Our 2017 Highlights…

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With 2017 drawing to a close, it’s a good chance to think back on a few of the highlights in a busy year…


Back in January we held a panel discussion at St Martin-in-the-Fields entitled “Word Made Flesh”. Panellists including Lincoln Harvey (St Mellitus College), Steve Chalke (Oasis Trust) and Sam Wells (St Martin-in-the-Fields) came together to discuss whether the church needed the academy. The evening offered a rich and fascinating discussion chaired by Julie Gittoes, Canon Theologian at Guildford Cathedral.

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In the same month, we also published a new addition to our popular Studyguide series – the SCM Studyguide to Preaching. We also published Becoming Friends of Time  by John Swinton. Professor David Ford described it as:

“a profound and moving book, both pastoral and prophetic. It takes further the insights of Jean Vanier, and above all invites us into the truth that ‘time is for God, God is love, time is for love.”

In February, we published a new edition of Bonhoeffer’s moving Letters and Papers from Prison , and in March came Global Poverty: A Theological Guide by Justin Thacker. In a review, the magazine Reform described Justin’s book as “readable, resolute and profoundly relevant to the concerns and pains of a divided world”.

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As always, SCM Press, and our sister imprint Canterbury Press were represented at the Society for the Study of Theology conference in Nottingham in April . The event was a great opportunity to introduce academics to some of our key frontlist and backlist titles, and a chance for delegates to discuss book projects.

May saw the publication of the first title in our new SCM Research strand – Animals, Theology and the Incarnation by Kris Hiuser. SCM Research aims to publish new and innovative research from some of the most exciting scholars in theology and biblical studies, and demonstrate something of the field’s breadth and relevance. We’ve published 2 more titles in the series since May, and more are on the way next year.

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June saw the publication of two of our standout titles of the year – Walter Brueggemann’s God, Neighbour, Empire  and Andrew Rumsey’s Parish: An Anglican Theology of Place . The reviewer for Church Times found a particular resonance in Brueggemann’s account of the ways that the Old Testament counters the imperial narrative of ancient times and of the present, saying that:

Brueggemann’s analysis could not be more pertinent in the wake of the catastrophe of Grenfell Tower. It requires all who exercise power to ask those serious questions that this study evokes, and that includes the Church.

Rumsey’s book received similarly high praise, with Andrew Davison describing it as “magnificent”. If you’ve not seen it yet, do take a look at Andrew’s video introduction to the book.

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In July we once again hit the road, this time to the BIAPT conference, held this year at St Mary’s University Twickenham. We also published Michael Moynagh’s follow-up to his seminal book Church for Every Context. His new book, Church in Life , is “groundbreaking” according to Kirsteen Kim, Professor of Theology and World Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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At Greenbelt in August both Justin Thacker and Andrew Rumsey featured on the programme, and proved to be popular speakers, and in September Kate Bruce, author of Igniting the HeartPreaching and Imagination was a popular speaker at the inaugural Festival of Preaching  which SCM Press was proud to support.

We were involved in yet another event in October, this time co-hosting with Church Times a ‘moral maze’ style panel debate on whether the parish has a future. Held at St Mellitus College in London, the speakers during the evening included Paula Gooder, Graham Tomlin as well as SCM authors including Alison Milbank (who recently co-edited Preaching Radical and Orthodox), and Andy Milne (author of The DNA of Pioneer Ministry)

As well as attending the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting in Boston in November, we published several books, including Blue Planet, Blue GodThe Bible and The Ocean. Watch Dr Meric Srokosz , an oceanographer based at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, who co-wrote the book with Rebecca Watson, Dean of St Hild College, speak about the book in this video.

Phew – a busy year! There’s lots more to come in 2018 – in a couple of weeks we’ll give you a sneak peek at some of what’s coming up in the spring.

In the meantime, we’re offering 20% off 5 key titles from this year. Click here to find out more.

 

 

 

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Advent: Reclaiming Time

Preaching Radical and Orthodox brings together sermons from of the leading proponents of Radical Orthodoxy, including Stanley Hauerwas, Graham Ward and John Milbank.  Structured around the church year, the book views the seasons through the lens of Radical Orthodox preaching. 

With the beginning of the Advent season just days away, we thought it would be apt to offer an extract from the book. In the following brief essay which introduces the section on Advent, editors Alison Milbank, John Hughes and Arabella Milbank consider the work of Advent preaching.


