About Gordon

gordon-stewart-1

Posed studious photo by Dennis Aubrey of Via Lucis Photography of Religious architecture.

I’m a guy. But I now have a sense of what it’s like to be pregnant. Sort of!  I’ve gone through labor and have now delivered . . .  a child

Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, delivered by midwives Wipf and Stock Publishers, was released January 9, 2017 and will is available on the publisher’s website, Amazon.com, or at a book-signing event.

Minnesota Public Radio News Editor Eric Ringham wrote a gracious Foreword. Long-time friend and classmate Wayne G. Boulton, Ph.D wrote an equally generous Introduction. The verses of my Views from the Edge colleague Steve Shoemaker (see the “About Steve” page on this site) are epigrams for some of the essays of Be Still!.

Be Still! is a collection of essays that holds in tension “Be Still!” (Psalm 46) and what Elie Wiesel and Walter Brueggemann describe as “collective madness.” The title also refers to the warning of the Navajo sage that “if we keep going the way we’re going, we’re going to get where we’re going.” Think climate change. Think of what the Mora Lab at the University of Hawaii called “climate departure” – the point beyond which there is no return to what we take for granted as normal. Think Herod and the Magi (“the Wise Ones”) who departed by a different way from Herod.

Thanks to Minnesota Public Radio for publishing and airing guest commentaries on All Things Considered, MinnPost, The Chaska Herald, Chanhassen Villager, Star Tribune, Presbyterian Outlook, and Sojourners’ “God’s Politics blog with Jim Wallis and Friends” for generously offering larger venues for publication.

If you haven’t stopped reading, you might wonder, as I sometimes do, how a person becomes a preacher and then a writer? How does a pastor/preacher become what Wayne Boulton, in the Introduction to Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, calls “a public theologian“?

Very early in life I was full of faith, but I was also Thomas, the doubting disciple. At the age of five I plunged to the bottom of the neighbor’s fish pond after the Vacation Bible School teacher told us that Peter could walk on water because he had faith. I’ve never read the Bible the same since that day! My mother rescued me with quick thinking when I ran home sobbing, soaked with muddy water. “Yes, dear, but Jesus didn’t tell YOU to walk on the water!” Nice save, Mom!

In college I again fell into the fish pond, thrown into it by my professor, Esther Swenson, in a course in contemporary philosophy. Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and The Flies, Albert Camus’  The Plague, and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot pushed me back into the fish pond, despairing over God’s absence. It was also Esther’s hand that helped lift me out by introducing me to 20th Century theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and the man who had most deeply influenced Esther and whose thought would most deeply influence me, Esther’s mentor and colleague, the Dutch theologian-philosopher Willem F. Zuurdeeg, Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Zuurdeeg’s An Analytical Philosophy of Religion (Abingdon Press, 1958) makes the case that the human being, anxious and conscious of the limit of death, “establishes his/her existence” by means of powerful convictions. The human being is Homo Loquens (man-who-speaks} but more profoundly we are Homo Convictus (man-who-is-convicted, i.e. profoundly grasped by a convictor). Following Zuurdeeg’s untimely death at the age of 57, it was Esther who completed his unfinished work under the title Man Before Chaos: Philosophy Is Born in a Cry.

Of Convictional language, Zuurdeeg wrote that by the term ‘conviction’ he meant “all persuasions concerning the meaning of life; concerning good and bad; concerning gods and devils; concerning representations of the ideal man, the ideal state, the ideal society; concerning the meaning of history, of nature, and of the All” (An Analytical Philosophy of Religion, p. 26).

In these anxious times I read the news or listen to a speech, I listen with ears tuned by Zuurdeeg and Esther. I live and breathe philosophy and theology, listening for the open and hidden convictions that hold us captive or give us life. The “A Way of Seeing” and the “Sermons” page tell you more about how I construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct the world. If I could be anyone other than myself today, it would be Bill Moyers, Cornell West, or the late Daniel Schorr unmasked the convictors that  shape public and private life.

My life journey took me from Broomall to school in Tennessee and Chicago; to campus and pastoral ministries in Decatur, IL, Whitewater, WI,  Canton, NY, Wooster, OH, Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, MN, to seven years as Executive Director of Legal Rights Center, MN, followed by eight years as pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church.

