It is not easy to be a moderate in the United Methodist Church today. On the right are the conservatives, exemplified by Good News magazine, who want Methodists to conform to their pinched vision of orthodoxy. On the left are the liberals, exemplified by the church bureaucracy and the Council of Bishops, whose concept of leadership seems to be limited to condescending sloganeering.
A young man was working for a company that operated a large, total-confinement swine farm. One day he detected symptoms of a disease among some of the feeder pigs. As a teen, he had raised pigs himself and shown them in competition, so he knew how to treat the animals.
He always said that he was a priest first and a dean second. J. Bryan Hehir made that clear when he accepted the helm of Harvard Divinity School in 1998, declining to take the title (he is officially chair of the school’s executive body) or to live in Jewett House, the school’s stately deanery on Francis Avenue (he lives at a Catholic parish in Harvard Square).