Thursday, 25 January 2007
It is rare for me to get angry - on this blog at least - but having tracked for some time now the story of Sheri Klouda's dismissal (technically disguised as a refusal to allow her to apply for tender) from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and the role of Paige Patterson (the Seminary's President) in that dismissal, my blood just keeps on boiling.
Patterson, of course, was one of the key players in the SBC's break from fellowship with other Baptist Christian's worldwide in the Baptist World Alliance.
On this evidence ... good riddance!
Thursday, 18 January 2007
I am due to give the Whitley Lecture in several locations over the next couple of months. I am at Bristol Baptist College on January 31st and then at Spurgeon's on February 13th. But I am also due to give the lecture here in Luther King House as a part of the 1st Tuesday series of public lectures on March 6th 2007 at 7.30 p.m. A flyer for the event for downloading can be found below:
The foreword to the printed lecture gives some history and background:
'The Whitley Lecture was first established in 1949 in honour of W. T. Whitley (1861-1947), the Baptist historian. Whitley was a notable scholar and pastor in both England and Australia. Following a pastorate in Bridlington, during which he also taught at Rawdon College in Yorkshire, he became the first Principal of the Baptist College of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia in 1891. This institution was subsequently renamed Whitley College in his honour. Returning to England after eleven years in Australia, he was a leading and influential figure in the denomination during the early part of the twentieth century. His History of British Baptists (1923) is still an important source of information and comment for contemporary historians.
Whitley was a key figure in the formation of the Baptist Historical Society in 1908. He edited its journal, which soon gained an international reputation for the quality of its contents, a reputation it still enjoys nearly a century later as the Baptist Quarterly. Altogether he made an important contribution to Baptist life and self understanding, providing a model of how a pastor-scholar might enrich the life and faith of others.
The Lectureship established in his name is intended to be an encouragement to research and writing by Baptist scholars, and to enable the results of their work to be published. The committee consists of representatives of the British Baptist Colleges, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, BMS World Mission, the Baptist Ministers Fellowship and the Baptist Historical Society. It is always keen to hear about work being done by Baptist scholars, and is prepared to consider making grants as well as offering advice and support.
Each year from 1996, a leading Baptist scholar has been appointed the Whitley Lecturer. The lecturer is invited to write and deliver a lecture as a significant contribution to Baptist thought. It is given at different locations during the course of the year, and published by the committee. This year the committee is delighted that Revd Dr Sean Winter, tutor at Northern Baptist College in Manchester, has agreed to be the tenth Whitley Lecturer in this series. Sean prepared for Baptist ministry at Bristol Baptist College (1986-1990) where he studied at the University of Bristol and then went on to Regent’s Park College (1990-1993) to study for a DPhil. He worked with the present Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, completing a thesis exploring Paul’s rhetorical strategy in his letter to the Philippians in 1997. In 1994 he was called to be minister at Abbey Baptist Church in Reading, a historic town centre church. The call back into College life came in 2000 with a move to Northern Baptist College in Manchester, where he is the Tutor in New Testament. He has served the Baptist Union of Great Britain in numerous roles, and currently serves as the Moderator of the Baptist Union Council.
In his Whitley Lecture Sean pursues one of his research interests in the area of theological hermeneutics and explores the distinctive contribution of Baptist Christians to the task of interpreting the Bible today. This theme is of interest to all those who believe in the continuing relevance of the message of the Bible, and in particular to all those of a Baptist persuasion who want to think seriously about their faith.
The printed lecture is available from the Baptist Union of Great Britain.'
The abstract I sent to the Committee last year gives, perhaps, a better feel for the focus and content of the lecture
The lecture will explore the issue of how Baptists might understand the task of biblical interpretation in the light of their covenantal understanding of the nature of God, God’s relating to the world, and the life of the church. In particular, the lecture will consider how as Baptists we ought to understand the inevitable diversity of biblical interpretation and the consequent disagreements that arise as a result of such diversity. I will argue that the use of the word “biblical” in relation to Baptist identity, denotes not a commitment to a particular interpretive decision about the meaning of scripture, but a commitment to a particular kind of relationship to scripture. Within such a relationship, diversity and disagreement are to be expected and even welcomed as those things which sustain an appropriately covenantal relationship with God via the medium of the text, and with each other. The lecture will end with several practical suggestions as to how such an understanding of interpretation might take visible shape in the local church and within theological education.
