Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dr. Raymond Jennings, Veteran ABCUSA Staffer Passes Away

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS)-Dr. Raymond Jennings, a staff member of the American Baptist Churches' Office of Communication from 1981-1990, died April 4, in the presence of his family. He was 82.

Jennings served as a reporter and analyst for The American Baptist Magazine and as editor and writer for INPUT, a newsletter for clergy.

From 1948 to 1959, he and his wife, Irene, were American Baptist missionaries in Japan, where he served as chaplain and professor at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokahama. After returning to the United States, Jennings held pastorates in Ottawa, Kan.; Berkeley, Calif.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Washington, D.C.

"Ray had a deep understanding of and love for American Baptist ministry and mission," said Laura Alden, associate executive director of Publishing and Judson Press publisher, and a former colleague in the Office of Communication. "He was a huge part of American Baptist life for many years, as a pastor, missionary and storyteller. He covered events both as a journalist and as a pastor."

A memorial service is planned tentatively for early May. Jennings is survived by his wife, Irene, and four children. Condolences may be sent to her at 401 Santa Clara Avenue #105, Oakland, CA 94610.


I can never remember reading anything Ray Jennings ever wrote without becoming angry. Whether spinning a story or holding forth on a topic, he was everything I did not like about the ABCUSA. Ray hailed from the left, too far left. But, he was a brother in Christ with a passion for Jesus. His trademark sermon, "Kissing Frogs," was often preached and never the same. One time, his preaching notes ended like this:

Ignorance and apathy ARE problems. The world needs more Frog Kissers: People who care about others. "So what is the task of Christians? To kiss frogs, of course."

There is struggle in Christian ranks today. A deep division. I see two very different kinds of Christians: (1) those who see faith as a creed and their mission as enforcing conformity, and (2) those who see faith as a commitment and their task as setting people free to realize their God-given potential and purpose. The first group sees themselves as "defenders of the faith." The second group see themselves as companions and pilgrims and on the journey of faith. They're frog kissers!

The world needs more frog kissers ...

Despite my profound disagreements with Dr. Jennings, including his typology for the right and the left cited above, we are poorer because he is gone. RIP passionate pastor-professor-preacher-pundit! Godspeed to your heavenly reward.

For more information on the ever controversial Dr. Jennings, cf.

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