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Sisters bid farewell to a beloved bishop and friend, Tom Gumbleton

Excerpt: Created by Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Peggy Schmidt, the prayer service celebrated Gumbleton’s lifelong commitment to living his episcopal motto “Be Doers of the Word.” It was simple, contemplative and gently emphasized the wide-ranging — sometimes risky — actions this prophetic bishop took on behalf of peace and justice.

I wondered how this unique prayer and visitation had come to be. Over the next week I was privileged to interview not only Schmidt, but also Gumbleton’s longtime friend and biographer Sr. Sue Sattler; his friend Brian Joseph, who had overseen all funeral arrangements; and his dearly loved sister, Irene Gumbleton, also an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister. The latter three accompanied the bishop during his final weeks, days and hours of life. Below I share an account of this graced time of accompaniment, some treasured memories and how this special IHM send-off came to be.

African American Readings of Paul with Lisa Marie Bowens

FutureChurch welcomes Princeton Theological Seminary Associate Professor of New Testament, Lisa Marie Bowens, who discusses her ground-breaking book, African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation.

Part One

In part one, Dr. Bowens highlights early Black women preachers and petitions from her book that reclaim the liberating messages of scripture to oppose slavery.

Part Two

In part two, Dr. Bowens finishes her exploration of early Black women preachers with a discussion of Julia Foote. She then discusses early and mid 20th Century ministers and interpreters of Scripture, including Ida Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they resist segregation.

African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation (Eerdmans 2020), is the first book to investigate a historical trajectory of how African Americans have understood Paul and utilized his work to resist and protest injustice and racism in their own writings from the 1700s to the mid-twentieth century. In it, Dr. Bowens takes a historical, theological, and biblical approach to explore interpretations of Paul within African American communities over the past few centuries. She surveys a wealth of primary sources from the early 1700s to the mid-twentieth century, including sermons, conversion stories, slave petitions, and autobiographies of ex-slaves, many of which introduce readers to previously unknown names in the history of New Testament interpretation. Along with their hermeneutical value, these texts also provide fresh documentation of Black religious life through wide swaths of American history. African American Readings of Paul promises to change the landscape of Pauline studies and fill an important gap in the rising field of reception history.

Lisa Marie Bowens, PhD, associate professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, earned a BS (cum laude), MSBE, and MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, an MTS and ThM from Duke Divinity School, and a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is the first African American woman to earn tenure in Princeton Seminary’s Bible department. Her research interests include Paul and apocalyptic literature, Pauline anthropology, Pauline epistemology, discipleship in the gospels, African American Pauline Hermeneutics, and New Testament exegesis and interpretation. She is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Society for the Study of Black Religion, American Academy of Religion, and a past Fund for Theological Education fellow. Her current projects include working as a contributor and co-editor with Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica on Preaching Romans From Here: Diverse Voices Engage Paul’s Most Famous Letter (forthcoming), contributor and co-editor with Dennis Edwards on Do Black Lives Matter?: How Christian Scriptures Speak to Black Empowerment, and two commentaries, one on 2 Corinthians and one on 1-2 Thessalonians.

FutureChurch stands with our LGBTQ+ siblings who are failed and harmed by Vatican document, Dignitas Infinita

On Monday, April 8, 2024, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith released a declaration on human dignity entitled Dignitas Infinita (Infinity Dignity). Meant to affirm the inherent and inalienable dignity of each human person and defend their rights and freedoms, the declaration tragically fails the LGBTQ+ community – particularly transgender, nonbinary, and other gender diverse people – by clinging to long-outdated and harmful ideas of gender essentialism that particularly dismiss their lived experiences.

We are alarmed that – despite the Vatican’s denunciation of “unjust discrimination” and “particularly any form of aggression and violence” –  the declaration inflicts real spiritual and psychological harm and perpetuates ideas and attitudes that create and foster physically and legally dangerous environments for our already vulnerable siblings.

