What has Pentecostalism ever done for Christianity?

A guest post by Bishop Dr Joe Aldred

The eve of the publication of my next book, an edited work, Pentecostals and Charismatics in Britain: An Anthology, seems a good moment to reflect on the contribution of Pentecostalism to Christianity.  As readers of the anthology will discover, Pentecostalism, which burst on the scene at the start of the 20th Century, is viewed by some as a kind of Second Reformation, this time awaking the Christian church to the missing ingredient of an immanent God expressed as transformative power. This eruptive awakening is not without its challenges, For example, as one commentator observes, ‘Pentecostalism has succeeded in creating more schisms in a century than it took the rest of Christianity in two thousand years’ (see Allan Anderson’s chapter in the book, p. 139).

Whether as renewal energy within mainstream Christianity or as a reforming movement in its own right, Pentecostalism and its offshoot Charismaticism, has tended to divide cell-like to grow.  This can be viewed as healthy diversification or unhealthy fragmentation.  However one views it, the last one hundred-plus years have seen Pentecostal and Charismatic expressions of Christianity surge around the world challenging downward trends in so-called developed western countries.  Pentecostalism brings a certain certitude and confidence to the Christian faith worldwide. As my church sing, ‘if God is dead, tell me who is this living in my soul?’

Pentecostalism demonstrates that God still works through base people, those on the underside of our rich world.  We see this in the recorded happenings at the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles (circa 1906-1909), recognised as part of a simultaneous combustion of Pentecostalism in various parts of the world including Britain. At Azusa Street people began to rediscover ‘signs and wonders’ such as healings and glossolalia previously abandoned or unknown in a modern church that had become weakened and ineffectual as a result.  From Azusa Street and other places around the world the supernatural has become near normal in today’s church and this is owed to the rise of Pentecostalism in the modern church.

A feature of Azusa Street, is that it was located among the poorest areas of Los Angeles (see Andrew Davies’ chapter, p. 7).  This was where God chose to pour out his Spirit.  The mission was led by a one-eyed black man William Seymour, son of enslaved parents living under Jim Crow laws, with little by way of formal education or status to commend him. Seymour is totemic of how Pentecostalism raises up the disfranchised, poor and marginalised. As Mark Sturge (p. 180) reminds us, God has never been uninterested in the plight of the poor. We recall too that the first century disciples of Jesus turned apostles were drawn from among the common people. The ‘fringe churches’ that resulted represent a grassroots movement challenging the status quo.  Pentecostalism therefore empowers even illiterates, who moved by the Holy Spirit build and lead churches without the approval of ecclesial hierarchy. 

However it is instructive to note that what became the litmus test of classical Pentecostalism, namely glossolalia, was the construction of a white man who obeyed Jim Crow laws that required the exclusion of William Seymour from being in the same classroom as white students.  Charles Parham, ‘the theological father’ of the movement was principal of a bible school in Topeka, Kansas and it is his brainchild of ‘initial evidence’ that remains central in much of Pentecostalism today. While rightly understood as empowering the poor and the laity by making participation in leadership more reachable than in ‘established’ or ‘mainstream’ churches, the privileged, better educated and trained still play pivotal roles even as the phenomenon continues to spread in the poorer global south more than in the wealthier global north.

Pentecostals tend to see Acts 2 as a key point of reference for the belief that the Holy Spirit has come among the church and operates miraculous power. Making the powerless powerful is a key performative trait and pneumatological experience is understood as transformative (Forster p. 35).  This exercise of divine power challenges cessationist ideology and promotes a church of power capable of engaging with and overcoming the principalities and powers that seek to hinder the work of God in the world.  Pentecostals contrast nominal (William Kay’s chapter, p. 53) Christian practice with those filled with the Holy Spirit and committed to affecting their community and world for good by the transformative power of God. Pentecostals live their lives in expectation that God is immanent and personal. 

