Century Marks

Century Marks

Shared burden

During a particularly bleak time in apartheid South Africa, theologian Peter Storey visited an Anglican convent outside Pretoria and discovered that the sisters maintained a 24-hour prayer vigil on a rotating basis. One sister explained, "You church leaders have a big job to do, and you're al­ways so busy that we wonder whether you spend the time you should in prayer. We try to carry some of that load for you." Although she had never met Storey, she said she knew him quite well. "Your name comes up every day be­tween 5:00 and 6:00 p.m." (Weavings, 26:2).

Truth telling

Emory University has issued a statement acknowledging its involvement in slavery. In the pre–Civil War era, every president of the Atlanta university and most faculty members were slave owners. The school used slave labor in constructing buildings. The university also mounted theological arguments against abolition and played a major role in the schism of the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery. In 1902 it ousted a professor for publishing an article on the horrors of lynching (InsideHigherEd.com, January 25).

Foreclosures

Nearly 200 religious buildings have been foreclosed since 2008, compared to eight in the previous two years and close to none in the previous decade. Most of the financing problems have occurred with independent congregations. Many of the troubled church facilities are in California, Florida, Georgia and Michigan, states with high rates of foreclosures. Banks generally have been reluctant to foreclose on houses of worship, which are traditionally viewed as good risks because of the weekly cash flow from contributions and the moral compulsion many churches feel to pay their debts (Wall Street Journal, January 25).

Course correction

Until she had children of her own, English professor Paula Marantz Cohen prepared rigorous syllabi for her courses and modeled them after courses she had taken. Her children taught her to consider how students would respond to what she was requiring. Would it intrigue, amuse, annoy, anger or bore them? She would have been happy with any of these responses—except the last (American Scholar, Winter).

Selective guest list?

Divine hospitality is one image of salvation in scripture, but some texts suggest that God is selective in showing hospitality. Theo­lo­gian Amy Plantinga Pauw argues that these passages "function less as a reliable guide to future eschatological events than as a warning or encouragement to a particular community in its practices of hospitality." We must say no to evil people, but we should "be very wary of claiming God's blessing on it." Saying no to evil people and those who would do us harm should always be "provisional, always ready to be overturned by the surprising graciousness of God" (Word & World, Winter).