Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Corporate Holiness, Pulpit Preaching and the Church of England Missionary Society, 1760-1870

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Corporate Holiness, Pulpit Preaching and the Church of England Missionary Society, 1760-1870

Article excerpt

Corporate Holiness, Pulpit Preaching and the Church of England Missionary Society, 1760-1870. By Bob Tennant. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, Pp. xii, 342. $99.00.)

Bob Tennant's book, published just before his death in January 2014, bears testimony to a fine scholar who was determined to restore preaching and sermons to their rightful place in the history of Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He was principally a literary scholar, rather than a theologian or historian, and approached this book with an eye to corpus linguistics, wary that general conclusions could not be drawn from single sermons. It is not surprising therefore that this book draws so strongly on quantitative data. In the eighteen tables contained in the book Tennant underpins his argument with evidence drawn from a sophisticated quantification of such matters as episcopal attendance at meetings of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) and the Church Missionary Society (CMS), income and expenditure, growth of the CMS and numbers of mid-nineteenth century missions in India. It is equally no surprise that his bibliography includes twelve pages of SPG and CMS anniversary and other sermons. The principal methodological thrust of Tennant's thesis is that the work of the CMS is best approached through interdisciplinary lenses of history, theology, economics, and rhetoric. Moreover he argues that secularist imperial historians have tended to subordinate religion in empire to political and economic considerations and have consequently skewed our understanding of the processes of imperialism.

What emerges from Tennant's study is the ways in which the CMS's decision making was integrated with its theological endeavors. Consequently fund-raising from CMS sermons and the theology presented in them were almost inseparable. This is what Tennant means by "corporate holiness," a phrase he borrowed from William Warburton, which implies mutual reinforcement of theology and national spirituality. …

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