In this article from the summer 2020 edition of Churchman, Mark Earngey examines previous responses from the church in times of plague and draws out some reflections for today's world.
It was unprecedented. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before the outbreak of plague in China, spread over the seas to wreak havoc in Italy, and from there, spread like wildfire throughout the whole of Europe. No, this is not COVID-19. Rather it was the infamous wave of Bubonic plague that hounded humanity in the fourteenth century. Known as the “Black Death,” probably due to the black spots it produced on skin, this pestilence killed around a third of the population between India and Iceland during the years 1345 to 1352 alone. Indeed, in the second half of the fourteenth century around half the population of England perished due to this plague. To put that into perspective, as a proportion of the total population of Europe, this wave of the plague killed more people than all the wars of the twentieth century combined. Not only was it an effective killer, but it was a rapid killer—death ensued around three days after the appearance of symptoms. The disease struck with such terrible speed, that the Italian humanist Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) remarked,
“How many gallant gentlemen, fair ladies, and sprightly youths, who would have been judged hale and hearty by Galen, Hippocrates and Aesculapius (to say nothing of others), having breakfasted in the morning with their kinsfolk, acquaintances and friends, supped that same evening with their ancestors in the next world!”
As we grapple with the catastrophe of COVID-19, it helps to understand something of the history of plagues. In a matter of months our lives have turned upside down (and antipodeans like me have mercifully been spared a great deal of suffering). As individuals face isolation and churches face complex challenges, it can be comforting to hear how Christians have responded to epidemics and pandemics throughout history. This is, of course, why various social media threads, blogposts, and online articles have turned to historical precedents pertaining to pestilence—often from the Reformation period—in order to gain some perspective on the present.
Lee Gatiss asks this question in a talk recorded earlier this summer for All Saints' Church, Belfast.
In this encouraging and challenging talk, Lee Gatiss reminds us that while the Bible is precious and sweet, nevertheless its life-changing words are threatening to much of what the world holds dear. He invites us to embrace that danger and trust our lives to it.
The new name and the renewed vision for Church Society’s long-established theological journal were launched last week with a live event on our Facebook page, featuring bishops from three continents! Lee Gatiss and Ros Clarke were joined by the journal’s editor, Peter Jensen, from Sydney as well as two of the journal’s team of global consultants, Bishop Alfred Olwa from Uganda and Bishop Sammy Morrison from Chile.
The conversation included a discussion about the importance of the global Anglican communion, and the need for more theological education and research, with questions coming in from those who watched live. We ended with a time of prayer for the church and for the world.
The Global Anglican is the new name for Church Society's quarterly theological journal.
We are thrilled to announce the new name and the new vision for Church Society’s theological journal:
The Global Anglican is a theological journal committed to publishing international scholarship that speaks to the pastoral needs of the contemporary church. The journal will continue in the long tradition of The Churchman, as it was known when it was established in 1879, and more recently as Churchman.
The launch issue of The Global Anglican demonstrates the journal’s commitment to increasing the range of global voices and global themes within its pages:
• Foreman Nedison, Bishop of Jalingo (Nigeria), describes the role of missionary bishops in growing the church in Nigeria.
• Samson M. Mwaluda, former Bishop of Taita Taveta (Kenya, 1993–2016), writes about equipping bishops for ministry around the world.
• Mark D. Thompson, Principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, offers a plea for principled theological education.
• Other contributors include bishops from Uganda and Chile, as well as scholars, ministers, students and others from the UK and elsewhere.
The 2021 Global Anglican Essay Prize is announced.
Church Society are delighted to announce this essay competition in conjunction with The Global Anglican theological journal.
The prize is designed to encourage new evangelical authors from the worldwide Anglican communion. The winner will receive £250 and the winning essay will be published in The Global Anglican. Essays should be 5-7,000 words in length, including footnotes, and may be from any theological discipline and on any subject, but must be in accordance with the aims of The Global Anglican as described below. The deadline for submissions is 1 October 2021.
Andrew Towner reviews John Stevens' book on resisting temptation.
John Stevens has served us most helpfully here in distinguishing between temptation and sin. This enables Christians to be equipped for the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, whilst also encouraging us that every resisted temptation is an enjoyment of victorious Christian life. Those truths are easy to write, but are each worth dwelling on, and in this book they are carefully distilled from the Bible, with many pastoral applications. In particular, Christians are encouraged not to feel guilty about being tempted: temptation is normal, and it is not sinful to be tempted. Careful Biblical and real-life examples are given to clarify and earth this, and believers are encouraged to be less depressed by our temptations (frustrating and wearying as they are) and to rejoice at seeing more of God’s work in our lives (slower than we would like, of course) as we note many ungratified temptations.
Church Society's theological journal is to be relaunched in September 2020
Church Society is relaunching its theological journal with a new name and a new vision for the global Anglican church in the 21st century.
Join us for a LIVE event on the Church Society Facebook page at 11am on September 1st when the new name and new vision for the journal will be announced. Please check here for your local time.
The conversation will include the journal’s editor, Peter Jensen, as well as Bishops Alfred Olwa and Samuel Morrison from Uganda and Chile, respectively. There will be chance to pray for the global Anglican communion, participate in the Q&A, and even win a year’s subscription to the journal.
James Hughes considers whether and how we should be concerned for ministry outside our parish boundaries in this article from a 2016 edition of Crossway.
Over the years I’ve read many articles and books, and have heard a good number of talks, about doing church. Many of them have been very good and helpful. But they all tend to focus on the local church, on what happens in my church where I am. I imagine your experience is not so far away from mine; when we hear from God’s word we focus on what it means to us, here.
But if we’re not careful, then we can get the impression that the work of doing church is only what we do locally. We might get involved – perhaps with a heavy heart – in stuff beyond the parish, but in doing so we are leaving the real work of the gospel behind. It’s a duty, not a joy. However, I think the New Testament tells us that we should be concerned with what happens outside our local church. I believe there are lots of passages which indicate this. One of them is 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12.
In this extract from his chapter in 'Feed My Sheep', Tim Ward considers the impact that social class has had on evangelical preaching in the UK.
In his book A History of Preaching, the historian Edwin Charles Dargan, makes the following judgment of Anglican preaching in the nineteenth century:
Broadly speaking…there was too much stateliness, precision, carefully worked out elegance or the attempt at it. There was want of flexibility, familiarity, humanness. The discourse was too aloof from life, however high it might soar in thought and feeling.
This reality was of course due to a complex web of factors. One, however, seems significant, and remains so for us because it still holds today, at least in part. That is the fact that the ranks of Anglican clergy tend to be drawn disproportionately from those of higher social classes and those educated at a certain group of universities which are regarded as the distinguished ones – and this more so than would be true of nonconformist pastors.
This is probably less marked than it once was, especially among younger generations. But I think a good case can be made that it still often holds true, especially among those who hold positions of senior and national leadership.