Two Christian leaders different in theology, united in love for their Lord

By on September 1, 2009

TWO CHRISTIAN leaders – one from the 19th century, the other from the 20th – vastly different in theology but united in love for their Lord – are featured in these books. William Booth made his mark in the 19th century as founder and autocratic “General” of the worldwide Salvation Army. Michael Ramsey was an eminent theologian and, as 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, the “first among equals” leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

[pullquote]Glory Descending serves both as an introduction to Ramsey’s life and career and an anthology of his key writings, interspersed with reflections and analysis of his continuing influence as a prophetic call to faith in our own times.

That prophetic voice was heard in his enthronement sermon in Canterbury Cathedral when he demanded greater freedom for the Church of England. At the world Anglican Congress in Toronto in 1963, his sermon “The Church that lives to itself will die by itself,” based on Romans 14:7, revolutionized mission throughout the Anglican world.

Evangelical by origin, catholic by formation, liberal by instinct, and of great spiritual depth, Ramsey inspired two generations of Christians. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams contributes four essays probing themes in Ramsey’s thought. Retired Archbishop of York John Habgood and Bishop Geoffrey Rowell of Gibraltar offer lectures prepared for the centennial of Ramsey’s birth, while Rev. Douglas Dales presents a short biography and exploration of his spiritual theology.

The Life and Ministry of William Booth: William Booth’s Salvation Army is still held in high regard more, perhaps, for its social service ministries than for its place as a church among the churches.

The social service work began as a spin-off from the bands and street-corner preaching that characterized its beginnings. The concept of soup and salvation came after “there dawned an awareness” that preaching the Gospel to the poor had to be accompanied by taking care of their physical needs.

The Army’s relationship with the Church of England is interesting. There are stories of Salvationists marching to their parish church for Easter communion, but negotiations for a merger foundered primarily on the Army’s then innovative principle of gender equality among its officers, coupled with a casual attitude about church membership and the sacraments, especially baptism.

This closely-packed history is a useful, if somewhat heavy-going, study – less of the man William Booth than of the movement he founded – the “good old Sally Ann.”

William Portman is a retired priest of the diocese of Qu’Appelle and former book review editor for the Anglican Journal.

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