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Confounding the Mighty: Stories of Church, Social Class and Solidarity

by Luke Larner (ed.)

Review by Matt Allen, Blackburn Centre Lead Tutor, Emmanuel Theological College

SCM Press, 2023, £19.90. ISBN 978-0- 3340-6357-5

<strong><em>Confounding the Mighty: Stories of Church, Social Class and </em></strong><strong>Solidarity</strong>

I have been pleasantly surprised by the growing number of people who are taking seriously how social class affects the experience of church life in the UK for many. The different contributors to this work each make a meaningful contribution to this conversation. The book is split into three sections, with chapters offered under these headings: ‘Intersectional Experiences of Class and the Church’; ‘Class and Leadership in Mission and Ministry’; and ‘Class, Solidarity and the Struggle for the Common Good’.


The personal experiences of the different writers and the cogency of their arguments enable the book to be engaging and compelling. The justice issues related to class remain in the foreground of all the chapters. Baptist Sally Mann astutely observes how the patterns of class have shifted in Britain in the past few decades, calling churches to be alert to these changes to embody hope in their communities.


For preachers, the chapters each raise different questions about the assumptions we might make about our hearers and the assumptions they may be making about those who speak to them. The theme of vocation is relevant to those who are looking to help discern or support new preachers, attentive to all forms of bias and prejudice.


As a theological educator, I was particularly drawn to the chapters which explored theological education and leadership. Selina Stone’s chapter was well-judged. It highlighted issues of ‘colonial models of leadership’ whilst striking a hopeful tone (p. 76). Eve Parker’s observation that Anglican training institutions ‘were not made to accommodate the experiences of working-class women and men’ rang painfully true for me as I recalled my own struggles during training (p. 118). My more recent experience of different training contexts suggests that the situation has shifted substantially and continues to keep changing.


There is some good theological reflection on the theme of solidarity, based on Eucharistic participation and pneumatology. In his concluding words, Larner is unequivocally clear that ‘a failure to discern the work of God in class struggle is a denial of the transformative work of the Spirit (p. 140, italics in original). Larner also explores ideas related to entering our common humanity in worship. This reminds me that I do not preach to generic people who I can assume share similar life experiences with myself. The whole book serves as a reminder to be real in my preaching, to be human as a preacher in ways which demonstrate solidarity with anyone who feels marginalized, left out, or left behind.


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