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The words of Verna Dozier

9/2/2006
[Episcopal News Service] 

In Celia Hahn (1977, January), Talking about lay ministry with Verna Dozier, lay person, teacher, consultant. Action Information on Lay Ministry. Washington, DC: Alban Institute.

One of the things that I most value about my ability to open up the Bible to people is that since I don't have any professional training in that field, I can model what I'm talking about, that the Bible is not a closed book that only professionals can open. (n.p.)

The word 'vocation' comes from the word 'call' and I've always had a very high vision of that. Now that I'm retired from the school system, my vocation is being involved in a hundred different things that have to do with the church. And I'm very responsive to that now because I'm not dodging anything out there in the world to work in the church. If you have enough energy, your vocation can express itself in both places. I love to teach, and I spent a lot of time developing those skills, which can be used either in public education or Christian education. (n.p.)

In Dozier, V. J. (1982). The authority of the laity. Washington, DC: The Alban Institute.

It is important that we understand the Bible as model for how we live our lives, not as a rule book. The issue that the Bible raises is, in light of what God has done in history, what kind of response do I make in my daily life? (p. 13)

What we have done is make an idol out of the Bible, to make it the fourth person of the Trinity. (p. 14)

If I believe that there is a loving God, who has created me and wants me to be a part of a people who will carry the good news of the love of that God to the world, what difference does it make when I go to my office at 9 o'clock Monday morning? What difference does it make in my office that I believe there is a loving God, that God loves me, and that God loves all human beings exactly as God loves me? What different kinds of decisions do I make? What am I called to do in that office? (p. 16)

The lay person's primary function is out there in the world. There is a problem when the church becomes the primary focus of their lives. (p. 40)

In Dozier, V. J. (1988). The calling of the laity: Verna Dozier's anthology. Washington, DC: The Alban Institute.

There are no second-class citizens in the household of God. Religious authority comes with baptism, and it is nurtured by prayer, worship, bible study, life together. (p. 115)

What happens on Sunday morning is not half so important as what happens on Monday morning. In fact what happens on Sunday morning is judged by what happens on Monday morning. (p. 115)

In Dozier, V. J. (1990, May). Saying "yes" in a "no" world. The Witness, 73, 8-9.

In a world that exalts whiteness, maleness, youth, I live by a faith that whiteness, maleness, youth is not the best part of reality—nor the worst either—but only part of reality and indeed, without blackness, femaleness, age, a very incomplete part. (p .8)

In Dozier, V. J. (1991). The dream of God: A call to return. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications.

The biblical story is always to be prefaced by, 'This is how the faith community that produced the record saw it.' It is never to be absolutized as 'This is the way it was.' The story always points the way to an understanding of God that is greater than the facts themselves. I think any understanding of the biblical story that fails to see it as a human response only pointing to the dream of God is itself an idolatry. (p. 67)

The important question to ask is not, 'What do you believe?' but 'What difference does it make that you believe?' (p. 105)

Back when I first started talking about ministry, it was seen as something the ordained did. Lay people had no ministry at all except as they participated in the work of the institution. If you taught in the Christian education program, you had a ministry. If you taught in the public schools, you 'did time' five days a week until you could get to your ministry. When I began my second career, people would say, 'You taught school for thirty-two years; then you began your ministry.' In my unredeemed way, I would steel myself and reply through clenched teeth, 'No, I continued my ministry.' (p. 140)

Do you want to follow Jesus or are you content just to worship him? (p. 143)

The urgent task for us in the closing years of this turbulent century is to reclaim our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as the baptized community. (p. 145)

The separation of the body into clergy and laity was not intrinsically sinful. . . .The sin lay in what we did with the division, assigning to one part the designation that belonged to the whole people of God—holiness. Baptism was no longer all that was necessary to identify the chosen. We had to pile on ordinations and consecrations. (p. 148)

What I understand about God is not God. Even Jesus was understood to be the fullness of the Godhead bodily, not the fullness of the Godhead. Jesus was not God. That is a paradox the institution dare not wrestle with because it can purvey only certainties. We are faithless people who demand certainties. The institution, the faithless shepherd, doles out certainties to us and is rewarded with our unquestioning allegiance. (p.147)

In Dozier, V. J. (1992, November 19). Sermon at the consecration of Jane Holmes Dixon as suffragan bishop of Washington. Virginia Seminary Journal (1993, April).

The Church of God is all the people of God, lay and ordained, each order with its unique vocation, the lay order to be the people of God in the world, to witness by their choices and their values, in the kingdoms of the world, in the systems of commerce and government, education and medicine, law and human relations, science and exploration, art and vision, to witness to all these worlds that there is another possibility for human life than the way of exploitation and domination; and the vocation of the ordained order is to serve the lay order, to refresh and restore the weary souls with the Body and the Blood, to maintain those islands, the institutional church, where life is lived differently but always in order that life may be lived differently everywhere. (p. 34)

In Dozier, V. J. (1993). In dialogue with scripture: An Episcopal guide to studying the Bible. Linda L. Grenz. New York: Episcopal Church Center.

A Scripture community has a passion for justice. It is intensely interesting that in our religious life, we have talked much about love, but little about justice. Justice is the most fundamental concept in the Old Testament and is almost ignored in our study of Scripture. Justice is about life in community. We are more individually-minded than community-minded. Religion for many of us is very individualized, private, and personal. We wax eloquent about love and say not a word about justice. Love without justice is sentimentality. (p. 16)

In Dozier, V. J., & Adams, J. R. (1993). Sisters and brothers: Reclaiming a biblical idea of community. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications.

It is important to be mindful that before God we have all missed our high calling. We have participated in, and profited from, a social and economic system that has contributed to the undoing of some of our sisters and brothers. (p. 124)

In Dozier, V. J. (1997, May). Praying the Lord's prayer. A sermon at the commencement of the Episcopal Theological School of the Southwest. Ratherview (Fall).

Every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, we are praying revolution. . . . Help people to pray it, with all the cost and promise of that. "Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." A call for a world turned upside down - or as one young man said to me, "No, Verna, it's a call for a world to be turned right side up." A fallen world lifted up, a new heaven and a new earth. That's the end of the story, and we are called to be a part of that. (p. 9).