The Rev. Dr. Christoph Keller, III, is an Episcopal priest and theologian who, through his ministry and life, has blended scholarly pursuits with innovative leadership. In early years, Dr. Keller was Student Body President of Little Rock Central High School. As president, Dr. Keller initiated organized soccer in central Arkansas. Following high school, Dr. Keller attended Amherst College. At Amherst, he was an American Studies major, with a focus on southern history, and an emphasis on ethnicity and race. His honors thesis titled, “Busing,” included a chapter on his experience at Central, when the era of true racial diversity in the Little Rock public schools began through court-ordered busing. Dr. Keller was awarded the top prize for an American Studies thesis.
Dr. Keller was a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University in a program called, “The History of American Civilization.” It was as a first-year student at Harvard that he began to discern a calling to become a priest. Acting on the call, Dr. Keller left Harvard and enrolled in the Episcopal Divinity School, located across Massachusetts Avenue from Harvard, where he earned a Masters of Divinity. In 1990, Dr. Keller and his family moved to Little Rock where, in 1991, he founded what became St. Margaret’s Church. From its first Sunday in a bargain movie theatre, Dr. Keller led St. Margaret’s through growth to more than 500 members, and the construction of the church campus on Chenal Parkway in west Little Rock.
In 1999, he moved with his family to New York to pursue advanced study in theology. Dr. Keller holds a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) in Anglican Studies, focusing on theology and science. His dissertation, “Darwin’s Science in Chalcedonian Imagination: Barth, Double Agency and Theistic Evolution,” explores and affirms compatibility between Christian faith and evolution. He is presently standing Dean and Rector of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Church in Little Rock.
Dr. Keller met his wife, Julie Honeycutt, in the seventh grade in the Trinity Cathedral Sunday School. They were married in the sanctuary of the Cathedral on April 15, 1978. Julie and Chris Keller have two grown children. Mary Olive and son Christoph.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:22.5] KC: Thank you Tim, like Tim said, I’m Kerry McCoy and like Tim said, it’s time for me to get up in your business. Before we start, I want to introduce the people at the table, we have Tim Bowen, our technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the buttons, say hello Tim.
[0:00:35.9] TB: Hello Tim.
[0:00:36.7] KM: And recording our show to make a podcast available next week is our technician Jessie. Thank you Jessie.
[0:00:41.6] Jessie: No problem.
[0:00:42.4] KM: Today, we have a gender, not neutral gender diverse group. There’s a lot more people in this room than people think. Don’t you think? There’s a lot more people in this room. This show, Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy began with entrepreneurs in mind. A platform for me, an entrepreneur and a guest to pay forward our experiential knowledge in a conversational way.
As with all new endeavors it has had some unexpected outcomes. The one I enjoy most is hearing my guest biography. How they all worked hard and maneuvered the path of leadership in pursuit of their destiny.
Another unexpected outcome was finding out that behind most successful people is the heart of a teacher. My guest today is no exception. Dr. Chris Keller. Theologian and Dane of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is the epitome of hard work and education. Through our conversation today, you lucky listeners will either learn something, want to get involved or I hope, be inspired to take action in your own life.
If you’re just tuning in for the first time, you may be asking yourself, what’s this lady’s story? Well, Tim is here to tell you.
[0:01:55.0] TB: Thank you Kerry, over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry McCoy founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, this business has grown and changed dramatically. From door to door sales to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales and now Flag and Banner relies heavily on the internet, including our newest feature, live chatting.
Each decade require to change in sales strategy and procedures. Her business and leadership knowledge grew with time and experience. As well as the confidence to branch out into multimedia marketing that began with our nonprofit dreamland ballroom as well as our in-house production, Brave Magazine and now this very radio show you’re listening to.
Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between her and our guest about real world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics we hope you’ll find interesting. Kerry says that many business rules like treat your employees well, know your profit margin and have a succession plan can be applied across most industries.
What I find encouraging about her is her example that hard work pays off. Did you know that for nine years, while starting flag and banner. She supplemented her income with many part time jobs and that just shows that her persistence, perseverance and patience prevailed. Today, Flag and Banner has 10 departments and I have 25 coworkers, it reminds us all that small businesses are the fuel of our country’s economic engine and that they empower people’s lives.
If you would like to ask Kerry a question or share your experience or story, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[0:03:34.2] KM: My guest today is the reverend Dr. Christoph Keller the third, an episcopal priest and theologian who through his ministry and life has blended scholarly pursuits with innovative leadership. Some of you 60 year olds may know Chris Keller as your student body president at Little Rock Central High School.
