Academics dust down theology for a new age

February 13, 1998

BRITAIN needs a new theology for a new age, according to 34 academics who have signed up to the idea.

Churches must respond to changing public needs and be seen to be in touch with contemporary society and culture, they say.

The new theological vision, spelled out in a statement issued by theologians after a debate at Liverpool Hope University College, calls for an outlook that moves beyond traditional liberal and conservative lines of thought.

Signatories, most of whom represent church colleges, want theologians to be more international in their outlook and more responsive to other religions.

The statement says: "Theology seems too often a minority academic interest which has failed to keep pace with new scholarship and a rapidly changing world."

It urges dialogue with "the perspectives of the laity, of women, of artists, writers and film makers, of the modern scientific spirit, of people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and sexual expression and, in particular, of the great religious traditions".

The statement also calls for a move away from small single subject learned societies towards the creation of an all-embracing theological forum. This is a necessary condition for the development of theology and religious studies as comprehensive disciplines in academic circles and in society, it says.

Ian Markham, who holds the Liverpool chair of theology and public life at Liverpool Hope, said the statement represented a step towards "a kind of theological social politics".

He added: "Theology too often seems an academic sideline, outdated and dusty and of little relevance to modern life. We intend to change that."

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