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baptist minister and PhD student
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October ended with a great occasion today at Spurgeon's College. (The month began with me submitting my PhD thesis and also hosting Sam Wells at the church I serve). Today folk gathered for a day of theological reflection on the Order of Baptist Ministry, but really it was an excuse to surprise and present Rev Dr John Colwell with a festschrift that I have edited with my father Paul. Rhythms of Faithfulness: Essays in Honor of John E. Colwell (Pickwick, 2018) is a collection of eighteen essays that recognise the contribution John had made to be many of us as Baptists but also wider. The title of the book borrows from John's own book The Rhythm of Doctrine and it reflects some of its contents as part of the book reflects on the different seasons and feasts of the Christian calendar that shape John's sketch of Christian doctrine. The other half of the book is a theological exposition of the Daily Office of the Order of Baptist Ministry, which John help found in 2009. We hope this book both honours John, but also is a contribution to the life of the Order of Baptist Ministry and an encouragement to Baptists... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2018 at andygoodliff
There’s a parable that goes like this: ‘There are these two young fish swimming along And they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, Who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually One of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’ The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.’ [i] In preaching on screens last week and shopping this week I’m attempting to name some of the water in which we all swim, and to help us recognise how this water shapes, seduces, and speaks to our loves and imaginations with particular visions of the good life. The every day stuff of life is full of unconscious habits and rituals that can be good and not good for the soul. Jesus says, ‘follow me’ and we say ‘ok, but how?’ Jesus says, ‘I will make the difference in every bit of your life’ and we say ‘ok, but what does that look like?’ In first... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2018 at andygoodliff
Ben Myers, The Apostles' Creed (Lexham, 2018) I spent some of the afternoon reading this new book by Ben Myers which expounds the Apostles' Creed line by line and in some cases word by word. It didn't take long to read, which might suggest its a light read, but its brevity and simplicity is joined by a beautiful and truthful and profound description of Christian belief. It would make a great gift to one who is preparing for baptism and for anyone who needs a reminder of the essentials of the Christian faith. Ben, in this book, writes with lots of references to the early church fathers, showing that in many ways that all the questions and queries of Christian belief were already addressed in the first 3 or 4 centuries. This book will sit aside another short-ish book on Christian doctrine — A Theology in Outline — by Robert Jenson. Both books demonstrating that theology can be readable, understandable and brief and so books to easily return to. We need more of this kind of writing. Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2018 at andygoodliff
Have you ever realised that Jesus liked his food. He enjoyed a good meal. He liked a good meal so much that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. In one of the gospels, Luke, we have eight dinner scenes. The first is the banquet Jesus shares at Levi’s house. The second is the dinner he has at Simon the Pharisee’s house, during which a woman interrupts to wash is feet. The third is a meal in the wilderness with over five thousand. The fourth is another meal with a Pharisee where Jesus doesn’t wash his hands. And the fifth is yet another dinner with another Pharisee, a prominent one we’re told where Jesus heals a man with dropsy. The sixth is when Jesus has tea with Zacchaeus. The seventh meal, the climatic meal, is the one Jesus shares with his disciples in an upper room that we call the last supper. And then there is one more sit down meal. Its at Emmaus when two disciples ask him, not knowing who he was, to stay for dinner. So much of Jesus’ life, his ministry, happens round a table, eating with people. Each of these meals are... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2018 at andygoodliff
Paul Beasley-Murray, This is My Story: A Story of Life, Faith and Ministry by (Wipf & Stock, 2018) Last year Baptist minister Keith Clements published an autobiography of his life: Look Back in Hope. We know have a second autobiography from a similar period in this account of his life by Paul Beasley-Murray. Both autobiographies interestingly mention the other in passing from their time overlapping as students in Cambridge. Paul is the son of George Beasley-Murray, one of the leading Baptist New Testament scholars of the twentieth century. He followed his father into Baptist ministry, into doing a New Testament doctorate and into being Principal of Spurgeon's College. Here is a story of what it is like to be child of the manse and of college (George taught at Spurgeon's College and the International Baptist Theological Seminary while Paul was growing up). Paul although following in his father's footsteps has charted his own course - he trained for ministry at Northern Baptist College while doing his doctorate at Manchester, spent two years as a Baptist missionary with BMS and had two long pastorates in churches that grew. Apparently when Douglas McBain published his book Fire Over the Waters in 1997... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2018 at andygoodliff
