Ruth Etchells and ‘Unafraid to Be’

I note the recent passing of Ruth Etchells, theologian, teacher and ‘the best female bishop we never had’ (in the words of the Guardian). There have been various obituaries, including that in the Guardian, and from John Pritchard on Anglican Mainstream. From Durham, of which city she was a stalwart, comes a tribute from the Dean, Michael Sadgrove, and a funeral sermon from the Sub-Dean, Michael Kennedy. Also of interest is Margaret Masson’s oration at the presentation of the University of Durham Chancellor’s Medal in 2010.

Of most interest here is a little book of which I was only dimly aware, but when viewed in its context is most unusual. Michael Sadgrove found her 1969 study Unafraid to Be a profoundly influential book as an undergraduate in Oxford: ‘an important catalyst in developing cross disciplinary engagement, not least in the emerging field of theology and literature.. ‘ What is most interesting about the book is the milieu from which it emerged. Evangelicals at that time were not known for their positive engagement with the contemporary arts, and so for the Inter-Varsity Press to publish such a book at that time is significant.

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