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Statute of Limitations Proposed for Legacy of Troubles

Statute of Limitations Proposed for Legacy of the Troubles During the Prime Minister’s Question time on 15 July, PM Johnson announced that the government would be bringing forth a statute of limitations in regard to occurencess committed before the Good Friday...

Church of England Considering Legislation Regarding Parishes Seeking Input on Proposals

Church of England Considering Legislation Regarding Parishes Seeking Input on Proposals   Input has been requested on the proposals to change the current legislation regarding parishes within the Church of England.  The review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure...

GAFCON Australia to Support Diocese for Those Forced from Anglican Church of Australia

GAFCON Australia to Support Diocese for Those Forced from Anglican Church of Australia Gafcon Australia has outlined its plan to support Anglicans who leave the Anglican Church of Australia over doctrinal revision which overturns the plain teaching of Scripture. At an...

Church of England Evangelical Council Reacts to Unorthodox Remarks by Bp of Liverpool

Church of England Evangelical Council Reacts to Unorthodox Remarks by Bishop of Liverpool The Church of England Evangelical Council has responded to a widely criticised public address and subsequent apology made last month by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of...

Questions Out of LFF, Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir, I read the first article from Anglican Futures, regarding the document, Living In Love and Faith, [LLF] EC 8083. I found the article helpful, well presented and gives a clear overview of the document.  However, I found myself seriously disquieted and I raise...

Kenyan Bishop Appeals for Orphan Aid: Parental Deaths Due to HIV

Kenyan Bishop Appeals for Orphan Aid Parental Deaths Due to HIV  The Rt Revd John Orina Omangi, Bishop of the Kisii Missionary District in Eastern Kenya is appealing for assistance in caring for 100 children orphaned by the widespread HIV problem in the area.  Kisii...

Christianity & Craft Freemasonry, A Pastoral Guide for Christian Ministers

Christianity and Craft Freemasonry A Pastoral Guide for Christian Ministers Gerard Moate Latimer Trust, 2021 (ISBN: 9781906327705, 70pp) By 1964 a national commission of enquiry estimated the existence of 50,000 books and pamphlets on freemasonry. This literature has,...

Forgotten Reformer: Myles Coverdale

Forgotten Reformer: Miles Coverdale Geoffrey Main Self-published, 2021 (ISBN: 9781916873704, 228pp) Episcopal biographies are always an enjoyable read, not least those of bishops who are better known for their non-episcopal work. Coverdale is of course best known for...

And Just When You Thought You’d Heard Everything, Bats Communications Officer

Whilst considering reducing the number of clergy nationwide, the Church of England is advertising for someone to be employed as its, “Bats in Churches Communications Officer”.  The post, which is located in London, pays between £31,857 and £34,255 (pro rata).  The...

Pilgrim’s Proces: Baptism Depths of Meaning by Peter Sanlon

In my last column we looked at the Lord’s Supper.  Today, we take a look at the other sign our Lord Jesus instituted among us.  These signs, or sacraments, which God gives his people are both simple and profound. In their simplicity, God's grace is powerfully...

Review of: Quakers, Christ, & the Enlightenment

Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment

Madeleine Pennington

Oxford University Press, 2021 (ISBN: 978-0-19-289527-1, 242pp)

The Society of Friends may now be all but extinct, but their historical significance is vast, not least in the realm of intellectual life. It is of no little import that founding acts of the sole superpower of the past generation occurred in the Quaker capital of a Quaker state. The convictions and ethic of that curious religious group continue to find expression in American life and, thanks to its unprecedented global reach, throughout our world. It is therefore welcome to find a work which engages more seriously than perhaps any previously with the ideological development of early Quakerism, in the late seventeenth century.

Pennington’s book, a development of her doctoral thesis, immediately exposes the unorthodoxy of George Fox’s theology, including his perfectionism and reliance on claimed extra-scriptural insights. The seventeenth century theological landscape was however highly volatile and Pennington shows that Fox was merely one influence among many on later Quakers, many of whom became increasingly influenced by enlightenment rationalism following the Revolution. Indeed, early Quaker writings, characterised by metaphysical assertion became almost an embarrassment to a movement which, Pennington argues, earnestly sought ‘theological reputation’.

Theological reputation is an unusual concept but seems to stand for a sort of social acceptance. The Quakers never seriously sought comprehension within the national church in the way that the Puritan movement did, but they did recognise the importance of being considered clearly Christian. The questionable inheritance of Fox and his contemporaries made this achievement more challenging for the movement than it was for other sects. Pennington argues that the very process of winning this acceptance, and the corresponding dialogue with other denominations, drove the evolution of Quaker Christology, which in turn prompted organisational transition. 

The book struggled between two aims of, on one hand, giving ‘nonconformists intellectual agency in their own story’ and, on the other, of making a case for shifting theology driving institutional change. Pennington succeeds in the former, having evidently delved deeply in the Society of Friends archive and with a bibliography that could easily stand for a catalogue of early Quaker tracts and letters (albeit that she herself admits that the tradition is ‘messy’). On the latter count, the enquiry is too weighted toward intellectual life and too little toward organisational analysis to be entirely convincing. Nevertheless, this book is a novel perspective on Restoration era theological and philosophical discourse and a valuable addition to modern Quaker history.

Edward Keene, Little Shelford

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