For Pentecostals it is Scripture that stands undisputedly and supremely at the hegemonic pinnacle of belief as a theological and doctrinal source.  ‘Bibleology’ or a reliance on the Bible embraces the Reformers’ sola scriptura mantra (Anderson p.138) and holds fast the inerrancy and infallibility of the bible.  Some critics of Pentecostalism view these as simplistic and fundamentalist approaches to scriptural understanding. However, Pentecostals continue to remind the Christian church of the significance of Holy Writ and its centrality to the faith of the church.  Even as some Pentecostal pastors tell their congregations ‘the only book you need to read is the Bible’ (Davies p. 12), it is apparent that from the beginning Pentecostalism has promoted engagement with wider publication genres.  Yet there is little doubt that while other sources are embraced for knowledge, the bible stands as supreme authority in Pentecostalism.

Finally, if you have never visited a Pentecostal church, particularly a Caribbean or African-led one, you really should. Probably the first thing that will impact you is the sheer joy of the worshippers. You may even find this in Pentecostals outside of church too! Pentecostal ecstatic communal worship marked by spontaneity and creativity (Daniel Akhazemea p. 73) is a trademark everywhere, an essential ingredient of a people filled with the Holy Spirit for whom joy is one of the gifts freely given. The use of polyrhythmic handclapping, tambourines, drums, percussions, bass, guitar, keyboards, choirs, soloists have transformed the mode of worship across almost all churches. Dancing and jumping in worship in church is now common place, this was not so in the UK fifty years ago (Akhazemea p. 80). This infectious joy, along with much besides, represent a flavour of how Pentecostalism has impacted the whole church, proving as some sang, ‘this joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me; the world didn’t give it and the world cant take it away’.

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred is a broadcaster and ecumenist. He is responsible for Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations at Churches Together in England and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Roehampton.

Pentecostals and Charismatics in Britain is published later this month, but you can pre-order the book now at a special pre-publication discount.


7 Reasons why I’m involved in interfaith work

We asked Tom Wilson, author of Hospitality, Service, Proclamation: Interfaith engagement as Christian Discipleship, why he takes interfaith engagement so seriously.

Nesvizh / Nyasvizh, Minsk Voblast, Belarus: cross and crescent – carving – photo by A.Dnieprowsky

1 – It is a normal part of my Christian life. Christians celebrate Holy Communion, albeit in different ways, and with different understandings of what is going on, because Jesus told us “do this in remembrance of me.” Christians baptise, again at different times and with different understandings of what is going on, because Jesus told us to go and baptise. Christians build friendships and talk about their faith with those of all faiths and none because Jesus told us to love our neighbours, and he defined “neighbour” to mean anyone, friend, foe or somewhere inbetween. For me, interfaith engagement is just part of being a Christian.

2 – It helps me grow as a Christian. I have been asked all kinds of challenging questions that have deepened my faith. A Hindu once asked me, “How can you expect to make spiritual progress when you participate in killing?” He was talking about eating meat, and his point was that if you are prepared to kill living beings in order to satisfy your physical hunger, what does that say about your spiritual attitude to living beings? Now, I don’t think Christians have to be vegetarian, but I do think Christians have to think carefully about what God’s charge of stewardship of the earth actually means, and this question was a prompt for me to reflect further. Another time, a Muslim asked me why I celebrated Christmas, noting that Jesus had not told us to do so. This was a helpful reminder of the need to separate commercial, customary Christmas, from celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

3 – It forces me to be clear about exactly what is unique about Christian faith. It makes me come back, time and again, to Jesus, who he is, what he said, what he has done. I do not just mean a trite ‘the answer’s always Jesus’ approach borrowed from Sunday School, but rather a mature, considered, continual reflection on how it is that God can take human flesh, live among us, experience human life and yet be without fault or blemish. I talk more about Jesus in interfaith conversations that I do in most other places.

