Gehrz, Chris

Chris Gehrz is a professor at Bethel University, St. Paul, Minn., and member of Salem Covenant Church in nearby New Brighton. Read his blog The Pietist Schoolman at pietistschoolman.com.

James R. G. Hawkinson (Fall/Winter 2011)

Having been blessed by the friendship of a man who was forty-five years old when I was born – closer in age to my grandparents than my parents – teaches me all I need to know about the importance of belonging to a multi-generational church.

Surprised by conversion’s image in the mirror (Spring/Summer 2012)

“Next to pride,” wrote the Covenant historian Karl Olsson in Seven Sins and Seven Virtues, “envy is traditionally considered the ‘worst’ sin, not because it is less loathsome than pride, which it is not, but because, unlike pride, envy does not pretend to godlikeness.

“That they be one as we are one” (Fall/Winter 2012)

As every year, our faculty at Bethel University ended its annual pre-semester retreat this August with a time of worship. Our campus pastor shared a brief meditation on one of my favorite passages in Scripture, John 17, which records Jesus’ prayer not long before his crucifixion. Every time I read it I’m struck again that Jesus spends so much of the prayer asking that those who follow him be unified — not just his disciples in that historic moment but “those who will believe in me through their message,” including you and me!

The broken body (Spring/Summer 2013)

Twice this past winter I went to the front of a church and felt a thumb gently inscribe the sign of the cross on my forehead. Twice I heard words of blessing murmured over me. Twice I returned to my pew with eyes moistening with tears.

The trained mind and burning heart of Virgil Olson (1916-2013) (Fall/Winter 2013)

It was near the end of my sixth year at Bethel University when I finally met Virgil Olson, the dean of Baptist General Conference historians. I was helping to coordinate our research conference on “The Pietist Impulse in Christianity,” and Virgil had been convinced to make the drive down from Cambridge, Minnesota for the Saturday morning sessions. He served as one of eight panelists in a roundtable discussion of Pietism in the histories of the BGC, the Evangelical Free Church, the Augustana Lutheran Church, and the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Thick darkness (Spring/Summer 2014)

In January 1945, a young girl named Dora Eiger joined the few other survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau in a death march forced by guards who were fleeing the advancing Red Army. Short on food, water, and warm clothing, she somehow survived— only to end up in Bergen-Belsen, where she spent several more weeks in captivity before being liberated by the British.

(Beyond) A Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education (Fall/Winter 2014)

Eight years ago I walked into a faculty development workshop at Bethel University, looking for pointers on how to write my application for tenure. I walked out of the workshop unable to shake a question that had nothing to do with my training as a historian of international relations:

One body, many parts (Fall/Winter 2015)

Along with thousands of people here at Bethel, two billion human beings now living around the world, billions more in the past, and all those yet to draw breath, you are the body of Christ. Just for a moment, think about that. Let your imagination linger over that phrase: “the body of Christ.”

Invitation to a stranger (Fall/Winter 2016)

My first conversation with G.W. Carlson took place two weeks shy of 14 years ago. I was in town for my brother’s wedding, and a cousin of mine insisted that I meet her favorite Bethel professor, so there I was.

Living as people of the resurrection (Fall/Winter 2017)

“You need an elevator speech.” So said a friend when I announced on Facebook the publication of our book on Pietism. What she meant is that we needed to come up with a pitch for The Pietist Option that would last about thirty seconds, the length of time we’d have to explain Pietism to someone sharing a typical elevator ride.

What’s at stake in the dying of the mainline church (Spring/Summer 2020)

Last year my family started attending Roseville Lutheran, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in our neighborhood. This is my wife’s religious tradition, not mine, yet I have found a lot to love in becoming familiar with this church. So this past winter it was dismaying to hear two of our pastors repeat a statistical projection from the ELCA’s own research office, explaining that while the denomination currently counts over 3 million members, it expects to be down to just 67,000 by 2050 — with fewer than 16,000 in church on an average Sunday as early as 2041.