Philip Wogaman served as professor of Christian Ethics and Dean at Wesley Theological Seminary and has also served on the faculty of University of Pacific. He served as senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. for ten years, where he ministered to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Wogaman received his STB from Boston University School of Theology in 1957 and earned his PhD in Sociology of Religion and Ethics (GRS ’60). In 2011, he was honored as a Boston University School of Theology Distinguished Alumnus. This Q&A is condensed and edited from a September 22, 2011 interview with Dean Mary Elizabeth Moore.
Phil Wogaman: Well I would say my family above all. That early nurturing was very, very solid. My father was a pastor, and for his health we moved to Arizona in 1943. There I encountered farm workers, and I think one of my earliest experiences that led ultimately to my interest in ethics was to see what happened to farm workers …and then to see racism at work.
I still remember—in my seventh grade we had an extremely racist teacher who kept telling these racist stories, and she had extreme stereotypes. Finally, one day I stood up in class, after she came out with one of those things and I said, “That’s not so.” “What!” That blew her mind. That evening my parents said, “Probably that wasn’t the best way to go about it,” but I think there was a little pride underneath.
MEM: Do you have any particular memories that would help flesh out what you were getting in your home, in terms of your relationships, and in terms of teachings, implicit teachings?
PW: In those war years, because so many of the young men were off fighting wars, there was a farm labor shortage. There was a period when a number of Jamaicans were brought in and housed out in the federal housing area. Signs appeared in the stores around town: “No colored trade solicited.” And I could remember Dad’s reaction to that. He invited them all to church. Here was this little church, and I think this group of Jamaicans was probably half the congregation at that point. So, they were accepted, and the signs all went down. That kind of experience was shaping.
MEM: So what led you to go to seminary?
PW: Obviously the thought of following my father’s footsteps into ministry was always a factor there, but I wanted it to be authentically my call. I toyed with different options, one of which was law and one of which was music. I attended youth camp in southeast Arizona. Somehow, I got the germ there, and made that decision there that I would pursue ministry. And it was a vague kind of thing, very immature—and yet, however immature that decision was, it laid a base that just kept expanding and growing from that point on.
MEM: Tell us about some of your experiences here at Boston University.
PW: The faculty in that era, I can remember some of those faces: Allan Knight Chalmers. He was a great figure in homiletics. He was a stunning orator. There’s one incident that I well-remember from him. My second year of seminary, we were in Preaching and Homiletics, and had the experience of preaching in the chapel. I stepped to the pulpit here in Marsh Chapel when it was my turn. And literally, that is the one time in my entire life and career that I went dead in the middle of a sermon. It just wasn’t there. I fumbled around and apologized and dear Dr. Chalmers said, “That’s ok, Phil. No problem. I appreciate so much you’re preaching without notes; you’re going to do just fine.” And he just redeemed the moment.
Later on of course, after I got into PhD study, Paul Deets, [professor of sociology and ethics] was very close, and Walter Muelder, [dean of the School of Theology]. He was ultimately a huge influence in my life, and we maintained contact from then until his death. Any time I made a career change later on, I would consult with him about it. He usually gave very solid advice.
MEM: What do you think you learned from each of them that helped shape your dissertation and your own work as an ethicist thereafter?
PW: Let me count the ways! Lots of things. One of them was a deep sense of the relevance of the social sciences, much neglected now in ministry, and how terribly important that is. And to read the classics in sociology and anthropology with Deets and Muelder was very important. During those Cold War years, the encounter with Marxism was terribly important. The two of them had this course that studied various sociological movements—not just Marxism, but Marxism figured heavily in that. Later on in my teaching, both at College of the Pacific and Wesley Seminary, I would teach a course on Christianity and Communism and Christianity and Marxism. That foundational work was very, very important.
With Muelder especially, a very formative thing was History of Christian Social Ethics. That formed the basis of a life-long pursuit. During my years when I was pastor of Foundry Methodist Church and I was preaching with some frequency to the President of the United States, not infrequently there was an echo of Walter Muelder coming through.
MEM: Let me ask you to share something of your vocational journey and some of the points of that journey that have been most significant in your own eyes.
One of my real mentors in writing was [hymn-writer and theologian] Georgia Harkness. There are people who don’t suffer fools gladly, and that was Georgia Harkness, but she was a very kind person. Her style of writing, her audience in writing, and so on, somehow, that was in my blood. She also was a graduate of Boston University of course, and an important figure in the change in the Methodist church to allow women to be ordained.
I guess particularly with Walter Muelder, he was intellectually humble. I have known people in the theological world, teachers, who wanted to be surrounded by disciples; he was, but that was not his motivation at all.
MEM: You’ve written on many different issues. I’m curious if there’s any pattern to your selection of the issues you write on.
