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Cracknell, Kenneth 1935-

PERSONAL:

Born June, 1935; married Susan J. White (an author, educator, and historian). Education: Attended the University of Oxford, University of London, and University of Leeds.

CAREER:

Writer, educator, researcher, United Methodist minister, missionary, historian, and theologian. British Council of Churches, Committee for Relations with People of Other Faiths, executive secretary, 1979-88; Cambridge Theological Federation, president, Faculty of Divinity, instructor, and Wesley House, senior tutor, Cambridge, 1988-95; Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX, research professor in theology and mission and professor of theology and global studies, 1995—. Texas Christian University, distinguished professor-in-residence. Ordained United Methodist minister. Served with the Methodist Missionary Society in Nigeria.

WRITINGS:

Towards a New Relationship: Christians and People of Other Faith, Epworth Press (London, England), 1986.

Justice, Courtesy, and Love: Theologians and Missionaries Encountering World Religions, Epworth Press (London, England), 1995.

(With wife, Susan J. White) An Introduction to World Methodism, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

In Good and Generous Faith: Christian Responses to Religious Pluralism, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 2006.

Discernment, founding editor.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kenneth Cracknell is a writer, historian, and theologian at Brite Divinity School, in Fort Worth, Texas, where he serves as research professor in theology and mission and as professor of theology and global studies. He studied at several prestigious British universities, including the University of Oxford, University of London, and the University of Leeds. He has been president of the Cambridge Theological Federation, and also served as an instructor in the Cambridge faculty of divinity. In addition to his academic career, Cracknell has been an ordained United Methodist minister for more than forty years. He was the founding editor of the publication Discernment.

In Justice, Courtesy, and Love: Theologians and Missionaries Encountering World Religions, Cracknell confronts a popular conception of missionaries as single-mindedly convinced of the rightness of their own religion, unaware or unconcerned with the feelings and ideas of people of other religions, determined to coax or force people out of the error of their non-Christian faith, and ready to do whatever is necessary to overcome the wrongheadedness, error, or evil of other religions. Though some missionaries may think and behave in this manner, Cracknell asserts that they are not being true to their mission work if they do. His "timely book, however, shows that within the period 1846-1914, a stream of distinguished theologians and missionaries nurtured a conception of their task which was far more generous," commented John A. Harrod, writing in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. Cracknell looks at the work of five major theologians who were active at the time when the long-held idea that "everything outside Christianity is all devilish and dark began to break down," Harrod stated. Among them are Frederick Denison Maurice, whom Cracknell sees as the first major theologian to seek understanding and dialogue with other religions. His theology allowed him to believe, Cracknell notes, that faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam were not the inventions of man but were instead the product of the same God who stood at the forefront of Christianity. Another theologian in Cracknell's study, James Hope Moulton, believed that Christians could learn important lessons from people of other faiths, while a "sympathetic encounter with other faiths may alert Christians to the terrible distortions within their own tradition," Harrod observed. The author also looks at the works and thought of Brooke Foss Westcott, who believed that some who are being guided by God are not aware of the guidance they received.

Cracknell ends the book with an assessment of the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. The missionaries who attended this conference, he reports, were particularly accepting and welcoming of other religions, believing that all religions represent the work of God and a legitimate response to the creator. "The chapter on the Edinburgh meeting is remarkable for its clear and forthright presentation of this conference and all that preceded it," commented Marian Bohen in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies.

Cracknell's work "is overflowing with quotations showing rich theological insight, fearless intellectual inquiry, and above all a generosity of spirit—justice, courtesy and love," Harrod stated. "He has given us an insight into a fascinating and deeply impressive era of thought," Harrod continued, concluding, "The book makes compelling reading for theologian, missiologist, and historian." Bohen called the book "an invaluable resource for theological discussion and inspiration."

