Winter 2003
Volume 7 Number 2
 

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Picture Perfect in Scotland

I want to thank you most sincerely for very kindly including the photograph of Kirkmichael Parish Church, here in Scotland, in the splendid collage that forms the cover [summer/fall 2002] of inSpire. I was more than delighted to see this when my copy arrived this morning, and I know it will generate much excitement when I tsummer/fall 2002 inSpireell the congregation on Sunday morning. The congregation is a small but hard-working and committed gathering of mostly rural people—whose 18th-century church means much to them. This is in fact the third church on this site. Christian worship here goes back some 700 years!

We are very touched by this gesture, and I know that it will bring much happiness to the hearts of those lovely people here who I’m extremely privileged to serve.

W. Gerald Jones (’83M)
Ayrshire, Scotland

 

Thankful for Professor Loder

The Princeton community lost a truly wonderful professor last November with the death of Dr. James Loder. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, I will remember him and be thankful for his approach to helping students. He never imposed his opinion; he always encouraged us to think for ourselves. During my tenure at Princeton as I faced the challenge of being a student, a wife, and a new mom, he was a treasure and an inspiration to me in many ways—not only in his teaching, but also in the way he lived and served the Princeton and surrounding communities.

Delores Ferguson Richardson (’67E)
Washington, D.C.

 

Disclaiming the Palestine Disclaimer

The editors of inSpire received a number of letters from people upset about inclusion of a disclaimer at the end of Christine Caton’s article, “Peacemaking in the Israeli/Palestinian War Zone” [summer/fall 2002, page 37]. It said, “The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent those of Princeton Theological Seminary.”summer/fall 2002 inSpire

One reader wrote, “What a pity that the views expressed by Christine Caton, who is courageously making peace in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, ‘do not necessarily represent those of Princeton Theological Seminary.’” Readers used words like “disappointed,” “dismayed,” “scandalized,” and “awful.” One wondered, “Why does a cry for justice for the Palestinian people and a factual account of one person’s experience of the gross injustice being inflicted upon them...require such a noncommittal statement? This is when the church and its institutions must speak out, both for the sake of the suffering Palestinians and for the integrity of our Christian witness.”

All the letters asked why this article, and none of the others, was appended by the disclaimer.

We acknowledge that many articles are printed that do not represent the views of the entire Seminary community without a disclaimer attached, but realize that the issues taken up in Caton’s article are especially contentious, with strong opinions on both sides (both in Israel and the U.S.) about how peace in the Middle East can be achieved.

Having earlier printed another article that also expressed a Palestinian perspective [“The Hopes and Fears of All the Years,” winter 2001, pp. 5–6], and receiving comments from some of the Jewish faith who were concerned about the lack of an Israeli perspective, the editors included the disclaimer to highlight the fact that Princeton Seminary does not have an official position about the political solution or the assignment of political blame in this tragic situation. The editors also wish to express that the Seminary stands emphatically behind Ms. Caton, is proud of her work, and continues to pray for the ongoing situation in the Middle East. Finally, the author was comfortable with, and gave her permission for, the use of the disclaimer.

In response to the letters from our readers, and in order to avoid similar misunderstanding in the future, we have decided the best way forward is to add a disclaimer to inSpire’s masthead on page one that says, “The views expressed in inSpire may not necessarily represent those of Princeton Theological Seminary.” This will cover the entire magazine and preclude the need to add disclaimers to specific articles in the future.

 

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Protesting Military Chaplains

I’ve often claimed that PTS’s main interests, under an ideological cloak of ministry, were really twofold: wealth and power. But your glamorization of military chaplains in the pages of the spring 2002 inSpire really hit a new low. A minister in uniform is blasphemous.

Thirty years ago—during the Vietnam War—I led a demonstration outside a convention of military chaplains in Seattle. Nothing in the last three decades has done anything to raise my estimation of the position. The best thing current chaplains could do would be to resign in protest over the brutal empire our nation has become.
How about a feature story on alumni/ae of PTS who have worked for peace and justice causes from the time they were in seminary—and never stopped? Now that would be a story worth telling!

Bruce Cameron (’73B)
Eugene, Oregon

(Mis)interpreting a Hymn?

Professor Sally A. Brown [“Preaching That Fosters ‘Ecclesial’ Identity,” summer/fall 2002, page 14] uses the gospel song “I Come to the Garden Alone” as a symbol of the mistaken emphasis on individualized spirituality.

She notes that the song “is intended to evoke the resurrection appearance to Mary in the burial garden on Easter morning,” which is what the author claimed, but declares that “the hymn’s text omits Jesus’ commissioning of Mary to go back to the gathered community of disciples to preach the good news, thus severing personal encounter with Jesus from its ecclesial context.”

I am ambivalent about the song, although many in both my congregations love it. I find it overly sentimental, I dislike the voice of Jesus being described as “sweet,” and in addition I oppose the notion that “the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known”—which seems as if one is bragging about winning some sort of contest, and which ignores the deep relationship with Christ of all people around us as well as those throughout history.

Nonetheless, I think Professor Brown is mistaken when she says that the song omits the commissioning of Mary. In verse three, the author depicts Mary Magdalene as wanting to stay in the garden with the risen Christ, but she is not allowed to do so: “But he bids me to go.” What is this but a reflection of John 20:17b, where Jesus tells Mary to carry the good news to his not-yet-understanding/believing disciples?

The next section of verse three is intriguing: “Through the voice of woe, his voice to me is calling.” Does that mean that the voice of the risen Christ comes to us with comfort as we struggle with the sorrows of life? Or does that mean that Jesus speaks to us by means of “the voice of woe,” calling us to mission?

I take it as the second, for was that not the situation of the disciples? Jesus was commissioning Mary to take his joy to their grief, the good news of his resurrection to their sorrow that Jesus was dead, defeated, and destroyed, only another false messiah. The voice of their woe was that through which Jesus called Mary to proclaim and demonstrate the life-changing, world-transforming gospel of his cross and resurrection. So it is with us.

One thing more: when we sing this gospel song in church, even though it focuses on Mary’s individual experience, it is an ecclesial act, whereby all of us singing identify ourselves with Mary Magdalene in her sin and forgiveness, in her tears and despair, in her joy as the risen Christ calls her by name, in her mission as she’s sent forth in his name.

David Robert Black (’75M)
Warren, Ohio

 

Editor’s Notes: The burn victim mentioned in the Student Life article about Danny Thomas’s experiences in Uganda [summer/fall 2002, page 11] was released from the hospital this past summer and is living in Jinja, Uganda, hoping for plastic surgery.

With sadness, we report the death of Julia Robinson, featured in an Outstanding in the Field article in the spring 2002 issue of inSpire [page 36]. Now that the grip of suffering and sorrow has been loosed, we trust that her new life with God is boundlessly joyful.


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