PW: As to topics, it’s sort of what I sense needs to be done. I did the Christian Method of Moral Judgment, which I thought was a contribution to ethics that needed to be done. Guaranteed Annual Income: The Moral Issues, that needed to be done. But my big project on sabbatical in 1975 in England was something else I thought needed to be done. I wrote it under the title, Christians and the Great Economic Debate, and it was comparative economic ideologies. By the way, as an illustration of how far-sighted I was, how visionary, I almost did not include laissez faire capitalism as one of those ideologies. I thought it was already dead –just before Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of England.
MEM: We’ve been talking about your teaching and research, so I’d like to hear you say a few words about your contributions and challenges in your church leadership, both in the local congregation and in the denomination.
PW: I have always been an active member in whatever annual conference I was located in. In 1988, I was elected to General Conference for the first time. I had decided well before then that the attitude of the church toward gay and lesbian people needed to be much reevaluated. Earlier in my career, if you’d asked me my views, I would have said, “Well this is some form of sin or sickness; I don’t know which one, but I don’t want to spend much time with it. I’m more concerned about war and peace, and the state, race relations, economics.”
I found students through the ‘70s that were raising such questions, and I thought, As an ethicist, I’d better be able to answer some of this. My mind changed a lot through the years. Then when I was elected delegate to that Conference in 1988, I started getting these lobbying letters from Texas and places like that: “Hold the line on our attitude on this subject.” I thought, Now’s the time we need to have a study commission to deal with this as a denomination. So I came up with that idea, and sold it to the denomination, and we managed to work that through the General Conference in 1988. I was a member of that commission, and ultimately wrote the final report. It was not adopted.
The General Conference had adopted that study commission, and that was for me a very formative experience. We had hearings around the country, meeting gay and lesbian people. In the end, I had hoped we would have a scientific closure on the issue, and that just wasn’t realistic. However, it occurred to me, the church is sitting on top of relevant evidence: its people. And so, I became an advocate on that issue, and continue to be. And to this day, I am strongly supportive of gay and lesbian rights.
MEM: Our time is up, and I’d like to leave space for you to say one last word.
PW: I guess my last word, which would be evident in much of what I had to say here today, is that subsequent to leaving Boston University in 1960, throughout my subsequent ministry and career, Boston University’s fingerprints have been all over what I have done and developed.
David Felten (STH ’88) is a native of Phoenix and received a music education degree from Arizona State University before attending Boston University School of Theology where he earned his MDiv in Biblical Studies and History. Before completing Chaplaincy training at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, David spent a year studying as a Rotary Graduate Scholar at Perth Theological Hall of Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. There he received an Honours degree and a taste for Promite.
David spent eight years as Associate Pastor and Co-pastor at Epworth United Methodist in West Phoenix and was appointed to start a new church in the Northeast Scottsdale area in July of 1998. Starting from scratch, Via de Cristo grew into a dynamic faith community serving a niche group of spiritual seekers and those who would otherwise be “church alumni.” David currently serves as the pastor of The Fountains, a United Methodist Church in Fountain Hills, Arizona, a Reconciling Congregation affiliated with the Center for Progressive Christianity.
In an effort to offer educational materials that were not being produced by other publishers, David and fellow United Methodist pastor, Jeff Procter-Murphy, created a new curriculum for Progressive Christians called Living the Questions. Developed at Via de Cristo and Asbury United Methodist, what started out as just one DVD series is now a growing catalog of curriculum, including “DreamThinkBeDo,” “Saving Jesus Redux,” “Matt & Lucy’s Version Births” (a Children’s Christmas Pageant), and a series questioning capital punishment with Sr. Helen Prejean. The newest series, “The Jesus Fatwah: Love Your Muslim Neighbor as Yourself,” (www.thejesusfatwah.com) brings together both Islamic and Christian scholars to counter Islamophobia and offer reliable information about what Muslims believe, how they live out their faith, and how we all can be about building relationships across the lines of faith. LtQ curriculum is now in use in nearly 6,000 churches in North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand.
David and co-author, Jeff Procter-Murphy, published their first book together in 2012: “Living the Questions, the Wisdom of Progressive Christianity.” Published by HarperOne, the book is available for browsing online here; http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780062109361
Although David is a full-time pastor, he’s never strayed far from his roots as a musician. You’ll often find him playing in a variety of worship and concert settings, including on a number of CDs and on occasion, in his brother’s Washington-based big band, The Eric Felten Orchestra.
In the wider community, David is one of the founding directors of the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology (www.azfct.org) and one of the founders of No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice (www.nolongersilent.org), a group advocating for the full inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people both in the church and in the community. David is currently serving on the Dean’s Advisory Board of Boston University’s School of Theology (http://www.bu.edu/sth/) and on the board of the Phoenix Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (www.au.org). David’s wife, Laura, is an administrator for a large Arizona public school district. Their son, Nat, is the proud big brother of twins, Mattie and Sam. They live in Phoenix.
