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Preaching and the Theological Imagination

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Edited By Zachary Guiliano and Cameron Partridge

In an era in which The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have become increasingly alarmed about numerical decline, Christian proclamation has become more important than ever. To fully meet this challenge, Anglicans must reclaim a vocation to preach the good news with both deep theological grounding and imaginative dynamism. Crucial to this process is a sustained engagement with deepening the theological imagination of the whole Christian community, through renewed practices of, and approaches to, preaching, study, and spiritual development.
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15. Preaching, Authority, and the Exercise of Power. .

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15. Preaching, Authority, and the Exercise of Power

Simon Vibert

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY preaching is at a low ebb. “Unlearned,” “ineffectual,” “irrelevant,” and “arrogant” are just some of the causes of concern. Distaste for preaching manifests itself in many ways, from the jesting of the stand-up comedian, the passivity of the TV watcher and the academic scepticism from the “new atheist.” But perhaps the biggest threat is the perception that preaching is an abuse of power, caricatured by a suspicion of anyone who stands “6 feet above contradiction.”1

The fresh insight this chapter intends to contribute surrounds the impact of changed perceptions in what makes for good learning. Educational research is cautious about the benefit of lecturing (in Oxford, the “tutorial” is seen as the “gold standard,” not the lecture). Popularly, “to lecture” has the same derisory connotation as “to preach.”2 This distrust of lecture-based pedagogy is in part driven by a fresh discovery of the relational nature of learning. But underneath these concerns lies doubt about certainty of knowledge, disdain of power plays and distrust of “top down” lecturing. It is my contention that similar suspicion of preaching might be overcome when pedagogical and authority concerns are addressed through a rediscovery of the full-orbed way in which the New Testament describes preaching.

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