The passing of Ray Anderson is a personal loss to me of a man who modeled for me being a bridge person. He both taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and pastored a church. This is exceptional and yet so wise in bridging the gulf between the academy and the church. I took Theological Anthropology from him in 1992, which provided an intimate glimpse into the world of really caring for people because we have a vision of God that will not let us just sit back and observe; we must engage and help through restoring relationships. This is my life as well, as chancellor of a seminary that is embedded in a local church full of misfits.
Ray also bridged the gap between theology and counseling. He wrote books, worked with Dennis Guernsey, and lived his own life as a people helper. The stories he would tell of sitting in the office and hearing the pain-filled hearts of those who came to him were captivating and made you want to join in.
Ray was an external examiner for my PhD because he understood and valued the works of Karl Barth, John Zizioulas, and John Macmurray, the focal conversation partners in my work. Ray comes from a tradition of theological giants who have reshaped the conversation of theology to be more about the acting God of the Gospel and the place of that triune God in our everyday lives.
Ray was an innovator who was beloved by students. Everywhere I go, when I mention Ray to someone who knows him, a smile lights up a face that has been with a giant. Many say he was their favorite. His earthy humanity made him approachable and yet a vast wilderness to be explored.
I invited him this last year to be on my seminary board, but he said no, he was trying to stay focused . . . but if there is anything he could do . . . Ray was the theologian who most closely approximated my own theological and practical views. I feel I have lost a person who is one of the last to speak my language (in a world where so many languages are being lost as the last few step off the stage).
Ray’s name is added to a list of great Trinitarian theologians who have taken the church to a new possibility of life of personal relating with God and one another that is not of this world in origin, but is that purpose of this world in intention. Their books fill my shelves in special collections of favorite authors:
Colin E. Gunton - May 6, 2003
James B. Torrance - November 15, 2003
Stanley Grenz - March 11, 2005
Thomas F. Torrance - December 2, 2007
Ray S. Anderson - June 21, 2009
Others are rising, but they will stand on the shoulders of these humble giants.