Christians Courageous

Well over a year ago, Fuller Seminary President Dr. Mark Labberton gave a courageous, biblical, rebuke to those Christian leaders who continued to foolishly give Christian support and justification to Trumpism.

I’ve regretted that political leaders, like our two Senators from North Carolina, have continued to justify Trump’s lies, support of dictators, and sins against women, immigrants, and people of color. But our two Senators are politicians, which may explain their cowardly justifications.  There may be political, economic, or military reasons for acquiescing to the immorality of Trump.  However, there can be no Christianreason for doing so.

The specifically Christian, biblical response to the sad current state of affairs has already been articulated over a year ago in an address by the distinguished President of Fuller Seminary, Dr. Mark Labberton. You can read his solemn warning to evangelical Christians HERE.

Now my friend and student, Thomas Pietila, recently retired after a distinguished ministry in South Carolina, has written a letter to his local newspaper on the continuing disgrace of Christian leaders attempting to muster Christian support for Trump. Tom’s letter is below.  Let all of us who presume to speak in the name of Christ take courage from Tom’s call to speak up and to speak out in this time.

Evangelicals and the President 

The conservative, evangelical political figure, Peter Wehner, recently voiced his dismay that white evangelicals continue to support President Trump. A Pew Research poll found that 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants form the strength of his base. 

Why, I wonder. Is it that he lies about things minor and major?  Is it because of his womanizing, misogyny? Or his personal wealth that allows him to silence prostitutes with hundreds of thousands of dollars?  Is it his unique ability to dehumanize friends and enemies and make fun of the handicapped?  Is it his virulent strain of nationalism combined with a tinge of racism that we are nostalgic for? Is it that he declared he has no need to confess wrongdoing?  Is it that he is untethered to any sense of right or wrong?  

Wehner, an advisor in the Reagan and Bush administrations, understands why evangelicals voted for him. He is mystified why they continue to support him after it has become clear that very little about him embodies the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. I am an inheritor of a great evangelical tradition and I share his bewilderment and his fear that the values and power of the evangelical tradition will soon be crushed. 

Jeff Manning, the conservative, evangelical pastor of Unity Free Will Baptist Church in Greenville, N.C. voted for President Trump. Now, after the anger stirred up in his home city, he reflects, “I have grave concerns about his spiritual condition,” Manning said of the president. “There’s too much evidence against it. . . . I pray he will become one.” 

I merely want to protect my evangelical roots and, like Wehner and others, point out that white, evangelical followers of Jesus are his most ardent supporters, and I find no biblical basis for that. Mark Labberton, President of Fuller Seminary —the largest evangelical seminary in America— writes, “The scandal associated today with the evangelical gospel is not the scandal of the Cross of Christ, crucified for the salvation of the world.  Rather it is the scandal of our own arrogance, unconfessed before the Cross, revealing a hypocritical superiority that we dare to associate with the God who died to save the weak and the lost.”

Rev. Tom Pietila

Leadership and Pain

A while back I spoke at a church on “Leadership and Pain.”
Hope you will find my thoughts to be helpful.



Clergy for Tolerance Breakfast

A few years ago I was invited to Nashville to speak  to a group of clergy and laity who were working on immigration in Tennessee. Building on our work against the draconian Republican anti-immigration law in Alabama, I praised them for their efforts to keep Tennessee from going down the same disastrous path trod by Alabama politicians (such as disgraced Governor Bentley and Jeff Sessions). My comments may still be relevant as Trump works immigration phobia for political advantage today.



Called to Write

As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I want to share a series of reflections with you. This unexpected calling to preach continues to be an adventure, one I am thankful for and overwhelmed with every day.


I got the call to write before I was called to preach. The week before our grand trek from Greenville to Colorado Springs for the 1960 National Jamboree, Scouts of the Blue Ridge Council received last-minute instruction. Scout executives announced the lackeys whom they had tapped for senior patrol leader, chaplain, patrol leaders, and quartermaster. “Williamson? Williston? Willerman? You are troop scribe.” Scribe? What’s that?“You write reports to the chief scout executive. He’ll send them to the Greenville Newsif they’re newsworthy.” What’s “newsworthy”? As our overburdened, dilapidated buses belched through Kentucky, I got the guts to ask the scoutmaster why I had been selected as scribe. “The popular boys were chosen as troop leaders,” he explained. “You gotta take what’s left.” Continue reading

Reflections on Accidental Preacher

As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I am thrilled to receive this response from Erskine Clarke, a distinguished professor of American church history who for many years taught at Columbia Presbyterian Seminary.



I just finished Accidental Preacher—it is truly wonderful, a gift to the church and to all who are called to preach. As a South Carolinian (Columbia), I loved the parts about our home state and your growing up years. But most of all, I am deeply grateful for the ways in which you illumined with grace and courage the vocation of the preacher. You pull back the covers of our therapeutic sensibilities and reveal our self-preoccupations and loneliness with amazing clarity. I have been particularly challenged by your insistence that the church is where all sorts of people–the agreeable and disagreeablelive and work together by the grace of the gospel.

I hope it will be widely read by pastors and will be an encouragement for seminarians at a time when so few professors have any experience of being a pastor of a congregation. I also hope, of course, that laity will read it and learn not only something about the life of a pastor but also experience in new ways God’s call on their lives.

With gratitude, Erskine

PS Your article on plagiarism in the Journal for Preachers has evoked a no doubt intended response!


As my memoir Accidental Preacher comes out in print, I want to share a series of reflections with you. This calling to preach continues to be an adventure, one I am thankful for and overwhelmed with every day.


My formal political instruction came by overhearing uncles’ arguments during protracted Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s.

“Some of the ignorantest people come from Edgefield, I tell you, Willie, and not only the Baptists,” Uncle Charles pronounced in response to a request for a ruling on Edgefield-bred senator J. Strom Thurmond.

“That’s the gospel truth,” agreed Uncle Gene in a rare affirmation of another uncle’s adjudication.

“Thieving, low-country politicians out of Barnwell ruined this state,” added Uncle Henry, moving wider the geographical bounds of political ineptitude. That Henry was a lawyer and had married a Jewish woman whose family owned Greenville’s biggest department store added clout to his pronouncements. Continue reading