Introducing Dennis Edwards, a Missio Alliance Leading Voice

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logo2Hi, I’m Dennis R. Edwards, presently the senior pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, MN. I’m a native New Yorker (and yes, have the requisite attitude that goes with that, but I’m a work in progress). I’ve been married to Susan Steele Edwards for over 33 years and have four terrific adult children. I started two churches: one in Brooklyn, NY and one in Washington, DC prior to coming to Minneapolis.

I perceived my call to ministry while in college at Cornell University, studying chemical engineering. In time, I became a math and science teacher at an independent school in NYC. It took me some time to figure out what to do with my calling. To make that long story short, I eventually earned the MDiv (Urban Ministry) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I added to that the MA in Biblical Studies, then a PhD in Biblical Studies (New Testament) from Catholic University of America. I have served as an adjunct faculty member of several different institutions

In addition to my interests in biblical scholarship and urban ministry, I am a weightlifter, cyclist, and racquetball player (whenever I can). I enjoy foreign and independent films, and play the saxophone and flute with whomever will let me.

As I consider the church in North America, I’m pleased to see movements of justice and mercy that are central to Christian communities. That is to say that what had been often viewed as ancillary or adjunct to the Gospel, is seen—at least among many—as integral to the Gospel. I witness young people of faith who are well-informed, having a good sense of what goes on globally as well as locally, and who are not afraid to question assumptions that previous generations of Christians have made. For example, in my younger days there were few women voices informing Christian thinking—except on matters of child rearing and marriage. Now, I am happy to hear more female voices and to see more men willing to listen to those voices.

I am also encouraged to witness frank and thoughtful discussions about racism, power, and privilege. When I was starting out in ministry, those of us who broached such topics were quickly labeled (typically as some sort of liberal or troublemaker, or angry—a label many of us African Americans should have been free to wear, but were instead shamed with that word).

At one point, early in my ministry in NYC, I served on the Social Concerns Committee of my (then) denomination. I was the primary author of our resolution on racism, which we entitled, “The New Racism,” largely because we emphasized more institutional forms of racism in contrast to the overt acts common during the Jim Crow era. While the resolution met with some praise, I was surprised at the pushback. I was naïve then. I didn’t realize how ingrained racism was, even among professing Christians.

Presently, despite the wonderful things I witness in the North American Church, I am concerned about at least two things. The first is the failure of a significant portion of the Christian community to deal with issues of power. Such failure has implications for reconciliation across race, gender, and social class. There is a latent redneck attitude that often emerges among some Christians, evidenced by reactions after the Black Lives Movement gained traction. The church may miss an opportunity to show the love and unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17. Related to this matter of power is the issue of violence, particularly gun violence. Are Christians in the USA willing to accept that the Bible is more revolutionary (and authoritative for us) than the Bill of Rights?

Will we accept that the Bible is more revolutionary & authoritative than the Bill of Rights? Click To Tweet

My second concern is connected to the first one as it touches on the use of the Bible. There has always been, and should continue to be, healthy debates over biblical interpretation. What bothers me is that I’ve noticed a dearth of interest in the Scriptures by many church attendees. The preference has been to see church as entertainment, so that engaging the Scriptures is viewed as boring, or only for the really “deep” people. Too many Christians seem content to have their biblical knowledge reduced to sound bites, tweets, Facebook memes, and the feel-good aphorisms of a celebrity. After all, it is the word of God that is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. And it is Scripture that is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Consequently, people need to know the Scriptures and to be able to engage them thoughtfully.

My hopes are that Christians will continue to be enthusiastic about engaging Scripture and also to let Scripture inform us regarding issues of power and privilege.