ON WHEN SUFFERING PERSISTS
(Harrisburg: Morehouse, 2001)
Sometimes pain passes quickly and small losses are easily absorbed. But suffering often goes on and on, and for people of faith, the resulting crisis can be deeper and more destructive than the loss itself. We look for ways to comfort those who are hurting. But sometimes, in spite of our good intentions, the clichés and simplistic theology we offer only add to the pain and misery.
In When Suffering Persists, Frederick W. Schmidt presents a pastoral exploration of ways to understand suffering theologically, offering an approach that ministers to both mind and spirit. He questions the value of our usual comforting words and examines the pat explanations we give one another. He provides instead a theology that takes seriously the devastating character of suffering, allowing for real help to those who continue in pain. Excellent for parish study.
Review by Catherine M. Wallace Ph.D.
When Suffering Persists is a masterpiece of practical theology: learned, elegant, nuanced, passionate, and yet absolutely accessible to those without theological education. Schmidt delineates a theology of suffering by exploring the inadequacy of our identifying God as both absolutely omnipotent and absolutely "good." He is remarkably sympathetic to and generous with claims that he sees as ultimately wrong-headed, but he is equally clear that when suffering persists then these claims unravel in devastating ways. When Suffering Persists offers a gentle but clear account that will prove both comforting and thought-provoking for people whose suffering has been deepened at times by inadequate theology or clumsy clergy. Schmidt argues that a theology of suffering must see God as unfailingly present, compassionate, and sustaining--not as an omnipotent figure who might have stopped or prevented suffering but who chooses not to.
He makes that claim convincing, and at least for me has banished forever a whole collection of the dumb things some people say when tragedy strikes.
ON CHANGING FACE OF GOD
(Harrisburg: Morehouse, 2000)
Does the face of God change? Years ago I would have said, 'No.'
Countless hymns, passage of Scripture and confessions of faith assert or imply the changelessness of God. To take issue with traditions that are centuries, if not millennia old, seemed to be daunting and misguided. But when the great professions of confidence in God harden into philosophical propositions, one is bound to ask: What difference would it make to say that God has only one face? Even if true in some sense, the fact of the matter is that features each of us would count as necessary and changeless would be a matter of considerable debate.² From the Introduction
In 1998/99 five scholars presented lectures at Washington National Cathedral about our images of God and what difference they make. This book, and its companion videos, will allow parish study groups and individuals to consider and discuss the viewpoints of Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong, Jack Miles, James Cone, and Andrew Sung Park.
While the book and videos can be used independently of one another, in combination they make an excellent parish study resource. The material itself is designed in such as way that it can be covered in six or more group sessions, and study questions accompany each chapter.
Video titles: The God of Imaginative Compassion (Armstrong); The God Who is Spirit (Borg); God is the Color of Suffering (Cone); A Complicated God (Miles); and The God Who Needs Our Salvation (Park).
Compelling perspective on a timeless (and timely) subject., August 3, 2000
Review by Jeffrey M. Rubin (Ashburn, VA)
Dr. Schmidt and the distinguished contributors to The Changing Face of God offer very broad perspective in an easily approachable package. Thanks and admiration to Dr. Schmidt are in order for having the wisdom to share in book form for all to experience an important lecture program at the Washington National Cathedral. I think it serves equally well for group or individual study.
My own "Spiritual Journey" consists of picking up pieces along the way from clergy and lay alike, and seeing how they fit into my personal doctrine puzzle. Comparing and contrasting these perspectives to my own about who God is has helped validate some of my feelings, delineate others, and even dispense with a few. That these learned scholars have some of the same doubts, concepts and questions as I do is compelling; and when presented in so much more eloquent terms than I am capable of thinking in, it is captivating.
No doubt there are many theological authors, lecturers and homilists who can strike a chord in each of us. To me, the distinguishing characteristic of The Changing Face of God is the broad spectrum presented that might, in other circumstances, pose more questions than it answers. Instead, despite the eclectic backgrounds and experiences of the editor and the contributors, a pattern of new thinking about God emerged that helped me reach a new comfort level with my picture of God.
A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination, and the Church
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998)
Drawing on interviews with 50 ordained and seminary-trained women, Schmidt reveals the bureaucratic and cultural impediments to women clergy in the Episcopal, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Southern Baptist, and Roman Catholic denominations. Through the women's stories the reader is guided through the maze of official church policy to the realities behind church hierarchies. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.