Campbell gives season’s final sermon


The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, Chautauqua’s pastor and director of the Department of Religion, will preach on “The Case for Ambiguity.”

Mary Lee TalbotStaff Writer 

“We are living in an age of certainty, and I want to make the case for ambiguity,” said the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, director of the Chautauqua Department of Religion.

Campbell will be the preacher for the final Sunday of the 2012 Chautauqua Season at the 10:45 a.m. Service of Worship and Sermon. Her text is I Corinthians 13:4-13, and her title is “The Case for Ambiguity.”

“Even though the Scripture reading will be from the New Revised Standard Version, I will be preaching from the King James Version. I believe that we do see ‘through a glass darkly.’ That old translation is more poetic, but it is also more helpful in a time that is rooted in certainty,” she said. “I believe that it is in times of uncertainty, when we question our thoughts and decisions, that God can enter our lives. Chautauquans are leaving to go to an election burdened with certainty when we can only see anything partially.”

Campbell has been the director of the Department of Religion since March 2000. Before coming to Chautauqua, Campbell, a distinguished lifelong ecumenist, was the first ordained woman to serve as general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States.

Prior to her time at the council, Campbell served as director of the U.S. Office of the World Council of Churches. During those years, her commitment to peace with justice, crafted during her life-changing time with Martin Luther King Jr., was deepened in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu referred to her as “a woman of courage and compassion.” He pointed out that she was the only woman in the clergy procession of more than 200 for his installation as archbishop of South Africa, commenting, “Her voice helped to bring an end to the evil of apartheid.”

Campbell is an activist who believes deeply that in a democracy, citizens must act on their conscience. During her time as general secretary of the NCC, Campbell, in concert with Paul Gorman, Carl Sagan, Dean James Morton and Albert Gore, was a founder of what is today the National Religious Partnership on the Environment, and continues to serve as chair of the board.

Campbell’s continuing commitment to world peace is reflected in her work with the Charter for Compassion. She serves as chair of the Global Women’s Peace Initiative, on the board of the Global Health Council and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda councils on values and faith. In 2010, she was awarded the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award, and authored a book, Living Into Hope: A Call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This.