Sunday, 1 July 2018

Book Review: A Genuinely Theological Church

Here's a book review that I wrote for the July issue of Crosslight.  Now that the paper has been distributed, here it is on my blog as well.


Geoff Thompson, A Genuinely Theological Church:  ministry, theology and the Uniting Church, Reservoir:  Uniting Academic Press, 2018.

reviewed by Bob Faser.

I hope you didn’t groan when you saw the title of Geoff Thompson’s book, A Genuinely Theological Church.  I’m afraid that “theology” has become a bit of a “dirty word” in some sections of the Uniting Church. 

In some UCA circles, whenever the “T-word” (theology) is mentioned, it’s common to see many people looking rather tense, as if they assume an all-in brawl will soon follow.  Thinking of the theological brawls our church has experienced over the decades since Union, particularly over “the Four Bs” (Baptism, Bishops, Biblical Interpretation, and Bedroom Ethics), this tension is understandable.

At the very least, Dr. Thompson has given us a book with a provocative title.

This book has had its genesis in some recent changes in the education, training, and formation for the UCA’s specified ministries (ordained and otherwise), to the extent where some Synods are now operating according to significantly different models of ministry formation than others. 

In examining this situation, Dr. Thompson has broken two persistent taboos within the UCA that have long needed to be broken. 

·        The first is the taboo against admitting that the ethos of the UCA varies according to the region of Australia in which we happen to be located. 

·        The second is the taboo against admitting that whichever of the UCA’s parent churches with which we identify (if any) still has a profound impact on our understanding of the UCA (and of the Christian faith more generally). 

By breaking both of these taboos, Geoff Thompson has done us all a service.

Dr. Thompson continues with an exploration of the theological vocation of the UCA in a cultural context he describes as “post-secular”, “post-liberal”, “post-colonial”, and (drawing on contemporary politics) “post-truth”.  He concludes with a consideration of ministry education in a “post-Christendom” age.

This is a brief book, but an important one.

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