Paul writes – In a recent post which linked to an essay by Brian Walsh, I mentioned William Stringfellow – a person I haven’t mentioned on this blog for a while. Here’s a 2005 article written by Bill Wylie-Kellermann, In One Another's Light: Reading [Martin Luther] King and Stringfellow, for The Witness.
Stringfellow remains an important and needful voice 23-years after his death, particularly with regards the whole conversation around the church as the hermeneutic of the gospel over and against the "principalities and powers", i.e. how we "live humanly in the midst of death" or how we are to live as what Rowan Williams calls “biblical persons”; realities given too little attention in the mission-shaped conversation, particularly with regards our understanding of incarnation and it’s missiological implications along with those of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
Here’s two excerpts from Wylie Kellermann’s essay:
“… [On] March 2, 2005, we also marked the feast of [William] Stringfellow -- twenty years since his passing in 1985. His birthday, by the way, is April 26 -- he would have been 77 this year. For those unfamiliar, a brief introduction may be in order: Stringfellow was a Harvard-trained lawyer who went straight from law school in 1956 to East Harlem where he improvised street law, before there really was such a thing. He is crucial theologically, for being the one in the U.S. to bring the "principalities and powers" back on to the map of ethics and ministry. This language, found largely in the letters of Paul -- "the rulers and authorities," the "princes, thrones and dominions" -- comprise terms which had been hermeneutically inaccessible to the church, virtually since the conversion (so-called) of Constantine in the fourth century. Stringfellow would reference that same event, actually, as the conversion of the church to empire…”
“…From the point of view of either biblical religion, the monstrous American heresy is in thinking that the whole drama of history takes place between God and human beings. The truth, biblically and theologically and empirically, is quite otherwise: the drama of this history takes place amongst God and human beings and the principalities and powers, the great institutions and ideologies active in the world. It's the corruption and shallowness of humanism which beguiles Jew or Christian into believing that human beings are masters of institutions or ideology. Or to put it a bit differently, racism is not an evil in human hearts or minds: racism is a principality, a demonic power, a representative image, an embodiment of death over which human beings have little or no control, but which works its awful influence over human life…”
You can read the whole essay here, or as a PDF below. If this article whets your appetite, try this one from Bill Wylie-Kellermann – Not vice versa. Reading the powers biblically: Stringfellow, hermeneutics, and the principalities.
And this one by Simon Barrow – The Word Turned Upside Down.
Versions of both were included in this expensive but excellent collection of essay’s edited by Anthony Dancer.