Friday, January 4, 2019

Fallout from books and bombs: 1960s’ Anglican radicalism

From Church Times-

IN MARCH 1963, the SCM Press published John Robinson’s Honest to God, a slim theological paperback that sent shock-waves around the Church of England.

Robinson had become the Bishop of Woolwich in 1959, and he had already achieved national fame by appearing as a defence witness in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial of 1960. On the eve of Honest to God’s publication, he outlined his arguments in a widely read Observer article, “Our Image of God Must Go”.

There was now occurring, he argued, a radical revolution in human life. “Modern man” was becoming irreversibly “secular”, and this meant that the Churches needed to embrace “glad acceptance of secularisation as a God-given fact”, abandoning the conventional, theist understanding of God, and shifting their efforts to focus on social activism rather than Sunday services.

These arguments prompted instant controversy. Supportive letters were written to Robinson, and angry letters were written to the Church Times. By December 1963, Honest to God had sold 350,000 copies. Its sales eventually reached more than a million, not including its translations into 17 languages (Features, 26 April 2013).

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