2018 in 9 Reviews

We’ve had a busy year at SCM Press, and we’ve been thrilled to receive so much positive feedback in journals and magazines, from individuals and via our website. Here’s just a few of our favourite comments.

To Gain at Harvest: Portraits from the English Reformation (Jonathan Dean)

“Jonathan Dean’s eloquent and enlightening portraits of ten ‘icons of faithfulness’ from the Reformation –  clerical and lay, male and female, Protestant and Catholic –  are intended to facilitate a dialogue between modern Christians and their forebears from a fractured and traumatized age. This is ecumenism of a robust and courageous kind, not looking to erase or minimize past differences, but holding out the hope that sincere efforts to understand Christian integrity in an era of conflict can help illuminate our own difficult path to unity.”

Professor Peter Marshall, Department of History, University of Warwick

The Abiding Presence: A Theological Commentary on Exodus (Mark Scarlata)

“The writer, a vicar and a lecturer at a London theological college, has written this commentary ‘to understand not how Exodus came to be but what Exodus means.’ Having reviewed other commentaries so  suffused in theological terminology that they unintentionally conceal the message of the book concerned, Scarlata instead actively reveals Exodus’s message in the contexts of the reality of God’s abiding presence with His chosen people and of His revelation to Moses at the burning bush, on Sinai and within the tabernacle. Much too is devoted to ‘the revealed God who remains hidden’, echoing the very definition of faith (Heb. 11:1) and emphasising the centrality of Exodus to the entire Old Testament (and to the New). Aside from the final, each chapter finishes with a concise summary from a New Testament perspective on the
material covered. These summaries provide not only accessible application, but also a sermon source and study guide. 

If more commentaries were written like this, more Christians would read them.

Andrew Carr in The Reader, 18.4

Undoing Theology: Life Stories from Non-Normative Christians(Chris Greenough)

“The aim of this engaging and thoughtful volume in the SCM Research Series is “to explore the content of the spiritual and religious journeys” of three non-normative Christians, in order to explore “the cumulative impact of traditional theological discourse regarding sexuality” on their lives.

… Greenough subtly defends experience as a source of theology by conceding its limitations (for instance, its shifting character and the limitations of the language by which it is articulated). Queer theory and queer theology, like experience, also require undoing. They help us “to deconstruct previously traditional dominant theologies”, but they don’t figure in the lives of people, and they don’t recognise the need to preserve what is good within master narratives.

Christians of the more “normative” kind will learn much from the book as well. Simply listening to the stories told (and thousands of others like them) is a simple act of neighbour-love and plain human respect. We need to learn the pain that we cause. This is a bold, truthful book…”

Adrian Thatcher, Church Times

Seeking the God Beyond: A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Apophatic Spirituality (JP Williams)

“The sub-title is ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Apophatic Spirituality,’
and it is exactly that, an overview of the via negativa, a way to reach God by discovering what he is not rather than what he is. I found it a theological page-turner, leading on from the biblical roots starting with
Moses, the Song of Songs and John the Baptist to Jesus; these texts are revisited in succeeding chapters: an explanation of the ‘negative way’; exponents such as St John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart; a fascinating
description of related topics, Paul in Athens, Keats’ Negative Capability, the books of Narnia and Zen Buddhism; finally apophatic content in practices such as pilgrimage, liturgy and prayer. There are useful addenda such as the need for spiritual emptying and humility in the Afterword, and also further reading. You will gather that it is very wide-ranging, indeed breath-taking in its compass, but it is in direct language
and easy to read. I would say it is essential for those engaged in spiritual direction and otherwise highly recommended for all.”

