RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Different Way, A
    Roger Payne
    There is an urgent need for more debate and discussion in our churches
    because the integrity and credibility of our faith is at risk [ ... ] We need to
    engage more actively at the intellectual level and to be willing to examine
    the fundamentals of our faith more critically. And such discussion must
    start with a human rather than a divine perspective.

    So states the back cover of this book, and the first few chapters make the case clearly and strongly. Churches often claim that certainty is a virtue and doubt is a sin. Instead, we need more debate. Too many church leaders stifle it. Few churches are intellectually stimulating. In approaching the divine, the starting-point must be the human because this is what we are.

    After these introductory chapters, the bulk of the book consists of short chapters on a variety of virtues, beginning with the seven traditional Christian ones and then adding others such as goodness, truth, beauty and mystery. Payne writes with an easy touch. There is no theological jargon. There are lots of fascinating short stories, and biblical stories woven in with them. The language is gender-exclusive.

    It is a book for Christians seeking to get away from negative and other- worldly versions of Christianity and instead integrate their faith with a positive approach to life. Given how successfully hard line dogmatists have dominated the airwaves in recent decades, we need more such books offering open and creative approaches to faith.

    Weaknesses? Most of the chapters describe their respective virtue attractively but, given the promise in the subtitle, say little or nothing about approaching the divine through it. A short section about God offers a good, though brief, account of what we can and cannot know of God, and the problem of holding together both transcendence and immanence (pp. 39-40). This is then followed by a brief resume of the theologies of John Robinson, Paul Tillich, Don Cupitt and Jack Spong, leaving the impression that they were all saying much the same thing. The common theme, we are told, is 'that we need to see God as a subjective not an objective reality' (p. 46). Yet Payne soon bounces back from the subjectivism, telling us, for example, that 'God does not invest in man for himself but to enable him to extend that investment to others. And so man is not only not man without God, but is not man without man' (p. 73).

    Readers of Modern Believing looking for a human approach to the divine may be disappointed. The book works better as a work of popular ethics for Christians who do not want to get into theological detail but who want an encouraging, non-dogmatic and readable account of what it means to live a Christian life. At a time when so many church leaders are agonising over declining numbers and wondering how to persuade more people to attend church services, here is someone who gets straight to the point and offers a more positive account of Christian living. ~ Jonathan Clatworthy, Modern Believing: The Journal of Theological Liberalism Volume 58 Issue 2 2017

  • Death of the Church and Spirituality Reborn, The
    Reverend John
    This is an unusual text from an Anglican priest identified on the cover as ‘Reverend John’. The title indicates the extensive ground
    covered. It is an easy read, with short chapters of only a few pages; the extent of the ground covered means few ideas are developed and the reader is left breathless. The book examines first the state of the Church, focusing on the Church of England rather than the wider world Church. He sees the Church as no longer relevant and suggests its future death stems from its failure to speak on spiritual matters, in particular about life after death. From this dying Church spirituality must be reborn.

    In the second part he introduces a variety of alternative spiritualities exploring the Kabala, psychic phenomena and other approaches to spirituality. The reader is led into the esoteric world as he urges that psychic abilities, including dowsing and magic, should be fostered. He advocates meditation but with no reference to its Christian forms, such as the groups linked with the World Community for Christian Meditation. His focus is on individual spiritual development and says little about how this might lead to engagement with the wider world. ‘Belief systems do not control the subconscious’ which is where, he says, religious symbols belong. Throughout he refers only to the subconscious, and doesn’t explain how he defines this, or how it relates to what analysts and therapists refer to as the pre-conscious and unconscious. ~ Peter Varney, Progressive Christianity Network, issue 21, June 2017

