For more than 30 years, Walter Wink preached about the dangers of violence and unchecked powers in our world. He influenced countless men and women in congregations nationwide. Simply mentioning his name in a community—and seeing what response one gets—signals a lot about the culture of peacemaking in that community. Know Wink’s work? Then, this is a group of people seriously steeped in the theology of nonviolence and transformative peacemaking.
But, a prophet is largely unknown in his own hometown. Although he was associated with both Union and Auburn seminaries in New York—and involved in national debates on peacemaking throughout the 1980s and 1990s—the New York Times did not see fit to print an obituary on his May 10 passing.
Walter Wink died on May 10 at age 76 in his Massachusetts home after a long struggle with a form of dementia that is closely associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Fortunately, the Fellowship of Reconciliation—a group that appears prominently in our own Blessed Are the Peacemakers book—published an extensive obituary honoring Wink’s passing.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation obituary includes this passage: “Wink’s breakthrough insights about the contemporary meaning of the principalities and powers, and Jesus’ third way of dealing with the enemy/oppressor—neither fight nor flight but nonviolent resistance—spoke powerfully to the struggle and transformation experienced in the self-giving love of Jesus. This found eager audiences in churches, retreat centers, peace and justice groups, and in many places—East and West Germany; Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England; South Korea; Palestine; Aotearoa New Zealand; Chile, Mexico, and throughout the Americas. Walter’s wife June, dancer and potter, traveled with him and was an integral part of the workshops that integrated mind, body, and spirit in the experience of the participants.”
DANIEL BUTTRY REMEMBERS WALTER WINK
The Rev. Daniel Buttry, author of Blessed Are the Peacemakers and a full-time global peace activist himself, counted Walter Wink as a major influence in his own ministry. Buttry writes:
Walter Wink had a huge impact on my thinking and training work for peacemaking, especially related to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He helped me see some of the passages we think of as so familiar and so passive—“turning the other cheek”—in radically new ways that nonviolently confront evil and transform relationships and situations.
Walter practiced what he preached, taking his academic work in the New Testament and putting it to use at places of great struggle and suffering, such as South Africa in the Apartheid years.
In one sense we will miss him. But in another sense we won’t, for his books, especially about engaging the powers, remain with us to challenge, encourage and provoke us. Though dead he still speaks!
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.