Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope

Article excerpt

Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope. By Jay Emerson Johnson. Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publishing, 2005. xiv + 177 pp. $18.00 (paper).

Jay Johnson has written a book on the role of the Anglican Communion in not only the world of Christianity, but in the world of religious speakers, using the good metaphor of the dance to pattern his sustained reflection. As the Communion struggles to reach a new understanding of its own self-definition, and its place in the world of religions, this book is a useful contribution. It is written in a readable, clear style and is inviting. People working at how to have a voice in this fitful Communion conversation, as well as those interested in a spiritual home in Anglicanism, will find this book useful and engaging.

Why dancing as an apt metaphor for Anglicanism? First, Anglicanism has singularly resisted the drive towards doctrinahzation that has been a marked trend in most other major Christian denominations. Instead, Anglicans have learned their theology and ethics primarily in the praxis of worship, indeed in their communal encounter with God. As Johnson put it, having come from an upbringing in another denomination, becoming an Anglican, "fostered dynamic and expansive ways to practice Christian faith" (p. xi).

Expansive and dynamic are words that cluster easily around "dance." As I have practiced the ministry of being a bishop over the last five years, I have come to believe that the affirmations in the 1979 Prayer Book Baptismal Covenant have shaped several generations of Episcopal believers as theological dancers, moving on the stable stasis of the Creed into the divine dance in the world with Christ. Dance is not only dynamic and improvisational but is essentially social as well. Johnson rightly points out that while spirituality is viewed as a private practice, it's truer that individual practice is rooted in the communal religious life, and that Anglicanism affirms this communal reality at all levels of the Church.

Johnson extends the dancing metaphor in ways that do not strain it, but provide a richer insight into Anglicanism's contributions to contemporary theology. For instance, and I admit that this metaphoric extension took me a bit of time to find apt, the Eucharistic table "provides Anglicans with a place to stand, a dance floor of faith, but not because it offers certainty" (p. …

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