Above, author and Sojourners president Jim Wallis offers a tribute to Glen Stassen, Fuller's Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, on a "Morning Joe" broadcast that aired May 2, 2014. Below, Wallis also offers a written tribute. Dr. Stassen passed away on April 26.
What is the best meaning of the word “evangelical?” Perhaps this: a deep belief in Jesus, a consistent commitment to follow Jesus, and a love for Jesus – enough to try to apply His life and teachings to our everyday life. By that definition, Glen Stassen was an evangelical—the best kind. If more evangelicals were like Glen Stassen, the label would have a very different and enormously better image in our world today.
Glen Stassen died on April 26 due to aggressive cancer, and leaves a great deficit in the church’s integrity, our nation’s ability to think and act ethically, and the hearts of countless believers’ understanding of the gospel of the kingdom of God—and I count myself among them. Glen was a dear friend, a kindred spirit, a key ally, and beloved member of Sojourners Board of Directors.
Glen Stassen was a scholar whose book Kingdom Ethics was the constant theme of this remarkable professor’s life and work. Glen taught us the meaning of Jesus and the new order he brought into the world, and he showed us what it meant to live by the values of that kingdom without ethical equivocation, false dualism, or political compromise. No American theologian of his generation taught us more about Jesus and what it truly means to follow Christ. As a professor, Glen Stassen was more than just an academic. He was a formative influence to students around the world, many of whom are also professors today, and all of whom were mentored and not just taught by Glen Stassen.
Glen Stassen was an activist who also knew politics and how to influence the society. Like his father, Harold Stassen, a former governor and presidential candidate from Minnesota, Glen sought to bring ethics to public life. When I worked with Glen on the strategy committee of the national Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign, I saw not just an ethical theorist but a smart practitioner who knew how to mobilize movements and change public policy.
It was Glen Stassen who introduced the church and the nation to the powerful vision of just peacemaking, both going deeper than – and transcending – the old concepts of pacifism and just war. Just peacemaking guides us toward the faithful and effective actions that both prevent and end wars through the creative and critical practices of conflict resolution. More than any other voice on the political scene, Glen moved us beyond peace loving to peacemaking.
Beyond the shallow and privatized pietism of his era, Glen Stassen taught us “A Thicker Jesus,” the title of his latest book that teaches “incarnational discipleship” – what it means to follow Jesus into the kingdom of God and into the world. Glen kept calling us all to go deeper in our faith, and we will with his ideas, his passion, and his spirit. Glen Stassen has blessed his church, his nation, and his many students – now far and wide in God’s world.
Jim Wallis is a New YorkTimes bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, andinternational commentator on ethics and public life. Founder and presidentof Sojourners in Washington, DC, Wallis is also editor-in-chief of Sojournersmagazine.