Raising up the Voices of new “Doctors of the Church”

Christ drew me to himself, and I committed my life to him, on the first Sunday of my second term at Oxford, in 1974. On the Friday joined a prayer group for world mission.

Later that year, I changed from Law to Theology. Between Oxford and ordination training at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, I had a year as a caretaker at All Souls Langham Place in London. After a curacy in inner-city London, I and my wife Alison served as Church Mission Society mission partners at St Andrew’s College, Kabare, in the foothills of Mount Kenya, where I was Vice Principal.

There my theology was transformed by working with the staff and students and with college founder Dr David Gitari, who later became Archbishop of Kenya. He was a true bridge builder between evangelical and ecumenical movements, attracted various international theological conferences to the college, became a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and was the architect of liturgical renewal in the Anglican Church of Kenya.

From Kabare, God called us back to Cambridge, where I lectured in Mission Studies and founded what is now the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide. After 9 years, I went to serve as Vicar of St Mary’s Church Islington, in central London, and was consecrated Bishop of Sherborne in the Diocese of Salisbury in 2009.

In the last few years, I have been very moved by four visits to South Sudan, including its inauguration in 2011, and by a week’s lecturing and learning at St Paul’s University Limuru, Kenya, in 2014.

Now, there comes a new call.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church Mission Society (CMS) and Durham University have become partners in creating an innovative seven year post: ‘Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion’.

This means being based in London, employed by CMS, and studying at Lambeth Palace Library and Durham University. I will work closely with mission and theology colleagues in the Anglican Communion Office and around the world. I also look forward to local ministry in inner-city south London parishes as an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark.

Henry Venn, CMS General Secretary in the 19th century, spoke of “self-supporting, self-governing and self-extending churches” throughout the world. More recently, there has been a fourth “self”: “self-theologising”.

It is these voices that need to be heard more clearly throughout the Communion.

How to make this happen? I see the following priorities for the Mission Theologian for the Anglican Communion:

  • Stimulating a network of theologians in the Communion as “Doctors of the Church” and encourage their fellowship, writing and publishing.

This will involve convening a seminar in Anglican Communion Studies in different regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America in particular. The new Theologian Database on the Anglican Communion website will be a place for scholars to contribute their details and areas of research to serve as resource persons for all of the Communion.

  • Editing the new website (www.MissionTheologyAngCom.org), with its Twitter account (@MissioTheology), and publishing papers given in the seminar, as well as articles from elsewhere.
  • Working with publishers and editors in the Majority as well as the Minority Worlds to create and partner a new book series, “Anglican Theologies: African, Asian and Latin American”.
  • Helping to arrange university and college sabbaticals for theologians to pursue research for such publications.
  • Doing research and writing on such developments in inter-cultural theology in the Communion, including their ecumenical contexts, and, when invited, lecturing in appropriate courses.

Dr Gitari mentioned to me the powerful effect some words had on the bishops of the Communion during the opening service of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, especially on those in regions undergoing persecution.

Proclaimed at the heart of the Kenyan Service of Holy Communion, they are contextual and scriptural:

‘We are brothers and sisters by his blood. We have died together, we will rise together, we will live together.’

They are rooted in the African traditions of blood brotherhood and in Paul’s theology of Romans chapter six. We are joined together with Christ and also with each other.

May we see the depth of these interweaving insights, as this partnership for publishing new voices of “Doctors of the Church” develops.

Are you a theologian in the Anglican Communion and ready to serve as a resource person? Create your profile in the Theologian Database (http://www.anglicancommunion.org/mission/theology/theologian-database.aspx).

This article first appeared in Anglican World and we are grateful for permission to republish on Fulcrum.

The Rt Revd Dr Graham Kings is Hon Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Southwark, Parish Priest, St Matthew’s at Elephant and Castle and SCR Member, St Chad’s College, Durham. He has been theological secretary of Fulcrum since its founding.

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