If you are in Manchester on March 6th and want to join us you would be welcome. Alternatively, I am also giving the lecture at the BUGB Assembly in Brighton on Saturday May 5th at 4.00 p.m.
Update: it occurs to me that there is a remote, highly, extremely remote, chance that someone reading this blog might want to host a Whitley Lecture event. Part of the responsibility of being the lecturer is to respond to invitations to deliver the lecture within the Baptist constituency during 2007. While I am not looking to pack my diary, I would be prepared to consider invitations from any colleges, associations, churches that feel that it might be a good idea. Get in touch to discuss it further if you feel this would be an idea to pursue.
Yesterday in a staff meeting, we were trying to develop a course that would better equip preachers for the task of preaching. A key element in our thinking was a fundamental commitment to enabling people to be themselves in the communication of the Christian faith. Throughout, I was reminded of an article by Zadie Smith in the Guardian this past weekend on great writing and what it means to be a writer. Here are a few selected quotations that connect to the reason why, in the end, I can not simply believe as a Christian, but needed to try and articulate (as scholar / theologian) and communicate (as minister / preacher) the faith I profess (as disciple), and that challenge me about how to do it better and with greater authenticity and integrity.
'To speak personally, the very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.'
'For writers have only one duty, as I see it: the duty to express accurately their way of being in the world. If that sounds woolly and imprecise, I apologise. Writing is not a science, and I am speaking to you in the only terms I have to describe what it is I persistently aim for (yet fail to achieve) when I sit in front of my computer.When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception. That is what I am looking for when I read a novel; one person's truth as far as it can be rendered through language. This single duty, properly pursued, produces complicated, various results.'
'A great piece of fiction can demand that you acknowledge the reality of its wildest proposition, no matter how alien it may be to you. It can also force you to concede the radical otherness lurking within things that appear most familiar.'
'Writers fail us when that interface is tailored to our needs, when it panders to the generalities of its day, when it offers us a world it knows we will accept having already seen it on the television. Bad writing does nothing, changes nothing, educates no emotions, rewires no inner circuitry - we close its covers with the same metaphysical confidence in the universality of our own interface as we did when we opened it. But great writing - great writing forces you to submit to its vision'
The whole article can be found here. I wish I could write like that. Smith is one of those novelists whose essays and non-fiction (to this reader at least) have an even greater quality than the novels themselves.
The latest issue of Ecclesiology revolves around the question 'What is the Church?'. Articles include:
Oliver O'Donovan, 'What Kind of Community is the Church? The Richard Hooker Lectures 2005'
Richard Bourne, 'Democracy and Civil Society: Reflections on John Howard Yoder's Exilic Ecclesiology'
Carolina Armenteros, 'Communio Ecclesiology and the World: Ecumenical Intimations of Joseph de Maistre's Du Pape'
Frederick W. Guyette, 'Sacramentality in the Fourth Gospel: Conflicting Interpretations'
Thomas Seville CR, 'Article Review: The Origins of the Eucharist in Early Christian Worship'
Unfortunately, abstracts are not yet up on the Sage site, nor downloads for those who have access. But go here in due course and you should be able to locate them.
Wednesday, 17 January 2007
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
This is AKMA on the notion of texts possessing subsistent meaning:
'So when we admire the brilliance with which Daniel Defoe depicts the barbarity of religious intolerance in the anonymously published "The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters," we invest more confidently in the notion of that there is some satiric meaning-quality with which Defoe imbued those particular words arranged in that order, and which we accurately discern wen we recoil in horror at the prospect of hanging nonconforming preachers (speaking here as a general rule - each of us may preserve a little list of exceptions)'.
Adam, A. K. M., Faithful Interpretation: Reading the Bible in a Postmodern World (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 3-4.
Following on from recent conversations with the Anglican Communion, the Baptist World Alliance has now begun a round of conversations with the Roman Catholic Church. The first meetings were in December 2006 and the talks with last over five years. Paul Fiddes is on the Baptist delegation, as is Steve Harmon, associate Professor of Divinity at Campbell Divinity School, and author of Towards Baptist Catholicity. I was privileged to meet Steve at the Annual Meeting of the Baptist Professors of Religion last November. You can find out more information about the conversations and Steve's role within them here.
