‘Dear Friends’

Letters of St. Paul to Christians in America

"Dear Friends: The Letters of St. Paul to Christians in America." Christopher L. Webber. New York: Yucca Publishing, 2014. 160 pp.

“Dear Friends: The Letters of St. Paul to Christians in America.” Christopher L. Webber. New York: Yucca Publishing, 2014. 160 pp.

Christopher L. Webber’s “Dear Friends: The Letters of St. Paul to Christians in America” (Yucca, 2014) is not simply a new translation of Paul’s letters, but rather a completely new set of letters addressed to various cities and states in America. Instead of writing to Rome, for example, Paul now writes to Washington, D.C., the new world capitol, and instead of writing to Corinth, that center of cultural change, Paul writes to Californians. The new letters do follow the pattern of Paul’s letters but deal with modern issues instead of those Paul dealt with.

Webber, an Episcopal priest who has served in urban, suburban, overseas and rural churches, concedes that, although no one knows exactly which New Testament epistles Paul actually wrote himself, it is generally agreed that some, at least, were written in his name by followers who thought they were speaking as Paul would have spoken. In that same way, these letters are written to bring Paul’s point of view to bear on contemporary issues. Instead of writing about Jewish-Christian relationships, for example, Paul writes about relationships between Christians and Muslims. Same-sex marriage, climate change, the death penalty, immigration, and wealth and poverty are among the issues addressed in these letters.

As Paul wrote passionately about divisions among Christians in his first letter to Corinth, so Paul addresses that same issue in his letter to California. St. Paul wrote passionately about the Resurrection in his letter to the Romans, so he writes eloquently about it to Washington. The difference is that these new letters are couched in very contemporary English and with an eye to the particular way these issues confront Christians today.

The basic issue in all Bible study is “What does this say to us?” “Dear Friends” is an attempt to answer that question in clear and challenging terms.

“Dear Friends” can be ordered here.

“The idea is inspired. … Both imaginative and faithful. … This is a book that warrants careful study and discussion. It is undoubtedly a brilliant book.” — The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president, Virginia Theological Seminary

“Chris Webber is one of the most incisive – and faithful – voices among contemporary Christian clergy-authors. [A] devoted and bold effort to apply Paul’s thought about the world as he knew it, to the world we live in now.” — The Rev. Edward F. Duffy, Presbyterian pastor and Hartford Seminary professor

“Compellingly captures Paul’s voice and expression in this series of new letters on contemporary themes.” — The Rev. Dr. Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook, dean of Faculty, Claremont School of Theology

“What a relief to engage women in the study of Paul without having to excuse him or explain away his apparent sexism. Webber knows Paul’s heart and mind well enough to honor his wisdom and discard his prejudices.” — The Rev. Denis O’Pray, rector, Nativity Episcopal Church, Burnsville, Minn.

“Webber’s imaginative and faithful retelling of ten of Saint Paul’s letters in the language and circumstances of contemporary life in the United States is a wonderful example of the translatability of the Good News.” — The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

“A creatively conceived, unique book – rich in its grasp of Paul, sensitive in its articulation of contemporary issues for Christians. It will … open [readers’] eyes to the implication of those writings for Christian living today.” — The Very Rev. Harvey Guthrie, dean emeritus, Episcopal Divinity School

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