Rod Dreher–Billy Abraham, Gone To God

This is a newsletter focusing on the spiritual, and on reasons to hope. It might seem weird to you today to lead off with the death of Dr. Billy Abraham, a well-known, much-beloved Irish Methodist who taught for years, until his retirement this year, at SMU in Dallas. He was 73. Though his death is a shock, and an occasion of sorrow, let me tell you why I rejoice in Billy’s life and example.

I met Billy back in 2005 at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. He was a dear friend of Archbishop Dmitri, and had come to visit. I instantly liked him. It was impossible not to. Billy was a small-o orthodox Christian, and we discussed the manifold problems within both the Catholic and the Methodist churches (I was still a Catholic at the time, and was contemplating becoming Orthodox). The difference between Billy and me was that while I back then was broken and angry, Billy was indefatigably optimistic. Actually, scratch that: he wasn’t optimistic, because he believed that for the Methodists, things were going to get worse (and they did); rather, he was hopeful. For Billy, hope wasn’t simply an act of faith, but a reasonable response to what he had seen in his own life.

Billy grew up in Northern Ireland, in the time of the Troubles — that is, the terrorist warfare between the Irish Republican Army and Protestant paramilitaries. He saw evil up close — a lot of it. I won’t go into detail in this recollection, because I don’t want to get any of the particulars wrong, and our discussion of the topic was a long time ago. But Billy told me about growing up as a Protestant in Belfast during a time when it was very, very easy for a young man to be drawn into political violence. I seem to recall him saying this happened to him and some or all of his five brothers, but my recollection is fuzzy, so I don’t want to say more. He came to Christ through the ministry of local Methodists, and changed his life. What stands out in my mind as I think today about that first encounter of mine with Billy is how grateful he was to have been liberated from the bonds of hatred….

Read it all and watch the whole video.


Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Methodist, Theology