Prolific writer’s ‘straightforward writing on grace’ will continue to resonate with generations for years to come
Brennan Manning, author, Franciscan priest, speaker and theologian best known for his book The Ragamuffin Gospel (Multnomah Books), died April 12 following several years of declining health. He was 78.
Manning’s sister and brother-in-law, Gerry and Art Rubino, announced his passing on Manning’s website and Facebook page, adding that, “While he will be greatly missed we should all take comfort in the fact that he is resting in the loving arms of his Abba.”
A prolific writer who once released nine books in a two-year stretch, Manning was known as a fierce advocate for the marginalized, poor and church-abused. His Ragamuffin Gospel, released in 1990, was billed as “good news for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out,” and heralded Jesus’ gospel of grace over a works-based salvation. The book became an oft-quoted classic for many well-known authors, artists and musicians, including Michael W. Smith, Michael Card and the late Rich Mullins, whose Ragamuffin Band was named after Manning’s book.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle,” Manning wrote. “That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
After graduating from Saint Francis College in Loretto, Pa., Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1963 and spent years as a theology professor at the University of Steubenville in Ohio and the spiritual director of Saint Francis Seminary. He later joined a European order called the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucald, spending time in France, Spain and Switzerland (where he was voluntarily imprisoned).
Upon returning stateside, Manning began writing more, especially following a brief relapse into his struggle with alcohol. With a renewed sense of God’s grace and love, he wrote with raw vulnerability and brokenness—a trait that became appreciated by readers worldwide and ran through such books as All Is Grace (David C Cook), The Journey of the Prodigal (The Crossroad Publishing Co.), Ruthless Trust (HarperOne), Abba’s Child (NavPress) and The Signature of Jesus (Multnomah Books).
Besides All Is Grace, Manning’s last book and memoir, Cook also published the author’s Patched Together and The Furious Longing of God.
“Brennan had a bit of a twinkle in his eye, capturing his impish spirit” said Don Pape, vice president of trade publishing at David C Cook. “I hope that now his eyesight is restored, his shoulders fully healed, and he’ll be prancing about in his patchwork jeans, fully knowing grace,” said Don Pape, vice president of trade publishing at David C Cook.
Stephen W. Cobb, president of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, added: “We were blessed to work with Brennan since the release of Ragamuffin Gospel. I have no doubt that his straightforward writing on grace will continue to resonate with upcoming generations for years to come.”
Writing with John Blase, Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer, an e-book for Alive Communications’ Bondfire Books, was recently completed.
In the past year, Manning also completed his first novel, The Prodigal. Co-written by Greg Garrett, the novel follows “the fall, rescue and redemption of Jack Chisholm, a megachurch pastor who preached the bad-news gospel that we are worthless and unworthy of God’s love—until he himself falls from grace.” One of the characters in the book, Father Frank, is loosely based on Manning’s life. Alive Communications is shopping The Prodigal, which is expected to be published posthumously.
Zondervan has also announced that this fall it will publish The Ragamuffin Bible.
Manning is survived by his sister; two stepdaughters; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.