Yesterday, during the class period when Stan and I were supposed to be teaching “Thinking Theologically 2″
Mars Hill Graduate School held a memorial service. It was an honoring time; a time that I think Stan would have appreciated. As it was centered on the Word, Prayer, Song and Story.
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When I first started as a teacher’s assistant at Mars Hill Graduate School I was thrilled to learn that Stanley J. Grenz was the scholar in residence and was facilitating monthly faculty enrichment times. I was even more thrilled when I was invited to sit in on those sessions. Since I was new I didn’t know about “Mars Hill Time” I showed-up fifteen minutes early. I made my up to the Library to discover that Stan didn’t know about Mars Hill time either. He received me, making me to feel like I belonged there. And before long we were embroiled in lively conversation about whether not post-post-modernity is possible. “What fun!” I thought, “I could get used to this.”
Stan has been something of a hero to me. His love for the church was reflected not only in what, and how he had written but bled through almost every conversation. Not to mention that he lived for some time in Southern Manitoba (my homeland) and married Edna, who if my memory serves me correctly has some family connection to the Friesen clan.
A friend of mine once asked me what Stan was like, after thinking about it – not long enough apparently - I compared him to an otter. Stan was a playful man, the kind of playfulness that comes from being comfortable with oneself, able to offer oneself freely to others. His sense of humor was legendary: one of my favorite Stan Jokes was: “Do you know what heck is?” Heck is the place reserved for people who don’t believe in Gosh.”
Through I first encountered Stan through his writings; I first met Stan in late ’96 or early ’97 here in Seattle. A small group of young pastors who were wrestling with missional thoughts of church; we had gathered to pray and talk and dream about what church could be. And Stan came down from Vancouver to participate, and offer us a glimpse into the postmodern through Star Trek. His presence has been vital to the growth of the entire emergent church movement. He was one of the first “respectable” voices to step into the conversation. To offer his person and his experience and leverage his theological and biblical expertise to coach young leaders into ministry within our changing context. And he was a visible and vital part of the Avant-church movement ever since.
One of my favorite things about Stan was how excited he would become when he’d talk about one of his recent areas of study and research. In class he became famous for “StanGents” which are theological tangents that actually went somewhere. Often these “StanGents” were excursions into his new work. Its hard to imagine that a man so young could have all authored or co-authored twenty-five books and his 26th book has is scheduled to hit the press in November, over twenty chapters in other volumes, over one hundred periodical and journal articles, and eighty-some book reviews. To hear him talk about his writing process as a prayerful act of dependence on the Holy Spirit of God to actually show-up breathe through his keyboard. It seemed that his writing was a genuine journey of discovery, not always knowing where the writing would take him, or even who he might become in the process.
This past Saturday afternoon I found myself pulling book after book off my shelf which he had written and flipping through them, reading, and rereading underlined selections, dog-eared pages until I had a stack of twenty monographs on my desk. One of the aspects of his writing that I so deeply appreciated was way that he wrote so missionally for the evangelical community, knowing the methodology that evangelicals demand he choose to write a close history of theological concepts thus subtly deconstructing closed doctrines and opening the hearts and minds of not just conservative Christians to consider an even bigger God.
All of us who loved him would have wished for more years. His greatest work, many of us believed, was still ahead of him. Maybe if we hold his ideas of “The Social God and the Relational Self” to be true, then his best work is still ahead of him. Through his wife Dr. Edna Grenz, his daughter Corina his son Joel, his granddaughter Anika, through you and through me. For our relationalselves bear something of the image of Stan on our hearts and on our lives.
Between now and the resurrection, we will truly miss our dear brother Stan. Thankfully, while we grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope.