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baptist minister and PhD student
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Really pleased to announce the publication of Reconciling Rites, a set of essays honouring the contribution Myra Blyth has made to Baptist life and thought. Myra retires this summer as Chaplain and Tutorial Fellow in Theology and Ecumenical Studies at Regent's Park College, where she started in 2004, having previously been Deputy General Secretary of the Baptist Union and an Executive Director of the World Council of Churches. We presented the book to her this evening, via Robert (her husband) over zoom following her last chapel service. The book seeks to take an important theme in Myra's life and thought — reconciliation — and explore it both in terms of church worship (preaching, baptism eucharist, reading the Bible, prayer, liturgy) and life (spirituality, charity, friendship) and in the world of sport. Those contributing to the book are friends, colleagues and former students: Paul Fiddes, Rob Ellis, Paul Goodliff, Sian Murray-Williams, Helen Dare, Matthew Mills, Keith Clements, Deborah Rooke, Michael Taylor and my co-editors Beth Allison-Glenny and Anthony Clarke. The foreword is written by June Osborne, Bishop of Llandaff, Church in Wales. Its available via Amazon. Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2020 at andygoodliff
36 (from US, Canada, UK, Netherlands and Ukraine) joined the first session looking at Jim McClendon's Systematic Theology, starting with volume 1: Ethics and its first's chapter: 'How Theology Matters'. Some are season McClendon readers and some of us are reading him (properly) for the first time. Responses were given by Andy Goodliff, Beth Newman and Curtis Freeman. Some good conversation in the zoom chat, which spilled over into the conversation, around the importance of McClendon's listening tour of (American) Baptists institutions ahead of writing the first volume (which probably shaped his account of the Baptist vision); the reception history of McClendon in America, Europe and UK; the meaning of 'this is that' and 'then is now' (McClendon's claim for a baptistic hermeneutical principle) and a brief possible commonality between McClendon and Ephraim Radner on figural readings of scripture. We will gathering on zoom again on 14 July to look at Ethics, chapter 2: 'What Sort of Ethics?' (The first two chapters are crucial to understanding McClendon's project) and then again on 19 August to look at Ethics, Part 1: Embodies Witness (ch.3-5). For an invite contact me at andrew [dot] goodliff [at] regents [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2020 at andygoodliff
Sources of Light: Resources for Baptist Churches Practicing Theology edited by Amy L. Chilton and Steven R. Harmon (Mercer, 2020) If Baptists do any theology, they tend to it a local level and see the Holy Spirit as illuminating what is needed to faithful be the church today. This is where Harmon and Chilton begin. I say 'if', because I am not altogether certain that Baptists in English congregations consciously do theology and tend to fall back to the question pragmatically of whatever works — this might include a theology but not one that perhaps bears much sustained reflection. (In the USA my sense there is a practice of what we might call adult Sunday School.) Sources of Light should be seen then as a call to more conscious theological engagement not just with the Bible, but with a plethora of wider sources/voices that take seriously listening to context and to history. It seeks to make more concrete an argument Harmon made in his earlier work Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future. It is an argument in a slightly different form that has been made by Stephen Holmes in his Listening to the Past. Chilton and Harmon as editors have... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2020 at andygoodliff
I once read that ‘Christianity is connections’ [i] and it's a sentence that has lingered in my mind ever since. I’ve found it helpful to talk about the church as a people and a place centred on making connections. There’s always something more to discover, another connection to be made. This way of seeing the church is founded on abundance. That can be a surprising way of describing the church, because more often than not what we can see in church is what we lack, where we’re short, what we don’t have. And so to say the church is founded on abundance is to learn to see the church differently, to look what we have been given, what are the gifts among us and that is to make connections again, to draw every person into the picture, to stop suggesting that some of us are givers and others of us are receivers, but instead all are of us are giving and receiving sharing in the cascade of grace from God through Jesus and the joy of the church is the work of making connections. Why am I talking about making connections on Pentecost Sunday? Because I believe making connections is... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2020 at andygoodliff
James McClendon's Systematic Theology is an astonishing achievement for a Baptist theologian. Other Baptists have written systematic theologies — e.g. Stanley Grenz, James Leo Garrett and Millard Erickson — but McClendon's stands out, for its originality (he starts with ethics before doctrine) and its desire to be baptist. McClendon's work has been received and engaged with by a group of Baptist theologians in the US — e.g. Curtis Freeman, Barry Harvey, Steven Harmon, Beth Newman, Scott Bullard, Jeff Carey, Ryan Andrew Newson — and some in Europe, especially by Parush Parushev at IBTS and now also by VU Amsterdam and its establishment of the James Wm. McClendon Chair for Baptistic and Evangelical Theologies. There has been a more muted reception history in the UK. Its not that McClendon has been ignored, but there perhaps not been the kind of serious engagement that his theology arguably warrants. With this in mind I wondered whether it might be possible to encourage a group to read systematics. It was an idea thrown out which found encouragement from Curtis Freeman and Steven Harmon. The plan is to read a chapter a month and then offer an opportunity to discuss it via a zoom conversation.... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2020 at andygoodliff
If you read this book it will likely be one of your books of the year. Motherhood: A Confession is beautifully written. (In the acknowledgments there is thanks given to Lauren Winner, who has helped so many others with what we might called theological memoirs and has written several herself.) It is a powerful reflection on being a mother and a disciple of Jesus. Inspired by St. Augustine's famous Confessions (well known to many from its early line 'all hearts are restless until they find their rest in you) — Carnes is a professor of theology who has taught the work numerous times — this is very much her own confession. It borrows its shape from Augustine's work, following the chapter themes and in some way it might be considered a commentary, but Carnes brings her own confession on becoming a mother and the impact that has on herself and her faith and of course on her daughter. As she explores motherhood she does in conversation with Augustine, and also scripture (Mary and Martha, the mother of Moses, Mary and Joseph, and more) and with the saints. I must confess I've never read Augustine's Confessions — I have a copy... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2020 at andygoodliff
If we read Acts 2.43–47 I wonder what word is most important after God. This is a short description of the church or perhaps we might say this is a short prescription for the church. It’s full of important words. Here are some potential ones: devoted, teaching, fellowship, bread, prayer, awe, signs, believers, give, home, praising, added. We might say what’s most important is being devoted, its about being committed, being dedicated, being faithful. Your heart’s got to be in it, your body’s got to turn up. We might say what’s most important is teaching. The most important thing is the Bible, reading and understanding it. This is the source of our faith, this is where we find truth and wisdom. We might say what's most important is fellowship, lives being shared, supported, friendships being made and strengthened. We pray for the fellowship found, received and shared in the Holy Spirit. We might say what’s most important is bread, the bread of Communion, the receiving of the bread broken for us. Jesus is the living bread who feeds our faith and nourishes our hope. We might say what’s most important is prayer, the most important thing is a people who... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2020 at andygoodliff
We had hoped. We had hoped that we would be married next month. We had hoped that she would rally and get better. We had hoped that I wouldn’t lose my job. We had hoped that there might have been a way to forgive. We had hoped that the move meant a fresh start. We had hoped that it would be all over by now. We had hope that he was the one to redeem Israel. We had hoped. Three words that capture a truthfulness about our lives at some point, perhaps today. There’s an honesty in these words, there’s no pretence; there’s a facing up to the reality that we are people who invest hope in things, in each other, in God. We invest hope that everything will come together, that we will find a way to overcome a problem, and when it doesn’t, we know the bitterness of hope lost, dashed. We had hoped. When hope gets lost, we head home. Two sad companions are heading home to Emmaus. Stay with us. Stay with us for lunch, for dinner, or for a few days. Stay with us, let’s enjoy time together. Stay with us or in the language... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2020 at andygoodliff
I wonder what kind of week you have had. I wonder how quickly the songs of Easter joy died away in your household. I wonder if Easter itself has felt like no more than a brief interlude in the present difficulty. Easter is a season and yet we often treat it as if it was only a day. The shops start selling off their Easter Eggs and we go back to whatever is normal and carry on as if nothing remarkable happened. Except this year of course for lots of us we don't. In the Easter narrative there are 50 days during which the risen Jesus appears to his followers. And 50 days are only the beginning for these disciples working out how the world has changed and their lives have changed. But we can tick it off in a day. In the church the Sunday after Easter is traditionally called Low Sunday. The exact reason for this is unclear but it seems in part to be a recognition that the highs of Easter celebration couldn't last. It probably fits very well with where we are at the moment. We are still in Easter, we are still a people who... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2020 at andygoodliff
I wonder if you can remember a time when you were not tall enough to see. In front of you is a wall, and perhaps a parent or an older sibling is able to see over it, they can see what’s on the other side, they can tell you about it, but you want of course to see for yourself, so you say, hey can you lift me up, I’d like to see too? Our lives might be thought of as a series of walls that at one point or another we can’t see over, and either we need someone to help lift us up, or we just have to be patient, never easy, and wait until we grow tall enough. Some of us perhaps feel like we’re still waiting! As we get to see over each wall, we find we can get to a point that we can climb over, and then at some point there is another wall and we’re back needing help or having to wait. Some of us find some walls impossible, some of us will always need help, and so sometimes we have to find another way round. Eventually we all meet a very big... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2020 at andygoodliff
The Baptist Times are hosting a series of reflections for Holy Week and Easter Week in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which I've co-ordinated. These are the ones currently posted, and I'll add the others as they appear. Holy Week — Let us follow Jesus Scattered yet gathered Clanging gongs: the perils of cheap talk Broken and poured out Waiting Footwashing and love Christ died for our sins The day of nothingness Silence in the face of mystery Covid 19: Lazarus or Jesus? Resurrection in the time of coronavirus What difference does Easter make? Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2020 at andygoodliff
Palm Sunday 5th April 2020 Belle Vue Baptist We are living in strange times, unique times. Some might even suggest apocalyptic times. Time is different at the moment. For some time feels slower, for others there is new busyness. We are trapped by this time, we can’t go backwards, we can’t go forwards, all we can do is dwell in the moment. We are waiting for it all to be over. We are waiting for the next news bulletin, the next announcement of the number of those who had died. We are waiting to see how close this virus might come to us and to those we love. We are consumed, overwhelmed, plagued by COVID-19. We measure our days in terms of the lockdown. Listen to the Psalmist: ‘Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning.’ (Ps 31) We recognise what he is feeling. Today is Palm Sunday and just by calling it Palm Sunday it is a reminder that our lives are also measured by a different time, God’s time, and we are the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2020 at andygoodliff
John 11 5th Sunday in Lent 29 March 2020 Belle Vue Baptist Our mortality has been brought home to us. Our fragility is right before us. Our helplessness is all around us. This has always been true, but the veil that covered our eyes has been lifted in these last weeks, and now we know. Some of us have always known, some of us have lived with the reality of mortality, fragility, helplessness on a daily basis and now the rest of us are sharing in your sense of what is to live with the possibility of death lingering at the door. We are all living on the edge, and we want to be back in the safety of the centre, but there is no way back at the moment, everything is on hold, everything is in flux, everything and everyone is at risk. The Psalmist says ‘out of the depths I cry to you’ (Ps 130.1). We are in the depths. Like Mary and Martha, we are in the depths, knowing our morality, recognising our fragility, feeling our helplessness. And it is here that Jesus comes. ‘Jesus said that if I’m lost, he will come to me.’ And the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2020 at andygoodliff
Pleased to announce the first issue of the Journal of Baptist Theology in Context is now live. Website and link to first issue here. This is something we've been working for the last 12 months as a way of disseminating some of the papers from Theology Live and encouraging Baptist pastor–theologians to share their work more widely. There are a small group of British Baptists pastor-theologians engaged in doctoral research, most working part-time on their thesis alongside serving churches. Theology Live and the Journal is about encouraging them, supporting them and offering their work to the British Baptist constituency as an example that Baptists can (and must) do theology. Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2020 at andygoodliff
Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God's Love by Douglas A. Campbell (Eerdmans, 2020) What might the reader want to know about this latest book from Douglas Campbell. Perhaps it will be this first: it's shorter than The Deliverance of God (Eerdmans, 2009), but definitely longer than Paul: An Apostle's Journey (Eerdmans, 2018). This is Campbell's fourth book in ten years (five if you count the Chris Tilling (ed.), New and Old Perspectives on Paul). Thirty years of research and thought is now emerging in an important body of work that gives us a Paul we can love and a gospel that really is good news. Deliverance was a ground-clearing work. It was long because Campbell argued there was a lot to tear down before there could be a chance to build up. Pauline Dogmatics gives readers of Deliverance Campbell's constructive statement of how to read Paul as we find him in his letters and how to read beyond (but arguably still with) Paul for those tasked with preaching today. For those who both liked but were also frustrated by An Apostle's Journey, Pauline Dogmatics is the main course and dessert compared to Apostle's Journey's appetiser. Pauline Dogmatics was already in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2020 at andygoodliff
Baptists in England have a tradition of a choosing a 'president of the Baptist Union' for one year. They are appointed by the churches in a vote, with accredited ministers also being able to vote as well. Within that there has been a tradition those who have given long service to the Union and a tradition of appointing the charismatic speaker. The president within the Union has become a less profile position, but they still travel the country for a year with a theme and a message to share with churches and associations, something that encourages and challenges. We are currently able to vote for the 2021 President. I suggest we would be well served by Geoff Colmer, currently Regional Minister Team Leader of the Central Baptist Association. Why? — Geoff offers us no answers, he doesn't come with a big vision or a programme of activities. — Geoff offers us instead an invitation to seek to be attentive to God and for Baptists who are so good at doing and activity, paying some attention to God would be a helpful thing. Especially when our shared Baptist life is currently fairly fragile. — Geoff offers us someone who has done... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2020 at andygoodliff
How can I explain Christmas this year? This is my tenth year in attempting to help you get this story again. I enjoy the challenge of seeing if I can find something different to say. The story of Christmas does not change, but it's a story which we can never exhaust its meaning, because the story is of the Incarnation, of God becoming human; of the invisible, almighty, transcendent, creator God being born in the same way you and I were born. How on earth does God become human and yet remain God? Why on earth would God subject himself to the fragility and vulnerability of being born? What on earth does God think He is doing coming close to a humanity that is so hostile, indifferent, and full of their own importance? These are questions that are begged when we say that in Jesus we see God in the flesh. What have I got to say to you this year? It’s this: think of the Christmas story like a ladder. At the top of the ladder is heaven and at the bottom of the ladder is earth. Up the ladder to heaven, down the ladder to earth. In the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2019 at andygoodliff
You can’t escape politics at Christmas. In the background of Luke’s version is the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus and in the background of Matthew’s version is King Herod. For those feeling like thank goodness the election is over and we can leave politics alone for Christmas, the story we are given is of the birth of a new king, who will be given a throne from which he will reign for ever, and whose kingdom will never end. This king will arrive and will challenge those who currently reign. He will when he is grown up be crucified under the name ‘king of the Jews.’ For those who would rather not have a political Christmas, we’ll need to start crossing out quite a bit of the nativity story. For those who would rather not have a political gospel, we’ll need to start crossing out nearly all the verses of the gospels. What is happening with the arrival of Jesus is the birth of a new king, and with it a new politics, a new kingdom. No wonder Mary and Zechariah sing. The announcement to Mary is an election.[i] Just as choices have been made in our United Kingdom, so God... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2019 at andygoodliff
The Guardian have been doing a series on the 100 best books/films/albums/etc of the 21st Century. I thought I'd look at my shelves and offer my 50 best theology books I've read, and in many cases return to a lot, published since the 21st Century. I limited myself to one book per author (apart from in one case), otherwise there would be more Freeman, Hauerwas, Wells and Williams. I recognise some of the big names/books are missing — David Bentley Hart, William Cavanaugh, Katherine Sonderegger, David Kesley, Oliver O'Donovan, Miroslav Volf, Michael Banner, John Barclay, John Milbank, and many others — I've just got round to reading them. Some on the list below will be little known, but there books have been important to me. A fair number are memoirs, and I've come to really enjoy this format. The list is in no particular order. Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God (2009) Curtis Freeman, Contesting Catholicity (2014) Willie Jennings, The Christian Imagination (2010) John Webster, Holy Scripture (2003) Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah’s Child (2010) Samuel Wells, Improvisation (2004) James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom (2009) Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust (2007) Robert Jenson, A Theology in Outline (2016) Brian Brock,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2019 at andygoodliff
Theology Live is a one day conference I started with Simon Woodman and Steve Holmes back in 2017. We're back on 23rd January 2020. Its a day for Baptists engaged in post-graduate research and any other interested Baptists to get together to share papers, build friendships and encourage our Baptist family of the important of theology for the life and mission of our national Union and local churches. We've got a great line-up this year: Anthony Reddie — Author of Theologising Brexit (2019), Is God Colour Blind? (2010), SCM Core Text: Black Theology (2012) and the new Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Regent's Park College (from Jan 2020) Christine Joynes — the new Director of the Centre for Baptist Studies, Regent's Park College, Oxford and author of Perspectives on the Passion (2008) Joshua Searle — Tutor in Theology and Public Thought, Spurgeon's College and author of Theology After Christendom (2018) Craig Gardiner — Tutor in Christian Doctrine, South Wales Baptist College and author of Melodies of a New Monasticism (2018) Israel Olofinjana — Director of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World and minister at Woolwich Baptist Church and author of Partnership in Mission (2015)... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2019 at andygoodliff
Brian Brock, Wondrously Wounded: Theology, Disability, and the Body of Christ (Baylor, 2019) This is a beautiful and challenging book and Brock's most readable one so far! The big reason for that is the presence of Adam, Brian's son. Through Wondrously Wounded Brock tells stories from Adam's life and how they shaped Brock's life and theology. Like the work of Frances Young, Amos Yong and Thomas Reynolds, this is lived theology or practical theology. Adam is profoundly intellectually disabled, although a big part of Brock's argument in this book is to challenge that description, to re-narrate who Adam is in society and in the church. In so doing it is to challenge the idea that we, as a society and as churches, have 'done' disability because we have made our buildings accessible and have embraced 'inclusivity.' The book is divide into five parts: Disability in the Christian Tradition; Welcome and Screening; Systems, Norms, and Modern Medicine; The Everydayness of Mercy and Wonder; and Body–Life as the Communicative Life of the Worshiping Community. At the end of each part Brock provides a Coda, which helpfully offers a summary and the 'general thrust' of the argument. In this brief engagement with the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2019 at andygoodliff
Helen Paynter, God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? Wrestling Honestly with the Old Testament (BRF, 2019) Helen Paynter is a Baptist minister and Old Testament scholar based at Bristol Baptist College. This is her second book. Her first, a version of her PhD, was Reduced Laughter, looking at how to read the books of 1 & 2 Kings. This second book, written for a broad audience, engages with the thorn of subjects violence in the Old Testament. It arrives at the same time as the work of the Centre for the Study of the Bible and Violence (CSBV) begins, of which Paynter is the Director. The book comes in two parts. The first establishes some 'foundations' — reading the Bible as God's word, how to read the Bible well and what is meant or encompassed by the word 'violence.' The chapter in reading the Bible well is especially helpful in offering some important lessons. The second half of the book seeks through 5 chapters to engage with the most serious of questions around the Old Testament and violence. These 5 chapters make a series of important points. When violence is described, it is not always (often?) being endorsed.... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2019 at andygoodliff
On the first Sunday in Lent, The reading is always the story of Jesus tempted in the desert. And the sermon often ends up being something like this: Jesus got tempted. We get tempted. Jesus resisted temptation. We should resist temptation too, Here are three things to do. I had a couple of goes at sermons like that, And I wasn’t getting anywhere. (Writing sermons can be flipping hard work sometimes.) At one point I had a sermon about the importance of saying no and how my youngest child, has that learned to a fine art. At one point I had a sermon about the importance of reading the Bible and that reading the Bible can save your life. Then I had this little insight which flipped this story on its head, at least for me. This isn’t a story about how Jesus was a human being like us, who gets tempted, but it’s a story of how we wish Jesus would discover that he isn’t the Jesus we want. What kind of Jesus do we want — We want a Jesus who can turn stones into bread, We want a Jesus who would just take charge and fix the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2019 at andygoodliff
One way to read the Bible, a good way I suggest, is to notice that it speaks of an old world being replaced by a new world. One reality is ending, a new reality is being birthed. And what the prophets call us to — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah and co. — and what the apostles call us to — Paul, Peter, John and co. — and what most importantly Jesus calls us to is to live on the basis of the new and not the old. The turning point of that old to new, of life out of death, of hope out of despair, of peace out of hostility, is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you begin to read the Bible with this kind of lens, this kind of frame, the words of Jesus that were read to us this morning make the right kind of sense. The blessings that Jesus announces are part of the new world coming, the woes that Jesus announces are part of the old world going. This kind of passage is one destined to get me into trouble, to which my response will always be, ‘don’t blame me, I’m just the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2019 at andygoodliff
Chris Raschka, Paul writes (a letter) (Eerdmans, 2018) Last Friday was the day that the church remembers the conversion of St. Paul. I was going to write about this book, but forget, so three days late here it is. This book is for 'young readers' and it introduces children to Paul the letter writer, rather than the Paul of Acts. We remember Paul because of his letters, but his letters are not easy to read, and so Raschka has found a way to bring this important part of Paul's life and this huge part of the New Testament alive. It takes little bits from each of the letters - mostly Paul's encouragement to his churches to act in Christ-like ways. The pictures and map are beautiful to go a long with it. It will help younger readers, and maybe also older readers, get an idea of who Paul wrote to, some of Paul's friends, and some of the things he said. Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2019 at andygoodliff