  • Heart of Oneness
    Jennifer Kavanagh

    "A wise and welcome reminder of the mutuality and interconnectedness
    at the heart of the universe." ~ Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    Jennifer Kavanagh is a Quaker and a retreat leader. In this little book she writes from her own experience, but also draws on the works of well-known spiritual writers, Julian of Norwich, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, and Evelyn Underhill to mention a few.
    She points out that Homo sapiens means 'wise man' not 'Homo omnisciens', 'man all knowing'. However we often behave as if we are the latter when really we are the former. She explores what it is to 'know', in the sense of know someone. Can we really say that we fully know anyone, even a life partner or close friend ? If we cannot say that, how can we say that we 'know' God?
    She then takes the reader through a series of interlinked chapters to show a way of 'unknowing'. I think many Julians, as I did, would find this a helpful and encouraging book, as we try to 'be still and know'. ~ Anne Stamper, The Julian Meetings magazine, April 2017 issue

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    If you have not read the Quaker writer, Jennifer Kavanagh, then you must. In all her previous books she displays such wisdom and spiritual insight and ‘A little book of Unknowing’ is no exception. Literally a little book of only 56 pages it is easily read, but don’t be put off by the size in the thought that it cannot contain much - it is full of insightful gems. Kavanagh will always push the boundaries of our spiritual assumptions and expectations and challenge our long held certainties.
    This short book looks at how we can let go of our knowing and our certainties and in so doing have a fuller spiritual life. It is a book that is written for anyone who is exploring their spirituality; in true Quaker style it is totally and refreshingly inclusive.
    There are lots of quotes from spiritual writers which provide all sorts of connections that can be followed up and cross referenced. The opening quote in the book invites you in; “help me to be quiet, to sit here...slowly unknowing everything, becoming dark, becoming yielding, just sitting.” Gunilla Norris. It is described as a ‘little book about a particular way of being in the world’, I found myself excited by the concept of unknowing and wanting to explore it more. A great read.

    ~ , Magnet magazine

  • Authority of Service and Love, The
    Roger Payne
    Praise for Roger Payne's previous title from Christian Alternative:
    A Different Way: A Human Approach to the Divine is extremely readable and offers much to those who are engaging with and exploring personal and corporate faith more critically... it will have a place on my book shelf and it will be recommended often! ~ Rev. John Churcher, Progressive Christianity Network

  • Sing Out for Justice
    Ray Vincent
    Ray Vincent is a master of his brief with a deep knowledge and understanding of the prophets. Not only will we want to look again at the original texts but he brings them to life and ignites our imagination making them relevant for us today. This is an exciting book that at times embraces us and carries us along at a speed that is worthy not only of a scholar but of an award winning novelist! ~ The Revd Lord Roger Roberts of Llandudno

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    With characteristic scholarship, clarity and humanity, Jonathan Clatworthy holds together the rational and the religious and seeks a synthesis. A thoughtful, accessible and hopeful book for our times. ~ Guy Elsmore, Archdeacon of Buckingham

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    The 21st century is not working out so well and this provides the justification for an essay in natural theology. In this remarkable book—sharp but never polemical—Jonathan Clatworthy addresses theism’s cultured despisers and offers a defence of the public force of theism and the moral ‘necessity’ of God. This book will annoy some and intrigue others—but should be read by all. ~ Peter Scott, Samuel Ferguson Professor of Applied Theology, University of Manchester

  • Meeting Evil with Mercy
    Philip Pegler
    This compelling portrait of Martin Israel's life as a priest, surgeon and counsellor by Philip Pegler is not only beautifully written, but it burns with an empathy and wisdom that is tangible. In the nature of so many world teachers, Israel didn't have an easy beginning to life as his parents, particularly his father, had little time or patience with him. This sense of rejection, together with his early background living in Johannesburg eclipsed by its uncomfortable apartheid regime, must have precipitated his passage into a spiritual ministry.. Despite Israel's depressive breakdowns and despair which were steadily eroding his sense of self, all this served to inform his work as a minister.... Philip Pegler, no stranger to psychiatric problems himself in his younger days, has a genuine empathy with Israel's life which is distinct... yet at all times remains very much in the background of the work. Tirelessly, Israel utilises his own experience of 'Dark Nights' to fashion a light to shine and bring insight to others in their personal and collective struggles. We learn from the author just how courageous this priest was to work so closely with the crushing difficulties we confront throughout our life... Israel never undermines the power and importance of the potential of dark arid times to birth light. In this Israel holds a candle to all that we fear and shows us the way forward. And, that way comes through honesty, forgiveness and love. The thing that stands out more than anything is the intrinsic value of uncertainty, loss, doubt and depression to bring insight to our often inexorable problems... ~ Stephanie Sorrell, New Vision

