by Paul Badham
from Modern Believing Vol 50:2
I was delighted that in our last issue we were able to focus on German Theology in Contemporary Society and I thank my colleague Johannes Hoff for his excellent selection, commissioning and introduction to the thought of six established representatives of the younger generation of German Scholarship.
Liberal theology in Britain has always greatly benefited from German scholarship and it is important that this should continue.
It is also important that we always think in global terms. I am therefore delighted that in this edition we will be looking at Christian experience in Africa, and religious experience in India. We will also explore Interfaith responses to the Palestinian/Israeli dilemma and examine the thought of an Australian archbishop. For the future I hope that in almost every edition we will have an article from the USA where so much of the hopes of progressive Christianity lie.
Papers from the 2008 conference
I am delighted to publish in the issue two further papers from the MCU 2008 Conference 'Saving the Soul of Anglicanism'. Canon Charlotte Methuen focuses on The Ecclesiology of the Church of England in the context of the European Reformation. She shows that the current controversies in part reflect a lack of awareness of the roots of the Anglican tradition and the diversity which has from the beginning been seen as a true mark of its identity.
Bishop Trevor Mwamba writes on the African Experience through the centuries stressing how much we could learn today from the way Cyprian helped to hold the Churches in Africa in communion in the third century. He also reminds of the diversity of traditions within African Anglicanism and pleads for harmony and respect for one another.
Interfaith discussions in Leeds
In the light of the recent military conflict in the Gaza strip it is interesting to read of an attempt by an inter-religious group in Leeds to grapple with the issues behind the conflict. Their attempt to formulate the principles on which a lasting solution to the Palestinian/Israeli highlights the problems that the international negotiators face. However the real importance of such an attempt is the way in which bringing people of different faiths together to discuss a major problem of our day can greatly aid inter-faith understanding in contemporary Britain. The need for people in different faith communities to live together in harmony is one of the greatest issues of our day and this Leeds report shows one way this can be done.
Modern technology and catholic worshipping
Worship is integral to Christian religious experiencing and historically a cultivation of the sense of the numinous through the solemnity of a 'Catholic' liturgy has been one of the glories of the Christian tradition. How can such experiences be united with fresh expressions of worship which make full use of modern technological assistance. That is the theme addressed by Father Andrew Cain and Angharad Parry Jones.
Studying religious experience in Tamil Nadu
Jonathan Robinson reports on a pilot study of religious experience in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. This was inspired by the major survey that the Templeton Foundation funded in China and on which Professor Xinzhong Yao and I reported in our articles in Modern Believing in April 2006 and January 2008.1 What is fascinating about these Indian findings is the way in which Tamil religious experiencing takes so similar a form across the three religions represented in the survey. It would be marvellous if this initial pilot study could be expanded into a major survey of Indian religion on the pattern of the Chinese research.
Exploring the theology of Archbishop Jensen
Archbishop Jensen of Sydney is one of the major players in contemporary Anglicanism not only in his native Australia but also in the Gafcon controversies. This study by Andrew Gleeson tackles a quite different aspect of the Archbishop's thought: namely his beliefs about the second coming of Jesus. One historic dilemma at the birth of Christianity was its acceptance of Jesus as the promised Messiah (The Christ) despite the fact that he had not fulfilled the Messianic dream of establishing with God's direct assistance a theocratic Kingdom on Earth. Jesus made it clear that that was not his role and in his parables of the Kingdom he described a quite different vision of how God works quietly within the human heart. Much speculation about a Second Coming including that of Archbishop Jensen seems to suggest that Jesus got it wrong during his earthly ministry and that at a Second Coming in power and great glory a quite different kind of transformation will take place.
Another dilemma which Gleeson addresses is how far the Christian hope for life after death with have a temporal quality to it. So often we treat 'eternal life' and 'everlasting life' as if they were synonymous with each other. Yet philosophically they are very different concepts. In eternity we repose in God's eternal timelessness. In everlasting life we have limitless opportunities for new experiences. It is difficult to reconcile these two very different pictures yet both are integrally related in Christian expectation. Both hopes come together in the Funeral Service where we pray:
Grant him, O Lord, eternal rest;
And let light perpetual shine upon him.
We believe verily to see the goodness of the Lord;
In the land of the living.
For the last sixteen years Rosalind Lund has provided immeasurable help to three Editors of Modern Believing as Editorial Assistant, and Copy Editor. It has been a wonderful thing as Editor to know that one's sole responsibility was to select or commission articles; their preparation for publication in accurate format and all arrangements with the publishers being in the hands of one's assistant. We are all greatly in Rosalind Lund's debt. I am happy to report that Mrs. Abi Hyde who has for the past three years helped me with correspondence with contributors has agreed to take over as Editorial Assistant and Copy Editor as well. All correspondence concerning Modern Believing should go through her.
Since I became Editor, colleagues at Lampeter, Dr. Simon Oliver and more latterly Dr. Rob Warner have acted as Reviews Editor. I thank them very much for the competent way they have each undertaken this important task on behalf of our journal. Following Rob's promotion to the Headship of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Lampeter at a crucial moment in the University's history he has reluctantly had to hand over responsibility for our reviews. The new Reviews Editor will be one of our regular reviewers Dr. Michael Brierley:
Michael Brierley studied history at the University of Cambridge, and theology at the University of Oxford. Ordained in 1998, he served a curacy in villages in north Dorset, before working from 2001 to 2006 as chaplain to Richard Harries, the former bishop of Oxford, whose festschrift he edited under the title Public Life and the Place of the Church (Ashgate, 2006). He has reviewed regularly for Modern Believing for the last ten years, and wrote the history of Ripon Hall, the theological college associated with the MCU, in Mark Chapman's Ambassadors of Christ (Ashgate, 2004). His work on the rise of panentheism in British 20th-century theology was awarded a PhD by the University of Birmingham in 2007, and has been published in several places, including The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (Oxford University Press, 2006). Since 2007, he has been priest-in-charge of Tavistock, a market town in West Devon.
Following the brilliant article by Ian Markham and Barney Hawkins on the 'Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion' I thought it would be good to see if we could have an article from an American theologian in each issue. On Ian Markham's recommendation I have appointed Dr. Thomas Bushnell as American Editor from next April. Dr. Thomas Bushnell is a friar of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. He graduated in Philosophy and Classics from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and took a PhD in Philosophy from the University of California, Irvine. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. His interests include the history of ethics, contemporary Christian ethics and polity, liturgy, and systematic theology. He is a firm philosophical realist, and believes that relativism is destructive of tolerance and understanding between different communities. Professed a member of the brotherhood since 1998, Thomas serves his community as Director of Education.
For fuller details of this survey see Xinzhong Yao and Paul Badham, Religious Experience in Contemporary China (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008).