Brennan Manning and Me

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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.


12 Comments

  1. Becca

    “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, I love this. Thank you.

  2. Keanan Brand

    Beautiful post.

    His books journeyed with me through a long, dark valley several years ago. They bolstered my faith, showed me that brokenness does not mean total failure as a person, and that God still loves me. When my library underwent a series of necessary purges, Brennan’s books remained, old friends the must be read every so often to remind me of lessons learned.

  3. Kevin Twit

    Was privileged to meet him once over lunch with my friends Scott Roley and Mike Card. I’ll never forget hearing him one time at St. B’s here in Nashville. I don’t really remember his words, but I’ll never forget how he ended his talk. He made us all close our eyes while he held up a little cassette player to the microphone and played an Irish tenor singing Amazing Grace. Something about hearing it rather than singing it myself helped me to hear it truly maybe for the first time. I realized that I had always thought the emphasis was on “a wretch like me” – but now I heard it was really about Amazing Grace. It was one of those rare times when the love of God flooded my heart – what the Puritans called “God’s kisses.”

  4. Jennifer Bishop

    Thank you for your words of comfort, grace, and truth. Such a fitting eulogy for this gentle messenger of our loving God. Heaven has gained another Saint, saved by grace.

  5. PaulH

    This is the first I ‘ve heard of this. I am glad for Mr. Manning, that he is without blemish or hinderance now. He too was used to help me understand god’s love and grace for me.

    There is one more raggamuffin kneeling before the Lord. Thanks be to God for this one.

  6. mike

    The Ragamuffin Gospel changed my life simply because it confirmed what the Spirit was doing in me. I will be forever thankful for the Truth of Grace from someone who really understood it. I’m sure there will be many who have written him off that will have plenty to write about him. Thank you for such an honorable post. Would that we could all love Jesus the way he did in spite of ourselves.

  7. David Braud

    Thanks for this post. Ragamuffin Gospel changed my perspective on religion/spirituality probably more than any other book I’ve read. I’d been a follower of Jesus for 4 years when I first read it (1996)… and in those 4 years had never read/heard any description of God’s love for me that was so formative and freeing.

  8. Scott Sprinkle

    Brennan Manning’s writings were my focus through the Lenten season and Easter we have just celebrated. I am thankful for his honesty. His willingness to openly discuss his struggles have helped me not to hide behind my own mask of self-deception. His love forthe Lord Jesus and the gospel was so full of zeal and passion. This has been a difficult season of life. His writings have been instrumental in helping me make any sense of it. Thank God for him.

  9. aimee

    I haven’t read Manning’s writing, but this “eulogy” sounds very much like my own father’s last year. Even this photograph reminds me of my Dad.

    At his memorial, if alcoholism and mental illness were merely hinted at, the labels were louder in the undertones, in his children gathered, in the friends that knew the full story. In his messy life, he followed God, and in his messy life I learned about the failings of human love which then made a clearer picture of the perfection of God’s love. In this painful grace, I learned to love both humans and God better, and the lessons came from the messy life of a follower of Christ.

  10. Rod Friesen

    I am repeatedly moved by men that are open and honest about their failures and acknowledge a deep need for God! Mr Manning never preached of attaining, but rather humbly spoke of yearning. A “cut-the-crap” kind of guy. Thank you Brennan for modelling a love affair with Christ!

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