The Christian World: A Global History, Martin Marty (2007)
Marty provides a sufficient overview about the global development of Christianity by focusing geographically on specific areas within specific eras. Because he is trying to cover so much material though, there is much that is either glossed over or presented very simplistically. However, this will provide an excellent introduction to seeing Christian history as a global series of events rather than along a westernized trajectory that goes from Jerusalem to Rome to Western Europe to the United States. My hope is that the reader would find bits that intrigue them that lead them to further research and appreciation.
Disciples: Who We Are and What Holds Us Together, Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn (2019)
I wanted this book to be so much more, but I think that that is a reflection on how I want the Disciples of Christ to be so much more. While it does sufficiently address the history and methodologies from our Restoration Movement heritage, the book is quite descriptive rather than prescriptive for how our unique fellowship of faith communities will live into the future and the distinctive place that we have in the religious landscape.
The #MeToo Reckoning: Facing the Church’s Complicity in Sexual Abuse and Misconduct, Ruth Everhart (2020)
Everhart’s book responds to the rising awareness of sexual misconduct and a paradigm shift in regards to patriarchy and the silencing of victims (#metoo).
The book is not a sociological exploration or explanation of sexual abuse. It is not a risk-management guide for congregations (although there is a useful chapter on what churches can do to improve). It is not an appeal for women to be more chaste and men to be more chivalrous. It is an unflinching look at a pervasive and detestable virus that inhabits the Church and must be addressed compassionately (for its many victims) and uncompromisingly (for its many perpetrators). By presenting this epidemic with clarity, biblical fidelity, and relational storytelling, Everhart delivers a necessary balm for a problem that has been misdiagnosed and maltreated in the Church for too long.
The God Who Trusts: A Relational Theology of Divine Faith, Hope, and Love, Wm. Curtis Holtzen (2019)
Holtzen sets forth a proactive argument for an understanding of the Divine character as being one who essentially trusts as a necessary component of humanity’s free will and God’s loving orientation. While it does include philosophical logic, it is written in a way that is compelling and inviting to non-academics. This book will raise more questions about unexamined assumptions we have about the divine but also names things and describes ideas that many of us may think but haven’t been able to express. As a deliberate attempt to conceptualize the divine positively rather than apophatically, it speaks to the heart of many pastoral theological conversations.
(Disclosure: The author and I are colleagues together and the book was provided by the publisher for a fair and honest review.)
The Heart is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality, WIlliam Sloane Coffin (1999)
We are reading this for a study at church and the collection of essays from Coffin could just as easily be written today as they were 20 years ago. He covers secularism, politics, homophobia, the authority of the Bible, self-righteousness, nationalism, war and violence, civility in democracy, and multiculturalism. Coffin was the chaplain of Yale University for nearly two decades and brings a level of thoughtful reflection to subjects that typically generate reactionary voices.
Jesus and the Disinherited, Howard Thurman (1949)
After seeing this book referred to probably a dozen times, I finally had a chance to read it myself. At just over 100 pages, it should be required reading for all Christians as a cup of coffee after the spiritual hangover of nationalism and white supremacy. Particularly for American and Christian traditions that would see post-WW2 life as an idyllic state, Thurman writes in 1949 of a liberative spirituality that stands in opposition to the oppression and violence that accompanies systemic injustice and poverty. 70 years later, Thurman’s vision of the power of the gospel has not waned.
Loving Your Community: Proven Practices for Community-Based Outreach Ministry, Stephen Viars (2020)
This is one of my books to review this month for Baker Books and, while I find myself disagreeing with a lot of his theological motivations, it is a helpful reminder about some of the process that is the same. Important directions like listening to your community, taking risks to develop relationships, praying over your process, etc. I haven’t written my review yet because I’ve been busy with some other things.
Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, Lesslie Newbigen (2003)
Lesslie Newbigin’s other books were a big influence on me early on and this book, which is an edited version of lectures he gave in 1941 under the title The Kingdom of God and the Idea of Progress, fit into some of my thinking at the moment about how to describe what a progressive faith looks like. He has an interesting anecdote in the beginning about the irony that he is speaking about religion in Bangalore, which is full of religious practice and diversity, yet his background is from England which at the time was already beginning its decline in religious participation. This contrast between his experiences in India and missiological reflection upon England and the West are dominant themes in his other writings.
We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation, Brian McLaren (2014)
I have only begun this one, as it is designed to be a paced read. It aligns with certain church liturgical calendars and provides 52 corresponding sermons. From the few chapters/homilies I have read, McLaren’s imaginative language invites the reader to linger in a text and find new depths of meaning and inspiration.