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Book Reviews

By Various.

Power for God's Sake - Power and Abuse in the Local Church

Paul Beasley-Murray

Paternoster Press, 1998; 194pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 85364 899 9

The abuse of power by male clergy and ministers over women and children is the stuff of tabloid headlines. Given their frequency and tragedy, no-one should need convincing of the importance of the topic Paul Beasley-Murray tackles in this book. But he sets out to examine the issues behind the headlines, believing that power is 'the big unrecognised temptation in the church' and that 'some of those who are most susceptible are those most devout and faithful in church work'. Power abuse, he claims, is a two-way, not a one-way, street. It is to be found among the ministers abusing their positions of leadership, but also among churches abusing their power over their ministers.

How does he establish his case? He does so by conducting a survey among ministers who are members of RBIM with a request to them to pass on a second survey to their church officials. The requests produced in all 141 ministerial and 112 church responses. It has to be said that, although the response was reasonable, the basis of sampling and the overall numbers achieved does leave major question marks over how accurate a picture of the ministry as a whole can be drawn from this research. It certainly raises the issue and gives grounds for concern, but, without a much wider and more random sampling, cannot claim to tell it as it is.

Paul legitimately argues that power is not necessarily a dirty word, but it is a dangerous force and can so easily be corrupted. True, but the work would be helped by an earlier examination of the distinction between power and authority, which is not mentioned until page 74. At the heart of some of the dilemmas faced by ministers is a failure to spell out clearly the boundaries of their authority - that is, the legitimate as opposed to a coercive use of power. It is the absence of any focused recognition of authority that leads to false accusations of power abuse, to great uncertainty about the nature of pastoral leadership and to pastors resorting to coercive measures to achieve their ends when open methods might be used.

The book is full of headline-grabbing and disturbing material. Assuming that the respondents are more conscientious and sensitive about ministry (on the basis that they are members of RBIM and have bothered to complete the survey), then the real picture is probably worse:

  • While job satisfaction is high, 44% had thought of giving up;
  • 59% of those under 49 years old had thought of resigning and naming politics, frustrations and pressures as the reason;
  • 32% felt their gifts were not being used to the full;
  • 57% confessed to being very competitive. 27% said the competition was with themselves;
  • 40% had no close friends;
  • 55% confessed to often and sometimes ignoring the guidelines of counselling those of the opposite sex;
  • 21% confessed to engaging in inappropriate behaviour;
  • 90% said that their 'churches treat us badly'.
  • 16% of ministers leave their churches in unhappy circumstances.

What are we to make of all this? As I stand back from the details, several things stand out.

There really seems to be a problem of communication between many ministers and their fellow leaders. The perceptions of how things are differ markedly between ministers and their officials. Sometimes the officials see things as much better than ministers do, sometimes worse. On the whole, the officials are much more satisfied with the work and relationships of ministers than ministers think (e.g. see pp. 65-67). But there are some disturbing areas where clearly we ministers are not seeing ourselves as others see us. Consider the following:

Ministers Officials

  • Accountable to self/no-one 15% 4%
  • Accountable to church 30% 45%
  • Ministers need to be more

people and less goal oriented 60% 70%

  • Pastoral leadership is non-coercive 68% 60%
  • Power is exercised over people 4% 13%
  • Imposed worship style (very often) 8% 15%
  • Manipulated meetings (very and fairly often) 9% 15%
  • Played on guilt (very and fairly often 2% 5%
  • Hid behind God (very and fairly often) 2% 9%
  • Intimidated the weak 1% 6%
  • Seen as very or moderately powerful 67% 83%

One of the key insights for me came when the respondents were asked about their experience of conflict and around what did the conflict revolve. The first two lines were illuminating:

Ministers Officials

  • Minister's leadership style 3% 39%
  • Minister's values 38% 29%

Whereas ministers think the frustrations and non-co-operation are due to spiritual issues - a church not accepting their teaching on worship or mission - the lay folk perceive it as a matter of character and personality. Ministers voice their dissatisfactions freely. After 'how to do effective outreach', the next most serious frustrations (all receiving the same ranking) were:

  • lack of commitment on the part of members
  • low level of spiritual commitment
  • gaining greater involvement by members

But one wonders just how much of this is due to unrealistic expectations on the part of the minister. Ministers live almost totally in and for the organisation of the church. Members live necessarily outside of the church most of the time, earning their living in a world which is demanding, fast-moving and mobile. In commuting districts, long hours are spent away from home. In business, reps and managers frequently have to travel out of town.

Perhaps what ministers are asking for belongs to an old style of community which was much more static and localised. Maybe envisioning new forms of church today, suitable for the present sociological context, would lead to a reduction in the frustrations. We are still largely operating on the pattern of church inherited from the end of the nineteenth century. No wonder it doesn't fit the end of the twentieth.

Similarly, ministers may be right about a low level of spirituality. But how do they know? How do they measure it? And how do they define spirituality? Are they teaching, commending and measuring a spirituality that relates realistically to a late twentieth century marketplace or simply to the religious club mentality of the past?

This book throws up so many questions about ministry that it takes us quite beyond the specific topic of power and its abuse. It leads us to the conclusion that much more realistic expectations have to be inculcated into students in their training and much more attention given to personal formation, communication skills and conflict resolution than to some other issues traditionally on our agendas.

One of the problems of a book like this is that it encourages ministers to see themselves as a special case. It is asking too much, but I would love to see all that is said here about ministry drawn on the wider canvas of employment. Social workers, health service employees, school teachers and how those involved in higher education, have all undergone massive changes in their terms and conditions of employment, as well as in professional practices recently. Looking at what is said here in that wider context might give us some perspective.

The second half of the book attempts to offer some theological and pastoral insights into power and looks, among other things, at Jesus' style of leadership. But I was conscious that Greenleaf's Servant Leadership was not in the bibliography. It was right and proper that it should have been written in this way and many worthy things are said, but regretfully for me it did not really work - for two reasons. First, the second half of the book does not sufficiently tie into the first. The first is practical and recognisably about doing the job today. The second is theoretical and theological and not sufficiently grounded in the day to day situation.

