News, Theology

Ten Theology Books to Watch For – August 2022

Here are some excellent new theology books * that will be released in August 2022:

* broadly interpreted, including ethics, church history, biblical studies, and other areas that intersect with theology

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Adaptive Church: Collaboration and Community in a Changing World

Dustin Benac

( Baylor UP )

Christian organization, education, and leadership are changing. Headlines note rising religious disaffiliation (“the Nones”), moral failures by religious leaders, and the mounting crisis for religious education. Research on congregations, Christian higher education, and theological education also paints a dismal picture: declining engagement and growing fragility. These trends have changed the landscape that surrounds Christian thought and practice, but the story of local communities presents a more complex portrait: communities are also coalescing around vitality, wisdom, and hope.

Adaptive Church explores what it takes for communities of faith to respond to uncertainty and shifting organizational environments. Based on fifty-two interviews and four years of empirical work, Dustin Benac charts a theological paradigm for collaboration and community in a changing world. He pioneers an interdisciplinary method that identifies the ecclesial ecology as the primary site to discern how Christian communities and leaders adapt to mounting challenges. Moreover, he provides the first in-depth analysis of a novel form of organizing religious life―a “hub”―by telling the story of how collaborative partnerships are creating new structures of belonging in the Pacific Northwest. Neither megachurches nor denominations, these hubs are networks that anchor religious life within a particular community and facilitate webs of connection across Christian institutions. Illumined by wisdom drawn from the Christian tradition, they pursue a particular way of life, one sustained by six complementary forms of leadership that express the possibility of collaboration and community in a changing world.

Benac contributes to a new and emerging field at the intersection of practical theology, organizational theory, sociology of religion, and leadership studies. For leaders and communities facing uncertainty, Adaptive Church provides a template for change within and beyond the forms that have historically guided Christian organization, education, and leadership.


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Becoming the Baptized Body: Disability and the Practice of Christian Community

Sarah Jean Barton

( Baylor UP )

Baptism offers the distinctive practice of Christian initiation, rooted in Jesus’ own baptism, ministry, death, and resurrection. Too often, however, people with intellectual disabilities are excluded from this core Christian practice and so barred from full inclusion in the life of discipleship. How can the work of the Triune God in baptism renew Christian imagination toward an embrace of baptismal identities and vocations among disabled Christians?

In Becoming the Baptized Body Sarah Jean Barton explores how baptismal theologies and practices shape Christian imagination, identity, and community. Privileging perspectives informed by disability experience through theological qualitative research, Becoming the Baptized Body demonstrates how theology done together can expansively enliven imagination around baptismal practices and how they intersect with the human experience of disability. Through a lively tapestry of stories, theological insights, and partnerships with Christians who experience intellectual disability, Barton resists theological abstraction and engages and expands the field of disability theology.

With a methodological commitment to inclusive research and a focus on ecclesial practice, Barton brings theologians of disability, biblical accounts of baptism, baptismal liturgies, and theological voices from across the ecumenical spectrum in conversation with Christians shaped by intellectual disability. Becoming the Baptized Body explores how the real-world experiences of disabled Christians enrich and expand received Christian theological traditions and illustrates avenues for vibrant participation and formation for all believers.

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