The pick of the new paperbacks
In 2013 the Pilling Report announced that ‘ in the face of conflicting scholarship, as well as conflicting beliefs, we believe the Church should be cautious about attempting to pronounce definitively on the implications of Scripture for homosexual people’.
The report itself offered no analysis of biblical scholarship’s findings about sexuality so the C of E Evangelical Council commissioned Dr Martin Davie to write a fresh report on the subject. Davie is a careful scholar who has published a major study of the Thirty Nine Articles and who was theological consultant to the House of Bishops.
In his report he quotes Oliver O’Donovan’s opinion that unless scripture communicates a unified outlook we cannot attribute authority to it, only to part of it, but in Studies on the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships Since 2003 (Gilead Books) Davie concludes that there is no instance where a revisionist interpretation of a biblical passage makes more sense than a traditional one. “The Bible is a heterosexual book,” as one commentator quoted puts it. The debate is not inconclusive and there is no reason for the C of E to be cautious in pronouncing on sexuality, Davie argues.
Taking a different approach, Inclusive Church is continuing to publish resources on a variety of topics. In Gender (DLT, £8.99), Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Dean of Women’s Ministry in the Diocese of London, and Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford, suggests ways in which a church can welcome people regardless of their gender. In Ethnicity (DLT, £8.99), Michael Jagessar of the United Reformed Church looks at how a church can welcome people of all races and ethnic background. There is an introduction by Anglican priest Rosemarie Mallett, who is national chair of Affirming Catholicism.
Julian of Norwich is probably the earliest woman writing in English who we can identify. Her Revelations of Divine Love with her stress on God’s mercy, love and compassion continues to be widely read and admired. Professor Barry Windeatt has translated the book into modern English for the Oxford World’s Classics series published by OUP (£8.99) and his work will make Julian more accessible to contemporary readers.
Medieval cathedrals attract thousands of visitors every year. Many visitors say they go not just to examine the architecture or for historical interest but in order to profit from a spiritual experience. Stephen Murray, Professor of Medieval Art at Columbia University, has written Plotting Gothic (Yale, £31.50) to show that the people who built the medieval masterpieces had a narrative that influenced them and that the buildings they created were nothing less than objects of desire. Anyone in the C of E who is responsible for the care of a medieval gothic building should read this book. Highly recommended.
In Pilgrimage: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, £7.99) Ian Reader looks at an aspect of religion that is growing in popularity. Reader is Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster has travelled widely to visit pilgrimage sites around the world and has written major works on this subject. His new book is a stimulating introduction to an important feature of all religions.