The Church Times, described as 'the world's leading Anglican newspaper', has published a joint letter signed by Modern Church President Linda Woodhead and 95 others, critiquing the paper's current theology series.
The 'Theology Now' weekly collection of features on various theological topics is running for seven weeks during Lent, including reflections on God, Creation, Jesus Christ, Salvation, The Holy Spirit and the Church, Last Things, and The Resurrection. Here is the text of the letter in full:
Theology Now: a desire to hear other voices
From Professor Linda Woodhead and 95 others
Sir, — We are delighted that the Church Times is running a series on “Theology Now”, but concerned that the first three instalments offer such a narrow selection. They leave the unfortunate impression that theology remains unaware of the injustices and inequalities it perpetuates.
The bias is evident in Professor John Milbank’s dismissal of theologies that have an “obsession with diverse ‘identities’” (19 February). Presumably he includes such major movements as liberation theology, feminist theology, black theology, and recent developments in practical theology and ethnographic ecclesiology.
What all these have in common is that they take seriously theology’s own conditions of production, and are open to self-critique. They engage theology with social and ecclesiological realities and allow the marginalised to have a say.
At a time when the Church is coming to terms with gendered violence and sexual abuse, this is not a trivial matter. To assume that a theology dominated by Western male academics has nothing to do with “identity politics” is laughable.
Anna Strahn, Jonathan Abbatt, Nicholas Adams, Rebecca Aechtner, Peter Alcock, Kristin Aune, Paul Badham, Erika Baker, Simon Barrow, Wyn Beyon, Mark Bratton, Lorraine Cavanagh, Manon Ceridwen James, Mark Chapman, Christopher Cheesman, Jonathan Clatworthy, Hannah Cleugh, Hilary Cotton, Colin Coward, Penelope Cowell Doe, Maggi Dawn, Andrew Dotchin, Andrew Downes, David Driscoll, Ellen Clark-King, Guy Elsmore, Rosina Elston, Sarah Farrimond, Olive Fleming Drane, Stephen France, John Franke, Ben Fulford, Gladys Ganiel, Ray Gaston, Julie Gittoes, Alice Goodman, Gill Gould, Elaine Graham, Brett Grayson, Dan Grayson, Paul Hedges, Chris Howson, Paul Hutchinson, David James, David Jenkins, Stuart B. Jennings, Anderson Jeremiah, Paul Joyce, Peter Law-Jones, Hannah Lewis, Dawn Llewelyn, Stephen Lowe, Pearl Luxon, Gordon Lynch, Diarmaid Macculloch, Stuart Masters, Christopher Mcdermott, Alex Mills, Ian Mobsby, Rachel Muers, Sally Munt, Chris Newlands, Bertrand Olivier, Stephen Parker, Jeremy Pemberton, Carrie Pemberton Ford, Scot M. Peterson, George Pitcher, Trevor Pitt, Martin Poole, Andrew Race, Edward Rennard, Ruairidh Reynolds, Ole Riis, Leah Robinson, Anna Rowlands, John Russell, Chris Shannahan, Bernard Silverman, Nicola Slee, Paul Smalley, Andrew Spurr, Anne Stevens, Keith Straughan, Laura Sykes, Steve Taylor, Robin Usher, Stephan Van Erp, Alana Vincent, Andrew Wakefield, Richard Watson, Tony Whipp, Alan Wilson, Ben Wood, Linda Woodhead
UPDATE: In its 1st April 2016 issue, the Church Tmes published the following response from Prof Linda Woodhead to the entire Theology Now series:
Sir, — Thank you for the last instalment of 'Theology Now' on resurrection. It corrected the deficits of which I had previously been critical (Letter, 4 March): it was contextually engaged (not context-driven), rich in spiritual insight, more varied in approach, and with a better gender balance. These things go together. They release the energy of orthodoxy, and remind us that a Church gets the theology it deserves.
Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion
Lancaster University LA1 4YD