The Rev. John M. Buchanan was named winner of the 2012 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild at a luncheon in his honor July 5 during the 220th General Assembly here.
The award is given to a writer who has distinguished himself or herself in journalism, literature, poetry or scholarly writings. Buchanan has written books, including A New Church for a New World; Being Church, Becoming Community; and Sermons for the City, sermons and weekly columns as editor and publisher of The Christian Century.
Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director Linda Valentine paid tribute to her friend and former pastor from Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. Buchanan retired at the end of January after 48 years of ministry. “John was present at our children’s baptisms and confirmations,” she said, and throughout the time she and her family were members at Fourth Church.
Jack Haberer, editor and publisher of The Presbyterian Outlook and a member of the PWG’s board of directors, said, “I don’t think of John so much as a distinguished writer, but as a distinguished pastor.” For four decades Buchanan has been pastor of the one of largest churches in the PC(USA) “and the church is still growing,” Haberer said.
“I’m honored beyond words. Especially because of the award name, the David Steele Award,” Buchanan said as he accepted the award. He went on to say, “I see myself not as a writer, but as a reader.”
Buchanan said he loves his work at The Christian Century, partially because he “gets to hang out with some great writers.” For those who love to read, he added, “How incredibly powerful it can be. The Word of God is powerful. When the word becomes flesh in our words. This is what we (pastors) are about.”
The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation’s First-Book Award (formerly the Angell Award) recipient is the Rev. Kenneth E. Kovacs, pastor of Catonsville (Md.) Presbyterian Church, for his book The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter and Conviction, published in 2011 by Peter Lang. Judges said he won for superior writing skills evident in this effort to make a scholarly work understandable and interesting.
Kovacs told of a dream he had three years ago, in which he saw papers from a box of his, blowing away in the wind. He felt this dream was referring to his 500-page Ph.D. dissertation that was put away in a box collecting dust. “It was then that I contacted a publisher,” he said.
Kovacs spoke of Princeton Theological Seminary Professor James Loder with admiration and affection. “He was the most demanding professor,” Kovacs said. He said he especially admired Loder for “his faith, insight and reliance on God.”
The Distinguished Writer Award carries a cash prize of $1,000, plus travel and expenses to attend General Assembly. Other winners of the award include Eugene Peterson, Katharine Paterson, Fredrick Buechner, Kathleen Norris, Gustav Niebuhr, Ann Weems, the late Vic Jameson, Marj Carpenter and Presbyterians Today editor Eva Stimson.