“The God of the Gospel” by Robert W. Jenson

This address by Robert W. Jenson was delivered at a conference in Baltimore which Fr William McKeachie and I organized. Old St Paul’s Church hosted the event. The year was 1992, but neither William nor I remember the month or season [edit: we are now thinking it was January or February]. The year before we and four other priests had promulgated a confession of faith, The Baltimore Declaration. The Declaration generated a fair bit of publicity around the country, and several thousand Episcopalians formally subscribed to it. We decided that we needed to follow-up with a theological conference, which we uncreatively titled “The Baltimore Convocation.” I was given the task of finding the speakers. I knew I had to have Jens as our principal speaker. Once he came on board, Stanley Hauerwas and Fr Augustine DiNoia (now Archbishop DiNoia) quickly followed suit. Fr David Collins, retired President of the Episcopal House of Deputies, was our keynote speaker. McKeachie also recalls me giving a talk, but I have no recollection of that whatsoever and deem it unlikely. I doubt I would have had the cojones to insinuate myself into the illustrious company of Jenson and Hauerwas. But somebody from the Baltimore Six must have spoken, the most likely candidates either being Fr Philip Roulette, the driving force behind the Declaration, or McKeachie, the rector of the host parish.

The conference was a great success. People from all over the country came. The lectures were substantive and challenging. I was warned ahead of time (by Jens, I think) that Hauerwas would most likely not address his assigned topic—and so it was. But his lecture was classic Hauerwas—provocative, incisive, entertaining, punctuated throughout by his favorite cusswords and references to Texas. DiNoia’s lecture provided a thoughtful perspective of the theological crisis from a Roman Catholic point of view. But for me personally, Jens’s lecture was the highlight of the Convocation, and I am happy to share it with you.

Like all such conferences … the Baltimore Convocation accomplished absolutely nothing. The Episcopal Church continued on its merry way into heresy. But I can say that a glad time was had by all.

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7 Responses to “The God of the Gospel” by Robert W. Jenson

  1. William McKeachie says:

    Ah, yes, even in old age, I remember it well, and very gladly indeed. (Wasn’t it in very early 1992, perhaps even January?) Hauerwas told a hilarious (and utterly devastating) joke about the post-Lux Mundi Anglican “take” on the Incarnation! Perhaps, Father Kimel, your role was to give the story behind the story of how the Baltimore Declaration came about the previous year, and why we modeled it on the Barmen Declaration … ??? In any case, those were the days … albeit to say that “absollutely nothing” came of it in terms of turning the tide in ANY of the Western churches is perhaps an understatement!

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      We probably came up with the idea of the convocation, William, after we got skewered and roasted at the diocesan clergy conference in Summer 1991. 🙂

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      William, how could we not have come up with a better title for our conference? We must have been asleep at the wheel. 🙂

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  2. Mark says:

    Some people point to the ordination of women as the thing that started all this. Your declaration didn’t even seem to address that, which Frederica M. Green has said was NOT what caused her and her husband so much consternation. Do you feel like there was one particular theological move that started this “slippery slope,” or was it just a general trend that can’t be boiled down to any one theological misshap?

    Some random thoughts: As a former evangelical, it’s interesting that this debate also said NOTHING about inerrancy but rather affimed the INSPIRATION of scripture leaving open what exactly it means for all scripture to be inspired. I’m very happy with that. I do wonder if you would put such an emphasis on the value of historical criticism now given that many Orthodox, while not disputing the conclusions of sober biblical critics, don’t see the historical-critical meaning as necessarily the meaning that the Holy Spirit intended the text to ultimately take on.

    Thanks,

    -Mark

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Mark, the ordination of women to the priesthood was decidedly not the issue that precipated the Baltimore Declaration; in fact, four of the six signatories were enthusiastic supporters of the ordination of women. The precipitating issue was the refusal of the Convention of the Diocese of Maryland to affirm that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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