John Foxlee in The Reader, 18.4

A Preacher’s Tale: 
Explorations in Narrative Preaching
  (Jon Russell)

“Russell has practised what he preaches here on training courses where preaching is taken very seriously as a theological and practical discipline. His sermons are easy to read and, one must assume, engaging to hear, offering space for dialogue and a more emotional and transformative response to the word of God which is being proclaimed. His short reflections combine practical wisdom and helpful insights from superstars of the preaching world: Barbara Brown Taylor, Thomas G. Long, Henri H. Mitchell, and Eugene Lowry, revealing the influence of the New Homiletic movement.
It would be a danger to underestimate the challenge in a book like this, but Russell gently provokes preachers to re-cast their preaching in a new light — letting their scriptural imagination run free, and reigniting their vocation.
Given the growing interest in preaching, there is a need to hear from those voices who have honed their skills on the ground. The real test of those who write, teach, and lecture about preaching is whether they are any good in the pulpit. A Preacher’s Tale suggests that Russell is, and is someone worth listening to.”

Victoria Johnson, Church Times

Broken Bodies:
The Eucharist, Mary and the Body in Trauma Theology (Karen O’Donnell)

“This extraordinarily powerful book does not retreat from the blood, loss and deathliness sewn into Christian theologies across the ages. Nonetheless, it also insists on their transformative potential and capacity to bring new light to experiences of trauma and its aftermath today. O’Donnell’s is a bold new voice in constructive theology.”

Susannah Cornwall, Exeter University, UK

Buying God: Consumerism and Theology (Eve Poole)

“Dr Poole’s work is a magnificent contribution to the church. Written by a gifted theologian and practitioner, this book is for all those wishing to gain both a richer theological understanding of capitalism and modern consumerism, and practical insights on how we can simplify our lives. This is vital work, not only for our own spiritual benefit, but also for the good of society and for the wellbeing of our planet.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Theology for Changing Times: John Atherton and the Future of Public Theology (edited by Christopher R. Baker and Elaine Graham)

“This all-star collection of essays strikes sparks off the valuable legacy of the late John Atherton’s social theology. It will hugely enrich our understanding of the impressive trajectory of Anglican social thought that runs from William Temple to the present. It will spur us to a more incarnational engagement with the empirical, material world and stimulate a deeper wrestling with the the unresolved theological problem of the meaning of ‘the secular’ in our contemporary pluralistic society.” 

Paul Avis, honorary professor, University of Durham.  

The Hardest Part: A Centenary Critical Edition (GA Studdert Kennedy, edited by Thomas O’Loughlin and Stuart Bell)

“A dialogue across the years since World War One about the age-old problem of how to reconcile horror and fear with the Christian message. This is a reprint of a deeply thoughtful book with modern reflections, critical comments and very exciting notes by Tom O’Loughlin and Stuart Bell. An inspiring project”

Customer review on the SCM Press website


Sharing the experience of advent

In this extract from The Preacher’s Tale: Explorations in Narrative PreachingJon Russell shares an advent sermon and discusses how to preach in a way which invites a congregation to share common experience. 

Advent Stars: A Sermon

Does it feel strange, coming to church in the dark? It means that winter is definitely here. We moan about the cold and the dark nights, especially when it’s wet. But on the other hand, isn’t there something enormously comforting, as you pull your collar around you, and snuggle your hat down around your ears, to be making your way home, where there will be warmth and welcome, a hot drink, and the curtains drawn tight shut against the gloom?

And isn’t there something wonderful, on a clear, frosty night,about simply lifting our eyes and gazing up at the stars? You can see them much more clearly at this time of the year, and you don’t have to stay up so late.There can be nights in winter when you can almost read by them, the light of the stars is so bright.

We are very lucky, living here in the Allen Valleys. Photographs of the British Isles taken from satellites by NASA show the whole country-almost- brightly lit up by street lights and motorway lights, and the lights glaring out from millions of shops and houses. The North Pennines are among the very few dark areas on these photographs. What this means is that if you live in Newcastle, for instance, you come out of your house at night, and the streetlamps douse everything in a harsh, orange glow. It means that you can see where you are walking or driving, of course; but there is a price to be paid. It is as if a great plastic dome has been placed above the city. The sky is a thick, clogged, dulled orange-black, and only the few brightest, bravest stars twinkle weakly through.

