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Anglicanism Reimagined: An Honest Church

Author: Andrew Shanks
Published By: SPCK (London)
Pages: 117
Price: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 281 06085 6

Reviewed by Alun Brookfield.

The cover blurb tells us that this book is "an exhilarating read". True, but it's not an easy read. Shanks is Canon Theologian of Manchester Cathedral, so his experience of the Anglican church is rooted in the many exciting and creative projects in which that diocese has engaged in recent years. That experience has led him to the view that the real job of the Christian faith is not so much to be the guardian and repository of propositional truth, as to be that force in society which challenges all dogma, from wherever it comes. He challenges the assertion of Richard Dawkins that we Christians claim to be the ones with the answers to the 'why' questions, arguing that we're also concerned with 'what, who and how' questions. "Good theology doesn't exactly seek to give answers (his italics) here. Rather, good theology is a devising of imaginative strategies to intensify the enquiry (his italics again) (p.2).

This is what Shanks refers to throughout the book as the ‘Question’, this need to focus hard on the real questions and not be distracted into peripheral issues. Having laid that foundation, he explores the Question in five chapters: “Beyond dogma”; Beyond good and evil”; “Beyond Liberal Theology”; “Beyond baptism and confirmation” (in which he argues cogently for the admission of baptised infants to the Eucharist); and “Beyond Bishops as politicians”. His final conclusion is that we need to start thinking of God as the one who persists in asking the Question, even when we hide behind dogma, theology, sacraments and bishops.

For me as an Anglican priest trying to make sense of what it means to be Anglican in a different world to the one in which Anglicanism developed, this book scores a bullseye on every page. If you’re an Anglican, and you only have time to read one book other than the Bible, make it this book. If you’re not an Anglican, you should also read it, because your denomination probably developed its distinctive theology and practice in reaction against Anglicanism, and you ought to be aware that, just as we are trying to adapt to a new world order, so will you.

Alun Brookfield

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You are reading Issue 48 of Ministry Today, published in March 2010.

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