Featured Book

The Church Cracked Open

by Stephanie Spellers

 

(Complete Archive Below)

A Review by Dwight A Moody

 

Spellers is a native of Kentucky, an ordained minister, a woman of color, and a high official in The Episcopal Church of America. None of that might be relevant as you read through this book, with it fresh language, vibrant faith, wide learning, and infectious spirit; but it might, and all of it together could inspire in you this thought: “I’d like to meet this woman or at least hear her give voice to the good, gospel word that tumbles out of this marvelous testimony.”

 

I’m glad to say I’ve done the former and hope to do the latter. She came to Lexington, Kentucky, in the company of her boss, the presiding bishop of her church, Rev. Michael Curry (he who preached the most heard sermon in the history of the Christian movement, at the marriage of Harry and Meghan in 2018). A billion people won’t read this book, and that’s unfortunate; were that to happen it would trigger revival, renewal, reformation, and renaissance all at once—not just of the Christian community but of the whole human race. That’s because there is a wideness to the vision of Rev. Spellers and a winsomeness as well, full of hope and insight and practical direction.

 

Spellers wrote this book as a meditation of the tragic year of 2020—pandemic, economic disruption, social protests, and complete dislocation in every arena of life: education, employment, religion, even politics. It takes its prevailing image from the Jesus story recounted in all four gospels, of the woman who broke the alabaster jar in order to anoint Jesus just before his death. Spellers likes that image, shard scattered in all directions and aroma filling the space. “I want to sit at the feet of this sister and tell her about today, about decline, pandemic, reckonings, loss, and disruption. I want to confide in her: ‘So much has cracked open….We don’t know how to embrace the disruption, make the sacrifice, stop worshipping the beauty of the jar … so the healing substance inside can work its way into a world that so desperately needs it…. And we’re really terrified we might be the jar, broken open by God, for love of the world….’” (5).

 

That pretty much sums up the book and its message. We have been cracked open by God, and the last thing God wants is for us to spend out time putting back together those scattered pieces. God wants to free us for fresh gospel work in the new world all around us.

 

I liked this book from the very beginning and like it even more when I came to the close—and it didn’t take me long to get from one place to the other! I read it straight through, fascinated by her frank description of her own tradition, Anglican, and her own denomination, Episcopalian. They are one and the same, of course, and she knows its history well, as chaplain to the empire, as she states repeatedly: the one religious network who calling, for good and for ill, was to support the British Empire and minister to those working in that direction.

 

Which meant, of course, supporting colonizers and slavers. And this is where her chosen Christian tradition comes into conflict with her given human condition: a woman, a black woman, an American black woman living in the lingering context of all the violence perpetrated on native peoples in Africa and the Americas by the representatives of the kings and queens of Europe, all of them baptized Christians.

 

Spellers cracks open this history, finds much to hate but also some to love; and these she names one by one, gospel workers who stood against the empire and invested in the kingdom of God. She takes inspiration from them and offers it to us in a three-fold strategy for following Jesus in our cracked up world: lose your life (kenosis), gain your life (solidarity) and walk in love (discipleship). She even offers a seven-fold way to be a disciple of Jesus: turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest. Not a bad summary of the entire Bible!

 

Every Christian tradition, including my own Baptist, needs a version of this book, one that traces the specific sad trajectory of how we (in our own specific ways) have come short of the kingdom of God, yet one that finds hidden in our own history signs of hope for this year of despair, for this disrupted world, and yes, for the human community in all its cracked-up glory.

 

 

Thank you, Stephanie. Come back to Kentucky and preach us this good word!! (and I, for one, noticed the Oxford commas, completely proper for a daughter of the queen!)

 

 

 

 

(March 2021)

 

all rights reserved 2021

Book Review Archive

After Evangelicalism:
The Path to a New Christianity

by David P. Gushee

 

America’s Religious Wars:
The Embattled Heart of our Public Life
by Kathleen M. Sands

 

Ann the Word
The Story of Ann Lee, Female Messiah,
Mother of the Shakers,
the Woman Clothed with the Sun
By Richard Francis

 

The Asbury Hymnal

 

Barracoon
The Story of the 
Last “Black Cargo”
by Zora Heale Hurston

 

Becoming C. S. Lewis 
Harry Lee Poe

 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis 
by Patti Callahan

 

The Benedict Option:
A Strategy for Christians
in a Post-Christian Nation
by Rod Dreher

 

C. S. Lewis, A Life: 
Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet 
by Alister McGrath

 

Call Stories:
Hearing and Responding to God’s Call

edited by Barry Howard

 

Caste
The Origins of our Discontents 
by Isabel Wilkerson

 

The Church Cracked Open
Disruption, Decline, and
New Hope for Beloved Community
by Stephanie Spellers

 

Climate Church, Climate World 
by Jim Antal

 

Christ in Crisis:
Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus
by Jim Wallis

Disgraced
by Ayad Akhtar

Educated: A Memoir
by Tara Westover

 

The End of White Christian America
Robert P. Jones

 

Factfullness
Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World
and Why Things are Better Than You Think
by Hans Rosling

 

From Stressed to Centered 
A Practical Guide to A 
Healthier and Happier You
by Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra

 

God’s Hand on America:
Divine Providence in the Modern Era
by Michael Medved

 

The Great Spiritual Migration 
How the World’s Largest Religion
is Seeking a Better Way
to be Christian
by Brian D. McLaren

 

The Greatest Prayer
Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message
of THE LORD’S PRAYER 
by John Dominic Crossan

 

The Green Good News
Christ’s Path to Sustainable and Joyful Life
by T. Wilson Dickinson

 

Gullah Geechee Heritage in the Golden Isles
by Amy Lotson Roberts & Patrick J. Holladay

 

A Brief History of Christianity in Asia:
Beginnings, Endings, and Reflections
by R. LaMon Brown and Michael D. Crane

 

Is God Colour Blind?
by Anthony Reddie

 

The Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidd

 

Israel Matters:
Why Christians Must Think Differently
about the People and the Land
by Gerald R. McDermott

 

Jesus Loves Obamacare
by Barbara Young

 

Just Mercy: Story of
Justice and Redemption 

by Bryan Stevenson

 

The Last Leonardo
The Secret Lives of the World’s
Most Expensive Painting

by Ben Lewis

 

Let Us Dream
The Path to a Better Future
Pope Francis

 

Lift Up Thy Voice:
The Grimke Family’s Journey From 
Slaveholders to civil Rights Leaders
Mark Perry

 

The Narrative of the Life of
Frederick Douglas, an American Slave 

by Frederick Douglass

 

Paul: A Biography 
by N. T. Wright

 

Piety and Power: Mike Pence
and the Taking of the White House
Tom LoBianco

 

 That All Shall Be Saved: 
Heaven, Hell and Universal Salvation 
by David Hart Bentley

 

This Precarious Moment 
by James Garlow, David Barton

 

Raising Boys Who Respect Girls 
by Dave Willis

 

Resilient Faith:
How the Early Christian “Third Way”
Changed the World

by Gerald L. Sittser

 

Riding the Wind of God:
A Personal History of the 
Youth Revival Movement
by Bruce McIver

 

Robert E. Lee and Me
A Southerner’s Reckoning
with the Myth of the Lost Cause
By Ty Seidule

 

A Scandalous Providence:
The Jesus Story of the Compassion of God
by E. Frank Tupper

 

Songs of American: Patriotism, Protest,
and the Music that Made a Nation

by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

 

The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump 
edited by Ronald Sider

 

The 21: A Journey 
into the Land of the Coptic Martyrs
by Martin Moseback

 

Truth Over Fear:
Combating the Lies about Islam 

by Charles Kimball

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

The Universal Christ 
Richard Rohr

 

A Warning 
by Anonymous

 

 

Where Do We Go From Here?
edited by Kevin Slime

 

White Too Long:
The Legacy of White Supremacy 
in American Christianity
by Robert P. Jones

 

 

Who Lynched Willie Earle?
Preaching to Confront Racism
by Will Willimon

 

Witnessing Whiteness:
Confronting White Supremacy 
in the American Church
by Kristopher Norris

Books By
Dr. Dwight A. Moody

Here are four books written by Dr. Dwight A. Moody, provided here (or in the near future) in both text and audio format. All are in various stages of production for this web site. Feel free to provide comment on these books using the response form at the bottom of each page.

 


 

       

Free and Faithful: Christian Discipleship in the 21st Century

This was a series of sermons preached by Dr. Moody at Third Baptist Church of Owensboro, Kentucky. It is inspired by (and follows the format of) the influential book by Buddy Shurden, Four Fragile Freedoms.  The text here includes an epilogue written in 2018 that offers reflections on the book, 20 years after its publication. It is also the intent of Dr. Moody to provide an audio version of this book; to date, only the Preface and Introduction are available.

 


 

 

 

On the Other Side of Oddville: Stories of Religion and Everyday Life
For a number of years, Dr. Moody wrote and published in public newspapers around the country a weekly column on Religion and American Life (something he continues to do through this Meetinghouse initiative). This book collects 105 of these 700-word essays. You may purchase a sign copy of this book–$20 inclusive of shipping; simply request it through the Response Form at the bottom of each page of the website. (This text is in production.)

 


 

 

Its’s About Time: A Memoir of Ministry at Georgetown College
From 1997 to 2008, Dr. Moody served as dean of the chapel and professor of religion at Georgetown College in Kentucky. This is the narrative essay that forms the core of this book. Upon leaving the school to launch the Academy of Preachers, he produced this self-published book. The book also included sermons, prayers, letters, essays, and memos; it can be ordered through Amazon. (This text is in production.)

 


 

Nine Marks of a Good Sermon
During Dr. Moody’s tenure at Georgetown College, he taught a course in “Communication for Ministry” (and popularly called “Preaching). This material was developed during that ministry and continued during his years as founder and first president of the Academy of Preachers. It is published here without the illustrative sermons included in the book.