Monday, June 02, 2008


The Prodigal Kiwis (Paul Fremont and Alan Jamieson) have a new post on William Stringfellow - an inspiration of mine, who died 23 years ago. Stringfellow was a lawyer in largely black East Harlem, an Episcopalian, a radical activist and a very substantial lay theologian who took American Christianity by the scruff of the neck and gave it a good shaking. Indeed, Karl Barth once famously told a staid theological conference that this was the man they should listen to. His work (including An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land) appeared in a series of now out-of-print books and latterly in Sojourners magazine.

In 1997 I helped with a conference in Oxford about Stringfellow's legacy, primarily organised by Tony Dancer. I led a seminar which became an essay called 'Talking Nonsense to Power' in Tony's book William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective (Ashgate). There's a brief excerpt here. Among the other contributors are Rowan Williams and Chris Rowland. Unfortunately (especially for a book that seeks to represent a grassroots intellectual) it costs £45 in hardback. A paperback edition is sorely needed. When I met ++Rowan at a Lambeth reception a year or so ago we mentioned approaching the publisher about that. I ought to follow up. Thanks, Paul and Alan, for keeping Stringfellow's profile up there.


Jane said...

I love the title speaking nonsense to power!

Doug said...

inAgreed - paperback edition would be helpful in helping spread the word about Stringfellow's witness and contribution.

Fortunately Wipf & Stock have ben doing a great job brining his work back into print.

Stringfellow;s writing is sharp, passionate and disturbing. It needs to be widely read by academics who want to serve the church, church leaders to get a handle on why they are not really leading as well as by grass roots theologians as an encouragement to keep going.

Simon Barrow said...

Good point about Wipf & Stock, Doug. I must check them out and do some publicity.

Jane, the title for my chapter (which I will put online in full at some point) came from an off-the-cuff Stringfellow comment - glossolalia, he said, was a language of love that was incomprehensible to "the powers". (People forget that he, not Yoder or Wink, was the originator of the modern analysis of St Paul's language about 'principalities and powers'.

Jane said...

Thanks For that Simon - very interesting
btw the link to stringfellow takes me to a football page - is there some cultural reference I'm not getting??
Greetings from Rome where it's Lazio all the way

Simon Barrow said...

Whoops, just corrected that link!
It's here, too: