Paul writes – InJune I highlighted some Doctor of Ministry research being done by Barb Orlowski. It sounds like a very useful research project, and one I’d certainly like to see when completed. Barb continues to need people willing to participate in her research – people who want to ‘talk’ about “painful church experiences” – Barb narrows this descriptor down a little in her questionnaire.
If you’d like to be involved in the project, download the PDF and get in touch with Barb.
Paul writes – I’ve found useful a recent paper by John Corrie – Doing Anglican Theology. John Corrie “is Lecturer in Mission Studies in Trinity College Bristol. As an ordained minister he served for nine years in two parishes in Kendal and Nottingham before leaving with his wife and family for Peru where he served for five years as a Chaplain for the English-speaking church in Lima. On his return he taught theology of mission, ethics, ecclesiology and Latin American Studies at All Nations Christian College for eleven years and was their MA Course Director. He moved to Birmingham to lead a Centre for Anglican Communion Studies, after which he worked for the Archbishop of Canterbury [Rowan Williams] until April this year. His commitment is to work for the integration of missiology and theology, and he writes and speaks about the holistic mission of the Church as a sign and instrument of the Kingdom.” [A commitment that I share - Paul].
In part, John writes:
“If all theological interpretations, doctrines and liturgies are provisional, this makes them creative exercises, since the three kinds of relationship outlined above are dynamic and open in their outcomes. Any attempt to fossilise a doctrine, sanctify an interpretation or idolise a liturgy only condemns them to an irrelevance, which is a kind of death, an absence of life. There is even a danger of a bibliolatry, which so reverences the text itself as to close off debate and to make any tradition of interpretation irrelevant…
The only single immoveable point of faith and unchanging absolute is God Himself, to whom Scripture itself bears witness. Scripture is true because it reflects truth about God, and although the Canon is a final and definitive witness, its truth is in what it says about God. God speaks to us through its words, and he breathes into those words truth about himself. That truth has to be comprehended and received so that we might know God. So Scripture is not an end in itself. It must not be worshipped for itself, since only God himself should receive our worship and be glorified. But also Scripture is not self-evidently true - first it requires the Holy Spirit to lead us into its truth, second it requires faith to bring its truth alive to us, and third it requires reason to help us apply our minds to understand it. In discussing Richard Hooker, Rowan Williams comments: "...knowing is ineradicably a matter of contingent, conversational, perspectival and narrative development." [Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities, p. 44].
You can read John’s paper here (PDF). Web page with hyperlinks here.
Paul writes – Jordon Cooper directed me to an interesting interview with US systematic theologian, Kevin Vanhoozer. I haven’t had a lot of time to read Vanhoozer at length or to any real depth (that might be why I didn’t understand his response to the last question asked of him), but what I have read I’ve appreciated. Like Vanhoozer my early days as a follower of Jesus were taken up reading Warfield, Hodge, Murray, Machen, the English Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and others from the Reformed tradition.
Here’s an excerpt from one of Vanhoozer’s replies. I wonder if it’s that black and white. What do you think? Certainly I’ve experienced a church ‘led’ by managers. I’m not a member of that church any longer.
“The world is filled with therapists and managers. What the church needs now is people who can (1) articulate from the Bible the truth about God, the world, and ourselves in terms that are faithful to the Bible and intelligible in the contemporary context (2) exhort their congregations to say and do things that corresponds to the truth of Jesus Christ as attested in the Bible.”
Paul writes – ‘Monty’ Williams SJ co-authored the excellent book Finding God in the Dark: Taking the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to the Movies (pb). It’s a very useful book, with an introduction I keep referring too. I loved the Jesuit focus and it’s bringing into conversation Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and (largely) contemporary movies. This book encouraged me to wonder about the relationship between spiritual direction and movies and my final essay of a Spiritual Director’s training programme, completed a couple of years ago, emerged from that wondering.
Williams is due to visit New Zealand in October to give a presentation and to facilitate a workshop for Spiritual Directors in three of our cities. The presentation will focus on Films and Spirituality and The Incarnation and Contemporary Culture.
With thanks to Stephen Garner (PhD) for sending it to me, the PDF advertising Williams’ NZ visit is attached below
Former Roman Catholic, Caroline Myss (pronounced “mace”) explains why she chose the 16th century Catholic saint Teresa of Avila's InteriorCastle is her spiritual classic. And the controversial retired American Episcopalian Bishop, John Shelby Spong, reveals the book that changed his destiny, John T. Robinson's Honest to God.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Spong to young Christians (say faith-stages 2 & 3), the interview with him was an interesting listen. First time I’d heard him, but have a couple of friends in ministry in OZ who’ve really appreciated the way Spong challenges and stretches “handed-down” beliefs and understanding that has become comfortable (and in some cases “lazily” unquestioned).