Where he’s claim to fame was initiating and organizing soccer in central Arkansas, thank you Chris, my youngest son loves soccer. Like many of us, Dr. Keller’s life has had many twists and turns, following high school, he attended Amherst College to major in American studies with the focus on southern history and an emphasis on ethnicity and race. His honors thesis titled, ‘Bussing’, included a chapter about his own experience at central high school and known for racial diversity in the little rock public schools that was ignited by court ordered bussing.
His paper awarded him the top prize for an American studies thesis. College graduate Chris Keller was now a candidate at Harvard University in the history of American civilization Phd program. All appeared on track for the young Chris Keller, but the calling to become a priest began to creep into his subconscious.
Acting on the call, he left Harvard and enrolled in the Episcopal Divinity School located just across Massachusetts avenue from Harvard where he would earn his masters of divinity. Upon returning to Little Rock, some of you got to know him in a rented movie theater space as the founding priest of a church that would later be called Saint Margaret’s Episcopal Church on Channel Parkway in little rock Arkansas.
Through his leadership, saint Margaret’s congregation grew to 500 people, they purchased land, built a sanctuary and my favorite, the inception and construction of the ecumenical house of prayer where people of all faiths may quietly join together in prayer and meditation.
The ever learning Dr. Keller was once again restless for more education. In 1999 he would leave Saint Margaret’s and move his family to New York, there he began his advanced study in theology.
Dr. Keller holds a Doctor of Theology, a PHD in Anglican Studies focusing on theology and science. His dissertation, all right, you all ready for this dissertation, this is a title, let me just tell you. “Darwin’s Science and Chalcedonian Imagination: Barth. Double Agency in Theistic Evolution.
This paper or dissertation explores a and affirms compatibility between Christian faith and evolution. I have listened to his talk on this, it’s fascinating. Today, Dr. Keller is acting dean of trinity episcopal cathedral in downtown little rock Arkansas and like EF Hutton, when he speaks, people listen.
Get your pen and paper ready for some pearls of wisdom, it is an honor to welcome to the table one of the smartest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, my friend and my priest, Dr. Chris Keller the third.
[0:06:41.9] CK: Kerry, how are you doing?
[0:06:46.8] KM: You are so smart and I am a high school graduate, would you be kind to me today?
[0:06:53.4] CK: I’m hoping you’ll be kind to me. I think that the disadvantage is on this side of the table.
[0:06:58.0] KM: I do have the gift of gab, I’ll have to say that. But you’re a great listener so here we go. You believe in Christianity and evolution. You believe in Christianity and gay marriage and your family, more specifically, your father, has a long history of standing up for desegregation in the south.
I want to talk about all of that. But first, one thing I did not mention in your bio that says a lot about you is your mother was a Murphy of Murphy Oil and that you have the wear for all to do anything in the world you would like to do and yet, you chose a career of service to others. Why?
[0:07:36.5] CK: Well, I was raised in faith by my mother and my father and given to understand that whatever it is we do in life, we do it as a steward of the gifts that God has given us. That could be a career as a history professor as I thought I would be or a farmer or somebody working in the oil industry or anywhere.
The question is, what talents do you have and what do you believe that God is calling you to do and takes everybody a while to sort that out and after I got it sorted out, I went to seminary.
[0:08:14.9] KM: Was it one thing that happened that made you say, this is what I got to do or did it just start creeping at you?
[0:08:20.3] CK: It started creeping on me. I was at graduate school at Harvard and I would ride the subway to Cambridge from Boston where we lived and I just began to have a feeling that I was being moved to become a priest which by then I was 23 or 4 years old and hadn’t had that feeling before, I didn’t think it was preposterous but unless I felt I was called to do it, I wasn’t going to volunteer.
It just began to dawn on me that I was called.
[0:08:55.7] KM: It was not one thing that happened one day like some people say, “I just had this one day, this one moment and I thought this is what I need to do and this is what I need to change.” This was just an evolution of thought that kept nagging at you, I guess you’d say?
[0:09:06.9] CK: It did, but it didn’t take that long, I would say that it occurred over a period of about three months. I went from, “I wonder if I’m called to do this,” to waking up one morning and saying, “I really believe I am called to do this.”
[0:09:18.1] KM: Boy, that’s a gift right there knowing what you want to do. Another thing I did not mention in your bio is that your father was the episcopal bishop of Arkansas during the time of desegregation that he went to Mississippi and all went to a church and an all-white church of Mississippi and did what?
[0:09:36.0] CK: Well, it was early in the 60’s and he was the Dean of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson and –
[0:09:43.8] KM: Not in little rock?
