Whether we are conscious of it or not, we fear difference. That often unwarranted fear leads us to create enemies in our hearts and minds, and fear was no stranger to Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, as confessed by Pastor Nibs Stroupe: "We have listened to one another's stories here, and we have discovered that the people we feared, those monsters we thought would destroy us -- because of different skin colors, different genders, different sexual orientations, different economic categories -- they are really our sisters and brothers, the folks for whom our hearts long."
In the 1960s the Oakhurst congregation was 900 members strong, but by the time Nibs Stroupe arrived in 1983, "white flight" had left less than 100 on the church's dwindling membership rolls. Since then, Oakhurst has undergone an extraordinary transformation, re-inventing itself as a growing community that welcomes everyone. The congregation has attracted national attention for its radically inclusive and egalitarian diversity, which extends beyond racial integration to class, gender, sexual orientation, and theological perspective. How have people from such dissimilar backgrounds come together to create a harmonious and thriving whole? In what biblical vision is it rooted and shaped? By what theological resources is it fed and sustained? The heart of the answer to these questions lies in the exceptional sermons of Nibs Stroupe.
Growing out of the experience of a multicultural congregation in which diversity is both valued and feared, these messages offer an uncompromising prophetic vision of the American church's identity and mission. Stroupe firmly grounds a liberal social viewpoint within the biblical and theological traditions of the church, and he calls us to hear God's claim on us in our place and in our time. Underlying his powerful sermons is the fundamental conviction that the barriers that separate us from our neighbors have been brought down in Jesus Christ. "Where Once We Feared Enemies" will be an indispensable addition to any pastor's library. It is also inspiring and enlightening reading for anyone interested in the future of the American church, as well as its role in the continuing stories of race relations, civil rights, and peace and justice issues.
"These sermons are not your typical "social action" homilies. Rather Nibs Stroupe cuts to the quick of the biblical message of Jesus as it impacts the minds and hearts of thinking people of every race, class, and political stripe. This is theologically rich fare that will satisfy and energize Christians and non-Christians alike. These are the kind of no-nonsense sermons that have made Oakhurst one of the most faithful and consistent witnesses to the love and justice-making of the gospel that I have seen in more than half a century of ministry."
Gayraud S. Wilmore
Emeritus Professor of African-American Church History
Interdenominational Theological Center
Gibson "Nibs" Stroupe and his wife, Caroline Leach, have been the pastors of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia, since 1983. They are the co-authors of "O Lord, Hold Our Hands," a book detailing Oakhurst's unique multicultural ministry. Stroupe is also the author of" While We Run This Race," which won the 1996 Gustavus Myers Award for outstanding book on human rights. Stroupe and his Oakhurst ministry have been featured in" Time," the "Wall Street Journal," and the "Christian Science Monitor," on "NBC Nightly News," CNN, and National Public Radio, and in several books.
Chris Boesel (editor) is an assistant professor of Christian theology at Drew University Theological School.