BOOK | MANIFESTO FOR RENEWAL | ANDREW DUTNEY
A good history is informative, sobering and inspiring. Rev Prof Andrew Dutney’s 2016 revised and expanded edition of his 1986 Manifesto for Renewal is such a history. Manifesto tracks the progress of the parent denominations of the Uniting Church towards Union, with particular attention to the development of the Basis of Union.
This book is informative in the detail it provides of the content, and of the ecumenical and political context, of the work of the Joint Commission on Church Union and the individual denominations. It helpfully illuminates the purpose and content of the Basis by providing insight into the particular polemic in which the Basis is engaged: what it was to which it was saying No and Yes at that time. Without this sense of what the Basis might have been, we have less understanding of what it actually is.
Dutney’s account of the historical context is sobering for two reasons.
First are the resonances between then and now – for all of the remarkable theological work done at that time, not much has changed. Not least is the continuing need to answer the questions asked at the beginning of the process towards Union: “What is the Church’s faith? Where is it to be found?”
Second is that, for all our need to continue to work on such questions, our parent churches demonstrated a broad-based capacity for engaging theologically with such questions which is much less evident today.
Finally, this is an inspiring book because its subject matter – the Basis itself – is inspiring. Dutney reveals the Basis as a living document from which the contemporary church still has much to hear. We are blessed to have it.
Accompanying Dutney’s revised volume is a re-issue of a slim commentary on the Basis by Davis McCaughey. This is a pre-Union commentary and Dutney’s introduction gives an account of McCaughey’s personal contribution to the formulation of the Basis. Both these books are worth attention in the lead up to the 40th anniversary of Union next year.