Particularly offensive is the document’s assertion that those who seek to better understand their gender identity or pursue gender-affirming care “make oneself God.” This is not the lived experience of transgender persons, who authentically strive – despite much resistance from Church and society – to discern and live into the fullness of their humanity as part of God’s diverse and beloved creation.

To the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those who are transgender or non-binary: know that you are a beloved child of God and an equal member of the Body of Christ. You are, in fact, beautiful manifestations of God’s fullness and glory. FutureChurch affirms and celebrates you and the gifts and witness you offer to our world and our church. We are blessed by you, and we stand with you as we seek a church that finally and truly welcomes you as God created you and a church that will stand up for and defend your rights and infinite dignity.

To that end, we wish to lift up the critiques offered by our friends and partners at DignityUSA and New Ways Ministry. And we encourage the FutureChurch community to read and share these important and powerful statements and stand in solidarity with these prophetic organizations.

To friends, family, and allies of the LGBTQ+ community: we know that you are impacted by this declaration too. We invite you to educate and empower yourself to support and advocate for your loved ones using the helpful resources and suggestions these organizations have compiled on their websites here (DignityUSA) and here (New Ways Ministry).

Synod Interim Stage Synthesis

During Lent of 2024, FutureChurch organized three listening sessions for the interim stage of the Synod on Communion, Participation, and Mission (Synod on Synodality). More than 100 individuals responded to our invitation to engage in Conversations in the Spirit based on the questions offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and to discern the movement of the Spirit in our midst. An additional 88 responses were collected through our online questionnaire, which posed the same questions.

A small writing team which included FutureChurch staff and board members undertook the task of synthesizing our listening sessions and questionnaire responses as a sacred responsibility and privilege, and we proudly share the fruits of our conversations with the larger Church.

FutureChurch submitted the report below to the United States Synod team as well as the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. In addition, we have been shared the report with a number of US-based delegates, experts, and consultants to the Synod.

To very briefly summarize: Our conversations revealed a sense that the Church best lives into its call to be a community of love and mercy when all the baptized are involved as co-equals in the life and mission of the Church. We fail to live into that call when we rigidly cling to dogmas and practices that deny or diminish human dignity, and the Spirit that dwells within, thereby preventing dialogue and encounter.  We sensed that the Spirit is calling us to move forward as a synodal Church rooted in the teachings and spirit of the Second Vatican Council – free of clericalism – with an empowered laity, an open and reformed priesthood, and a commitment to engaging and living Catholic Social Teaching in the world.

Read FutureChurch’s Interim Stage Synthesis


FutureChurch Mourns the Death of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Retired Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton died on Thursday, April 4, 2024 at the age 94. Bishop Gumbleton was known for his advocacy and activism on a number of important social issues from nuclear disarmament, to ending hunger, to eradicating racism. An active participant in the Catholic peace and justice movement, Gumbleton was a founding member of both Pax Christi USA and Bread for the World. He was also courageously outspoken on issues of justice in the Church – including the ordination of women, the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, and accountability for perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse.

“Bishop Gumbleton was a good friend, ally, and source of inspiration to so many who worked for justice in the world and in the Catholic Church,” said Russ Petrus, executive director of FutureChurch. “His prophetic presence in the hierarchy and his compassionate solidarity at the peripheries will be sorely missed.”

Left to Right: Deborah Rose, Bishop Gumbleton, and Christine Schenk, CSJ

A long-time friend of FutureChurch, Bishop Gumbleton was present and co-presided at the 2013 prayer service for the transition of leadership from founding executive director Christine Schenk, CSJ to her successor Deborah Rose, who retired at the end of 2023. Schenk described Bishop Gumbleton as a “grace-filled, loving, and inspiring leader.” And Rose said “he banished shadows with his light.”

Bishop Gumbleton briefly served as a member of the FutureChurch board and most recently as board member emeritus.

FutureChurch joins his family, friends, and loved ones in prayer and thanksgiving for his life:

Eternal rest, grant unto him, Loving God,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.

Mary Magdalene: Her Easter Proclamation and Why It Matters

FutureChurch Program Associate, Olivia Hastie, moderates an intergenerational panel of women in scholarship and ministry to explore how Mary Magdalene continues to inspire us today, why it is important that we reclaim and tell her true story, and what difference it would make in the lives of people of faith to hear the full story on Easter Sunday.

