In memoriam: Gabe Fackre (Eerdword)

 The Chapel at Andover-Newton Theological Seminary where Dr. Fackre taught for over 30 years.

James Ernest is vice president and editor-in-chief at Eerdmans.

* * *

Perhaps many Eerdmans readers will have heard by now of the passing of Gabe Fackre. Just three months later than his beloved life partner and sometime coauthor, the Rev. Dorothy Fackre, the Rev. Dr. Gabriel Fackre died on January 31. The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ has posted an obituary, and the UCC’s website has a profile that traces his career.

Dr. Gabriel Fackre

Through the second half of the twentieth century Gabe was well known as an “ecumenical evangelical” (his term) pastor and theologian. Many knew him as a patient, energized teacher who in the classroom blended the fruit of his deep and wide reading in the great theologians with his own astute observations of dynamics between church and society in our own day. He didn’t just analyze and theorize; he discerned plotlines and told the story of the struggles of pastors, congregations, and theologians to find faithful paths through the social, political, and theological currents of our age. Nor was he a detached storyteller; he was definitely always a participant-observer. So while I got to know him as a teacher by reading Barth, Rahner, Dulles, and others with him in a graduate seminar on authority and revelation at Andover-Newton Seminary in the winter 1991 term, my wife, who was a pastor in the United Church of Christ, got to know him around the same time as a theologian who cared enough about the church to engage in sustained conversation with groups of pastors trying to remain faithful to the long sweep of the Christian story while responding attentively to current challenges. He was indeed both ecumenical and evangelical in his aims and achievements, and also very centrally—to use a word that I think I heard him use more than anyone before or since—ecclesial: he was very much a theologian and teacher of the church, for the church.

Here at Eerdmans we will remember him especially as—you knew this was coming, right?—an author! The photograph accompanying this post shows volumes hastily gathered from our archives. I have not caught every edition of every book, but the list runs as follows: Second Fronts in Metropolitan Mission (1968), The Rainbow Sign: Christian Futurity (1969), Do and Tell: Engagement Evangelism in the ’70s (1973), Word in Deed: Theological Themes in Evangelism (1975), The Christian Story: A Narrative Interpretation of Basic Christian Doctrine (1978), The Religious Right and Christian faith (1982)Christian Basics: A Primer for Pilgrims (by Dorothy and Gabriel Fackre, 1991), Ecumenical Faith in Evangelical Perspective (1993)The Christian Story (3rd ed., 1996–)The Doctrine of Revelation: A Narrative Interpretation (1997), Affirmations and Admonitions: Lutheran Decisions and Dialogue with Reformed, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches (edited by Gabriel Fackre and Michael Root, 1998), Judgment Day at the White House: A Critical Declaration Exploring Moral Issues and the Political Use and Abuse of Religion (1999), The Day After: A Retrospective on Religious Dissent in the Presidential Crisis (2000), Story Lines: Chapters on Thought, Word, and Deed for Gabriel Fackre (edited by Skye Fackre Gibson, 2002)Christology in Context (2006)The Church: Signs of the Spirit and Signs of the Times (2007)The Promise of Reinhold Niebuhr (3rd ed., 2011).

That remarkable list of titles shows his interest in basic Christian teaching, in ecumenicity, in the doctrine of revelation, and in Christian theological discernment regarding certain distinctively American problems that are still very much with us (such as politicized religion and the behavior of American presidents). May the divine Spirit that moved so effectively through Gabe’s life, works, and writings raise up worthy heirs to his mantle, and may Light Eternal shine on Gabe and Dot. We at Eerdmans join many others in many places in giving thanks for their life and witness.

[originally posted at]

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