Southern Ohio Bishop Breidenthal to deliver DuBose Lectures

October 13, 2010

Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal of Southern Ohio has been invited to deliver the prestigious DuBose Lectures at the School of Theology at Sewanee: The University of the South, an Episcopal seminary in Tennessee.

The DuBose Lectures are held annually as part of an alumni gathering for continuing education at Sewanee, with people from all over the country coming to hear and discuss the content of the lectures. This year's gathering is Oct. 28-29.

Breidenthal will deliver three lectures, guided by the theme, "A Better Word: Witness and Communion for the Mission of God." The first lecture, "The Blood of Abel: Atonement and the Neighbor," will explore Christ's death.

"I think there are a lot of people who don't understand why it is that Christ had to die for us ... they're troubled by the language and not really sure what the cross is about," said Breidenthal. "I thought it was very important for me to do some thinking about that, especially as these were some of the concerns I raised about the consent process in Northern Michigan." Last year, Breidenthal did not give his consent to the consecration of the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop of Northern Michigan because of concerns about Thew Forrester's theological positions on issues such as atonement.

The second lecture, "Outside the Camp: The Church as Body Politic," looks at how authority is understood and exercised in the midst of common ministry.

"I don't talk about common ministry specifically," said the bishop, "but I talk about the church trying to follow Jesus to a place at the cross. I explore the relationship between authority and servanthood."

The final lecture, "The Festal Gathering: Approaching the Mountain," examines the issue of open communion. Breidenthal raised the issue at last spring's diocesan clergy day.

"It was clear that all the clergy are passionate about the Gospel," he said. "But it was also clear that arguments for and against open communion are like apples and oranges. We haven't gotten down beneath the language of hospitality on one side and language about discipleship on the other."

At the heart of the issue of open communion is that "the Eucharist is about union with Christ -- it is a sacrament that expresses that nothing can separate us from the God in Christ," said Breidenthal. "Given the fact that we emphasis that we are a baptismal community, to separate Baptism from Eucharist is incoherent."

At the same time, he said, "If anyone asks for Communion, I will give it to them."

And then there are situations such as Street Church, services for the homeless in urban communities.

"In a way, the homeless are already baptized. They are already close to Jesus," he said. "The Eucharist is about going outside where Jesus is, about being thrust out of privilege or a sense of pedigree. Baptism is not about inclusion but about expulsion into the outside, so I see Street Church as the exception (to my views on open Communion) that proves the rule."

The lectures will be published in the Sewanee Theological Review.

The DuBose Lectures are offered each year to honor William Porcher DuBose (1836–1918), the "spiritual founder" of the theological department of the University of the South, whom many consider one of the most original and creative theologians in the Episcopal Church. DuBose served the University of the South as a combination of chaplain, professor of ethics, and founder, professor, and dean of the theological studies department for more than 45 years (1871–1918).

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