Liberal Faith in a Divided Church

Liberal Faith in a Divided Church

Argues the case for an open, progressive Christianity, and explains why conservative and liberal Christians are locked in combat


The battle lines are drawn in what some believe will be the final showdown between liberals and conservatives in the Anglican Church. If the two sides cant agree, the cracks which began to show over the ordination of women may well become an unbridgeable chasm and the church will split. The catalyst is the row over the consecration of a gay bishop in America, but Jonathan Clatworthy argues that it goes deeper than that, to the very roots of Anglicanism itself. Different theories developed at different stages to produce the mix of ideas we have today. The Reformation, the Enlightenment, the nineteenth century revivals and fundamentalism all produced their own ideas about the authority of the Bible, reason, the Church and individual experience. Clatworthy believes that classical Anglican theology is by definition liberal. It affirms tradition but is open to new insights and humble enough to accept that our knowledge can never be complete or certain. The Church should be inclusive, welcoming, and open to debate, allowing differences of opinion to continue until consensus is reached. Conservative Christians see it differently; this book explains why the two views may well be irreconcilable.


This book is an invaluable source of understanding the development of Anglican orthodoxy. Jonathan Clatworthy has done a great job in placing a perspective on the current schism in relationship to Anglican theology. This is a book that should attract not only those interested in the liberal development of an argument for inclusiveness in the Anglican Communion, but also those interested in the development of Christian theology and the rise of secularism, topics which Clatworthy explores in some depth. The style of presentation is thought provoking and enjoyable reading. ~ John C. Lang, Reviews in Religion and Theology

This book offers a strong defence of the liberal tradition within Christianity. In particular it highlights the importance that classic Anglicanism has always given to balancing the claims of Scripture, Tradition and Reason and hence to accepting the inevitability of diversity within a single Church. Clatworthy shows very clearly what is at stake in today’s debate within the Anglican communion and how tragic it would be if a fundamentalist uniformity were to triumph over a reasoned diversity ~ Professor Paul Badham, Department of Theology, University of Wales, Lampeter

For a long time, liberals in the Church of England have been exposed to jibes that they offer a watered-down version of Christianity and have trimmed their sails according to the prevailing winds of secularism. This kind of name-calling leaves many naturally liberal Churchpeople feeling bruised, defensive, and uncertain as to whether they are really representing historic Christian teaching. Now there are signs of a fight-back. Jonathan Clatworthy’s book is one manifestation of this. Clearly written, with a firm grounding in the historical and intellectual background of contemporary debates, and plenty of common sense, he argues for the properly theological truth of liberalism. This work will encourage many to move from the defensive to speak out all the more strongly for the rightness as well as the humaneness of a liberal approach. ~ George Pattison, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford

Everything you hoped you'd never need to know about fundamentalism, and were afraid might be true. If you have ever been disturbed by the seemingly invincible advance of literalists and harsh judgementalism within Anglicanism this is the book which will give the confidence to resist. Clatworthy's arguments and evidence, if anything can, will lead to a resurgence of robust diversity and the intellectual, theological basis upon which it rests. A great deal is at stake. This book is not afraid to takes sides. Are you? ~ Richard Kirker, Chief Executive, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

This is a truly radical book, in that it looks for the roots of a liberal approach to Christianity that is principled, inclusive and undogmatic. Jonathan Clatworthy shows how liberal faith has always striven to temper the wisdom of the past with the promptings of the Spirit in the present. Rather than seeing such an approach as a departure from true orthodoxy, he demonstrates that they lie at the heart of a consistent vision of God’s relationship with the world. This book will provide encouragement and sustenance for those who wish for an alternative to absolute certainty, in its secular and religious forms; as Jonathan says, ‘Only God is infallible’. ~ Elaine Graham, Professor of Social and Pastoral Theology, University of Manchester

What is currently dividing the Anglican Communion is not sexual ethics, but the refusal of a substantial minority to accept diversity and an insistence on getting its own way at all costs. Jonathan Clatworthy's timely book traces the development of the classic Anglican position as inclusive and open to truth wherever it is found, and argues that unless this is rediscovered the result can only be an endless series of rifts, as hardliners find ever more issues on which to hold the church to ransom. It should be read by everyone concerned with our present plight. ~ Professor John Barton, Oriel College, Oxford

When we find it hard to agree with one another we must re-double our efforts to understand one another. Here Jonathan Clatworthy makes a significant and timely contribution to mutual understanding in a Church where celebrating diversity will do most to heal divisions. ~ John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln

.....He comes into his own in the 16th Century, and there follow some admirable chapters that form the heart of his book. .....He makes some useful distinctions and shows how the various traditions interact in the present-day theological and philosophical scene. Four pages on biblical scholarship deserve special mention. .... Excellant though this book is it may leave some readers clearer that there is a yet more excellent way. ~ Church Times, Dr Graham, former bishop of Newcastle.

Jonathan Clatworthy
Jonathan Clatworthy Jonathan Clatworthy is a leading campaigner for liberal Christianity. He loves to bring theological and ethical insights to bear on contempo...
Gay Gospels, The by Keith Sharpe

Gay Gospels, The

Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People

Keith Sharpe

Gays and the Future of Anglicanism by Richard Kirker, Andrew Linzey

Gays and the Future of Anglicanism

Richard Kirker
Andrew Linzey

Diary Of A Gay Priest by Rev. Dr. Malcolm Johnson

Diary Of A Gay Priest

The Tightrope Walker

Rev. Dr. Malcolm Johnson

Gay Disciple, The by John Henson

Gay Disciple, The

Jesus' friends tells it their own way

John Henson

Windsor Report by Jonathan Clatworthy

Windsor Report

Jonathan Clatworthy

Life in Paradox by Paul Edward Murray

Life in Paradox

The Story of a Gay Catholic Priest

Paul Edward Murray

Meeting Evil with Mercy by Philip Pegler

Meeting Evil with Mercy

An Anglican priest's bold answer to atrocity - reflections upon the ministry of Martin Israel

Philip Pegler

Honest Life, An by Geoffrey Hooper

Honest Life, An

Faithful and Gay

Geoffrey Hooper

In Just Three Years by Canon David Jennings

In Just Three Years

Pentecost 1549 to All Saints' 1552 - A Tale of Two Prayer Books

Canon David Jennings