4 – It is imitating Jesus’ love for the world. God so loved the world John 3:16 begins, and interfaith engagement is one way of me demonstrating that love. When I support my Muslim friend as she tries to run a community event, or help my Hindu colleague develop skills in project management or explain safeguarding to a group of Buddhists who do not know where to start in developing a policy, my motivation is that God loves these people and he calls me to love them sacrificially. Ours are divisive times, and Christians ought to be leading the way in providing prophetic challenge to the spirit of our age. Of course, this is never simple, and there are all kinds of geopolitical issues that make it much more complicated. But fundamentally if we say we love our enemies then we have to live that out, or else our faith is just as resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I think it is important to be motivated solely by love, with no ulterior motive or expectation of conversion as any kind of ‘payment’ for our loving service of the world.

5 – It enables me to think through clearly the ethics of evangelism. There are good ways and bad ways of sharing the good news of Jesus. Bad ways include material inducement, emotional manipulation, only speaking of the gift without the cost and many more. Christians who have dedicated their lives to working with those of other faiths have to develop a keen ethical sense of what is appropriate and what is not. The guidelines produced by the Christian Muslim Forum are a great place to begin to think about this.

6 – I see it in the Bible. Jesus is forever crossing boundaries of faith, whether it is in his healing of the Centurion’s servant or his time in Samaria. The Prophets likewise did not just speak to God’s people, even if they did so reluctantly, Jonah being the obvious example. Other Prophets, such as Elijah or Elisha, were sent beyond the boundaries of ethnic Israel, reminding us that the Spirit blows where he wills, and our duty is to follow his lead, not to try and contain him.

7 – Its good fun. I have learnt all sorts of things about myself, about the world, about other people through interfaith engagement. I have tried all kinds of interesting food, visited lots of fascinating places within the UK, and overseas, and grown in my understanding of myself, my faith and the world in which I live. I know Jesus better because I see him at work in the lives of people of all faiths and none, and that draws me in to follow where he leads.

Tom Wilson is the Director of the St Philip’s Centre, based in Leicester.

Hospitality, Service, Proclamation is published this month. Visit our website for an exclusive pre-publication offer.

Let’s face it, we need a rest…

A guest post from Mark Scarlata, author of Sabbath Rest: The Beauty of God’s Rhythm for a Digital World

I’m sitting in a café writing this post and watching people stream in and out. It’s a normal day in Cambridge where students, tourists and locals fill the streets and shops. As I look around almost everyone has some sort of digital device they’re staring into—phones, laptops, tablets. Very few are actually speaking to anyone face-to-face. I’m sure many are caught up in the constant stream of Brexit news, or the latest on Donald Trump. We are physically present in the same place, but do we have any sense of those around us? (And yes, I note the irony that I too am writing this whilst staring into a screen!)

This is not an uncommon scene in our modern society. The speed and self-absorption we experience in the digital world leaves us disconnected from our surroundings and often from one another. It is a pace of life that is without rhythm, cadence or a sense of connection to the physical world. We are constantly distracted by our notifications, social media or email. This constant stream of interruption creates anxiety and a stress that is almost palpable around us. But rather than engaging with others, so often we simply slip on our headphones and yet again block out the other.

The digital world has offered many benefits but like any new technology it has also offered significant challenges. Many of us have simply accepted the technological wave of the past century and can barely remember what life was like without social media, email, or even mobile phones! For others who have grown up as ‘digital natives’ the life of constant connection has been their companion. But in all our connectivity we are in danger of losing our humanity and our ability to find rest.

We don’t have to go far in the Bible to discover that the God of all creation, the God who spoke into existence the whole of the universe, is also a God who rests. The rhythm he establishes from the beginning of time is one that celebrates our work in the material world. For six days we bless the tools of our trade, we engage with the natural world, and we rejoice in the divine creativity we have been given as children made in God’s image. But on the seventh day, we follow the creator into the hallowed space of time and rest.

‘And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation’ (Gen. 2.2-3).

In the creation story God blesses the material world and commands it to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. The result of blessing on earth is multiplication, fertility and fruitfulness. But what happens when time is blessed? How does the holiness of time produce the same fruitfulness and abundance? The account of creation is a movement from chaos to order, from discord to rhythm, from being incomplete to being made whole. God’s rest and consecration of the Sabbath day is the completeness of creation. Without rest all things will spiral out of control, which is why the biblical authors were bold enough to say that God ‘rested’ as if the eternal God of the universe could get tired! God does not get exhausted, but he does set an example for us so that we might imitate his pattern and follow him each week into the holiness of Sabbath time.

