The Way of Wisdom is a major initiative at The General Theological Seminary to integrate all the disciplines of formation in seminary education. Rather than separating education, formation and experience, The Way of Wisdom requires a complete blending of each. To read more about The Way of Wisdom, including Dean Kurt H. Dunkle’s article, “Diving into the Deep End,” go to www.gts.edu/wisdom.
Each month GTS News is featuring one faculty member’s reflection on The Way of Wisdom.
The Rev. Dr. Mitties McDonald DeChamplain
Trinity Church Professor of Preaching
The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is a fount of wisdom and insight for those who proclaim the gospel. All the baptized have promised to “proclaim the Good News of God in Christ by word and example,” with God’s help (BCP, p. 305). All are invited in Baptism to “confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share” with the whole “household of God” in his “eternal priesthood” (BCP, p. 308). These words from the baptismal rite mark the beginning of the way of wisdom for preachers.
In reflecting on the way of wisdom for those called to preach as a part of their vocation, the image of wrestling comes to mind. Seminary is a context for learning to wrestle with language—the language of scripture, liturgy, theology, history, pastoral care, and popular culture. Seminary is hopefully an environment where students are encouraged to discover their true voices as preachers and to use their voices authentically and faithfully. Homiletical method is intended to aid in the process of discovering what to say and how to say it with intelligence, integrity and good will. Being a wise preacher is as much a spiritual discipline as it is an exercise in being dynamic, forceful, powerful and eloquent.
The way of wisdom for preachers is a lifelong commitment to thoroughgoing and painstaking wrestling with scripture and discerning its wisdom with God’s help. Humbly yielding to the mystery of the Passion and steadfastly preaching the truth revealed in scripture and the breaking of bread are each a part of the way of wisdom for preachers. At the end of the day, wise preaching is the practice of both taking control and relinquishing control of one’s voice and body to the crucified and risen Christ at the moment of utterance. It is only by dependency on God’s grace that we are able to proclaim the gospel and truly embody its message of radical grace. Wisdom in preaching is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and those who seek wisdom in preaching are well-advised to cultivate a habit of “informed innocence”—a reverential openness and attentiveness to new insights that may be revealed in the pursuit of a holy preaching life.
Reginald Fuller sums up the way of wisdom for those who preach in his monograph, What is Liturgical Preaching? Preachers are duty bound in their preparation to continuously study the Word as “that Word is expressed in the Liturgy. [They] must…constantly live in the Liturgy…Thus will they learn to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Christ, the Wisdom of God, is the source of all truth.