Second, and more importantly, I'm not sure it is radical enough. It says the right things about Jesus as a servant, but seems to want to let ministers hold onto power as well as weakness, to status as well as servanthood. And maybe that is where our central problem lies.

This book is an excellent beginning of an exploration which could take us far into under-standing the whole nature of ministry today. Thank you, Paul, for starting the journey here.

Derek Tidball

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis

William A.VanGemeren (General Editor)

Paternoster Press, 1997; £169.99 (hardback); ISBN 0 85364 834 4

Paternoster have done the UK market a great service in publishing this magnificent five-volume dictionary, first published in 1996 in the States by Zondervan. It contains more than 3000 separate entries, written by more than 200 scholars from 24 countries. In many ways it is the counterpart to the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology edited by Colin Brown and published by Paternoster in 1975. However, there are major differences. In the first place, the first 218 pages of Volume 1 are devoted to a 'Guide to Old Testament Theology & Exegesis'. In the second place, whereas lexical entries in the New Testament Dictionary are listed under English headings, in this Old Testament Dictionary the entries are listed under Hebrew headings. True, Volume V contains a subject index and also an index of semantic fields (as also a Scripture index and a Hebrew word index) - readers will need some Hebrew, however rusty, in order to find their way around. This is therefore a serious work. Nonetheless, this is not a dictionary just for specialists. There will be working pastors who will be most grateful for this major tool of scholarship. £170 is a lot of money, but this dictionary is not over-priced. I, for one, warmly welcome it!

Paul Beasley-Murray

John, Evangelist and Interpreter

Stephen Smalley

Paternoster Press, 2nd Ed. 1998; £9.99; ISBN 0 85364 823 9

Professor Smalley's book is a compendium of information on the Fourth Gospel, first published in 1978 and reprinted four times since, concluding with a revised edition in 1998. The volume is very condensed and deals with all the important issues in the Gospel; it is therefore the kind of book which meets the needs of students and preachers.

An examination of its contents gives an idea of its coverage. It deals with:

  • the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the synoptic gospels;
  • the tradition embodied in the Gospel is described;
  • the background of the Gospel is dealt with in detail - in particular the varied aspects of Greek and Jewish religions;
  • the authorship of the work;
  • its sources, and the literary criticism that has been lately applied to all four gospels;
  • the elements of drama in the unfolding story;
  • the purpose of the book;
  • the Evangelist and history;
  • the Evangelist as Interpreter.

Professor Smalley is well acquainted with the whole field of issues, and the reader will become well informed about them when he/she has completed reading the book.

A few points of interest may be mentioned. The Beloved Disciple is stated in the penultimate sentence of the Gospel as the follower of Jesus from whom the witness was produced on which the Gospel rested. Smalley believes that he is the Apostle John, who died before the Gospel was finished, and colleagues completed it for him (hence they attested the reliability of his witness). John the Apostle will have spoken Aramaic, as Jesus himself, which will have influenced his Greek speech and writing. His knowledge of the Old Testament will have been considerable, and he was evidently acquainted with the Hebrew original (at times he cites the Septuagint, but at other times he translates the Old Testament text from Hebrew into Greek). As to his report on the ministry of Jesus, it appears to be independent and historically reliable, but interpreted in John's own way. The genre of the book is a Gospel, but in a unique form, for it is a kerygmatic and didactic composition - its reliability is none the worse for that!

Smalley is convinced that salvation in the Fourth Gospel is interpreted in terms of the sacraments - for baptism see John 3.5,6,8; and for the eucharist see John 6.51,53-58. This is because Jesus was sent by God as his envoy - Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah and pre-existent Logos, hence his death is viewed as including his exaltation to be with the Father as he was in the beginning.

Eschatology to John has been invaded by the supra-natural. Since the Word has become flesh, history can convey the life of God in Christ. The divine revelation is decisive and complete. Pentecost merges with the death and ascension of Jesus; the gift of the Spirit becomes an immediate parousia (second coming) of Jesus (John 14.16-18?). There is however a future eschatology in John; believers share in the present the life of God through Christ and will also be raised up at the last day (John 6.47; also 6.40b). The Gospel of John is in effect an exposition of its opening statement - "in him was life" (1.4), hence Jesus in John's view makes possible the new creation (1.1,14).

There is much that is excellent in Smalley's review of the Fourth Gospel, and much that requires to be pondered, but to read it carefully will enrich any reader.

George Beasley-Murray

Beyond the Good Samaritan: Community Ministry and Mission

Ann Morisy,

Mowbray/Cassell, London 1997; 145pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 264 67433 2

In 1992 Raymond Fung of the World Council of Churches published The Isaiah Vision. When I read this imaginative and somewhat original approach to mission based on Isaiah 65.20-23, I wondered how it might be applied to the UK. Ann Morisy, Ministry Adviser in the Anglican Diocese of London, has provided the answer. Without a doubt this is a highly significant contribution to mission thinking and praxis.

A well-written, logical and clearly-thought through piece of writing, Ann Morisy has not just flown a kite, but rather she has written a hand-book. This is how to do it. In simple steps she explains how community ministry unites practical social responsibility and active Christian mission. Proponents of liberation theology will no doubt find her somewhat conservative; on the other hand, others will undoubtedly find her too radical! Beyond The Good Samaritan is about empowering, not just helping the casualties of society through church-sponsored community projects. These projects offer ordinary Christians an opportunity to express their discipleship and at the same time to grow and develop in the faith. At the same time, there is an opportunity to non-church people to volunteer their services and thus to discover the difference Christian faith can make. Theologically speaking, at times I have difficulty in accepting aspects of Ann Morisy's approach. There is, for instance, surely more to the Good News than the Incarnation. True the Cross features prominently, but the Resurrection seems strangely absent. Likewise I have questions about her understanding of sin. Is it true that it is not a sin to have thoughts and attitudes which are part of our cultural background? I wish that her attractive definition of salvation had not been confined to the last two pages, but been more clearly articulated throughout the book. And yet, these are but carping criticisms. I was deeply impressed and deeply challenged by the way in which Ann Morisy expounded 'venturesome love' and authentic discipleship. Yes, I have my questions. Maybe I need to find the answer to my questions by going and visiting some of the projects the author describes. Here, however, is a book I am going to lend and to commend.