Holiness is always a difficult concept to wrestle with. In the ancient Hebrew it essentially means to set something apart to God which usually includes a ritual washing or preparation as something is committed to him. Things can be set apart as holy, people can be set apart as holy, but time can also be set apart as holy. The point is that when something is holy, it becomes different. It is an offering to God who will infuse it with his holiness. Sabbath time is something that has been made holy in the beginning but God later commands us to consecrate holy time in our own lives and communities each week. ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy’ (Exod. 20.9). The commandment was not meant to spoil our Sunday afternoon fun! Instead, rest and holy time restore and refresh us and bring life and wholeness to the community of faith and to the world.  This is the rhythm of creation moving towards God’s wholeness and it is the rhythm that God invites us to participate in.

The Sabbath day has been critically important for Jews over the centuries but especially after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. Sabbath offered a time to gather as families and in synagogues to study the scriptures and celebrate a day of rest. Jesus and the disciples practiced this same pattern throughout their lives. Jesus often confronted the Jewish leaders of his day on their stringent interpretations of the Sabbath because he understood it as a blessing and gift for humanity to find God’s intended rest and wholeness. This gift does not cease once Christ is resurrected and ascended but, rather, we discover even greater depths of Sabbath rest through the Holy Spirit.

If we understand the Sabbath as a movement towards wholeness and the experience of God’s rest and refreshment for the whole community, then in Christ we experience the first-fruits of that wholeness in the Spirit. But that does not mean we are no longer an embodied people also in need of physical rest. In the hectic, non-stop pace of our daily lives we find ourselves desperately in need of God’s rhythm and peace. This is a rhythm which includes six days of healthy work and creativity in the world balanced by a day of rest where we can disengage from the digital world and reconnect face-to-face with family and friends. The Christian Sabbath is day to remember the wholeness ushered in by Christ through the resurrection. It is a day to celebrate the beauty of creation, justice and rest for the oppressed, and to join with the whole communion of saints to celebrate the wholeness of God’s kingdom breaking into this world. 

Revd Dr Mark W. Scarlata is Tutor and Lecturer in Old Testament Studies at St Mellitus College, London. Sabbath Rest is published later this month. Click here for more information or to preorder a copy.

SCM Press announce major sponsorship deal

SCM Press are announcing this morning that they have been chosen as the winning bid for a major new sponsorship deal. The United Kingdom United, the new international football squad launched in a bid to restore a lost sense of national pride across the whole UK,  announced the competition to find a sponsor last year. The deal, said to be worth around £300m, will see the SCM Press logo emblazoned on the team kit, and the Olympic Stadium in Stratford will be renamed the SCM Press Stadium. The club will now be known as SCM Press United Kingdom United.

An artist’s impression of the team’s new kit

Speaking after the announcement, the Dutch-born manager Rilap von Loof said she was ‘delighted to be working with one of the leading theology publishers in the UK’, and added ‘do you mind if I now get back to restoring the stricken pride of a nation?’

Expecting a backlash for participating in a rival national squad, and sensing a further opportunity to drum up interest in academic theology amongst football fans, SCM Press have confirmed that they will be renaming players after Early Church Fathers to protect their identity. Players have already been instructed to mention SCM Press backlist titles at every opportunity during interviews.

Following their first match away against New Zealand, striker Irenaeus of Lyons commented “we were a little disappointed at the turnout from UK fans. We appreciate it’s a long way to travel, but that’s the cost of discipleship”.

Looking forward to next Sunday when they will play a friendly against the Czech Republic, the 18-year-old super signing Polycarp of Smyrna remarked “They are a formidable squad. We have nicknamed them the ‘Czechs of Terror’”.

