I have recently received two books that I am eagerly looking forward to reading. It will probably be a few weeks before I can write in-depth reviews of them, but I wanted to mention them now in case anyone who reads this blog would like to get copies.
A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren features a series of questions that McLaren has been wresting with — questions he has had posed to him, all over the world, as he has travelled, speaking about the challenges the community of faith is facing as we enter more fully into the postmodern age. Some of the questions are very much in line with the kinds of conversations we have on this blog: “How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?” “How can we translate our quest into action?” Other questions wade into areas I haven’t directly addressed here, but that every thinking Christian should be wrestling with: “Is God violent?” “Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?” “What is the overarching story line of the Bible?” I suspect that McLaren will adress these, and the other questions he raises in this book with his customary love for scripture and Christian tradition, coupled with a keen awareness that all the old ways of “doing church” are increasingly obsolete in our day. It will be interesting to see where he goes. Incidentally, I was privileged to be part of a conference call McLaren held last night for about 60 bloggers who are engaging in the emergent conversation. Over the course of 80 minutes he responded to our questions, showing a gracious respect for those who may differ or disagree with him, and an overall sense of openness to seeing just where God may be leading us (with the humility to admit that he, or we, don’t have very much figured out).
Prayer and Prophecy: The Essential Kenneth Leech is an anthology featuring some of the best writing from Ken Leech, arguably one of the most exciting Anglican theologians living today. Leech made a name for himself in the late 1970s with Soul Friend, one of the first books on spiritual direction to reach an audience beyond just clergy and monastics. Several other books on the spiritual life ensued. But this priest is more than just a teacher of prayer, and his ministry (in the east end of London for just about the entirety of his career) has had as much to do with care for the poor, feeding the hungry, engaging in community organizing, and learning to be good neighbors with non-Christians, as it has been concerned with prayer and meditation and the discernment of spirits. Thus, Leech held a space within the Anglican world where contemplation and action naturally came together — similar to the space that Richard Rohr holds among Catholics today. But Leech is simultaneously more orthodox and more radical than folks like Rohr or Cynthia Bourgeault or Tilden Edwards. He combines a rich Anglo-Catholic love for the sacraments and for ceremonial with a clear understanding that devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is only true when it is accompanied by devotion to Christ whose real presence is found most assuredly among the hungry, the homeless, and the downtrodden. In connecting these dots, Leech does not shy away from the political implications of his radical faith, but he always remains clear that his politics are in service to his vocation as a Christian, and not the other way around.
Okay, so it’s obvious that I’m enthusiastic about Brian McLaren and Kenneth Leech as persons and as ministers of the Gospel. I’ll write more about these books after I read them — but in the meantime, follow the above links and go buy copies of your own!