Review: What's still right with the Church of England, by Canon David Jennings

by Richard Truss
from Signs of the Times No. 50 - Jul 2013

This is a slim volume, necessarily you might say. Yet that would be unfair as the author seeks to cover the vast span of the theology and practice of the Church in a succinct and readable form and to identify its strengths, but with no illusions about corresponding weaknesses and dangers.

The title is based on a book What's Right with the Church of England written in 1966 by Ronald Williams, then Bishop of Leicester. Williams was one of the last be-gaitered bishops who rejoiced in being addressed as 'My Lord Bishop' even after the Lambeth Conference had a suggested a humbler form of address might be more appropriate in the egalitarian Sixties.

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Review: Women and Men in Scripture and the Church, ed. Croft & Gooder

by Alan Wolfe
from Signs of the Times No. 50 - Jul 2013

In the Church Times (28th March) it was suggested that this book was put together because the legislation to permit women as Bishops in the Church of England was blocked only by a minority of the House of Laity. It assumes that this was the outcome of misconceptions among the laity arising from mis-readings of Scripture, which it intends to put right.

Its format is designed to be used in Church discussion groups, and it covers a number of relevant issues with clarity and accuracy. Those of us who would like any discussion to be based on fact rather than prejudice may find it helpful.

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Marriage: what does it mean in the 21st century?

by Rosalind Lund
from Signs of the Times No. 50 - Jul 2013

In Jesus' time under the Romans, marriage was understood to be a monogamous arrangement and its main purpose was to produce legitimate children who would be citizens of the Empire. For the union to be legitimate it had to have legal and moral consent and both parties had to have the consent of their fathers. A woman's property remained her own and divorce was a relatively easy matter, but the woman would be able to retain her dowry as this might be important for her in finding a subsequent husband.

Jewish law at the time of Jesus said that once the couple had agreed to marriage,  i.e. had become betrothed, then that was legally binding and unless there was adultery, the couple would wait until the young man had prepared a room for them at his father's house.

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A theology of fact

by David Marshall
from Signs of the Times No. 50 - Jul 2013

Theology in the Church of England is effectively the application of an inherited set of beliefs to questions of social ethics and personal morality. 'Liberal theology' tends to be a flexible version of this, using liberal principles rather than dogmatic teaching to determine the significance of those beliefs for any particular context. Such an approach makes it easier to adapt to changes in culture and world view but retains the idea that theology depends on belief.

This makes 'liberal theology' something of a contradiction. Although it may have socially liberal characteristics, the attachment to inherited beliefs is a fundamentally conservative position. More significantly, the practical endorsement of this orthodoxy discourages consideration of the fact that belief alone is an inherently fallible foundation for any truth claim.

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Such a thing as society

Editorial by Anthony Woollard

from Signs of the Times No. 50 - Jul 2013

If the first quarter of this year was marked by a change of Pope, surely the most significant event of the second quarter was the death of Baroness Thatcher. Whatever history's final judgment on her may be, few have shaped and articulated cultural change as she did in her premiership. And the implications of that are profoundly theological.

There is continued debate about the significance of her most famous saying: 'There is no such thing as society.' In its context, it appears to have been primarily an appeal to citizens to take personal responsibility rather than leaving the solution of social problems to an abstract Them. But the currency gained by the saying has gone far beyond that. She, and her subsequent followers of all parties and none, undoubtedly viewed our culture  as dominated by a collectivism in which the individual 'striver' (a popular word in more recent debate) was stifled.

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