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A Shield in the Shadows

Reviewed by Amy Anderson

By L.A. Racines

Xulon Press, 2015 Softcover,

358 pages (including glossary and maps), $19.49

HUMAN MIGRATION is a hot topic right now. The international response to the Syrian refugee crisis has raised all kinds of questions, both in the Church and outside of it: with so many people driven from their homes and countries, where will they all go? Do those who are safe and secure have an obligation to help, even to share their own land and resources? And what happens when the needs of the displaced conflict with those of the settled residents into whose territory they flee?

L.A. Racines’ historical novel, A Shield in the Shadows, is a timely reminder that these questions are nothing new. Set in the 5th century BCE, the story revolves around Marius, a Roman officer, and Theona, a Gothic Christian whose village is destroyed by marauding Huns. As Marius and his troops prepare

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Some Summer Reads

Three of our faithful readers share their recommendations of books and a podcast to enjoy at the cottage, campsite or park this summer.

Julie Lane Gay is a writer and editor who lives in Vancouver with her husband, Craig, and their four children. She attends St John’s, Vancouver.

Calling it a “wonderful book on sin” sounds like an oxymoron, but Dennis Okholm’s Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins: Learning from the Psychology of the Ancient Monks is the most helpful book I’ve read on the topic since devouring C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters

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by Peter T. Chattaway


THE TEMPTATION when making a movie about a major turning point in history is to make it all about one person, usually a man, and to frame it as that one person's great struggle.


Even the 2012 film about the formal abolition of slavery, and all the various politicians, power brokers and deal makers who made it happen over the course of a few weeks, got released with a title -- Lincoln -- that pointed to the man at the top of the pyramid.

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Books Worth Giving This Christmas

By Bill Reimer


SEARCHING FOR SOME books to give at Christmas but don’t know where to begin? To help you out, we’ve asked Bill Reimer, the manager of Regent College Bookstore in Vancouver, for his recommendations of recently published books.

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Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury

By Stephen Sharman

LAST YEAR when I was visiting Winchester Cathedral, I had some time before Evening Prayer so I visited the Cathedral bookshop. There I found Andrew Atherstone’s brief biography of Archbishop Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I began to read the book in the empty nave of the Cathedral and, after Evening Prayer, continued to read it on the train back to London. I finished it on the train to Norwich where, among other things, I attended Evensong in Norwich Cathedral. So, for me, the book is now associated with cathedrals and trains. This biography is a very welcome addition to the extensive literature about recent archbishops of Canterbury. In just one hundred and fifty-two pages, Atherstone outlines Welby’s life until his election to the See of Canterbury. The titles of the six chapters describe the successive stages of a life which is truly a ‘meteoric rise’: ‘A Silver Spoon and a Broken Home,’ ‘Conversion and Calling,’ ‘Growing Churches,’ ‘The Ministry of Reconciliation,’ ‘Liverpool Cathedral’ and ‘Durham.’ The title of the epilogue, ‘A Time of Spiritual Hunger,’ aptly describes the time in which we live. Atherstone describes Welby’s childhood and education at Eton and Cambridge, institutions that are not unconnected with the leadership of Church and State.  It was at Cambridge that he met his wife, Caroline. Another crucial moment during his university years was his conversion to evangelical Christianity. This, for Welby, was a life-changing experience. His evangelical Christianity was nurtured by the Round Church in Cambridge and later Holy Trinity Church Brompton in London. Atherstone continues the story of Welby’s life with an account of his very successful business career in the oil industry. At the same time he experienced the sorrows of an unhappy relationship with his father and the sudden death of his baby daughter, Johanna, in a car crash. He and Caroline have five surviving children. Welby experienced a ‘second conversion’ with his vocation to the ministry of the Church of England. It takes courage and a strong sense of vocation to leave a successful career and enter training for the ministry. He studied at Cranmer Hall in Durham and, following his ordination in 1992, he served in the Diocese of Coventry. In his parishes, he introduced Alpha Courses and worship with ‘greater informality and modern music’; he was seeking to draw more people to the services. In 2002 he joined the staff of Coventry Cathedral where he became involved in the ministry of reconciliation. This required him to travel abroad to Africa and the Middle East, thereby increasing his knowledge of the broader Anglican Communion. In 2007, he became Dean of Liverpool Cathedral and in 2011, Bishop of Durham. Atherstone’s account of Welby’s meteoric rise is a fair and balanced one. He is sympathetic to the role of evangelical Christianity in his subject’s life. He describes the web of friendships which surrounded and supported Welby. And he stresses the important role of his wife, Caroline. Atherstone also points to other key influences, such as his experiences in Africa and the meeting with the Benedictines of Elmore Abbey. He gives us a picture of a devout evangelical Anglican but, more than that, of a person increasingly in touch with many parts of the life of the Church of England. Atherstone describes two constant themes in Welby’s ministry: risk and evangelism. In the index, there are fifteen reference to risk and fourteen to evangelism. Welby is convinced that evangelism requires risk in order to bring people to Christ. At Coventry he urged, ‘We’re going to have to take some risks if the cathedral community is going to find a safe place to work out its issues in a reconciled way, not with conflict.’ At Durham, in his enthronement sermon, he reminded his congregation of their work of evangelism: “It is a huge task, to follow in the giant footsteps of Cuthbert and Aidan and Chad and so many more, intending in the north east to rekindle Christian faith,” and urged them to remember that “God calls for risk takers.” Atherstone does not conceal from his readers the weaknesses in Welby’s preparation for the See of Canterbury. He does not hide Welby’s lack of theological scholarship. In this, Welby is unlike such notable predecessors as William Temple, Michael Ramsey and Rowan Williams. Atherstone does not hide his lack of experience as a diocesan bishop – a mere year in the office. In this Welby is unlike such predecessors as Geoffrey Fisher and Robert Runcie.  He reminds us that Welby was a proponent of women bishops, an opinion that will not endear him to those Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who are deeply opposed to this innovation. But while he writes openly about these challenges, Atherstone prefers to stress the values of Welby’s experience in the business world, his many friendships throughout the Church of England and the Anglican Communion and his commitment to the ministry of reconciliation.  It is perhaps his commitment to reconciliation that will be his greatest gift to a deeply divided Church of England and Anglican Communion. Atherstone’s book is a useful account of a remarkable life and is well worth reading.