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Memorial to a Beloved Advisor, and Friend – Marcus Borg

“So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.” ~Marcus J. Borg

 

I met Marcus Borg for the first time when I took a class he taught during summer school at the Pacific School of Religion in the late nineties. By this time I had read his two books, Jesus a New Vision and of course his best seller Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. When I read Meeting Jesus Again, I knew then this man was going to be an important leader in a movement that was just beginning. I was both a pastor in a local church and deeply involved with The Center for Progressive Christianity, now called ProgressiveChristianity.Org.

During the five days of classes I also learned something else, which for me was even more important. On the first morning of the three-hour class, Marcus informed everyone in the packed classroom we would begin class every morning with 15 to 20 minutes of meditation. He let everyone know if they could not get there in time to meditate with the rest of the group, they would not be welcomed to attend class that day. He explained the latecomers would simply be in a different mindset if they did not meditate with the rest of the group. And he indeed did quietly let two people know they would have to leave when they showed up late one morning. I sincerely believe the class was different than anything I had before experienced in a classroom. And I believe it was at least in part because of this discipline. It was a model I adopted for the rest of my teaching days as a pastor. This man, I realized, took his spiritual path seriously and I wanted to get to know him better.

Marcus Borg

We had lunch that week and I asked him if he would be interested in anchoring a conference ProgressiveChristianity.org planned in Southern CA. This kind of thing was still relatively new, especially for the very conservative area where we were going to hold the conference. We spent over a year and a half talking about other speakers we might invite and the setting. He was always cordial and helpful and I believe in the process, we became friends.

Marcus became one of our most active Honorary Advisors, making suggestions and contributions over the years. We ended up several times at the same conferences and we usually found time to catch up on things from books to family. He never hesitated to let me know when he felt we had published something that was incorrect or with which he disagreed. We always appreciated his input. Marcus and I did have an ongoing, energetic conversation about the role of reciting ancient creeds which made statements we no longer believed, but we finally managed to agree to disagree. Those things are easy when you respect and love someone.

It will be impossible to ascertain just how big of an influence Marcus has had on the Progressive Christian movement, but I believe his biggest gift was the fact that he was a consummate teacher. It did not matter if it was one of his books, one of his lectures or if you were lucky enough to experience it, one of his quiet conversations, he always wanted to communicate in such a way you would get it.

My last direct contact with Marcus was at a conference a little over a year ago in Houston Texas. I believe there were well over four hundred people who attended the evening lectures. There were three well known scholarly authors, all of them were seasoned speakers. They had been on the road together several times over the years. Two of those speakers talked without notes, probably sharing some of the work they were doing on their current book project. Although everyone seemed to love them, I honestly could not tell you what was the main theme of either of their talks. Before Marcus went to the podium he had someone pass out two pages of notes. As he talked he referred to those notes. Unlike his wonderful sense of humor, his talk was not dry. But you knew exactly where he was and where he was going. And best of all, I took his notes home so I could study them. It was as if he wanted me to get an “A” on my hypothetical exam.

I could not help being a little jealous of the possible thousands of students Marcus Borg must have taught and touched, including myself over the decades. I hope, like me, they did get it.

We will miss him as a leader of an important movement. We will miss him as a trusted and admired advisor of our organization and I will miss him as a friend.

Thank you Dr. Borg. We love you. It is time to rest.

 

BorgRIP

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