Co-Director of the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program, Thomas W. Porter, Jr., has announced his retirement from the School of Theology, effective June 2019. Tom joined the School of Theology in 2004 to develop a program in Religion and Conflict Transformation at the invitation of former Dean Ray Hart.
About his experience at STH, Tom writes, “What a wonderful experience I have had teaching and working at the School of Theology. I have loved teaching, and have learned much from my students and colleagues. I have been gifted with extraordinary colleagues and students. I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I have felt supported by everyone on the faculty, in the student body and in the administration. I look forward to the rest of the academic year and the opportunity to express to all my appreciation for this support and for the friendships that have and will continue to mean so much to me.”
Dean Mary Elizabeth Moore wishes Tom well in his retirement, and says “We will miss him terribly.”
Dr. Herman O. Kelly, Jr., Pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will be presenting a Paper entitled The Black Rhetorical Traditions In The Civil Rights Movement. This paper will be presented at The National African and African American Studies Conference in Dallas, Texas on Thursday, February 14, 2019. Dr. Kelly is an adjunct Instructor at Louisiana State University in The African and African American Studies Program And In The College Of Education. This paper will highlight his research on The Black Rhetorical Traditions and how it assisted the Civil Rights Movement. He has edited Volume I And Volume II.
Congrats to Linda Stetter (’06) who is the new executive dean for the Fremont Campus of Pueblo Community College! You can read more here.
Ohio Wesleyan University Chaplain Jon R. Powers (’74) is one of 10 writers contributing a chapter to the newly published book “Displaced Persons: Theological Reflection on Immigration, Refugees, and Marginalization.” The book is published by The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and Powers’ chapter is titled “Methodists and Muslims: Better Together.”
You can read more on the Ohio Wesleyan University website: https://www.owu.edu/news-media/details/better-together/
Sungmin Jeon (STH ’12) became the new pastor at The Oakland/Sidney United Methodist Church in October. He earned his Master of Divinity at BU School of Theology. Click here to read more.
This article was published in the School of Theology annual 2017 focus magazine, adapted from a sermon deliveredat Boston University’s Marsh Chapel on October 29, 2016. Please find the full magazine here. This article begins on page 47 of the magazine.
By Laura Rambikur (STH’17, SSW’17)
One of the most important lessons I have learned at the School of Theology is the responsibility we have to be accountable for the theology we practice and preach. Growing up, I knew the disciple Thomas as the one who was skeptical, the one who said he wouldn’t believe the miracle of the resurrection until he had seen Christ and touched his wounds.1 I did not just learn this in church; it is a message perpetuated by popular culture and has become engrained with the name Doubting Thomas. The message is simple: do not be like Thomas, believe in the resurrec-tion. Do not question, just believe.
Thomas teaches us about wounds—how to ask questions and how to serve as witness to the wounds that accom-pany the resurrection. When Jesus appears after the crucifixion, it is not in a new body, but in a wounded body. Is there something to be learned from a wounded resurrection? The New Interpreter’s Bible highlights the graphic description of Thomas’ request, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”2 Thomas’ grief takes on a challenge not expressed by any of the other disciples; Thomas needs to phys-ically enter into the wounds to believe the resurrection, to find hope. Thomas helps us understand what it means to enter into the broken body of Christ. This particular passage has always cap-tivated me because it is the Thomas moments, the moments upon entering the wound, where I encounter God. What does it mean to enter into the wounded body of Christ?
When I think of the wounded body of Jesus, I think of home, the border, and the physical barrier that divides Arizona and Mexico. I think of the wilderness where so many hundreds of people have died trying to escape polit-ical violence and economic downturn. For six summers, I worked in Honduras and heard horror stories of the border, la frontera, from my Honduran friends and family. I never doubted the stories were true, but I needed to touch the wounds of the border to fully understand the responsibility I have—likeThomas, I needed to experience this wounded body of Jesus.
In spring 2010, I went on my first trip as a volunteer with a group that provides humanitarian aid on the US–Mexico border. Despite its beauty, the Sonoran desert is one of the most deadly migration corridors in the western hemisphere. We had been searching all day, we knew the migrants were there; we had followed their trails, walked their footsteps, found their empty, broken water bottles and food containers. We found shoes, prayer cards, and pictures of families, the loved ones they had left behind. Bumping along the dusty dirt road, we saw the saguaro cacti standing tall with their long arms reaching out, resembling human figures frozen in place.
We finally hit the intersection where the road turned to pavement. As soon as we made the turn, we saw them. There were six of them; their movements were slow and weary, reflecting exhaustion known only to those who have stared death in the face. Being the translator for the group, I swung the car door open and hopped out. “We are friends of the Church, do not be afraid.”
They were from Chiapas, Mexico, and had traveled for three months. Originally, they were part of a group of 25 and had become separated. For nine days, they had been wandering, lost in the desert wilderness without food and water. They had been traveling by night when vehicle headlights appeared and sent the group scattering. Afraid of being discovered, they did not call out for help. They had left their homes, their loved ones, everything they had behind in Chiapas. Raul, a farmer whose land had been taken from him by government officials, explained he could not find work. “My children cannot eat,” he said. “We cannot survive, so I left looking for work, looking for a way to survive.” I sat with them, and they told me their stories. I carry these stories with me; they are stories of the wilderness and the wounded body of Christ.
When we asked about their feet, the six exchanged looks, resistant at first, but I explained we had medicine to clean and bandage their blisters. Reluctantly, they took their shoes off, exposing their bloody and blistered feet. My God! I thought as I saw their wounds. I had never participated in a foot washing. I felt as if I had been given a tremendous responsibility. As we cleaned their feet, we listened to stories of Chiapas, the soft green landscape, so far from this deadly, dry, desolate wilderness. Raul told me God had sent us as their guardian angels, that they thought they were going to die alone in the desert, so far from their families, so far from God. His words hit as I realized the responsibility I was now charged with upon entering into this wound, by becoming part of their story. After Thomas sees the risen Jesus and touches his wounds, he responds, “My Lord and my God!”3 The New Interpreter’s Bible highlights this as one of the most powerful responses in the Gospel of John.4 Theologically, this response points to the beginning of John, where the word is God and becomes flesh. It is in the wounded body of humanity that Thomas encounters God.
As I sat there with
these six, it hit me;
all I could do was serve as witness:
“My Lord and my God!”
When Jesus appears in this passage, he gives in to Thomas with compassion. The word compassion is derived from the Latin pati cum, “suffer with.” Maybe Thomas is the disciple who, in the most material and graphic way, helps teach compassion. Jesus does not shame Thomas for his request to touch his wounds; instead, Jesus invites Thomas into his wounds: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”5 The compassion demonstrated in this passage is not often highlighted. Yet, the way Jesus and Thomas interact is critical: theologically, it points to the resurrection that happens through the act of compassion when Thomas enters the wound. This is where Thomas finds resurrection.
COMPASSION AND RESPONSIBILITY
The afternoon had finally started to cool when I saw the unmistakable white-and-green truck identical to the vehicles used by animal control—a lifted pickup truck with a steel cab covering the bed where they lock away dangerous animals. Border Patrol had found us; my heart sank, even though I knew this moment was coming. The group had asked us to call; they wanted to go home. They were terrified and felt this was the best way to ensure their safety. The agent got out of the truck and unlocked the back, the door swung open, and I watched in horror as they piled into the back of the truck that would haul them away to one of the private prisons where God only knows what would become of them. Raul was about to get in when he turned and hugged me. Tears welled in my eyes as he said, “You have saved my life, thank you.” Just then, the agent yelled, “Hey! You! What’s in that bag, su mochila?” Raul was the only one who had a mochila (backpack). “Nada!” Raul began. “Solo es…” But before he had a chance to explain, the agent had ripped the bag from his hands. “What’s in here? Drogas? (Drugs?) Guns?” As the officer reached into the bag, I saw that Raul’s expression was completely calm, while the officer was shocked. “A Bible?” It caught him completely off guard. “All right, get in.”
I could no longer hold back my tears. We watched them drive away, all crammed into that tiny space. They had wandered into the wilderness, where they had lost so much, yet all the while carrying their faith, the hope that drives humanity to seek survival despite all odds. This is their story, the story of the wounded body of Christ. This is the story of Thomas entering into Jesus’ wounds. When we choose to walk with those who suffer, we choose compassion; when we choose to enter the wound, we have a responsibility to serve as witness. When we serve as witness, we have a responsibility to be held accountable for the wounds we have experienced. To share the stories of the wounds that accompany the resurrection is to encounter God. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Rambikur (’17, SSW’17) is from Arizona and is pursuing ordination as a deacon in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. After graduation, she plans to return to the borderlands and conduct advocacy work for immigrants.
1. John 20:24-29, The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume IX (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 848.
2. John 20:25, ibid.
3. John 20:28, ibid., 849.
4. Ibid., 849–850.
5. John 20:27, ibid., 849
Bishop John Tetteh published Why You Are Ill and How You Will Heal in August 2018. You can read more about the book here.
Rev. Michael J. Balboni, Ph.D. and Tracy A. Balboni published Hostility to Hospitality: Spirituality and Professional Socialization within Medicine in October of this year. This book explores the relationship between spiritual health and American medicine. Read more about the book here.
Rev. Balboni currently serves as the Interim Assistant Minister at Park Street Church in Boston, MA.
Dr. Richard Gentzler recently released An Age of Opportunity: Intentional Ministry by, with, and for Older Adults. This book recognizes the importance of older adults in our congregations and sees this population as vital to the life of the church. To find out more about An Age of Opportunity, click here.
Dr. Gentzler earned his Doctor of Ministry at BU School of Theology in 1983 and has served in various capacities within the United Methodist Church. He retired from the General Board of Discipleship and the Susquehanna Conference of the UMC. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Stephanie Budwey has joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School as the Luce Dean’s Faculty Fellow Assistant Professor of the History and Practice of Christian Worship and the Arts. She will also service as the director of Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture.
Dr. Budwey earned her Master of Sacred Music in 2004 and her Doctor of Theology in 2012 from BU School of Theology.
See the full press from Vanderbilt release here.