'Generous Orthodoxy' was a phrase that the founders of St Mellitus College used in its early days to describe the approach the college took to bringing together the mainstream traditions of the church in a mission-focussed and Spirit-inspired way, as it sought to train students across the breadth of the Church of England and beyond. It is a phrase that appears to have been coined by the theologian Hans Frei, and since the early days of St Mellitus, seems to have been used more and more widely across the church. Inevitably, such a phrase can be used in a number of different ways, and can sometimes confuse as much as it can clarify.
The McDonald Agape Foundation has kindly funded a three-year research project to help bring some theological and spiritual clarity to the term, and to try to define as far as possible, what we at St Mellitus College mean by ‘Generous Orthodoxy’. The project leader is the Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, and President of St Mellitus College, as well as its first Dean. The project will comprise a number of public lectures, a colloquium bringing together theologians from across the world to share their ideas on the topic, and will result in a couple of published books.
Monday 4th March 2019 – Jesus – Reliably Surprising, Generously Orthodox with Professor David Ford, Cambridge University
Jesus is, simultaneously, both utterly reliable and continually surprising. He is the embodiment of a God-centred, Spirit-filled orthodoxy that invites us into an abundant life, enabling daring, loving generosity. This lecture suggests that Hans Frei, who described his own theology as intended to be generously orthodox, is the most important twentieth-century North American theologian for the twenty-first century. Three main thrusts of his theology – his work on the identity of Jesus Christ, his account of why so much eighteenth and nineteenth century interpretation failed to do justice to the Gospel narratives, and his five-type map of modern Christian theology – come together in an account of Jesus Christ that distils for our century the best both of classical and of twentieth-century Christian theology. I then propose an account of Jesus that moves beyond Frei, inspired by the way the Gospel of John moves through and beyond the other three Gospels.
Monday 10th June 2019 – The Love of God, the Home of God with Professor Miroslav Volf, Yale University
Generous orthodoxy is in part about theological discourse: whether it is open and embracing (like Karl Rahner’s, for instance) or strident and excluding (like Karl Barth’s). But it is above all about the content of theological claims. In the lecture, Volf will argue that the Christian “story of everything” is a generous story: It begins with the love of God who is love and it reaches culmination in the entire world becoming the home of God and the true home of human beings.
Monday 23rd September 2019 – The Art of Hope: Imagining Another World in a World That Breaks Our Hearts with Professor James K. A. Smith, Calvin College
There is something almost surreal about Christianity. At its heart is a string of incredible claims—a God who becomes human; a crucified God who is raised from the dead; a cosmic Creator who knows everything about us and yet loves us, forgives us, and promises to wipe away every tear. Is it any wonder, then, that the Church has been an incubator of the imagination, a wellspring for the arts? If orthodoxy is generous because it has something to offer the world, one of those gifts is an ability to imagine the world otherwise. The Chalcedonian orthodoxy that dares to imagine the mystery of the God-man is the orthodoxy that underwrites an entire artistic tradition that speaks to human hungers. This lecture will consider how and why the Spirit speaks to us in songs and poems, painting portraits of a world we couldn’t otherwise imagine—and why the arts are a conduit of hope in a culture of despair.
Doors open 6:45pm at St Mellitus College, 24 Collingham Road, London SW5 0LX
View some resources below, including an article, and a series of lectures which have also generously been funded by the McDonald Agape Foundation.