Paul Beasley-Murray

Mission on the Margins

Mary Beasley

Lutterworth Press, 1997; 110pp; ISBN 0 7188 2966 2

Mission on the margins is not the most popular or sought after area of mission! This remarkable story, from the pen of a remarkable woman, comes straight from the anvil of experience. Mary Beasley is disabled and a former social worker, and has worked for a number of years in down town Birmingham. There is excitement, pain and challenge about following Christ's example to 'be good news to the poor'. Mary sees working in the inner city with the marginalised as a place where God can be met, and where spiritual renewal takes place, as the Church learns both to give and to receive.

The author's background is traced from leafy lanes, among the ruling classes, to living with street people. The Church's discomfort with the marginalised is highlighted and various attempts at 'bridging the gap' are scrutinised. It is not surprising that the incarnational model is followed, with a strong emphasis on the need to build and sustain relationships. Christians are accused of being more willing to make sandwiches and do soup runs, than to enter meaningful relationships. There remains a paradox - a Church which is threatened by those on the margins has a number of biblical models where renewal is to be found, whether it be in the desert or the wilderness of God's world.

Malcolm Hill

Rumours of Heaven: Essays in Celebration of C.S.Lewis

Andrew Walker and James Patrick (eds)

Eagle, 1998; xi + 251pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 86347 250 8

This collection of essays is a reissue and was first published in 1990 by Hodder and Stoughton under the title A Christian for all Christians. Apparently, only a new preface (by Andrew Walker) has been added. Sadly no attempt seems to have been made to update some of the essays, especially the biographical ones. For instance, Richard Purtill's essay, Did C.S. Lewis lose his faith?, refers to the BBC TV play of Shadowlands, but does not assess the big-screen version with Anthony Hopkins in the lead-role. Nor is there any discussion, apart from a single reference in the new preface, of A.N. Wilson's provocative biography. Again, the final essay, on C.S. Lewis as prophet, does not refer to anything later than the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989. The opportunity of reissuing these essays could also have been used to include an assessment of Lewis' thought in the face of the post-modern challenge, an issue that has come very much to the fore since they were first published.

The preface claims that these essays engage in critical reflection rather than hagiography. However, it is well after the mid-point of the book that one comes across any critical assessment of Lewis' thought, in the finest essay in the book, on Lewis as myth maker, by Paul Fiddes. But for the most part the essays seem only to approve of Lewis' ideas rather than criticise them. It also has to be said that this book is for the Lewis specialist rather than for the general reader. The final, brief, chapters inform the potential researcher where the material on Lewis is to be found and assess the biographies and bibliographies available when these essays were first written. Furthermore, many of the essays are on obscure subjects, to say the least. I am prepared to read about the influence of G.K. Chesterton and Charles Williams on Lewis because I have at least heard of these authors, but I must confess that I gave up reading the chapter discussing the influence of the science fiction works of David Lindsay (who?).

I did find enjoyment in some of these essays. I enjoyed Peter Schakel's essay Elusive Birds and Narrative Nets: the appeal of story in C.S. Lewis' 'Chronicles of Narnia'. Some of the most stimulating writing in this collection comes from Roman Catholic authors, and in this connection I would single out James Patrick's essay on C.S. Lewis and idealism which helped me understand for the first time why it is Catholics want to uphold the dogmas of the immaculate conception and the assumption of Mary. But this is something only indirectly connected with the subject matter of this book.

James Patrick identifies in his introduction the great themes of Lewis' thought - the reliability of reason as a guide to God, the pattern of the Christian moral life, the recovery of the imagination for Christ, faith as the fruition of desire and the reliability of the broad and humane Christian tradition. However, the question is, in this post-modern culture of ours is Lewis still the best and most reliable exponent of these themes, or shall we look for another?

Philip Clements-Jewery

A Believing Church

Keith Jones

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, 1998, 70pp., ISBN 1 898077 38 X

Keith Jones was until recently Deputy General Secretary of the Baptist Union and will thus be known and respected by the Baptist audience at whom this book is presumably aimed. The four main sections explore: 1) the origins of British Baptists and the possible influence of the Anabaptists on them; 2) a brief sketch of Anabaptist history; 3) an attempt to draw out the distinctives of Anabaptist life and thought; and 4) a glance into the future to see how Anabaptist ideas could inform and guide our witness in post-modern culture.

While Keith Jones has done a valuable service in drawing our attention to the theology and praxis of the Anabaptists, one is left wondering at whom this little book is targeted (apart from Baptists in general). It is certainly too thin on content to be of use to a serious student of church history, yet not 'user-friendly' enough to be used as a group study guide. Preachers might find it helpful, except that there is little attempt to point the reader in the direction of action (The last section mentioned above - 'Where to now?' - takes up only 2½ pages and is certainly the weakest part of the book).

We can be grateful to Keith for providing a simple and provocative primer in Anabaptist thought and life, but hope that in his new role at Ruschlikon he may find the time to con-tribute something of much greater depth and breadth. I look forward to such a volume.

Alun Brookfield

Evangelicals and Truth: a creative proposal for a post-modern age

Peter Hicks

Apollos, 1998; 240pp; £12.99;ISBN: 0 85111 457 1

What is an evangelical? Is it merely someone who affirms the vital importance and necessity of a personal relationship with God established through faith in Christ alone, or is it a person who, in addition to this, subscribes to a series of doctrinal statements? Personally I would see myself in the first of these categories, but I also agree that truth is important. But truth has become problematical in our post-Kantian, post-modern age. We may have to accept that there is some force in the post-modern charge that claims to truth are sometimes veiled bids for power or manipulative strategies for social control. For this reason I turned with some anticipation to Peter Hicks in the hope that he might prove to be a reliable guide through the minefield of epistemology.

