Reading with the Moderator

Annual Conference moderator Robert Alley. Photo by Glenn Riegel

(“From the Moderator” is a new column in Newsline that will appear on occasion through the 2011 Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., July 2-6. Most books listed here are available from Brethren Press, call 800-441-3712.)

In recent years, as a pastor and now as moderator, the following books have helped to inform my theology, Christology, ethics, and perceptions of the church. They also have expanded my world through the historical, biblical, and current issues they address. I invite you to choose at least one and “read with the moderator” for our common enlightenment and spiritual growth.

“Counting the Cost: The Life of Alexander Mack” by William G. Willoughby. This volume highlights some of the formation experiences of the Brethren movement in the 18th century. In particular, it shows how early Brethren dealt with controversial issues and invites readers to ask how those experiences may enlighten our own.

“The Complete Writings of Alexander Mack” ed. William R. Eberly. This small volume, published through Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., offers some of the essentials of the faith for early Brethren as shared by our founding minister Alexander Mack.

“The Christopher Sauers” by Stephen L. Longenecker. Like “Counting the Cost,” this volume offers insights into how Brethren in colonial America struggled with following Jesus, sometimes in a hostile political environment.

“The Forgotten Faithful: A Window into the Life and Witness of Christians in the Holy Land” ed. Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis, and Maurine Tobin. These essays published through the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem provide insight into the struggles of Christians in an environment dominated by tensions over land and religion with Jews and Muslims.

“The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why” by Phyllis Tickle. One of the best and simplest explanations for what is happening in current Christian church circles. Tickle spoke at a dinner at the 2009 Annual Conference.

“Deep and Wide: Hospitality and the Faithful Church” by Steve Clapp, Fred Bernhard, and Ed Bontrager. This LifeQuest publication offers important guidance for congregations to carry out their evangelistic missions in their own communities.

“The Mission and Death of Jesus in Islam and Christianity” by A. H. Mathias Zahniser. For persons interested in the connections of Christianity and Islam, this volume explores some of the convictions that keep these two world religions apart, and that may help bridge the gaps between them.

“Stumbling Toward a Genuine Conversation on Homosexuality” ed. Michael A. King. The essays in this collection highlight the spectrum of views held by Christians, mostly Mennonites, on the matter of homosexuality.

Three volumes by N. T. Wright: “The New Testament and the People of God,” “Jesus and the Victory of God,” and “Surprised by HOPE: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.” This New Testament scholar offers helpful understandings of Jesus and His role as God’s presence in humankind. For the biblical scholar, these volumes are valuable. The last, “Surprised by HOPE,” is highly recommended as pre-Easter reading.

“The Last Week (A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem)” by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan. This book provides a great daily reading from Palm Sunday to Easter.

“A Failure of Nerve (Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix)” by Edwin H. Friedman. Very important insights into the role and dynamics of leadership, especially for church leaders.

— Robert E. Alley is moderator of the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren.

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