 

A large heap of broken antique watches and clocksPreaching as a sacramental act is already a reordering of time, in which the saving acts of God are made present and available to the listener. When the liturgical cycle begins in Advent we start the new life, against the dictates of the secular calendar, in the old year, commencing with this the re-establishment of God’s time as our primary medium of experience. A parody of Advent theology awaits reclamation in the already/not yet of secular commercial anticipation: the Christmas Spice latte in late October, and beyond December 25th only a Boxing Day Sale of Judgement when the value of the gift receipts is made all too plain. Unlike the secular version where the tinselled festivity, referring to no higher good or indeed further time, offers as its climax only more of the same, Advent’s urgent expectancy works with the natural coloration of time as the year descends into the wild darkness of the December days prior to the solstice.

Advent confronts merely linear time with a complex yet sustaining layering of different but complementary cycles of temporal experience, which Cyril of Jerusalem describes vividly:

There is a birth from God before the ages,
And a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time.
There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece,
And a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

The believer holds together the awaiting of the incarnate God’s arrival at Christmas, the birthing in her own heart like the dew on the fleece given as a sign to Gideon, and the final arrival at the eschaton. In the first awaiting, the believers also recapitulate the history of the people of Israel as they look for the promised Saviour. Time and history is narrated as it points to Christ, and we are invited to reach across temporal divisions, and against the economic values given to time, to reclaim our own time’s eternal value as part of this story.

The richness of this temporal unfolding is lost when the second coming is underplayed, as so often in contemporary preaching. Only with that final reality can evil be held to account, and our resurrection life be asserted. Only with imminence is immanence realized, Christ’s coming as fully historical from Judea to judgement. In the Advent promise, past, present and future offer God to us, and the preacher has to unite them in a proclamation that has John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary as hinges. Like John, we look back to Isaiah and the coming Day of the Lord, and call people to repent; like Mary we reach into that past to find the resources to open ourselves to the salvific horizon.

The important work of Advent preaching, then, is to flow with the richness of the lectionary readings and hymns that inhabit this triple temporality, and offer the paradox of the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ as a temporality that is also gift: where we find all the time we need. It can and must be, especially in this season of the Last Things, truly parousiac – as Henri de Lubac puts it, drawing on patristic tradition: ‘preaching is the white horse of the apocalypse’, in which the preacher brings his or her auditors to a sense of the crisis of Christ’s presence. Our sermons in this section are examples of this offering of temporality as open to the fullness of the Parousia, when time will flower from the apparent circles and lines of our experience into the spiralling heavenly rose of Paradise, in which all our lives will be enfolded.



Click here to find out more about Preaching Radical and Orthodox

A significant milestone for the SCM Studyguide series

The SCM Studyguide series reaches a significant milestone this month, with the publication of the 20th title in the series. Published later this month the latest addition to our ever-popular Studyguide series is The SCM Studyguide to Theology in the Contemporary World. 

No sooner have they mastered the basics than students of theology can quickly find themselves in over their heads. They are bombarded with claim and counter-claim as soon as they want to tackle anything topical. The contentious subjects tend to be the historical Jesus, gender and sexuality, or the atonement. Other subjects might be less contentious but attract an astonishing excess of literature. Take the vast literature tackling the subject of the Church, for instance, or the bloated body of tomes on various aspects of Pneumatology.

Theology in the Contemporary World tries to provide the bewildered and intimidated student with a primer that is at once introductory and incisive; approachable and informative. It will help those training for ministry to recover their fascination for the subject of theology and how it could apply to their future ministry.

We asked the author, Ben Pugh, who is  lecturer in New Testament and Applied Theology at Cliff College, UK, to reflect in a few words on why he wrote the book.


As I write this I have just come to the end of a week of teaching which is called the Cliff College Autumn School, hosted off-campus at Westminster Central Hall in London. It is an introduction to all the doctrines of the Christian faith for anyone who is interested. I have had a wonderful time right in the heart of the heart of London with a class of 15 eager participants from quite a staggering range of different backgrounds. Delivering this course has reminded me of all the reasons why I wrote the SCM Study Guide to Theology in the Contemporary World. One of the main reasons is that I love the fact that ordinary non-academic people want to learn theology and have deep questions about it which they want explored and answering deeply. Time and again I have come across a real hunger for theology in people, yet the theology they crave is of a kind that is surprisingly hard to come by.

