Two former principals of a theological college are getting together to launch their new books in the New Year.
Dr Peter Sedgwick, who led St Michael’s College, Cardiff, for a decade before his retirement in 2014, and Dr Mark Clavier, who took over as Acting Principal and is now the Residentiary Canon at Brecon Cathedral, will hold a joint launch of their latest theology books in January.
An inner-city housing estate in one of the most deprived parts of the country may seem a world away from the origins of Anglican moral theology. But the parish there represents the essence of its ministry, says Peter, whose new book has been his life-long ambition to write.
It took until retirement for him to devote the time needed for his 430-page historical study of moral reasoning. Titled The Origins of Anglican Moral Theology, Peter’s book is described as a “fine and necessary study” by Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury.
It examines how Anglican ethics developed and how it continues to contribute to discussions of moral reasoning on a range of issues, not just across the world, but also on his doorstep in Ely, Cardiff, where Peter’s wife, the Revd Jan Gould, serves as a parish priest.
“Ely is a very deprived area indeed, with much poverty and social issues, but the spirit of the congregation is extraordinary,” says Peter, who is a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) as a moral theologian. “There is a real commitment to living out a Christian life as one of hope and joy in the midst of very difficult circumstances. The parish represents the essence of Welsh, Anglican, pastoral and incarnational ministry.”
The study, argues Peter, shows how the Anglican tradition matters. “The first Anglicans put the tradition of the early church and the Reformation’s emphasis on the Bible together and did not get a fudge or a middle way, but a spark, or tension, like the two poles of a battery producing electricity. In Hooker, Sanderson and Taylor, you get a really subtle psychology, an awareness of God’s working in us to find him in our lives, and the importance of the Bible.
“That is why Anglicanism is of value now, not least on sexuality: it holds together scripture, the tradition and reason/ modern science in a creative tension.”
Meanwhile, the challenge of being a Christian in a consumer society is at the heart of Dr Mark Clavier’s new book. It turns to Augustine of Hippo to find insights into how the consumer culture shapes how we understand the world and ourselves and how the church can begin to challenge that culture. The book was influenced, he says, by his work with students who had grown up in a thorough-going consumer culture.
“The promises made by the market are alluring. Marketeers use persuasive language to attach products to individual identities. And there’s now no escaping these sales pitches,” explains Mark. “It’s no good preaching the Gospel unless we seek, in the words of Augustine, to teach, delight, and move. He recognized that preachers and teachers need to be able to grab people’s attention and delight people in order to appeal to their hearts. You might say that was part of my strategy when I was at St Michael’s College was to foster a distinctively Christian community in which ordinands could delight and my hope was that they could carry that experience with them into their ministry.”
Titled, On Consumer Culture, Identity, the Church and Rhetorics of Delight , Mark’s book is part of a new series by Bloomsbury entitled ‘Reading Augustine’. The purpose of the series is to show Augustine’s importance to contemporary thought. “The opportunity to write the book was exciting as it brought together my prior work on consumerism and Augustine.”
The book, together with The Origins of Anglican Moral Theology, which is published by Brill, will be launched on January 23 at 7.30pm at the Cardiff University Anglican Chaplaincy, 61, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT. All are welcome to attend.
The photo shows Dr Mark Clavier (left) and Dr Peter Sedgwick.