SCM Press’s Senior Commissioning Editor, David Shervington admitted ‘I know very little about football, but I gather there are a few people who watch it, and it occurred to me that they might also like books about theology, they just don’t know it yet. We’re hoping to open an outlet at the newly rebranded SCM Press Stadium, which will, for example, give the crowd the exciting opportunity to pick up a copy of an SCM Studyguide to read during the interval, or whatever it’s called.”

SCM Press Marketing Executive Nicola Prince was unavailable for comment, but was reported to be in hiding.

Beyond the Dome of Whiteness

This is the first in an occasional series of reflections on race and the church by Azariah France-Williams.

Why do you look at me like that?
With all that hate and fear in your heart?
But you are wrong.
You were thinking the thoughts of generations before you.
You are unaware of this.
And we suffer for it.

‘Superiority’ by Julie Monica Plenty from Paul McGilchrist, ed., Black Voices: An Anthology of ACER’s Black Young Writers Competition, Acerbic Centre, 1987, p 28

I am often pinned by the white gaze. I am held as an object of enquiry, not empathy. Do you know the film The Truman Show? For the uninitiated, Truman Burbank has been living his life as an unsuspecting subject of a popular T.V reality show. From birth hidden cameras have monitored his every move. What Truman thinks of as the beautiful town of Seahaven is actually a huge constructed dome. A film set staffed with actors, all except for Truman, who is a prisoner in his own life, or rather his ‘owned’ life. Everyone has a script designed to keep Truman happy with his lot and unaspiring to travel beyond the borders. There is a director who is the unseen mastermind influencing all the moving parts.

What is whiteness? It is the pervasive panorama around which no one can see or climb. A complete dome under which a person of colour lives and moves and has their being. As a black man in a white world I have lived beneath the whiteness dome dissatisfied but docile, mystified, caught in a spell, and unaware of the obscured exits. However there is a tiny voice beyond the film set drawing my attention, and I must follow, it might just be Jesus.

In John 9 there is a man who is born blind. The disciples ask ‘who sinned him or his parents?.’ The stigma of negative blackness courses back through generations my own family tree, which includes west African slaves and white British rapists. Whose fault is my blackness? Whose decision was it to so tarnish the black version of humanity so effectively, systematically and comprehensively that the black human is globally reviled, restricted, and removed? The disciples saw the man, without seeing themselves, and how their own tradition and  conditioning had shaped their response to his nature. We don’t believe the world we see, we see the world we believe.[2] Sometimes the eyes on me, look through me. Other times I am simply not seen.

Jesus healed the man born blind by spitting into dirt making a paste rubbing it on his eyes. It reminds me of the playful God gleefully moulding clay in the story of humanity’s first day, there is a new beginning, beginning. Jesus sends the man to go and wash in a local pool. The man presumably has a guide take him to the pool. What must that initial moment of vision have felt like? The first person the man sees is himself, for the first time. I wonder what is was like to compare his actual image with the version of himself others depicted? The moment of revelation, is immediately challenged as those around him seek to plunge him back into the darkness of the pool, and undo the miracle. Firstly his neighbours question if he is in fact himself.

‘Is it really he who was blind?’ They begin to talk about him, without him, amongst themselves, they are visible to him, he is invisible to them. He is a curiosity, a puzzle to be solved, maybe he is a conman, an imposter. He has had his identity stolen since birth, and they accuse him of being the thief. He has to butt in saying:

‘I am the man.’

His joy is met with skepticism. As I have been learning to see, I am met with skepticism.

‘Is there really racism? Really? Can you prove it’ The feeling is, ‘let us be the judges of that’.

But once you know the film set is a film set, you begin to go off-script. You begin to strain to hear the still, small voice coming from beyond the dome, if such a thing were possible. It is tough however to feel the burden of representation. The man’s neighbours were saying he was the wrong guy. He remained an outsider but now at least he could see the source of the voices in his head.

The man is then taken to the authorities who need to offer legitimacy to grant him access into the community. Whereas the first group say he is not the person he thinks he is, but rather he is the person they think him to be, the authorities’ approach is to challenge the timing. Their bugbear is that it is the Sabbath – healing is all well and good, but on the Sabbath?