I still remember the first time I ever heard Christopher Landau at a theology conference. At that time he was the Religious Affairs correspondent for the BBC World Service. He talked about how, whenever he interviewed a theologian he would ask them to explain whatever theological topic was being discussed in just twenty seconds. This, Christopher pointed out to us, is the length of time it takes to read out loud the Parable of the Good Samaritan: a profound, provocative, yet short and simple parable of Jesus. Invariably, however, the response from the theologian to Christopher’s request would be, ‘Oh no, no, no. I couldn’t possibly explain such complex ideas in twenty seconds.’ And herein lies our problem today: there are plenty of people who want theology – especially those who are training for the ministry – but not many writers and teachers that can give it to them in a way that is at once profound and humane. Nobody wants dumbed down theology. Nobody wants to be patronised. But plenty of people want a warm and friendly way into degree-level theological learning. It is my conviction that academic theology, no matter how advanced, is of interest supremely to the Church and theologians can only really discover the joy of their calling when they make their craft completely accessible and useful to the Church. It is for this reason that, when Christopher Landau gave his seminar that day I thought: ‘Yes! At last someone who is speaking my language!’ He put into words convictions of mine which were so deep I had not yet found the words.

In saying all this I realise I am setting myself up a bit here. I am going to have to deliver on this, and perhaps claim that my new book is the perfect blend of profound ideas and nice pink and fluffy explanations. It is going to have to be filioque with a few sequins, pneumatology with a little chocolate powder sprinkled on top. Well, all I can do is invite you to sample Theology in the Contemporary World for yourself and perhaps review it, or even get in touch so that I can get better at this task of making the theology of the theologians into the theology of all.”



To celebrate the 20th book in the series, we’re offering a 20% discount on all 20 of the studyguides, including Ben Pugh’s SCM Studyguide to Theology in the Contemporary World. Click here for more details.

“…as the waters cover the sea…”

blue-planet-580x200Later this month, we’re publishing Blue Planet, Blue God: The Bible and the Sea

The ocean dominates the surface of the earth and is surprisingly prominent 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.

At the same time, it also speaks perceptively of the sea’s vulnerability to damage and change. The Bible’s focus on the sea raises questions about economics and the interconnectedness of communities, whilst further references to the sea raise questions about our human-centredness and spirituality, and about our fear of chaos and disaster.

In a unique collaborative project, the oceanographer Meric Srokosz and the biblical scholar Rebecca Watson not only offer ecological 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. 

The book’s been described as “highly recommended” by Paula Gooder, who calls i “one of the most unusual and enjoyable books that I’ve read in a long time”

Here’s a short video introduction to the book:

 

And here’s an extract from the introduction, to whet your appetite:


… for the earth will be full of the knowledge of [the glory of] the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11.9; see also Habakkuk 2.14)

Perhaps you have been puzzled by this verse from Isaiah, and the similar verse in Habakkuk 2.14? On one level the meaning is obvious: according to Isaiah 11.9, at some point in the future people will fully know the presence of God and live in the light of that knowledge: in justice, peace, righteousness, and holy fear (cf. 11.2−5), so that there is harmony between species (cf. Isaiah 65.17−25).1 In Habakkuk 2.14, it is the glory of God − his splendour, power and majesty, but also his awesome presence – that will be acknowledged throughout the earth. But on another level it contains a mystery: what does it mean for the waters to cover the sea? Surely the waters are the sea?

We shall return to the meaning of these verses later. For now it serves as a starting point for outlining what we are attempting to do in this book. The aim is to examine what the Bible says about the sea, hence the ‘Blue Planet’ of the title. We have found that the passages concerned with the sea challenge our thinking about God’s relationship with this important part of his creation and how he might feel about it, hence the ‘Blue God’ part of the title. Much of what the Bible says regarding the sea seems mysterious at first sight, but this forces us to reflect more carefully on its message. Even more that very process will challenge our thinking on many issues that we as human beings face in today’s world.