Living the Questions: http://livingthequestionsonline.com/
Harrell F. Beck Online: http://www.harrellbeck.com/
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-david-felten/
Dr. William Bobby McClain (STH ’62, STH ’77) earned his B.A. degree, summa cum laude, at Clark College, Atlanta. He conceived of and chaired the committee which produced the hymnbook, Songs of Zion, which sold more than 2.5 million copies and changed the composition of Christian hymnals of every denomination. He most recently co-chaired the committee for the sequel to Songs of Zion: Zion Still Sings! For Every Generation.
After the publication of Songs of Zion, he wrote Come Sunday: A Liturgical Companion to Songs of Zion, and he is at work completing African American Preaching and the Bible: The Preaching of Zion, the third book in this trilogy.
In 1978, Dr. McClain established and served as the executive director the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. There he wrote Travelling Light: Christian Perspectives on Pluralism. He is also the author of Black People in the Methodist Church: Whither Thou Goest and with the late Dr. Grant Shockley and Dr. Karen Collier, Heritage and Hope: African American Presence in Methodism.
In 1991, his Clark Atlanta University alma mater awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his achievements in religion and civil rights. In 1999, he was named to the Mary Elizabeth McGehee Joyce Chair in Preaching and Worship at Wesley Theological Seminary, the first fully-endowed chair in the seminary’s history, where he has taught preaching for many years and retired in 2013.
Professor McClain met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King was pastoring and McClain was a teen-aged preacher in his hometown of Gadsden, Alabama. After completing his seminary degree at Boston University, where King had previously received his doctorate, Reverend McClain returned to Alabama in 1962 to work with King and the civil rights movement and to serve as pastor of Haven Chapel Methodist Church in Anniston, Alabama, where he remained until returning to graduate school at Boston University in the fall of 1964.
From 1968 to 1978, Dr. McClain, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, served as senior pastor of the historic Union United Methodist Church in Boston. During that same period he taught at Boston College, Harvard University, Northeastern University and Emerson College. From 2001-2003 Dr. McClain served as the Senior Pastor of Philadelphia’s Tindley Temple United Methodist Church where the great Charles Albert Tindley served as pastor and wrote many of his famous and beloved Gospel songs.
Called on frequently to lecture and preach in major pulpits and universities throughout this country and abroad, he has preached in Africa, Asia, the West Indies, New Zealand, and Europe. Professor McClain opened the 126th season of the New York Chautauqua Institution in 2000 as Keynote Preacher and Chaplain-in-Residence with thousands in attendance to listen to his preaching each day. In February of 2009, he lectured in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the 30 th Annual Britt Lecturer.
Dr. McClain is the father of two sons: William Bobby McClain, Jr. and David Wilson McClain. He and his wife, the former Jo Ann Mattos, Administrative Assistant to the Executive Secretary of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, make their home in Fort Washington, Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Reverend Dr. Joas Adiprasetya (STH ’09) is the President and Lecturer in Systematic Theology at Jakarta Theological Seminary and Pastor at Pondok Indah Indonesian Christian Church, Jakarta. Jakarta Theological Seminary is the oldest ecumenical seminary in Indonesia (80 years in 2014) and is the leading seminary on social issues like LGBTIQ, interfaith, and migrant justice work from among more than 400 seminaries in Indonesia. He is a member of the following organizations: Network of Theologians, WCRC (World Communion of Reformed Churches), a drafting team of WCC’s document on Christian Identity in the Pluralistic Society, the Board of Trustees of ATESEA (Association for Theological Education in Southeast Asia), and the Commission of Theology, Indonesian Communion of Churches. Reverend Dr. Adiprasetya lives in Jakarta on the seminary campus with his wife, Sofie, and three sons (two of them were born while Dr. Adiprasetya was studying in the US).
MT Dávila (STH ’99) is Assistant Professor of Christian ethics at Andover Newton Theological Seminary and is a lay woman in the Roman Catholic tradition. She completed her doctorate at Boston College with a dissertation titled A Liberation Ethic for the One Third World: The Preferential Option for the Poor and Challenges to Middle-Class Christianity in the United States. She received her Bachelors degree from Brown University and her Master in Theological Studies at the Boston University School of Theology. Her main interests are the intersections of class identity formation and Christian ethics in the U.S. context. Her research looks for the intersection of these issues with respect to the relationship of class and militarism, class and immigration, and class and activism. She is currently undertaking a study of leaders of communities of faith, peace and justice practitioners, and others to examine the relationship between different understandings of discipleship and activism-public witness-faith in action.
