The In Depth Group set up by Peter Large has been running for over 15 years now, and its current programme that could last some twenty five sessions has its origins in the 17 week project at St Mary's in 2008 when I produced some 250 historical archives for the church website, rewrote to academic standard a clergy training dissertation and wrote eight sessions of a contemporary theology course and a syllabus for 25. Now the material is being written for each month's meeting.
The task is a comprehensive review of theology, and to quote one member's response, "It certainly isn't Sunday School." The group employs a critical approach to theological issues, and after starting with a survey of theology and ethics, it spent many weeks tackling theologians who used systematic, biblical or socio-economic means to match modernity with Christianity. We then looked at Anglican controversies, starting with the first liberal crisis of Essays and Reviews (1860) and something of Charles Gore's Lux Mundi (1899), the latter trying to restore Jesus's divinity (as in the Oxford Movement) to the liberalism of these other Oxford theologians, producing something like the more open 'Affirming Catholicism' seen today. We then tackled more recent liberal Anglican and ecumenical controversies over several sessions. That leads on to some traditionalisms and reactions in the contemporary setting and then the range of theologies available today.
The object of the In Depth presentations is not to uphold any particular belief but to use critical faculties, and to simply present a paper and discuss. Being based on adult education principles, it means participants bringing their own insights and experiences to these questions, their own reading and interests, and not forgetting the social reasons why people gather in such groups.
A comment has been made that we'd like to think such investigatory discussion groups existed up and down the Anglican Church, but somehow we doubt it. It has, perhaps, a different ethos from the expected. Perhaps the central question at the heart of every discussion is how people commonly think today in a practical and this-worldly sense - the ideology of thought that follows on from technological solutions - and how religious traditions from the past can relate and reform to this thorough shift of perspective.
Adrian Worsfold (presenting the papers)
The Mission Statement of the church (PCC approved 24 November 2008) is:
The inclusive good news of Jesus Christ calls us as members of the Christian Faith
- To support the growth of discipleship through generous service, education, prayer and appropriate worship.
- To take seriously our calling to care for the planet and to work for peace, justice and reconciliation.
[The church images are from the wall of the church hall and not my work]