The Pietist Option Is Dedicated to…

We’re into the last week of our countdown to October 3rd, when The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity hits shelves. So let me offer one more glimpse into the pages of our book: having shared the acknowledgments, let me now show everyone the book’s dedication.

"Dedicated to the memory of James R. Hawkinson and Glen V. Wiberg, who lived the Pietist option and so taught it others"

If you didn’t know Jim and Glen and had simply read our book, it might seem like an odd choice. Just look at the index and you’ll find that many others influenced our thinking. Start with Philipp Spener and August Hermann Francke, and Martin Luther before them. Even from among the relatively small, little-known band of Mission Friends who make up the people of our denomination, we draw most heavily on the ideas of C.O. Rosenius, P.P. Waldenström, David Nyvall, Karl Olsson, Don Frisk, John Weborg, and Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom.

Glen appears three times in that index. I borrowed from his telling of the story of Maria Nilsdotter, a Swedish Pietist whose conventicle cared for children in the mid-19th century, and Glen serves as the catalyst for Mark’s moving benediction. (You’ll have to buy the book to read that; I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it here.) The only time Glen is quoted at length is in Mark’s chapter on proclaiming the Gospel, where he helps Mark explain the problem with “attempting to share a new life that we are not experiencing ourselves.” In Glen’s words:

Growing up in church, I heard a lot of testimonies about conversion that occurred twenty-five years earlier. The same recital week after week. Nothing current in thin places since they had become ossified—meaning rigid, conventional, opposed to change. You can escape ossification only by a fresh encounter with God, a fresh dip in the waters of your baptism, a being born again and again. (p. 113)

Jim isn’t quoted a single time, though we certainly drew on his work curating voices from Covenant literature in the collection entitled Glad Hearts.

So why dedicate The Pietist Option to these two pastors, these “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries”?

Glen Wiberg, Jim Hawkinson, and other members of the Covenant's Book of Worship committee in 1978
Jim and Glen (5th and 6th from bottom-right, respectively) with the Covenant Church’s Book of Worship committee in 1978 – Covenant Archives

It wasn’t a hard decision.

First, timing. Glen died just as we were completing revisions to our manuscript. Mark preached at his funeral, which included the verse from 1 Corinthians 4 that he had inscribed on our copies of his memoir.

Second, Glen and Jim stand in for all the generations of people, past and present, who — like Mark and me — have called Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota (previously: Northeast Minneapolis) home. (Glen pastored Salem throughout the 1980s and retired as our pastor emeritus; Jim was Salem’s interim pastor before Mark’s call in 2006, and stayed on as visitation pastor and mentor to us both until his death in 2011.) This book at once tries to reach the widest possible Christian audience and reflects the relatively narrow experience of our time serving and leading a particular Christian community. I’m thrilled and honored that Salem will be hosting our launch party on October 10th. (You’re all invited!)

Finally, if Pietism holds Christianity to be more than an intellectual system — an ethos that is more caught than taught — then we wanted to pay tribute to two men who did more than talk and write about “the Pietist option.” Truly, they lived it.

When I call Pietists people of the Resurrection, you can bet that a Glen Wiberg quotation isn’t too far behind. But if I live as a person of the Resurrection — hopeful, unafraid, and actively expecting God to make all things new — it’s because I saw Glen do it first.

When I say that Pietism was first and foremost a movement to renew the Church, my mind immediately leaps to Jim’s pledge to “be a fool” for the Church, to “participate joyfully in her wider ministry, and in the seeking with her of that renewal we all so sorely need.” But if I actually participate in the life of the Church — if I “love her institutions, though I am not unaware of their faults” and I find myself “revived daily by her quiet, yet constant fellowship” — it’s because I saw Jim do it first.

Truly, as Weborg once told Wiberg, “Pietism is the way the pastor does things.” It’s certainly the way these two friends did things.