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Monday, 10 October 2011

October 2011 Book Reviews

October's book recommendations are here. As always these are based on thorough reviews made by Dr Martin Davie, the theological advisor to the Church of England's bishops. I hope that not only our clergy and lay ministers but also members of our congregations will find these to be useful and enticing abstracts of  recently published works of interest to Anglicans. 

This month's selection includes 8 volumes spanning works on liturgy and music, discipleship, missiology and ecclesiology, ecumenical themes, Sydney Anglicanism, and spirituality. 

Bonne lecture!

Click on the read more link for the reviews.

Brian Cummings, The Book of Common Prayer – The texts of 1549, 1559 and 1662, OUP, ISBN 978-0-19920-717-6, £16.99
Although the Book of Common Prayer is now much less used in the regular worship of the Church of England than used to be the case it still remains at the heart of the Church’s liturgy and doctrine. This being the case, anyone who wants to understand the Church of England needs to understand the Book of Common Prayer. In turn, understanding the Book of Common Prayer involves understanding the way in which it developed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the new volume by Professor Brian Cummings of the University of Sussex is an invaluable guide to this process of development. What this volume gives us is the full text of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the full divine services for the 1549 and 1559 texts in a form which preserves much of their original appearance, orthography, and punctuation, with limited modernization to aid the modern reader. It also contains an Introduction which explains how the Book of Common Prayer developed and its significance for everyday life and for the history of the English language and literature. There are also two appendices, one with material unique to the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, the other with ancillary material from the 1662 text, including the Thirty Nine Articles and the service for the King's Healing. In addition, there are numerous explanatory notes and a comprehensive glossary covering difficult vocabulary, changes in historical meaning, and technical terms in liturgy and theology. This is an indispensable tool for any serious student of the development of the Book of Common Prayer and should certainly be on the reading list for all theological colleges and courses.

Tim Dowley, Christian Music – A Global History, Lion, ISBN 978-0-74595-324-3, £20.00
Dr Tim Dowley has produced a number of useful handbooks on the Bible and Church History and his latest book is a handbook to the history of Christian music that has been described by Simon Russell Beale as ‘A friendly, attractive, and enormously enjoyable guide through a fascinating world, revealing the beauty of Christian music.’ As its title suggests, this book is a global history of Christian music, looking in a comprehensive fashion at how Christian music has developed down the centuries and around the world. As well as an overall history of Christian music from its Jewish roots to the present day, it also contains in-depth articles on key themes and individuals, sets out the historical, theological and liturgical contexts for the different forms of Christian musical expression, and addresses key questions such as what is Christian music? Is it solely music used in Christian worship? Or is it music with spirituality, with the power to move people? And what is the role of the Bible in all this? It has specialist articles by international experts and is lavishly illustrated throughout.  This is a book that will prove invaluable to anyone who wants a reliable introduction to the Christian musical tradition.

Douglas Gay, Remixing the Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiogy, SCM, ISBN 978-0-33404-396-6, £17.99
In recent years there has been much discussion about what is known as the ‘emerging church.’ This is a term that has been used to refer to the new forms of the Church that are developing in response to the changing needs of the Church’s mission in contemporary society. In his new book Dr Douglas Gay, a Church of Scotland minister who lectures in practical theology at the University of Glasgow, offers a fresh contribution to this discussion. He tells the story of how the emerging church movement has developed, setting it in the context of wider developments that have taken place over the last fifty years in worship, mission, and the relationship of the Church to culture and politics. He also explores the concept of emergence in terms of five key moves – auditing, retrieval, unbundling, supplementing and remixing. Remixing refers to the constructive process of developing new forms of the Church and Dr Gay makes suggestions about how this should take place based on the practical experience of alternative and emerging congregations and networks and recent scholarship in the field of practical theology. This is a book which is intended for thoughtful practitioners and church leaders, but which also contributes to academic discussions of ecclesiology, congregational studies, mission, liturgy and worship and practical theology. It has been described by Jonny Baker of the CMS Pioneer Leadership Team as ‘a creative mature piece of practical theology that maps the contours of the emerging church movement over the last few decades and offers reflections on ecclesial practice into the future.’ It will be of interest to anyone who wants to think more deeply about ecclesiology, mission and the relationship between the two.

Austen Ivereigh and Kathleen Griffin, Catholic Voices – Putting the case for the Church in the era of 24 Hour News, DLT, ISBN, 978-0-23252-863-3, £14.99
Against all the expectations before it took place, the visit of Pope Benedict to Great Britain in September 2010 was an extraordinary public relations success for the Roman Catholic Church in the UK. One of the reasons for this success was the briefings by Roman Catholic media experts that helped to equip a team of ordinary Roman Catholics to explain the visit and its significance to the media in an effective way. Catholic Voices, which is written by two experienced RC journalists, is based on these briefings. However, it is not aimed simply at those who have to give interviews to the media, but also at parish priests, pastoral assistants, catechists, teachers, students and every Roman Catholic who is willing to answer questions on topics in the news and give reasons for what they believe. It combines arguments and facts that can be used to explain and defend Roman Catholicism with practical tips on media skills such as how to hear the question behind the question and how to listen for a positive intention behind criticisms of the Church or the Catholic faith. It explains how to present arguments clearly, compellingly and concisely in a quick-fire atmosphere. This book is aimed in the first instance at Roman Catholics, but there is much that Anglicans can learn from it about how they too can present their faith in a positive and persuasive way in the media and in wider society. Anglicans too need to learn how to give an account of the hope that is within them and how to do it an effective fashion. 