Little has been written on the Bible’s view of the sea. Traditional scholarship has tended to see the Israelites of the Old Testament as somewhat divorced from maritime concerns (with the possible exception of the story of Jonah). However, as we hope to show in what follows, this approach neglects the large amount of Old Testament material on the sea. New Testament scholarship has paid a little more attention to this topic, not least because Jesus recruited fishermen to be his disciples and spent some time in boats on the Sea of Galilee. In addition, Paul missionary journeys involved Mediterranean voyages and both Jesus and Paul experienced storms at sea. Despite this, there has been nothing written that looks at both the Old and New Testament material on the sea as a whole. This book attempts to remedy that lack to some degree.

The book came about because one of us (Meric) is an oceanographer and goes to sea to carry out research. In reading the Bible he became aware of the wealth of material on the sea but found that biblical scholars had written little on this subject. He enlisted the help of a biblical scholar (Rebecca) and initiated the ‘Sea in Scripture’ project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (where he was the Associate Director at the time). The outcome of this research is to be twofold: both this book and a more academic monograph. The book has resulted from our growing conviction as we studied the topic that the biblical material on the sea provides a ‘lens’ through which we may be challenged about our attitudes and behaviour – essentially, how we are to live in what the Bible understands to be God’s world.

The Bible is the product of a faith community and written for people of faith. As such, it seeks to elicit a response and to effect changes in people’s lives. If study of the Bible evokes in us a desire to respond to God and to live our lives in the light of his character and purposes both for us and for his creation then it will have fulfilled its purpose. It is our conviction, though, that it can offer provocation and challenge, vision and hope, to anyone, regardless of their personal beliefs. Its call to justice and integrity, love and responsibility, in our conduct towards others and to the rest of creation (among other virtues), can speak to all of us. In addition, as an ancient text, even the most recent parts of which are not much less than 2,000 years old, it offers a window on to a way of living and perceiving the world that is far removed from the modern Western, individualistic and largely urban perspective that we inhabit. This cultural gap can enable us to re-evaluate some of the often unreflective assumptions that motivate our responses, not least in relation to some of the most pressing modern issues that demand our attention; these will be considered in what follows. Our hope is that readers will be provoked and challenged by what follows and then respond accordingly. If that happens, then the book will have achieved its aim.


Blue Planet, Blue God is available to preorder now at a special pre-publication price of £15.99. Find out more on our website

Free Chapter: “Reformation Churches” from “The SCM StudyGuide to Church History”

Image result for nailing sign to doorThis week sees the 500th anniversary of the moment when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, and the Reformation began.

To mark the anniversary, we’re offering you a FREE chapter from our SCM Studyguide to Church History. In chapter 7 of the Studyguide, “Reformation Churches: Monarchial or Congregational” author Stephen Spencer considers Luther’s place within the wider landscape of the Reformation. The Studyguide offers an accessible and clear introduction for students of theology and history to the ways the church has evolved in its corporate life since its birth in the 1st century. To access the free chapter, click here .

PS – All our Studyguides are on offer at 20% off at the moment. They cover a wealth of subjects within theology, from Liturgy to Theological Reflection, and from Ethics to Preaching. And next month we add to our line-up of Studyguides with the SCM Studyguide to Theology in the Contemporary World, described by Dr Emma Ineson, Principal of Trinity College Bristol as “A must for every student of theology”.

 

What is Ministry Like?

This year saw the launch of SCM Research, a new hardback monograph series, publishing cutting-edge research from across the theological disciplines. 

This month, joining Animals, Theology and the Incarnation by Kris Hiuser, and Development Beyond the Secular, by Catherine Loy, we’re publishing Clergy, Culture and Ministry, by the late Rev Canon Dr Ian Tomlinson. Tomlinson served as Rector of The Benefice of Appleshaw, Kimpton, Thruxon, Fyfield and Shipton Bellinger in the diocese of Winchester for 37 years, but very sadly died in 2016. Shortly before his death, we were privileged to work with Ian on the process of transforming his thesis into a book for the SCM Research series. Following Ian’s death, Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, continued the process of bringing Ian’s first book to publication.

Ian’s book focuses on the work of the late Dean of Westminster, Wesley Carr, author of The Priestlike Task. Carr’s work is often overlooked and yet, as Ian Tomlinson argues, he had some profound things to say about the task of Christian Ministry. 

