The arts in evangelical history

See a later post with a summary here.

I’m very pleased to be able to say that I have agreed to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming Ashgate Research Companion to the History of Evangelicalism. This is to be one of the first volumes in a new series, Ashgate Studies in Evangelicalism, edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones.

Some of my publications in the past have touched on evangelicals and the arts in twentieth century Britain, most directly in relation to worship music, but also in relation to the theatre and the visual arts. This project will require a much wider perspective, taking in the whole of evangelical history from the early eighteenth century onwards, and across the world.

I’d thus be very pleased to hear of particular issues that readers think I should be addressing, and secondary literature I should be reading, within these broad themes:

(i) evangelical use (or disuse) of the various arts in public, private and domestic worship;

(ii) the use of the arts as means of evangelism;

(iii) evangelical theologies of the created work of art itself, and its right performance, realisation and reception;

(iv) evangelical involvement in the creation, performance and consumption of the arts in situations not associated with worship or evangelism, such as the secular theatre;

(v) evangelical challenge to works of art and/or their performance, on grounds of either their content (subject matter), or their style, or on grounds of their likely effects on performer and/or viewer or listener.

(vi) more generally, all of these matters are intimately connected with evangelical theologies of culture, and the relationship of the church, the individual Christian and “the world”, however defined.

I’m particularly keen to hear of particular matters of note before c.1850, or from outside Europe and North America at any point between about 1730 and the almost-present.

Conference paper: Michael Ramsey and the Troubles in Ulster, 1968-74

[UPDATE: the substance of this paper was published in my book on Michael Ramsey.]

With a sigh of relief, I’m now putting the finishing touches to my paper for this week’s conference on Protestant-Catholic conflict, at Stranmillis College in Belfast.

Here’s my conclusion:

“The complexities of the archbishop of Canterbury’s position in relation to Ulster are a microcosm of his wider predicament. Amongst moderate elements, he was seen as an honest broker at the centre of power, able to create a neutral space in which political schemes to end the Troubles might be able to grow. His own public interventions in relation of issues of human rights abroad caused others to see him as a friend of victims of perceived injustice. However, the bulk of the calls upon him to intervene to end the violence were based on either naivety, a lack of information about what was already being done, or a misunderstanding of the powers of Canterbury over the independent Church of Ireland.

“In Protestant eyes, however, there was an inescapable contradiction between Ramsey’s constitutional role as head of a Protestant state church born at the Reformation, and his own fervent commitment to the ecumenical movement and to closer relations with Rome in particular. In this Ramsey was caught between genuine ecumenical enthusiasm within his own church and within the Irish churches on the one hand, and residual anti-Catholic sentiment in the nation at large on the other. The 1960s were a period in which the relationship between the Church of England and the nation was being renegotiated, in relation to the moral law and to conceptions of national identity. Those negotiations, never easy, were intractable to the point of impossibility in an Irish context.

Michael Ramsey and Anglican evangelicalism in the 1960s

I’m particularly pleased to be able to say that my article on Ramsey and evangelicals in the Church of England is going to be published. It was given as a paper at an excellent conference in Oxford last summer; and some of those papers are now to be published by Boydell and Brewer. Congratulations to Andrew Atherstone and John Maiden for arranging both the conference and the volume.

[UPDATE, Jan 2015: this volume is now published – see summary.]

My paper sits in an unusual relation with most evangelical history, in that it draws mostly on sources from outside the constituency (mostly the Ramsey Papers at Lambeth Palace Library), and is, at it were, a view from outside. The National Evangelical Anglican Congress at Keele University in 1967 has been viewed as a pivotal moment, at which Anglican (conservative) evangelicals abandoned a policy of isolation from the structures of the Church of England, and resolved to get involved in them, fully and constructively.

My argument is that the evidence from the Ramsey papers suggests that there was considerable evangelical involvement in just those structures before 1967, and also that plenty of the older combativeness remained after Keele. It also attempts to show that, contrary to the feeling of many evangelicals at the time and since, there was no concerted campaign to marginalise evangelical voices by the official church. If conservative evangelicals didn’t succeed in overturning policies with which they disagreed, it was simply part of life as a minority in a diverse church.

Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Ulster, 1967-74

[UPDATE: the substance of this paper was published in my 2015 book on Ramsey.]

I was delighted last week to learn that a conference paper proposal has been accepted by the team on the
Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Realities project at the Open University. The conference will be happening in Belfast in September; there are some further details in the Call for Papers (now closed).

Although I’ve spent most of the last four or five years thinking about Michael Ramsey, it is a slightly new departure for me to look at his role in an Irish context; and so I’m planning to be blogging about the work as it proceeds, and would very much welcome comments and criticism as I go. I’m particularly interested in views from scholars of Irish religious history.

To get things started, here is the abstract:

“Michael Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1961 and 1974, and as such was the figurative head of the distinctive Protestant settlement of religion in the United Kingdom at the very beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This paper will examine the public pronouncements and private diplomacy of the archbishop from the late sixties until his retirement in 1974. It will investigate the delicate balancing act which Ramsey needed to perform between his multiple roles. The archbishop was the head of the established church and thus (in the eyes of some) the agent of an occupying power. He was at the same time leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and pastor and confidant of the Anglican episcopate in Northern Ireland. He was also a leading participant in the ecumenical movement in England and worldwide, and a close personal friend of Pope Paul VI. The period saw a continued weakening of political Protestantism in England, and at the same time unprecedented strengthening of relationships between Anglicans and English Roman Catholics; both currents which were disrupted and threatened by the eruption of conflict in Ulster. The paper will chart Ramsey’s attempts to negotiate these sharply conflicting currents, and will attempt to assess the extent of his success or failure in doing so.”