Out here, we enjoy a night sky that’s worth going out to gaze at! Sometimes you can see Mars glowing red for months at a  time. Jupiter and Saturn are clearly discs,not mere points of light. On some nights you can spot four different satellites whizzing overhead in the space of ten minutes. But even in Allendale earth-light obscures much of what we might otherwise see above us. You can’t make out the dimmest stars because of house lights and Christmas decorations and the orange glow from street lamps.

But travel west with me for a moment, and spend a night camped out by Small Water, a little tarn high up in the Lakeland fells. We’ve climbed a couple of miles from the last road, up into the very heart of the hills. If you are very lucky, you will be shaken awake at midnight, and as you are pulled from your sleeping bag, a small voice will say to you something like, ‘Daddy, you must come and look! Look at the stars!’

Up here, when the air is clear, no man-made light from anywhere pollutes the night sky. It takes a while, but your eyes adjust to the velvet darkness. Now you can make out the outline of the hills all around: black,cardboard shapes bathed only by starlight. And for the first time you can seethe Milky Way blazing down in allits glory. Multi-coloured diamonds spangle the sky: swirls and eddies of all the millions of stars. Some of this starlight began its journey 12 billion years ago. It is as though you can see into eternity.

The story of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany is shot through with starlight. If the magi, astronomers from the east, are to arrive in time to bring their gifts to the baby Jesus, they will have set off weeks ago. In terms of the age of the universe, of course, a couple of thousand years is but the blink of an eye: so as they journey they gaze up at essentially the same star-thronged sky that we behold. But they see it more clearly than we can, because as the magi make their journey the night sky is dimmed only by the flicker of the occasional camp fire. How will they know which way to go? According to the story Matthew tells us, they are guided by a star.

Does anyone remember the comet Hale-Bopp that blazed so brightly for us a few years ago? In England the weather is so often poor when you try to observe an astronomical event. Clouds regularly obscure the showers of meteors that pass, so that  we see nothing. But Hale-Bopp blazed for weeks: an awesome, beautiful arrow of light, pointing unwaveringly over the northern horizon. It was a rare privilege to live to see it. Perhaps that star of Bethlehem that led the magi to the infant Jesus was a comet like our own Hale-Bopp 2,000 years later.

Interestingly, St John in his Gospel doesn’t mention the star of Bethlehem. John speaks of Jesus himself as the light who has come into the world, a light that darkness can never overcome.

But we are impatient of heavenly light! To see stars properly, you have to move far away from all artificial illumination, and wait while your eyes adjust. We haven’t the time to hang around like this! So we make our own light. And just as the sodium glow from street lamps obscures the light of stars, so the light we produce by which to see our lives obscures the light of Christ.

We know what we want to see at Christmas: good food, lots of presents, time with the family, something entertaining on television! But in trying to illuminate all this, Christmas can easily become a morass of worry and debt and excess and rancour; so that the last thing we feel like doing is waiting for our eyes to adjust to the birth of a baby! Instead of watching the skies, we watch the television; and the glory of the Christmas story is outshone by the EastEnders omnibus. Why do we do this? So that the flickering screen in the corner of our living rooms might shield us from looking at our Christmas, and at our lives, and at who we are, and at what we have become? But, like street lights, it will cheat us out of seeing ourselves in the light of Christ.

The thing is, this light of Christ is not harsh and judgemental, like the orange glare of our towns and cities, and the car headlights that blind and dazzle. The light of Christ is as gentle as starlight, inviting us to glimpse eternity. God, who creates the heavens and flings galaxies into space, comes among us in Jesus. He risks everything as a helpless, vulnerable baby, whose gaze simply invites us to love him.

It seems almost that we can’t believe our eyes. Is that because we never give them time to adjust to his light?

