Posted on July 27th, 2011 | Filed under Book Review, Community, Congregation, Featured, Topic of the Week
Tagged with amazing, conference, Holy Spirit and Preaching, Interfaith Worker Justice, IWJ, James Forbes, justice, New Press, Presbyterian, Shawna Bowman, work
James Forbes is one of those people who could easily have written a New York Times bestseller every year for the last ten or fifteen years. It would not have been hard for him, either: his prose, prophetic vision and voice have easily established him as one of the greatest Christian preachers of the modern era. Unlike so many others who take advantage of this time of prolific publishing, Forbes has written only two books. This is one of the many reasons why I respect the man - instead of publishing as much as possible, he thoughtfully waited and laid down a few extremely wise words on a handful of significant issues.
The book in question was published in 2010 and is entitled: "Whose Gospel: A Concise Guide to Progressive Protestantism." Being one of the many people on this blog who is on (what one favorite professor termed) a "bibliographic restraining order," I was initially concerned when asked: "What is the most important book on your shelf?" But this concern lasted only seconds as I remembered I recently finished this book by Forbes.
Honestly, if you are looking for a balanced, quick and substantial read on progressive Christianity, this is a must read. Through moving stories and truly inspiring illustrations, Forbes addresses LGBTQ rights, gender equality, racial politics, economic justice, war and peace and developing an ecological consciousness. He speaks out of deep conviction and honesty about many topics Christians are quick to shy away from. I am deeply thankful for his contribution.
Last month, the org I work for (Interfaith Worker Justice) had invited Forbes to be the closing plenary speaker during our national conference. Forbes could have easily showed up and talked about anything remotely related to economic justice and the day would have ended well. Instead, he came early and spoke with staff about what main points his talk needed to convey. Then he spent about an hour in quite reflection and proceeded to stand up and give a powerfully moving keynote that eloquently engaged the IWJ context in unique way. Half of what he said he prepared during that hour of reflection. It may seem as though he had procrastinated finishing his talk, but it was evident to those listening to his words that he wanted what he said to be as fresh and relevant as possible. I, along with everyone else I talked to, was amazed at his humility and dedication. Secretly, I wished he was a prolific writer. You can find his book at New Press.
Commentary that could not fit elsewhere:
- The artwork in the picture was created by a friend of mine named (Rev.) Shawna Bowman. Shawna does a lot of live worship art and is amazing. You can see more of her work here.
- My personal equation for good preaching is as follows: IF Presbyterians are making noise during a sermon THEN it must be awesome. (Presbys generally do not make noise, ever. Kidding. Sort of.)
- Forbes first book was published in 1973 and was about the Holy Spirit and Preaching - I haven't read this, but I will soon.