By Tommy Airey, co-editor of RadicalDiscipleship.Net
The first half of a two-post interview with Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann.
Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann is a man who has reclaimed civil disobedience as a spiritual practice and a vital component of Christian ministry for the past four decades in Detroit. An ordained United Methodist minister, he only accepted part-time positions at churches in the city so that he could lavish time and energy into community organizing and direct action. Back in the early 80’s, while serving a short stint in federal prison for an action at the Pentagon, the pastor-parish committee at his church inquired if it would be counted as “vacation time.” His district supervisor countered, “Oh no. Bill’s doing ministry.” Continue reading
By Bill Wylie-Kellermann, last sermon as Pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit
When I was called to St Peter’s in 2006 it marked the close of an important part of my life and the beginning of another. On the last night of 2005, Jeanie Wylie crossed over to God, having lived 7 years, and gloriously, with an aggressive brain tumor. Though marked with grief, that was nonetheless an amazing time for me, for our family: in those seven years she was teaching us how to die, and so how to live.
New book by Bill Wylie-Kellermann. Where the Water Goes Around: Beloved Detroit is a biblical and political reading of Detroit over the course of three decades by an activist pastor.
Detroit is a place where one can take the temperature of the world. Think on the rise of Fordism and auto-love, the Arsenal of Democracy, the practice of the sit-down strike, or the invention of the expressway and suburban mall. Consider more recently the rebellion of 1967, the deindustrialization of a union town, the assault on democracy in this Black-majority city, the structural adjustments of municipal bankruptcy, and now a struggle for water as a human right. Continue reading
By Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Easter Vigil, April 16, 2017
– St. Peter’s Episcopal and Detroit Catholic Worker
Dan Berrigan, now of blessed memory, who crossed over to the ancestors and saints a year ago this month, has since been repeatedly quoted as saying, “If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.” Theology in a quip. He also said, though less famously, “It all started with the Resurrection…If only we would have stayed put!”
I love the particulars, the details of Matthew’s story of how Jesus refused to stay put – and more often than not, God is in the details. Let me mention a few unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Continue reading
Day 4 of our Lenten Journey with Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech
Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
“A Lent Beyond Despair” By Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann (photo above) of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit
As we begin the contemplative foray into Dr. King’s seven words on the war, it is well worth considering the overall structure of those reasons for resistance. The first three view the war through the lens of the reigning principalities of the U.S. domination system: materialism, white racism, and militarism: 1) that the war is an attack on the poor, dismantling programs of support in order to fund it, 2) that it is a racist war, sending young men in brutal solidarity to burn huts in Vietnamese villages, who wouldn’t be able to live next door in Detroit, and 3) that he couldn’t preach nonviolence to young people on the street without also opposing the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” He will subsequently name these the “giant triplets,” the ruling powers of domination. Continue reading
Excerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘We shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and God only shall you serve.'” And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘God will give angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hand they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” And when the devil had ended ever temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-13)
And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation,” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)
Trial for the Homrich 9. Activists blocked trucks from turning off Detroiters’ water.
By Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Saint Peter’s Episcopal Detroit, Epiphany 2, January 15, 2017
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Our readings for today echo those of last week. Again we have reference to John, to the baptism of Jesus, the dove alighting upon him, AND again beside it a Servant song from Isaiah.
There is a striking commonality of Second Isaiah and John: both have central figures whose identity is hard to pin down. In the gospel of John it is the “beloved disciple,” identified only by that name. Is this a cipher for John himself, for his beloved community? Is there an historical referent? Even another character in the story? Or is this a narrative figure with which we, as readers, may identify, a call to discipleship by another name? Continue reading