April 06 AN Website Update

Dear friends,

This is the fourth edition of our monthly website update that goes out to all registered users on the Anabaptist Network website. This month we have four articles and four book reviews to highlight and we've included a brief selection from each.

If you have problems reading this email you can find it on-line at http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/april06update

Anabaptist Leanings of a 'Kinda' Methodist by Philip R Meadows

I am a pagan convert and a theological mongrel! I was evangelized by Pentecostals, brought to faith by evangelical Anglicans, taught the mysteries by high-church priests, encouraged by para-church ministries, befriended by independent church leaders, filled with the Spirit in charismatic worship, learned to preach under the tutelage of Methodists, married into a Baptist family, trained at a British Methodist theological college, worked at a United Methodist Seminary in the USA, participated in a Free Methodist church and an American Baptist church, started a house fellowship, and finished up at Cliff College

Throwing a Hand Grenade in the Fruit Bowl by Jonny Baker

Since I was asked to write this chapter on preaching I have been asking a lot of people when the last sermon was that really inspired or challenged or changed them. The responses have been interesting. A lot of the people have pulled a face and laughed as if to say 'are you serious?' - it's as though they can't even imagine the possibility of being inspired or hearing a brilliant sermon. Others have remembered a transforming preach but a typical answer has been that it was one or two years ago. In a recent debate in the UK on introducing a law against inciting religious hatred the Guardian newspaper published a cartoon of an angry woman pointing at a vicar and saying to a policeman ‘his sermons have made me hate church officer’. It made me laugh but like so much good humour/art it’s funny because it is making something visible that is hidden.

An Anabaptist Perspective on the Environment by Jo Rathbone

Is there an Anabaptist perspective on the environment? Well, I'm not sure that the sixteenth century Anabaptists had a policy on the environment as the environmental crisis was not evident when the Anabaptist movement began. However, I thought that a useful way in might be to look at the core convictions of the Anabaptist Network and see how these relate specifically to environmental issues.

Anabaptists and Freedom of Speech by Andrew Francis

How in any society do we let radical voices be heard? At what point does dissent threaten the stability and/or peace of a nation? Or a region? How should the law permit discussion of fundamental religious principles or issues of faith without offence being caused or incitement to wrong being alleged?

The UK’s Government recent defeat on the issue of inciting religious hatred, the reaction to the publication of a religious-themed cartoon in Denmark and the ensuing reaction across the world demonstrate that these issues affect everyone, not just those of faith or with principles about civil liberties. The jailing of Abu Hamza, the radical Muslim cleric, on 7th February 2006 for ‘incitement’ whilst preaching speaks of the need for leaders of faith communities to act responsibly. At what point does ‘radical’ become a threat to the majority?

Book Reviews

Putting the Life of Jesus at the Centre by Tim Foley

A Walk through the Bible
Leslie Newbigin (London: SPCK, 2004) £4.99

Perhaps the central theme of the late Leslie Newbigin’s life and work is the communication of the gospel to a secular, even pagan culture. Through his writings he continues to be an invaluable conversation partner for those trying to understand the worldview shifts of, and the missionary encounter with, Western culture.

Anabaptist theology, in a Constantinian direction? by Graham Old

Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive
Thomas N. Finger (Intervarsity Press, 2004) £20

It is not difficult to be enthusiastic about Thomas N. Finger’s A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology.1 Anabaptists – and anyone interested in contemporary theology from an Anabaptist perspective – will be eagerly referring to this work for some time to come. I know of no other book that so ably discusses the world(s) of sixteenth-century Anabaptism whilst in conversation with such a variety of contemporary theologians, Anabaptist or otherwise.

The Church and Guerrilla Theatre by Lloyd Pietersen

Walter Brueggemann, Ichabod Toward Home: The Journey of God’s Glory (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002). Pages ix + 150. Paperback ISBN 0 8028 3930 4. $19.00 (USA).

I must admit that Walter Brueggemann is my all time favourite Old Testament scholar. He is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, a prolific writer and an outstanding preacher. Brueggemann is a scholar who cares passionately about the church and Christian discipleship and this comes through in all his writings. I always pick up a new book of his with excitement and this book did not disappoint. The chapters of the book are taken from a series of five lectures given by him at Princeton Theological Seminary in February 2001. The first three chapters consist of a careful exposition of 1 Samuel 4-6 and the final two address the question as to what the church does and is to do when it stands before the biblical text.

Towards an Anabaptist Response to Terrorism? by Tim Nafziger

Loving without Giving in: Christian Responses to Terrorism and Tyranny
Ron Mock (Telford: Cascadia Publishing House, 2004) £14.50

In the wake of the 7 July bombings and the response of the British Government, Christians in the United Kingdom would do well to consider this book. Ron Mock begins by working through five aspects of terrorism: violence, lawlessness, political motivation, targeting of civilians and operation through fear. In each area he looks at examples of terrorism that fall within his criteria and case studies that do not.