(Martyn Percy Post from 2 weeks ago- go back for my Camacho post “We’ve Got the Bling”)
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and brilliant communicator preached at our church. This woman, while not a pastor or a professor, spoke as a committed life-long Christ follower about her call into the world. She shared her journey of God speaking to her (which is rare for her) to go outside of the church and love people she would not normally be inclined toward. The result of this has been an education on holding both love and truth together when she initially held truth as her primary focus. In addition, she has entered into three life changing friendships with a man who is gender-queer, a woman of color, and a woman who is bisexual and on the opposite end of the political spectrum as her. These friendships have enriched her perspective while not distancing her from the authority of Scripture.
When my friend preached, she went through Scripture, revealing Jesus’ love for those on the outside. And then, one of her final points, “there are no others.” Sher reminded us that if we are to love our neighbor, we have to remember that everyone is our neighbor and no one is out of bounds for God to love through us. Her message was convicting and encouraging to the congregation. We see that our fellow congregant is taking God seriously and has immersed herself in community, and is exhorting us to do the same.
I mention this story of my friend because so many of us stay in our lanes of church, academy, or culture at large. My friend experienced God moving her into oncoming traffic and she had to figure out how to go with their flow while maintaining her own identity. By being in proximity, she was unable to stay in her lane. She was also unable to hold on to her rigid black and white thinking of Christ and the world.
When reading Reasonable Radical? Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy, I noticed a similarity between my friend and Martyn Percy. Percy also does not stay in his lane. As the dean and a professor at Oxford, Percy also maintains his ordination as priest in the Anglican Church. A contextual theologian, he is concerned with serving the church and academy while elevating them through engagement with culture. “Martyn does theology, sociology and anthropology not from the vantage point of the preacher in the pulpit or the academic in the ivory tower, but from within the communities of practice he is addressing—church, society and academy.”
Percy’s challenge to the church and the academy is to engage deeply in the world, at least as much as in the world of theology. Holding the constant tension of living an embodied theology is to be emulated. As the editors of Reasonable Radical? note in the introduction, “With the practical theologian, Percy is as interested in what people do (or in the case of the charismatics—what they sing) as in what they say. What they do (or sing) is often more revealing of their theology, then the formal statement of faith found on a website.”
Percy’s response to the section on Ecclesiology communicates his position of the necessity of lived theology: “Lindbeck’s theory of theology—its performative dimension as something that is “cultural-linguistic”: it ‘gains power and meaning insofar as it is embodied in the total gestalt of community life and action.’ There is the irony for the theologian, and for the church. For in gaining an understanding of how the world might imagine beliefs and practice to cohere, one begins to develop a deeper sense—that they may not, in fact, neatly mesh at all.”
While not everyone loves Percy, he definitely has a legacy he is producing through his writing and other’s writings about him and his work. One reviewer notes, “To my mind, he is one of the great, pastor-theologians of the Christian Church today, who has integrated faith with wide-ranging learning in disciplines sometimes regarded as implicitly hostile to faith and spirituality. As a result, his work makes spirituality, churches, and theology attractive, and sometimes exciting!”
Reading Percy’s words and those spoken about him is a reminder of how theology and practice ought to be. The idea that the body and the mind would be separate is nonsensical yet it happens often in the church. The beliefs of many denominations, my own included, are often much weightier than their practice, and eventually become some mesh of the two that, as Percy remarks, may have little value to the world. Particularly when looking at the realities of a changing world demographically, the church must be present, as my friend is, to understand how to connect and serve from a Christ centric posture. Let’s pull the car over so we can observe what’s going on and be available to the culture, regardless of our usual lane identification.
 Markham, Ian S.. Reasonable Radical?: Reading the lWritings of Martyn Percy . Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Location 158
 Markham, Ian S.. Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy . Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.Location 149
 Markham, Ian S.. Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy . Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.