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23 May 2007

The Rt Revd David Wilcox writes:
FURTHER to your obituary of Canon Reginald Fuller (Gazette, 11 May), Fuller was one of those New Testament scholars who always kept in mind the work of the preacher. In almost all the books he wrote, he combined a rigorous and critical study of the Bible with this concern for the homiletic task.

A small book published in 1957 was entitled What is Liturgical Preaching? in which he insisted that the service of the Word, including a sermon, is an integral part of the eucharist, and then offered samples of liturgical preaching based on the epistles and Gospels in the Book of Common Prayer.

Much later (1981), the Bible Reading Fellowship published The Use of the Bible in Preaching, in which Fuller set out clear guidelines to carry the preacher from careful exegesis of a passage through to the sermon itself.

In Interpreting the Miracles (1963), he characteristically traced a development from the miracles of Jesus’s ministry through to their interpretation in the Early Church, then in the Synoptic Gospels, and finally in the Fourth Gospel. Once again, there is a final chapter on preaching the miracles today, with worked examples.

His much larger book on The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (1972) was a technical work of New Testament scholarship, in which he examined the earliest Easter traditions and then the resurrection narratives in each of the Gospels in turn. Yet again, in his final chapter, Fuller dealt with contemporary faith and the preaching of the Easter narratives today.

Above all, we have his invaluable Preaching the Lectionary, which is about to be published in a new edition. It covers all the Sundays of years A, B, and C, together with certain feasts and holy days, and even some guidance for preaching at weddings and funerals. A judicious exegesis is applied to each of the three readings for every Sunday, followed by two or three proposals for their development in a sermon.

If the clergy sometimes leave their New Testament studies behind when they leave their college or course, and fall back into a quasi-literalist approach to the Bible, then the work of R. H. Fuller will remain vital to show us how to share with our congregations both the excitement and the relevance of critical study.

The Revd Margaret Raven adds: I remember Dr Fuller as a brilliant teacher of adults at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC, in the United States. This was in 1989 after his retirement from Virginia Theological Seminary.

Within two weeks of taking responsibility for a foundation New Testament class of 70-80 students, he not only knew the name of each student, but also answered their questions by responding from within their own tradition.

He taught always from the biblical text, always to display the range and history of biblical criticism, and always holding and translating from the Greek New Testament in his hand.

The class contained future ordained ministers from all mainline denominations in the US, the Methodist Church of Korea, and Black Baptist, African Methodist, Episcopalian, White and Black Pentecostal, UCC, Unitarian, Brethren, Nazarene, and other future pastors from the urban and rural communities around Washington.

Dr Fuller was highly respected by all these students, not only for his scholarship and the fact that he personally knew European scholars of his era, but chiefly because he taught the New Testament by communicating personal and historic faith.

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