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Review of Peter Itzen, Streitbare Kirche: Die Church of England vor den Herausforderungen des Wandels 1945-1990 - Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Review of Peter Itzen, Streitbare Kirche: Die Church of England vor den Herausforderungen des Wandels 1945-1990 - Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 22, Number 2 (June 2016)

Review of Peter Itzen, Streitbare Kirche : Die Church of England vor den Herausforderungen des Wandels 1945-1990 (Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag, 2013). Pp. 437. ISBN 9783832966089.

By John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

Very few German scholars have recently published works on England, and fewer still on the Church of England . It is therefore a welcome sign that Peter Itzen has now contributed to this well-researched and balanced study of the Church England in the second half of the last century, which will undoubtedly be of German students and theologians, many of whom usually look with Both puzzlement and envy at the church scene across the English Channel.

This account pays little attention to the theology, but rather follows in the footsteps of such authors as Grace Davie and Callum Brown in emphasizing the sociological patterns he discerns In the Church of England's development during the fifty years following the Second World War. Itzen lays particular stress on the views and impact of the major church leaders on the political and social life of the nation, and makes extensive use of the archives held in Lambeth Palace, the residence of successive Archbishops of Canterbury. He also appends short but useful biographical details of many church leaders. The result is a well-informed but not uncritical account of the sometimes controversial stances adopted by the church, and the often critical responses by politicians, for instance during the Suez Crisis in the 1950s, or during Margaret Thatcher's term as Prime Minister in the 1980s .

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In more recent years, such as the 1990s, the most pressing issue for the Church of England was the question of the ordination of women. Fortunately, the new Archbishop, George Carey, as an Evangelical, was open to compromises which offered the more stringent Anglo-Catholics an olive branch of friendship. And in any case, the more militant supporters of women's rights were satisfied with the eventual agreement of the church assemblies, though it took another ten years for women's ordination to the episcopate to be realized. Far more contentious was the issue of homosexuality, which then spilled over into the term of office of the following Archbishop, Rowan Williams. Williams himself was an advocate of a liberal and tolerant stance for the Church of England on this question. But the Archbishop of Canterbury was also the leader of the world-wide Anglican Communion. I have faced intransigent opposition to any such tolerance from the majority of African bishops. He thus found himself in an insoluble impasse which threatened to break open the ranks of the Communion, and made it impossible to show the Anglican unity as previously displayed at the decennial Lambeth Conferences. This situation remains unresolved. No less problematical remains the issue of Britain's multi-cultural and multi-religious identity. But the readiness of the Church's leaders to issue constructive appeals for national and social harmony indicates a willingness to bring the influence of this heritage to bear, and to mobilize its supporters to proclaim its ethical and historical relevance to the problems of the 21 century. P>

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