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Book Review

Duncan Dormor, Jack McDonald and Jeremy Caddick, Editors


The Answer to Modernity

ISBN 0 8264 6699 0

Continuum, London and New York, 2003, 14.99

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed September 2004;
© Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2004

Does the genius of Anglicanism reside in its ability to know just how much religion Anglicans can take, trespassing no further, or in its ability simply to accommodate itself to prevailing social and cultural trends?  Well, neither according to the contributors of this volume, who are all deans at Cambridge colleges.  Rather, it is argued, the Anglican Church is well-placed and well-resourced to conduct meaningful and potentially transformative conversations with some of the problems besetting what is referred to as 'modernity'.  In his incisive introduction Archbishop Rowan Williams suggests that such problems include a 'shrinking of the moral imagination' and 'short-term thinking and functional or managerial solutions to difficulties'.

The particular issues engaged with in this volume range from Church-State relations through medical ethics and cohabitation to theodicy and beyond, each essay being concerned to promote the Church's function as a 'major player in the interpretation of developments in science, technology and the humanities in their implications for human life'.  Inevitably collections of essays such as this face the challenge of presenting an overall coherence but four themes can be identified running through the volume which provide an overarching framework, namely, presence, inquiry, engagement and identity.

The overall impression is of university deans whose environment, far from cocooning them in ivory towers, has enabled them to engage more deeply with contemporary concerns than might otherwise be the case.  There are worthwhile insights to be gleaned from most of the contributions and in particular an outstanding essay by Ben Quash on 'The Anglican Church as a Polity of Presence'.

If you are interested in the role and relevance of the Anglican Church today then this is a book for you, and on the way it provides some helpful reflections on the pastoral role and witness of the Christian minister in and out of an institutional setting.

Michael Harrison



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