Articles by The Rev. Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt
Friday December 27, 2019
This is about four ways of thinking about the priesthood and the ways in which you are implicated. Spoiler alert. Three of them are only part of the picture. The fourth and last way of thinking about this service makes sense of all the others.
Thursday December 14, 2017
Rightly, we have been discussing women’s rights in one form or another for nearly 170 years in the United States. None of that has effectively addressed the issues of objectification, exploitation, harassment or physical violence.
Wednesday November 22, 2017
Sometime ago I watched the film, 'Shenandoah.' James Stewart plays Charlie Anderson, a Virginia farmer who becomes embroiled unwillingly in the mayhem of the War Between the States. His family gathers at the dinner table, and Anderson prays....
Sunday November 12, 2017
Coming from Scot McKnight, who is himself a leading evangelical voice, the summons to bury the movement this last week came as something of a theological earthquake. But in not very different terms from the title above, that was exactly what he suggested.
Wednesday October 11, 2017
Much of the literature on the fundamentalist – modernist controversy of the 1920s and 30s is described as the struggle of fundamentalists against modernity ”” its science, its ways of thinking, approaches to Scripture, and, in particular, the theory of evolution. But what we don’t talk about very much is the way in which the desire not be thought of as fundamentalist has shaped mainline Protestantism.
Wednesday September 27, 2017
Over the years I’ve seen and read a number of articles about professional boundaries and their application to work in the church. Much of that literature is very helpful and stakes out areas where abuse and exploitation are all too possible. One has to be grateful for the reminders that literature provides and the protection that it offers for those who might be vulnerable in one way or another.
Sunday September 10, 2017
When I went to seminary in the seventies, the church was a given. I don’t recall the language of church growth and church planting figuring prominently, if at all, in the conversations we had, and we certainly weren’t talking about 'the decline of the mainline church' or 'the end of the Protestant Reformation.'
Thursday August 10, 2017
We have the good fortune of living in a world in which an ever-greater number of generations share the world at the same time. Advances in nutrition and medical care have increased our life expectancy. But what we have failed to do is to begin re-thinking the way in which we think about mentoring, aging, and sharing the tasks that lie ahead of us in creating a stronger, healthier society.
Sunday July 09, 2017
As the news spills out from every corner of the globe and as our capacity as a nation to respond seems to evaporate, I’ve found myself thinking about the church.
Thursday June 29, 2017
A new study by political scientists notes that clergy, on the whole, are more partisan than their parishioners. Which raises the question: If clergy are tasked to 'keep the faith,' exactly what 'faith' is it that they “keep?” The faith of their respective religious traditions or the faith of their partisan political commitments? The study would suggest that far too often, it’s the latter.
Saturday June 17, 2017
It is not surprising that patterns in leadership emerge on the congregational level that are corrosive – corrosive to the ministries of pastors themselves and corrosive to the parishes that they are called to lead.
Wednesday May 17, 2017
Confessing the sins of others is an addictive practice. It feeds self-righteous certainty. It simplifies life’s complex demands. It elicits confirmation from those who share our views. It spares us the effort associated with thinking and reasoning carefully. Above all, it insulates us from the painful process of self-examination.
Thursday April 20, 2017
In his report from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, Bishop Daniel Martins described a telling exchange...
Saturday March 25, 2017
Prayers of lament wedge their way into the American psyche from time to time, much of it in the form of music. One thinks of Mahaila Jackson’s rendition of 'Precious Lord, Take My Hand,' Lauryn Hill’s version of Bob Marley’s 'Redemption Song,' and Eric Clapton’s 'Holy Mary.'
Friday March 10, 2017
Popular assumptions about Lent come from a variety of places. Some arise out of the historical excesses that have surfaced from time to time in the life of the church. Other assumptions about Lent arise out of misunderstandings or a lack of familiarity with Lenten observance.
Saturday March 04, 2017
Congregational vitality is still on the front burner in conversations about the church. Noting that on average, 9 churches close their doors everyday, the Episcopal Church Building Fund has launched a recasting process, designed to help parishes evaluate their communities, reevaluate the deployment of their resources, achieve a sustainable budget, and rediscover a measure of relevance to the communities around them.
Sunday February 12, 2017
Spiritual highs of this kind depend a good deal on the way that we understand them and their role in our lives.
Friday January 27, 2017
One of the central practices in Jesuit devotion ”” the one that Ignatius of Loyola considered indispensable ”” was the prayer of Examen. Ignatius felt that the key to spiritual growth was to cultivate an awareness of when and where God had been present in the course of the day. It was so important, in fact, that he urged his followers to do the Examen, even if it cost them the little time that they might have for prayer.
