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Ecclesial Reconstruction, Theological Conservation

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The Strange Exclusion of Critical Theological Reflection from Popular Strategies for the Renewal of the Church in Britain

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Recent thinking and writing about the regeneration of the churches in Britain is almost always devoted to ways and means: patterns of ministry, styles of worship, methods of communication and models of mission. These contemporary approaches envisage a renewal of the churches that seemingly leaves theology untouched. This article mounts a critique of this strategy of ‘ecclesial reconstruction’ plus ‘theological conservation’ as short-sighted and overly narrow in focus. The situation contrasts with the ‘radical theology’ of the 1960s, in which it was assumed that ecclesial and theological reconstruction go together. The article asks why things are so different today. It considers a possible sociological account of this state of affairs, but argues against it, drawing on sociological and ecclesiological factors to build a case instead for the vital importance of hospitality towards critical and exploratory theological thinking in all initiatives for the reconstruction and renewal of the churches.

Affiliations: 1: Principal Lecturer and Head of Programme, Theology & Ministry and Chaplaincy, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York yo31 7ex, UK,


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