Last night I saw it on Twitter: “Brennan Manning has died.” His death has been coming for quite some time now. I’ve been expecting it. However, I questioned the news initially, not having seen any legitimate source for the information (an obituary, a news article, his website, or his Facebook page). But this morning it was confirmed on his website.
If his recent autobiography is correct, Brennan’s drinking killed him. Depending on how you view alcoholism, Brennan was either the victim of a terrible disease, or he was just a lush. In any case he made a long habit of lying (at least through omission) about his condition. That, by the way, is a symptom of the disease. He was a victim and a perpetrator, a liar and a sufferer, a vow breaker and a people pleaser. He was no plaster saint, no image on a holy card, no bearer of hagiography.
Brennan Manning was a man who loved Jesus and, most importantly, was beloved of Jesus. He was a sinner but a forgiven one. He was a liar who spoke the truth. He was a broken vessel, a jar made of clay, who nonetheless bore the Good News of Jesus Christ to millions—myself included.
Brennan Manning taught me the Gospel. If I have ever shared the love of Jesus with you, you can be sure that Brennan was partly to blame. If I have ever pointed anyone to kindness, forgiveness, or hope, you can be sure that Brennan’s words helped to form my message. Though I only met him twice, he was one of my most important mentors in the faith. Now he joins most of those mentors in glory.
I commend to your reading the treasures Brennan left to us. Abba’s Child and Ruthless Trust are my favorites, but The Ragamuffin Gospel was his best-known work. If you read him, please remember that the Holy Spirit is working through him in spite of all his personal failings. Thank God, because that’s how He works in all of us.
Thomas McKenzie is the author of The Anglican Way, a book he describes as a traveler’s guide to the Anglican tradition, as well as The Harpooner, an Advent reader featuring harpoons—how awesome is that. He graduated from the University of Texas and attended seminary at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1998 and planted the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville in 2004, where he is the still pastor. He’s also keeps samurai swords in his office, and wears a skull ring.