Monday, 15 January 2007
Over at Living Wittily, Jim has some nice comments about the affliction that besets so many, of loving books. For me this extends beyond biblical and theological tomes, to an extensive collection of cookbooks, particularly those that deal with Italian food, my great culinary love. Here are my top three, in reverse order:
Anna del Conte, The Classic Food of Northern Italy: a definitive work. The family on my wife's side come largely from the North, and while I have great affection for the food of the South, in the end I would rather have prosciutto and parmigiano than tomatoes and truffles. Del Conte is a wonderfully elegant writer, meticulously researched. She also has an excellent one volume book that covers the whole of Italy, which only just missed my top three.
Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy: Food and Stories: my best Christmas present in 2006 and a beautiful book which combines passion with technical genius. Locatelli once told a story about going to a gelateria (ice cream shop) in Italy as a child and asking for an ice cream with one scoop of lemon and one of chocolate. He was told by the owner that this was not possible. When the young Giorgio pointed out that he could see the tubs of lemon and chocolate ice cream in the cabinet, and so asked again, the reply was once again negative. 'Why can't I have a chocolate and lemon ice cream?' ...'Because they don't go!'. That story tells you everything you need to know about the Italian attitude to food.
Marcella Hazan, The Essentials of Italian Cooking: the Bible. The book I learned to cook from. Forget Jamie, Nigella, Ruth and Rose down by the River, Marcella is the real thing, and you will learn more about care, quality, friendship and the importance of food from this book than, I think any other I have read. If you have only one book ... then this is the one. (For those who are sceptical, I encourage you to check recipes for Ragu Bolognese in other cookbooks and see the number of times that Marcella's recipe (including, crucially, milk) is mentioned.)
The latest issue of the BQ 42/1 has arrived. Articles are as follows:
Christopher J. Ellis, "Gathering Struggles: Creative Tensions in Baptist Worship"
Kara Blankenship, "The Role of Women in the Church: The Sword and the Trowel and General Baptist Magazine 1865-1891, Part 2"
Larry J. Kreitzer, "A 'Famous Prank' in Oxford: The Jacobite Riots of 1715 and the Charge of Sexual Scandal"
R. E. Davies, "Robert Thorner"
I also note here that the website for the Baptist Historical Society has been updated and improved with new resources and layout.
Finally, details of the Society's Annual Lecture and AGM:
AGM and Lecture - April 21st, 2007
Revd Dr Brian Haymes
"On Religious Liberty: re-reading the Mystery of Iniquitie in London in 2005"
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Shaftesbury Avenue, London
Refreshments from 10am
AGM at 10.15am
Lecture at 11.00am
Lunch (modest charge)There will be an illustrated lunchtime talk on London sites - and lack of sights - of Baptist interest
Optional walking tour (Road sites of Wesley, Baptist and dissenting history (2pm-4.30pm))
Revd Stephen Copson email
Sunday, 14 January 2007
A warm welcome to the Baptist Blogosphere to Jim Gordon over at Living Wittily. Jim has made an enthusiastic start with summaries of his reading of Hauerwas' new commentary on Matthew and a promise to offer online justification for his book purchases (a much braver man than I). But for an introduction to the blog, its title and focus see this post on the phrase "to serve God wittily in the tangle of our minds'. Keep up the good work Jim.
Not much blogging these past few weeks. But that doesn't stop me flicking through my blogroll regularly. Here are a few highlights that you may have missed and that struck me as interesting:
Patrick over at God in a Shrinking Universe reflects on Negative Theology, or Why Theology is the Coolest Thing Ever.
Over at Faith and Theology, Kim Fabricius offers a further contribution in his excellent "10 Propositions" series; this time 10 Propositions on Worship. All of these connected with me, but not least number 8:
What should we get out of worship? Wrong question. Worship is not a utility but an offering, i.e. a sacrifice, an economy of grace that interrupts and critiques the feverish cycles of production and consumption – which is why the collection is not fund-raising but cultural critique. If you want relevance, excitement, or profit, go to a rally, a concert, or the stock exchange. To put it most counter-culturally: Blessed are the bored, for they will see God.
At the Generous Orthodoxy ThinkTank you can find some thoughts on the question 'Can an Evangelical Be a Universalist?' (the answer is yes, of course they can, but the arguments are laid out nicely in this article)
David Instone-Brewer, over at Tyndale House in Cambridge has posted the most recent Tyndale Tech newsheet / email which offers an overview of free biblical studies resources online. These have improved significantly in recent years, with many now including excellent Greek and Hebrew facilities and search features. Full details, with screenshots of the sites can be found here.