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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

[2.1] WHAT DOES PULLMAN EXPRESS?

One of the series of books explored by MTAG at the end of 2003 was Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials. Even more so than Harry Potter, Pullman's darker, ostensibly anti-religious storytelling has excited controversy within church circles. A few months ago Archbishop Rowan Williams made some positive comments about the dramatic production of the books at the National Theatre in London.

The Ekklesia website reports:

What Dr Williams appears to have spotted, which Pullman's critics have not, is that the author's ire is directed less at religious values than at institutions, particularly Catholicism. The author was partly brought up by his Anglican clergyman grandfather.

The Archbishop argues that Pullman has a perverse view of religion. "I read the books and the plays as a sort of thought experiment: this is after all an alternative world, or set of worlds," he said.

"What would the church look like, what would it inevitably be, if it believed only in a God who could be rendered powerless and killed and needed unceasing protection? It would be a desperate, repressive tyranny.

"Pullman's views are clear; but he is a good enough writer to leave some spaces. This is a church without creation, or redemption, certainly without Christ."


The full story can be found here.

Others have condemned the trilogy outright. The Association of Christian Teachers reportedly described it as 'dangerous', and a reviewer in The Catholic Herald suggested it was "fit for the bonfire".

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

[1.1] MTAG'S WEBLOG - WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

Welcome to the new weblog from the Mission Theological Advisory Group (MTAG), the people who brought you The Search for Faith and the Mission of the Church (1997) and Presence and Prophecy (2002).

MTAG is what it says on the can: it's a group (made up of nominees from different churches in Britain and Ireland), it is concerned with mission theology (how the church thinks about its vocation in terms of basic and critical categories of faith), and it is advisory (to the Archbishop's Council of the Church of England, and to the Churches' Commission on Mission of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland).

In those terms the Mission Theological Advisory Group is an 'official' group, approved of by one major denomination and by one of the recognised ecumenical instruments in these islands. The people who make it up are not 'church delegates', however. They are persons chosen for their creativity and expertise. Nor does MTAG claim to speak on behalf of the Christian denominations: its role is to offer imaginative ideas and possibilities for re-engaging Christian witness and service as a resource for the churches.

Part of the aim of this weblog is to make MTAG 'appropriately visible'. Let's unpack that a bit.

Much of what we get up to is 'among ourselves' - meetings, email, reading, consultancy, phone calls... the usual stuff of conferring. Then, from time to time, we surface and offer a big book to an excited public. Yup, you've checked the links and figured that.

The trouble is, much of the most exciting stuff doesn't get into the books (we don't want them to be that long), or it gets lost in the immediacy of the moment. So guess what? We thought that a weblog would be a way of letting more people in on the act as things develop.

This fits with our general direction - and with the current strand of work (looking at spirituality in general culture and how that relates to the task of commeding the Gospel in a sceptical and diverse environment). Indeed our current plan isn't to publish another big book, but a number of smaller, pratical resources.

But hang on, what about this 'appropriate' thing? Well, unlike some theological commissions, MTAG likes to let its hair down; to be a bit spontaneous. On the other hand, we take the task we have been given and our accountability to our sponsors (who have granted us a freedom to explore) very seriously. So there are limits to be observed: copyright, confidentialities, and so on.
Overall we hope that this weblog can be daring. We want to share the excitement of the journey of faith we are on. We believe that Christian life is stimulating and creative. But we need to stress that what we are offering here is 'in formation', not finished.

This means that the opinions and ideas shared here belong to those who wrote them - but they are not necessarily the opinion or conviction of MTAG as a whole, of the Church of England, or of the CTBI Churches' Commission on Mission or any of its member bodies.

If you find things in this log which stimulate and encourage you we will be pleased. Tell us so. If you find stuff that annoys or exasperates you, tell us that too. We'll include comments or responses when we can.

We think that this openness (not without its risks, you'll appreciate) is a good way of doing mission theology. We hope you agree.


For further information, please see the sidebar links.


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Monday, August 09, 2004

[1.2] THIS WEBLOG IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION

I know they all say that, but it's true. We hope that Inter-mission will be fully operational in a short while. Meanwhile "watch this space", as they say. The intention, by the way, is to put up at least a couple of posts a week. We'll see how that goes...

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