A number of homileticians lament the fact that present-day congregations are much less familiar with the Bible than were earlier generations. How much less those who come only irregularly to church? This sermon was written for a carol service, which would attract many occasional visitors: parishioners who perhaps come to church only two or three times a year. They have not read the Bible, nor become knowledgeable about its interpretation. But they come, knowing that the familiar elements of the Christmas story will be rehearsed once again: the wise men, the star, the birth of the baby Jesus at Bethlehem.

The sermon starts, therefore, from an experience that everyone has just shared: that of coming to church on a winter’s evening. The sermon is essentially an argument, but one that develops around the multi-faceted image of starlight. Though alluding both to Matthew’s version of the nativity and to the prologue of John’s Gospel, both of which have been read during the service, there is no detailed exegesis or exposition.These would, I judged, have fallen very flat at the point where the Christmas gospel ought to soar. Instead, after exploring a number of differing experiences of starlight, we conclude that most people miss out on something wonderful. By analogy, the congregation is invited to reflect now on common experiences of Christmas, and led to ask whether here, too, we might be missing out on something wonderful.

The stories are all either commonplace or personal experience: they are not‘merely’ imaginary (although the phrase ‘outshone by the EastEnders omnibus’is unashamed alliteration!). The star of Bethlehem is an historical and scientific mystery. That does not make it complete fiction, but a carol service sermon was not the place to argue for its historicity or otherwise. The reference to the Hale-Bopp comet suggests that we have experienced something almost as extraordinary in our own lifetimes. As a boy, growing up in a sodium-lit town, I could never understand when astronomers on television spoke of the colours of different stars: to me there weren’t very many stars anyway, and all of them were orange. But living and working on the Isle of Wight, and  later in the North Pennines, has allowed me to see the sky much more clearly. I have indeed camped at Small Water in the Lake District, and awoken to be overawed by the night sky; but it was my sister who was awoken by my nephew, desperate to share his wonder at seeing the Milky Way properly for the first time.

I had a curate in training once who wrote two versions of the sermon she was proposing to preach. The text was the baptism of Jesus by John. In the first version, she told us about her recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in particular her visit to the River Jordan. How hot it was, how amazing to standby the very river in which Jesus received his baptism, and so on. In the second version, she instructed us to ‘step down from the cool of the air-conditioned coach into heat that hits you like a bus. Feel the glare of the sun as it narrows your eyes, while the soles of your feet heat up through your sandals.’ Come Sunday, she preached the second version. Instead of telling us what the experience had been like for her, she used her experience to help the congregation to have an experience: to feel for themselves something of what it is like to arrive at the River Jordan. Her sermon was so very much better for recreating experience, rather than leaving the congregation envious, or bored by someone else’s holiday snaps.

Such stories as that in ‘Advent Stars’ would be dull if delivered as reports. Rather, the task in writing the sermon was to enable the congregation to share the experience, and perhaps catch the excitement, and open themselves anew to the wonder of the Christmas story. David Schlafer puts it succinctly: “Don’t hand out scripts with stage directions. Produce scenes.” (David J. Schlafer, 2004, Playing with Fire: Preaching Work as Kindling Art)

Jon Russell is a parish priest in Northumberland. For the past ten years he has taught narrative preaching, firstly as part of Reader Training in the Diocese of Newcastle; then, since its inception, as part of the Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership, training readers and ordinands in the dioceses of Newcastle and Durham. He is the author of The Preacher’s Tale

Advent Calendar of Virtue

If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll know we’ve started posting an ‘Advent Calendar of Virtue’, a question each day as an antidote to the consumerism of the season. Eve Poole, author of Buying God, introduced the idea in a past blog post. On this page, we’ll periodically add the questions we’ve posted so far, so you can catch up. 

Don’t forget to check our twitter feed @scm_press each day for more questions to ponder through Advent.

Take a virtue work-out this Advent…

This Advent, Eve Poole, author of Buying God will be leading us through an ‘Advent Calendar of Virtue’ – 24 simple questions to ask ourselves through the Christmas season. Each day, we’ll tweet a new question via the SCM Press twitter feed. Here’s Eve Poole to explain more. 

