Andrew G. Walker and Robin A. Parry, Deep Church Rising: The Third Schism and the Recovery of Christian Orthodoxy (SPCK / Cascade, 2014)
Deep Church Rising is the culmination of Andrew Walker's work. It follows on from his earlier work of Telling the Story (1996) and the edited volumes Different Gospels (1993 ) and Remembering Our Future (2007). Walker with assistance from Robin Parry argues that the future of the church must be a 'deep' one, one that looks to the great traditions of the church as part of its history and future. They are concerned that there is a Third Schism taking place, which looks to set separate Christianity from its theological moorings, that casts doubts on the traditional doctrines of the Trinity, incarnation and resurrection. In their sights are the likes of Don Cupitt, John Robinson, John Hick, Maurice Wiles and Shelby Spong and the more widely read Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, representing in past the wider impact of modernity and postmodernity. Walker and Parry claim we have lost, or are in danger of losing, the gospel and the response is therefore a vital recovery which they call 'Deep Church'. A Deep Church response, they say, is in the practice of right belief, right worship, right living sourced in scripture and tradition and made possible through an intentional catechesis.
The book has three things to say. First it seeks to articulate the dangers the church is facing - the privatisation of belief, worship as entertainment, ethics without telos - all of which threaten Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxis. The faultline on which a possible third schism may occur is precisely a too 'thin' Christianity which has unwittingly wed itself to a consumer age. The target in the authors' sights are (I think) both a liberal Christianity, which wants to jettison key doctrines and an evangelical charismatic Christianity that is too dismissive of the deep catholic traditions of the church. The second is to offer a defence of a catholic Christianity rooted in creeds, sacrament, and catechesis. The future of the church is one that takes seriously the doctrine of the church as articulated in Nicaea, one that takes seriously the celebration of the eucharist, one that takes seriously the catechesis of Christian faith and practice. Walker and Parry argue that where these are marginalised, we have lost the plot, experiencing a gospel amnesia. Thirdly it is a clarion call for a church renewed by the past, a church that has the deep resources which shape its worship and mission to enable it both to survive and flourish.
The book can be read as an extension of Walker's early forays into 'deep church' or perhaps as a more systematic presentation of deep church. I think while I enjoyed Remembering the Future more as a book, within it were some helpful and creative attempts to explore the implications of a deep church theology, Deep Church Rising offers a more coherent description of its message. The title is an interesting one, is this a signal to a church that needs to rise from its past or is it a statement that the Deep Church movement (that feels too strong a word) has legs. At one point Paternoster had a book series called Deep Church, (commissioned by Parry), but as far as I know it only had three titles: The Gospel Driven Church; Evangelicals and Tradition; and Remembering Our Future. Walker was going to contribute a fourth, and Deep Church Rising is probably that book. The call for a more 'catholic' future for the church is one that has other advocates, for example see the work of James K A Smith and Baptists Steven Harmon and Curtis Freeman, amongst others.
The church should be grateful for Walker (see forthcoming collection of essays Wisdom in the Spirit in his honour) in several ways, this book is one of them and hopefully it will be widely read and find an 'Amen' in those who do.