Thursday January 19, 2017
In a recent article on 'Futuring' in The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Mims observes: 'The art and science of futuring is fast becoming a necessary skill, where we read signals, see trends and ruthlessly test our own assumptions.... It’s clear,' he notes, that 'we’re not going to make it through [our complex environment] as passengers.'
Thursday January 12, 2017
On one level, I have no specific objection to New Year’s resolutions. Any opportunity for change and improvement is a welcome occasion. Evidently, countless cultures have thought so as well. As far as I can tell the practice goes back to the Babylonians and has been renewed somewhere in the world ever since.
Tuesday January 03, 2017
My wife and I love cooking meals together. We also enjoy watching cooking shows. One of our favorites is the 'Chopped' Kitchen in which four contestants are eliminated – or 'chopped' ”” as they attempt to use 'mystery baskets,' preparing an appetizer, main course, and dessert.
Friday December 30, 2016
In class a subject surfaced that I don’t recall ever hearing discussed in seminary: Should pastors be their parishioners’ ”˜friend?’
Saturday December 10, 2016
The writer of Genesis is offering what we might call a 'confession of faith' in the primacy of the God of Israel. He is not writing a history of creation, never mind anything that might qualify as a scientific account of how God created the universe.
Saturday November 26, 2016
For those who are in 'helping professions,' the tendency to climb up on the cross (in this sense) is a constant temptation. Clergy, counselors, physicians, nurses, first responders, and a host of others are often inclined to climb up there and it’s never a good thing. Here are some of the reasons why...
Saturday November 19, 2016
When it comes to the anniversaries of loss – loss of a loved one, loss at work, loss in our homes, loss of dreams – I am pretty wary of easy suggestions. When I think back over my own anniversaries of loss, I’ve found the easy suggestions just make me angry: Angry at the insipid ease with which they are offered, angry at the way that they paper over life’s realities.
Friday November 11, 2016
Last month the Public Religion Research Institute released new statistics that chronicle the demographic shifts in religious affiliation. The one group that has grown exponentially is the so-called Nones, or religiously unaffiliated. The unaffiliated now represent 25% of the country, up over 10% of their numbers in the 1990s.
Saturday October 15, 2016
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen at all? Both questions lie at the bottom of an ocean of ink spilled over millennia. Over the years I’ve become convinced of two things: One, there is no entirely satisfactory answer to either question. And, two, the questions themselves are not the ones to which the Christian tradition finally provides an answer.
Saturday October 08, 2016
Music can participate in the beauty and truth that is finally found in God. In the moment we sing or enter into the music offered in worship, then, we potentially find ourselves in close communion with the divine and with the creative nature of God.
Friday September 30, 2016
There are isolated and scattered signs of spiritual vitality in the American Protestantism. There are people and pastors who believe that spiritual practice is indispensible to the life of the church. There are a handful of denominational programs and an occasional bishop who emphasizes the spiritual life. And a handful of seminaries have given one kind of attention or another to the spiritual preparation of their students.
Sunday September 25, 2016
It is hard to remember how much idealism was thread through celebrations of the new millennium when you look back on it now. The palpable sense of tension, anxiety, conflict, and – in a word – chaos, seems to be thread through the global psyche.
Tuesday September 06, 2016
Part-time or bi-vocational ministry is becoming commonplace, and frequently it is the go-to solution used by church leaders to address the needs of an increasing number of congregations.
Saturday July 30, 2016
How did we end up in a world in which some churches emphasize nothing but transcendent hope and others emphasize nothing but the political implications of the Gospel?
Thursday July 21, 2016
The language of derision has become increasingly commonplace in public discourse. The labels, stupid, elitist, racist, and their synonyms have become increasingly commonplace in public discourse.
Thursday July 07, 2016
The decoder ring approach to reading the book of Revelation has, sadly, become the de facto orthodox approach to interpreting it. As a result, the vast majority of people, when asked about their views of the book often assume that it should be read as a roadmap to our lives or, more accurately, the end of our lives. There are countless problems with this approach to reading the Book of Revelation, but here are my top three.
Friday July 01, 2016
From an historical or a cultural point of view the term 'post-Christian'may have some, very limited utility. But from a theological point of view and from the vantage point of the church’s self-understanding, I’m not so sure.
Sunday June 12, 2016
In a lot of cases, being fired, laid off, terminated, or 'made redundant' is like being taken out by a comet or like being hit by lightning. Most of us don’t register the shifting realities and sinking sand ”” the tiny clues that a new boss doesn’t like you or doesn’t care about the work that you do ”” until it’s too late.
Thursday June 09, 2016
Chinese tech giant, Huawei, is on a campaign to compete with religion beyond the grave. More accurately, I suppose, one could argue that with the company’s help, the Chinese government is trying to erase the need for religious convictions by making the grave irrelevant.
Saturday June 04, 2016
There are times when, as theological educators, we have the rare privilege of not only contributing to a discipline, but we also get a front row seat to historic change.
