William Willimon Interview – Acts Interpretation Commentary

acts interpretation commentaryWilliam Willimon (S.T.D., Emory University) is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School. A bishop in the United Methodist Church, Professor Willimon served as the dean of Duke Chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke University for 20 years. He returned to Duke after serving as the bishop of the North Alabama Conference from 2004 to 2012.

Willimon is the author of 70 books. His Worship as Pastoral Care was selected as one of the 10 most useful books for pastors in 1979 by the Academy of Parish Clergy. More than a million copies of his books have been sold. His articles have appeared in many publications including Theology Today, Interpretation, Liturgy, and Christianity Today. He is editor-at-large for The Christian Century. His book Pastor: the Theology and Practice of Ordained Leadership is used in dozens of seminaries in the United States and Asia.

His He has taught in Germany, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia in various seminaries. He is a trustee of Wofford College, Emory University, and serves on the Dean’s Committee of Yale Divinity School. In early 2017 he will publish Who Lynched Willie Earle? Confronting Racism through Preaching.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Acts?

I wrote the Acts commentary in the Interpretation series because I was invited to do so. They said that wanted a real life preacher to undertake the task – not a member of the academic biblical guild. I was surprised but undertook the work with enthusiasm. The project was a life-changing experience for me that has influenced all of my ministry.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Primarily pastors and also laity who want a deep, sustained encounter with Acts. The Interpretation series tries not to do a verse-by-verse commentary but rather deals with blocks of material, respecting the literary form of the biblical text. There are also opportunities for short essays on themes in the Acts of the Apostles as a whole.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Acts?

It’s not verse-by-verse but takes whole sections of the Acts of the Apostles. I was also encouraged to interpret from my perspective as a Wesleyan/Sectarian/Communitarian Christian. I think that by attempting to give an unabashed theological/literary reading of Acts (as opposed to an historical/critical reading) I came up with some fresh insights.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I loved the sections on life in early churches, the story of Annanias and Sapphira, the testimony before Felix, as well as Paul’s sea journey.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

I was struck by the “Jewishness of Jesus,” by the role of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders as a fundamental aspect of the Christian life. Acts is sort of “Jesus Continued,” or “The Aftereffects of Easter.”

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Acts?

I like Willie Jennings’ new commentary on Acts. Also Charles Talbert’s commentary.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Just finished a memoir that has lots of references to Acts. Isn’t it interesting that Luke tells the story of the early church by telling of some key personalities?

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