Thursday, 16 June 2016

Two Articles after the Unitarian Theology Conference

So, in addition to four review articles for each section of the Unitarian Theology Conference and two sound files presented, I have written two further pieces submitted to publications. Each is submitted only to them although I display almost all I do on my website. It is a fact of life these days that materials go online instantly and only slowly appear on paper as and when space is available and if the editor chooses. One is to The Unitarian that was pure text only and I have made a simple webpage from it, and then other is to Faith and Freedom sent as a Libre Office made .DOC file but is on the Pluralist Website as a .PDF as it appeared via that program.

The report to The Unitarian is my interpretive summary of the presentations, and could I suppose run alongside another report with a different view. I hear that some did appreciate the Rev. Dr. David Steers' paper, but I fail to see if it offered anything regarding the future, and a good point has been made in comments here that it did not (even without knowing the terminology) show any recent Chain of Memory. Well, perhaps because it wasn't interested in how we got from there to here, and rather wished we were not here (ideologically) at all. But this is by the by; rather I'm more interested in what the Rev. Stephen Lingwood proposed (and the critique) and the more in depth identifications of the Rev. Jo James. Perhaps I am even more interested in Dr Melanie Prideaux's larger tool box applied to Unitarianism.

I wanted to do a fully fledged academic piece, and this is why I have sent it to Faith and Freedom. It may stand alongside verbatim papers from the Conference. It would be good if it is accompanied also by papers of a different perspective, and delving into theologies and the Sociology of Religion. I know David Steers is the Editor, and it is up to him whether he judges the paper as suitable from all sorts of perspectives and not just ideological. I have no fear of debate. And, incidentally, this is no judgment of Non-Subscribing Presbyterianism. I happen not to like how religion works in Ireland, especially in the North, although the NSPCI is probably the best of the lot. This isn't relevant. What is relevant is that it is integral to its cultural situation but not to Great Britain. The answer to the pot-shots taken at the Unitarian Universalists is that this is more relevant to Britain and its developments. I hope religion in Ireland changes, and I think it is doing. But we'll see what happens.

My stance regarding relevance to Unitarianism very much goes along with the theology of John Caputo, referred to by Jo James. He is accused of being Unitarian, by critics, and I think they are right, but more interesting is his what I call sub-atomic theology and the paradox of Being. Also relevant is Mark C. Taylor and his deconstructive creativity. My focus, though, is on the opposite temptation to adopt a kind of Yale Postliberalism (obviously not that itself, because it is ecumenically Trinitarian), and speakers did give their assent to it under my questioning. This is relevant to giving definition or coherence to Unitarianism. For me, the Unitarian tradition is the mirror opposite, and this is its own Chain of Memory. I go into this and the pitfalls in some detail - for example, creating Invented Traditions. It means that Unitarian identity will be in describing its wide sectoral diversity of belief types that inhabit a Rationality to Romanticism polarity. To have a narrower view raises where in the past one selects a 'legitimate' Unitarianism and if it therefore becomes like a religious museum. But even if not that concept, we are by the sheer decline of Unitarianism all becoming curators having to record for posterity.

If you want to know what I dislike, it is Yale Postliberalism of course but my real venom is for Radical Orthodoxy. I was pleased to read some of the words John Caputo has used about the movement.

The background to the Conference was the 3000 low-point reached in Unitarianism, and the fact that this is still falling. It has halved in about 15 years. This has more attention in my academic paper. My point is that we can still do theology, even if it is like those independent ministries we see. But we are really at a point of almost desperation now. I'm sorry if this is offensive to some, but it happens to be true. I see this every week and know it is rather common. I am beginning to think that an average of 20 per congregation of members is rather optimistic. Yet 3000 still has belief tendencies. New people do come through the doors, some stay, but not enough stay to counter the losses. So we survey the "subjective turn" as was found in the study of Kendal, and we do Practical Theology, and Contextual Theology, which connects with Anthropology and then Theology and then Historical Theology. That's the Chain of Memory.


Anonymous said...

You've taken numerous pot-shots over the past few months at the Non-Subscribing Presbyterians and those Unitarians Christians and Free Christians in Britain who have a friendship with them and perhaps now look to Northern Ireland for the future rather than Essex Hall.

You came up with 'throwbacks' and 'parasitical' in terms of the FNSC.

You said the NSPCI was a 'a church just piggy-backing on a backwards religious culture' (or something along those lines).

Now you basically say the NSPCI are the best of a bad bunch.

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland and spent time with the NSPCI or any other church community? Or is this all just typed out from the bubble of your house in Hull?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

It does not take a visitor or first hand knowledge to know that a Church exists in relationship with the surrounding culture. I have been in Northern Ireland, briefly, and have heard directly of its religious culture, and indeed was once approached regarding Northern Ireland when ministry training, only to find that a quick account of my sympathy with the theology of Don Cupitt and non-realism was enough for my approachers to lose interest. That was some time ago. I am also aware that the situation is changing as Ireland as a whole is changing. I do not know that the NSPCI is the best of a bad bunch, but I suppose it is. For me, religion in Ireland has been part of the problem, embedded socially as it is, and whenever it was offering itself as a solution it maintained the problem in a divided society.

But all this is not central to the point that the NSPCI is clearly more uniform (more) than the British Unitarians, and that in a discussion that was dismissive of the Unitarian Universalist Association and its influences, I am suggesting that it is more relevant to Britain than the NSPCI. I have not presented my full views on Unitarians who go to Northern Ireland and the NSPCI because they are not relevant: all that is relevant is the types of beliefs in the different communities. As for reputations, relationships, interchanges and the rest, this is not relevant in what is purely academic and reporting comment.

As for sitting on my backside in Hull, a great deal of anthropology for example is still done sitting on one's backside, but this is not principally about Northern Ireland. This is about a paper presented by the Rev. Dr. David Steers as read out by the Rev. Jim Corrigall. That paper was full of comment and it is being handled for what I heard at the time and revisited online. And that paper is not my main focus. The main focus for me is the tools used by Dr. Melanie Prideaux, the proposal and explanation of the Rev. Jo James and the approach of the Rev. Stephen Lingwood. I have a long time interest in Yale Postliberalism and Daniel Liechty's far more relevant alternative, and in opposing Radical Orthodoxy of John Milbank and J. K. A. Smith. We adopt similar to them at our peril, it is not the Unitarian Chain of Memory.

Alan said...

glad you cleared up anon's query and have admitted you know little about northern Ireland.

Anonymous said...

I was the first poster. Thanks for the response......

What I draw from it is you are engaging in a purely academic / aloof exercise. You readily admit you know nothing of actual people in Ireland.

As for being approached to be a minister by the NSPCI I would take that offer with a pinch of salt given you evidently did not complete unitarian ministry training. Were you thrown off or did you leave?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

In those days I was too humanist for the British denomination. The pastoral reports said I did all right but where was I going to exercise ministry. There were several mistakes of not matching congregations at the time of training. Things have changed since. I don't need to account for this, however. I was approached when no one would have knowledge of subsequent events. It was enough to refer to Cupitt as I did. It may be aloof in some senses but is well informed. I maintain that the NSPCI is not a model for British Unitarianism and will not solve its difficulties.