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Book Summaries
Our first publication!
Second Edition*– July 15, 2006
    

Bending History: Selected Talks of Joseph W. Mathews

A collection of lectures given between 1970-1977 by one considered by many as a revolutionary churchman.
 
Book Description
 
 

The book of nearly 300 pages has four sections: "Joe's Theology"; "The Religious Life"; "The Life of Service"; and "The New Form of the Religious." One who worked closely with Joe in the four emphases introduces each section, and each contains seven or eight talks on the subject.

Joseph Mathews combined religious fervor with practical wisdom. He was also a prolific speaker whose rhetorical capacity was unmatched. Joe's work included Army chaplaincy during World War II, seminary professorship, leadership of a student religious community at the University of Texas, and leadership of the Ecumenical Institute/Institute of Cultural Affairs based in Chicago. A biography is in the final stages of publication, authored by his brother Bishop James K. Mathews of the United Methodist Church.

Click here for Photos of Joseph W. Mathews

From the Inside Flap 
 

The title of the book, Bending History refers to Joe's conviction that people intend their lives to make a difference, and the only question is what difference they chose to make. For him, the decision that results in authenticity is the decision to live on behalf of everyone, to shape history in a way that "furthers the civilizing process." The book represents his findings on how that can be done.

We seem to be in a time when religion is greatly misunderstood. For some, it's a justification of massacres; for others, it's an alternative to science; for others, an escape from tensions; for others, a basis for protest against evils; and for still others, it's a grounds for exclusion of people of difference from structures.

For Joe, Christianity was none of those things. The Christian message poses a lucid and compelling decision about one's relation to life in this world. Accepting that message does not relieve tensions, it focuses them. Instead of protest (which supposes that someone else will fix the problem), Christianity offers the possibility of pioneering in the solution yourself. And Christianity offers participation in an inclusive community that transcends time and space. The perspective Joe developed and promoted is very relevant to today's issues.
 
         
From the Back Cover  


"[I]n 1955 [I] went to the University of Texas from Yale and there I met Joseph Mathews. . . . He and I became close friends and colleagues. He brought to that campus a spiritual depth and enthusiasm. . . . There he was at a largely secular campus of 25,000 . . . students, and he created something of a religious revival. But it wasn't the "tub-thumping" revival, or one characterized by "evangelism." . . . It was rather [a] spiritual revival as he pushed students to new depths of intellectual search on spiritual issues. He had a following hard to imagine, and it took only two or three years for him to [help] develop it into the Christian Faith and Life Community. He took the germ of that idea with him through many parts of the world as he developed [a] movement. If we had had a structure in the Methodist Church or even in Protestantism that had the rigor of the [Roman] Catholic hierarchy, Joseph Mathews would probably have been treated first with hostility, as was ! St. Francis, and then later admitted into the fold as one who was the great revivalist of spiritual life in our time." ~Dr. John R. Silber, Boston University President (1971-96; 2002-03); Chancellor (1996-2003)

"He [my brother Joe] was convinced that modern theology had done all the theological groundwork for church renewal. For him the task was to help work out the concrete pragmatic application that these insights demanded he was convinced that modern theology had done all the theological groundwork for church renewal. Always he was focused on the Christian message, but this had to be available for all. "God works in a mysterious way" but his wonders serve the present age in every place and every person." ~James K. Mathews, Ph.D., Bishop of the United Methodist Church, from the Foreword

"The 21st century is in desperate need of Joe's words of challenge and healing. I will always cherish my years of study and work with him and his team as we attempted to facilitate human development around the globe." ~Robertson Work, Principal Policy Advisor, Decentralized Governance, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

"Joe could see into people. They felt he really knew them. He told me he had a dream to spread the Fifth City ideal of community throughout the whole world. That motivated me to carry on. Joe was a powerful symbol. I called him the Dean of the Iron Men." ~Ruth Carter, Director of Fifth City Preschool, Chicago

 
General Editor, John L. Epps, Ph.D.  

Joe's lifelong concern was to find ways to put religious beliefs into practice for the benefit of the world's dispossessed. He was fervent in his beliefs, though clear that they had to be rationally understandable in this world. That clarity meant that he was neither fundamentalist nor liberal. Joe did his theological homework. Having done so, he worked to understand religious practices both on the individual and the community level. Then, as an experiment on behalf of the church, he engaged in local community development – human development – focusing on socio-economic factors that held people in poverty. While doing this around the world, he encountered people of "profound humanness" from many other religious traditions, and began exploring ways in which those people might be mutually supportive. Thus a global movement grew and took root in over forty nations.

It was a pleasure to work with our team of five editors of this book: M. George Walters, Betty C. Pesek, George R. Holcombe, John P. Cock, and myself.

John L. Epps: writer, consultant, teacher; served with Joseph Mathews in research in Chicago and operations in Southeast Asia; foudning member of International Association of Facilitatiors and Malaysia Faciltator Network; Ph.D. in systematic theology from SMU; now based in Malaysia.





* The 2nd edition contains index, format, typo and omissions corrections.
 
General Editor, John L. Epps, Ph.D.

Copyright 2005
Cover Price: $19.95
Pages: 296
ISBN: 
0976389207