Category Archives: Religion and Theology

A fresh view of religion and society in the Diocese of St Davids since the Reformation

This is a guest post from Professor William Gibson, Oxford Brookes University, editor of Religion and Society in the Diocese of St Davids 1485–2011

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The post-Reformation diocese of St Davids may not at first sight seem a particularly prepossessing topic for a collection of essays. The city of St Davids, with a population of just 1,600 today, lies over seventy miles west of Swansea in beautiful but remote countryside. The diocese of which it is the capital spread over much of south Wales until it was divided in the 1920s. But however remote and distant from the metropolitan centres of England and Wales it was, the diocese was a religious crucible in the post-Reformation centuries. Despite being the place from which Henry Tudor invaded the country in 1485, and in which some Tudor ancestors were buried, St Davids did not avoid the turbulence of the Reformation. Robert Ferrar, bishop in 1555, was burnt in Carmarthen for his stubborn Protestantism. In the following century the diocese was the home of the translation into Welsh of the Prayerbook, for five years it was part of William Laud’s high church ‘laboratory’ as bishop and the source of Rhys Pritchard’s highly influential hymns, Cannwyll y Cymry.

Perhaps more astonishing is how the diocese became the home for three major religious movements: the Welsh Puritan movement of the seventeenth century, the evangelical ‘revival’ of the eighteenth century which made Wales the stronghold of Calvinistic Methodism for two centuries and (in addition to a string of minor revivals in the nineteenth century), the 1904-5 Evan Roberts revival. The reason why the people of South Wales became so committed to revival is unclear but the enthusiasm for them and the effect they had on the lives of the poor has perhaps been underestimated. Equally underestimated is the interest that ordinary people in Wales took in theology and theological differences. Even today many Welsh villages have three, four or five chapels of different denominations; in the past this meant that tradition, teaching, family and other ties drew the past one chapel to worship at another. It is one of the condescensions of history to assume that, in the past, matters of theology and religious ideas were ‘beyond’ the reach of most people. In fact the diocese was home to a long succession of distinguished theologians (Jeremy Taylor, George Bull, Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris, Connop Thirwall, Rowland Williams ). It also housed a series of significant theological institutions: Trefecca College, the United Theological College at Aberystwyth, the Carmarthen Academy, the Memorial College at Brecon and St David’s College, Lampeter. It probably offered more theological educational opportunities than any area in the rest of Britain.

One of the ways in which Welshmen and women identified with their religious and political traditions was through the celebration of St Davids Day and in the nineteenth century, as mass participation in public events grew, the day and the saint were appropriated by all sorts of religious and political groups keen to demonstrate their popularity and association with Wales through celebration of St Davids Day. So groups of all political, social and religious complexion wrapped themselves in the black and yellow flag of St Davids.

In such an environment, disestablishment of the Anglican Church became a ‘project’ of the Nonconformist churches and the Liberal Party. Like other aspects of Welsh history it has become the source of many myths. One of which is to overlook that, despite other claims, the true architect of the new Church in Wales was Bishop John Owen of St Davids –who even came up with the name ‘Church in Wales.’

Religion and society in St DavidsAll these themes, and more, are the subject of essays in Religion and Society of the Diocese of St Davids 1485-2011, edited by John Morgan-Guy and me. And the story is brought up to date with a final essay on the diocese since 1926, surveying the bishops and the principal changes in the area in the last century.

Professor William Gibson, Oxford Brookes University

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Sara Khan on the battle for British Islam

Following the attacks in Paris last week, one of the contributors to our book Sensible Religion, Sara Khan, spoke on the BBC Panorama programme ‘The Battle for British Islam’. The programme is available to UK viewers on BBC iPlayer.

Sara Khan is Director and Co-Founder of Inspire, a non-governmental advocacy organisation (NGO) working to counter extremism and gender inequality. Her chapter in Sensible Religion is entitled “Retrieving the equilibrium and Restoring Justice: Using islam’s egalitarian teachings to Reclaim women’s Rights”.

The chapter examines Islam’s teachings on women’s rights and the purpose of shariah as a dynamic and sophisticated process for establishing equilibrium, securing justice and serving the public interest. It also explores the dominance of a literal decontextualized and patriarchal interpretation of Islam’s religious texts which has influenced sections of Muslim thought. It outlines the historical and contemporary reality of some Muslims, in manipulating and misusing Islam for their own authority whether political, economic or social to those Muslims who through the combined use of modern day Islamic law and international human rights law have secured the rights of Muslim women.