Professor Dávila has also published articles and contributions on immigration, the use of force and just war theory, the theology of creation of Paul Tillich, Latina/o Theology, Christianity and U.S. civil society, and the role of the social sciences in Christian ethics. Her academic papers and presentations include discussions of feminist activism in the classroom, Catholic social teaching and the option for the poor, immigration and a sojourner identity, public religion and Christian identity, and race, class, and Christian discipleship in the United States.
Professor Dávila lives in Malden with her family, her husband Rob and four children. She is a member of St. Joseph’s Church, a Roman Catholic parish in Malden.
Wayne L. Walther (STH 1974, Th.M.) is a retired member of The Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church after serving 38 years in parish and extension ministries. He continues life-long ministry focuses of community involvement as President of the Red Wing Minnesota Noontime Kiwanis Club; prison ministry at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, MN; volunteering at Hope for the Journey Home an ecumenical shelter for homeless families in Oakdale, MN. Wayne and his wife, Susan live in Red Wing, MN and have three married children and four grandchildren.
Karen Alley (STH 2005, M.Div.) is an attorney in rural northcentral Montana. She received her JD from the University of Montana Law School in 2011, having focused her legal education on alternative dispute resolution. During law school, she was a mediator, seeking conflict resolution for cases in state justice and district courts as well as tribal court.
Her current legal practice focuses largely on representing indigent clients through contracting with Montana’s Public Defender system. Her work includes criminal defense as well as representing parties in child abuse and neglect proceedings. She also has a general family law, mediation, and estate planning practice.
While in law school, Karen was appointed, along with her husband Mark Douglass (STH 2004 and 2005) as the local pastor for the University of Montana Wesley Foundation. She served as the co-pastor of the campus ministry for three years, helping the campus ministry thrive amidst deep budget cuts to campus ministry across the annual conference.
Elizabeth Smith (STH ’09) is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America working on a dissertation on the function of ecclesiology in ecumenical dialogues, specifically highlighting the function of ecclesiology in dialogues between Anglicans and Lutherans over the last couple of decades that ultimately led to their entering full communion with one another, and using the theology of Yves Congar to evaluate their approaches from a Catholic perspective. Recently, she moved back to Boston to serve as assistant professor at Regis College. This is an interdisciplinary position that serves her dual interests in theology and music.
Smith is also directing two college choirs, the Regis College Glee Club and the select group, the Regis College Chamber Singers and preparing for two upcoming European concert tours. She also has a private violin studio, teaching violin to twelve students this year. Additionally, Smith is the director of the Children’s Choir and Adult Choir at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Catholic Church in Waltham. Smith has also traveled a lot recently for various reasons (presenting papers, performing in concert tours, or vacationing) to locations such as: Poland, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.
Kyle Bozentko graduated from STH in 2010. His research interests include public opinion research, health and economic policy and social movements. He has worked as a health policy organizer, a policy analyst and his most recent appointment was as Executive Director of the Jefferson Center and Jefferson Action in Saint Paul, Minnesota, an organization dedicated to making democracy work for everyone. Kyle received a B.A. from Hamline University in 2007 (Religious Studies and Political Science), Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from the Boston University School of Theology with an emphasis on sociology of religion and politics, and Master of Science from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud Minnesota in Aging Studies.
Bozentko’s experience includes a decade of political strategy and public policy expertise. As a health policy organizer, he initiated outreach activities among local social service, human service, religious communities and public officials in the area to promote health care reform. In his role as policy analyst at the Jefferson Center, Bozentko developed and designed intensive public-policy based civic engagement processes and agenda components to maximize the effectiveness of citizen voices in engaging, processing and contributing to public policy debates.
Bozentko moved quickly from Co-Director of the Jefferson Center to Executive Director due to his extensive outreach efforts with deliberation and dialogue organizations, local, regional and national media, as well as private and university-based public policy institutions to develop strong partnerships and coalitions for expanding the breadth and scope of civic engagement projects.
Currently in his role as the Jefferson Center’s primary public representative, Bozentko works to cultivate the Jefferson Center’s network, develop collaborative initiatives, and works directly with media partners, community leaders, partner organizations, policy experts, participants and staff to develop and implement successful civic engagement and deliberative projects. He continues his work in justice-seeking civic engagement.
Reverend Faith Fowler (STH ’86) is the Senior Pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church and Executive Director of Cass Community Social Services (CCSS), a Detroit nonprofit agency which responds to poverty with programs for food, health care, housing and employment. She has held these roles since 1994. She graduated from Albion College and also received two graduate degrees: Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from BU STH and a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She currently serves as an adjunct professor for the University of Michigan – Dearborn. She is a Distinguished Alumna of Albion College, University of Michigan-Dearborn School of Education and BU STH. She was also named Michiganian of The Year 2003 by The Detroit News and Detroit districts’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award – 2003. She has a book coming out in September: This Far by Faith: Twenty Years at Cass Community.