How Beautiful Orthodoxy Fits into This Couple's Calling
Since he quit his job as an attorney last year, David Brenner has embarked on a nearly elusive hunt.
"I retired from law practice mostly to do more good in the world," said the Seattle-based attorney who recently became a CT Sustaining Partner. "I spent this last year looking for bridge builders to help us fill this huge chasm that's been emerging among evangelicals politically and culturally and between evangelicals and the world."
David devoted a year to seeking out groups or individuals that he believed were doing this work—a process he admits was a struggle.
"I realized by the end of the year that Christianity Today really is the best middle ground I could find," he said. "It really works for people with conservative theology but a broad view of social justice and culture."
The Brenners married after meeting at University Presbyterian Church where Laurie served on the pastoral staff. Born in the Midwest, David grew up outside of Sacramento after his father moved west for a pastoring job. He attended Stanford and Berkeley for undergraduate and law school respectively, clerked for a federal judge in San Francisco, and then spent three years in Washington D.C. He's been in Seattle since 1984 where he practiced litigation law for 30 years.
A Seattle native, Laurie attended Fuller Seminary and received her Ph.D. from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. She spent five years living in Scotland and two years in Paris working at the American Church in Paris. She currently teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary and Seattle Pacific University.
The couple recently spoke with assistant editor Morgan Lee about David's early connections with CT founding editor Carl Henry, the value of good, truth, and beauty, and how CT's coverage serves the church.
How did you first hear about CT?
David: My dad was a Baptist minister who graduated from Fuller in the fourth graduating class. He was a big fan of [CT's first editor-in-chief] Carl Henry. One of my chores as a child was to tidy up my dad's office so my first exposure to Christianity Today probably occurred when I was cleaning. I remember my dad always had the magazines stacked in a certain way and my job was to not mess them up. My father talked Carl Henry into coming into this little church in Kansas in the mid-60s to talk to these farmers about high-end theology. It was pretty amazing.
Later, I had the good fortune to attend Carl and Helga Henry's Bible study in their home one summer when I was living in DC as an associate at a law firm. I had that connection with the magazine with him as the founding editor.
A couple years ago, I began subscribing to Mark Galli's weekly newsletter, The Galli Report. I loved his curating of articles and that led me back to CT again.
What encouraged you to become CT Sustaining Partners?
David: I loved the idea of Beautiful Orthodoxy. Laurie and I and our church have been talking about winsome engagement a lot in the past couple of years and Beautiful Orthodoxy sums this up in a really great way. Now, living in this post-truth world of alternative facts, the very first element of Beautiful Orthodoxy is truth.
Laurie: At Fuller, one of my professors, Charlie Scalise, talked about the importance of goodness, truth, and beauty. When I was working as a pastor I realized that what made the gospel attractive to people was either seeing an embodied gospel or beauty as expressed through the arts. Goodness, truth, and beauty have been things that have been appealing to me for many years as a pastor and it's a kindred spirit to Christianity Today in its approach.
Is there a recent CT article that was meaningful to you?
David: The India cover story was amazing. It was in-depth, really culturally sensitive and encouraging. I also thought Andy Crouch's editorial in October before the election about not making an idol of the Supreme Court and calling for real integrity as opposed to the values and characters of our leaders was perfect. I read a lot about the election over the course of the year and I thought that landed perfectly. Mark Galli's editorial right after the election is a great counterpart to that. We have this situation so how do we live in unity?
What makes CT's "bridge-building" voice so important in this season?
Laurie: I think about being reactive versus being reflective. My Facebook feed right now is full of people who are very reactive on both sides. It's more important than ever that we have this reflective place where we can invite people who are very reactive to be able to see multiple sides of the issue, in light of the history of the Christian church and scripture, instead of just one side of an issue.
Do you have a vision for American evangelicals? How does CT fit into that?
David: It's hugely important for evangelicals to move beyond the United States and see the kingdom of God in the world. That's why the India article is so interesting. India's been a tough place. Nationalism is on the rise there. Christians are at greater risk than in the past.
It's the same when we see refugees in Syria and what's happened to Christians because of ISIS. You understand that the kingdom of God is a much bigger thing than the infighting and political and cultural divides that preoccupy us these days. Christianity Today helps us rise above our specific cultural situation.
Anything else you want to share?
David: I've been thinking a lot about the sources that I read. I've been a subscriber to The New York Times for 35 years. The Atlantic Monthly is a great magazine. I would say that Christianity Today is that same kind of journalism but with a broader voice. The Atlantic Monthly is pretty broad and the NYT is great journalism but it's pretty siloed. CT is siloed in the evangelical world but the cultural coverage is much greater than anything else I see in religious writing. That's an opportunity. We want to give to CT now and in the future in order to see this Beautiful Orthodoxy vision be embraced by a wide range of evangelical leaders.
Laurie: CT is willing to publish important critiques to us as evangelicals and that has to stay in our conversation. We want to support an organization like CT that is willing to speak truth. We want to make sure that a publication like that sticks around in the evangelical world.
Morgan Lee is an assistant editor of Christianity Today.