Justo González attended United Seminary in
For a long time, Wesley had been convinced that in the early church, a “bishop” was the same as a “presbyter” or “elder.” This led him to the conviction that all ordained presbyters, including himself, had the power of ordination. But he refrained from employing it to avoid further alienating the leadership of the Church of England. The independence of the
, however, posed new difficulties. During the War of Independence, most of the Anglican clergy had been loyalists, and after independence most of them had returned to United States . This made it difficult – sometimes impossible—for the inhabitants of the new nation to partake of communion. The bishop of England London, who supposedly still had jurisdiction over the former colonies, refused to ordain personnel for the . Convinced as he was that the celebration of communion was the very heart of Christian worship, Wesley deplored this situation – while he also deplored what he took to be the unwarranted rebellion of Brittan’s former colonies. Finally, in 1784, he ordained two lay preachers as presbyters for the new country, and made Anglican priest Thomas Coke their “superintendent” a word that he well knew had the same meaning as the Greek word translated as “bishop.” (The Story of Christianity, volume 2, p. 215). United States
González taught at Candler School of Theology of Emory University in
González has always displayed a knack for making difficult theological concepts accessible to a wider audience. His book, Heretics for Armchair Theologians, explains such heresies as Gnosticism, Marcionism, Donatism, and Pelagianism, while setting forth an orthodox understanding of Trinitarian doctrine with simplicity and grace:
In the last few decades, theologians have begun to recover a long forgotten tradition of seeing the Trinity as a model for life in community. From this perspective, what the Trinity teaches us is that true oneness and true glory – the oneness and the glory of God – does not consist in standing alone in solitary splendor. It is rather, a matter of interrelationship. God is one, God is one in a higher fashion than anything else is one, and yet God is one in community. Thus, to those who say that the doctrine of the Trinity asks us to believe in the nonsensical notion that three can be one, we may answer that, on the contrary, the Trinity is unique example of what it means truly to be one. God’s oneness is such that there is love even within the Godhead itself. God is love, not just in the sense that God loves us, but also in the sense that the inner life of the Trinity is a life of love. (p. 92)
González’ gifts for theological exploration has also been displayed for thousands of laity in the United Methodist Church as he has hosted the Christian Believer videos, in which the classical doctrines of the Christian faith have been studied and explained over the course of 30 weeks. I once taught a Christian Believer class, and I can attest to his ability to connect with a wide range of students as they connect Christian doctrine and life.
González has written a number of books from the perspective of his Hispanic culture. Two of them are Mañana : Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective and Santa Biblia : The Bible through Hispanic Eyes. Gonzalez also authored, Each In Our Own Tongue: A History of Hispanics in United Methodism. Regrettably, I am not able to comment on the specific contents of these books, but they do remind us of the ability of the Wesleyan tradition to adapt to different cultures, languages, and places.
During one of his 2007 lectures at Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans (MARCHA), González told his listeners that hope is the "future pulling us forward. We don't fear the future because we've seen the future in the person of Jesus Christ. The hope and future we see should affect our present."
He specifically mentioned the undocumented immigrant as a symbol of courage, hope and determination. "The immigrant is a man that has the courage to leave his family, home and town behind in order to cross miles and miles of desert, many times on foot, risking his life. He reaches the border and crosses, sometimes not even knowing what to do, continually living under Damocles' sword that Immigration (authorities) may get him."
He added: "Our task is to let this country know that the reviled undocumented immigrant embodies in a much profound way the values we hold dear in this country."
González encouraged his listeners to be people of hope, and to teach others to be "daring in their hope."