March 11, 2008

About Me

Filed under: — William Witt @ 11:31 am

billportrait

I am a lay theologian, and an Anglican living in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh (the one whose bishop is the Archbishop of the Anglican Province of North America).

I was raised in a blue collar Southern Baptist family, asked Jesus to “come into my heart” at the age of five, was baptized at the age of seven and received what I believed to be a call to ordained ministry when I was sixteen. I discovered the writings of the Inklings and their circle (C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers) when I was a teenager.

I majored in philosophy at an Evangelical liberal arts college in Denver, Colorado, where I was introduced to the classical Western tradition in theology (Augustine, Thomas Aquinas) and mid-twentieth century critical orthodoxy in the writings of Karl Barth, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and the biblical theology movement.

I left the Baptists during my senior year in college and began searching for the Church. I studied for a Master’s degree at a Roman Catholic Seminary where they read people like Karl Rahner. During this period, I became interested in the relation between Medieval and Reformation Christianity. At the end of that time, I became an Episcopalian, thinking I had joined the Catholic Church reformed of the aberrations of late Medieval and Tridentine Catholicism. There were then a lot of us “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail.” At that time, it would have been beyond my wildest dreams (or fears) that within a generation the Episcopal Church would embrace high-church Unitarianism. I greatly admired William Frey, the local Episcopal bishop, who combined orthodox Anglicanism with a social conscience. Frey had been forced out of Guatemala at gunpoint for criticizing the local regime’s violations of human rights. Shortly after he confirmed me, Frey became Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.

After my confirmation as an Episcopalian, I moved to South Bend, Indiana where I studied for a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame. While there, I attended the local Episcopal Cathedral. The Roman Catholic liturgy students jested that they would visit us from time to time to see what liturgy was like before Vatican II. At the end of my time at Notre Dame, I decided to write my dissertation on Jacobus Arminius.

I moved to Boston, MA, to write my dissertation, where I found work in academic administration at Harvard University. This enabled me to use Harvard’s library facilities to do research, as Notre Dame did not have the original sources in Protestant theology. Harvard did. One of the thrills of working at Harvard was poring over the 400-year-old books that I needed in Houghton Library. I spent many lunch hours in the stacks of the Divinity School library, where I could find copies of almost any theology text I needed.

Five years after I finished writing my dissertation, having failed to receive so much as an interview for a permanent teaching position, I came to the conclusion that there was no point to staying in the Boston area, applying for teaching positions each fall, hoping that one day I might become a theology professor. When my wife Jennie and I had married (oh, yes, I got married while I was in Boston as well as wrote a dissertation), we had decided that when I finished my dissertation, she could pursue her lifelong dream of attending art school, and learning to paint. We moved to Connecticut, where she studied at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, one of the few places in the country that still teaches traditional realistic painting and sculpture. She painted the portrait of me at the top of the page. (My beard is a lot grayer than that now.)

While Jennie studied painting (I got used to living in an apartment stuffed with canvases in various stages of completion), I did a number of things to put food on the table. I taught for a year at Trinity College, Hartford. (I have also taught at the University of Notre Dame, Harvard University, and Assumption College. That, and four bucks, will get me a latte at Starbucks.) I did academic administration for a year at Wesleyan College. After that, I did IT support (working in a homeless shelter for a number of years), web application programming and database programming.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day 2005, my father suffered a severe stroke, and I spent much of the next year alternating between helping my mother care for my father in Arizona, and being with Jennie in Connecticut. My father died of an unexpected heart attack in January 2007. A couple of months later I was interviewed and hired for a one year teaching position at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. (Yes, the same Trinity where Bishop Frey was Dean for awhile.)  In July of 2008, Trinity hired me as full-time faculty, and I’m still here.  My current title is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics.  My dad would have been thrilled.

I love to teach, although I hate it when students graduate.  I am privileged to work with talented and generous colleagues.  Trinity is a great place to live and study, and if you’re interested in pursuing ministry (ordained or not), or studying theology, this is the place!

My primary areas of interest are Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, and Philosophical Theology. But I am also interested in Theological Ethics (Moral Theology) and Liturgical Theology. (I brag that I took some courses from John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas, before Hauerwas went to Duke and got famous.) I consider myself to be either a Barthian Thomist or a Thomist Barthian, claiming both Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth as theological influences.

I like classical music, jazz, and traditional “folk music,” ranging from Celtic to Bluegrass to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I may be the only person at Trinity who does not play ukelele, although I am a novice mandolin player. (I am not fond of “contemporary” worship music, which I considers a major contributor to my declining hair line and graying beard.) My wife Jennie (who is an artist) agrees that I am  a pretty good cook. I make good green chile and gumbo.

6 Comments »

  1. Dear Bill,

    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your father.
    I too am one of the people that was a permanent “fixture at
    your house. I fondly remember your father always calling
    me Pamella. I was “best friends” with Joann for junior high/
    high school years. Your mom and dad always welcomed me on
    many trips waterskiing, New Mexico, Pueblo to your grandparents
    house and spend the nights etc. I received a Christmas card
    from your Mom and had no idea about your Dad and his struggles.
    I too lost my Dad last year and I know the pain and sadness
    yet happiness because we know where our loved ones are. My
    Dad always told me that he wanted to be “taken out by his feet”
    from 475 Winona Ct.. I had the greatest gift of taking care of
    my Dad during the last days of his life. What a gift….I still
    make your Dad’s green chile recipe to this day and it is one of
    my families favorites! Pam

    Comment by PAM RETTIG — March 23, 2009 @ 6:36 am

  2. [...] William G. Witt [...]

    Pingback by Non sermoni res – An Anglican blog worth exploring « Persona — April 16, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

  3. Hi, Are you perhaps the Bill Witt that went to Rishel Jr High in Denver in the late 1960′s? I could be an old friend.

    Comment by D. Weers — January 7, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  4. One major question remains: What does the G. stand for?

    Comment by Rebecca — January 21, 2012 @ 12:41 am

  5. Hi Bill! Tell Jennie that I honestly thought that the picture of you was a photograph! I had to go back up and look at it and it still looks like it! What a concept! Art that looks real! She’s obviously very talented and skilled! I suppose she’s a “lay” artist much as you are a “lay” theologian! I guess that makes me a novice or a dabbler! It’s good to see your blog and your articles as you “rightly divide” the Word. Frank

    Comment by Frank Wheeler — May 14, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

  6. Hi, Bill,
    I stumbled across your essay, Anglican Reflections on Justification, in preparing for the spiritual growth class I teach at Holy Cross Anglican in Loganville, GA. Teaching the 39 Articles using John Rodgers’ commentary as my main source. I, too, was raised Baptist and pastored three churches over a 21 year period. With the help of Packer and others, I discovered my Reformed roots in the Baptist faith but my views on the sacraments also began to evolve to the point where I had to leave. After some on and off times with the Presbyterians, we found ourselves at Holy Cross three years ago and it was truly like coming home. I am now reading for Holy Orders. Appreciated your essay very much.

    Comment by David W. Harper — March 8, 2014 @ 11:59 pm

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