As I have been beginning to ask my questions and seek a truth to set all free, I get the sense it is an inconvenient time for the church to be looking at this. ‘Come back on Tuesday week at 11am’.’

The authorities then play the card of doubting his experience. They did not believe that he was blind and had received his sight. As I dig deeper, people point out: “it’s never been that bad for you has it? You haven’t suffered, you’re just attention seeking, and come on now it’s the Sabbath!”

The authorities begin to talk about him, without him, again he is rendered invisible, and a problem. He is outside the huddle sticking his hand up saying “I can hear you, and now I can see you too”. Hashtag “worst reception of a miracle ever!” His parents are brought into this now, and they are afraid they will be cut off if they side with their own son and are seen to be supporters of Jesus. The authorities cannot dare countenance Jesus as Messiah. Anyone who does so is kicked out of the club, losing all the benefits.

There is a cost to seeing, not just for the healed but for the whole community. The healed one finds a voice and questions the criteria and the basis upon which the community is formed, who decides who is in, and who is out. Whiteness co-opts Jesus and disguises him to appear like itself. It pours scorn over a Jesus who repeatedly and furiously shreds and sheds the costumes imposed on him. Jesus operates beyond its authority, beyond the dome. He is off script, calling the actors to act. I have been told ‘do not bite the hand that feeds.’ But I haven’t time to bite the hand, or eat the food, I need my teeth to gnaw through the leash the other hand is holding.

Azariah-France Williams is an Associate Priest based in Teddington, South-West London. His book, which focuses on black leadership in white historic churches, will be published by SCM Press next year.

How should we respond to religious violence?

What should our response be to moments of religious violence like those which so often dominate the headlines? What place is there for empathy at such moments? In her contribution in Confronting Religious Violence, edited by Jonathan Sachs and Richard Burridge, Dr Amineh Hoti suggests that the focus should be on empathy. Here’s an edited extract.

Contrary to predictions of a peaceful world order in the post–Cold War era, our planet is facing division and conflict on a scale not seen in generations. With leaders like President Trump in America and President Modi in India and other rising right-wing party leaders, policymakers must give serious thought to how their decisions can affect the lives of millions of ordinary human beings. The refugee crisis unfolding before our eyes is said to be one of the worst humanitarian disasters since World War II, as warfare in many parts of the world rages unabated. In the exodus, refugee families are finding themselves bewildered, desperate, and traumatized—an estimated ten thousand refugee children have been lost or killed according to BBC News. Meanwhile, countries around the globe find themselves in retreat from the rest of the world as a massive influx of immigrants and refugees—the so-called Other— spurs many to question their responsibilities to themselves and others. In the context of increasingly forced large-scale migrations and globalization, the interrelated challenges of preserving cultural and interfaith dialogue assume a new prominence and urgency.

Some social scientists say that “this is the Age of Empathy,” with the Age of Reason behind us. Yet, I would disagree because the unprecedented level of global migration in recent years has tested the empathy of many policymakers, the media, and host communities. Studies show that since the beginning of the twenty-first century, there has been an alleged ninefold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism, and communities such as the Rohingya in Burma and the Kashmiris in South Asia have been victims of genocide due to false labeling of terrorism. Instead, it seems that we have entered what I would call “the Age of Hatred.” In this age there is a desperate need for empathy because scholars say that these are conditions not dissimilar to Germany in the 1930s prior to the Holocaust. They also talk about an internal enemy—“the Jews”—and an external enemy—“the Muslims.”