Advent used to be about preparing for the Christ-child. Now it’s a relentless fight against time to get the presents bought for Christmas. It’s easy to feel that consumerism has taken over Christmas, and to spend so much time and money on everyone else that you end up feeling impoverished both financially and spiritually. So as well as all that, this year why not do something for yourself. It’s not a ghastly diet, neither is it a gin advent calendar. It’s an invitation to take up a virtue work-out this December.

Virtues are really just habits of the heart, established over the years though education, experience and effort. But like all habits we take them for granted. And some we may use more than others, so they’re easier to switch on day-to-day than their less-used friends. This workout asks you to focus on one a day, to see what flexing each virtue muscle feels like. If one of them feels a bit flabby, perhaps you might try to find more opportunities to hone it, so that in the end you have ready access to a whole range of supple virtues to exercise in your everyday life.

It was Aristotle who first popularised the idea of virtue ethics. It’s now being rediscovered in the context of how to develop character. Character matters more than ever these days, because we’re wholly overwhelmed with options and information. This means we have to be really good at choosing. In order to make wise choices, we need to be grounded in a deep sense of values and purpose, so that we don’t lose our bearings. Virtue ethics contrasts with systems of morality based on rules or consequences, on the basis that it’s less about obeying laws or playing the odds, and more about durable habits and character traits. It’s about developing ethical instincts by practising virtue for virtue’s sake. It’s actually a hugely sophisticated notion, seen retrospectively through the eyes of modern neurobiology. As Aristotle himself puts it in Book 2 of his Nicomachean Ethics: ‘we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.’ And we now know that this is neuro-biologically true: if you change your behaviour, you will rewire your brain.

December is a challenging month for character. So our ‘Advent Calendar of Virtue’ asks a series of questions to invite you to practise virtue. Serendipity may synchronise them with your situation, or you may need to improvise. The suggested discipline, though, is to zoom in on one virtue a day, and put it through its paces to see what you can learn. Even if you can’t manage all 24, even asking yourself the question may help you to re-frame your day. Building up your virtue armoury will also help you to resist the wiles of consumerism except on your own terms, so that you can face Christmas with equanimity.

Follow @SCM_Press to see each day’s challenge from 1st December to 24th December. And why not tell us how its going, what difference its making, or what decisions in your day you made differently? Use the hashtag #AdventCalendarofVirtue

And if you’re curious to hear more about what light theology might shed on consumerism, why not buy a copy of Eve’s book Buying God: Consumerism and Theology

Dr Eve Poole is the Third Church Estates Commissioner, and Chairman of the Board of Governors at Gordonstoun. She has a BA from Durham, an MBA from Edinburgh, and a PhD in Theology and Capitalism from Cambridge. She is the author of “Capitalism’s Toxic Assumptions (Featherstone 2015) ” and “Leadersmithing (Bloomsbury 2017)”

Why should Christians bother with philosophy?

This month, we publish a new addition to our popular Studyguide series – The SCM Studyguide to Philosophy and the Christian Faith by Ben Pugh. In this extract, he considers why there’s a need for Christians to get familiar with philosophy in the first place?  


The challenges that Western culture keeps posing to the Christian faith are ever new – and yet maybe never wholly new. What is for sure is that the goalposts keep changing. The SCM Studyguide to Philosophy and the Christian Faith will, I hope, equip you to understand the culture-shaping beliefs that are driving the kinds of questions it brings to faith. But the aim in introducing you to the discipline of philosophy is not merely a rearguard action. It is not as though all we need are weapons for our apologetic battles with people who have very different worldviews to our own – perish the thought. I am a very peace-loving sort of person. I have an instinctive distaste for the idea of humiliating atheists in public debate. I see the discipline of philosophy rather as a skill to learn, a language to acquire or as a lens to add. 