About our Panelists:

Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ was professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological Union at Chicago for 26 years, and is professor emerita from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. She is the author or editor of many books and articles on topics of New Testament and Early Church.

Laura Boysen-Aragón is the Development Director at the Loyola Institute for Spirituality (LIS) in Orange, CA where she brings to her work a deep commitment to Ignatian spirituality and a faith that seeks justice. Laura has felt a strong call to the priesthood for many years. She continues discerning how to live out that call.

Molly Cahill is an assistant editor at America Media, where she previously completed a one-year media fellowship after her graduation from Boston College. She is passionate about theology, activism, journalism, and the arts.

Martha Ligas is a spiritual director, lay minister, preacher, and educator. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry at Fordham University, serves as pastoral minister at the Community of St. Peter in Cleveland, OH, and is communications coordinator for FutureChurch.

Resources Mentioned in This Presentation

“Mary Magdalene Goes to the Synod” Project to Expand the Lectionary

Most Catholics, including Catholic bishops and priests, do not realize that many important stories of our foremothers in faith are excluded from our lectionary.  For instance, the full story of Mary Magdalene’s Easter proclamation of the Risen Christ is NEVER heard on Easter Sunday (John 20: 1 – 18).  Thus, Catholics are deprived of learning about the gifts, grace, courage, and ministry of women such as Mary Magdalene.

As we head towards the 2024 Synod, help us to share the Good News that women have been integral to shaping our Christian tradition and their inspirational stories should be included in our lectionary!

Learn more

FutureChurch Launches Lectionary Expansion Project: “Mary Magdalene Goes to the Synod”


Russ Petrus, Executive Director

In the October 2023 synod synthesis, participants agreed it was “urgent to ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry” (9, m).  In order to advance women’s participation, synod participants proposed that that liturgical texts, including the lectionary, include “a range of words, images, and narratives that draw more widely on women’s experience” (9, q).

“Since many Catholics do not realize that important stories of our foremothers in faith are excluded from our lectionary, the synod process offers an important opportunity to raise awareness, advance the dialogue, and propose solutions for including these essential faith stories,” said FutureChurch Executive Director Russ Petrus.  “FutureChurch’s long history of working to expand the lectionary will take on a new, robust dimension in this critical synodal moment.”

The “Mary Magdalene Goes to the Synod” project will include outreach to synod participants, bishops, the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, and to Prefect Cardinal Arthur Roche at the Dicastery for Divine Worship in Rome.  Activities will include a direct outreach campaign, an open letter, and a short-term program of training and support for a core group of Catholics to participate in raising awareness in the lead up to the synod.

One of the primary expansions the project will advance is reading all of John 20:1-18 on Easter Sunday to include Christ’s commission of Mary Magdalene to proclaim the Resurrection to the other disciples and her faithful fulfillment of that commission.

“FutureChurch’s terrific project, ‘Mary Magdalene Goes to the Synod’ makes Mary Magdalene of scripture visible to all Synod participants as they reflect on the roles of women in our Church,” said Rita Houlihan, FutureChurch board member. “She is our role model – the follower who never abandoned Jesus and was authorized as his first Resurrection witness. I pray she will have a seat in our hearts and at each Synod table this October,” Houlihan added.

“Mary Magdalene’s apostolic witness represents a prominent and egregious omission, but there are many others,” said Vickey McBride, chairperson of the FutureChurch board. “We want Catholics to hear the stories of Phoebe the diakonos, Junia who was prominent among the apostles, Lydia who was head of a house church, Prisca a co-worker of Paul, the midwives Shiprah and Puah of Exodus, and more,” McBride continued.

“Lifting up and telling the stories these faithful women of Salvation History will help Synod participants and all Catholics understand that women were and, should now be, leaders and ministers in our Church,” concluded Petrus.

Learn more about FutureChurch’s “Mary Magdalene Goes to the Synod” Project.