NEW

Letter to the Editor: Prayers for the Dead at Remembrance Services

Prayers for the Dead at Remembrance Services   Sir, Remembrance Sunday is an important and poignant landmark in our nation’s annual calendar, and a day to reflect, give thanks and pray for peace. We see church and civic life combine in silence and remembrance, as...

Evangelical Theological College of Asia

Evangelical Theological College of Asia Have you ever wondered if there was a sound reformed theological training institution in Asia?  The Evangelical Theological College of Asia is just such a school.  It is located in Singapore and its faculty are mostly from...

Prudence Dailey’s Commentary: Should Women Be Afraid of Men?

Prudence Dailey's Commentary Should Women be Afraid of Men? Recently, someone I used to work with shared on her Facebook page a link to an article from The Times magazine by the feminist writer Caitlin Moran. The substance of Ms Moran’s piece—rhetorically addressed to...

FIEC Updates Its “Values Statement”

FIEC Updates Its “Values Statement” The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches recently updated its “Values Statement.”  It is well-worth your time to read.  There are FIEC affiliated congregations in England, Scotland, and Wales.   1. God-honouring and...

Death of LENORA HAMMOND

Lenora Hammond 1960-2021 Mrs Lenora Hammond, wife of Frontline Fellowship founder Dr Peter Hammond, died on 9 November.  She was six days short of her sixty-first birthday.  Frontline Fellowship is headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. Mrs Hammond was born into a...

Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary to Retire

Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary to Retire “The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have paid tribute to the service of Caroline Boddington, who has announced she will be leaving the National Church Institutions (NCIs) at the end of 2021 after 17 years as the...

Book Review: The Lullingstone Secret

The Lullingstone Secret Jill Masters Wakeman Press, 2021 (ISBN: 9781913133115, 97pp, £5.95) Lullingstone Villa in Kent is a fascinating site to visit whatever one’s awareness of ancient history and is lavishly curated by English Heritage. Since its excavation in the...

Book Review: The Welsh Methodist Society

The Welsh Methodist Society The Early Societies in South-West Wales 1737-1750 Eryn M. White University of Wales Press, 2021 (ISBN: 9781786835796, 350pp, £24.99) In many respects, the church in Britain continues to live off the puttering afterglow of the eighteenth...

Eastern Rite Catholics: What Are They?

Eastern Rite Catholics What Are They? Former Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s recent defection to Rome has highlighted earlier efforts of the Roman Catholic Church to bring other ecclesiastical jurisdictions into its orbit.  There are a total of twenty-three which have...

The History of Christianity in Britain and Ireland

The History of Christianity in Britain and Ireland

From the first century to the twenty-first

Gerald Bray

Apollos, 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-78974-120-9, 693pp)

Throughout his long academic career Bray has ably straddled both doctrine and ecclesiastical history, so it is no surprise that the author of God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (2012) should now offer a comprehensive synoptic treatment of British church history. Without a doubt, this volume will rank as one of definitive importance not only within the author’s legacy, but among histories of Britain generally. 

The choice of setting is significant. The British Isles (which Bray very modishly describes as ‘the North Atlantic archipelago’) currently consist of five main political entities across four ‘nations’. The various twentieth century devolutions of political power from Westminster belie the complexity which always underlay the unitary and imperial British state. Bray unfolds the religious experience of each nation in both distinction and mutual tension; a feat not regularly attempted by a profession often more interested in individual national or regional accounts. Moreover, the British context is not only of local import, but of international. As the Protestant world looks back to understand its own genesis, though it may cast one eye at the northern Germanic lands, it cannot fail but to turn the other to these islands, from whence so many global denominations have sprung. 

To be successful, any work of this scope must stand atop a multitude of learned shoulders and seek to synthesise a plethora of histories. Bray achieves this with aplomb, drawing insight from Andrew Atherstone, Colin Buchanan, Owen Chadwick, Patrick Collinson, A.G. Dickens, Eamonn Duffy, Sarah Foot, William Gibson, Stephen Hampton, Bruce Hindmarsh, Jonathan Israel, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Judith Maltby, Henry Mayr-Harting, Maurice Powicke, Janina Ramirez, Nicholas Sagovsky, J.J. Scarisbrick, Peter Toon, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Carl Trueman, Nicholas Tyacke, and Nigel Yates. Bray is himself a careful archival scholar, having edited the records of convocation and written extensively on the development of church canons. This book capitalises on the best of the past two generations of such scholarship and formats it in a wonderfully accessible, pleasurably readable, and commendably faithful tome. 

Even in a book of this length, to survey two millennia of church history in a zone as exceptional as the British Isles, is demanding. Inevitably, many developments are addressed economically, though there are few which fail to receive at least a paragraph of treatment. Readers with specialist interest in particular eras may spot the glosses, but cannot fail but to be impressed by the careful and balanced manner in which they are handled.

Bray aspires to ‘help us understand who we are, where we have been, and where we may be going’. The book serves readers at many levels of attainment and interest in this regard. It may be hoped that, more than this, it may serve in the great aspiration Bray lays before us that ‘at any moment [the faith] may burst forth in glorious flame and sweep all before it’.

Edward Keene, Little Shelford

Previous

Next