Far and away the best part of this book is the second section in which the author (who lectures in philosophy at the London Bible College) expounds the thought of the major Evangelical thinkers from the Reformers down to Anthony Thisleton in our own day, taking in the teaching of Wesley and Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, Forsyth and Denney, amongst others.

The first section of the book, in which Hicks reviews the history of Western philosophy from Plato to the post-modernists, is the most problematic. For Hicks is so brief (only 30 pages) that, in spite of a helpful glossary of philosophical terms, readers without any prior knowledge might have some difficulty in understanding and would probably find themselves misled. On the other hand, readers with some background in philosophy would find this section extremely superficial. Most seriously, in spite of the appearance of the word 'post-modern' in the subtitle to the book, Hicks never really engages with the challenge of post-modern thought. The names of Derrida and Foucault do not appear in the index, and Lyotard gets only a single reference. In fact, it is not hard to deal with their challenge, for the 'story' that there are no 'stories', like the verification principle of the logical positivists, is vulnerable to its own criteria. The consequence of this is that post-modernists can be just as authoritarian in presenting their claims as any that they criticise. It also means that the possibility of overarching metanarratives is not impossible and that claims to truth may therefore have some foundation. It is a pity that Hicks apparently wrote his book just before Anthony Thisleton published his Interpreting God and the Post-modern Self, because Thisleton does a much better job at demolishing postmodernism than anything that Hicks writes here.

In the third section Hicks expounds the thesis that truth can be known only as it finds its source and basis in God. Here too, there are some matters that need to be thought through more carefully. I question some of Hicks' statements about the relationship of God to time. There is confusion as to the exact applicability of the term Evangelical. Sometimes, Hicks uses this word almost as a synonym for Christian. However, the term is also used in the sense of belonging to a party within Christianity. Admittedly, Hicks agrees that much of what he has to say would find broad acceptance across the Christian spectrum, but in so far as plurality is one of the features of post-modernism, I am left wondering whether Evangelicalism (in the party sense) is not so much the solution to the epistemological difficulties that Western thought has arrived at as a symptom of that same problem.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in 'Secular' Britain

Lesslie Newbigin, Lamin Sanneh, Jenny Taylor

SPCK, London 1998; 177pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 281 05153 4

There are three related themes in this book:

  • the inadequacies of a secular multiculturalism to provide the values which are needed in Britain to prevent society disintegrating;
  • the challenges to this failing secularism from Muslims who regard every sphere of life including politics as governed by their faith;
  • the call to Christians to recover their convictions about Christianity as public truth rather than being restricted to the private, personal world of individuals.

What unites these themes is the attempt to articulate a vision for Britain, what kind of people we will be, and the convictions first that the secular state is not neutral and second that Christianity uniquely can at the same time provide the grounds for personal freedom and justify freedom of practice for other faiths.

This represents the last writing of that prophetic missionary statesman Lesslie Newbigin and gives more content to his slogan about Christianity as 'public truth'. His work is complemented by an analysis of Christianity, Islam and politics from an American professor of missiology, and a closer study of British society following the Bradford riots of 1995 from a journalist, Jenny Taylor, who is very well informed about Muslim attitudes and communities in this country. Despite three different styles (and the professor's requires more concentration than the other two), this is a well-written and stimulating book which every minister, teacher and politician should read.

Arthur Rowe

To Be the Church (Challenges and Hopes for a New Millennium)

Konrad Raiser

WCC Publications; 104 pp; £5.50; ISBN 2 8254 1211 2

Not unconnected with the fact that the churches of Germany (funded through the State taxation system) are the largest financial supporter of the World Council of Churches, the current Secretary is a German, Konrad Raiser. As he looks forward to the next General Assembly of the WCC in Harare in December, he is obviously keen to chart the course that that Assembly should take, and this book attempts to do just that.

Raiser is a realist, and acknowledges the shortcomings and failures of the WCC in the past, resulting in the sobering fact that not only is the membership of WCC-affiliated churches less than half that of the Roman Catholic Church, but it will very soon be less than half the membership of the non-Roman-Catholic churches. "The astonishing numerical growth of many churches - Pentecostal groups in Latin America, indigenous churches not linked with any of the historic European Christian traditions, especially in Africa...evangelical churches..." means that WCC churches will be in a minority status both ways.

A key statement in Dr. Raiser's book, and one not likely to be attractive to the evangelical community, is as follows: "In the purpose of God, the unity of the Church is inseparable from the unity of mankind". One outworking of this is the catch-phrase which seems to be being lined up for the Harare Assembly - 'Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation' - JPIC for short. To quote again, "The basic task would seem rather to be that of reconstructing the basis of an ethical culture and restoring the basic moral fabric of society". All very praiseworthy, but is that really the basic task of the church as witnessed to by the New Testament? In a list of ten basic affirmations drawn up at a WCC convocation in Seoul there is no reference to preaching the Gospel, personal salvation, reconciliation of sinners with God, regeneration, or the work of the Holy Spirit.

What then is Konrad Raiser's vision? He spells it out in 5 points; it is:

  1. A vision of wholeness and of fullness of life defined in terms of enhancing the possibilities of life for all.
  2. A vision of shalom and of right relationships in a sustainable human community, with particular reference to the "rights, dignity, and freedom of others".
  3. A vision of reconciliation, based on the "liberating power of forgiveness".
  4. A vision of sufficiency, based on sharing, and encouraging communities to become self-reliant.
  5. A vision of the catholicity of the church as the world-wide community of those who live by the promise of God's kingdom and celebrate the signs of its presence even now.

This catalogue of largely socio-political objectives should provide plenty of raw material for high-sounding debates at Harare in which words like 'freedom' and 'justice' will be overworked. I have, however, one question for Dr. Raiser, namely: Will he and his colleagues declare publicly and unequivocally that they believe in the right to exist and propagate their faith of the Pentecostal, Baptist and other independent churches which hold to an apostolic and biblical basis of faith? Right now they are being harassed and persecuted by the Orthodox church in what used to be the communist bloc. Will he renounce that shameful policy of kow-towing to the Orthodox hierarchy which, up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, meant that the World Council of Churches was virtually silent while religious freedom in Eastern Europe was being suppressed in the interests of Orthodox hegemony? Yes, or No?

