On Friday there will be a gathering at the American Society of Church History annual meeting in San Diego. We will gather to honor a scholar, mentor, and friend to many.
Bill Gibson and I decided several years ago to put together a festschrift for a mutual friend, who also happens to be my doctoral mentor -- Dr. James E. Bradley. We decided to do this a bit differently than the typical book, which simply invited colleagues to submit essays that fit their own interests. Instead, we wanted to put together a book that was tightly focused on the area of interest and expertise of our friend. We then went looking for a major academic press to publish the book. That has occurred -- the book is now available. What is important to note is that Bill and I were astounded by the interest in the project, and even those who could not participate were pleased that we were doing this.
I wanted to take a moment to give my thoughts on what it means to have a mentor such as Jim. I have heard many a horror story about doctoral mentors who either chose to be obstacles to the success of their students or simply ignored them. For many doctoral mentors, Ph.D. students are little more than cheap labor on their own projects. But, Jim is different. I can personally attest to the fact that he not only gave me his full attention, he made it his business to make sure I succeeded. When I finished the project, I was accorded the honor of the "Doctor of Philosophy in Historical Theology with Distinction." That is the highest honor one could receive at Fuller at the time. I can safely say, that I achieved this honor, because of the attention that Jim gave to me and my work. He read everything I wrote, carefully, gave me guidance and direction, and more. That honor goes more to him, I think than perhaps to me. I was simply a willing student! In the years since, Jim has been a friend and encouragement to me and many others.
I want to say one other thing -- Jim is among the humblest of men I have known. He may have reached the height of his profession, being recognized by colleagues as an expert in the field, but his demeanor has never changed.
Therefore, I would like to commend to you, a man of grace and peace, Dr. James E. Bradley, whom we seek to honor with this book of essays: Religion, Politics and Dissent, 1660-1832: Essays in Honour of James E. Bradley (Ashgate, 2010). May Jim be blessed, even as he has blessed us with friendship.