[0:09:45.4] CK: Well no, it’s in Jackson Mississippi and it was the Sunday after Medgar Evers was killed.
[0:09:53.5] KM: Who is that?
[0:09:55.2] CK: Medgar Evers was a great – he was the President of the Mississippi NAACP I believe at the time and was one of the great leaders ing the civil rights movement throughout the country at that time and he was assassinated, I think in his front yard, in Jackson and surrounding that event, groups of teams from the southern, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, was attempting to integrate churches in the way that freedom writers had integrated – kept dime stores were worse and bus rides and everything.
The teams are being turned away at other churches and they – at saint Andrew’s, the planners knew there weren’t going to turn them away.
[0:10:43.1] KM: The freedom writers were?
[0:10:46.3] CK: Well, they were African Americans and the group that came to Saint Andrews was four women and they came to the front door and they were welcomed in and stayed for church and when they walked out, one of them wrote later, she wrote a book about her life, Anne Moody, it was called Coming of Age in Mississippi and she says that the minister who was my father met her at the door and she’s in – he said, “Come again,” and she said, “He said it as if he meant it and I began to have a little hope.”
[0:11:19.7] KM: Isn’t that a great story? Didn’t he also make the front page of the newspaper before?
[0:11:22.6] CK: He was in that story with a photograph of him and the women was on the front page in the New York Times.
[0:11:29.3] KM: That is a strong image. How did your father end up becoming the bishop of Arkansas?
[0:11:36.3] CK: Well, the episcopal church, we have elections and –
[0:11:39.7] KM: Well, he went from Mississippi to Arkansas?
[0:11:42.3] CK: He was nominated to be the Bishop of Arkansas and there was an election and he was elected.
[0:11:47.7] KM: That’s why he moved?
[0:11:48.3] CK: Yeah.
[0:11:49.7] KM: How old were you?
[0:11:50.6] CK: I was just about the end of the seventh grade.
[0:11:53.2] KM: What a weird time to move.
[0:11:55.5] CK: It was.
[0:11:56.8] KM: Then you ended up becoming the president of your class at Central High School?
[0:12:02.4] CK: Well, my friend Carl Cross was the president of the class, I was the president of the student body.
[0:12:07.4] KM: What’s the difference? I didn’t know that.
[0:12:09.7] CK: Student body’s everybody, a class is a class.
[0:12:16.4] KM: Shows how much attention I was paying in high school, I didn’t realize that. See, I told you not to make me look stupid today and you didn’t even have to try. How did you decide soccer was the sport that you wanted to bring to central Arkansas?
[0:12:34.8] CK: Well, like most things that happened, it happened organically, there was actually a group of guys that I knew from Hall High School that were playing a pickup game kind of on a regular basis. I was with a group of people from central that summer that went on one of those six week see every country in Europe trips with a bunch of high school teachers which was the most sustained six weeks of fun in my entire life.
We started playing pickup games over there and when we got back and I was in a position as a student body president to make a few things happen and I wrote a letter to the president so the other schools challenging them to form a team and with us, to form a league and we did and started and that was the beginning of organized school soccer in Little Rock and central’s never stopped playing since.
[0:13:31.0] KM: The league you started is still the league they play in?
[0:13:34.7] CK: Since then, it’s been part of the sports association in Arkansas so it’s much more formal and official. Our uniforms were very raggedy when we played.
[0:13:45.1] KM: Boy, I mean, leadership is in your DNA. I think this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Dr. Chris Keller, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.
We’ll get Dr. Keller to give us his opinion on some hot topics facing Christians in the 21st century like gay marriage, science and religion and last, we’ll find out about balancing pastoral care with the business of running a church.
[0:14:12.2] TB: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you miss any part of this program, podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com. If you prefer to listen to iTunes, YouTube or Soundcloud, those links will be there as well, lots of listening options, we’ll be right back.
[0:15:07.6] KM: I love that song, I say that every time. I wish everybody could see us in here rocking the house with that song, I don’t know, I just like it. Anyway, you’re listening to Up In Your Business with me Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Dr. Chris Keller. Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Little Rock Arkansas.
It’s fixing to get heated up in here. Let’s start with gays in the church. I have many Christian friends who have a hard time aligning gay marriage with their faith and scripture. I’ve heard you say you did too when you were young.
[0:15:41.4] CK: Well, I think that if you’re 63 years old, as I am, then you grew up with more or less the assumption that gay life was contrary to Christian faith and for the intentions that God has for our life and it’s taken a pretty big shake up in the way that people think about the world and understand things for that change to have occurred in the church and in our society.