Let’s take the last of these first. I believe it is just as necessary to add philosophy to our collection of lenses as it is to have biblical studies, church history, systematic theology and practical theology. I find that the greater the number of different angles from which I am able to view this thing called Christianity, the simpler, the nobler, the more magnificent and worthy of my faith it becomes. By way of contrast, I find that the more I look at Christianity through only one lens the more complicated, less certain, more doubtful it becomes. Philosophy seems to be an especially important lens to use. Philosophers themselves seem to occupy a broad range of estimations of their own importance. Some, such as the rationalists perhaps, seem to see themselves as standing outside of the flux of everyday life like an umpire at a tennis match judging everyone else’s wrong moves. Others, such as the early Wittgenstein and Richard Rorty, seem to see themselves as finishing the business of philosophy altogether and making it redundant. I suppose both positions could be seen as equally self-important in different ways. The truth seems to be that, while no philosophical system is perspective-free and no philosophy gives us a complete picture of reality (and some philosophers make a point of not doing so), yet all the philosophies in the Studyguide do succeed in elevating us. They lift us up beyond the confines of our particular discipline. They don’t quite give us a bird’s-eye view of it, but they do give us an elevated perspective which allows us to see our discipline interlacing with other disciplines and with life itself. This is why researchers, in whatever discipline they are working, will typically invoke the name of a philosopher somewhere in their methodology section. They will say that they are working with this ‘epistemology’ or assuming that ‘ontology’. I have come to love more and more the way philosophy concerns itself with the really big questions of life. There is something about asking those big questions with the philosophers that allows me then to return to my theologizing or my biblical study with fresh confidence. Philosophy makes you feel like you know what you’re doing for once, however fleeting that feeling may be!

I mentioned that philosophy is a language to acquire. To help with this, most chapters have a glossary of some sort, some of which will be revision from previous chapters and others will be new terms pertinent to the new chapter. Sometimes I provide a ‘Terminology Time-out’ when I’m aware that I have been using a lot of technical vocabulary and a pause might be needed so that we can examine each term. At other times, rather like someone teaching a language in class, I will throw in unexplained terminology that is new, but you can tell by the way I’m using it what it means. In all these ways I am catering to the fact that, for most theology students, learning abstract philosophical concepts involves literally learning a new language, a language that the initiated converse in with ease but which leaves the uninitiated completely baffled. Soon, you too will know that language, and I am going to help you converse in it.

I also mentioned that philosophy is a skill to learn. The way skills are learned is through application: you try them out. This is why there are regular pauses for reflection or for discussion with others. You will be asked, for example, to think of a film or book that seems to express elements of existentialism or postmodernism, or to describe how something very like idealism can sometimes show itself in Sunday morning ministry. This is more than light relief; it is an essential part of the learning process, especially important when studying philosophers as they tend to speak in the abstract almost all the time. It is only when we apply philosophy that the lights go on in our thinking and we realize we might be starting to become a bit of a Platonist or an existentialist. We suddenly see the benefit of seeing life from the viewpoint of a philosopher.

Lastly, I will not be guiding you into trying to fit your faith into a philosophy
and twisting and distorting it or lopping bits off in the process. In relation to
your faith it is only a lens, though a very important one, and it is only a language, not a replacement for the living or written Word, and it is only a skill through which you can learn to express your faith better in the world today.

I sincerely pray that this book will be a great blessing to you, bringing within your reach concepts that you never knew about or which were going right ‘over your head’ before.

Ben Pugh is lecturer in New Testament and Applied Theology at Cliff College, UK. In addition to the SCM Studyguide to Philosophy and the Christian Faith he is also the author of the SCM Studyguide to Theology in the Contemporary World

Order the Studyguide to Philosophy and the Christian Faith before 30th November at the pre-publication offer price.

