To Be Cited in an Encyclopedia

Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, my good colleague, you are making your mark in Anabaptist theology. Our book, Liberating the Politics of Jesus, is cited no less than three times in the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology. Thank you to Jamie Pitts and Luis Tapia Rubio for their work in writing this article on Anabaptist Theology.

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Soto Albrecht is a Lancaster scholar, advocate, and pastor. She is former Moderator of Mennonite Church USA, 2013–2015, and served as Global Theological Education advisor at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

Elizabeth, your visionary leadership is cited as influencing many aspects of Anabaptist theology: hermeneutics, peace and nonviolence, Christology, and political discipleship.

Methodism and American Empire

Methodism and American Empire
248pp. Abingdon Press, January 15, 2024.

Methodism and American Empire investigates historical trajectories and theological developments that connect American imperialism since World War II to the Methodist tradition as a global movement.

Gathering voices and perspectives from around the world, this volume tells a tale of complex negotiations happening between United Methodists across different national, cultural, and ecclesial contexts and sets up the historical backdrop for the imminent schism of The United Methodist Church.

My chapter, “A Global Ethic for a Divided Church,” explores the liberative potential of the proposed revision of the United Methodist Social Principles.

Contributors: David W. Scott, Filipe Maia, Joerg Rieger, Lloyd Nyarota, Joon-Sik Park, Jørgen Thaarup, Darryl W. Stephens, Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Taylor Denyer, Christine Carnate-Atrero, and Izzy Alveran.

Read more from the editors, David W. Scott and Filipe Maia.

Living into Baptism through Diakonia

Diakonia is a strange Greek word. It is often translated as service. But diakonia means much more than simply doing things for others. It is an essential part of Christian identity and discipleship. It is about who we are and what we do as followers of Christ. Through baptism, we join not only the “priesthood of all believers” but also the “diaconate of all believers.”

Caption: Bishop John Schol (center) met with EPA Deacons before a larger meeting with all clergy Nov. 9, 2022, at Hopewell UMC.

Read the entire article on the website of the Eastern PA Conference of the UMC.

Listen to Episode 411: “The Diaconate Call & Bivocational Ministry,” Uncovered Dish Christian Leadership Podcast, Sept 13, 2023.

What does a politics of peace look like?

I am honored to be one of the presenters for Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness, Oct 22, 2023, at James Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster. Our topic is “Liberating the Politics of Jesus.” Please join us!

When politics is reduced to statecraft and peace to the absence of war, we miss the radical implications of the gospel message. Through the wisdom of Anabaptist women, we learn that peacemaking must be practiced at home and in church as well as the home front and the front lines. Liberating the radical political ethic of Jesus Christ from patriarchal distortions, these theologians demonstrate that gender justice and peace theology are inseparable.

Dr. Linda Gehman Peachey is former Director of Women’s Advocacy for the Mennonite Central Committee US and a freelance writer and teacher in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Soto Albrecht is a Lancaster scholar, advocate, and pastor. She is former Moderator of Mennonite Church USA, 2013–2015, and served as Global Theological Education advisor at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

The Rev. Dr. Darryl W. Stephens is a professor, writer, and advocate. He is ordained in The United Methodist Church with dual standing in the United Church of Christ and teaches at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

The Diaconate Call

Diakonia is a form of Christian motivated social service. It is originally modeled on Jesus’s insistence on serving his disciples (Luke 22:26–27) and its expressions in Acts and the early church. Today, diakonia is focused not only on serving others but also advocating for others, empowering them, and joining them in solidarity to build participatory community.

Diakonia is a call to all Christians to alleviate suffering and promote justice, peace, and human dignity. One colleague of mine said simply, “Diakonia is Gospel action.” To learn more, join me in conversation by listening to this recent podcast interview.

Ep. 411 The Diaconate Call & Bivocational Ministry with Darryl Stephens, Uncovered Dish Christian Leadership Podcast, September 13, 2023.