For as long as I have been a priest, it’s been an issue that’s been discussed and on the table for conversation and potential change in the Episcopal Church and when we started, I would describe myself as initially as an open minded conservative on the issue and then I became, after a sabbatical, I took to study it in more depth, because I was going to a national convention in the Episcopal Church where I was going to be on a committee and in a position to influence policy about it, I took three months to try to understand the science of it better, to understand the philosophy and the theology of it better and to wrestle with it, the question of scripture and tradition in relation to a possible change.
I emerged from that with say, I moved from cautious, I mean, from open minded conservative to cautious liberal. Why is it that we could even consider a change like that? That’s a complex question of the interpretation of scripture but in general, I would say, one of the things that I believe was taught in my tradition about the bible is that when we read the bible, we don’t find there that God has intended that every question be settled in advance for all time on matters of how human beings live in relation to each other.
We see within the bible, we see that the kind of human circumstances change, that social arrangements change and policies change within the people of God and we see that in the Book of Acts for example, a profound change was around the question of whether Christians would be constrained to live the same life with the same restrictions that the people of God in Israel had.
There was actually a church council in the 15th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles where the leaders of the church got together and made a policy which was a new policy on that question which tells me that God actually wants human beings, faithful human beings to consider questions, to deliberate about them and that God has given us the authority to faithfully, with fear and trembling, to decide on things like that to the best of our ability.
I’ve always believed that the question about homosexuality and the church was that sort of question. Then it becomes a question of what’s good policy, what’s right, what’s fair, what’s going to do the most for human flourishing which is what ultimately what God wants from us and I eventually got – it came down to me for the question after kind of sorting through it all which was that I should love my neighbor as myself, including my gay neighbor and what do I want for myself, I want faithfulness and love and marriage and I want my gay neighbor to have that too. I say now I’m not realy even a cautious liberal about that. I’m really happy about it.
[0:19:43.8] KM: You performed some gay marriages?
[0:19:45.9] CK: I have, yeah.
[0:19:47.1] KM: One recently.
[0:19:48.6] CK: Yeah.
[0:19:49.3] KM: What was your favorite part you said in the – actually, I arrived late for that wedding, I’m sorry to say.
[0:19:56.4] CK: That’s not the only time I’ve seen you arrive late.
[0:19:59.3] KM: That’s right. Tell me your favorite part that you wrote?
[0:20:11.2] CK: Well, let’s see if I’ll have to remember my own sermon.
[0:20:16.5] KM: I’m really putting you on the spot.
[0:20:18.9] CK: I think my favorite line that I wrote in that sermon had to do with the fact that Melissa, two people that got married are Amber Carswell, who is a priest in our church and Melissa Wilkinson. When Amber and Melissa met, Melissa, is a professor of art at Arkansas state, wasn’t involved in the church at all, Melissa had been interviewed somewhere else and she’d said. Relations are not on my radar. I said, “Little did she know that it was coming at her like a stealth torpedo from a submarine.”
[0:20:48.9] KM: Yeah, there you go. That was a good one. There’s lots of loves in the bible, I think there’s agape love.
[0:20:58.9] CK: CS Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves.
[0:21:02.0] KM: The Four Loves.
[0:21:03.9] CK: There are four Greek words for love, agape which is, I pronounce it agape.
[0:21:10.1] KM: Because you’re smart.
[0:21:10.9] CK: Well, I don’t know, it’s just the way I pronounce it.
[0:21:12.8] KM: It’s the right way.
[0:21:13.7] CK: I don’t know.
[0:21:14.7] KM: Go ahead.
[0:21:15.5] CK: I could be wrong.
[0:21:15.8] KM: No you’re not.
[0:21:19.4] CK: That’s the love of God for us, that’s unconditional love. Love divine or love’s acceding. There’s ‘eros’ which is romantic love, that’s the love that kind of pushes us around the room and makes us want to marry someone or love them. There’s filio which is friendship and storge which is the love kind of within a family, it’s the love that nest is a house and the little give and take.
[0:21:44.4] KM: What’s that one called?
[0:21:45.4] CK: Storge.
[0:21:46.4] KM: I’ve never heard of that one.
[0:21:48.3] CK: In English language it would be s-t-o-r-g-e.
[0:21:53.9] KM: Wow. In human flourishing, you’ve come to decide that your neighbor, your gay neighbor should have all of those? And without being married, they would not have storge?
[0:22:10.5] CK: I think that those loves exist outside of the institution of marriage. Right, all of them do. I don’t think that marriage is a requisite condition for those kinds of things but the kind of commitment that marriage represents, one of the other things I said in that sermon is, “That the good – a happy marriage consist of kept promises and answered prayers.”
What happens in a marriage service is that people make promises for unconditional love, for Agape and we pray to god in the same service that god will work in us and through us to help us answer those prayer. Happy marriage is kept promises and answered prayers.
That is a unique relationship, I mean, it’s unconditional, it’s all in and there are things that can happen in that relationship that can’t happen outside of it because I think that if you’ve got that kind of relationship, that really by definition is a marriage.
I think that the expansion of that understanding within the church, sacramentally is a sign of what God’s love is like for us, is an advance in the church.
[0:23:38.9] KM: There’s something – you could live with somebody but once you get married to the there is some sort of shift in consciousness or unconsciousness that I don’t understand or know why it is but the day after you get married, it just feels different.
[0:23:54.5] CK: It just is different. I mean, promises are real and marriage is a real bond and we know what the kinds of natural bonds that occur in families and marriage is a bond that’s strong.
[0:24:11.7] KM: Not to mention that now that gay marriage is recognized legally, can’t – this may be a question you don’t – an answer you don’t have but can’t now – they’re eligible for their partner’s social security when the other one passes away and they don’t have to – they automatically get the house.
Just natural citizenship rights now that they’re married which is something nobody really thinks about or talks about a lot to me is with you’re not married legally to somebody, you don’t get – you don’t get their social security, you don’t get their – if they were partners, you didn’t get any of their social security when one of them passed away, even if they were the breadwinner in the family?
You have to buy your home from them, you know, all these citizen rights that we have for being in a marriage, didn’t happen for gay partners.
[0:25:01.2] CK: I think that was a large part of the impetus for why the laws were changed and why the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was constitutional.
[0:25:09.4] KM: And tax benefits.
[0:25:10.5] CK: Yeah, sure. If somebody’s sick in the hospital, whether you have the right to see them and to hear what the doctors have to say about their condition and to make decisions.
[0:25:23.1] KM: There was a lot of legal, outside of the church, there were a lot of legal reasons that also make it like you said, makes those humans flourish which is really what I think probably the biggest message that Jesus is saying, what do you think Jesus biggest message is? That’s a big question.
[0:25:39.6] CK: What’s Jesus’ biggest message?
[0:25:41.8] KM: I know the answer to this, I’m sure you do.
[0:25:46.9] CK: One word answer to what Jesus’s biggest message is. The way I normally think of is what’s God’s message to us in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and I think that it’s, well I might quote Amber who has unfortunately gone to Memphis to take a job over there but when she preached her last sermon on Sunday and God’s message to the world is, “This is who I am, look at Jesus, this is who I am,” God says, “And you are my beloved,” to all of humanity that God – there was a wonderful line in the novel, Gilead by Marilyn Robinson where there was an old preacher who has a very young son and he says to the young son –
He is writing a little memoir for his son to read later and he says, “You’re going to think that you have to in some way or another earn my approval and your mother’s and my love for you. What you can’t understand is that your existence is a delight to me.” And I had to say that that is God’s message to humanity, in Jesus Christ. I mean it comes with a lot of other things like life after death, with a moral responsibility, a requirement to love our neighbors as ourselves.
There’s a lot to do that comes with it but it’s not just about something to do to, it’s message about who we are in God’s eyes.
[0:27:23.9] KM: And that He loves us unconditionally.
[0:27:25.2] CK: Yeah.
[0:27:25.6] KM: What a nice thing to think about. All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back we’ll continue our conversation with Dr. Chris Keller, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. We’ll get Dr. Keller’s view on the compatibility between Christian faith and evolution and if you were with me or remember the intro, his Doctor of Theology dissertation was entitled, Darwin’s Science in Chalcedonian Imagination: Barth - Double Agency in Theistic Evolution. Dr. Keller is a true scholar on the subject, you won’t want to miss it.
[0:28:00.6] TB: You are listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you miss any part of this show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s webpage. If you prefer to listen on YouTube, iTunes or Soundcloud, links will be there as well. We’ll be right back.
[0:28:36.8] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I am speaking today with Dr. Chris Keller, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. Look, we’ve already got a phone call. All right, you’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy and Dr. Chris Keller. You’ve got a question for my guest?
[0:28:52.4] CALLER: I do. I am a member of the Methodist Church and the Methodist Church is going through a consul square and the church as a whole over the homosexual issue and gay marriage and gay courage and all of that and I am not a theologian although I can say that word, sorry but I’ve been told into others who are more alert on denying on this that there is a scripture in Romans that pretty much says that homosexuality is incompatible to God’s word. I’d be interested to hear the good doctor’s view on that.
[0:29:33.0] KM: Great question, thanks for calling.
