Reading as one way of nurturing both the head and heart is an ongoing process. There are, however, rhythms and cycles of our work and life that create the opportunity to concentrate some of our reading. Below is my current reading list. I hope you will pursue it and find one or more of these volumes useful if you have not already read them. Finally, I commend these words to you from John Wesley: “Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is your life.” Enjoy! +Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
Bishop Palmer's Summer Reading List
Countercultural by Gil Rendle - After decades of anti-institutionalism, here is a book that is honest about the importance of congregations and our need for them in our lives. Despite our lack of trust in institutions, we cannot live without them and still hope to live together in communities, let alone a nation. For important reasons our neighborhood institutions of religion (congregations) hold hope not found in other places. Politics and the economy have proven themselves gridlocked and incapable of breaking the narratives of fear and scarcity that now divide us.
Decolonizing Christianity by Miguel A. De La Torre - Echoing James Cone's 1970 assertion that white Christianity is a satanic heresy, Miguel De La Torre argues that whiteness has desecrated the message of Jesus. In a scathing indictment, he describes how white American Christians have aligned themselves with the oppressors who subjugate the "least of these"--those who have been systemically marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status--and, in overwhelming numbers, elected and supported an antichrist as president who has brought the bigotry ingrained in American society out into the open.
King A Life by Jonathan Eig - Vividly written and exhaustively researched, Jonathan Eig’s King: A Life is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.?and the first to include recently declassified FBI files. In this revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world, the bestselling biographer gives us an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself. He casts fresh light on the King family’s origins as well as MLK’s complex relationships with his wife, father, and fellow activists. King reveals a minister wrestling with his own human frailties and dark moods, a citizen hunted by his own government, and a man determined to fight for justice even if it proved to be a fight to the death. As he follows MLK from the classroom to the pulpit to the streets of Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis, Eig dramatically re-creates the journey of a man who recast American race relations and became our only modern-day founding father?as well as the nation’s most mourned martyr.
Letters to Martin by Randall Maurice Jelks - Evoking Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," these meditations, written in the form of letters to King, speak specifically to the many public issues we presently confront in the United States—economic inequality, freedom of assembly, police brutality, ongoing social class conflicts, and geopolitics. Award-winning author Randal Maurice Jelks invites readers to reflect on US history by centering on questions of democracy that we must grapple with as a society.
Hearkening to the era when James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Richard Wright used their writing to address the internal and external conflicts that the United States faced, this book is a contemporary revival of the literary tradition of meditative social analysis.
Poverty by America by Matthew Desmond - In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.
The Good Samaritan by Emerson B. Powery - In this exposition, New Testament scholar Emerson Powery shows how this classic and beloved text can speak afresh to the life of the church today. Powery explains that in every generation, followers of Jesus need to be reminded that mercy is a natural consequence of faith. Jesus's parable of the good Samaritan emphasizes this point in a dramatic way by placing an "enemy" as the central hero of the story. Powery explores diverse interpretations of the good Samaritan, carefully investigates this parable within the theology of the Gospel of Luke, and connects the parable to contemporary events. The book encourages readers to think through the ethical implications of this story for their own contexts.
The Loneliness Epidemic by Susan Mettes - What makes people lonely? And how can Christian communities better minister to the lonely? In The Loneliness Epidemic, behavioral scientist and researcher Susan Mettes explores those questions and more.
Guided by current research from Barna Group, Mettes illustrates the profound physical, emotional, and social toll of loneliness in the United States. Surprisingly, her research shows that it is not the oldest Americans but the youngest adults who are loneliest and that social media can actually play a positive role in alleviating loneliness. Mettes highlights the role that belonging, friendship, closeness, and expectations play in preventing it. She also offers meaningful ways the church can minister to lonely people, going far beyond simplistic solutions--like helping them meet new people--to addressing their inner lives and the God who understands them.
With practical and highly applicable tips, this book is an invaluable tool for anyone--ministry leaders, parents, friends--trying to help someone who feels alone. Readers will emerge better able to deal with their own loneliness and to help alleviate the loneliness of others. Foreword by Barna Group president David Kinnaman.
The Patient Ferment by Alan Kreider - How and why did the early church grow in the first four hundred years despite disincentives, harassment, and occasional persecution? In this unique historical study, veteran scholar Alan Kreider delivers the fruit of a lifetime of study as he tells the amazing story of the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Challenging traditional understandings, Kreider contends the church grew because the virtue of patience was of central importance in the life and witness of the early Christians. They wrote about patience, not evangelism, and reflected on prayer, catechesis, and worship, yet the church grew--not by specific strategies but by patient ferment.
When the Church Woke by William B. Lawrence - The most divisive and damaging aspect of the church in America is the combination of racism and white supremacy that has been woven into the fabric of the church to the degree that one cannot discuss the church in America apart from this sin. Nowhere is this clearer than in American Methodism, including The United Methodist Church. That denomination, which has been divided for decades over issues regarding human sexuality and homosexuality, is a product of a long history of racism and white supremacy. While initiatives have been taken to address these matters, there has not been any effort to help the church focus on being anti-racist in its practices or public witness at every level, including local church levels. This is a book that identifies this sin and offers an innovative look at the mission of the church, based on biblical witnesses to new life with the resurrection. It offers proposals for reparations and renewal that will come when the church woke.
When the Stars Begin to Fall by Theodore R. Johnson - “Racism is an existential threat to America,” Theodore R. Johnson declares at the start of his profound and exhilarating book. It is a refutation of the American Promise enshrined in our Constitution that all men and women are inherently equal. And yet racism continues to corrode our society. If we cannot overcome it, Johnson argues, while the United States will remain as a geopolitical entity, the promise that made America unique on Earth will have died.When the Stars Begin to Fall makes a compelling, ambitious case for a pathway to the national solidarity necessary to mitigate racism. Weaving memories of his own and his family’s multi-generational experiences with racism, alongside strands of history, into his elegant narrative, Johnson posits that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced in Black America. Understanding that racism is a structural crime of the state, he argues that overcoming it requires us to recognize that a color-conscious society—not a color-blind one—is the true fulfillment of the American Promise.
You Need a Better Gospel by Klyne R. Snodgrass - Too often, the church hasn't done justice to its own gospel because it has neglected how much the New Testament message is about deep involvement in life with God. Senior New Testament scholar Klyne Snodgrass offers a corrective, explaining that the church will never be what it is supposed to be without a recovery of the gospel.
This brief, accessibly written, and timely book shows that the biblical message is about attachment to Christ, participation in his death and resurrection, and engagement in his purposes. Snodgrass demonstrates that understanding and appropriating the gospel of participation conforms with what the church's great thinkers have emphasized throughout history and enables the church to recover its true identity.
This book brings the notion of participation in the gospel to a wider church audience. While other studies on this topic focus mostly on Paul's writings, You Need a Better Gospel shows that participation is the emphasis of the entire Bible, including the Old Testament. The real gospel, which offers participation in life with God, is astounding in its beauty and its power for life.