It's over two years since I last wrote any on Baptist issues on this blog. The last two posts were on how the Baptist Union was responding to same sex marriage. This new post is compelled by the same subject. The issue then was what Associations (regional bodies) were going to do when the Council of the Baptist Union acknowledged that the Declaration of Principle meant churches were at liberty to discern together (in conversation with Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) whether to register or not as places of worship in which same sex marriages could be conducted and as a result that ministers would not be barred, if church was affirming and conscience allowed, to officiate or be involved in some way. Since then some Associations have dissented from this position and have looked and are looking for ways they could exercise control over ministerial settlement and in one case to extend that control over churches who might seek to register. As was clear in March 2016, the issue is not settled. In December 2016 I was part of a group of ministers who wrote a statement which called British Baptists to have the courage... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2018 at andygoodliff
Sam Wells, Incarnational Ministry (Canterbury, 2017) and Incarnational Mission (Canterbury, 2018) The first thing I read by Sam Wells was back in 2004, an essay he wrote for a festschrift in honour of Stanley Hauerwas. I quickly came to the conclusion that here was someone worth listening to and later that year I came across his book Improvisation. Wells has so far not written a bad book and these two new ones are among his best. In 2015 Sam Wells published A Nazareth Manifesto, which sought to describe the theology of being with, the argument that at the heart of the Christian faith is God's commitment to be with, revealed must clearly in Jesus Christ, who while he spent a week in Jerusalem working for us, and three years in and around Galilee working with us, he spent 30 years in Nazareth just being with us (hence the title A Nazareth Manifesto). Wells' conviction is being with is the heart of the gospel and the Christian life. A Nazareth Manifesto set out to demonstrate why theologically. The book was subtitled Being With God. While no book by Sam Wells can ever be described as just academic, A Nazareth Manifesto is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2018 at andygoodliff
15 years ago today Colin Gunton died. Many were eagerly awaiting his systematic theology, volume one was in draft. It would have been the culmination of a long study of scripture and the tradition. He left a legacy in books and students, (although in my opinion, sadly not at King's College London where he spent all his years teaching) He was one of a very few non-conformist theologians to become a Professor. He made us all think about theology, especially the doctrine of the Trinity, even if you ended up disagreeing with him. I sat in his lectures each year while I was undergraduate - introducing Christian theology, the theology of Karl Barth and in my third year some of the sessions of the Research Institute in Systematic Theology as he read draft chapters from his systematic theology. His books which fill a shelve in my study remain key volumes I pick up and read. It is good to see a growing number of books engaging with his work, and there is a promised T & T Clark Companion in preparation. Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2018 at andygoodliff
In February this year, Douglas Campbell published Paul: An Apostle's Journey (Eerdmans). (I review it here.) He has very kindly agreed to some answers to some questions about his new book and wider field of Pauline studies. Enjoy! (For those in distance of London, Douglas is speaking at St Mellitus College on Monday 21 May, 6.45pm.) What led you to spend most of your life reading, researching, and trying to understand the apostle Paul and his letters? An excellent question! Hopefully it was God or I have made a horrible mistake. In a little more detail … I was a convert, walking the aisle, quite literally, at the age of twenty. As a student at the time I was drawn naturally to “the book,” which is to say, to the Bible. I read it voraciously, and ended up pursuing graduate studies at the University of Toronto in Religious Studies. Someone told me I needed to study with Richard Longenecker there so I enrolled in his famous class on Romans. It was so popular that they had to move all the tables out of the dining hall and move in chairs every week because it was the only room at Wycliffe... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at andygoodliff
I first came across the Tenebrae service when I attended one led by Maggi Dawn in Cambridge in 2005. In 2008 I attempted my own version and then in 2012 I wrote another version. This year I have tried another one, but which tried to be appropriate to all ages. So we used only one song and we acted out the story shadow by shadow. All-Age Tenebrae : a service of shadows and sadness We have 7 candles. As we remember what happened to Jesus, We will blow them out one by one. Until none of them are lit. Jesus prays in garden Jesus went to pray in a garden called Gethsemane Jesus was feeling sad and troubled. His friends Peter, James and John were with him, and Jesus asked them to stay awake with him. Jesus prayed to God, ‘Father, there must be another way. But I will do what you want.’ Jesus knew that he was going to suffer. Jesus’ friends fell asleep, just when Jesus needed them the most, which made he more sad. We blow out a candle for sadness and sorrow Jesus is betrayed by Judas Into the garden came some soldiers to arrest Jesus.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2018 at andygoodliff
This is my body This is my blood With his words he held out broken bread and the cup of wine. With his words we would never experience Passover the same again. With his words he was doing something new. With his words this meal was of a different kind to all the meals we had shared. With his words we remembered We remembered The bread blessed and shared at Levi’s house, and at Mary and Martha’s, and at home of Simon the Pharisee, on the hillside in the wilderness, and all the other meals. We remembered his words then of kingdom and forgiveness of abundance and fulfilment; his words of what really matters, and they all led to here and now and the bread in his hands blessed, broken and shared. This is my body This is my blood With his words our hearts burned within us. With his words we were overwhelmed with a sense of foreboding and darkness. With his words we were re-learning the meaning of love and life and death. With his words he was saying ‘I am approaching the end.’ With his words we knew his way was set, his path was decided, his... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2018 at andygoodliff
