Meyers is a well-known pastor and best-selling writer, as well as a commentator for National Public Radio and Oklahoma Gazette. Meyers also is a distinguished professor of social justice at Oklahoma City University.
The Lyman Beecher Lectures series has been an annual tradition since 1871 and is held in conjunction with Yale’s convocation. Meyers said he is the first native-born Oklahoman to be selected for the speaking honor.
Until recently, lectures focused on preaching, but organizers changed the topics to include “any work appropriate to the Christian ministry.”
Meyers also is one of the first to offer a series not directly focused on preaching, he said.
“My topic is the beloved community of resistance,” Meyers said.
“Each series is three lectures, and mine will focus on faith as resistance to ego, orthodoxy and empire.”
Meyers said he believes churches should be communities of resistance to powerful trends or movements that strip the Christian community of its identity. The topic is based on the idea that in our time, the problem with the church community is that it “blends in imperceptibly with the dominant culture,” he said.
“It wasn’t that way in the earliest years of the church,” Meyers said. “You could not be a solider and a Christian. The church was pacifist and resistant to the dominant culture. I believe churches should be centers for conscientious objectors and immigrants seeking asylum, and I would like to see them begin to loan money without interest again.”
The Yale program was established in the memory of the Congregationalist minister, also a leading voice in the abolitionist antislavery movement. He also was father to preacher Henry Ward Beecher, who offered the event’s first lecture series, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Meyers said he doesn’t know who recommended him. However, in his notification letter, the committee said that it was impressed by the “urgency of his work,” likely a reference to one or both of Meyers last two books: The Underground Church and Saving Jesus from the Church.
Past lecturers include luminaries in the field of homiletics (the art of preaching) like Peter Gomes of Harvard, Barbara Brown Taylor, Walter Brueggemann, Frederic Buechner and Meyers’ personal hero and Oklahoma resident Fred Craddock.
Craddock, a Tennessee native, was a professor at Phillips University, then in Enid, when he was selected to offer the lectures back in the late 1970s.
“It’s exciting for me personally to do what Fred Craddock did,” Meyers said. “When I was a young man, I imagined myself doing the things Craddock did, kind of as a model of ministry.”
The lectures are Oct. 23-25 at Yale’s historic Marquand Chapel. Lecture audio will be available, and it also will be streamed live on Yale’s website.
Additionally, Yale University Press is in negotiations with Meyers for a book that expands on his lectures to be published sometime next year.