This edition of
The global dimension is illustrated by Gladys Wang’s article on the theme of childlessness in west Africa, particularly in southwest Cameroon. The Presbyterian Church in the Cameroon, to which she belongs, has been a partner church of Methodism in that country ever since Methodist missionaries arrived at the end of the German colonial period. It is good to welcome this ecumenical collaboration. Methodist theology has never existed as an independent theological tradition, but has always been developed through interaction with the Roman Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Pentecostal, and Orthodox streams of Christian thought. Dr Wang’s work takes a profound pastoral and existential issue—the experience of childlessness—and develops a powerful interaction between indigenous culture and the reading of scripture. Without losing respect for her cultural context, she reminds us that the Bible has the potential to challenge cultural assumptions and offer alternative ways of dealing with childlessness, even when the prevailing hermeneutic has confirmed inherited prejudice. The result is a theology of family life that affirms rather than stigmatises those who have experienced childlessness.
From theological issues surrounding the beginning of human life to those involved in its end: John Lampard shares his long engagement with funeral ministry to offer theological reflection on the way in which we deal with the bodies of those who have died. In the UK, cremation, usually in a crematorium managed by local government, has become by far the most common way of disposing of dead bodies. The Covid-19 pandemic has focussed attention on this, with families often having to wait several weeks for an appointment at the crematorium and the opportunity for a funeral. Just as Wang urges members of her culture to revise their theology of childlessness, so Lampard asks churches to think theologically about the ashes that are collected after a cremation. They deserve, he says, the respect due to the human body, and burial is the most appropriate way of disposing of them.
The Fernley-Hartley Lecture is a long-standing fixture in the life of the British Methodist Church. Each year—most often around the time of Conference—a theologian is invited to develop a topic of their own choosing. Many of these lectures have initiated book-length projects that have enriched the thinking of the British church and influenced those in other churches. During the lifetime of
The pastoral, cultural, and missiological reflections of the first three articles all refer (though in very different ways) to the Christian scriptures. The contemporary assertion that all theology is contextual, and the realisation that even biblical studies need to be decolonised, do not detract from the need for a disciplined study of the biblical text, informed by knowledge of ancient languages and developed in dialogue with a community of scholarship. It is therefore appropriate that a substantial section of this issue of
If conversation within theological disciplines is essential to their health and development, so is conversation between disciplines. While narrowly specialist journals have their place,