Friday May 06, 2016
I love my country and I do what I can to support it, to nurture it, and to make it a place that continues to strive for values that intersect with what we as Christians hold most dear. But my nation is not the kingdom of God, nor is it God’s agent of salvation.
Thursday April 21, 2016
Yesterday I described the four ways that the church misunderstands or misrepresents formation. This time I want to describe the four ways in which – from a Christian perspective ”” the culture misunderstands spiritual formation.
Wednesday April 20, 2016
The journey into God that transforms us and leads us into deeper connection with God lies at the heart of spiritual formation. Formation creates a space for that encounter to occur, and it nurtures the practice and virtues that makes that journey possible. But it is also widely misunderstood, even by churches.
Sunday April 10, 2016
Death is not just our enemy. It is God’s enemy and it is the last enemy. It is not just the final, painful place that spoils all of our dreams, ends our days on earth, and robs us of our relationships. It is an apparent contradiction to God’s claim to be God, God’s claim to have made us in God’s own image, God’s claim to be the Lord of life.
Thursday February 18, 2016
ife in the church is a gift. But life in the church can also be tough. Along the way there are occasions for disillusionment, grief, and anger, particularly when the promise of life in the church falls short of its promise.
Saturday February 13, 2016
I found myself musing about the experience of aging. Here are some provisional conclusions I’ve drawn that might be helpful in doing what we all do, if we are lucky enough to check another birthday off the calendar...
Saturday February 06, 2016
A dear friend who has navigated cancer of his own is now facing that journey with his wife. Her cancer, sadly, is far more virulent and, tied as it is, to a genetic marker, the little monster is not going away.
Friday January 22, 2016
The climate of the current campaign for President of the United States would suggest that we have forgotten the lesson of 1 and 2 Kings.
Friday January 15, 2016
Dear Candidates for President of the United States (yes, all of you): On the subject of politics and religion: Please don’t mix the two…in the name of personal morality or in the name of social justice.
Tuesday January 12, 2016
Millions of women are subjected to abuse in smaller, unseen, and unacknowledged ways that subvert the lives, long before they are allowed to own the lives that God has given them.
Friday January 01, 2016
Some people get stuck in the past, trapped by regret, guilt, or unaddressed injustice. Some get stuck in the present with patterns of behavior that are frustrating, but appear to be intractable. And others are stuck in the future, more often than not, by fear.
Thursday December 10, 2015
Over the years I have been struck by the isolation that seminarians and young clergy experience. Falling prey to financial burdens that clergy salaries do not address and to congregational dynamics that receive little or no attention, the struggles he describes are widespread and corrosive.
Saturday December 05, 2015
Trust God. Be faithful, obedient, courageous. Forget about finding out what is the right side of history.
Frederick Schmidt: The Making of Zombie Theologians: Catechesis, Spiritual Direction, and the Future of the Church
Friday November 13, 2015
In an age of growing individualism and disdain for every kind of authority, it is not surprising that catechesis became inextricably associated with a narrow, rote, and unsophisticated approach to theological formation.
Tuesday October 27, 2015
In recent years churches have made a greater effort to prepare members of their congregations for death. But much of that conversation is still squarely focused on advanced directives and clergy often delegate that responsibility to people who know more about the attendant legal complexities. That, no doubt, is an appropriate choice.
Sunday September 27, 2015
I’ve come to the conclusion that often what the Spirit of God has to say to us is far more practical, blunt, and candid. Here are a few things I’ve heard or that others have reported hearing...
Wednesday August 26, 2015
Religious leaders cannot control what everyone in their circle chooses to do. That kind of control has never been possible and the challenge is even greater today.
Friday July 24, 2015
I have experience as a clergy person and as the spouse of a clergy person. The spouses don’t often get a chance to tell their own story, but if they could, here are twelve things I think they would want you to know...
Wednesday July 08, 2015
What do you do with doubt? The answers to that question are as varied as the history of doubt itself.
Saturday July 04, 2015
According to experts great and small, we’ve lost our ability to disagree. Rather than discuss our differences and stay in conversation with one another, we go on the attack. We belittle, judge, and demonize one another. And, when all else fails, we walk away.
Tuesday June 30, 2015
Frankly, I’m not convinced that the statistics charted by Pew are even 'a trend.' It could be argued that Americans are just getting honest about how disenchanted they are with church. Trend or not, the disenchantment can be traced to six things that people need to hear from churches, but are rarely said...
Friday June 19, 2015
This is the season in many people change jobs or retire. Some of those changes are governed by the academic calendar, some by the change in seasons, and some by tradition. There has been a great deal written on preparing for the work world and the challenge of navigating its demands, but far less has been written on leaving well and retiring.