Really good to see such a diverse set of subjects that British Baptists are engaged in writing about. Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2018 at andygoodliff
My sermon yesterday at Moortown Baptist Church, Leeds, finished with this from Curtis Freeman's wonderful book, Undomesticated Dissent (Baylor, 2017). For the heirs of dissenting Christianity to contribute to the building of a just and good society in the world today, it will demand fostering conscience and recovering convictions, but it will also depend on cultivating communities of resistance. Such communities grasp that seeing the world apocalyptically is not about predicting the future but about living in the light of a revelation that causes the world they inhabit to appear in an entirely new way. They promote habits of an imagination that equips members with the capacity to see the world through the lens of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They read history backwards, seeing their own lives retrospectively in continuity with the story of Israel’s God And God’s servant Jesus. They understand God’s disruptive action in Christ not as a future event but as a reality that is always present and new. or accommodate to institutional structures of secularity but seek a good life together than participates in the new creation and exemplifies what God in Christ intends for all humanity. They recognise that they do... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2018 at andygoodliff
Douglas A. Campbell, Paul: An Apostle's Journey (Eerdmans, 2018), 207pp. The small handful of people who might be longterm readers of this blog, will know that I'm a Douglas Campbell convert, stemming from the two years that he taught me way way back in 2001-2003. He taught me to read Paul's letters and thought that made the apostle come alive and make sense. I've found it difficult to read Paul in any other way since. I'd like to think that if things had been different, and if it was say Wright or Dunn who had been my first teachers, I still would have comes to my senses when eventually reading Campbell. The problem for Douglas Campbell converts is that how do we encourage others to discover the wonders of Paul through his eyes, for his big book, The Deliverance of God is well over a (off-putting) 1000 pages. That problem is now over, for Paul An Apostle's Journey is less than 200 pages. You can read it an afternoon! Paul An Apostle's Journey is a book I can recommend to my congregation - and I will. Campbell has always approached reading Paul as both a life and a thought question,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2018 at andygoodliff
I wonder if you’ve announced anything this year? An engagement, a wedding, a birth, a new job, a graduation? Politicians are announcing things all the time. It's one announcement after another in Luke’s gospel. Angels pop up everywhere – in the temple in Jerusalem, in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, on a hillside outside Bethlehem. Each time the angel has news to announce. Angels after all are messengers. They have a message to announce. If Christmas is anything it's a time of announcement. The wait of Advent is over, there is news now to proclaim. The announcement on each occasion, to Zechariah, to Mary and to the shepherds is first ‘Do not be afraid.’ In a world, in which announcements can often be ones which fill us with fear, that leave us ‘greatly troubled’ or simply terrified, the announcement of the angels is ‘Fear not.’ In Luke’s telling of the story he names some reasons why Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds might be afraid. Yes an angel has appeared, but at the same time, and a source of more on-going fear are the names of Herod and Caesar. Herod and Caesar ruled by making sure they were feared. They... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2017 at andygoodliff
Paul Fiddes, Baptist Theology and Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford has published his first novel. Fiddes' first degree was a double first in English Language Literature and Theology. His theology has retained an interest in the novel as his books Freedom and Limit and The Promised End demonstrate. Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at andygoodliff
Increase or decrease? Wide or narrow? And this week slow or fast? This week we measure our lives as disciples with regard to speed. Each week we have seen that to measure our lives as disciples of Jesus, Is a counter-cultural way of life. The world says increase yourself, promote, sell, grow And the disciple seeks to become less, that Jesus might become greater. The world says take the easiest road, the widest gate, cut corners And the disciples seeks the narrow way, the small gate. Advent has a lot to do with time and speed. We look back in time, we look forward in time, we’re asked to wait patiently, in a world that rushes headlong into Christmas. I acknowledge I am one of those ministers, who makes their church suffer Advent without Christmas, who seeks valiantly, and yes, I know, without much success, to hold their congregation in anticipation and expectation. I am a firm believer, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven: a time for Advent and a time for Christmas, a time for waiting and a time for feasting, a time for getting ready... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2017 at andygoodliff
Here's the best books (in no particular order) I've read in 2017. Beginnings by Stanley Hauerwas & Brian Brock Protestants: A History by Alex Ryrie Undomesticated Dissent by Curtis Freeman Jox Cox: More in Common by Brendan Cox The Book of Mary by Nicola Slee Look Back in Hope by Keith Clements Still by Lauren Winner Speaking Out - Ed Balls Golden Hill - Francis Spufford When in Romans by Beverly Gaventa Dissenting Spirit by Anthony Clarke and Paul Fiddes Dementia by John Swinton Things Can Only Get Worse by John O'Farrell Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2017 at andygoodliff