[0:29:34.7] CK: There aren’t that many places in the Bible that speak all that closely to the question of homosexuality but there are a few and St. Paul does in a couple of places including in the first chapter of Romans and the things that he has to say about it are negative, not positive. So for those who are considering moving from open minded-conservative to cautious liberal or enthusiastic liberal then Paul is somebody to be reckoned with.
There are two possible ways that one might move past what Paul has to say towards affirmation and one is that the question of context. So what Paul is talking about in the first chapter of Romans is that this is his entrance, it’s an introduction to his masterpiece of theology and the pastoral theology and kind of absolute theology in Romans and he’s saying that the introduction is that the world has gotten more and more estranged from God.
And the problem is chasing after false gods instead of the true God and he sights this as kind of an illustration of how kind of outer kilter things have gotten is that I think he’s talking about women for his example have become attracted to each other instead of men. So the question is, who is Paul thinking of when he’s thinking about that? The question of context would say. Does he have in mind the kind of faithful relationship that we just celebrated at Trinity Cathedral the other day with our marriage?
Or does he have in mind kind of a more promiscuous relationship that doesn’t have the qualities of faithfulness and love that we celebrate in marriage? And I think there is a pretty good argument to be made that the kinds of homosexuality that Paul was familiar with are not the kind of faithful love that we’re celebrating and upholding in the church and I think that there’s a good case to be made about that. It’s not an airtight case.
I mean it’s possible for me to believe that if you put the question directly to Paul back in the first century, “What do you think about gay marriage?” He might have said, “Well I am against it.” that’s possible that he would say that. I don’t know that. So the other question about Paul is what St. Paul says, who is one of the most important witnesses to the gospel that we have, is his word final and definitive on every question and so is Paul infallible for all times on every question that he speaks to?
And he speaks to a lot of questions, some of them big, some of them small like he says things that the women should be silent in church and I was trained in Christian theology by Carl Bart above all others. Kerry has mentioned him, he is in my dissertation and Bart believe that God’s word comes to us through the Bible through human beings that are fallible. I mean they are fully human which means that they are fallible they are not perfect. They don’t know everything.
And so it’s possible for us to not believe faithfully that we might disagree with St. Paul on some questions like whether women should be silent in church and I think it’s the least theoretically possible for us to take a different opinion than he did on the question of gay marriage. So I approach it that way, I think that if Paul were alive today he would say and think differently about it than he did then because we know things now that we didn’t know then and we all are creatures of our historical context in the Biblical writers were too.
[0:33:59.8] KM: Well that was a good answer and I’m so glad the caller called and asked that question because it is scripture and you talked about how you can come to terms with scripture and still be faithful in your faith and love your gay neighbor like you said. All right, let’s talk about, you’re a doctor of theology which is a THD, I didn’t realized that and your dissertation. I just like saying this because I can say this, Darwin Science in Chalcedonian Imagination: Barth Double Agency in Theistic Evolution.
“This explores and confirms the compatibility between Christian faith and evolution.” What a difficult subject, what made you decide to take this subject on and why do you think everybody needs to hear your opinion really? And why do you think it was so worth saying? I mean why would you want to take it on and write it down?
[0:34:56.8] CK: Well when I went to graduate school to get a doctorate, I did not have in mind that I was going to be focusing on theology and science. That was a little bit of an accident. It just so happened that the theologian that I went was a specialist in that. So I got interested enough to begin to look into it and then when it came time to write a dissertation, I thought I am going to be spending the next five years of my life studying a problem and I want it to be a problem that’s not just interesting to me. Or to a few other scholars, that’s actually something that is important to the church and world and so this was around the time of the controversy about intelligent design theory and whether that could be taught in schools or should be taught in schools under the constitution. In the Episcopal Church I was never raised to believe that there was an inherent conflict between faith in Christ and evolution. Our tradition has always been that theology and science are compatible in that way.
But I didn’t feel like that much has been done to explain that and develop it and really justify that belief is needed to be done and so I thought, “Well okay, there’s something for me to spend some time on for five years”.
[0:36:15.7] KM: So let’s hear what you came up with.
[0:36:17.4] CK: Well –
[0:36:18.5] KM: How did they go together?
[0:36:19.8] CK: The apparent contradiction, to start with the problem, would be that the book of Genesis describes an instantaneous creation of human beings and the creation of the world in six days and so evolution describes – well it assumes that the world is hundreds of millions of years old. We now know it’s even older than that. The universe is about 14 billion years old and it describes that human beings, rather than being created in a stroke, in a miraculous instant along with all other life forms from simpler life forms through a process that Darwin described as natural selection.