A Morgan Derham

God's Global City - a Five Session Course on Mission in the World Wide Church

Church House Publishing, 1998, Video + 32pp booklet, £14.95, ISBN 0 7151 5539 3

This is a valiant attempt to make the excitement of the world-wide church accessible to the church in England. It is produced by Partnership in World Mission.

The course consists of a well-organised booklet and video with clearly defined aims for each session and a colour-coded beginning for each of the fifteen minute video presentations. The Bible study material in each session is presented with options A and B. Option A has a more detailed look at the relevant Scriptures, while Option B takes a 'thematic' look at the topic. The instructions suggest that only one option should be followed for the whole course.

The video clips introduce the topic for each week adequately, although it is obvious that the producers sometimes struggled to get video to match the topics. All the video material has a marked Anglican bias, making some aspects of the topic less accessible to non-Anglicans.

The Bible study materials, which option is chosen, are relevant and explore the chosen topics well. A good example of the overall approach can be seen in study 3, entitled 'Gospel and Culture'. The material provided works through the problems of the early church as a result of the Jewish background of the first converts and challenges the participants to look at the ways in which Christians today still seem to expect new Christians to adopt 'our' lifestyle, wherever in the world the church is located.

This approach, using video and Bible study, has a lot to commend it and the partial success of this particular course may and should encourage other organisations to 'have a go' at this much needed cross-fertilisation.

David Small

Care in a Confused Climate

Paul Goodliff

Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998; 272pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52282 2

Paul Goodliff has drawn on his pastoral experience and theological reflection over a number of years to provide a significant contribution to the present discussion on the theory and practice of pastoral action in the post-modern context. He writes as an evangelical with charismatic sympathies and as a Baptist pastor. But he draws on a wide range of theological and secular material, showing a breadth of vision and understanding. As a result this is a book that will be valued by all who share these concerns.

It is not a handbook (indeed that is repudiated), but an attempt to see how Christian pastoral ministry can creatively adjust to the challenges of contemporary consumeristic pluralism and relativism. The first part therefore gives a brief account of post-modernism without over-simplification. This is then followed by an assessment as to how Christian thinking should react. He rejects both a simplistic rejection and total assimilation. Instead he suggests its pluralistic openness should be welcomed as opportunity. It frees the church to proclaim the Gospel in open competition. But that is not to condone pluralism, because Christianity is making truth claims that must be seen to be sustained in the babel of conflicting voices. Following Colin Gunton and others, it is argued that this is possible on the grounds of a Christian doctrine of creation (which posits diversity of existence) and Trinity (which posits unity in diversity). The note which is missing here is a lack of stress on eschatology (which posits the hope of unity even in and through diversity).

The second part asks what kind of pastoral priorities correspond to this analysis. The church, in its congregational, local life, has to work in and with post-modernistic society, yet offer a meaningful statement within it that points beyond it. The point is strongly made is the need to resist sectarian retreat into a Christian ghetto. The Christian community, both in its own inner life and in its action in the world, must be relevant and sympathetic to and yet challenge fragmented culture. A fascinating chapter discusses four metaphors for pastoral care: as gift, as proclamation, as service and as sacrament. There is constant emphasis on accepting people as and where they are while recognising that pastoral action includes being with them on a journey under the imperative of faith and to enable them to grow into faith.

To do this, four areas are offered as priorities. Here recent developments in pastoral theology are discussed. They are: building Christian community, stressing trust building, friendship, fellowship and reconciliation; creating rational health, stressing problems surrounding marriage, divorce, homosexuality, neighbourliness and work; healing the wounded soul, looking at the personal pastoral relationship; and nurturing and sustaining faith through spiritual direction. While these are clearly the right areas to be emphasising, a stronger relationship between the practical programme and the earlier theological discussions could have given it more urgency and relevance. The second part ends with short sections on resources and training and building pastoral teams. These are supplemented by a very full and useful bibliography.

At a time when Christian faith is marginalised and to be faithful is dispiriting, here is a strong affirmation that it is possible to see ministry as a public and positive activity, but using a very different approach and starting from where we are; yet the wisdom and wonders of the tradition remain the resources of the present.

Paul Ballard

The Moral Quest: Foundations of Christian Ethics

Stanley J. Grenz

Apollos, 1997; 379pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 85111 771 6

Stanley Grenz is Professor of Theology and Ethics at Carey/Regent College, Vancouver and he has written a fine introduction to Christian ethics for the non-specialist. What impresses above all is his thoroughness and the range of his enquiry. The first chapter reviews the nature of the ethical task and subsequent chapters take us through the ethical theories of the ancient Greeks, a digest of Biblical teaching, the classical Christian ethical theories of Augustine, Aquinas and Luther, and a survey of Christian ethical thought in the modern period before we reach the final chapters in which Grenz puts forward his own proposals. This book is also to be commended not only for the very full notes, but also for the generous provision of indices. There are separate indices for author and name, for subject, and for scripture references. Would that all publishers were as generous!

If I have any slight reservations about the book, I would say, firstly, that in his comprehensive and far from superficial survey of the thought of others Grenz is too content with mere description and does not offer enough by way of critical assessment. Secondly, the text is interspersed with short cameos which are intended to provide examples of ethical situations germane to the discussion at that particular point in the book. However, Grenz rarely discusses these ethical particularities and the cameos are thus often left hanging in the air. Furthermore, especially in the opening chapter Grenz sometimes tries too hard to fall over backwards to make what he is saying as simple as possible - is it really necessary to explain, for instance, that "analytical derives from analyse which means 'to take things apart.'"?

It would be important for potential readers that they take in the significance of the book's subtitle. Do not come to Grenz here for answers to the many ethical dilemmas that confront us all, Christians and non-Christians, in this post-modern age of ours. This book is an introduction to ethical theory, the basis on which ethical decisions are made, rather than the nature of those decisions themselves. It is also courageous for an evangelical ethicist to reject the kind of heteronomous ethics that turns the Bible into a kind of rule-book prescribing answers to contemporary ethical questions. Instead, Grenz opts for a communitarian, theological ethic that is grounded in the Trinitarian love of God. Christian ethics is simply living out the life of Christian discipleship.