A Bivocational Future for Congregations

What is the fasted growing segment of North American Christianity? So many congregations have lost membership over the past twenty years, this question may surprise you.

Faith Communities Today, “Twenty Years of Congregational Change: The 2020 Faith Communities Today Overview” (Hartford, CT: Hartford Institute for Religion Research, 2021),, 11.

If you are wondering if there is a pocket of Christianity still growing, you are halfway to uncovering the trick in this trick question. When larger congregations lose members, they become smaller congregations. Small membership churches are thus the fastest growing segment of North American Christianity.

Sometimes current exigencies force us into a creative future. There is hope for smaller congregations willing to consider a bivocational future of shared mission and ministry. I believe that a bivocational future provides exciting missional potential.

Please join me at the upcoming Henderson Leadership Conference hosted by Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on Sept 24–26, 2023, where I will present an online workshop, “Thriving as a Bivocational Congregation.” This workshop provides lay and clergy leaders with a vision and plan for transformation.

Registration and Information:

Carpenter Foundation Grant for Diaconal Studies

Diakonia is essential to the church’s mission and ministry in North America. Such is the premise of “Revitalizing the Church through Diaconal Studies in North American Theological Education,” a research project of Warburg Theological Seminary, which recently received a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation for this work.

The four-person leadership team consists of Craig Nessan, Man Hei Yip, Darryl W. Stephens, and Lori Mills-Curran. We have met monthly since April 2021 to envision, plan, and carry out this collaboration involving 22 scholars and reflective practitioners spanning five continents

Read more about our vision for diaconal studies, international collaborators, and book project here.

Working around Seminary Education

Do mainline churches find traditional seminary education an obstacle to thriving? “As churches shrink and pastors retire, creative workarounds are redefining ministry,” reported Elizabeth E. Evans recently in Religion News Service. A workaround, by definition, is an alternate path used when the main path is not longer serviceable. Workarounds are required when existing structures no longer meet the needs of the people involved. As someone who works in and around seminary education, I see a disconnect between the traditional Master of Divinity program and the creativity needed for mainline churches to thrive.

Scarcities of money and time are forcing a redefinition of ministry in the mainline. Congregations are smaller, attendance is sparser, and budgets are shrinking. The old model of a fully-compensated, professional theologian in the pulpit is no longer viable for the majority of congregations. Financial and demographic realities have foisted many congregations into the realm of bivocational and multivocational ministry.

Multivocational ministry is an existing and emerging need of the church. To fully embrace multivocational ministry as a strategic priority in their educational programming, seminaries would need to explore and identify various changes and initiatives required to reform their curriculum, extracurricular offerings, programs, structure, and ethos around this priority. However, many schools of theology cling to traditional curricula, becoming the obstacle around which churches must creatively navigate.

What if North American seminaries were to risk reinventing themselves by adopting a multivocational mindset? I explore the this question in my open-access book, Bivocational and Beyond: Educating for Thriving Multivocational Ministry. Theological educators will be especially interested in my concluding chapter, in which I reimagine theological education in conversation with the work of Justo González on the history of theological education and Daniel Aleshire on the future of theological education. If you have read any of the books in the series “Theological Education between the Times,” you will find this discussion an important addition to the conversation.

Mainline seminaries must determine how they will contribute to the thriving of mainline congregations. In the meantime, churches will continue to find creative workarounds.

The Diaconate of all Christians, part 1

During these summer months, I have been teaching and learning about the diaconate of all believers at Otterbein UMC, Lancaster, PA. We started by sharing how each of us volunteers in service in the community. Then, we asked, Where is God in these relationships?

Listen to our podcast about “Diakonia, how and why we serve God.”

This program at Otterbein UMC was funded by a Dewees grant from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Service is part of discipleship. When a new member joins a United Methodist congregation, the pastor asks, “Will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?” Each new member affirms, “yes.” Then, as a congregation, we respond by renewing our covenant to do the same. But what does service have to do with our faith?

