My dear friend Gerrie Lubbe has written his memoirs, entitled Embraced By Grace: The Story of a White Ant (Potlaka Books, 2014, ISBN 978-0-9814175-1-6). In them, he tells of his life as a white Afrikaaner in South Africa, who grew up dissatisfied with the injustice he saw inflicted on those of a different color. His courage came at a cost to him. You should read the book, and learn his story for yourself, so I won’t comment on it here, except to point to the wonderful work he did as the founding National Director of the South African Chapter of the World Conference on Religions and Peace from 1984 to 1994.
His ability, as a deeply Christian ordained minister, to work with and learn from leaders and ordinary people of other faiths to seek justice and pursue it, is inspirational. We first met at a World Council of Churches sub-unit on dialogue meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in the early 90’s. I am proud to know him and to be his friend. Those of us who have spent our lives seeking to live by and point to the good things of religion, rather than its depressing exclusivities and trivial certainties, can find solace, encouragement and hope in Gerrie’s book.
Another, even earlier influence on my developing religious life was that of my teacher, John Bowker. Over his long academic career, he’s had the extraordinary knack of anticipating some of the intellectual challenges to Christian and wider faith from the natural and social sciences, by framing a Christian defense in clear and irenical ways, seeking to promote respect and understanding, even where agreement isn’t possible. His two books about concepts of suffering and death in the world’s religions have haunted my imaginal worlds for decades, and have helped me in dark times.
John turns 80 this year, and I’ll be present at a celebratory lunch for him at the end of July in Magdalene College Cambridge, presided over by its Master, Rowan Williams, erstwhile Archbishop of Canterbury. A book has just been published in his honor: A Man of Many Parts: Essays in Honor of John Westerdale Bowker on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, edited by Eugene E Lemcio (Wipf & Stock, 2015, ISBN 978-1625640710). I am proud and glad to have contributed a chapter entitled A Pilgrimage of Grace: The Journey Motif in Luke-Acts. I shamelessly commend this book to you, and hope you will buy it in honor of a great scholar and, like Gerrie, a great Christian soul.