Overall, however, this is a well-written and masterly introduction to ethical theory from the standpoint of orthodox Christianity and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Changing Values - How to Find Moral Truth in Changing Times

David Attwood

Paternoster Press (Carlisle), 1998; 204pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85364 806 9

In a culture with unstable foundations, the basis upon which moral judgements are made can seem continually in flux, and the Christian conviction that there is a stable foundation for traditional moral views seems quaint. Yet that is precisely what David Attwood argues persuasively in this readable account of a Christian ethic based upon love.

Aimed at the theology undergraduate or ministry student (Attwood teaches at Trinity College, Bristol), this is a valuable 'refresher' for the working minister or pastor grappling with the complexities of morality in a post-modern world. It will inform both pastoral practice and preaching, addressing both the ground of Christian ethics and some of the live issues we face - for example, euthanasia and sexuality.

The book is stronger in its desire to lay a foundation for Christian ethics in God's covenant love, expressed in creation, than in its work on specific issues. This is not a detailed analysis of the arguments for and against, for instance, homosexual marriage or Sunday trading, and those looking for a book of 'answers to difficult moral questions' will have to look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for the foundation for a conservative Christian ethic, rooted in Scripture and embracing such figures at Oliver O'Donovan, Karl Barth, Paul Ramsey and Stanley Hauerwas, then this a strong contender and should find a well-used place on your bookshelves.

Paul Goodliff

When I Needed a Neighbour - Enabling Pastoral Care in the Local Church

Penny Nairne

HarperCollins (London), 1998; 243pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 551 02976 5

Having recently written a book on pastoral care, I am both frustrated and relieved by Penny Nairne's helpful book - frustrated that I could not have benefited from its insights, included it in the further reading section (especially in the area of training pastoral carers) and included more case studies; and yet relieved that we have written two very different books. I am therefore hopeful that both will find a place on the bookshelves of pastoral carers.

Written from a firmly evangelical Anglican stable, Nairne's book follows the now familiar style of the Handbooks of Pastoral Care series, although it is not strictly a member of that series. It is well written, with plenty of cleverly disguised illustrative material, questions and case studies for individual or group learning, avoiding obscure and unintelligible jargon, it is aimed at a general audience and is not theologically demanding.

I welcome her understanding of pastoral care as mission, but found the book in general to be rather too narrowly focused upon pastoral care in Anglican settings. This is particularly true of the second section, where preparing for marriage, baptism and worship are not as easily translated into my Baptist setting as I would have liked. However, the third section (training for pastoral care), is helpful for those wanting to train others. It is, if anything, too prescriptive and detailed, but for those unwilling to write their own course, it could prove a real time-saver.

Developing a pastoral team in your church, or improving the quality of the church's pastoral care? Read this book first, and add to it with something a little more theologically engaging.

Paul Goodliff

Gone But Not Forgotten - Church Leaving and Returning

Philip Richter and Leslie J. Francis

DLT 1998; 192pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52236 7

Every week, it is said, 1,500 people leave the church. (apart from those who die or change churches) For every adult in church, four others used to attend but have given up - why? This book gives eight carefully researched answers (based on 75 interviews and a further 400 long questionnaires). Where John Finney's Finding Faith Today explored how adults come to faith, this research compliments that picture. It is packed with information, summaries of other people's work, interesting insights and every minister should get a copy and pass it round their leaders.

While we all have our hunches as to why people leave, this book suggests that a multi-dimensional approach to church leaving is essential and a 'cocktail of remedies' is needed. The authors first ask whether leaving is a phenomenon in all voluntary bodies today - the evidence is mixed. Church leaving is gradual and the first six weeks are crucial if people are to be drawn back - 92% reported no follow up on their absence. Their statistics are divided up for those under 20 and those over 20. They note that those born after 1945 tend to be a 'generation of seekers'. The Baby Boomers are those born after 1945 and the Baby Busters after 1961 - Busters tend to be less idealistic and more pragmatic.

The eight reasons are:

  1. No longer believing, no longer belonging - 42% questioned their faith, the main reason that so many people fight each other in the name of religion;
  2. Changing values - the huge cultural changes over the last 40 years, people now prioritise experience above belief and shop around to have their spiritual needs met;
  3. Growing into a different stage of faith - the church did not help them to grow and make their own decisions;
  4. Changes and chances - major life changes cause church leaving but they can also be a time for church returning;
  5. Like parents, like child - those made to go to church by their parents;
  6. Too high a cost - church had become a chore and did not meet their needs, yet the researchers found that churches which ask too little of their members are most likely to have declining membership;
  7. Tread softly on my dreams - the church did not fulfil their expectations, too often was too conservative. 40% felt it failed to make any connections with the rest of their life;
  8. Believing not belonging - almost half the people consulted did not feel part of the church, and most of their friends were not churchgoers.

The final chapters are on leaving and returning and the shape of the future. 55% said they would not be returning, 45% were leaving open the possibility. This book is packed with information, every chapter is clearly summarised and needs to be very widely digested.

Julian Reindorp

Agenda for Youth Ministry

Ed. Dean Borgman and Christine Cook

SPCK, London, 1998; 182pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 281 05152 6

This book has been published as a response to the growing desire for relevant teaching and guidance on a variety of issues that youth workers are having to confront on a regular basis. It is essentially a book of papers and essays written by some of the foremost thinkers in Youth Ministry and they have been written from both an academic and practical standpoint.

This book will be very useful as a handbook for Youth Ministers as they try to grapple with issues such as Women in Ministry, morality amongst young people and empowering the young person through evangelism. The desire to employ Youth Ministers has exploded over recent years and many churches now employ such people. Unfortunately published academic studies into youth culture and youth work issues seems to be lagging behind. This book is a start at trying to redress the balance.

