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IV. Being Made a Patient People

  • Philip E. Thompson (a1)


I begin with thanks to Professor Freeman for a helpful article, and with the admission that I am torn by this topic. On the one hand, I have shared by direct experience and that of friends the same pain Freeman describes of being unable to commune at the Saturday evening mass at the CTS/NABPR convention. I remember Sandra Yocum's words of public lament in her 2014 CTS presidential address. Some of us may remember our convention at Spring Hill in 2005 when the celebrant at the Saturday mass that year, Fr. David Robinson, who grew up a New England Congregationalist, spoke with deep anguish of his deep desire to share communion with the Baptists, coupled with the inability to do so. We had sung Susan Toolan's “I Am the Bread of Life,” hearing in our own voices Christ's promise of being raised up on the last day. And then we sensed how that day was not yet. But we should remember that the “last day” when we will unquestionably be one, if I may borrow words from the poet W. H. Auden, “is not in our present, and not in our future, but in the fullness of time.” So we ask now about the prospects of provisionally—proleptically—embodying that oneness this side of the eschaton.



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77 Auden, W. H., “For the Time Being,” in Collected Longer Poems (New York: Random House, 1969), 163.

78 Kavanagh, Aidan, On Liturgical Theology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992), 159.

79 Ibid., 176.

80 Holmes, Urban T., “Theology and Religious Renewal,” Anglican Theological Review 62, no. 1 (1980): 19, cited in Kavanagh, On Liturgical Theology, 73.

81 McClendon, Ethics, 164. The other is the constitutive rules that Freeman has examined in some detail.

82 See McClendon, James Wm. Jr., Systematic Theology, vol. 2, Doctrine (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 2829.

83 This is not a fanciful suggestion. Historian E. Glenn Hinson notes a well-publicized comment by fundamentalist leader Adrian Rogers during the controversy that split the Southern Baptist Convention beginning in the late 1970s. Claiming that professors should teach what most Baptists believe, he told the Executive Committee of the SBC, “If a majority of Southern Baptists decides that pickles have souls, then professors in the seminaries will have to believe and teach that pickles have souls.” See “Religion in America: Southern Baptist Warns of Fundamentalism's Impact on Church Unity,” The example given was an instance of hyperbole typical of many Baptist preachers. The method for determining what should be taught in Baptist schools was the serious point.

84 “It is not an overstatement to say that a ‘sub-Zwinglian’ theology of the Lord's Supper has become entrenched as a de facto orthodoxy among Free Churches.” Freeman, Curtis W., “‘To Feed Upon by Faith’: Nourishment from the Lord's Table,” in Baptist Sacramentalism, ed. Cross, Anthony R. and Thompson, Philip E, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 5 (Carlisle, UK: Pickwick Publications, 2003), 206.

85 Kavanagh, On Liturgical Theology, 47. In 2011, the Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy met in Prague at the International Baptist Seminary. A Catholic friend of mine from Italy and her family came up for it and she attended a Baptist communion service held by the seminary, though not the conference. She was unable to recognize it as a eucharistic celebration.

86 See Murphy, Nancey, “Using MacIntyre's Method in Christian Ethics,” in Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after MacIntyre, ed. Murphy, Nancey, Kallenberg, Brad J., and Nation, Mark Thiessen (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 3941. Using the example of the commandment prohibiting adultery in Christian practice, Murphy describes Christian marriage as “a subpractice within the broader constitutive Christian practice of witness” (39). It seems proper to think of questions, not of the Eucharist, but of intercommunion, in a similar manner.

87 Kreider, Alan, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016). He notes (14) that the first Christian treatise on a particular virtue was Tertullian's On Patience. He also examines the theme of patience in Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Lactantius, Cyprian, and Augustine. The latter two also wrote treatises specifically on patience and its good.

88 Kreider, The Patient Ferment, 20.

89 Steiner, George, Real Presences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 231–32, quoted in Pfatteicher, Philip H., Liturgical Spirituality (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 103.

90 I wish to be very careful here. Too often, patience has been counseled as a means to preserve an oppressive status quo. One thinks of the critique of white moderates in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I do not believe this question has the same immediacy of urgency.

IV. Being Made a Patient People

  • Philip E. Thompson (a1)


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