And so, you have a question of time and there’s some other problems and there’s a fair amount of roughness and randomness in the evolutionary process. So the reason why those two things are compatible is that, I will start with the Biblical question. St. Augustine long before Darwin in the 4th Century did a study of Genesis that led him to suspect that perhaps the best interpretation of the book of Genesis was not a literal one.
For example, he noticed that in the unfolding of the days of creation that the sun and the stars are created on the 4th day. Well St. Augustine knew that a day consists of a revolution of the earth in relation to the sun and so a day did not literary exist until day four but that is an apparent contradiction and he knew that the Biblical writers knew that too. And that led him to suggest that perhaps an alternative explanation, a better interpretation of Genesis might be that this is a poetry that is describing something else that’s truthful and important about God and relation to the world and God’s purposes and creating the world and the orderliness and goodness of the world.
By the way, Augustine also believed, he noticed that even as big as Noah’s Ark was it was not big enough to hold two of everything that we see in the world and so he suggested, we don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that God created the principles and the potentiality of creatures.
And that they unfold it over time with the assistance of God’s creature, time. So Christians said for a long time entertain possibilities other than a little interpretation of Genesis. So then the question is, the people that suspect that there is a lot of compatibility between Christianity and science are not only Biblical literalists on the Christian side. There are pretty aggressive scientists on the evolutionary side that have said, “Yeah the concern of the Christians are right, they’re not compatible and that therefore since Darwin is right, Christianity is wrong.”
I mean that’s Richard Dawkins sells a lot of books saying that. The reason that’s not the case is that St. Thomas Aquinas and other great theologians have understood that God is not a thing in the world that makes other things happen in the way that other things in the world make things happen. So God is the creator of the world and the kind of creation that God does in the world is by analogy like the creation that an author like J.K. Rowling does in creation of the world of Harry Potter.
So if you read the Harry Potter series, you don’t ever see any point within the book where you would say, “Well that was J.K. Rowling that did that not Ron Weasley.” J.K. Rowling is in the whole of it. There’s nothing that happens in a Harry Potter book that doesn’t happen because J.K. Rowling makes it happen. In a sense, while within the covers of the book things happen with their own integrity. Well Aquinas knew that that’s what we mean when we say that God is the creator of the world.
That things can happen on their own with full explanations by science and yet God is intimate to the things as they happen and that they wouldn’t happen without God and ultimately, they only happen because God either wants them to or permits them to and so that’s what Calzedonian imagination understands that the creative process has its own integrity while also being a vehicle and an instrument for God’s will.
[0:41:36.7] KM: I hope people have their pen and paper for that because I listen to him talk and I think, “Oh I can say that again,” and I can never say it again. I try to explain it to people. So you are saying that God is the umbrella of the world and all of science can happen under God’s umbrella?
[0:41:54.9] CK: That’s not my metaphor, it’s your’s and I think it’s a great one.
[0:42:00.1] KM: Well there you go. What is it about being a priest that you find rewarding?
[0:42:06.5] CK: What I tell people that are thinking that they might be called to be a priest is that you need to understand that number one, it is immensely fulfilling. You get to do things in people’s life that you have a privilege of access to people in their life at certain moments that no one else has. It’s immensely fulfilling. It is never boring and it is a lot harder than it looks. But it’s the first part that is what makes me glad that I do it.
[0:42:45.8] KM: So that leads into the balancing of the church as a business, the pastoring to your congregation, the outreach program, the preparing your sermons, I mean most people come to church for the services but that’s only a part of what you do.
[0:43:02.9] CK: It roughly divides out into thirds for me and I think generally this is true that a third of my life, my time in ministry is spent in the creative process preaching the gospel, preparing sermons, teaching the faith, preparing classes, that’s a third. A third of it is in pastoral ministry, you know visiting sick folks, going to see people when they are about to die, preparing funerals. I had a funeral yesterday and I’ve got one tomorrow. So that is not a typical week but there’s a lot of pastoral work, one on one and with groups. And then about a third of it is running an organization and Trinity, it’s a pretty complex organization. It is a big job just pulling the levers and paying the bills and all of that.
[0:43:55.8] KM: I mean there’s hiring and firing.
[0:43:57.5] CK: Yeah.
[0:43:58.7] KM: There’s training. Just like every business and then you find this time to do like you said all of that other stuff. Which one do you like the best? I guess I already know that, you already answered that didn’t you?
[0:44:11.7] CK: Well yeah, I like the creative part and I like the pastoral part.
[0:44:19.6] KM: People don’t think business is creative but it is very creative.
