“English Spirituality”: A Review Article -- By: Jerry R. Flora

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 38:0 (NA 2006)
Article: “English Spirituality”: A Review Article
Author: Jerry R. Flora


“English Spirituality”: A Review Article

Jerry R. Flora

Gordon Mursell, English Spirituality. 2001. 2 vols. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 548, 580 pp. $39.95 ea.

Imposing. Impressive. Intimidating. Such feelings must be normal when one first approaches Gordon Mursell’s history of Christian spirituality in England. In bulk the two blue volumes resemble the black tomes of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. With 1128 pages and more than 6000 fine-print notes, this is a work to be reckoned with. But it is also interesting and inviting. Mursell’s clear style and pastoral approach make it a journey worth taking as he surveys almost two millennia of faith. The massive documentation reveals that the author has read widely, deeply, and carefully. This is no quick overview, but a refined, nuanced discussion abounding in detail. From Regent College in Vancouver, veteran teacher and author James Houston writes, “This is the most comprehensive, scholarly, and up-to-date survey … an essential guide and standard history of the subject” (dust jacket).

Not yet sixty years of age, the Very Reverend Gordon Mursell is Area Bishop of Stafford in the Diocese of Lichfield. Born in Surrey, he initially studied at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome. While there he lived with a family whose genuine faith caused him to begin taking Christianity seriously. Returning to England, he joined the Anglican Church, attended Oxford University’s Brasenose College, and trained for ordination. Since then he has been a parish priest, an instructor in pastoral studies and spirituality, and provost and dean of Birmingham Cathedral. For much of the 1990s he was rector of St. Mary’s Church, Stafford, where he did most of the research and writing for English Spirituality. He is in frequent demand as a speaker and teacher noted for his clarity, enthusiasm, and infectious humor. His interests include music and hill walking—not to mention his wife Anne, who is a psychiatrist.

Mursell was the editor of an earlier volume, The Story of Christian Spirituality: Two Thousand Years, from East to West (Fortress Press 2001). That collaborative effort surveyed the entire Christian spectrum, each chapter written by an expert in its area. Contributors included well-known authors such as Richard Burridge (Jesus and the origins of Christian spirituality), John McGuckin (the early fathers and the Eastern tradition), and Bradley Holt (the twentieth century). Mursell himself contributed the chapter on the Anglican spirit. Lavishly illustrated in color, the book is a visual feast. English Spirituality, by contrast, is a typical black-on-white production but made attractive by its orderly arrangement, clear writ...

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