Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Suggested Entries for “Recovering Neglected Theologians” Series

I will be profiling some neglected theologians myself whose wisdom I believe the church needs to recover for guidance in our global, postmodern contect.  But this series is intended to be collaborative. I am trying to get as many guest posts as I can.  If you’d like to write an entry, you can email me @ mlw-w@insightbb.com .  The theologian you hope to recover is not necessarily an academic theologian teaching at a theological seminary or on faculty at a university.  Many of the greatest theologians of the Church have been pastors, bishops, missionaries, church planters, and/or theologically engaged lay people.  Even if the person you hope to recover is an academic, her or his title may say “biblical studies” or “Christian ethics” or “church history” rather than “systematic theology.”  I am using the term theologian broadly to refer to any Christian (there are also Jewish, Muslim, etc. theologians, but this series is about Christian theology) who attempts to think deeply and in a disciplined fashion and interpret the life and faith of Christianity for other disciples–for the Church universal.  Thus, a biblical scholar is a theologian if s/he offers more than historical or literary or sociological insights on the Scriptures, but exposits them as documents of faith: Thus, Phyllis Trible, Walter Brueggeman, Walter Wink, John Goldingay, Marcus Borg, N.T. Wright, and Renita Weems are clearly biblical theologians and not just biblical scholars.  So, also a church historian is a theologian if s/he is not merely an antiquarian scholar, but explores the history of Christian thought as a living conversation vital for the Church today. 

Here is my own idiosyncratic list of “neglected theologians” the church needs to recover. I would love for readers to send me profiles of any or all of them–but do not limit yourself to my list! Send me profiles of those neglected voices YOU have discovered and I will make you a guest blogger.  The list is intended to be suggestive only–not exhaustive.

  • Luís Rivera-Pagán of Puerto Rico
  • The late Letty Russell (1929-1977), pioneering American feminist theologian
  • St. Hildegaard of Bingen
  • Dame Julian of Norwich
  • St. John of Damascus (indeed, outside the Eastern Orthodox world almost ANY Orthodox theologian is completely unknown; today Protestants are more aware of Catholic theology and Catholics of Protestant theology than previously–but both are almost completely ignorant of Orthodox life and thought–and I include myself in this condemnation)
  • Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960) Japanese Presbyterian pacifist and social reformer (nominated once for the Nobel prize in literature and twice for the Nobel Peace Prize)
  • Takashi Yamada (Japanese Mennonite)
  • Mercy Amba Odoyuye (Methodist–feminist theologian from Ghana)
  • Lucretia Mott, abolitionist and 19th C. Hicksite Quaker
  • Elsa Tamez
  • Osadalor Imasogie
  • Jorge Pixley
  • Jacques Ellul
  • William Stringfellow
  • John Perkins
  • Muriel Lester
  • Paul Lehmann
  • Daniel Day Williams
  • P. T. Forsyth
  • Gerrard Winstanley
  • John Woolman (suggested by my church history teacher, E. Glenn Hinson)
  • Suzanne de Dietrich
  • Jan Hus
  • H. Wheeler Robinson
  • Athol Gill
  • Kazoh Kitamori
  • Howard Thurman (mini-revivals of Thurman’s thought seem to happen every so often among African-American intellectuals, but they are ignored by white Christians–as are most African-American theologians)
  • Georgia Harkness
  • Andre Trocme
  • Jean Lassere
  • Metropolitan John Zizioulas
  • Musa Dube of the University of Lesotho
  • Yong Ting Jin (Malaysia)
  • Pilgram Marpeck
  • Balthasar Hübmaier
  • Alexander Mack, Sr. & Jr.

Neglecting these and other voices, cutting ourselves off from the past, we are in danger of becoming what Elton Trueblood once called a “cut flower” generation–rootless and doomed to an early death.  Help the recovery of dangerous, subversive, memories and voices in conversation with voices today.


February 7, 2010 - Posted by | church history, history of theology, theologians


  1. I’m not sure Zizioulas is a neglected theologian. Loads of people engage with him – Colin Gunton, Miroslav Volf, Paul Collins, Paul McPartlan, Paul Cumin and Patricia Fox, are just a few of a long list …

    Comment by Andy Goodliff | February 7, 2010 | Reply

    • I knew that about Volf and Zizioulas. Hmm. Does interaction by other theologians, as opposed to pastors and seminarians, keep one from being neglected? I’ll have to think about that, Andy.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. How about Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210-c.1285), a beguine and medieval mystic, who wrote The Flowing Light of the Godhead? Her work was largely forgotten after the 15th century, but then recovered in the 19th century. She has some affinity to the writings of Meister Eckhart and her visions of purgatory and hell are thought to have influenced Dante. Just a thought…

    Comment by Emily McGowin | February 8, 2010 | Reply

    • If you’ll write up a profile, Emily, I’d be happy to post it with you as guest blogger.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 8, 2010 | Reply

  3. I think I can do that. We’re covering her in my theology seminar tomorrow, actually. I’ll try to have something to you later this week.

    Comment by Emily McGowin | February 8, 2010 | Reply

  4. Michael, if its about pastors neglecting certain theological voices … the list would get way too long!!!

    Comment by andygoodliff | February 11, 2010 | Reply

    • Fair enough! But I always want theology living in the churches (and in the churches’ living in the world), not confined to an academic ghetto. I’m a big fan of pastor-theologians!

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | February 11, 2010 | Reply

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