Welcome to the blog of Bishop Will Willimon, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School. Here you will find articles, sermons, lectures and other offerings from Will Willimon.
For the past two decades Will Willimon, United Methodist bishop and Duke Divinity School professor, has written Pulpit Resource. This quarterly is a resource for preachers that offers exegesis, prayers, supporting material, and a proposed sermon plan for every Sunday of the three-year Common Lectionary cycles. Pulpit Resource has had as many as 8,000 subscribers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia who use it for weekly sermon preparation.
Now, some of the best material from Pulpit Resource has been assembled by Abingdon Press into Will Willimon’s Lectionary Sermon Source, the first volume in a seven-volume series. Published in August, the first volume treats the Sundays in Year B of the lectionary, beginning with Advent, 2017. Abingdon plans to issue six more volumes in this series over the next three years, including a special volume on preaching the Psalms.
“In my years with Pulpit Resource,” said Willimon, “I’ve written more than a thousand sermons with supporting material. Along the way I’ve made friends with hundreds of pastors who have invited me into their sermon preparation. Now it is good to have some of this material made available in this series of volumes. It’s a privilege to be part of the pulpit work of a new generation of preachers.”
Willimon, who continues to write Pulpit Resource each quarter, is professor of the practice of Christian ministry at the Divinity School and has written 71 books. He served as the dean of Duke Chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke University for 20 years. He returned to Duke after serving as the bishop of the North Alabama Conference from 2004 to 2012.
Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., says of Lectionary Sermon Source, “It’s like having Will Willimon sitting in your study sharing his best stories, ideas, and reflections on the text.”
James Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., says that through the book Willimon “presses the preacher to be better, more relevant, and truer to the word.”
I had the wonderful opportunity to preach at Mars Hill Bible Church, with our text for the week taken from Acts 17 and the story of the first Mars Hill. I hope you find a word for today in these words—you can watch the sermon HERE.
News that President Trump is backing accused sexual predator Roy Moore is surprising, considering the numerous sexual abuse charges that have been made against Trump over the years. One would have thought that Trump might have avoided getting involved with Moore. Of course, this could be Trump’s way of defending himself by saying that the charges of the courageous women are not trustworthy and that, even if what they say against Moore is true, it’s more important to support Republicans for the Senate than to bother about politicians’ sexual morality. Continue reading
Dr. Ozzie Ostwalt, Professor of Religious Studies at Appalachian State University, recently interviewed me about my book, Fear of the Other. I wanted to share that conversation with you, I hope you find it insightful!
I want to give public testimony to counter all of you who believe that all Republican politicians in Alabama are sexual predators. True, ex-Governor Bentley was recently hounded from office because of his sexual misconduct and misappropriation of state funds to finance his illicit affair. Now comes Roy Moore. I always heard rumors that Moore was a scoundrel. His blatant disregard for the Constitution got him removed as a judge not once, but twice. Now we discover that Moore is even worse than we thought.
I remember, when Moore was garnering publicity in his campaign to put the Ten Commandments in all courtrooms in Alabama, a Methodist layman said, “Roy needs to check out the Seventh Commandment before he gets ‘em posted everywhere. He could be vulnerable on that one.”
Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler defends Moore by dismissing his sexual conduct as typical of any single, thirty-year-old male in Alabama. If that’s not bad enough, Ziegler blasphemously compares Roy to Saint Joseph—Mary was probably a young woman at the time that Joseph married her. And look, says Ziegler, “They became parents of Jesus!” Ziegler also cites Zechariah as a possible predator comparable in sanctity to Moore. That’s sure to go down in the annals of our faith as the worst biblical interpretation ever, worse even than Roy’s or Robert’s self-justification through scripture.
Robert Bentley got kicked out of the Tuscaloosa First Baptist Church for good reason, despite Bentley’s attempts to cover his sin with references to the Christian faith. Not sure where Roy goes to church, but surely the deacons are meeting. Jefferson Beauregard, beware!
Surely, few people expect Trump to display Christian values or morality—his exposure to and commitment to the Christian faith have been minimal at best. But the sight of Moore and Bentley, wrapping themselves in the cross of Christ, invoking the Bible to sanction their behavior, is disgusting.
Alabama is partly in an economic, social, and political fix due to its propensity to choose leaders who exemplify the worst in us. You would be justified in thinking that all Alabama Republicans are morally bankrupt. And yet, you would be wrong to do so. One of the greatest Christian politicians I’ve had the privilege to meet is Alabama’s former governor, Bob Riley. Now there’s an Alabama Republican, Baptist Christian who sets a fine example for us all.
In his years as governor, Bob Riley labored (often against his own party) to offer wonderfully responsive, merciful leadership inspired by Christ rather than by mean-spirited, self-interested racial resentment. A highlight of my ministry were my prayer sessions with the governor and his staff in his office in Montgomery in which Riley led us in prayer after thoughtful, intense study of the scriptures. Bob Riley said, in one of those sessions, “Maybe there are members of my party who can drive by the trailer of some single parent who is working two jobs and trying to keep her family together and say, ‘It’s not my business,’ but I just can’t do it.”
He asked every congregation in Alabama to help the state’s terrible back-to-prison problem by taking one recently released prisoner and helping that person get back on his feet. I’m sad to say, the governor’s faith in our churches was misplaced. We were unable to rise to the governor’s challenge.
Governor Riley fought for change of Alabama’s racist constitution, attempted to change the unfair state tax code (failing at both because of resentful people in his own party), and thereby gave me a glimpse into the huge challenges faced by a consecrated Christian leader, and almost converted me into voting Republican. Almost.
Before I moved to Alabama I remember hearing Governor Riley being interviewed by NPR on his fight to change the tax structure in Alabama. The interviewer said something like, “Governor, why are you doing this after your own Republican party has gone against you, when you have so little chance of changing their minds?”
“I just think this is right,” said Governor Riley. The reporter continued to express confusion about why Riley had taken on this fight.
“Er, I guess because I’m a Christian,” he finally responded. “This is what our Lord would expect of us.”
I nearly lost control of my car on the interstate.
Bless you, Bob Riley, for your Christian witness in a sad time in our nation’s life.
IWill Willimon was United Methodist bishop of the North Alabama Conference from 2004 until 2012.
When he received an honorary degree at the University of Aberdeen this past summer, my friend Stanley Hauerwas gave what may be the shortest commencement address on record. He said, in about five minutes, “Do not lie.”
Jesus said that he was not only the way and the life but also the truth. Christians don’t lie. We don’t lie because lying is the death of human community, or it’s impossible to be with one another in relationship when there is a pattern of lying. We don’t lie because it’s our job to show that Jesus Christ makes possible lives of truth in a world of lies. Continue reading
I had the chance to sit down and discuss Who Lynched Willie Earle? with Dean Timothy George and Beeson Divinity School. I appreciated the conversation with Dean George, and I hope you will, too! You can listen in here.