Magazine article The Christian Century

Teaching Moments

Magazine article The Christian Century

Teaching Moments

Article excerpt

SOME THEOLOGIANS seem to disdain the church as they shine their scholarly light on the church's triviality, unfaithfulness and banality. Other theologians have the same capacity for critical thinking, but they sit in the pew on Sunday morning, participate in the liturgy, and live out their scholarly vocation in and for the community of faith.

One of the best theologians of the church I have ever known died last month. Walter Bouman, longtime professor of systematic theology at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, taught a generation of students to think theologically.

He brought to his teaching ministry not only his prodigious scholarship but also a profound love for the world for music, art, literature and the St. Louis Cardinals. He could not teach or preach without celebrating and loving the way the gospel of Jesus Christ intersects with things of this world. He once began an Advent sermon on Isaiah 64:1, "O that you would tear open the heavens and come down," by citing one of the "Children's Letters to God": "Dear God, you better do something quick! Love, Harriet Ann."

We met when I was a pastor in Columbus and he was invited to teach an adult class at Broad Street Presbyterian Church. He was a smash hit. He spent so many Sunday mornings at our church that we made him an honorary Presbyterian. He never refused an invitation to teach or preach in a local parish. His vocation was to be a theologian of the church.

Several months ago a routine physical exam revealed a cancer that was inoperable. His physician told him he had at best a few months to live. …

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