Clergy Culture and Ministry engages with Carr’s work to consider the difficulties and challenges faced by those in ordained ministry trying to interpret and understand what is going on in their congregation and parish, and why it might be happening. In his engagement with Carr, Tomlinson brings theory and practice into conversation by responding to each of Carr’s ‘propositions’ with a ‘critical incident’ from the author’s own parish experience.

Tomlinson’s methodology is creative and innovative, and, says Alister Redfern, Bishop of Derby, “will be like a breath of fresh air to all who seek encouragement in the task of Christian ministry”.

Below is an abridged extract from Martyn Percy’s foreword to the book.


This book is about roles and identities in ministry. Written by the Revd Canon Dr Ian Tomlinson, it is a profound meditation in the life and work of a skilled pastoral counsellor, which Ian was, and rooted in a range of interlocutors, in particular Wesley Carr’s writing, the insights of the Grubb Institute and the influence of Bruce Reed. More latterly, this includes conversations with myself over the several years of Ian’s doctoral study, which itself is rooted in his failing health due to terminal cancer. This book is based on that study, and is as fresh, perceptive and original as one would expect from Ian. He died in October 2016, having largely completed it, and any failings or shortcomings in this volume must be attributed to me, not him – I was given the task of bringing this one and only book of Ian’s to publication.

This is poignant for me. The book that has mostly shaped my own intellectual trajectory is a little-known work by the distinguished American contextual theologian, James Hopewell. Jim’s book, Congregation: Stories and Structures (1987], is exactly the kind of prescient contribution to pastoral studies and ecclesial literacy that Ian has sought to write. Jim, like Ian, died before his book was published, and it was Barbara Wheeler who was given the task of completing his work. Like Ian, Jim died of cancer, and reflected, as good clergy and scholars do, on what is happening to the person, and those around them, as they try and make sense of God and the world in the midst of happenstances, critical incidents and other moments in the life of a local parish church.

This is no small matter to contemplate. Theologians and church leaders who downplay or ignore the role, symbolism and importance of local clergy, do so at their peril. Clergy are, to deploy the conventional secular idiom, always much more than the sum of their parts (whether they like it or not!). Far more so, in fact, for they always carry the hidden, inchoate spiritual symbolisms, transferences and projections of the communities they serve, quite apart from anything that they themselves might want to say. Perhaps for this reason alone, such a weighty vocation needs to be tempered with humility and wisdom, and infused with character and virtue. It is one of the few roles in which being tirelessly good, kind and gentle might be more important than any achievement, or possibly even than competence. After all, we cherish saints for their kindness, compassion, love, wisdom, resilience, charity and goodness. And we like our clergy to be saints.

A person set aside for a symbolic, pastoral and priestly role in any community or context is in an increasingly unusual – some would say unique – position today. The work is not paid, at least in the strict sense of remuneration; but there is often some sort of stipend. The role is not ‘work’, strictly speaking, in the way that the world might understand the concept.

For example, there are few prescribed hours, duties and tasks – and yet the role is highly demanding and, at times, intensive. The kind of leadership that one gives in a (largely) voluntary institution is not the same as that given in an organization with clarity between employers, employees and those whom the organization serves. Ministry is easy to describe on a day-to-day basis in terms of tasks; and supporting paradigms – rooted in people and practices drawn from the richness of Christian tradition – are numerous. Yet curiously, ministry remains difficult to define, and the roles increasingly hard to articulate.

What, then is ministry like? It is not like teaching, nursing or counselling; nor is it like being a doctor, social worker, solicitor or other profession. It is, perhaps uniquely, a role in a community – whether a parish, prison or other sector – that goes beyond the normal vocabulary for defining work.

What is ministry like? In some respects it is rather like a kind of ‘intentional parenting’. That is to say, there are indeed plans and structures for the parish and the congregation; and there is no getting away from the essential value of these for cultivating healthy individuals and relationships. A loving and cherishing household underlies this ecology. But mature parenting is also about accepting that, despite the intentionality of plans and structures, life, like ministry, is a continual stream of interruptions, disruptions and surprises – some of which are welcome, but not all. Ministry, like parenting, is a relatively boundless occupation. In this regard, Ian Tomlinson’s book is a welcome contribution to our understanding of the role of clergy in today’s world. For all who delve into his text, there is something rich here on roles, relations and identities: to read, mark and learn.


