Alien Citizens: Karl Barth, Eberhard Arnold, and Why the Church Is Political

In Resident Aliens, their influential 1989 book, Will Willimon and co-author Stanley Hauerwas laid out a bracing vision of how to live Christianly in contemporary society. Where can Christians find guidance in the challenging times ahead? Plough asked the retired United Methodist bishop, now a Duke Divinity School professor, for his insights. This story was originally published with Plough Magazine, and can be found here.

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An Appeal to Christians Regarding President-Elect Donald Trump

This Appeal can be read in its entirety and supported at

In these times of difficult conversations and sometimes fractious words, we celebrate the political diversity of our churches. We are thankful that the U.S. church is not beholden to any political party.

Since November’s presidential election some in the American church have rejoiced that their candidate won (or that the other candidate lost), some are cautiously at ease with the results, and still others remain in a state of shock and anger at the election results.

Whatever the varied reactions, we believe our time calls for a prophetic word. Continue reading

Writing to King Herod: An Open Letter from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

While I was sitting in my office writing my piece on “Troubled Herod,” unknown to me Jonathan-Wilson Hartgrove was in Wake County Jail writing a letter to Herod.  Through the efforts of thousands of North Carolina Christians like Jonathan, we have at last been delivered of the infamous “bathroom bill” and a Governor who has so greatly damaged our state public educational system.  As I have said, now is a time not for reconciliation, civility, and facile unity but a time for resistance and rebuke.  Jonathan is doing that!  (In my forthcoming, Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism, I laud Jonathan’s Free to be Bound: Church Beyond the Color-Line as one of the most encouraging books on a truly Christian response to racism.) Continue reading

Christmas: Herod in Trouble


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him.
Matthew 2:1-3 CEB

Matthew begins his Gospel ironically. Jesus is born in Bethlehem, City of David, fulfillment of the messianic hopes of Israel. And yet the first to recognize and to worship him are the magi, Gentile stargazing magicians, immigrants from the east. An even greater irony: compromised, corrupted, lackey-for-the-oppressive-Romans Herod, though he knew little of the scriptures knows enough to be “troubled” along with nine-out-of-ten Judeans. What does the future hold? Can a baby threaten the government? Is there some other operative in history other than the empire? Continue reading

Pastoral Care for the Holiday Blues, 2016

Seasoned pastors know to be prepared, this time of year, to minister to the so-called “Holiday Blues,” “December Depression,” that ennui that occurs in many people who feel let down during Christmas. While others are celebrating the Nativity full of joy to the world, Holiday Blues sufferers feel the pain of some recent loss, or experience conflict in their families and find that the realities of the holiday don’t meet their expectations. Continue reading

The Sole Comfort In Life And Death

This past week I lost my good friend and long-time encouragement, Dr. Keith Brodie.  I was Keith’s pastor for a number of years when I was at Duke Chapel.  He was my advocate and encouragement in my scholarship and publication.  Some of you know the challenge of preaching at a memorial service when one is speaking of a close friend.  It’s tough to be both personal and to proclaim the gospel.  Here is my attempt at Keith’s service: Continue reading