Preaching and Plagiarism

There’s a very thought-provoking article by homiletician Tom Long currently up at the Christian Century on rampant sermon theft. Speaking as a teacher of preaching, he’s not exaggerating the situation…

There’s a much longer post here to be written that I’ve started at times but never satisfactorily completed that probes the contours of this issue moving from a condemnation of interpretative laziness, the need for both priest and parish to be open to the transforming text–a possibility often shut down by bad preaching–balanced with a rejection of novelty and originality for its own sake, ending with an affirmation that the work of preaching is not about creating something new but passing on what we have received–but passing it along in ways that enables the church to experience anew the living Jesus who is at the heart of what we pass down.

Read the article. Don’t plagiarize. Do proclaim the power of the resurrection.

9 thoughts on “Preaching and Plagiarism

  1. *Christopher

    A guest preacher at C’s parish once preached a knock out sermon, a semon which C then discovered a few days later as the work of another preacher while searching the internet for a source the preacher had used.

  2. lutherpunk

    damn you, you beat me to the punch!

    good article, but not as cut and dry as long presents. but i have a real attitude toward preaching profs who don’t have the every sunday reality of preaching grind.

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    I hear you on that, lp.

    Much of the academic stuff I see on preaching doesn’t translate well to the weekly grind… I’m convinced that one of the keys to teaching preaching is to focus less on teaching students about preaching and to focus more on instilling habits.

  4. John-Julian, OJN

    I THINK it was Cyril of Jerusalem (and don’t have time to check it now) who said that plagiarism for a preacher is no problem, since we are all preaching the glory of God, not our own. But if one IS going to use someone else’s words in a pulpit, one simply ought to say so. (I have preached John Chrysostom’s Easter homily sometime during Easter week for nearly 25 years and have many times read Dom Gregory Dix’s “Was Ever a Command So Kept” instead of a sermon on Corpus Christi – and announced them as such.)

    [In a slightly different line, back in 1982 a retired priest supplied for me one Sunday when I was away. He left his sermon notes on the pulpit. They were dated “1932” – the year of my birth!]

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    John-Julian, that’s precisely at the heart of the complexity as I see it–we are handing down what we have received and not creating anew as we go along. Crediting those from whom we have received, though, touches a number of virtues including truthfulness and humility. And I completely agree with those two selections from Fathers old and new!

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