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Differing perspectives on pastoral theology

08 January 2016


From Canon Ian Tomlinson

Sir, — The Revd Dr Nicholas Bradbury is said by Bishop Christopher Hill to characterise the work of the pastoral theologian the Very Revd Dr Wesley Carr as a “clericalised, therapeutic paradigm”, in contrast with the advocating of a lay adult catechesis by Pierre-André Liégé (Books, 11 December).

This is a superficial reading of Dr Carr’s writings, especially in his reworking of The Pastor as Theologian (SPCK, 2008). In this volume, there is a structured use of doctrines: atonement, creation, resurrection, and incarnation, in relation to pastoral theology and its application to an engagement with what Dr Carr calls “the messiness of human interactions”.

That this is primarily a lay activity is not in doubt in Dr Carr’s thinking. The roles that the clergy find, make, and take, in the Church and society, complement the laity in their vocation and discipleship. As Bradbury himself writes in The New Dictionary of Pastoral Studies (SPCK, 2002), edited by Dr Carr, “The minister represents God as a walking symbol. . . Part of their representative role is to enable others to interact across the boundary between their existential confusion and their sense of direction and destiny.”

This sounds very French and Vatican II, but also thoroughly British and theologically practical. For both authors, experience comes first, and interpretation afterwards. That should be a radical and renewing insight to challenge today’s centralised and prescribed Church.

The Rectory, Ragged Appleshaw
Andover SP11 9HX

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