Martin Hills

 

 

Liberating Women for the Gospel. Women in Evangelism

Rosie Nixson

Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1997; 242pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 340 678909

Rosie Nixson combines her experience of mission in universities and parish life, an evangelical biblical and theological understanding, and an awareness of contemporary feminist issues to produce a well researched and well written book. Drawing on insights from such further diverse areas as church history, English literature and psychology, Rosie addresses the key issue of women in mission. She suggests that there have always been key women figures in: evangelism (both home and abroad); preaching; personal witnessing; within the family; and in church planting. Rosie explores the ongoing debate in the church relating to gender and in a helpful appendix covers the New Testament passages that have been problematic.

Throughout Rosie argues for a biblical and radical equality in all areas of church life, whilst hoping for a willingness to maintain the complimentary nature of male and female contributions in mission. Rosie then suggests that there is a vital need for women to be included in thinking and strategy relating to mission, if the ongoing mission of the church is to be enhanced. She concludes with an appeal (very relevant in a book about evangelism) for men and women to fulfil the mission task of the Great Commission. Having worked with Rosie in a university mission, it is exciting to see her developing thinking and writing, to enjoy her accessible style and to hope for the more that is to come.

Alistair Ross

Graying Gracefully: Preaching to Older Adults

Ed. W J Carl Jnr

Westminster John Knox Press, 1997, 157pp., ISBN 0 664 25722 4

Ageing: God's Challenge to Church and Synagogue

R H Gentzler and D F Clingan

Discipleship Resources, Nashville, Tennessee, 1996, 167pp., ISBN 0 88177 144 9

Growing Up: Pastoral Nurture for the Later Years

T B Robb

Haworth Press, 1991, 148pp., ISBN 1 56024 072 5

A Gospel for Mature Years - Finding Fulfilment by Knowing and Using Your Gifts

H G Koenig and T & B Lamar

Haworth Press, 1997, 148pp., ISBN 0 7890 0170 5

Ageing, Spirituality and Religion

Eds. M Kimble, S McFadden, J W Ellor, J J Seeber

Fortress, 1995, 637pp., ISBN 0 8006 2667 2

Let Days Speak and Many Days Teach Wisdom - A Congregational Leader's Manual

National Council on Ageing, USA, 1994, 230pp., ISBN 0 910883 76 9

All these books originate in the USA and range from a large hardback and a ring-binder file to a group of smallish paperbacks. What they have in common is a concern for ministers and churches to take more note of that sizeable proportion of their congregations who are 65 and over. The forty essays in the Kimble volume, each with his own useful bibliography, set out the theoretical basis in Scripture, theology and the humanities and social sciences, and also explore many specific practical issues. The manual, produced by the American inter-faith coalition on ageing, ranges from hymns and service orders to action plans and check-lists for congregations. Most of its material is as applicable to the British context as to the American. The Gentzler/Clingan book is also aimed at congregations and congregational activity. The Robb and the Koenig/Lamar books are more concerned with the individual and individual pastoral development, while W J Carl and his contributors are writing about preaching either to older people or on the subject of ageing. Most chapters in this latter volume conclude with the text of an actual sermon, mostly of very high quality.

Sadly, there is probably no British bookshop or theological college library where you could walk in and find all of these on the shelves, but all can be obtained by special order and well repay the effort.

E P M Wollaston

Baptism Matters

Nick and Hazel Whitehead

National Society/Church House Publishing, 1998; ix + 118pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 7151 4900 8

As a relative newcomer to the Church of England, I found this slim volume to be an excellent overview of the issues, theological and practical, which surround the practice of baptism in a parish church. The authors draw extensively on their experience as parish priest and as Principal of the Diocesan Ministry Course in Guildford to provide a handbook full of ideas and suggestions about how to make the most of the situation when a family, perhaps with no previous church connection, request baptism for their baby.

The book is in four sections, covering: 1) the theology and background of baptism, including the official Anglican policy; 2) the process of preparing a family for baptism; 3) the service itself, including details of the new baptismal liturgy (this section also helpfully contains 12 outlines for baptismal service talks/sermons); 4) after the service, following up the contacts and relationships made.

The appendices contain the detailed wording of Anglican Canon Law on baptism and a list of useful additional resources.

A lot of knowledge and practical experience has been crammed into this book, making it ideal as a resource volume for any clergy who are regularly involved in the process of baptising infants in their parish. Although the price seems high for such a small book, I warmly commend it as being worth every penny.

Alun Brookfield

Sacraments Revisited - What Do They Mean Today?

Liam Kelly

Darton, Longman and Todd (London) 1998; 175pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 232 52239 1

For an accessible and contemporary account of the Roman Catholic teaching on the sacraments, look no further. Fr Liam Kelly writes from a pastoral, as well as historical and dogmatic perspective on those activities of the church which are "a festive action in which Christians assemble to celebrate their lived experience and to call to heart their common story. The action is a symbol of God's care for us in Christ. Enacting the symbol brings us closer to one another in the church and to the Lord who is there for us" (p.29).

With questions to answer at the end of each chapter, this could be used by groups or catechists. For those who, like me, are Protestant, it provides a readable account of current Catholic practice and an invaluable reminder of just how potentially transforming was Vatican II in the life and teaching of Roman Catholicism.

Paul Goodliff

Celtic Daily Light. A Spiritual Journey Through The Year

Ray Simpson

Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1997; £9.99; ISBN 0 340 69488 2

Ray Simpson, the author of previous books on Celtic worship and spirituality, has selected a wide range of readings and prayers to be used as daily readings after the pattern found in Daily Light. There is a verse of Scripture on a theme, a comment, story or reflection, followed by a prayer. There are three helpful indexes for bible passages, themes and people with a map showing the general area such figures came from. My response to using this book over a month ranged from 'Can you really believe that?' to 'What a helpful thought - I hadn't seen things that way before'. For people with some awareness and reading in Celtic matters already, this will prove reflective and useful However for others wanting to find out about Celtic spirituality there are better places to start, such a M. Mitton's Restoring the Woven Cord (DLT).

Alistair Ross

Inner Journey, Outer Journey

James Roose-Evans

Darton, Longman and Todd (London) 1998; 198pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 232 52277 4

Most books on contemplative prayer are written by religious professionals - retreat directors, priests, nuns and the like. While Roose-Evans is a non-stipendiary priest of the Church of England, he is primarily known as a theatre director and writer. Among his plays is 84 Charing Cross Road and he edited the letters of Joyce Grenfell, Darling Ma.

