Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

William Stringfellow: Essential Writings

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

William Stringfellow: Essential Writings

Article excerpt

William Stringfellow: Essential Writings. Selected with an Introduction by Bill Wylie-Kellermann. Modem Spiritual Masters Series. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013. 256 pp. $22.00 (paper).

Surprisingly little has been published about William Stringfeilow since he died in 1985, despite his seminal influence on such thinkers and activists as Walter Wink, Jim Wallis, and Elizabeth McAlister. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, a Methodist pastor and activist who serves an Episcopal parish in Detroit, has offered arguably the best introduction to date to the life and work of the radical Episcopal lawyer and lay theologian who articulated a biblical theology of the powers and served many of his generation as a prophetic voice against the ubiquitous forces of domination afflicting church, society, and politics. Wylie-Kellermann, who edited a longer Stringfeilow anthology two decades ago, more recently helped direct the project to reprint the works of his friend and mentor through Wipf and Stock.

The introduction briefly sketches Stringfeilow s life, setting up the judiciously selected primary text excerpts to follow. Raised in New England by working class parents, Stringfeilow studied debate at Rhodes College and became a leader in ecumenical student Christian work. After earning a Harvard law degree, he spumed more lucrative prospects to practice street law in East Harlem, where he confronted the principalities of racism and poverty head on. During Karl Barths U.S. visit in 1962, the young attorney stunned the Swiss theologian and the audience at a panel discussion with his penetrating questions on the vocation of the churches amid the contemporary American political scene. A cradle Episcopalian, Stringfeilow immersed himself, often notoriously, in controversies that roiled the denomination in the 1960s and 70s: he defended his friend Bishop James Pike when brought up on heresy charges, and advised the first women ordained to holy orders. Racked by health problems and desiring to live a more monastic existence, in 1967 he moved with his partner, the poet Anthony Towne, to Block Island, Rhode Island, where he became a gadfly to local politicians. Stringfeilow and Towne sheltered the Jesuit peace activist Daniel Berrigan, who was pursued by the FBI for his role in the 1968 draft-records-buming protest in Catonsville, Maryland. Berrigan and Stringfeilow piloted an "underground seminary" to empower a radical discipleship of resistance and of the rehumanization of those on the margins. Such commitments shaped Stringfellows most systematic and influential treatise in moral theology, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1974). He performed a public exorcism of the Nixon administration after the Presidents second inauguration, and his final book was a scathing critique of the ersatz bourgeois spirituality of the Reagan years. …

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