Thursday June 11, 2015
Behind closed doors clergy often ruefully observe that they would rather officiate at a funeral than preside at a wedding. That sounds harsh, but I’m convinced that it’s because most of us watch in frustration as weddings, as well as marriages, get off on the wrong foot. Here’s what your clergy wants you to know:
Sunday May 31, 2015
12 Things that your Pastor, Priest, or Minister Wishes You Knew...
Wednesday May 20, 2015
We sit there Sunday after Sunday. We do our own faith-work, coming to conclusions about what matters and doesn’t, about what we believe and about what we don’t believe. Help us to understand you and help yourself to communicate the Gospel. Please consider the following advice...
Friday April 24, 2015
Rebekah Eklund’s book explores the role of lament in the Old Testament, where it is common. But she goes on to note that – in spite of assertions to the contrary – prayers of lament can be found in the New Testament as well and, in particular, in the life and teaching of Jesus. Hence the title of her new book: Jesus Wept: The Significance of Jesus’ Laments in the New Testament.
Wednesday April 01, 2015
The phrase, 'think globally, act locally' is attributed to Patrick Geddes, a Scottish philanthropist, town planner, biologist, and sociologist. The idea, though not the exact phrase, appears in his book, Cities in Evolution, which was published in 1915. Well ahead of his time, Geddes was at pains to argue for an approach to urban planning that took the surrounding environs into account.
Tuesday March 03, 2015
Lent is making something of a comeback as Christians who historically have observed the season bump up against those who don’t in the blogosphere. But the language of Lent, which is rooted in larger Christian practice, often makes people uncomfortable.
Tuesday January 13, 2015
Francis has taken a different approach to his papacy in ways that signal a visual and symbolic, if not always substantive difference from his predecessors.
Thursday January 08, 2015
The terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hedbo in Paris, then, are without excuse, unacceptable, and deserving of swift justice. What we can do as citizens and Christians is harder to name. But, at a minimum, we can and should do this:
Tuesday December 30, 2014
I’ve been through two employment crises. Three if you include the uncertain business of doing doctoral work against the backdrop of a changing academy and a shrinking church. This is a piece of what I have learned: Focus on vocation ”” on God’s calling on your life.
Friday December 19, 2014
Mark Sandlin recently wrote a telling article on the rise of the 'Dones,' people who have been active in the church and their departure. The article hit a deep nerve and a number of people declared themselves among this new, disaffected tribe.
Sunday December 14, 2014
For people who don’t believe that there is a god, atheists have a lot to say about the subject. One of the latest arguments also rates as one of the more narcissistic defenses I’ve heard offered for atheism: Jesus didn’t 'return his calls.'
Tuesday December 02, 2014
As we discuss curriculum revision at my own seminary, I’ve found myself thinking anew about what it means to be part of a seminary faculty. Watching events embroil other seminary faculties in troubling conflict, that question has gained considerable urgency.
Friday November 21, 2014
One of the more disturbing developments in Progressive Christian thought of late is the demonizing of difference.
Friday September 19, 2014
If the descriptive shoe fits, from a sociological or anthropological point of view, you have to wear it.
Thursday June 26, 2014
Notwithstanding the intelligent, gifted work that its practitioners are doing, interim ministry has slowed our growth and robbed us of resources for building the Kingdom.
Thursday June 19, 2014
Here are five preaching tips from one who sits in the pew and knows what goes on in the study as you prepare.
Thursday June 12, 2014
Saint John Climacus, a seventh century monk at the monastery on Mt. Sinai was admired for his spiritual depth. As a result, a neighboring monastery asked him to serve as their spiritual director. We don’t know much about Climacus, but it is reasonably certain that the one book he wrote, The Ladder of Divine Ascent was written in response to that request.
Thursday June 05, 2014
Nothing sidelines an institution faster than contraction and flailing that is labeled as vision and the dawning of a new era.
Wednesday April 23, 2014
The genius of the American experiment lies in the conviction that freedom is not given by the state, but is an inalienable gift given to human beings as God's creation.
Wednesday April 16, 2014
Some years ago I was invited to preach at a Good Friday service. I preached on the subject of death””all of which seemed to fit. But the choice of subject prompted one member of the congregation to complain, 'Why didn’t you focus on the resurrection?'
Tuesday March 18, 2014
Lent is spiritual jujitsu. Just as jujitsu uses the strength of one’s opponent against him, Lent uses the strength of owning our weakness against the power of our weakness to overwhelm us. Imagine these possibilities and apply them to your own life...
Wednesday December 18, 2013
'That sucks.' Can you even get those words out of your mouth? A lot of us can’t. There was a time when I couldn’t. The language isn’t the issue, of course. It’s the struggle to be honest about just how hard and ugly life can be.
Wednesday December 11, 2013
The Dave Test is a set of ten questions you can ask yourself when life sucks or before you talk to someone whose life is in the same sort of place.