‘Trends and directions in Contemporary Theology: Anglican Theology’ by Ian Markham

(in Expository Times, 122 (5) 209-217)

Cute and useful little article!  (However, it does not include consideration of non-western thinkers and movements and is overly focused on the US.) Markham identifies 5 streams of contemporary anglican theology:

1. liberal

eg. Richard Holloway; John Shelby Spong

2. conservative

perhaps the largest group;  eg. Philip Jenkins, James Packer, Philip Turner, Ephraim Radner,

3. mystical – including the ‘radical orthodoxy’ movement

“The battle between liberals and conservatives is being fought out in the battleground of the Anglican Communion.  much of this theology is being expressed in communiques, statements, and most recently in ‘pastoral letters’.  However, more nuanced Anglican theologies are emerging in the academy, of which the most influential are using the language of ‘mystical theology’ and ‘radical orthodoxy’… [and are] … a response to postmodernism – our sensitivity that we cannot simply ‘argue’for the truth.” (p.213)

eg. mystical feminist theology – Sarah Coakley;  radical orthodoxy – John Milbank, Graham Ward, Catherine Pickstock

4. eccelisology & culture

“This group shares a relatively conservative doctrinal emphasis..[with an understanding that]… faith depends on revelation… [which is ultimately]… the disclosure of God in the Eternal Word made flesh – the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.  There is also agreement that the Christian community is central.  Faith is learning the language that enables one to participate in the Church.  The difference with Radical Orthodoxy is the possibility of dialogue across disciplines.” (p.214)

eg. Katherine Tanner, Daniel W, Hardy, David Ford, Martyn Percy, Esther Reed, Keith Ward,

5. Rowan Williams – in a category all on his own!

Three major themes to William’s work – (i) the centrality of the Christian community, with a particular interest in the way language functions in the discourse of faith;  (ii) the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity; (iii) the centrality of  Scripture, in which he encourages a ‘literal’ reading of scripture which draws us into a conversation – with God, ourselves, and our critical faculties.

“Williams is setting out an agenda for Anglican theology.  It is one that learns from conservative theologians the importance of authority and limits to pluralism.  It recognizes as foundational the conviction that God is revealed in Christ and discovered in Scripture.  It learns from the liberals the need to recognize that God is always bigger than the boxes in which we insist on confining God.  This Rowan Williams’ inspired Anglican Theology recognizes the centrality of prayer and appreciates the insights of Radical Orthodoxy.  It is happy to share an appropriate emphasis on recognizing that God is disclosing Christ to us in a vast array of cultural discoveries.  It is also a theology that gently takes issue with the extremes in each group.  To the conservatives, they need to think carefully at precisely what point a fellow Christian is no longer struggling in Christ to discern the truth of God’s Word; to the liberal, he has no time for the theologies that fail to recognize the achievement of the creeds, to the advocate of Radical Orthodoxy, he worries about an inability to engage; and to the sociological interfaith, ecclesiological movement, he insists on a strong sense of Christian identity within the Church.  This mixture of both learning from these conversation partners and yet taking issue with them is producing a distinctly Anglican approach to theology.”  (p.217)


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