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Online Whitley Lecture. The Ruling Christ and the Witnessing Church
- Andy Goodliff

18 July 2022, 20:00
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Detailed abstract

In this Lecture, Andy Goodliff offers us a crafted exploration of what a Baptist political theology might be. His argument begins with an overview of Nigel Wright’s discussion of church and state but soon moves into a powerful reflection upon what it means today to inhabit a dissenting ecclesiology, one which says ‘no’ to the power of the state and ‘yes’ to the Lordship of Christ. To be baptised is a political act; to accede to the Declaration of Principle implies a political worldview; to be a member of a Baptist church commits us to an ongoing ‘political discipleship’ in which we constantly engage in reflective conversation with the powers around us. This is a Lecture to stimulate both our thinking and our dissent. 

Introductory reflection
My Whitley Lecture, The Ruling Christ and the Witnessing Church, is in the area of political theology. In brief terms I set out to argue that as Baptists—in our way of being church—we have our own politics that has something to offer the world.

Politics here then is understood as a way of living and acting in the world with others. Politics is not just that which happens in Westminster or in the Council chamber of local government. Politics is the myriad ways, formal and informal, that society seeks a common life together. I don’t think it is amiss to say that in recent years our common life has been under threat, and this reflects what a fragile thing the idea of a nation, or a society, a community, or a church, is. Our politics seems increasingly polarised (and the church is not immune from that) and therefore some of the work being done by political theologians is focused on how a politics of the common good might be recovered and the contribution the church might make. The title of a book by Luke Bretherton, Resurrecting Democracy, captures that purpose.
Some have made a contrast between political theology — theological work engaged with the political questions of the day (see here the kind of work JPIT is engaged in) — and what has been termed theological politics — which begins by looking at the church and its practices as its own politics. My Whitley Lecture is focused on the second of these types, but with the view that from a place of recognizing and living out the politics of the church, the church can best participate in the questions and issues of the day, in a way that keeps asking what is the difference that Christ makes.

This reflects the subtitle of my Lecture, “Towards a Baptist Political Theology”, which I hope others (and maybe myself) will continue to think more about whether there is something particularly Baptist in how we understand and do politics; there is definitely something Christian.

In some short reflections over the next year, I will seek to offer some additional reflections that might get you interested in hearing or reading the Lecture or in the broad area of political theology itself. The church of the future, I suggest, is one that needs to embrace its politics, and be unafraid to engage in the politics of the world.

I’ll try and offer in each reflection one book suggestion for anyone who wants to think further and so my first suggestion would be Political Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed by Elizabeth Philips (T & T Clark, 2012), which seeks to offer a brief introduction. 

Andy Goodliff has been the minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend-on-Sea since 2010. He studied for a BA in Theology at King’s College London (2003), followed by an MA in Youth Ministry (2004) also at King’s. He then spent several years as a church youth worker and RE teacher before training for ministry at Regent’s Park College, Oxford and reading for an MTh in Applied Theology (2010). He completed a PhD at St. Andrew’s in 2018, which has since been published as Renewing a Modern Denomination (Pickwick, 2020). He has co-edited Gathering Disciples (2017), Rhythms of Faithfulness (2018) and Reconciling Rites (2020), and is a co-founder of Theology Live and an editor of the Journal of Baptist Theology in Context. Andy is married to Hannah and they have three children.

For more information on the lecture, and if you would like to book Andy, please email: andy@goodliff.com

rulingChristThe Ruling Christ and the Witnessing Church
The text of this year's Whitley Lecture has also been published as a book, and is available for £5.00 from Amazon.


Click here to download previous Whitley Lectures.

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Monday 18 July: The Ruling Christ and the Witnessing Church - Andy Goodliff
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14-16 October: Conference encouraging networking among the spouses of UK Baptist ministers, with main speakers Ken and Sue Benjamin