“Where is the theology?” is a question that has been levelled at the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme. It appears to some that we are being asked to embrace some potentially far-reaching changes, with associated long-term consequences that are not easy to predict, but that no one has sat down and thought all this through theologically. The homework has not been done.
I would like to argue that the Renewal and Reform programme both rests on some substantial theological foundations and makes a significant theological judgment, with roots that go deep into the New Testament and subsequent Christian tradition. Moreover, this theology connects with practical matters such as diocesan funding formulas and clerical training programmes.
The importance of the choice of the words “renewal” and “reform” to be the title of the programme should not be underestimated. These two words have a long history in Christian theology, which their secular co-option in contemporary culture should not obscure. It is not an entirely straightforward or simple history, but the roots stretch back to the New Testament itself via early Latin translations, where the verb “reformare” was sometimes used for Greek words normally rendered in English by “transform”, as at Romans 12.2; 2 Corinthians 3.18; and Philippians 3.21.