Here are some quotes gathered over the year that had an impact on me. One source is a newsletter I published in the 1980’s for ideas that didn’t fit in the church newsletter, but I wanted to share them with persons in my circle of influence. It was titled SECOND SERMON.

DR. HARRELL BECK of Boston School of Theology (He published very little of his scholarship, saying that he would let his students do the writing of books. One of his students was Martin Luther King Jr.) This quote was given to me in 1986 as I discussed “universalism” with him.

“It is our love for Jesus Christ which mandates our love for persons in whatever tradition or condition. Can’t people get that? Universal salvation is a term which scares people, in part because the church has so often had to have some prey, to be vindictive. What is this psychic need among so many of us? Isn’t it enough to know God’s love, to be grateful for it, and to exercise it as fully as we are capable of doing? And I wonder, whether in the eyes of the Perfect One there is all that (much) difference between those who have made confession/profession and those who have not. Of course I sense the importance of making our profession but not if it cripples us…”

Dr. Beck was married to an Egyptian. Some one once asked Dr. Beck if his wife was a Christian. He paused (dramatically) and said that yes, “she became a Christian about 2,000 years ago.” She was raised in the Coptic Christian heritage, which dates back to shortly after the time of Jesus. Mrs. Leila Beck entertained my wife and I in her home when I was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School in 1989. Dr. Beck had died in a doctor’s office as they were preparing for a trip to China. She was very sad, as she had given Dr. Beck to the church for years and years and in retirement, she was hoping to have him for herself. It was not to be. He had spent years giving lectures all over the world and was highly regarded in many circles for his scholarship and speaking ability. When he sensed the need, he would say to his listeners:  “Are you listening? Are you with me?” And usually we were. He was one of the few who could speak for an hour and you still wanted more. His lectures were given in the same style as his preaching. When he died, I felt a great deal of grief. The United Methodist Church lost a giant.


“Being born again is to being a Christian as Kindergarten is to being an educated person.”         -Thomas H. Dahl

Thomas H. Dahl was a colleague in Alaska who made the decision to become a lawyer.  He was the pastor in Homer from 1964-1966 when I was the pastor in Kenai.  Our families would get together several times during the one year we overlapped.  They had small children, so we would usually go to Homer.  One time we went to seafood processing plant in Homer and purchased ten pounds of King Crab legs for $5.  Yum…Yum….  It was so expensive, we thought.

Then Tom was appointed to the Juneau Church from 1966-1969 and it was there that he decided to go to law school.  He played a role in helping to get me appointed as his successor in 1969.  He stayed in Juneau as the Director of the Model Cities Program until he went to law school.  When he came back to Alaska he was in private practice until he was tapped to be an Assistant Attorney General.


“I think that evangelicals and liberals can get along quite well as long as evangelicals are willing to admit, as I do, that the evangelical position is only a Christian position and not the Christian position. It is when persons establish a particular theological stance as the only legitimate one to have in order to be part of the household of God that real trouble starts…”            -Dr. Tony Campolo  11/4/85 (quoted with permission by the author) Tony was another person who could speak for one hour and you still wanted more. I got to hear him in Boston (again in 1989) and more recently as a guest at a nearby camp, operated by the Free Methodist Church.

QUOTE from a personal letter dated 10/16/85

“It sounds like you have a little more excitement in your town than we do around here. We don’t have a rabid fundamentalist preacher like the one you describe;…Recently I saw a publication from the International Committee for Biblical Inerrancy. One statement caught my eye. It called for readers of the Bible to be: ‘discriminatory in their reading, to recognize poetry as such, and metaphor as such, that one should not interpret it literally; but take into account the kind of literature one was reading…’ I couldn’t believe my eyes, that sounded like what we were taught at both IWU and Garrett. At that time it was condemned as liberal. My, my, what changes!”

QUOTE from Time

December 2, 1985  p. 84 quoting Lis Harris, NEW YORKER Staff Writer.   “I do not like the Lubavitchers’ rigidity, the absoluteness of right and wrong that they perceived. I consider unsureness to be the proper condition of life.”  (article in Religion section on Hasidim Jews)

Quote from Iowa Bob Williams dated Christmas 1980

Every problem is a real challenge that responds to my best. Never once would parishioners and church officials ever let me either work on obvious, simple, urgent, relevant and consistent goals/plans or do the things necessary to achieve them. Once a parishioner had “the nerve” to put “it” in words as I came to a new parish – “Don’t you be raising any question about the nature of the church until after we make a lot of money on this project.”  “Too heavenly to be of any earthly use.” “What has the Gospel got to do with what we’ve always done in our church!” “Be practical.”

We keep preaching and teaching as though it made some significant difference when recent civil rights legislation enforced should be convincing that “we don’t think our way into new ways of acting, but act our way into new ways of thinking.”