Esteemed Preacher and Professor Fred Craddock dead at 86

CNN Photo by Angie Walton

CNN Photo by Angie Walton

Dr. Rev. Fred Craddock, noted teacher and author on preaching who influenced a generation of United Methodist pastors during  his time at the Candler School of Theology died earlier today. Julie Jabaley, Executive Director of the Craddock Center confirmed that Craddock passed yesterday. While the specific cause of death is undetermined, Jabaley noted that Craddock had been struggling with Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and that it is believed that his death is connected to that illness.

Craddock served as the Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching during his time at Candler, and continued to serve as an emeritus professor in retirement. Dr. Thomas G. Long, who currently holds Craddock’s former position, said that Craddock’s role in affecting preaching in America is immense.

“Fred Craddock was a national treasure and a devoted servant of the church and Jesus Christ. His impact on preaching – in terms both of scholarship and practice – is incalculable,” Long said.  “On the scholarly side, his 1971 book As One Without Authority tilted the homiletical world on its axis and is arguably the most significant book in preaching to appear in the last 100 years. In that book, Fred Craddock articulated a form of proclamation that he called “inductive preaching.” In the inductive approach, the preacher, instead of announcing the main idea of the sermon at the beginning and then unpacking that idea in three or more didactic “points,” would work cooperatively with the hearers toward the disclosure of the sermon’s idea near the sermon’s end, usually experienced as a mutual discovery and shared burst of insight.”

In the years after retiring from academia, Craddock has been an active speaker and lecturer about preaching and faith, and founded The Craddock Center, a non-profit service ministry that serves children in North Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Ordained as a minister in the Disciples of Christ, Craddock served as the pastor emeritus of the Cherry Log Christian Church in the North Georgia mountains at the time of his death.

According to the Cherry Log Christian Church and The Craddock Center visitation with his family will be on Sunday, March 8th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Akins Funeral Home in Blue Ridge, GA.  Dr. Craddock’s funeral will be Monday, March 9th at 2:00 p.m. at Cherry Log Christian Church.

Facebook was filled with words of thanks and grief for Craddock’s influence, both as a scholar and as a person. Don Saliers, the retired professor of worship and a colleague of Craddock’s at Candler expressed the feelings of many in his post:

The world lost a most remarkable man today. Fred Craddock has gone from us. Those of us who had the privilege of calling him colleague and friend know what a light has been extinguished. Anyone who ever heard him preach or who were in his classes are forever blessed by his life and work. He was friend, mentor, a compassionate caretaker of words that made a difference and, above all, a faithful servant of the Word. We will not see his like again. May Light Perpetual shine upon him, and mercies surround Nettie and the family. Thank you, Fred, for all your gifts among us.

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Ralph D SchultzRichard HicksJames N. Earley, Ii, DMinSandy Wylie Recent comment authors
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Ralph D Schultz

In 1986, I attended Proclamation ’86, in Nashville. Not sure where the UMC church was located, I arrived some 45 minutes before the opening worship. As I sat in totally empty sanctuary, quietly meditation, the door at the front of the sanctuary opened and a gentleman, small in stature walked in. Now there were two people in the worship area. Slowly he approached the pew where I was sitting. Now sitting next to me, he asked my name, where I was from, and how I happen to attend this event. Carefully he listened to each answer. It was my turn… Read more »

Richard Hicks

While in seminary at Brite I experienced a preaching festival with him. His big idea – Just tell the story!

James N. Earley, Ii, DMin

Fred Craddock was a wonderful companion for so many in our preaching journey. We’ll all been blessed by his gifts, many and profound. To have been his classroom student in 1979-80 was a joy, an honor, and a priviledge. His stories still live in my heart, and he gave us all both permission and encouragement to be story-tellers.
I’m reminded of the last verse of “Blest Be the Tie”:
“When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain. But we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.”
Until that day, dear professor. God Bless.

Sandy Wylie

Fred also made great contributions to preaching in Oklahoma during his years at Phillips Theological Seminary. A truly great man has left us. Peace, Fred. RIP

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