An Anglican “Top Ten,” As It Were – A Reading List by Gerald R. McDermott

An Anglican “Top Ten,” As It Were – A Reading List by Gerald R. McDermott

This post is a part of Rookie Anglican, a blog dedicated to Making Anglicanism Accessible.

NB: This is not a list of the ten best Anglican books. It is a list of (actually) sixteen works by twelve authors who have influenced me the most, and the ones therefore that I recommend with enthusiasm to Anglicans and those who are Anglican-curious.

Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (All titles are affiliate links to Amazon)

(3 vols., ed. John Keble, arranged by Michael Russell) 

This is the most affordable version I have found, and comes with a “blueprint” that recapitulates the main arguments. Hooker was the theologian of the Elizabethan settlement. He is not the last word in Anglican theology, especially if you agree with orthodox development, but he should be read in his own words for his learned and “judicious” charting of the via media between Romans and Puritans. Every Anglican priest needs this for reference, at the very least.

Ashley Null, Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love

(Oxford University Press)

Cranmer is the theologian, martyr, and master liturgist whose two Books of Common Prayer have set the standard for Anglicans to this day. Null knows more about Cranmer than anyone on the planet.  This is essential for knowledge of the paramount English Reformer.

Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy

(Dacre; Oxford University Press. Many used copies available) 

This is the must-get analysis of Anglican (and historic Christian) liturgy and theology. Written like a detective mystery, with fascinating asides. The author was an Anglican monk, called the brightest Anglican mind, witty and godly, in much demand as conference speaker and preacher all over (last) mid-century England.  Criticized by historians for getting one element wrong in his 4-fold shape, and by theologians for an incipient Pelagianism in his treatment of the offertory, Dix’s argument has more than enough resources to handle each criticism.

E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and Its Consequences

(Longmans, Oxford University Press. To be printed by Hendrickson in 2017)

Mascall was perhaps the greatest Anglican divine of the 20th century. Once called “the most interesting theologian in the world.” Rich fare in its sacramental theology, Christology, and ecclesiology.

E.L. Mascall, Corpus Christi: Essays on the Church and the Eucharist

(Longmans)

These are remarkably accessible essays for laymen. Deep and penetrating on an Anglican approach that is Anglo-Catholic but not Roman.

Vernon Staley, The Catholic Religion: A manual of instruction for members of the Anglican Communion

(Morehouse)

Remarkably elegant and accessible Anglo-Catholic guide for laymen.

John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine

(University of Notre Dame Press)

This is not explicitly Anglican, but is essential to Anglican understandings of development of orthodox theology and worship.

John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons

(Ignatius)

This a wonderful collection of 1700 pages of Newman’s Anglican sermons before he swam the Tiber.  I never fail to learn when I read any one of these.

Lancelot Andrewes, Selected Writings

(Fyfield Books)

The greatest of the Caroline divines, of beautiful style and rich and deep piety.

C.S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century

(Oxford University Press)

Classic work, with superb sections on Cranmer, Donne, Hooker, Jewell, More, Puritans, Shakespeare, and Tyndale

J.R.H. Moorman, A History of the Church in England

(Morehouse Publishing)

Well-written, indispensable, shows that Anglicanism goes back to the first few, perhaps even first, century(ies). Distinctly Protestant and Broad Church, anti-Puritan, anti-Roman, weak on things after 1900, far too enamored by Bultmann.  But the best history I know.

Martin Thornton, English Spirituality: An Outline of Ascetical Theology according to the English

(Wipf & Stock)

Superb both for theory and practice; sketches the peculiarly English character of spirituality, starting in 14th century.

Martin Thornton, Pastoral Theology: A Reorientation

(Wipf & Stock) 

Contrasts the theology of the multitudes and theology of the remnant, with practical application to a wide range of phenomena in the parish.

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional religion in England 1400-1580

(Yale University Press)

Superlative survey of late medieval and early reformation English religion, with the surprising thesis that people were generally happy with their churches and worship before the changes under the Tudors and later.

Roy Strong, A Little History of the English Country Church

(Jonathan Cape)

Delightful history of worship and theology seen thru the prism of churches in the countryside.

William Abraham, Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology: From the Fathers to Feminism

(Oxford University Press)

Billy Abraham is a Methodist, but he understands Anglican sensibilities. Yet far more important, this contemporary classic argues that Christian faith is a many-splendored thing, and that our final criterion is not the biblical canon in isolation but Scripture as enacted and interpreted in liturgy and creeds and sacraments and saints and icons—and the Great Theological Tradition.  This is a book that all young Anglican theologians should read.

~Gerald R. McDermott

All Saints, 2016


Gerald R. McDermott is Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School and associate pastor of Christ the King Anglican Church in Birmingham, AL.

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