Read the full text of the chapter in Sensible Religion here.

Call for proposals – ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

Posted by Sarah Stilwell, Senior Marketing Executive

Call for proposals – ICLARS Series on Law and Religion

Series Editors: Professor Silvio Ferrari, University of Milan, Italy, (series coordinator); Dr Russell Sandberg, Cardiff University, UK, (series managing editor); Professor Pieter Coertzen, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa; Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Brigham Young University, USA; Professor Tahir Mahmood, Amity International University, India

The ICLARS Series on Law and Religion is a new series designed to provide a forum for the rapidly expanding field of research in law and religion. The series is published in association with the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, an international network of scholars and experts of law and religion founded in 2007 with the aim of providing a place where information, data and opinions can easily be exchanged among members and made available to the broader scientific community. The series aims to become a primary source for students and scholars while presenting authors with a valuable means to reach a wide and growing readership.

The first titles published in this series will be:

  • Religion and Equality: Law in Conflict
  • Church and State in Scotland: Developing Law
  • Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean
  • Proportionality, Equality Laws and Religion

The series editors are currently welcoming proposals for this new book series on any matter falling under ‘law and religion’ widely defined. Collections arising from important conferences and events are welcome as well as monographs by both established names and new voices (including monographs based on doctoral dissertations). Also of interest are interdisciplinary works and studies of particular jurisdictions.

To submit a book proposal for the series please email Dr Russell Sandberg: SandbergR@cf.ac.uk. For more information on how to submit a book proposal please contact the publisher Alison Kirk: akirk@ashgatepublishing.com.

More information about ICLARS can be found on the website: http://www.iclars.org/

Announcing a new interdisciplinary series, Sanctity in Global Perspective – a guest post from Alison Frazier

Alison FrazierThis is a guest post from Alison Frazier, President of The Hagiography Society

The Hagiography Society is proud to join Ashgate in sponsoring Sanctity in Global Perspective, a series dedicated to multidisciplinary explorations of the concept of sanctity.

Not every global tradition venerates “saints,” as such, but all identify people of extraordinary virtue—of radically ambiguous “power”—whose lives and actions demand to be admired, honored, and imitated.

That veneration marks a potent site of cultural work, a place at once special and quotidian where a community’s ambitions and nightmares settle, where comedy nests with tragedy in the group’s identification of the “saint” and ritual elaboration of cult.

Cult thus finds expression in repetition and improvisation, in luxury and deprivation, in peace and violence, in humble obedience and arrogant defiance, in the chthonic, reliquary body and the ethereal, mystical one. The scholar of sanctity addresses evidence that ranges from the visual, musical, and literary, to the architectural, pedagogical, and political. Cults stretch over many centuries and across disparate geographies. Their stories elicit every emotion, and invite comparison.

As a cultural locus, the “saint” both condenses and challenges a tradition’s beliefs and devotional practices. Sanctity may be put to serve cynical strategies as easily as noble aspirations, may reflect both a community’s optimism and its despair. The saint enfolds a tradition’s attitudes to birth and death, to family and kinship, as well as to institutions and rulers.

Sanctity in Global Perspective welcomes critical scholarship that brings new texts, images, spaces, and ideas into the world’s long conversation about extraordinary virtue. We seek to foster the crosspollination of ideas across traditions, regions, and academic disciplines.

About the series editors: Shahzad Bahir is Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies (Department of Religious Studies) at Stanford University, USA. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski is Professor of French at the University of Pittsburgh, USA. John Stratton Hawley is Professor of Religion at Barnard College, USA.

For more information on how to submit a book proposal to the series, please contact Erika Gaffney, or see http://www.hagiographysociety.org/?page_id=80

Theology and California authors Fred Sanders and Jason S. Sexton at Green Apple Books

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Marketing Executive

Green Apple Books in San Francisco are to host an event with Fred Sanders and Jason Sexton. On Wednesday 15th October at 7pm, Sanders and Sexton will discuss theology in California with Kevin Starr, a Californian State Librarian and University Professor at the University of Southern California. You can view their event page here.

Fred Sanders is evangelical Protestant theologian with a passion for the great tradition of Christian thought and a professor in Biola University’s great books programme, the Torrey Honors Institute. With Oliver Crisp he is the coordinator of the annual Los Angeles Theology Conference, and he is a faculty member for the Los Angeles Bible Training School.

