Monday, 21 February 2011

Questions of Identity

I've been part of a conspiracy recently...

A book has been in production to honour Brian Haymes, and yesterday was the day when some of us who have contributed chapters made our way to Manchester to surprise Brian with a formal presentation.

He was preaching at his home church in Didsbury, and emerged from the vestry to be confronted with several rows of family and friends who had come for the occasion. One he had got over the shock, and realised that he had not in fact gatecrashed his own funeral, Ruth Gouldbourne and Alan Kreider offered some words of appreciation for Brian's ministry and friendship, and then presented him with a copy of the book. Anthony Cross also spoke as co-editor of the volume with Ruth, and Sean Winter sent a video message.

Brian then recovered sufficiently to preach on the first two chapters of Jonah, reminding us that there is nowhere we can go to escape the presence of God. He also said that Jonah was in his top three amusing biblical books, which left me wondering what the other two are...? (Leviticus?) It was a privilege to receive his ministry once again, and I am reminded why it is that I frequently tell people that he is the greatest Baptist preacher I have ever heard.

Here is the cover of the book (click to enlarge):

Here is the blurb:

Throughout the Baptist tradition issues of Baptist identity are being explored and widely debated. The Rev. Dr Brain Haymes is the former Principal of Northern and Bristol Baptist Colleges, and President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. He has lectured widely and influenced many contemporary discussions of Baptist life and thought in Britain and further afield. He has been a great encourager of both established and younger scholars and ministers, and this collection of essays takes up themes in his many and various writings. Not only is it fitting to honour one of our leading Baptist pastor-scholars, but also to explore issues of widespread importance to Baptists in the early twenty-first century.

Contributors are: Faith Bowers, John E. Colwell, Anthony R. Cross, Paul S. Fiddes, Barry Harvey, Stephen R. Holmes, Ruth Gouldbourne, Alan Kreider, Robert Parkinson, Michael J. Quicke, Christopher Rowland, Sean F. Winter, Simon Woodman, and Nigel G. Wright.

‘Brian Haymes’ ministry epitomises the very best of the tradition of the scholar-pastor, moving easily between the worlds of seminary and pastorate. Here an international team of authors in articles, both searching and relevant, pay tribute to a man who has himself done so much to enrich our understanding of Baptist identity, here explored in splendid diversity.’
John H.Y. Briggs is Professor Emeritus, the University of Birmingham, and Research Professor, the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague

‘These essays provide a rich combination of scholarly and pastoral insight, a most appropriate tribute to a Baptist whose long ministry has testified to the dual importance of rigorous academic study allied to the actual practice of ministry. But they are also immensely worth reading in their own right as examples of lively engagement with biblical, historical and theological issues stimulated by our current questions of religious identity.’
Keith W. Clements is a writer, and former Tutor at Bristol Baptist College, Co-ordinating Secretary for International Affairs, Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland, and General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches

‘This Festschrift honours a much treasured scholar, Baptist minister and personal friend, Brian Haymes. Its chapters explore many of the passions that have shaped his distinguished ministries as preacher, pastor and theological educator. They properly reflect the richness of Brian’s contribution to Baptist and wider ecumenical life, and are themselves good examples of the scholarship to which he has been so deeply committed.’
Richard L. Kidd is Co-Principal of the Northern Baptist Learning Community in Manchester

‘Baptists around the world have been fortunate to call Brian Haymes their teacher and friend. Now some of them are honouring him by giving a gift to all Baptists. These essays will inspire and instruct Baptists, and extend Brian’s work in the process. They reflect those subjects that have animated his thought and work: scripture and its interpretation; sacramentality; proclamation; morality; education; Anabaptism; and conscience. In so doing, they offer a winsome picture of Baptist identity, issuing a call to live Christian life at full stretch, growing as persons and communities into the fullness of Christ.’
Philip E. Thompson is Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Heritage, Sioux Falls Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

And finally, here is the abstract for my own chapter:

Turn or Burn!
A Nonviolent Reading of Fire and Burning in the Book of Revelation

From Richard Baxter and Charles Spurgeon to contemporary fundamentalist preachers, the book of Revelation has been a fruitful resource for those seeking to espouse a ‘turn or burn’ theology. From its imagery of heavenly fire which consumes the nations of the earth, to the fire and sulphur which torment those who worship the beast, Revelation can seem to depict an unambiguously fiery end to those who will not turn to God. The question addressed in this paper concerns whether such a reading is the only way of encountering this imagery, or whether an alternative reading emerges when the text is approached from the perspective of a nonviolent hermeneutic. To this end, the tradition of Anabaptist nonviolence will be utilised as a hermeneutical key to engage the imagery of fire and burning in the book of Revelation.