Anti-Semitism still rears its ugly head in the world, both in the East and in the West.8 Its counterpart, Islamophobia, sensationalized in the media, has victimized Muslims in the West and has arguably led to the rise of the right-wing from America to Europe. With hate crimes on the rise, humanity needs to remind itself of its value of acceptance. But far from acceptance, there is a vicious, nightmarish anti-migrant mood in Europe. The Hungarians have forcibly locked arriving migrants in asylum prisons and given them a drug called Rivotril (Clonazepam), in which, “you become a zombie.” Inmates of the asylum prisons, which are said to be worse than ordinary prisons, become addicted and have tried to commit suicide. Migrants who become ill and need to see a doctor are led through the town on a leash and in handcuffs. Czech social media posts and newspaper reports that state that “all refugees and ‘darkies’ should be executed, drowned or sent to gas chambers” are regular features. On September 3, 2015, human rights advocates and Jewish groups expressed outrage after Czech authorities wrote numbers on the skin of two hundred Syrian migrants who were pulled off trains—they protested that this summoned memories of the Nazis and the Holocaust.

The media has helped xenophobia spread by not giving full and accurate information on refugees, Muslims, and the Muslim world— albeit with a few outstanding exceptions—and governments have dragged their feet in decision making in terms of the refugee crisis and have failed to show swift, compassionate acceptance, falling short of human rights and biblical standards of loving one’s neighbors. Many rabbis from their synagogues and priests from their churches have, however, reached out to refugees and continue to do so.

Not all hope is lost in building peace in our tumultuous world, however. Some of the leading minds of our time have reminded us of both the challenges and the beauty of bridging differences and seeking common ground. The 2009 UNESCO World Report: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue maintains that,

“Divergent memories have been the source of many conflicts throughout history. Although intercultural dialogue cannot hope to settle on its own all the conflicts in the political, economic, and social spheres, a key element in its success is the building of a shared memory—based through the acknowledgement of faults and open debate on competing memories. The framing of a common historical narrative can be crucial in conflict prevention and post conflict strategies in assuaging “a past that is still present.”

The swift implementation of policy toward immigrants, refugees, and minority groups, crafted with compassion and empathy at its heart, is essential to fostering harmonious coexistence with the Other in today’s turbulent and fractured world, particularly in the context of the so-called refugee crisis. Such policy must be well thought out and inextricably interlinked with the most cutting-edge, culturally sensitive tools of teaching acceptance, as refugees come with their own cultural and religious backgrounds that must not be dismissed or demonized but be understood and respected.

With reports of serious and growing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the West, there is—as the UNESCO World Report points out—a need for new and dynamic ways of introducing tools of cultural diversity in education, media, and policy. To counter the dangerous trends at work throughout the world, there is a need for increased influence of empathetic educationalists and compassionate leaders in the media and a focus on empathy-centric curricula and policies—these will be the keys to successful coexistence and conflict resolution in the twenty-first century. Unless we connect global messages given out in the media with intellectual thoughtfulness inextricably interlinked with ideas of empathy and respect for others, we will be heading straight, in this “Age of Hatred”, towards a global disaster characterized by racially motivated dislike of the Other and possibly by war. All of us, therefore, must heed and disseminate the valuable concept of healing our fractured world, or what we may say in Hebrew, Tikkun Olam.

Amineh Hoti is the Executive Director of the Centre for Dialogue and Action. She was the co-founder of the first Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations in Cambridge, now known as The Woolf Institute. 

This is an edited extract from Confronting Religious Violence, edited by Richard Burridge and Jonathan Sachs. The book brings together twelve international experts from a variety of theological, philosophical, and scientific fields to address the issue of religious violence in today’s world. Readers in the UK can order a copy from our website here. Elsewhere, copies are available via Baylor University Press.

What’s Coming Up this Spring?

We’ve another busy few months coming up, with some superb new titles to look forward to. Here’s a taster of what what’s coming soon…


Mark Scarlata‘s theological commentary on Exodus, The Abiding Presence was released in 2018 to much acclaim. In the process of writing that book, he became fascinated by the theme of Sabbath, and the theological and biblical foundations of Christian sabbath-keeping. What does sabbath look like in a 24/7, always-on, digital world? His next book Sabbath Rest: The Beauty of God’s Rhythm for a Digital World, sets out to answer that question.

Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, comments:

“Mark Scarlata is offering us something beautiful. By practising Sabbath, we find more than respite from work, but a way to infuse our work with peace and expectation. We not only follow the pattern of our creator, but experience a foretaste of our redemption. I encourage you to let him help you disconnect from the noise of our 24/7 lifestyle and connect afresh to the symphony of salvation.”

For many, the idea of interfaith engagement is one to be treated with scepticism. And yet, an increasing number of those training for church leadership will find themselves in churches which are at the heart of diverse, and often divided, communities.

Hospitality, Service, Proclamation: Interfaith Engagement as Christian Discipleship seeks to demystify the interfaith project. Tom Wilson argues that rather than a threat to churches, interfaith dialogue is an important tool for discipleship.

Pentecostals and Charismatics in Britain: An Anthology draws upon the scholarship of eminent academics and practitioners in the field of Pentecostal and Charismatic studies, who together consider the history of pentecostal and charismatic movements, their relationship with mainline Christian churches and their engagement with the social, economic and political world. Edited by Joe Aldred, the book also includes a foreword by Justin Welby

Finally in April, there’s an important new addition to our ever-popular SCM Studyguides series.

Reflecting theologically on the nature of leadership at the same time as considering the reality of its practicalities, the SCM Study Guide: Church Leadership by Jon Coutts seeks to call it back to theological essentials, locate it in the unique context of the Church, and then re-address modern pressures and needs from within a decidedly Christian framework. James Lawrence, Leadership Principal for CPAS describes the book as: “Beautifully crafted, biblically driven and thoughtfully provocative”


“You told us of the High God, how we must search for him…But we have not done this. We have not left our land. We have not searched for him. He has searched for us…All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God”

Christianity Rediscovered is more than just a classic missionary story, about how one man brought a number of groups of Masai people in east Africa to Christian faith.

It is also a profound challenge, a call to a radical redefinition of what we mean when we talk about mission – as relevant to today’s church as it was when it was first written. For Vincent Donovan, his experiences in Africa meant a total reappraisal of the meaning of his faith, and therefore a rediscovery of his Christianity.

The aim of this exciting new edition is to bring this important work to the attention of a new generation of mission-minded Christians. The book includes a foreword by Chris Lane, Tutor and Lecturer in Theology at St Mellitus College, and leader of Langworthy Community Church a pioneering missional church in inner city Salford

One of the primary criticisms levelled at the new expressions of church, is that their proponents are not rooted in a sufficiently robust ecclesiology. In Flexible Church, Helen Morris speaks to this issue by proposing an ecclesiology for innovative expressions of church that is grounded in biblical texts whilst self-consciously and intentionally developed for the contemporary Western milieu. Engaging with the work of key church thinkers and critical New Testament scholarship, she introduces a framework for church that facilitates both flexibility and faithfulness; faithfulness to the church’s Christian heritage and identity, and the flexibility to fashion new forms of church that can connect more effectively with those who currently find church irrelevant and inaccessible.

Edited by Stephen Burns and Bryan Cones, Liturgy with a Difference gathers a broad range of international theologians and scholars, including Rachel Mann, Teresa Berger and Susannah Cornwall, to interrogate current practices of liturgy and worship in order to unmask ways in which dehumanizing majoritarianisms and presumed norms of gender, culture, ethnicity, and body, among others, remain at work in congregations. Together, the chapters in this collection call for a liturgical practice that recognizes and rehearses the vivid richness of God’s image found in the human community and glimpsed, if only for a moment, in liturgical celebration. They point a way beyond mere inclusion toward a generous embrace of the many differences that make up the Christian community. 

Finally, we have two new additions to our flourishing research monograph programme, SCM Research. Published in May,
The Trinity: A Philosophical Investigation by Harriet Baber considers the competing accounts of the Trinity doctrine, whether orthodox or heterodox, and aims to respond to objections and explicate their motivations and entailments. And in June, we publish Tom Clammer’s Fight Valiently: Evil and the Devil in Liturgy, which considers initiation, healing and deliverence liturgies within the Church of England, and investigates what they reveal about the church’s doctrine on
evil and the devil.