Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Studium and Punctum

Written by: on May 18, 2017


I have heard, and have even said, that “perception is reality”.  What we “perceive” is real to us, no matter its validity.  Our perception can/is tainted by the “lens” of life that we look through.  This “perception is reality”, seems to be the premise for Martyn Percy’s book, Shaping the Church:  The Promise of Implicit Theology.

We began our DMin work with a book by Sarah Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography.  She explained the process of what and how we “see” in her book:

…when we write, think and make images in this field, we do not ever arrive at an end.  We instead end in a moment, a temporary configuration which is of course over by the time our work is published or otherwise disseminated.  Doing Visual Ethnography is not a method – not something that is ‘done’ but something that is happening in the doing, and the doing is ongoing as technology, practice, and life move forward in new ways.[1]



Implicit theology, which Percy believes is Shaping the Church, is more plausible than just a broad stroke of words such as decline, post – whatever, disconnected, humanist, secular, etc.  But saying that is also a two-edged sword of truth to be reckoned with and a “pass” that makes everything ok.  Percy says, “… ‘implicit’ means the meaningful folding together and close connecting of a variety of strands.  Correspondingly, ‘explicit’ is the un-folding, un-raveling or explaining of the miscible.  It is bringing order from apparent chaos and clarity from complexity.”[2]

 In Part I-Spiritual Life, Percy takes on baptism, confirmation, conversion, church attendance, culture, and the Eucharist.  The theology span on these items is quite diverse, complex, and divided.  Taking the idea of “implicit theology” creates margins that can help “explain” the present reality in each of these items.

I may not agree with his methodology on baptism, but the implicit nature of the Anglican church that Percy relates to, has created/allowed the “meaningful folding together and close connecting of a variety of strands.”- Percy.  Yet church attendance is taking on an “implicit theology” of what is acceptable behavior and creating a new norm in my world.  “It is true that many mainstream Christian denominations no longer enjoy the coherence of a homogenous culture; movements within them are trying to transform them.”[3]

Travel sports teams, need for work/life balance, “me”-time, and overbooked schedules now dictate church attendance, or the lack thereof.  Percy quotes Grace Davie, “believing without belonging”.[4]  Have we allowed implicit theology to dictate the “variety of strands” to remove the importance of the sacred from gathering?  Is the American church allowing a doctrine of “me” to outweigh the doctrine of Him and His Body- the church?

Part II- Church – The Nature of the Body, Percy takes on the hot topic of consumerism, church growth, and the concept of “organic church growth”.  Percy quotes Loren Mead’s work, More that Numbers, in describing four types of church growth: “Numerical, Maturational, Organic, and Incarnational.”[5]

“Clearly, it is tempting to be seduced by recipes and formulae that deliver clarity.”[6]  We, as pastors and church leaders, want to know how to navigate and bring growth to His church.  Percy offers “four hallmarks of priesthood and priestly church:  Sacramental-Transformative, Reciprocal-Representative, Sacrificial-Receptive, and Pastoral-Prophet.”[7]

Part III – Ministry – Practising Theology.  How do we “herd cats” and yet keep proper formation within the body, is the premise of Part III.  Percy concludes with:

…the miscible nature of the church – which is to say the many sources that form its life, including aesthetics, institutional habits, organizational assumptions and practices, context and so forth – suggest that its hope rest in its hybridity rather than its assumed purity.  This is perhaps a surprising remark to come by in ecclesiology, where habitually, much energy is invested in historical or ontological accounts of the church that often suggest otherwise. [8]



My title comes from Percy’s analogy of literary critic, Roland Barthes, looking at pictures.  Barthes made, “…a distinction between what he called the Studium and Punctum.  The Studium is the photograph’s overt agenda, which might include a view, the person, an event of drama.”[9]  The Punctum is, “…often something that the photographer was not looking to include, but then becomes a part of the focus of the viewer; it can become a transfixing point.”[10]


I anxiously looked forward to reading this book.  Meeting Percy twice, Hong Kong and Oxford, I was taken back by his vast knowledge and passion for Christ.  This book delivered the Percy that I thought I had met.  He has challenged me to know what I truly believe and why.



[1] Sarah Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography, (Los Angeles: Sage, 2013), 213.

[2] Martyn Percy, Shaping the Church:  The Promise of Implicit Theology, (Farnham Surrey, England:  Ashgate, 2010), 2.

[3] Ibid., 52.

[4] Ibid., 52.

[5] Ibid., 89.

[6] Ibid., 108.

[7] Ibid., 108-109.

[8] Ibid., 159.

[9] Ibid., 20.

[10] Ibid., 20.

About the Author

Phil Goldsberry

9 responses to “Studium and Punctum”

  1. Phil,
    Knowing your denominational background, would you say the UPC is steeped in implicit theology? I think all denominations are, but just curious as to your thoughts on UPC.

    After reading his book, I tend to think that “perception (implicit) rules the charismatic churches these days. What are your thoughts?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:

      Percy leads us to discover that all denominations have the “strands” that mesh together. What challenges me is that sometimes these strands may not be truth and yet acceptable.

      Legalism, in the UPC or AG or whomever, can lead people to accept as commonplace and even foundational. We are all subject to the potential of “acceptability” that is why I believe in accountability and transparency.


  2. Nice family pic Phil! 🙂 I too was looking forward to reading this book after meeting Percy and hearing his heart.
    My question is the same as Jason’s.
    UPC steeped in implicit theology?

    • Phil Goldsberry says:

      Any group can “blend” into strands that create an acceptability of what can be described as “organizational culture” and truth. That is why I appreciate people like Percy that stretch us to go back to examine the foundations.


  3. Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Phil.
    Your perspective is refreshing and how you simplified, broke down the main points of the reading. The personal touch by sharing the impact that author Percy, has made upon your life, I too can say he has added value to mine.
    And to add such a charming picture to the blog. I must say excellent, my dear cohort. A job well done!
    Blessings Rose Maria

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Great summary on the salient points of Percy’s book. You ask very profound questions worthy of serious reflection with respect to believing without belonging. You stated, “Have we allowed implicit theology to dictate the “variety of strands” to remove the importance of the sacred from gathering? Is the American church allowing a doctrine of “me” to outweigh the doctrine of Him and His Body—the church?”
    Phil, I don’t know how this reality could have been put forth more succinctly. You are correct on both counts; these trends are increasingly emerging globally. It is not only Americans that subscribe to a doctrine of “me” but it is occurring in many places around the world as well. The sad thing is that Christians have no problem with these forms of idolatry. Even Christians have gone too far in being satisfied with only an implicit theological experience, to the almost total neglect of the explicit theological experience. The task for theologians is how do we impact the institutional church culture to make Christ central to its existence at its very core and concerning its missional and theological orientations in general.

  5. Aaron Cole says:


    Great blog! I like the picture and you use of studium and punctum. When you look at a picture, a snapshot of your leadership as pastor, what are a few of the the studiums that emerge and what are a few of the punctums that emerge as well?


  6. Phil,

    Thanks for your post. I was going to write about what your title points out. I thought in a world of selfies what or who is photo bombing your effectiveness? Is it on purpose or is it by happen chance?

    Do you see things in your background that affect your effectiveness?


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