This book then is not 'narrowly religious', but helps to guide the reader through the practice of contemplative prayer with a welcome breadth of interest. Structured like a three act play, the book opens with personal story, continues to map the journey of the spirit, explores the journey through 31 days and closes with the shortest major section in any book I have ever read: After the Performance.

When the work of God is finished

Let all go out in deep silence

The Holy Rule of St Benedict

Not everyone will appreciate his drawing upon non-Christian, mainly Eastern, traditions, but the wisdom and spirituality of the man shines through. I commend it to those who want to explore in a helpful way the journey of contemplative prayer.

Paul Goodliff

 

The Healing House of Prayer

Morris Maddocks

Eagle (Guildford), 1998; 296pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 86347 259 1

First published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1987, this is a paperback reprint of a book that I have found most helpful over the years. I am glad that my original copy is hardback, because a paperback would not have stood up to the use to which I have put it. It is the one book that has travelled with me to every quiet day or retreat since 1987 and perhaps that is encourage-ment enough to buy it.

Each day of the month, with some additional days for special seasons, is treated as a house. You enter the house of God's glory, moving on into the therapy room, the library, the music room (the words of a hymn), the quiet room, the living room and out through the door into the world. There is a richness to the variety that always touches me at some point or other. Do not hesitate - just buy it!

Paul Goodliff

The Source: The Definitive Worship Collection

Compiled by Graham Kendrick

Kevin Mayhew, 1998, ISBN 1 84003 120 4

When I first read the title for this new book, my first reaction was - 'definitive?' The blurb which accompanied the review copy said that 'here is a single collection that obviates the need for a multiplicity of books' and 'it is more than just a song book - it is a complete package that can only be described as the definitive worship resource'. So, as worship co-ordinator in a fairly large church, responsible for creativity in worship, could I throw all my other resource books away?

On the positive side, the book does consist of a large collection (over 600) of worship songs and hymns drawn from the works of a number of contributors. The songs include the most popular from the last 20 years, but there is also a wealth of new material that could become tomorrow's favourites. The traditional hymns included, rather few in number, are considered by the compiler to be the most popular.

The book is beautifully printed and clear, with an excellent scriptural and key word index to make it easier for worship leaders to select songs and hymns suitable for various themes and occasions. It comes well priced - full music £19.99, words only £3.50. Instrumental parts are available for all C and Bb instruments at £9.99 and acetate masters can be purchased for £75.

It was pleasing to see some key changes in songs making them not only easier to sing, but also to play, particularly on Bb instruments. Guitar chords are included on all songs and the keyboard parts have been sensitively edited - they are clear to read and should be within the grasp of most keyboard players.

There is also a definite 'plus' in that both words and music of most songs are already covered by the Church Copyright Licence and the new Music Reproduction Licence, so, provided that your church holds the current licences, both words and music can be photocopied. This is particularly important for musicians who like to improvise from the full music as the book is rather large and heavy for most music stands.

On the negative side, I found an important gap in the choice of hymns. First, the words had not been updated - surely a fault when we are encouraged to make the church more user-friendly to the unchurched.? Also no new hymns had been included. When I think of the number of excellent hymns by such writers as Timothy Dudley-Smith and Patrick Appleford, and some equally good 'song-like' tunes to such favourites as 'All people that on earth do dwell' (Roger Jones) and "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds' (Chris Bowater) for example, there is a definite gap in this style of music. There is also no contribution from the Iona Community. For churches that wish to provide a variety of music styles in worship, these are important omissions.

There are some Scripture texts scattered throughout the book, but are not indexed, and there are no prayers or responsive readings. Is worship therefore just music?

In summary, if you are wanting a new music worship resource, then I would certainly recommend this book as the one to buy. But is it the definitive worship collection its title claims it to be? For me, no, not if you are seeking to be creative in worship by including music in a variety of styles - I shall not be throwing away by present resource books just yet!

Anne Waller

Brief notes

Why Can't I Have Faith? - Working out belief in the post-modern world (Triangle/SPCK 1998; 138pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 281 050 06 6) by Francis Bridger is a highly readable book which could be used with great profit as a study-text in an 'agnostics anonymous' group. This apologetic for the Christian faith looks in particular at the relationship between science and religion, the problem of suffering and the person of Jesus.

Margaret Magdalen, Sister Provincial of the Community of St Mary the Virgin in South Africa, is a writer of great spiritual insight. Her latest book, Furnace of the Heart - Rekindling Our Longing for God (Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1998; 137pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 52243 X), is no exception. In her second chapter, for instance, "Webs of Illusion: The Sifting of Longings", she helpfully distinguishes between authentic longings and illusive cravings. "True desire leaves us unsatisfied - always longing for more. Illusion leaves us dissatisfied - with a sour after-taste of having been cheated". A good read and warmly commended.

A useful introduction to church history form AD70 to the present day is given by Mark Noll, a Wheaton College professor, in Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Baker Books/IVP, Leicester 1997; 335pp; £11.99; ISBN 0 85111 191 2). Noll shrewdly observes: "Once students push beyond sanitised versions of Christian history to realistic study, it is clear that self-seeking, rebellion, despotism, pettiness, indolence, cowardice, murder (although dignified with God-talk) and the lust for power along with all other lusts have flourished in the church almost as ignobly as in the world at large….. The heroes of the faith usually have feet of clay - sometimes thighs, hearts and heads as well". He attributes the survival of the church to the Lord alone, who said: "I will build my church"!

First published in the USA in 1989, Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader (Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1998; 296pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52283 9) has been extensively revised by Robert Durback, not least by the addition of a collection of memorial tributes. A book to dip into, it contains much wisdom, e.g. "Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop a healthy intimate relationship and have chosen for power and control instead".

In 1994, Kevin Mayhew of Bury St Edmunds published a revised and enlarged edition of

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You are reading Book Reviews by Various, part of Issue 14 of Ministry Today, published in October 1998.

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