on 21 June 2010
Laurie Green - an experienced priest in the Church of England over many years of hard work in some of our most urban areas, and latterly a Bishop to the communities of south Essex - has here updated and revised his excellent early work on 'doing theology'.
In my work with church community projects, this is as close as I can get to a handbook!
Bishop Laurie writes about a living process of experience, reflection and action, in which all can have access to 'God-talk' and the vital connections of faith and action.
Drawing on the methodology of liberation theologians and grassroots educators, Green sees that theology and experience are tested in context. The starting point for theological enquiry must be the situation in which a community or group encounters the world and their dissatisfaction with their condition or, at least, the 'existing answers'. To that situation the theologian must bring suspicion, new questions about why the situation exists, about why it falls short of the ideal of the kingdom of God, and about the necessary action to initiate change. The process is completed by the action through which that change is possible. A new situation is brought about, which will need to be probed and analysed in its turn. This cyclical or spiralling process can be summarised as in three or four stages as SEE - JUDGE - ACT or EXPERIENCE- EXPLORE - REFLECT - RESPOND -. It is often described as the `hermeneutic' or `pastoral cycle' as it informs all levels of the Church's activity and its interaction with society drawing on an interpretive framework as well as bringing into the Church analytical tools which will open new questions and initiate new possibilities.
Green is insistent that theology must be understood as collective activity, not just the task of the academic specialist but the whole community as theologians. Those traditionally identified as theologians - priests, ministers, lay-leaders etc - will find themselves drawn in to resource the community - informing the process of judgement, recording the process, reflecting and discerning alongside others. The book seeks to help its readers or hearers to understand their own place as resources within their community and the processes they might facilitate, the action they might take. This is the 'doing' of theology.
Let's Do Theology recognises that the theological task, as well as being practical, needs to be mundane or vernacular in its fundamentals, and also public, if the church is to engage with the ethical, social and political conditions of real-life communities.
My own endorsement sits alongside others from skilled theologians and practitioners from the worldwide church, and beyond. Leonardo Boff, the liberation theologian from Brazil, says:
`This is a book of authentic liberation theology set within the English-speaking context: it takes instances of human experience, analyses them, reflects theologically and proposes practical ideas for transformation. It invites you to do theology, without disparaging the great tradition. I enthusiastically recommend this significant book.'
Brian McClaren, writing from the new missional communities of northern America and Canada, says:
`I wished I had known about the first edition of this excellent resource over the previous twenty years. Every seminarian should engage with this book, so they can bring this clear-minded and warm-hearted approach to theology to their local congregations in the coming generations.'
Our own Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams adds:
`Laurie Green's experience as teacher, pastor and agent for God's change informs every page of this accessible and challenging book ... a new and extensively revised edition which makes full use of developments in theological reflection and cultural understanding in the last two decades, and it retains all its freshness, insight and sheer groundedness.'
It is the groundedness of this text, in this refreshed edition, that will continue to serve thoughtful and active Christians well in the years to come.
on 20 November 2011
How good we are at letting other people do the work: Laurie Green entices and enlists us to do the theology ourselves. DO theology! not 'discuss it' or 'read about it' or 'think it is an academic subject'... None of those things!
This is a clear, exciting, and vital book, which should be top of the reading list for every course that is connected with faith; should indeed be obligatory reading for every potential member of a PCC, and church members.
We have lost the idea that we are able to *DO* these things ourselves, and as a result we mourn the emptying churches.
Let's buy an extra copy to give to someone we know: anyone who comes to church, or who has stopped coming to church because they can't see what it is that the church actually does any more.
...and see the results!