Barclay and Kristin

Barclay and Kristin, August 8, 2013

My wife Kay and I live in Chaska, MN in the greater Twin Cities Area where I’m slowly becoming a Minnesota Grumpy Old Man, loosened up by Kay and Barclay, our two year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who does his best to keep us playful. Family members live in Bend, Oregon (son John, daughter-in-law Jennifer, and granddaughter Ruby), New York City (son Doug and partner Jason), and Minnesota (daughter Kristin, son Andrew, daughter-in-law Alice, and son-in-law Christopher). Grandchildren Jackson (“Jack”) and Amelia split their time between Kentucky and Oregon.

38 thoughts on “About Gordon

  1. Sir, I stumbled upon your site looking for a quote that I plan to use in an “article” I plan to post on Facebook after this election. I have culled a number of statements from websites on history, specifically on Hitler’s rise to power, and I replaced the name “Hitlter” with “Trump”, and the name “Germany” with “America”, and I am preparing to list the sources of my quotes for those who would be intelligent and reasonable enough to check them out. What has amazed me, however, is that I have been saying EXACTLY the same thing as you said on one of your posts. “Now I know”. As a Jew I have, since learning my people’s history, always wondered how Hitler could have come to power, how humanity could have elected someone that could do so much evil to others. Up until this election I did not understand. Now I know. Thank you for being another person who has come to realize how close this election came to truly repeating a history I thought could never be repeated. Now I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear “slissabet” –

      Thank you for taking the time who share your comment here. I’m so glad you found another person who shares your feelings, sentiments, and thoughts. What has troubled me more deeply than most everything else is that a Jewish high school classmate whose FB page is filled with support for Trump and vitriol for HRC. And the classmate is a woman. I scratch my head and wonder why the dots are not connecting. So your sharing means all the more to me. Thank you so much. If you haven’t already done so, you might scroll through Views from the Edge postings where you will find, for example, the printed text of Hitler’s first national radio broadcast, and a video of his first speech following his election. Both are chilling. Both remind me of the substance and tone of what we’ve just been through. Unfortunately, regardless of the results of today’s election, the demagoguery and the stoking of fear and hate that have whipped America into a frenzy will remain with us. God help us all.

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  2. I love reading the story of people’s spiritual journeys–especially when they involve periods of serious doubt. It’s so amazing to see all of the ways we find the divine, most often where we least expected it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Hromadka’s position was that Communism was a Christian heresy forced by the church’s own abandonment of the poor.”

    Hey Gordon,

    I hope you’re doing well. I’m enjoying my break from daily posting of my blog, reading, resting and praying more. Loving better. Anyway, I was very intrigued by your comment about Hromadka (above). I looked on Amazon and Wikipedia, but there isn’t much in English. Can you point me to somewhere to read more about what you’re talking about?

    Thanks.

    Bill

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    • Bill, Glad for the update on you and for the Q about Hromadka. Unfortutately,most of what he wrote was published by the All Christian Peace Conference, translated into English. “My Covenant Is Life and Peace” is one such booklet. He was a giant, much loved by his students at Princeton Theological Seminary, one of whom was my father. One of his proteges was Milan Opocencky who I believe may have been published. Milan worked for the World Council of Churches.

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  4. Gordon,
    As seniors, you may not remember, you and I met. The purpose of the meeting was for me to advise, as a result of my athletic endeavors, you should run for president and I would be vice president. Our slate was successful. It is rewarding to see that you have continued to take the baton (along with your devolution to God’s guidance) , to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Your words of wisdom, over the years, seem to have created a fertile field of comfort for those who were willing to listen and deliberate upon their merits.
    Bill McK

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill, I remember it well. I also remember that you went on the Carter White House, while was ministering at The College of Wooster. I’m proud of you, brother. YOU should have been President of the class and I the VP, but football changes all that, I think. I look at all the members of our class and am so proud of our classmates at Marple-Newtown. We were a bunch of middle-class kids from working class families who had great teachers and coaches who encouraged us to reach for the stars. Thanks for the kind words. P.S. I’ll always be grateful for Mr. Miller and Mrs. Semar.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just read your beautiful article on Mary Hall. Doug Hall was a icon in the criminal justice world. I knew Doug personally as I was a Homicide detective on the Minneapolis Department unit. Doug and Mary were special people, the likes of which I have never met again. Thank you for your tribute to these wonderful people. Mt. 5:8

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello, your posts, both written and video, are uplifting and insightful. For this I have an award waiting for you on my blog, which I hope you’ll accept because you do reach so many people and use the internet to spread a powerful message of love, humanity, and compassion through doing the Lord’s work. Thank you so much for sharing your sermons.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gordon – your long ago comments on Dad rise again through his grandson:
    Matthew T. Hall – The following is a facebook posting citing his San Diego Tribune column which is referenced below.