While I don’t go along with his scholarship in many places, he has an interesting way of rearticulating things in ways that breath new possibility into them. I certainly didn’t find the content of his interview threatening to my Christian faith. There are some things I’ll reflect further on. I’ll look at some things from a different, and sometimes more helpful perspective. I’m all for reasoned debate and mutually critical conversation between other perspectives
John Shelby Spong:I was a very young priest in …North Carolina… [When I first became aware of the] book … He [John Robinson, in Honest to God] quotes Bonhoeffer, and he quotes Tillich… And I've read … those people, so this is nothing new. And I put it on my book reading list, and we went to the beach in North Carolina that summer, and I read that book, and I read it again, and I read it - I couldn't put it down, I read it three times from cover to cover, and what he did was let the cat out of the bag; he put together all of the things that we had just sort of piecemealed, but they suddenly came together in a cohesive whole, and you could no longer say the things you used to say about God with integrity. Your consciousness was raised to a new dimension. And so I had to begin the process of re-thinking what I believed. Not because the experience was changed, but certainly the explanation of the experience had…
And then in 1978 when I was a Bishop I met him at Lambeth and we were both so bored with Lambeth … so John and I began to take walks out in the woods of Kent. Every day we'd take a long 2-hour walk and we would discuss the New Testament… He was probably one of three key mentors in my life and I do quite deliberately feel that I take up his mantle of leadership and play the role that he has played in the life of the church…”
Download (for a limited time) the Mp3here. The Myss interview is included, and she also has some interesting things to say in conversation with Teresa of Avila.
Alan writes – recently I read this very interesting little book on how hope is nurtured in the face of life threatening illness. The author, a medical doctor, describes hope saying: - “Hope unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality. Although there is no uniform definition of hope . . . hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see – in the mind’s eye – a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along that path. True hope has no room for delusion.”
About helping others to find hope he says - “we all seek models of hope and despair, and our sense of hope or despair is reinforced by direct contact with someone who has either prevailed or perished. But more important, to help a person find hope, you need to know him in real depth.”
You can read the introduction hereand more about the author and book here.
Paul writes – Earlier in the year I had the opportunity of spending time with the two authors of this soon to be published book – MetaVista: Exploring the Bible, the Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination by Colin Greene and Martin Robinson. I was impressed. All the more so as I listened in on the recording of an audio interview of Colin Greene by Alan Roxburgh. Presumably the interview will be made available via the Allelon website (Roxburgh Journal) in due course.Both authors have written a number of books. Greene’s, Christology in Cultural Perspective: Marking out the Horizons, while academic, appears to me just the kind of resource we need to engage with as we seek to recover the significance and importance of Christology, remixed for times such as ours. In fact, I think a remixed Christology and Pneumatology seem to me to be critically needed in the life of the church, outworked in the everyday and the ordinary.
Here’s the publishers blurb:
“The core narrative of Christianity, the book that conveys it (the Bible) and the institution of the church have been marginalised by the development of modernity and post-modernity. Strangely, post-modernity has created an opportunity for religious thinking and experience to re-enter many lives.
Yet post-modernity is not an adequate framework for thinking about life. There is therefore an opportunity for Christians to imagine what comes after and to prepare the church for a new engagement of mission with western culture.
The church, through a creative missionary imagination, can re-define western cultural life. This book sketches what such an approach might look like.
'If you have a taste for the subversive, a passion for the church, a heart for biblical engagement, and an eye on the future; this book is a must-read.' Roy Searle, Northumbria Community, former President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
More info about the book is on the publishers website here. Not yet on the Amazon.uk site. My understanding is that the book was expected to be available from Nov. 07.
Paul writes – As mentioned in a previous post I thought I’d post a bit more about how and why Rowan Williams is the kind of Archbishop of Canterbury he is. Too many people seem to write him off without really putting the effort in to understand him. I’ve made a point of spending time reading him (his own works and the views of others). He’s not always an easy read, but I’m glad I’ve taken the time. He’s a prolific writer so I’ve still got plenty of titles, lectures, essays etc to get through.
Rupert Shortt has written a useful introduction to Williams and is currently writing a full-blown biography, to be published by Hodder and due out in November 2008.I suspect it might be out a little later than that, particularly if Shortt wants to engage with decisions made, and actions taken, in both the lead up to Lambeth and following Lambeth.
Here’s the link to an excellent paper – The Impossibility of the Last Word: The Theology of Rowan Williams (PDF) – delivered in Australia in 2003 by The Rev'd Humphrey Southern is a graduate of Oxford University in history and theology. He is Team Rector of the Nadder Valley Team Ministry and the Rural Dean of Chalke in the Diocese of Salisbury, UK. He was on a private tour to Australia to look particularly at the relative health (or otherwise) of the inclusive, representative ecclesiological style in a range of dioceses and parishes. He delivered the paper on 23 July 2003 to a seminar hosted by the 'Spirituality at St James' program of St James' Church, King Street, Sydney (the paper was referenced in this book)
Southern’s excellent paper sympathetically seeks to explore the theology of Archbishop Rowan Williams in the context of the apophatic (or reticent) tradition of Christian theology and spirituality. It hopes to demonstrate a degree of conservatism in Williams' doctrine and method, but also shows something of the difficulties that a theology committed to dialogue and exchange (such as his is) poses to those with a stronger idea of the category of revelation in the Christian tradition.
Alan writes – The image of a monarch butterfly forming in the quiet, dark and lonely space of a chrysalis has been an important one for me for many years. In November Paternoster will publish a book under this title in which I use the image of the chrysalis as a metaphor of hope for those in the midst of faith transitions and metamorphosis. The book can be pre-ordered here
The blurb on the book says:
Drawing on an ancientmetaphor helps to make sense of the bewildering and disorienting changes people experience in faith today. Some experience these radical changes as a seductive awakening to new depths; for many others they are a Gethsemane-like pathway of pain and suffering. Recognizing the uniqueness of each journey this reflection points towards a resurrected richness of faith. It offers hope and consolation, while accompanying readers in the midst of substantive faith and life transformations.
Chrysalis is primarily pastoral and practical, drawing on Scripture, the best of Christian understandings throughout the centuries, the strength of research and psychology and the practical experience Alan brings as a fellow journeyer and a pastor.