Thomas Oden

Methodist Theologian Thomas Oden 1931-2016, Champion of Christian Orthodoxy

on December 8, 2016

Institute on Religion & Democracy Press Release
December 8, 2016
Contact: Jeff Walton Office: 202-682-4131, Cell: 202-413-5639, e-mail:

“He was a dear friend and counselor, a brilliant and cheerful warrior for good causes, irreplaceable.”
-Mark Tooley, IRD President

Washington, DC—Theologian Thomas C. Oden, one of Methodism’s and American Christianity’s most esteemed theologians, passed away at his home in Oklahoma last night.

An emeritus board member who chaired the board of the Institute on Religion & Democracy in Washington, D.C. for six years, Oden was also professor emeritus at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Oden remained a prolific writer in his final years. A scholar of the Early Church Fathers, he edited the nearly two dozen volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. His most recent books are on early African Christianity and on the social ethics of John Wesley, including Systematic Theology and most recently Turning Around the Mainline and How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind.

In a 2013 talk at the Evangelical Theological Society, Oden recalled gratitude for his devout Nazarene grandmother who “prayed for me daily” while he had been spiritually “misguided.” She had a “high doctrine of scripture,” while he grew up in a “liberal Methodist background.”

“We don’t read it without the work of the Holy Spirit,” Oden said of Bible reading. He also credited his eventual appreciation of Wesleyan orthodoxy and the “primal authority” of Scripture to theologian Albert Outler, the “premier teacher of Wesley the last 100 years.”

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

“Tom Oden was esteemed as a theologian of Methodism, a Christian ecumenist and a scholar of the Early Church Fathers, who journeyed from mid-20th century liberal Protestantism to robust orthodoxy, for which he was an ardent champion.

“IRD was honored by his service on our board for eight years. He was a dear friend and counselor, a brilliant and cheerful warrior for good causes, irreplaceable. Tom is now with the early saints whose lives and teachings he studied so closely. May God bless his memory and perpetuate the fruit of his labors.”

  1. Comment by Palamas on December 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Thomas Oden has done more than perhaps anyone in the last century to revive and encourage the study of the Church Fathers by American Protestants. He will be sorely missed.

  2. Comment by Judith Mendelsohn Rood on December 8, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    I loved his book on how the African church shaped the Christian mind, but I thought that the title should have been how the Jews shaped African Christianity in the First Century. I am sorry I never met him. He profoundly influenced my thinking about the early church.

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