Can the church respond?
ISBN 0 567 08875 8
T & T Clark, Ltd. A Continuum Imprint. Edinburgh,2002 £12.99
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed September 2003; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2003
No ambiguity is intended (I think) in the title of this book – witness the subtitle. Christians believe that the church’s mission is to change the world, and have to live with the reality that change in the world often occurs in ways which run counter to that mission. Can the church respond to these changes?
Robin Gill does not pretend to answer his question with a yes or a no. Instead he approaches it from many directions and in as objective a manner as possible in parts 1 and 2, and in part 3 examines the effect of change on theology (particularly practical theology).
‘Changing Moral Perceptions’ (part 1) examines religion and the environment, the arms trade, media ethics and sexual ethics. ‘Changing Patterns of Churchgoing’ (part 2) traces the decline in church attendance in Bromley over the past century, the response to such decline on the part of the church establishment (often, denial) – and gives three fascinating case studies in ‘Beyond Decline’ – Malta, South Korea, and China.
‘Changing Approaches to Theology’ (part 3) demonstrates the increasing complexity of academic theology consequent upon the erosion of interconfessional and interfaith boundaries in a post colonial world from which the old absolutes have disappeared.
Can ‘the Church’ cope with changing moral perceptions, changing patterns of churchgoing, changing approaches to theology? When it is remembered that the church is Christ’s body, the answer has to be ‘yes’. How, remains to be seen.
Here is a book for thoughtful readers as they ponder these things. It does not provide easy (false) answers.
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