From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




James Earl Massey: Steward of the Story

By Timothy George
July 25, 2016

I first heard the voice of James Earl Massey when I was a theological student at Harvard Divinity School and he was the stated preacher for the Christian Brotherhood Hour, a weekly international broadcast sponsored by the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). In those days, homiletics was not a regular part of the curriculum at Harvard. As a young minister with a small pastoral charge, I was eager to learn all I could about the craft of preaching, especially in a multi-racial, inner-city congregation. James Earl Massey was different than any other radio preacher I had ever heard. His diction was perfect, his command of the English language was superb, and his style was lively and compelling, though never marked by ostentation. He also had a way of getting on the inside of a biblical text, of unraveling it, so to speak, not the way a botanist would study a leaf in a laboratory, but like a great singer offering a distinctive rendition of a famous song.

Music is an apt analogy for Massey’s preaching. Early on he received advanced training in classical piano and had all the makings of a refined concert artist. The modalities of music—rhythm, pitch, tone, phrasing, cadence, melody, mood—also apply to the work of the preacher, and Massey is a master of them all. When his career path turned from music to the ministry, the world lost a great pianist but gained a magnificent preacher of the Gospel. For Massey, though, preaching is never a mere performance, however well honed and powerfully presented. The sermon is more a deliverance than a performance: What is said is more important than how we say it, though these two aspects can never be completely divorced.

In any event, Massey was propelled into his life’s work by a palpable sense of divine calling. As a young man of sixteen, he had come to the sanctuary of the Church of God of Detroit one Sunday morning with the score of a waltz by Chopin in his hands, intending no doubt to work on his musical assignment if the sermon proved boring! In his autobiography, Aspects of My Pilgrimage, Massey describes what happened next: “But during a brief let-up in my concentration on the score, I found myself being captured by the spirit of the worship occasion. As I honored the meaning of the worship hour and opened myself to God, I felt caught up into an almost transfixed state, and I heard a Voice speaking within my consciousness: ‘I want you to preach!’” In that “great listening moment of grace,” the trajectory of Massey’s life was re-directed. As he puts it, “The Voice that called me was so clear, and its bidding, though gentle, bore the unmistakable authority of a higher realm.” Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, July 25, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Mother Teresa’s Formative Years in the Periphery

By Ines A. Murzaku

July 13, 2016

Mother Teresa is known worldwide. Much less well known is the importance of her early years, in the Balkans, to what was to come later. September 4, 2016, the day of her canonization, will also be, appropriately, the Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy. This is a happy coincidence because she will probably become the patron saint for all those who labor and suffer in the name of God’s love and mercy.

Suffering is an inevitable feature of human existence. It transcends countries and nations, rich and poor. Human suffering insistently calls upon the world of human love. And in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love that stirs in his heart and actions, as St. John Paul II wrote in his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris.

Mother Teresa came from what Pope Francis calls the peripheries and headed to the peripheries for a life-long mercy mission. She had a keen understanding of the peripheries because she was born in the periphery and became acquainted with the reality and life-experiences of people in the periphery in her native Skopje. Ideas and initiatives for great movements often start from the periphery, as Yves Congar has explained.

Not much has been written about her early life. Agnes Gonxhe (Albanian for “rosebud-flower”) Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje, which is currently the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. Gonxhe (a nickname) had Albanian parents, Drane and Nikola Bojaxhiu, from Prizren in Kosovo. Albanian Catholics were a minority in Macedonia at the time, outnumbered by Eastern Orthodox and Muslims. Read the rest at The Catholic Thing.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, July 22, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: African-Americans, Missions, and a Chinese Teenager

By David Parks
July 2016

African-American Christians have a significant role in the global spread of the gospel for many reasons. One unique contribution was clearly illustrated as I was leading a few seminary students on a trip to a Southeast Asian country where I had previously lived. While we were there, I witnessed one of my students accomplish something in six minutes that I didn’t accomplish in six years.  

Jessie was simply walking across the field to get in position for the next pull in our game of ultimate frisbee with the local youth ministry. That’s when Wilson, a Chinese teenager, made a statement that completely shocked Jessie. If it had been said in an American night club, the music would have ceased with a loud awkward squeak, the waitresses would have dropped their trays full of glass-bottled drinks, and everyone would have been trying to decide whether to stare or just pretend they didn’t hear it. “I think it’s great that you’re from the U.S. That means that you have the equivalence of a white man.”  

As Jessie, an African-American student at Beeson, was trying to process the statement he had just heard, the teen went on to explain that he, too, shared in the white man’s credentials because of the length of time he had spent in Australia.  

Keep in mind that when Jessie repeated this first sentence from Wilson (not his real name), I had never experienced this particular encounter between an African-American and a Chinese youth.  Yet I immediately knew how the rest of the story was going to play out. And it made this white man very happy. Let me explain.  Read the rest at EMQ.


David Parks is Beeson's Director of the Global Center.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Wednesday, July 20, 2016
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