6 books to look out for at AAR/SBL 2018

Once again we’ll have a range of our latest titles and key backlist on display at the AAR/SBL Annual Meetings, held this year in Denver Colorado. Each year nearly 10,000 scholars attend, and the book exhibit attracts publishers from around the world. We’re proud to be hosted at AAR/SBL by our friends at Westminster John Knox Press. Here’s a taste of what we’ll have on display at their booth (#411)

1: The Abiding Presence: A Theological Commentary 

Mark Scarlata’s theological commentary on Exodus bridges the gap between accessibility and scholarly rigour to provide a unique perspective on the overarching theology of Exodus drawing particular attention to God’s revelation at the burning bush, Sinai, and the tabernacle. John Goldingay called the The Abiding Presence an impressive achievement” and Walter Brueggeman said it is”of immense value for preachers, teachers, and serious church readers“.

2: Buying God: Theology and Consumerism

Christians are deeply concerned about consumerism, but lack the tools to be able to engage robustly in the debate about its future. Economists obfuscate, politicians polarise, and church leaders bluff. Buying God argues that consumerism can be as redemptive as it can be parasitical. We just need to consume for God instead. Drawing on the Church’s rich traditions of Social Liturgy, the author Eve Poole, calls on the Christian community to renew its confidence and strength in proclaiming this good news.

3: Blue Planet, Blue God: The Bible and The Sea

The ocean dominates the surface of the earth and is in the pages of the Bible too. The Bible offers a view of the sea and the life it supports which affirms its intrinsic value to God as a good, and indeed essential, part of creation. Blue Planet, Blue God is a unique collaboration between the oceanographer Meric Srokosz and the biblical scholar Rebecca Watson not only offer environmental insights on the sea, but also connect the ocean with other key issues of broader concern-spirituality, economics, chaos, and our place in the world. Paula Gooder called it “one of the most unusual and enjoyable books that I’ve read in a long time“. 

4: Preaching Radical and Orthodox

Since its beginning in the 1990s, Radical Orthodoxy has become perhaps the most influential, and certainly the most controversial, movement in contemporary theology. Preaching Radical and Orthodox offers an introduction to the Radical Orthodox sensibility through sermons preached by some of its most notable proponents, including Stanley Hauerwas, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward. 

5: Work: 
Theological Foundations and Practical Implications

Moving from biblical theology to systematic theology to practical theology, Work: Theological Foundations and Practical Implications offers a comprehensive theology of work. With contributions from a variety of leading theologians including Miroslav Volf and Samuel Gregg, this book brings together biblical scholars, ethicists, economists representing a spectrum of theological voices.

6: Being Saved

With contributions from leading theologians and philosophers, including Oliver Crisp and Paul Helm, Being Saved: Explorations in Human Salvation brings together a series of essays on the major topics relating to the doctrine of salvation. The book provides readers with a critical resource that consists of an integrative philosophical-theological method, and will invigorate this much-needed discussion.

Find many more titles on display on the SCM Press tables, which you can find at booth #411, hosted by Westminster John Knox. 

If you’d like to meet the editor, David Shervington, during the Annual Meetings email David.Shervington@hymnsam.co.uk

Safeguarding – defensive weapon or missional tool?

A guest post from Helen D Cameron, author of Living in the Gaze of God: Supervision and Ministerial Flourishing

Do we have to do safegaurding?

This is a question that is still regularly asked in local churches and trustee bodies. Despite publicity regarding Jimmy Saville, Harvey Weinstein, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, I still hear people asking, do we have to do safeguarding?

I think we do, but I want to add a qualifying note. We have to do safeguarding as a Church in order that we all might flourish and live abundantly, but I want us to do safeguarding joyfully, enthusiastically and effectively.

I understand safeguarding as a missional tool rather than a defensive weapon to guard the Church from allegations from abuse.  Only when we understand to safeguarding for everyone as part of enabling God’s mission, will we stop seeing it as an unnecessary distraction from mission and ministry and something which stops us from doing mission.  The missional task for the Church is one of co-operation with God in God’s loving purposes for the world. God desires that we should have abundant life – and that is only possible if we live holy lives, which allow all people to flourish, and which offer protection to the vulnerable.