Jason S. Sexton is a fourth generation Californian who taught theology at Cambridge while a visiting scholar at Ridley Hall. He is currently a Research Associate at USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, is a lecturer in the Honors Department at California State University, Fullerton, and is the Administrative Convener of the TECC Project. He holds the PhD from the University of St. Andrews on the doctrine of the Trinity and contemporary evangelical theology.

Theology and CaliforniaAshgate have recently published Sanders and Sexton’s new venture, Theology and California. In the book, the editors gather leading theologians, cultural critics, specialists in film studies, theological anthropology, missiology, sociology and history. Exploring California as a theological place, Theology and California renders critical engagement with significant Californian religious and theological phenomena, and the inherent theological impulses within major Californian cultural icons.

Theology and California is available in paperback, hardback and ebook editions.

Sarah Bachelard’s Resurrection and Moral Imagination reviewed in The Tablet by Philip McCosker

Resurrection and the Moral ImaginationSarah Bachelard’s book Resurrection and Moral Imagination was recently reviewed in The Tablet by Philip McCosker. An edited extract of the review appears below, or you can read the full review online on The Tablet’s website.

It is staggering how little good recent theo­logical writing on the Resurrection there is. You might expect that the pivotal element of the Christian Gospel would have been the focus of theologians’ attention for centuries; you would be disappointed…

Very rarely has the Resurrection been treated as theologically revealing in its own right. There are some notable exceptions: Rowan Williams, James Alison, Anthony Kelly CSsR, and most recently, Brian Robinette’s brilliant Grammars of Resurrection.

But now we have Australian philosopher-­theologian Sarah Bachelard’s excellent Resurrection and Moral Imagination which boldly and astutely builds on all these theologians to forge an ethical vision from that most Christian of doctrines. It will be of interest to ­anyone concerned with the question of how to live in our world, whether religious or secular.

Bachelard’s game-changing vision is quite different from that of her fellow Anglican moral theologian Oliver O’Donovan’s earlier Resurrection and Moral Order. For O’Donovan, ethics must be founded on the Resurrection because it vindicates the created order and its morality; for Bachelard, the Resurrection gives a new world from which to act, and that world can be perceived even without explicit religious belonging…

…Bachelard has interesting and nourishing things to say about desire, sacrifice, secularisation, the need for the Church and theology to  attend to the messiness of real life. Her prose is refreshing and crystal clear, deceptively simple, open, conciliatory, non-fluffy and imaginative. Her focus on practice is astute and the engagement with the secular timely. This book is a major contribution to theological ethics and deserves sustained engagement.

About the Author:  Reverend Dr Sarah Bachelard is an Anglican priest and theologian based in Canberra, Australia. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, with special interests in philosophy, ethics and spirituality, and is the author of Experiencing God in a Time of Crisis (Convivium, 2012). She is the leader and founder of Benedictus Contemplative Church, an ecumenical worshipping community with a practice of silent meditation at its heart, and is a member of the World Community for Christian Meditation.

Other reviews:

‘Far more than a discrete proposition, the resurrection of Jesus entails an imaginative world to be inhabited and cultivated-a world that would transform our moral stances by reframing the horizons and desires that shape and often distort our views of transcendence, self and neighbor, and death. Sarah Bachelard’s Resurrection and Moral Imagination powerfully evokes such a world, yet does so by showing how the distinctive features of Christian imagination open up to and are deepened by sustained conversation across philosophical and theological boundaries. While skillfully conducting this conversation, Bachelard’s own keen insights provide the reader with a rich sense of the Christian’s resurrection ethic as a wisdom ethic.’    Brian Robinette, Boston College, USA

‘More than any other book I have read, Resurrection and Moral Imagination brings the kind of moral philosophy first developed in the English-speaking world by Iris Murdoch, into critical dialogue with theology. In prose of enviable simplicity, with sensitivity, depth and sometimes startling originality, Bachelard explores the ways each needs the other.’   Raimond Gaita, University of Melbourne, Australia

‘Innovative, lucid and sensitive, this is a genuinely fresh look at what is distinctive about the Christian moral vision, worked out in conversation with a variety of sympathetic but more secular voices, including Rai Gaita and Iris Murdoch. Sarah Bachelard is a really significant new voice in theological ethics.’   Rowan Williams, Magdalene College, Cambridge, UK

Full information about Resurrection and Moral Imagination is on our website