Saintly Commitment to Religious Liberty
by Marvin Bordelon
Dean M. Kelley, who worked for many years as the head of the U.S. National Council of Churches' committee on religious freedom, passed away earlier this year.
Dean Kelley joined the National Council of Churches three decades ago under the aegis of justice-social action.
His justice sense led him into the field of religious freedom-a justice matter-and of church-state relations. Dean had an acute sense of justice for each individual in matters religious, and he had an equally perceptive appreciation for the duties demanded by freedom.
To do justice to him, I freely appeal to master William Shakespeare. In The Tempest, the bard has Duke Prosepro epitomize the life of his dead wife to his daughter, Miranda, orphaned at three: "Thy mother was a piece of virtue." So it is with Dean Kelley.
Shakespeare later has the good spirit Ariel argue for freedom from his servile state before the duke:
Remember, I have done thee worthy service, told thee no lies, made thee no mistakings, serv'd without grudge or grumblings.
Dean Kelley has no problem arguing his case before the Just Judge-for full freedom from this mortal coil.
If a higher authority be needed to be norm for my friend, then I am reminded what Scripture says of Jesus: He has done all things well. So it is with Dean Kelley.
Finally, as a Catholic, I posit my continuing relationship with this Methodist Christian Dean within the framework of the Communion of Saints. Dean sought wisdom, and most often found it. He lived by his conscience. In his justice work, he promoted the difficult middle course between rights on the one hand and duty on the other: responsible religious freedom.
Dean Kelley: Christian. I hesitate not to call him Saint, for he did his thing assiduously (and as a Methodist, methodically). I commune with him still; seek his wisdom now; and his intercession with God. Saint Dean Kelley, friend-in-communion. May God console and prosper his wife, Marion; his daughter Lenore; his grandson, Mark.
Marvin Bordelon is head of the American Association of New Religious Movements.