Theologian Thomas C. Oden, one of Methodism’s and American Christianity’s most esteemed theologians, passed away at his home in Oklahoma Wednesday night.

An emeritus board member who chaired the board of the Institute on Religion & Democracy in Washington, D.C. for six years, Oden was also professor emeritus at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Oden remained a prolific writer in his final years. A scholar of the Early Church Fathers, he edited the nearly two dozen volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. His most recent books are on early African Christianity and on the social ethics of John Wesley, including Systematic Theology and most recently Turning Around the Mainline and How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind.

In a 2013 talk at the Evangelical Theological Society, Oden recalled gratitude for his devout Nazarene grandmother who “prayed for me daily” while he had been spiritually “misguided.” She had a “high doctrine of scripture,” while he grew up in a “liberal Methodist background.”

“We don’t read it without the work of the Holy Spirit,” Oden said of Bible reading. He also credited his eventual appreciation of Wesleyan orthodoxy and the “primal authority” of Scripture to theologian Albert Outler, the “premier teacher of Wesley the last 100 years.”

Tom Oden was esteemed as a theologian of Methodism, a Christian ecumenist and a scholar of the Early Church Fathers, who journeyed from mid-20th century liberal Protestantism to robust orthodoxy, for which he was an ardent champion.

IRD was honored by his service on our board for eight years. He was a dear friend and counselor, a brilliant and cheerful warrior for good causes, irreplaceable. Tom is now with the early saints whose lives and teachings he studied so closely. May God bless his memory and perpetuate the fruit of his labors.

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