Cracknell is the author of An Introduction to World Methodism, in collaboration with his wife, Susan J. White. Cracknell and White begin their book with four chapters that "outline succinctly, and with delicate balance, the history of world Methodism," from the faith's beginnings with the Wesley brothers, to British and American developments following the Wesleys, to the status of the worldwide Methodist community at the beginning of the new century, reported David Tripp, writing in Ecclesiology. "The following chapters examine phenomenologically the principal aspects of Methodism throughout the world, and seek the unifying principle that holds together a remarkably diverse assortment of churches," Tripp noted. In these chapters, Cracknell and White consider at greater length concepts such as Methodist theology, Methodist common life, Methodist spirituality, the social ethics of the Methodists, interfaith concerns, and the structure and practice of Methodist worship. "The real strength of this volume lies in the thematic explorations, each of which coheres nicely and which read as sufficiently free-standing explorations as to have been crafted independently," remarked Church History reviewer Russell E. Richey. In a further assessment, Richey reiterated that "several of these thematic chapters are real gems. Teachers of Methodist history, polity, and doctrine might find one or more of these explorations, for instance, theology, spirituality, or worship, to be useful as introductory overviews even if they do elect to employ the book as a basic text."

In his next book, In Good and Generous Faith: Christian Responses to Religious Pluralism, which Journal of Ecumenical Studies reviewer Kenneth Rose called a "masterful book," Cracknell supports adoption of a religious pluralism that "attempts to be faithful both to Christian and biblical traditions and to the undeniable and independent spiritual worth of other religious traditions," Rose noted. The theology that Cracknell supports placed God within a plurality of world religions. It is a theology that "makes no substantive claims but is a formal recognition that there are many claimants to final truth," Rose observed. This is a particularly important concept to understand in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and the reality of fundamental clashes with persons of different faiths, noted S. Wesley Ariarajah, writing in the Ecumenical Review. In this newly formed and more cautious world, understanding other faiths and their practitioners becomes even more critical. With this book, "what Cracknell has done is to take his own clear and unequivocal stances on the issues and has come up with a remarkable volume that combines his lifelong passion, thorough scholarship, and commitment to a world in which religious traditions can live in true mutuality and friendship," commented Ariarajah. Cracknell "brings a breath of fresh air to theological thinking and builds up a convincing case for a generous Christian faith," Ariarajah remarked. In the end, Ariarajah concluded: "The book deserves to be read by Christians of all theological hues and is a must-text for all those who teach and learn about Christian response to religious pluralism."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Forward, Martin, Stephen Plant, and Susan White, editors, A Great Commission: Christian Hope and Religious Diversity: Papers in Honor of Kenneth Cracknell on His 65th Birthday, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 2000.

PERIODICALS

Choice, April, 2006, W.L. Pitts, review of An Introduction to World Methodism, p. 1418.

Church History, September, 1997, William R. Hutchison, review of Justice, Courtesy, and Love: Theologians and Missionaries Encountering World Religions, p. 639; September, 2006, Russell E. Richey, review of An Introduction to World Methodism, p. 713.

Ecclesiology, May, 2006, David Tripp, "Methodism: One People in All the World?," review of An Introduction to World Methodism, p. 357.

Ecumenical Review, July-October, 2006, S. Wesley Ariarajah, review of In Good and Generous Faith: Christian Responses to Religious Pluralism.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October, 1996, John A. Harrod, review of Justice, Courtesy, and Love, p. 763; July, 2006, Peter Forsaith, review of An Introduction to World Methodism, p. 622.

Journal of Ecumenical Studies, winter, 1989, Howard Eshbaugh, review of Towards a New Relationship: Christians and People of Other Faith, p. 221; spring, 1998, Marian Bohen, review of Justice, Courtesy, and Love, p. 293; fall, 2007, Kenneth Rose, review of In Good and Generous Faith, p. 640.

Theology, May-June, 2006, John A. Newton, review of An Introduction to World Methodism, p. 224.

ONLINE

Iskon Communications Journal,http://www.iskon.com/icj/ (May 22, 2008), author profile.

Pilgrim Press Web site,http://www.thepilgrimpress.com/ (May 22, 2008), author profile.

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