All of us serve others in some way or another. We might offer a kind word, a friendly greeting, or perhaps a meal for someone recently out of the hospital or someone who does not earn enough money to make ends meet. Sometimes we experience such joy serving others that it does not really seem like work.

“Doing good” is one of John Wesley’s three simple rules. Wesley believed that we love our neighbors as ourselves through good works. When we serve others, we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. In theological terms, Wesley taught that works of mercy are a means of grace. We can experience God by loving each other!

Wesley was careful to say that we do not earn our salvation by serving others. Rather, service is one way that we practice our faith. We grow in faith by exercising our spiritual muscles. When we attend to the needs of others as if they were our own, we grow closer to our neighbors and to God.

At Otterbein, we learned that every Christian is called to participate in service to neighbor, self, and community. “Diakonia” is the Greek word in the Bible for faith-motivated service. From this word we get the titles deacon and deaconess. Diakonia is the gospel in action, through our hands and feet. Diakonia describes our participation in God’s ongoing activity of love and justice in the world.

Where is God showing up in your life? If you are looking for Jesus, look no further than the persons you encounter every day in our neighborhood. What can you do to serve your neighbors? Through service, we not only participate in the work of the church. We also gain a glimpse of the Kin-dom of God.

No Time for Silence

Today’s post is by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Frank, retired, University Professor and Associate Dean of Continuing Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Wake Forest University. His publications include Polity, Practice, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church (2006) and The Soul of the Congregation (2000).

Sometimes it seems like Christians are the worst enemy of Christianity.

If you want to know why so many Americans under 50 are staying away from church, why attendance at Mass has dropped like a stone, I can suggest a few places to look.

Just start by reading the obituary of Pat Robertson. For over 40 years, this “Christian” preacher and TV mogul, this needy narcissist, has dealt with his own guilt over youthful behavior and his feeble self-worth as son of a powerful father by demeaning others. Like too much of Christianity he has manipulated scripture into a gospel of guilt and judgment, mostly about sex. Everything from hurricanes to 9/11 has been “God’s” judgment on America for sexual “immorality.” The viciousness of his attacks on LBGTQ people paved the way for today’s right-wing politics of hate.

Or have a look at anti-abortion propaganda — billboard bombast along our roads depicting an ultrasound and a heartbeat graph, sprinkled among signs that shout “do you know where you’re going? heaven or hell?” The utter cruelty of ignoring the complexities of human reproduction and health, the private relationship of doctor and patient, the personal struggle of women who cannot go through with a pregnancy — this kind of bullying has nothing to do with Christian faith.

Or review the recent history of male clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, who have abused children or harassed women into unwanted contact, and bounced from parish to parish without consequence. Most visibly, both Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist governance has failed to publicly and consistently repudiate this behavior, or bring a reckoning to clergy behavior.

More difficult for me, born and raised Methodist and ordained years ago in the United Methodist Church, has been the disgraceful failure of my denomination (one of America’s largest) to remove language from official documents that denigrates LGBTQ children of God. We have lived with this genteel “mainstream” inhumanity for 50 years, driving out promising young clergy and demonstrating to many of our own members that they have no place to be themselves in this church.

Now we have the spectacle of Christianity taken hostage by right-wing authoritarianism. The religion of guilt and punishment, hatred and exclusion, has commandeered the public stage under the name “Christian”. Little wonder that today’s version of the Republican Party and most of today’s churches gain no traction among young people.

Christians who know that the scriptures are a gospel of love and justice, care for the earth and the well-being of all in the human community, must speak up. I’m tired of going to church and hearing not a word about climate change or gun violence. I’m tired of reading about school board and city council meetings where the only “Christian” voice is the fundamentalist attacking transgender students.

This is no time for silence. We have to show up. We have to meet, write, and call congressmen, senators, state legislators. We have to call or write journalists who depict nationalists and racists simply as “Christians”.

And what better time to get on it, than this. Happy Pride Month!