The fact that we are still asking the question suggests we live in a dream state in a mythical world where Church is always wholesome and God’s people free from sin.  Of course we have to do safeguarding because every part of a community must. The Church however should want to take a lead in this area and develop excellence because we believe that relationships should be holy and life giving, that in Christ we are set free, and we should therefore regard each and every person as those for whom Christ died and thus those who we offer service to, not oppression or abuse. Holiness should lead to flourishing for all and if it doesn’t it – isn’t holiness.

Excellence in safeguarding practice in the Church will come about when see it as an everyday part of the task of holy living, as part of Kingdom living where the weak are made strong and built up. When we view it this way it becomes not just the responsibility of the safeguarding officers as experts in safeguarding but  rather everyone’s responsibility.  Our accountability to God for whom we are, have been and are becoming determines our accountability to one another and for one another.  Honesty with God should create honesty between us as a community and as we are God’s gift to one another we cannot ignore our responsibility for care of the gift.

To live in the gaze of God is for the whole of the landscape of our lives and the landscape of our Church’s life to be examined. We may be found wanting. We have many times, in many places and circumstances been found wanting and have failed the vulnerable and weak who were entrusted to our care.  We have, as a Church, been arrogant, dismissive and failed to listen. We have colluded and failed to challenge those with power and authority. We have been like millstones around the necks of the vulnerable and contributed to their drowning in a sea of pain and loss.

So we need to change our culture, our world view, our attitudes and our practice but we also need to do better theology about the nature of sin and forgiveness, responsible grace and we need to improve our tools of accountability. So the better question to ask might be how do we improve the accountability of those in public and representative ministry, those who have role power and status, and how do we help ministers and those with significant pastoral responsibilities to develop an attentive gaze on how they respond to others, impact on them, attend to their own personal needs without seeking them elsewhere and take responsibility for their lives, practice, ministry before God?

I want to suggest that before we get to complaint and discipline procedures there might be a way to increase the oversight function for all those in significant pastoral ministry through regular, formal and intentional 1:1 supervision of practice. The Methodist Church following the publication of its Past Cases Review in 2015 is in a significant place in the implementation of the recommendation of the PCR report Courage, Cost and Hope (www.Methodistchurch.org.uk) that formal supervision of ministers should be introduced.  The Director of Supervision overseeing the work for the Methodist Church is the Revd. Dr. Jane Leach of Wesley House, Cambridge (www.wesley.cam.ac.uk ). The handbook for the training in supervision being offered to ministers in oversight of teams of circuit ministers developed by Jane Leach is entitled Responsible Grace.  The title comes from a reference to Randy Maddox’s book of the same title (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1994). Randy Maddox asserts that God’s grace does not descend “untethered into our lives” like a deus ex machina . Rather, Maddox suggests that God’s grace is always linked, always united with a summons to join with Godself’s redemptive work in the world. We are called and chosen to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are healed and restored that we might become instruments of healing. We are forgiven and given grace and liberty to forgive others. We are therefore never mere passive recipients of grace, but we are called to become co-participants with God in redeeming the world.  We therefore have responsibilities – to create a safer Church and world, to offer to God the best of ourselves and we are called to faithfulness and integrity so that all might flourish.

Maddox’s phrase “responsible grace” manages to capture in a single phrase the joy of our partnership with God in being those who both hear the good news and in being the good news for the world. It is still God’s undeserved grace. But it comes with a summons to us to respond responsibly to that same grace revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

So, yes, we have to do safeguarding and we want to do safeguarding and we intend to do it excellently because it is central to the work of God.

Helen Dixon Cameron is Chair of the Northampton District of the Methodist Church, former Director of Methodist Formation of the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham and Co-Chair of the Anglican: Methodist Safeguarding Group. 

Living in the Gaze of God is published in November. Preorder now at a special launch price.