February 7, 2013

I recently wrote the following letter for the February edition of the American Baptist Seminary of the West’s monthly e-mail newsletter. I share it with you as a report on one of my major “outside of Lakeshore” commitments and as a way of reminding us all of our historic, ongoing and essential relationship to our seminary. There is a direct link between the health of the church and the health of the seminary. We truly need each other. If you would like to receive ABSW’s email newsletter please contact Carolyn Matthews at cmatthews@absw.edu.


Dear ABSW Family,

On January 1, 2013 I became the Chairperson of the ABSW Board of Trustees. The following are my reflections as I take office. The work with which the seminary has been entrusted is essential; it is with a sense of responsibility that I become the chair of the board. The gifts of the seminary faculty, staff, student body, alumni, and supporters are considerable; it is with a sense of optimism that I assume this new role. The challenges facing the enterprise of theological education are significant; it is with a sense of caution that I take on this new identity. I have been a member of the board of trustees for five years. Those who have led the board in that time: Ed McClenton, Warren Stewart, and Kristen Preston, have done so admirably; it is with a sense of humility that I follow in their path. The mercies of our Creator are many; it with a sense of trust that I welcome this opportunity to serve.

In the church’s liturgical calendar we have recently considered the Baptism of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke those who, like Jesus, came to the wilderness to hear John preach and to be baptized by him ask the Baptist “What shall we do?” John gives a threefold answer to their essential question. To the general audience he said, “Anyone who has two cloaks should share with anyone who has none. The same applies to anyone who has plenty of food.” To the tax collectors he said, “Don’t collect more than the amount prescribed for you.” To the soldiers he said, “Don’t extort money from anyone by threat or false accusation.” I hear John saying, “Be aware of the resources that you have and the power that is yours. Use your resources, use your power, and use your influence to help and not to harm.”

A major part of our work as the Board of Trustees is to identify the resources, power and influence that are ours as the ABSW community, to consider the ways those resources are being used, to insure that they are being used to help further the mission that is uniquely ours and, at the very least, to make sure that in the ways our resources are being used, we are doing no harm.

This identification of resources coupled with the evaluation of their use, is an ongoing process, a lively conversation, of which everyone reading these words is a part. Thus, I look forward to hearing from you in regard to the mission we share, the community of which we are a part, the tradition we represent and direction we are taking. It is our collective responsibility to keep the question asked of John, “What should we do?” central in the life of the American Baptist Seminary of the West. Let it be our shared commitment to allow our answers to this question to direct us to helpful paths and away from harmful acts.


Jim H.

A note of Thanksgiving for the life and ministry of the Reverend Harrison Williams. Though Harry was only at Lakeshore for a few of his 93 years he was of great support and encouragement to many and to me. He will be greatly missed.