The Rev. Warren Crews, PhD

Background and Intersections of Interest

I graduated from Yale University in 1962 with a degree in Philosophy with an emphasis on the contemporary period.  After Yale, I attended the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating with a M.Div. in 1965.  In the early 1970s I added to my degrees a Master of Teaching in American History with courses from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Oklahoma City University.  My final degree was a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from St. Louis University in 1995 with an emphasis on the American Period. 

My religious journey has strongly influenced all four of my degrees and my continuing academic pursuits.  In my childhood our household was religiously divided between my Roman Catholic father and my Christian Scientist mother.  In high school I became interested in church music, and began attending church with my best friend, a Lutheran, whose congregation had a strong choral tradition.  I was baptized there and continued in that denomination through my freshman year at Yale.  Meanwhile, my parents decided to find a common faith tradition, which led them to join the Episcopal Church.  They encouraged my brother and me to join with them, which transpired in 1960.  I did so under the guidance of the Episcopal Chaplain at Yale.  He encouraged me to explore other major Christian traditions.  Through that process I became interested in the history of Christian thought.  Alongside my philosophical courses I investigated the systematic theology of Paul Tillich and his Christian existentialism, as well as the Christian social theories of Archbishop William Temple.

That ecumenical interest became more focused in my seminary years of 1962-1965 which were the same as those of the Second Vatican Council.  I was my seminary’s representative on the inter-seminary group in New England and wrote my senior thesis on an ecumenical topic.  Upon graduation, I was ordained in the Episcopal Church in my home state of Oklahoma.  One of my early positions there was that of being a school chaplain.  One of the subjects I taught was American history, which led to my American historical courses at UNC-CH, where I focused on the theological debates in the colonial period. 

Later in my career as an Episcopal priest, I returned to my academic interests, which led to my Ph.D. program at St. Louis University .  There, I wrote my thesis on early American ecumenical efforts from 1835 to 1870, focusing on the ideas of three theologians: William Augustus Muhlenberg, an Episcopalian, Samuel Schmucker, a Lutheran, and John Nevin, German Reformed.  I sought to show how their proposals for Christian unity when combined resembled those of the very influential work of the Faith and Order Movement in the 1940s, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry.  A recent ecumenical task was to write three chapters in A Eucharist Shaped Church: Prayer, Theology, Mission in which I explored how our Anglican and ecumenical partners have been revising their eucharistic services in light of the groundbreaking liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council.  In two other chapters I explored, first, the intersection between theology and liturgy in the writings of F.D. Maurice, the so-called father of the liberal Broad Church movement in the Church of England and an ecumenical proponent, and, second, used the ancient filioque controversy as a test case for the eucharistic theories our book was proposing.   

My most recent task is to do a similar ecumenical survey of Anglican and ecumenical partners on new thinking about and liturgical revisions of daily prayer services.  This has led me more deeply into Eastern Orthodox thought on the purpose and goal of communal prayer and worship.  I have also expanded my ecumenical interests to include interfaith dialogues.  Especially interesting to me is the work of a new cadre of Jewish New Testament scholars and the impact of their studies on the Jewish roots of early Christianity might have on contemporary Christian theology.  Having two grandchildren, who are transgendered, has encouraged me to explore the roots and implications of an emerging “queer theology”.  The growing ecological crisis has also challenged me to think more about an often forgotten emphasis on the cosmic dimension in early Christian soteriology.

What I'm Currently Reading

Hans Boersma, Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry (2011)

Amy-Jill Levine & Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Second Edition (2017)

Amy-Jill Levine, The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (2009)

Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (1976)

Samuel Sandmel, We Jews and Jesus: Exploring Theological Differences for Mutual Understanding (2006)

Eugene R. Schlesinger, Missa Est! A Missional Liturgical Ecclesiology (2017)

Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology (1966)

Rowan Williams, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (2014)

Jordan Daniel Wood, The Whole Mystery of Christ: Creation as Incarnation in Maximus the Confessor (2022)

John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (1985)