Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Recovering Neglected Theologians: Series to Date

So far, we have had guest post entries for recovering the following neglected theologians:

  1. The Venerable Bede
  2. The Blumhardts, father and son.
  3. Johann Baptist Metz.

I am expecting guest entries on Georgia Harkness (Methodist theologian and first American woman to become an academic theology professor in a seminary) or Geoffrey Wainwright; British Methodist Richard Watson; St. Isaac of Ninevah (I hope); Baptist ethicist and defender of church-state separation, James Dunn (not to be confused with the British NT theologian, James D.G. Dunn); Lutheran biblical theologian Samuel Terrien; Haitian priest and liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide (BEFORE he became the president and then-deposed president of Haiti); Fr. Urban Holmes; Brazilian Franciscan and liberation theologian Leonardo Boff (although I didn’t know Boff was neglected–it may show how much liberation theologies themselves are being marginalized, today).  Maybe others.  Except for Harkness no one has volunteered to write any entries for women, although there are many who could be added to such a list.

I plan to write at least one entry to this series–on Richard Overton, the patron “saint” of this blog.  I am holding off on commitments to others in order to see what others submit.   But I make the following suggestions for those who might wonder about submitting an entry, but no one comes to mind:

  • French Reformed theologian Jacques Ellul
  • Ellul’s American “counterpart,” the Episcopal lay theologian, William Stringfellow
  • Muriel Lester
  • St. Hildegaard of Bingen
  • Dame Julian of Norwich
  • D. C. Mackintosh
  • Gerrard Winstanley, founder of the Digger Movement
  • British Baptist John Clifford–who was the Rauschenbusch of the UK, imo
  • Paul Lehmann
  • Suzanne de Dietrich
  • H. Wheeler Robinson
  • Dale Moody
  • J. Deotis Roberts
  • Almost ANY Eastern Orthodox figure
  • Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J.
  • P.T. Forsyth
  • Andre Trocme
  • Howard Thurman (there is a small recovery of Thurman among African-Americans, but, like most African-American thinkers, he is nearly completely ignored by white Christians–except, in Thurman’s case, by Quakers)

Daniel Schweissing is correct to say, in the comments, that more women and theologians from the two-thirds world need to be included. Some are on the way and I have suggested some others, but let me be intentional in some neglected figures from outside the white, Western, male theological tradition:

  • Toyohiko Kagawa (Japan)
  • Takashi Yamada (Japanese Mennonite)
  • Mercy Amba Odoyuye (Methodist woman–feminist theologian in Ghana)
  • Lucretia Mott (19th C. Hicksite Quaker)
  • Osadolor Imasogie (Baptist theologian in Nigeria)
  • Elsa Tamez (Methodist NT theologian in Mexico)
  • Jorge Pixley (American Baptist transplanted to Nicaragua)
  • Archbishop Malkhaz Songashvili of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia–and a leader of the nonviolent Rose Revolution there.
  • Luís Rivera-Pagán of Puerto Rico
  • Letty M. Russell, just deceased pioneer of feminist theology in the USA
  • Allan Boesak, South Africa
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Ret.), South Africa

Surely many more could be suggested. I have avoided most of the “big names” in global liberation theologies because I hope and pray they aren’t being neglected, but after I received the suggestion for a guest post on Leonardo Boff, I became very depressed at the thought that the Western world has gone back to the pattern of ignoring the Two-Thirds World and its theologians, after such a brief break in that pattern during the ’70s and ’80s. Those of my readers who are in academic theology posts or seminary/divinity school programs, please tell me that is not true!

And those are just the ones who come easily to my mind.  I think theology is impoverished by faddishness and needs to recover major voices of the past–recent and farther past.  That’s the reason for this series.


August 18, 2008 - Posted by | theology


  1. I may try to add one on Winstanley but I don’t think I have any primary literature anymore

    Comment by rgillingham | August 18, 2008

  2. More women as well as theologians from the third-world and U.S. minorities need to be represented (some of whom, you’ve helpfully placed on your wish list). The entries have been quite interesting so far but I’m hopeful that the series will recover some of the global diversity that is often ignored in theology and not end up being too Eurocentric.

    Comment by haitianministries | August 18, 2008

  3. I’d love to see one on Howard Thurmon, who is developing a small but growing following at Louisville Seminary, so it was encouraging to see his name here. However, I don’t know his work well enough to feel comfortable writing about him yet.

    I’d also like to see someone write a few words on a much more forgotten figure, George Kelsey, whose Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man (1965) was an excellent engagement with racism as a false religion, with white supremacy treated as a pseudo-Christian heresy.

    While he is most known for being one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachers at Morehouse, his work is worth a look on its own merits, too. I first read of his work in Ronald Stone’s book Paul Tillich’s Radical Social Thought.

    Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, he only published two books, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man mentioned above, and Social Ethics Among Southern Baptists, 1917-1969.

    The Drew University Library houses his papers.

    Comment by Sandalstraps | August 18, 2008

  4. Chris,
    Yes, if Kelsey had written more I would have included him, too. Did you know that Southern Seminary tried to lure him away from Drew to be SBTS’ first full-time African-American faculty member in the ’60s? It’s true. This was the initiative of Henlee Barnette, who was the head of the Ethics dept. at the time.

    As far as I know, Kelsey’s Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man (1965) is the only major theological treatment of racism in English prior to the just published, Race: A Theological Inquiry by J. Kameron Carter, an African-American Baptist teaching at Duke Divinity School.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 18, 2008

  5. wow, you listed Trocme. If I had a chocolate pie, I’d give it to you right now. I’d love to write a piece on Trocme except that I am more familiar with his story than with his theology. Jesus and the Nonviolent Revolution is a great book, even if, as Trocme admits, historical research is not his forte.

    Comment by dcrowe | August 18, 2008

  6. Wow! You mentioned Mercy Amba Odoyuye!!

    {thumbs up for that!!}

    Comment by TheFisherofMen.blogspot.com | October 24, 2008

  7. Is There More? I Like it

    Comment by christmas songs silent night | November 29, 2008

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