The pick of the new pa­per­backs

The Church of England - - BOOKS / SUNDAY -

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.

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