Clergy, Culture and Ministry is published later this month. You can preorder a copy now, via our website

Theology Reforming Society

Theology Reforming SocietyPublished later this month, Theology Reforming Society edited by Stephen Spencer, tells the story of ‘Anglican Social Theology’, from its roots in the writings and work of F. D. Maurice and the Christian Socialists, up to the present day. In the introduction, extracted here, Stephen Spencer unpacks the book’s origins.


There are different ways in which the Church can bring progressive change to society. One is through direct intervention in party politics, such as through founding a political party that seeks to win power. Another is through supporting campaigns for change on specific issues, such as the abolition of slavery, reform of factory working conditions or the Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt relief. A third way is through seeking to change the structures of society as a whole through changing relationships across social groups. It was this third form of social action that provided the subject of a well attended conference at Mirfield in West Yorkshire in January 2017. The conference gave specific attention to a movement of thinking and action that originated in the Church of England in the Nineteenth century and which acquired extensive influence in Britain and beyond in the Twentieth century, a movement now known as Anglican Social Theology.

The conference built on a 2014 book, Anglican Social Theology, a set of essays by Anglican, Evangelical and Roman Catholic theologians edited by Malcom Brown.  The essays referred in passing to this tradition, one that had its roots in the theological writings and social action of F.D. Maurice and Christian Socialism, then found expression in the work of Brooke Foss Westcott, Charles Gore, Henry Scott Holland and the Christian Social Union, and reached mature expression in what the essays called ‘the Temple tradition’, referring to Archbishop William Temple and, during the Second World War, his influential advocacy of the need for social reform and especially for a welfare state. This tradition later found institutional expression in the work of the Church of England’s Board for Social Responsibility in the 1960s and 70s and in the Archbishop’s Commission report of 1985, Faith in the City. It has found contemporary resonances in some of the lectures and speeches of Rowan Williams when Archbishop of Canterbury. The key feature of the tradition, one that distinguishes it from a number of single-issue campaigns over the same period, is the way it connects foundational theological principles with recommendations for the reform of the social and economic structures of society as a whole.

But Anglican Social Theology did not attempt a comprehensive account of this tradition. The task of assessing its significance as a whole was left to another day. It was this assessment that the conference at Mirfield took up. Meeting at the home of the Community of the Resurrection, which Charles Gore founded in 1892, it ran over 24 hours with participants coming from across the country including from Truro, London, Gloucester and Durham. The four main lectures, by Jeremy Morris, Paul Avis, Stephen Spencer and Malcolm Brown, comprised the Scott Holland lectures, a triannual series of lectures founded in memory of Henry Scott Holland. Each one of these was followed by a prepared response from a range of speakers that allowed the discussion to develop in creative directions.

Jeremy Morris began the story with an account of the start of the movement in 1848, the ‘Year of Revolutions’ across Europe, when the Chartist Movement attempted to force political change through a mass demonstration on Kennington Common in London. It was this event that made Maurice contact his friend the lawyer John Ludlow saying that “the new Socialism must be Christianised”. Their ‘Christian Socialist’ movement, small scale and faltering at first, wanted to replace the law of competition with that of co-operation in society at large. It found expression in a number of educational initiatives, starting with a teacher training college for women, and in the setting up of some worker’s co-operatives. While these had only limited impact the notion that Christian theology could change the way relationships were conducted in society at large was a novel and ultimately influential one within the development of Anglicanism. Morris argued that Maurice’s social theology was not a sub-branch of his work overall but rather integral to his understanding of his vocation as a theologian. What Maurice wanted above all to achieve was a refocusing of the attention of the Church of England on the social implications of its teaching. Morris also included Octavia Hill in his overview, a follower of Maurice who created some influential housing schemes and became a founder of the National Trust. Alison Millbank, in response to Morris, developed a contemporary application of a number of key themes in Maurice’s work, not least his Trinitarian theology. and made important connections with Citizen’s movements in France and with church initiatives today. She also highlighted the exciting way in which Maurice resisted an instrumental view of education and in its place showed how education is all about discovery and realizing the Kingdom of God in our midst.