[0:44:22.5] CK: Well no, absolutely it is. To quote my father, he used to tell young priests who would say, “Well I don’t do administration,” and he’d say, “Well, administration is not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit but it’s the delivery system for the gifts and so you’d better pay attention to it.”
[0:44:39.0] KM: You know you hate to think about it but a church has to make money or it can’t stay in business.
[0:44:45.2] CK: Well it doesn’t have to make it but they can’t lose it.
[0:44:47.9] KM: It can’t lose it, there you go. So what’s it all about? What is it all about? If you had one thing you’d like to tell our listeners, that’s a big question, what would it be?
[0:44:57.8] CK: Well, I’m working on a sermon for a funeral tomorrow so this is a little bit fresh on my mind. You know we go through life and there’s so much to do, there’s a lot to enjoy, we prosper, struggle and so forth and so on and we’re in what Flannery O’Conner called “The Habit of Being.” Which one of the things it means is that we just take it all for granted as though it weren’t an extraordinary fact that we exist. And not only do we exists, we exists as creatures that can think and can choose. We get to decide whether we’re going to go through that door or the other one and we get to determine who we are.
And we shouldn’t take that for granted and we shouldn’t let ourselves be conned into thinking that we are not important and that we’re not immensely valuable. We are that, I mean the value on this life is that each and every person, no matter how ordinary they think they are, is a remarkable thing in the universe.
The scientist will say that as far as we know, the human brain is the most complex and wonderful piece of equipment in the entire universe and that standard issue stuff for being a human being. We know that without religion and the gospel puts it even at a higher value on that and says that this combination of qualities that we have, this ability to think and to feel and to love means that we are made in the image of God.
We are no less than that and being alive and in the world is a remarkable and wonderful thing. It comes with great responsibility and at the end of the day, the news about it is all good.
[0:47:12.4] KM: How much free will do we have?
[0:47:14.4] CK: It depends on the day. We can give up some of our free will and addiction is a way that a lot of times we can lose the free will that we’ve been given. It is certainly not unlimited free will. In any circumstance, we only have a few choices that are we have the capacity to make but any, an ounce of free will, can move the world.
[0:47:40.9] KM: So Trinity Cathedral services are on Sundays, 7:00, 9:00 and 11:15?
[0:47:47.5] CK: It’s at 7:30, 9:00 and 11:15 and then a beautiful Cora Leven song at 4:00.
[0:47:53.9] KM: Oh that’s your favorite isn’t it?
[0:47:55.2] CK: Well –
[0:47:56.6] KM: You can’t say but I know you love that one.
[0:47:58.9] CK: I do love it.
[0:47:59.7] KM: And then your sermons which I think you need to tell your staff are a little hard to find but you can read your sermons which are like taking a class. If anybody wants to dig more into your opinions about religion in the 21st Century, you’ve got sermons galore on the website. It’s under ‘worship’, so you go to trinitylittlerock.org, you can go to flagandbanner.com too and I’ve got a link there and then his sermons are written out for you to read under ‘worship services’.
And then you can scroll through the services and you can find the ones that Chris Keller preached on and they’re good.
[0:48:41.9] CK: Also our other excellent staff members.
[0:48:44.7] KM: Well you’re right but Amber is leaving. I’ll go read hers because I missed her the other day but you do have a lot to say and people do love to hear what you have to say. It’s well written. I have a gift for you.
[0:48:56.8] CK: Oh flags!
[0:49:00.6] KM: Imagine that, it’s a desk set, US, Arkansas and the Episcopal Church. Do you have a small Episcopal Church flag?
[0:49:08.2] CK: I don’t. I don’t have a small Arkansas or American flag either.
[0:49:12.1] KM: You’re going to love that.
[0:49:13.3] CK: I love it already.
[0:49:15.5] KM: There you go. If you could ask yourself a question, let me see how I phrase this exactly because we have just a few seconds left and this is always a great one. If you could tell yourself of 20 years ago something, what would it be? That’s a hard one ain’t it?
[0:49:38.6] CK: Well I will tell you the thing that occurred to me. The Razorback Football is in for a rough ride.
[0:49:48.5] KM: You don’t think he’s funny but he’s funny. All right Tim, let’s see we’ve already talked about who we got next week. So I want to tell our listeners that if they’ve a great entrepreneurial story that they would like to share, I would love to hear from them. Just send a brief bio and their contact info to -
[0:50:07.3] TB: email@example.com.
[0:50:09.6] KM: And someone will be in touch. Thank you for spending time with me and if you think this program has been about you, you are right but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:50:43.4] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you’d like to hear this program again next week, go to flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labelled ‘Radio Show’, and there you’ll find a podcast with links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.