Early in my seminary career I was fortunate enough to have Dr. T as my teacher of Christian social ethics. Oh, I learned so much from him. Sub-rosa morality, for one thing. He's African-American, and although I don't know this for sure, my impression was that he had a pretty low opinion of the administration of our seminary. Sub-rosa morality is about the morality of otherwise good folks who see themselves as liberal and progressive and on the right side of race and gender issues. Yet they refuse to ask themselves the really difficult questions about these issues--the questions that come up about themselves and their own institutions. It was through Dr. T that I learned that everyone is racist, to one degree or another. We can choose to not allow it to hurt others, but it's there, deep within just about all of us. Apparently the powers that be at our seminary had refused to ask themselves those painful questions, in Dr. T's opinion. Again, I don't know that for sure. It's just how it appeared, from a sermon that Dr. preached to the seminary and from the scuttlebutt in the student lounge downstairs. I always thought that Dr. T was probably correct, just from my vantagepoint high in the stands, and I was very sorry when he left the seminary.
He was a hard teacher. Most students thought he taught "above" them, and there were times I had to go home and look up some of the words he used, true enough. But I, for one, didn't mind that. Early in my seminary career, I had to do that in several classes--it was a whole new language, theology and theological ethics! I liked teachers who challenged me to think in new directions like that.
Dr. T. was in my church today. He and his wife are in my city for the General Assembly, and he came to hear our guest preacher. After worship he came downstairs for lunch, and he made a point to say hello to me. I was delighted, and I took the opportunity to tell him how important his class was to me, how MUCH I learned from him, and how much I used that learning later in my seminary and Ph.D. career, and in my life. Much to my surprise and my heart's delight, he teared up at my words.
He left a very warm place in my heart.