Power and the Church: Ecclesiology in an Age of Transition

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Power and the Church: Ecclesiology in an Age of Transition

  1. Review

    Because I was scheduled to have lunch with him in Sheffield, I read Martyn Percy’s latest book. I admit that I had a little trouble getting into it. Percy follows the usual protocols expected in a scholarly work: lots of footnotes and quotes acknowledging the work of other scholars. As I made my way into the contents, however, I discovered such a wealth of insight that I wanted to pass along a few gems as a way of enticing people to find and read the book. (If your local book seller has trouble locating a copy, try Martin Rowe, Cassell, 370 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10017-6550; 212-953-8585; fax: 212- 953-5944; e-mail contin@tiac.net.)On the ministry of healingThe overwhelming focus of Jesus’ ministry lay with the poor, unknown and excluded of his day. So, the healings themselves can be seen as activity which characterizes the love of God for the forsaken and damned, especially those who are victims of religious, moral and societal exclusion. This love even extends to including those of other faiths, with no conditions attached; nobody becomes a Christian in the Gospels, or is compelled to believe anything, because of a miracle. page 30On being an ambassador for ChristTypically, a community or person sent an ambassador in circumstances of weakness, dependence or vulnerability. Ambassadors were often dispensable people, who in many cases had to extol a brief that simultaneously made them expendable and integral. Essentially, ambassadors were supplicants — even though often they were people of high standing in the communities from which they came. . . Paul’s choice of the metaphor of ambassador precisely illustrates his understanding of his power — and weakness — as an apostle of Christ . . . It illustrates that at its heart, his task was to appeal, to supplicate, to beg, and to entreat. page 47On ministerial formationIt is enormously difficult to grasp that true strength and power may be seen in voluntary self-limitation and that where many would see only human weakness, others would see an entry-point for divine power. Ministerial formation must teach that models of ministry based on the exercise of power which compels, punishes and bullies, actually distort and pervert the gospel and eclipse the life and presence of God. page 55On violenceFundamentalists seek to concentrate their power in the world in order to verify their beliefs. Sometimes that concentration of power needs to be measured or demonstrated by testing the implements of violence. Most commonly this is done spiritually and not physically. Rhetoric that encompasses images such as the ‘tools of spiritual warfare’ found in Christian Charismatic communities, or the weapons of truth (sword, helmet, shield, etc.) found in other religious groups are good examples . . . If their power is in any way dissipated or threatened, they will not love, forgive or discuss: they will most likely fight, and, if necessary, die for their faith, taking others with them. page 95On the exchange theory of religious revivalsThe turbulence and displacement of frontier life in the early nineteenth century appears to have encouraged community camp meetings that indulged in religious fervour and enthusiasm in response to preaching. . . Like the present revivalist conferences, these meetings lasted for days at a time, with the organizers knowing that, within reason, the more believers had to travel and sacrifice of themselves, the more rewarding the meeting was. Believers reaped what the sowed. The more they personally sacrifice in worship, the more they perceive they will be blessed. Abrogation of rationality leads to acquisition of spirituality page 114On eroticism in enthusiastic religionThose who inhabit the world of contemporary Christian revivalism would naturally wish to claim that their religion is not of the same spirit (as that of Dionysus) in spite of worship songs that encourage believers to imagine the kisses of Christ’s mouth, a God who takes, comes, and consumes, and believers who melt, and are moulded and pass out in ecstatic desire. And then added to this, the ecstatic cries of a revivalist gatherings, the body language of believers, and the social and theological stress on intimacy. Even so, many in revivalism would be appalled at the suggestion that their religion involved eroticism, sublimated or otherwise. pages143-144

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