Teresa Morgan, Every-Person Ministry, SPCK, ISBN 978-0-28106-447-2, £9.99
One of the key developments in the Church of England in the past few years has been the widespread acceptance of the fact that undertaking the mission of the Church is the responsibility of every Christian and not simply the responsibility of those who are ordained or called to authorised lay ministry. It is this conviction that underlies the new book from Dr Teresa Morgan, who is Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at Oriel College, Oxford, and a self-supporting priest in the parish of Littlemore. In her book Dr Morgan argues that every Christian is called to participate in the Church’s mission by becoming a channel for the Holy Spirit so that the reconciling love of God in Christ can flow through them to the world around them. In the first four chapters of the book she discusses four different kinds of ministry, showing loving to our neighbours, listening to people, speaking and acting prophetically and engaging in forgiveness and reconciliation. In later chapters she focuses on the development of our own relationship with God, providing guidance on defusing the 'unhelpful passions' which block the action of the Spirit in us and on daily prayer and exploring the ways in which we can articulate and explain our faith. This is a useful book about the development and living out of the Christian life and provides a helpful reminder that the mission of the Church is everyone’s responsibility. What is problematic, however, is whether it is correct to use the term ‘ministry’ to cover everything that is referred to in this book. If the whole of the Christian life become ministry then ministry becomes a term which lacks any specific meaning. ‘Discipleship’ would be a better term for what she is describing with the term ‘ministry’  being reserved for those forms of Christian activity undertaken on behalf of the Church and authorised by it in some way. 

Mark A Noll, Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction, OUP, ISBN 978-0-19956-097-4, £7.99
The veteran American Evangelical historian Professor Mark Noll begins his contribution to the Oxford ‘very short introduction’ series by noting that ‘Protestants today are all over the map, literally and figuratively.’ They are all over the map literally because Protestant Christianity is now a global phenomenon and they are all over map figuratively because Protestant Christianity is marked by a huge variety of belief and practice. In his book Professor Noll explores both of these aspects of Protestantism, explaining how it has developed from the sixteenth century onwards and why it has developed in such a great variety of different ways. He considers the contribution made by major figures in the history of Protestantism and looks at why Protestant energies have flagged recently in the Western world yet expanded so dramatically elsewhere. He also argues that the despite the great diversity of Protestantism it is possible to see it as a movement marked by a ‘characteristic message, a characteristic standard of authority, characteristic forms of organisation and characteristic styles of activity.’ In his view, ‘the message proclaims salvation as a gift from God that brings reconciliation with God and among people on earth. The authority is the Bible. The forms of organisation tend to the local and the participatory. The activities feature individual activity and responsibility.’ This volume can be highly recommended to anyone who wants an introduction to Protestant Christianity that is concise and yet also scholarly and comprehensive.

Muriel Porter, Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism, Ashgate, ISBN 978-1-40942-027-9, £19.99
Most accounts of the developments that have taken place in the Anglican Communion in recent years have seen the impetus for these developments coming on the conservative side from North America, Africa and South America. However, it can also be argued that role played by the Diocese of Sydney has been important and this is the issue addressed in a new book by Muriel Porter, an Australian academic and journalist who has acted as the Church Times’ Australia correspondent for many years. It has long been known that the Diocese of Sydney was the most conservative Protestant diocese in the Anglican Communion, marked by a Calvinist theology, an ecclesiology which saw the local congregation as the place in which the visible Church was to be found, opposition to the ordination of women and a desire for lay and diaconal presidency at Holy Communion. The argument in Dr Porter’s book is that in recent years the influence of Sydney’s theology and ecclesiology has begun to spread in Australia and in the Anglican Communion more widely and that this poses a ‘threat’ to world Anglicanism both because it is likely to cause division and because it is likely to lead to forms of belief and practice which are contrary to historic Anglicanism. As anyone who has read Dr Porter’s contribution’s to the Church Times will be aware, she is a liberal Anglican with a strong antagonism to the Diocese of Sydney. This means that her account needs to be balanced by studies from those who are more sympathetic to Sydney. Nevertheless, this is an important book that is required reading for anyone who wants to begin to understand the history and nature of Sydney Anglicanism and its growing influence in Australia and elsewhere. 

Alexander Ryrie, The Desert Movement: Fresh Perspectives on the Spirituality of the Desert, Canterbury Press, ISBN 978-1-84825-094-9, £16.99
There are a number of books currently available that provide useful introductions to the history and spirituality of the early Christian monks and nuns collectively known as the ‘desert fathers.’ These include Dirwas Chitty’s The Desert a City, Bendicta Ward’s, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Archbishop Rowan’s Silence and Honey Cakes – the wisdom of the desert. As its title suggests, this new book by a retired priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church adds to these existing studies by providing fresh perspectives on early desert monasticism. Drawing on recent research and newly translated ancient texts, it argues that the spread of early Christian communities in the desert was far more extensive than previously thought. It also complements the traditional focus on Egyptian monasticism by looking at the parallel movements that took place in Sinai, Gaza, Judea and Syria. It compares the similarities and differences between these different forms of monasticism and it introduces the lives and writings of many new monastic figures, including many women, and gives them a place among the well known figures of desert spirituality such as St Anthony, John Cassian and Evagrius Ponticus. Benedicta Ward writes on the back cover that this admirable book sets out the basic pattern of life among the first Christians who undertook life as hermits. It is presented in a clear and practical way so that the reader can explore the treasures of wisdom transmitted from the past. It provides a guide to English translations of the sources and these are linked with the archaeology involved in a way which makes the book at once accessible and profound.’

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