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Preaching as Protest against the Apophatic Silencing of God’s People

a conversation with Will Willimon

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Hi Friends,

Here is a recent conversation with my mentor and muse, Will Willimon, about his new academic article on preaching. Will wants folks, preachers especially, to read the essay so be sure you scroll down past the show notes to download it for free.

Speaking of preaching, don’t forget to apply for the Iowa Preachers Project, led (in part) by yours truly:

Show Notes


In this conversation, Bishop Will Willimon discusses the recent changes in the United Methodist Church's general conference and the challenges the church is facing. He emphasizes the need for honest discussions about the future of the church and the impact of the changes on its membership and finances. Willimon also explores the concept of apophatic theology and its implications for preaching. He argues that while there is value in silence and contemplation, it is important to recognize the role of proclamation and listening in the Christian faith.

Overall, the conversation highlights the need for a theological understanding of the church's challenges and the importance of receiving the truth about God through revelation. The conversation explores the role of silence in spirituality and the limitations of silence as a means of encountering God. It discusses the danger of detaching silence from embodiment and the sacramental nature of God's communication. The importance of proclamation and the power of words in conveying the depth and mystery of God are emphasized. The conversation also touches on the responsibility and joy of being a preacher and the need to speak in times of silence and injustice.


  • The United Methodist Church has undergone significant changes in its general conference, including the removal of restrictive language and regionalization.

  • The church is facing challenges such as a decline in membership and finances, as well as an aging population.

  • Apophatic theology emphasizes the limitations of human knowledge and the need for humility in speaking about God.

  • Preaching is an act of receiving and proclaiming the truth about God, which requires a theological understanding and engagement with scripture.

  • Silence and contemplation have value, but they should not overshadow the importance of proclamation and listening in the Christian faith. Silence should not be detached from embodiment and the sacramental nature of God's communication.

  • Proclamation and words are important in conveying the depth and mystery of God.

  • Preachers have a responsibility and joy in speaking the word of the Lord.

  • Silence can be a weapon to keep victims of injustice silent.

  • In times of silence and difficulty, turning to scripture and the words of prophets can provide guidance and comfort.

Sound Bites

  • "If I need to take the screen off, take the glasses off to see that it's wonderful."

  • "How does it make you feel that, say, you and me are now on the conservative end of the United Methodist Church?"

  • "Preaching as protest against the apophatic silencing of God's people."

  • "It sunders Sabbath from worship."

  • "You want to get closer to God, get out."

  • "Silence is a cop out in the mind of the voice."

217KB ∙ PDF file

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Tamed Cynic
Jason Micheli
Stick around here and I’ll use words as best as I know how to help you give a damn about the God who, in Jesus Christ, no longer gives any damns.