Increase and Decrease John 3.30 We make measurements all the time. How much water do I need to add? How long does this shelf need to be? How far is it to the post office? How long will it take to get to my holiday destination? Is this dress or pair of trousers the right size? Can I squeeze my car into that gap? Everyday life is a set of calculations and measurements. We all need a bit of basic maths. How’s yours? I want for these four Sundays of Advent to try and measure our being disciples. The gospel requires us to measure our lives. This is what I’ve discovered. The gospels talk about increase and decrease, wide and narrow, slow and fast, light and heavy. See it as an opportunity to look at your life and see if you measure up, and if not, to do something about it. Advent reminds us that Jesus could come at any moment, So we need to be awake and ready. John the Baptist’s disciples are concerned that the flow of traffic going to Jesus is getting bigger, and the interest in John is getting less. John’s agent thinks its time John... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2017 at andygoodliff
Increase and Decrease John 3.30 We make measurements all the time. How much water do I need to add? How long does this shelf need to be? How far is it to the post office? How long will it take to get to my holiday destination? Is this dress or pair of trousers the right size? Can I squeeze my car into that gap? Everyday life is a set of calculations and measurements. We all need a bit of basic maths. How’s yours? I want for these four Sundays of Advent to try and measure our being disciples. The gospel requires us to measure our lives. This is what I’ve discovered. The gospels talk about increase and decrease, wide and narrow, slow and fast, light and heavy. See it as an opportunity to look at your life and see if you measure up, and if not, to do something about it. Advent reminds us that Jesus could come at any moment, So we need to be awake and ready. John the Baptist’s disciples are concerned that the flow of traffic going to Jesus is getting bigger, and the interest in John is getting less. John’s agent thinks its time John... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2017 at andygoodliff
Anthony Clarke and Paul Fiddes, Dissenting Spirit: A History of Regent's Park College, 1752-2017 (Oxford: Centre for Baptist History and Heritage, 2017) I spent three years of my life at Regent's Park College, Oxford, and I remain still a semi-regular visitor. My links to the College also continue as I edit Regent's Reviews. It was interesting then to read this brand new history of the College by Anthony Clarke and Paul Fiddes. Published in the year that the college celebrates 60 years as a PPH of the University Oxford and 90 years since first arriving in Oxford. The College's first home was in Stepney in 1810, then a move to Regent's Park, where it gets its name, in 1856, before a third home in 1927, where it remains in the centre of Oxford. Clarke and Fiddes trace how the College has grown and changed in relation to the preparation of Baptist ministers, broader education and its relation to the churches. Regent's is unique amongst the Baptist Colleges and probably lots of centres for ordination training. It's faced many challenges, including, not unexpectedly financial ones. I was especially interested in the College's most recent history from the time of the Principal... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at andygoodliff
I remember one member of this church saying to me something like: I’m not afraid of death, what I fear is dying. This is what I want to talk about this morning. We know the difference Christ makes to death, he conquerors it, he removes its sting he breaks it power. 'There is a hope so sure, a promise so secure,' * that means the last word is not death, but life. But what difference does Christ make to dying. How do we die well? I want to tell something of the story of John Ames as we find it the novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. ** The novel is one long letter that Ames writes to his young son. Ames is a widow who marries again unexpectedly late in life and then finds that he has not only become a husband, but also a father. The novel begins with Ames discovering his heart is failing, that is, he is dying. So he decides to write a letter to his son. This letter is his attempt to say the things he believes as a father he should teach his son. As he says, ‘I’m trying to tell you things I... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2017 at andygoodliff
This is a sermon I preached on Sunday, not actually knowing that today was World Mental Health Day. It owes a lot, as will be obvious to John Colwell (and at the end to Katherine Welby Roberts). The sermon is one of a series on subjects we often don't talk about in church. Other Sundays have addressed debt, dementia, disability, divorce (yes all D's). It is only quite recently we have begun to talk about mental health openly. Politicians talk about it more now. The royals talk about it more now. Celebrities talk about it more now. A whole industry of books on mindfulness is big business. The recognition that some people struggle with their mental health is becoming much more widely accepted. The stigma and shame that can be associated with it mental illness is slowly becoming less. My friend John is a Baptist minister, pastoring two churches and then for fifteen years was tutor in theology and ethics at Spurgeon’s College, before returning to the pastorate. He has suffered from depression all his adult life. The other side of his depression are periods of mania with feelings of great energy and enthusiasm. He is bi-polar. He says of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2017 at andygoodliff
News came through this morning that Robert W. Jenson has died. Here's a quote from a little book of conversations he had with this 8-yr old granddaughter. They're talking about heaven and whether it will be boring: But what the Bible really talks about finally is being taken into the life of God himself, and the life of God is just, as it were, one big excitement, a kind of explosion of excitement (From Conversations with Poppi about God, Brazos, 2006) Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2017 at andygoodliff