Author Rowan Williams
Publisher SPCK £12.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9780281082957

This new offering from the prolific pen of our former archbishop provides twenty insights into the lives of Christians who have made important impacts through history. These vignettes or essays are not strictly biographical. Rather, they focus on how the individuals set out to decipher Christianity within the context or the culture of their times. Thus, they are luminaries as well as leaders; they help us make sense of a perplexing world. Williams’ choice is interesting – from St Paul to Oscar Romero, the late 20th century martyr. Augustine of Hippo and Augustine of Canterbury – two contrasting saints – are included; Cranmer and Tyndale represent the time of Reformation; and for the 19th century, Williams has chosen William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale and, surprisingly perhaps, Charles Dickens. Michael Ramsey and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are solid and predictable 20th century luminaries. Collectively, this is an excellent anthology of lives, a book that takes the reader beyond biographical facts into the territory of theological reflection. Like each luminary he has selected, Williams shows the light of the gospel within the complexity of human life.




Batting for the Poor

Batting for the Poor

Author Andrew Bradstock
Publisher SPCK £19.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9780281081059

This fine book is the authorised biography of David Sheppard (1929-2005), England test cricketer and Anglican bishop. After his evangelical conversion at Cambridge, Sheppard gradually realised his true vocation and retired from cricket, at the height of his fame and fortune, to seek ordination. He served with distinction in the deprived inner areas of London before appointment as Bishop of Woolwich in 1969 and Liverpool in 1975. As a priest he consistently preached and practised the social gospel and his books, Bias to the Poor and Built as a City, bear testimony to his concern for urban priority areas. He was the guiding influence behind the famous ‘Faith in the City’ report which drew the ire of Mrs Thatcher and her government. At Liverpool, his partnership with Archbishop Derek Warlock was a model of modern ecumenism which has seldom been matched. This detailed and well-researched biography provides a succinct history of the Anglican church in the late 20th century but, more significantly, provides a readable and attractive portrait of a sporting and Christian hero – an example for our age. It is highly recommended.



Advent, Nativity


Out of the Whirlwind

Out of the Whirlwind

Author Adrian Roberts
Publisher Sacristy £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781789590678

Subtitled ‘Innocent pain as a challenge to God’, this book starts with a brief outline of the book of Job. The first chapter describes the author sitting with his very sick and much-loved son who is dying from uncontrollable seizures in a hospital ward. Hal suffered from severe brain damage whilst still in the womb and whilst he can drink and chew food, he communicates only non-verbally with his loving carers who do everything else for him. The opening pages tell of the impact on the author of Hal’s arrival in the family, then moves to discuss in depth how God came to create a world where some inhabitants face the possibility of inconsolable distress. This philosophical/ theological issue is addressed with clarity and depth. The thinking is rigorous, the language is non-technical, and the weighty end-notes give thoughtful summaries of philosophers from Aristotle to CS Lewis. This academic philosophy is followed by a heart-stopping dream (from Hal’s bedside) reflecting Job’s vision of God in the whirlwind, as the author draws together his search for a loving God in a created order given free will and prone to sin. A powerful read!


Theodicy, Old Testament Analysis (Job)


Michael Green by his friends  

Michael Green
by his friends

Author Julia Cameron (ed.)
Publisher IVP £16.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781789741148

Michael Green, who died last year, was a man of rare gifts. An evangelist, a scholar, a priest, a writer of apologetics and a leader in Anglican charismatic renewal, his influence, like that of his contemporaries David Watson and John Stott, has helped to change the church. This collection of essays takes us through all of his life, illustrating how being a faithful minister was costly to him and his family. He was a man who was infectious in his love for his Lord, giving out copies of his evangelistic books as he lay in hospital in his final weeks. The influence he had on evangelists was impressive – he wanted evangelism to appeal to both the head and the heart. He was a mentor to Britain’s best known evangelist, J John, who writes movingly about Green’s influence on his life in the foreword. Green was a man of great contradictions – humble, yet sometimes so determined that he did not fully listen to the concerns of others.  True saints often do have clay feet but, if they are obedient to their Lord, they can achieve much in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Biographical Tributes


Preaching Women

Preaching Women

Author Liz Shercliff
Publisher SCM £16.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334058380

An ambitious book – asserting that (and why) women preachers need to find their voices as women, and how to go about it. It also includes a chapter on hermeneutics, one on hearing Bible women, a method of how to construct a sermon, sermon excerpts and questions for reflection, all in 168 pages. Much of it, e.g. the contention that women preachers are heard differently by virtue of their gender, and its implications, I found convincing; we do need a book (or more) on women preachers. Some of it, e.g. the chapter on hermeneutics, read like lecture notes. I tried the ‘method’ described in the penultimate chapter, which takes as sermon sources an awareness of experience, position, culture and tradition, and it led to a useful gathering of the building blocks of my sermon. I share some of the author’s experiences of patriarchy but not others, and to get the most out of the book, it might best be read and discussed by a group of women preachers, with maybe even a man present? I dislike the cover: lots of different smiling young women and not one grey hair, which is a form of sexism in itself.


Feminism, Preaching


Unorthodox: LGBT + Identity and Faith

Unorthodox: LGBT + Identity and Faith

Author Sean Richardson (ed.)
Publisher Five Leaves £7.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781910170601

This book contains stories of fourteen people, all based in Britain, with a commitment to their own religious tradition and/or their relationship with God. They also share ‘unorthodox’ sexual or gender identities. They are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – but many prefer to describe themselves as ‘queer’ – originally an abusive term for homosexual men but now used by people about themselves to signal their acceptance of being a sexual outsider. Their religious backgrounds vary – Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish and Christian; but their stories have common themes. The struggle to accept an unorthodox nature often leads to depression and/or struggles to be ‘normal’ due to internalised hostility to queer people in their ‘orthodox’ communities. For those from ethnic minorities, racism and having a religion and culture also ‘unorthodox’ in the UK made their search for their true selves harder. And they all know that true self cannot ignore God or religion. This book tells how God does not abandon those who seek, from whatever nation, tribe, people or language – and however queer we are.




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