What I’m reading: Peter Walker

What I’m reading: Peter Walker

Every month, one of United Theological College’s faculty members will provide Insights with a list of books they have recently read. This month, UTC’s Principal, Dr Peter Walker provides his list.

A New Church and a New Seminary: Theological Education is the Solution

David McAllister-Wilson, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2018)

McAllister-Wilson heads Wesley Seminary in Washington DC, one of thirteen United Methodist Church seminaries in the US, a denomination similar in many ways to the UCA. This is a harvest of wisdom drawn from his 20 years in that role. McAllister-Wilson is convinced there are two groups that will have greatest influence over the future of his denomination – its elected leaders and its seminaries.

What is needed of denominational leaders? Embrace disruptive innovations, learn again that church is not only about ‘believing things’ but also ‘proclaiming things’, and deploy underutilised property resources for mission. And the seminaries? Model a ‘culture of call’ for the whole church, uphold the highest standards of education, and seek flexibility in ministry formation processes. 

Key quote: ‘Given the intellectual and moral challenges of our time, do we think we require fewer well-educated pastors?’

Who’s Minding the Story? The United Church of Canada Meets a Secular Age

Jeff Seaton, (Eugene OR: Pickwick, 2018)

Seaton is an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada, an ecumenical union similar to the UCA. Reading this book is like looking into a UCC mirror and finding the UCA looking back at you. He describes the decline of congregations, the emergence of ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ identity groups, and asks how engagement with modernity and secularisation has changed the denomination. If the UCC’s future is at risk, Seaton argues it is their own doing.

The denomination enthusiastically embraced a central message of the secular theologies of the 1960’s, that the church needed to get out into the world, connect with community culture, find common ground, and emphasise shared values. This was good mission, and became a strength. Yet the strength has now become a weakness. To set aside the gospel message, our ‘Story’, in order to be ‘relevant’, is to lose touch with the church’s identity and calling. The key quote is the title: ‘Who’s minding the story?’

An Ecological Theology of Liberation: Salvation and Political Ecology

Daniel P. Castillo, (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2019)

Castillo’s is a powerful contribution to the growing body of theological work on human-induced climate change. The strengths of this book are its engagement with Genesis 1-4, dialogues with Gustavo Gutierrez and Pope Francis, the concept of church communities as a sacrament of human and ecological salvation, the author’s liberationist theological heart, and the concept of humans as ‘gardeners’ within creation.

The result is an ecological theology that unites the love of God, neighbour, and Earth, calling ecclesial communities to embrace each of these loves as a vital theme in the story of salvation.

Key quote: ‘Jesus is the one who saves the world – that is, the soil and all that comes from the soil.’

These books are now available at Camden Theological Library.

Dr Peter Walker is Principal of the United Theological College and teaches in the areas of systematic and historical theology.  His recent research has focused on the theology of Nicolas of Cusa and theologies of Christian-Muslim engagement. 

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