Preaching as ‘Kerygmatic Power and Artistic Form’

THE REV. FLEMING RUTLEDGE was one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church, is one of America’s best-loved preachers, and has been for years a teacher of preachers. A blue-blooded Virginian who was once a visiting professor at Wycliffe College (U of T), she speaks with authority about the sermon as a speech event and literary form, enhanced by powerful gospel rhetoric and well-crafted sentences. She bemoaned the new Anglican prayer book as a travesty, “not worthy of the church” due to its flat prose that “exorcises gender and military language while ignoring imagery and cadence.” She urged pastors to “train their mind for the ear” and to read sermons with urgency, passion, and consistent eye contact, alert to keeping God the subject of their verbs, and otherwise using the passive voice to put ourselves in the background. The large crowd in the Covenant Fine Arts Center gave an enthusiastic applause for her talk. The young female pastor giving a standing ovation beside me said, “Rev. Rutledge was the reason I flew to the FFW from California.”

  • Peter is Executive Director of Global Scholars Canada, a transnational guild of Christian scholars. He preaches, teaches and writes – having written columns, editorials, news and features for CC since 1997. His book The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019) is an ethnographic journey into the life of a megachurch and its “irreligious” charismatic leader. He loves stories that cross boundaries while maintaining integrity.

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