Paul Avis then took up the story with an account of the life and thinking of Brooke Foss Westcott and Charles Gore, drawing out continuity with Maurice as well as some differences. For Westcott the Incarnation provided the ‘motive, principle and power’ to apply the Christian faith to the problems of life. Like Maurice, he believed that the world was already God’s world, that all people were ‘in Christ’, and that society embodied the divine order: all we have to do is to live in the light of this truth in order to realize it more and more. In other aspects of his thinking, though, Westcott emerged as confined within the late-Victorian mind-set of his time. Gore, manifestly and avowedly an heir of the Tractarians, also shared Maurice’s Christ-centred social vision, though he differed from him and from Westcott in not proclaiming that every person is already ‘in Christ’. One major contrast with Maurice was Gore’s commitment to democracy, including the widening of the franchise to women. Avis also highlighted how Gore differed from Maurice and Westcott in his promotion of legislation to tackle social and economic issues, something that William Temple would also take up in the 1940s. Fr Thomas Seville, a member of Gore’s Community of the Resurrection, argued that Gore’s socialism was closer to the socialism of our own time than that of Maurice. He also described Gore’s radical view of property, that its social ownership should be primary and that the right to property should only be for social needs. Unfortunately there was not enough time in the conference to look at Henry Scott Holland, close colleague of Gore and ultimately professor at Oxford. Happily he is included in Avis’ chapter in this volume.

Stephen Spencer then gave an account of William Temple’s contribution, describing the theological and philosophical roots of his social principles and working through the methodology of his social ethics, a methodology that welcomes the insights of those with expertise in social and economic affairs. He highlighted the way that Temple’s methodology is open to the building of coalitions of groups who come from different faith backgrounds and who can agree on the kind of practical objectives he outlines. Temple’s methodology is one that can still be found in use in recent reports on contemporary social issues, showing his abiding significance. Spencer also argued that Temple’s emphasis on the role of intermediate communities, those associations and communities that lie between the individual and the state, is one that is sometimes missed by contemporary commentators and shows his continuity with Maurice. In responding to his paper Susan Lucas showed how Temple and the tradition he represents contains an inherent and necessary critique of the neo-Liberal politics and economics that has been dominant in British and American politics since the 1980s, a critique that still needs to be heard.

Finally, in an update to his contribution to Anglican Social Theology, Malcolm Brown argued for the need for the movement to engage with the Evangelical wing of Anglicanism which is currently widely involved in social action up and down the country but lacks theological underpinning for this. The House of Bishops have recently commissioned some resources to address this but more needs to be done. Nevertheless Anglican social theology can offer something of great worth to the deep divisions of contemporary politics, namely a ‘coalition communitarianism’ that resists the increasing atomisation of society and which demonstrates how those who differ in beliefs and values can nevertheless live and work together for the common good. In his response to this, Matthew Bullimore showed how the church at local level can exemplify this, living out a human flourishing based on a conviviality which is much more than just a tolerable co-existence. The leadership of the churches could help to reinforce this contribution which, essentially, is coming up from below.

These papers form the basis of Theology Reforming Society. Each speaker has revised and expanded their paper for publication, often taking note of the dialogue at the conference and finessing their argument. Furthermore they have been joined by a chapter by Diane Ryan which provides additional information on Octavia Hil who while one of the lesser known members of the early Christian Socialist circle became, in practical terms, probably its most influential member. Finally Peter Scott, who attended the conference and chaired its concluding session, has provided an ‘afterword’ which gives an acute critique and some constructive recommendations for the future development of Anglican Social Theology. As a whole, then, the book is intended not only to make the conference papers more widely available but to contribute to the ongoing discussion about how to evaluate and apply Anglican social theology in the years ahead. It does this by providing an overview of its development, giving particular attention to key moments and figures in its development, and by assessing the contemporary application of what those moments and figures represent. Recent surveys show a widening and strengthening of social action by churches of many denominations across the country, including the Anglican denominations of the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland. The book is offered to inspire and strengthen reflection on that social action at local, national and international level. Furthermore, with another Lambeth Conference scheduled to take place in 2020, it is crucial that this dimension of the church’s life, an expression of the fourth Mark of Mission, ‘to transform unjust structures of society’, which belongs to all Anglicans worldwide, is brought into sharp and constructive focus.

Stephen Spencer is a Tutor at the Yorkshire Ministry Course based at Mirfield and a parish priest in Yorkshire. 

Theology Reforming Society: Revisiting Anglican Social Theology is published on 30th October but can be ordered from our website at a special pre-publication price. Click here for more details.