    News that the site of the 19th-century Wounded Knee Massacre is up for sale got me thinking about my grandfather, who defended leaders of the American Indian Movement involved in the 1973 standoff there.

    So I went looking and found a pair of posts featuring some poems and history that made me proud to be descended from the man. I put them on my Tumblr: http://sduncovered.tumblr.com/

    One begins: “His dog Sparky/Resting against his leg,/His eyebrows hanging/Like willow branches.”

    Another ends: “How can we keep from singing? Amen.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt, What a wonderful surprise to see you comment. Your grandmother and grandmother became such great friends to Kay and me during my time at the Legal Rights Center. Both Doug and Mary would be so pleased by LRC’s strong move into restorative justice with juveniles through the Minneapolis School System. If you ever have reason to come to Wabasha, please let me know. We’d love to see you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis and PJ, Kay and I wish you the same at the dawn of 2013. I am so nourished and enlightened by your thoughtful commentaries and beautiful images of these great structures that continue to inspire awe and stillness in a “world” in love with shock-and-awe and meaningless noise and chatter. Thank you so much. I do hope we meet soon. I share the pleasure of your company.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. If the presidential race is a dead heat, which it appears to be, then your comment about the stupidity of the electorate would refer to half of the voting population. Is it possible that the half which don’t agree with you could really be wrong, or could they just be in disagreement?

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    • Greetings, Graham. The fact that there is a dead heat gives me no comfort. Thomas Acquinas called “willful ignorance” the great, pervasive sin. “Citizens United” opened Pandora’s box to unrestricted funding for ads that have flooded the airwaves, paid for by only-who-knows-who. If this avalanche of ads that twist and misrepresent truth and poison the political water table determine what we do in the voting booth, the issue will far greater than mere disagreement. It will be a victory for willful ignorance at the hands of those who understand all too well how to manipulate the American public to seize control of a democratic republic. I usually refrain from using the word ‘evil’ but I’ve seen ther shades of McCarhyism too often to reduce what’s happening to an informed disagreement. Anyway, I had decided to stay away from the computer this morning, except for preparing the liturgy for Sunday when the emai notice popped up. I probably should have maintained my commitment to silence. 🙂 Thanks for the quesion and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello – did I hear you say you went to Harvard? tell me more? I remember you said something about staying in the very same room Emerson stayed in when he was attending Harvard, so I assume you attended there as well?

    Liked by 1 person

    • While serving at The College of Wooster (Wooster, OH), I took a sabbatical in 1981, after receiving a Charles E. Merrill Fellowship, awarded by Harvard Divinity School “for excellence in pastoral ministry,” although I was anything BUT excellent. The Merrill Fellowship gave Merrill Fellows a stipend, free access to any and all classes and facilkities of the university, a membership in the Harvard Faculty Club (for its (in)famous horse steak! and its pipe smoke), and a dormitory room, which happened to have been Ralph Waldo Emerson’s room in Divinity Hall. Pretty humbling to live in that room. Emersone was everywhere in that room. I felt very, very small. Great memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Gordon –

    I just read your 02/21 piece in MinnPost: Current church debates are enough to make a pastor feel sad — and angry. And all the comments & replies since then. Amazing.

    I hope you know that you speak for many of us who are also sad and angry, but do not have the time or inclination to speak/post publicly. Thanks for doing what you do.

    (I don’t know if you saw Brian Rosenberg’s piece in the Strib this past Tuesday: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/140797643.html I think you might appreciate it.)

    Jon

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gordon… Chaska Bob Perschmann here. What a gift your thoughtfulness is. I have thoroughly appreciated the experience. Funny how fully engaged people can miss each other as we pass at sea. I have a feeling that I will read all of this material. I wrote you a letter. Do you want it sent to an email address… or right here?

    Liked by 1 person

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