by Stephen Burns & Bryan Cones (eds.)
The subtitle of this collection of essays is ‘Beyond Inclusion in the Christian Assembly’, a phrase which immediately sets a challenge and moves the reader into potentially tricky territory. As the editors note, the concept of ‘inclusion’, so widely embraced by the churches, is nonetheless ‘occluded’ in many congregations because the regular liturgical system is either dominated by men or reflects a patriarchal theology. In other words, a general commitment to diversity may often represent lip service. Although some Christian churches have found ways of acknowledging ‘the graced dignity of human variety’, the norm may still be exclusive. These essays are generally well-written and accessible, although some have too much academic jargon. They cover a plethora of issues: leadership and gender; questions of culture and language; and issues of mission and interfaith dialogue. They comprise in essence an international debate on urgent questions for the Christian church, and how diversity can truly be reflected in worship and mission. It is, however, difficult to envisage that the technicality of these debates will have substantial impact on many traditionally-minded congregations. Nonetheless, the book could provide some useful reading for those training for Christian leadership, with special emphasis on leading worship.
SCM £30 pbk 2019