From the President 8-13-2017

August 17, 2017

June 21, 2017 marked the 125th anniversary of Reinhold Niebuhr’s birth. Many of you are aware of the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In its original form the prayer offered additional petitions. The Serenity Prayer has been a life saver in helping people accept the unchangeable, giving them courage to change the changeable, and helping them wisely distinguish which is which.

Some years ago, Robert McAfee Brown, compiled Reinhold Niebuhr sayings in his, “A Reinhold Niebuhr Catena.”  Here are a few for you to dig your minds around during these beginning days of August:

  • “The trouble with some Christians is that in attempting to be ‘fools for Christ,’ they become nothing but damn fools.”
  • “We must fight their falsehood with our own truth, but we must also fight the falsehood in our own truth.”
  • “Wisdom about our destiny is dependent upon a humble recognition of the limits of our knowledge and our power. Our most reliable understanding is the fruit of ‘grace’ which completes our ignorance without pretending to possess its certainties as knowledge; and in which contrition mitigates our pride without destroying our hope.”
  • “Thus it is apparent that old men are incapable of changing their essential emphases and must in any case stand by the record, hoping that the moving drama of history may validate a part of the truth they sought to discern. We will say nothing about the insights which have been refuted and cast into the dustpan of history.”

As I come near to the end of my tenure as President of Disciples Home Missions, I am keenly aware of how apparent it is that “old men are incapable of changing their essential emphases . . . hoping that the moving drama of history may validate a part of the truth they sought to discern.” I am fully aware that my essential emphases over the 43+ years of my ministry have remained consistent, some would say consistently inconsistent. I always liked keeping my congregations and their leaders on their toes. I pray that history may validate part of the truth I sought to discern. And I know full well that there have been many insights which have gone directly to the trash and recycle bins of history. Thank God for our changing hearts and minds. Ministry is what it is and nothing more. I am thankful for the opportunity extended to me by the church to be called “Minister.” There is no higher calling and no greater privilege.

Penultimate-ly yours,