A Private and Public Faith
102 Pages

A Private and Public Faith


102 Pages


'A Private and Public Faith' is a heartfelt protest against the self-serving religiosity that characterizes so much of religion in contemporary American society, and which affects to such a large degree the life of the churches of American Protestantism. Stringfellow's protest is motivated by a passionate concern that the authentic life of the Word of God should operate freely in the church and in the world. His exposition of this life for individual, church, and society is profound yet simple.
An excerpt on discerning God's presence: In other words, the most notorious, plain, and victorious truth of God is that God participates in our history -- even yours and mine. Our history -- all our anxieties -- have become the scene of His presence and the matter of His care. We are safe. We are free. Wherever we turn we shall discover that God is already there. Therefore, wherever it be, fear not, be thankful, rejoice, and boast of God."



Published by
Published 17 February 1999
Reads 0
EAN13 9781725206502
Language English
Document size 9 MB

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.


The William Stringfellow Reprint Series Consulting Editor, Bill Wylie-Kellermann
The Ethics Trilogy Conscience and Obedience An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens  in a Strange Land Instead of Death (series foreword by Bill Wylie-Kellermann)
The Autobiographical Trilogy My People is the Enemy A Second Birthday A Simplicity of Faith  (series foreword by Scott Kennedy)
The Dissent Trilogy Dissenter in a Great Society Suspect Tenderness (co-author, Anthony Towne) The Politics of Spirituality  (series foreword by Daniel Berrigan)
The Foundations Quartet A Private and Public Faith Count it all Joy Free in Obedience Imposters of God  (series foreword by Anthony Dancer)
Also (with co-author Anthony Towne) The Bishop Pike Affair The Death and Life of Bishop Pike
Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 A Private and Public Faith By Stringfellow, William ISBN 13: 978-1-57910-215-9 ISBN 10: 1-57910-215-8 Publication date 2/17/1999 Previously published by Eerdmans, 1962
Series Foreword
William Stringfellow wrote a lot about hope. But he did it in a way that confronted things head on. He took sides. In a sense, he was an Ed Murrow of American Protestantism. The likes of him are few and far between, something for which I suspect some quietly give thanks. The world he was engaged with when he wrote is not so different from ours; the actors have changed (particularly those in the White House) but the stories remain reasonably constant. Nuclear weapons, massive proîts and abject poverty still prevail; it is just that now there is more extremity among them. Preoccupations haven’t changed that much either. The things that endlessly preoccupy and consume us, and the violence which systemically upholds them, seem at times to enclose the very life and imagination of our church and world. It is these preoccupations, and the “vocation of the church” with which Stringfellow was most concerned, that mark the four volumes that form the aptly named “Foundational Quartet”:A Public and Private Faith, Free in Obedience, Count It All Joy, Imposters of God. We could look in many directions for examples of these preoccupations, but as these four volumes are concerned primarily with the church, we might look no further than theological education, sexuality, church growth, worship, trust boards, social services or issues of justice, and perhaps the way the church continues to become increasingly proîcient at rearranging its own furniture (the ecclesiastical equivalent of the corporate reshufLe while Rome burns).
Stringfellow named those preoccupations biblically as the idols they are. He asserted the biblical proclamation that to live in ways that are fundamentally not preoccupied with God, but with other things, is to live idolatrously. It’s easy to see why at times his was the loneliest of lives. Through his voice of dissent and discontent he also exposed a hope for a world that literally, by virtue of the Gospel, was and could be more than it seemed to be. And he did this in every situation, with everyone: left and right, liberal and conservative. There was simply no ideological position that Stringfellow would himself call home. This, coupled with his resonance and fundamentally authentic engagement with his context, with the Bible, and with the Word of God militant in the world, helps to make him “probably the most creative and disturbing Anglican theologian” of the twentieth-century (Archbishop of Canter-bury, Rowan Williams). In his writing Stringfellow uses stories a great deal to engage his audience, and that is certainly true in these volumes. These stories were typical events from his life and experience, serving not so much to illustrate a point, as to reveal the truth. They are woven together as his life-work, as you will see in these four volumes. Through his stories the stranger becomes, if not perhaps a friend, then at least someone we can relate to a little in their humanity. There is a great faithfulness and simplicity to that. Tucked towards the back ofA Private and Public Faithwe înd a story Stringfellow tells which I believe retains its signiîcance today. A woman, a priest, the wealthy church, a lawyer, a plane journey and a tapestry are the characters that form one of the most signiîcant stories in that book. In
short, the woman is evicted, the priest rings Stringfellow for legal help, Stringfellow tells him to sell a tapestry to pay the rent, hangs up, and later reLects about what took place. Now ultimately I don’t know how decisive that event was for Stringfellow, but it is supposed to be pivotal for us. The signiîcance of the story comes from the way it is bound up in Stringfellow’s own journey (with Christ, in faith), and the way it reveals the true meaning of advocacy and worship in a remarkably simple and grounded way; the truth is revealed in everyday life, in tapestries and evictions. It reminds us about what it means to call ourselves church —the vocation of the church, if you will, which is to livein this worldwhere God is. For instance, in the story it is only when the tapestry is sold to pay the rent that it becomes a “wholesome and holy thing.” It becomes a sacrament when it represents “the freedom of Christ to give up any aspect of the inherited and present life of the institutional church . . . for the sake of the world.” What gives the tapestry meaning? How does it become a “worshipful” or “sacramental” thing? It is only when the church is free to be poor amongst the poor, that it can be the church. When someone like Stringfellow comes along and challenges our idols by speaking into a situation as companion rather than as stranger, yet offering a perspective that calls into question almost all we take for granted (our veryfoundationsmight say), it is an unusual and you uncomfortable thing, and one we cannot afford to simply shrug off. As I’ve indicated, Stringfellow’s writing—the stories, images and language—draw the reader into the text; they have the effect of involving us in his life, and thereby
involving us also in the life of faith. I have no idea whether that was entirely deliberate, or whether it was an echo of the biblical idiom that sustained him, but it is certainly effective. Ethics is enacted in these four volumes through the use of reLection, polemic and stories—all of which work in partnership to draw us into the world he is engaging. We begin to realize that the world he makes known to us is our world too, and ethics is not about applying some abstract notion of moral righteousness, but about obedience and faithfulness to God whose Spirit animates and sustains creation. His writing models this far more than it talks about it. This quartet offers a penetrating critique of the church, coupled with insight and hope. Stringfellow clearly expects a lot of his reader, and he worked hard at developing his thoughts for publication in book form. You will see that much of the material for the four books found life originally as articles, spoken word or both. It was part of the reîning process, and this allows us to see that while his books may look like they were written in a hurry, in truth this was anything but the case. It is also worth noting that the books came hot on the heels of Karl Barth’s advocacy of Stringfellow during his visit to America in 1962, and thus they engage many of the issues spoken of at the infamous gathering, including the principalities and powers. I want say something about that, and in so doing acknowledge I am going out on a limb. I came across Stringfellow while studying Barth, and I switched focus. I did that because it is pretty clear to me that Stringfellow’s theology, expressed through his life-