement’s Church, Canton.  Two years later Britton began his tenure as the Rector of the Church of the Resurrection, East Point.  Seven years later he moved to Athens to become the Rector of St. Gregory the Great Church.  There, in 1988, Laurie, his first wife died.  From there he retired in 1995.  And there our saint remarried (to Nicola Joy Wolstenholme) toward the end of his tenure.

Britton contributed to the Diocese of Atlanta in various ways.  From 1982 to 1984 he served as the Co-chairperson of the new Commission of Racism.  He also served on the Executive Committee, the Commission on Ministry, and the Task Force on Discernment and the Formation of Vocations.  And he chaired the Board of Governors of Mikell Camp and Conference Center.

Our saint continued to serve during retirement.  He was the Interim Rector of St. Alban’s, Elberton, and St. Andrew’s, Hartwell.  He also assisted at Emmanuel Church, Athens, and worked as a chaplain for the state Department of Corrections at the I. W. Davis Probation Detention Center, Jefferson.

Britton’s survivors include Nicola Britton, his wife of sixteen years; two sons, Wayne Eugene Britton, Jr., and Edward B. Britton; Edward’s wife, Cathy Parker; a stepson, Wayne’s daughter, Evey Britton; Andrew Spencer; a stepdaughter, Emily Spencer.

Our saint pursued his passions, from the Enneagram Model of Human Personality to photography to The University of Georgia Bulldogs.  And he influenced people positively, leaving his corners of the world better than he found them.  Much tangible and intangible evidence of that continues to be easy to find at St. Gregory the Great Church, Athens, from the outdoor cross and altar (a memorial to Laurie) to the lives of parishioners from his time there.

Britton insisted correctly, as I have read in his history of the church, that The Episcopal Church is Catholic, not Protesant.  Protestants, he wrote, do not have priests.

My only regret in relation to Gene Britton is that I never had the opportunity to get to know him.  I met him a few times, occasions which left me with a favorable opinion of him.  But knowing him would have enriched me life much more.








Amended on September 4 and 7, 2013


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 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

Feast of Milner Ball (April 6)   Leave a comment

Image Source = University of Georgia Law School Tribute Page

(Link located in this post)


Presbyterian Minister, Law Professor, Witness for Civil Rights, Humanitarian

From time to time one finds one’s self in the company of greatness.  The greatest of people are those who improve the lives of others, often facing scorn for part or much of their efforts.  Years and decades later, admirers speak of how courageous these great people were, but such high praise was scarce at the time.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1936, and educated in Georgia and Tennessee public schools, Milner Ball earned his A.B. degree from Princeton University and his Master of Divinity from Harvard University.  A man possessed of a keen intellect and deep Christian faith, he studied with Karl Barth and became a Presbyterian minister.  Lifelong concerns for social justice led Ball to support causes usually described as liberal.  In the 1960s, for example he was openly pro-civil rights.  After a stint as pastor in Manchester, Tennessee, he became the Presbyterian campus minister at The University of Georgia (UGA).  There his demonstrated belief in racial equality aroused much opposition at the recently (1962) integrated campus.  The last straw, however, came when Ball became a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but not as a member of the Lester Maddox-approved delegation.  Ball, joined the Julian Bond-led delegation instead.

Ball, fired from his position, entered law school and commenced a career of public service via the law.  Graduating first in his class from the UGA Law School, Ball served as former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s representative to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1971 and 1972.  Then he taught law at Rutgers University from 1972 to 1978 before returning to UGA as a law professor.  He retired in 2006.

A prolific scholar, Ball wrote many law review articles and four books:  The Promise of American Law:  A Theological, Humanistic View of Legal Process (1981), Lying Down Together:  Law, Metaphor, and Theology (1985), The Word and the Law (1993), and Called by Stories:  Biblical Sagas and Their Challenge for Law (2000).  A specialist in environmental law, tribal law, constitutional law, and the intersection of theology and law, Ball challenged his students and readers to improve the lives of the less fortunate and to work for justice.  Law, he wrote, ought to be a force which transfigures society and builds up human community.

Ball’s work extended far beyond Athens, Georgia.  He taught overseas (in Argentina, France, Belgium, England, and Iceland) over the years and served as a judge on the International People’s Tribunal in Hawaii (1993).  Ball was also a member of the Theological Anthropology Project at the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton University.  And his influence continues through the careers of his law students.

Locally in Athens, Ball was instrumental in the Athens Justice Project, which, in the words of its website, “assists low income individuals with pending criminal charges in achieving a fair legal outcome and in becoming productive, law-abiding community members.”  Such work, truly a living memorial to Ball’s commitment to social justice, reflects his active belief in helping the disadvantaged and building up human community.  The Athens Justice Project was just one of Ball’s many community-building activities, with others including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter.

Ball received many civil rights and public service honors.  It is appropriate then that the Working in the Public Interest (WIPI) Law Conference established the Milner S. Ball Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Our love for our neighbors, Jesus said, must be active.  The obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves requires us to reach out to those who need the assistance we can offer.  Following our Lord in this way will cause us to cross lines some of our neighbors consider improper, for we human beings cling to social injustices which benefit us, if only psychologically.  But crossing these lines is part of God’s mandate upon our lives.  Jesus disregarded such barriers, as the canonical Gospels record.  He was (and is) the Master; a servant is not above his or her master.

Milner Ball followed his master faithfully.  He and I participated in the life of the same parish, crossing paths.  Knowing him, even casually, was a great honor.





For More Information:

UGA Law School Tribute Page


A collect and the readings for a Renewer of Society, according to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.  Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.  Help us, like your servant Milner Ball, to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name, 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