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    In a long and distinguished ministry, Jonathan has interpreted the Christian faith sensitively and wisely to those with liberal and progressive views. This book distils his thinking and teaching in ways that will help any sincere and open-minded seeker after truth. It is the fruit of a lifetime's discipleship, of a lifetime's rigorous honesty and of a lifetime’s prayer. I commend it warmly. ~ Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    At a time when economic, social and environmental crises loom large, and authoritarian Right-wing leaders appear to be in the ascendancy, the future looks particularly bleak. But Jonathan offers hope not just that a better society is possible, but that by working together progressives can achieve it. ~ Jonathan Bartley, Co-leader, Green Party of England and Wales

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    Well worth reading and benefiting from its Wisdom

    Jennifer Kavanagh has produced a gem here and I am very glad I purchased it. Anyone interested in the contemplative lifestyle would find this helpful. ~ Ann Taylor, Amazon

  • Little Book of Unknowing, A
    Jennifer Kavanagh
    Marvellous.

    Not as wonderful as meeting and chatting with Jennifer in person, but pretty impressive all the same. She continues in her books to nourish both the spirit and the ever inquisitive mind with ease and panache. So many of the insights ring true. Highly recommended. ~ simon, Amazon

  • Meeting Evil with Mercy
    Philip Pegler
    Small Outing with Big Result - Woolbeding Concert and book reading

    The 17th September saw me peddling precariously to All Hallows along the back road from Easebourne to a special afternoon event, not knowing quite what to expect. On arrival there was just a handful of people in the church, but as time passed more members of the community arrived.
    The whole experience was both profound and delightful. The music chosen was performed by two highly professional and wonderful musicians and suitably complemented the readings from Philip Pegler's 'Meeting Evil with Mercy'. Having read the book, it was not difficult to become absorbed by the proceedings and appreciate the messages contained with the writings.
    The afternoon proved to be an unexpected delight. Thank you to all concerned. ~ Jean Hicks, Envoy - Midhurst and Woolbeding Parish Magazine

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    In this thought-provoking and timely book, Jonathan Clatworthy makes the case for a reasoned and reasonable faith in a world that is both troubled and fascinated by religion. ~ Elaine Graham, Grosvenor Research Professor of Practical Theology, University of Chester

  • Sing Out for Justice
    Ray Vincent
    The Old Testament prophets are little read and poorly understood, yet we need their teaching for the 21st century. Ray Vincent introduces them with a story-teller's eye and shares their heart for justice. ~ Dr Tim Bulkeley, Honorary Lecturer in Theology, University of Auckland

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    Jonathan Clatworthy argues that belief in God can provide a better foundation for ethics than a wholly secular approach can. The argument is developed through careful historical study of how such beliefs have evolved and presupposes the importance of a liberal and non dogmatic understanding of religious beliefs. ~ Paul Badham, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Wales, Lampeter

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    In this extraordinarily wide-ranging study, Jonathan Clatworthy presents the case that ethics, taken seriously, requires monotheism as its foundation. He surveys various kinds of theism and atheism, and shows that monotheism makes more sense of the world than any variety of secularism. A challenging and important book, accessible to anyone interested in ultimate questions. ~ John Barton, Oriel & Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture (Emeritus), University of Oxford

  • Why Progressives Need God
    Jonathan Clatworthy
    A clear and thoughtful defence of Christianity, liberalism and progress – at a time when all are under threat. ~ Linda Woodhead, Professor of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University

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