Professor Glen H. Stassen Leaves Legacy of Passionate Commitment to Social Justice and Peacemaking

Fuller Seminary Professor Glen H. Stassen passed away at his home in Pasadena Saturday, April 26.

Fuller Professor Glen H. Stassen smiles for a photo in alassroom

Dr. Stassen was a tireless advocate for social justice and peacemaking; participant in the 1963 March on Washington, DC for Jobs and Freedom; prolific writer and international speaker about topics related to ethics, peace, and discipleship; son of Harold Stassen, Governor of the State of Minnesota, and President of the University of Pennsylvania.  He was also highly honored and beloved by his many students during a university and seminary teaching career of more than a half-century. 

“Our expectation of the passing of Dr. Glen Stassen (who had battled cancer for several months) does not make the loss any easier,” said Fuller President Mark Labberton. “We are deeply saddened.  Yet as we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his life!”

“Dr. Stassen has left an indelible imprint on the field of ethics, on faculty and staff, and on the lives of his many students,” commented Dr. Labberton. “His energetic, passionate, intense, eager commitment to ‘just peacemaking,’ to thought and action, to faith and reason, to the individual and the community were constantly apparent.  Glen’s influence truly changes how people see and engage the world as followers of Jesus Christ.”

Since 1997, Dr. Stassen served at Fuller Seminary as the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics.  For 34 years prior to this, he taught at Duke University, Kentucky Southern College, Berea College, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Stassen graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in nuclear physics, and he studied theology, Christian ethics, and political philosophy during graduate work at Union Theological Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a PhD. 

While at Duke University, Stassen was a co-organizer of a Christian interracial association that worked with other civil rights groups.  He also coordinated two buses that traveled to the 1963 March on Washington, DC, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech.    

“There was a lot of anxiety about whether the march would come off nonviolently,” Dr. Stassen recalled in a recent interview with Religion News Service.      

“As we were arriving in Washington in our bus, (we saw the streets) just loaded with buses.  It was such a celebration. It was gonna happen! People would be there!”

“I was right in the front of the crowd, sitting there when Martin Luther King gave his address,” Stassen continued.  “It so much lifted our spirits.  We had been preparing for it, organizing for it, and wondering – Would it come off and would it be nonviolent? It was totally nonviolent. It was such a moving event!”

“During his years at Fuller,” commented Dr. Howard Loewen, dean of Fuller’s School of Theology, “Dr. Stassen powerfully shaped a generation of students, especially doctoral students, through his effective teaching, rigorous scholarship, transformative mentoring, and public witness.” 

Among his many writings, Stassen’s book called Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (coauthored with David Gushee) received Christianity Today’s Award for Best Book of 2004 in Theology or Ethics. Other books included Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for Ethics of Peace and War (coedited, 2008, 3rd ed.), Peace Action: Past, Present, and Future (coedited, 2007), Authentic Faith: Bonhoeffer’s Ethics in Context (edited, 2007), Living the Sermon on the Mount (2006), Authentic Transformation: A New Vision of Christ and Culture (1996, with D. M. Yeager and John Howard Yoder), Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace (1992), and he coedited John Howard Yoder’s War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking (Brazos Press, 2009). His most recent book was A Thicker Jesus: IncarnationalDiscipleship in a Secular Age (2012), which was named among the top ten recommended books of the year by The Christian Century.

Stassen img 2Dr. Stassen shared that his primary research and teaching focus areas – during his long career of teaching and advocacy – were theological ethics, incarnational discipleship, peacemaking, and social justice.  In the classroom, Dr. Stassen received Fuller’s “Faculty Award for Outstanding Community Service to Students,” as well as the Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching at Berea College and the Weyerhaeuser Award for Excellence in Teaching.

An American Baptist layman, Stassen was named Baptist of the Year by, and in 2013, was awarded the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award by the Baptist World Alliance. Stassen served in leadership positions within the Council of the Societies for the Study of Religion, National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, American Academy of Religion, and Society of Christian Ethics. He was a member of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and of the Strategy Committee of Peace Action, the largest grassroots U.S. peace organization.

Jim Wallis, founder and director of Sojourners in Washington, DC, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners Magazine, shared this about his close friend: “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.”

Reflecting on the core value that shaped his unwavering commitment to justice and peace, Dr. Stassen recently commented: “My faith is in Jesus Christ, who challenged the injustice of his times...(and took) constructive action to try to heal the causes of injustice.”

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A memorial service was held at the First Baptist Church at 75 N. Marengo Avenue in Pasadena on Saturday, May 3. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be given to either the Just Peacemaking Initiative at Fuller Theological Seminary or to the Special Needs Trust for David Stassen, 2030 Casa Grande Street, Pasadena, CA 91104. 

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