New Directions for the Church 6: accept diversity of belief

The Roman emperor ConstantineThis post continues my series looking for new ways to conceive of the Church and its role. Here I argue that we need to accept diversity of belief as normal and not treat it as a problem.

I have been critical of the post-1970s version of Evangelical Christianity that dominates the thinking of church leaders. One of its characteristics is the fantasy that all Christians believe, or should believe, the same things. We don’t, and never have done. The idea that we ought to discourages honest expressions of doubt, and encourages those with a little theological training to imagine they know all the answers.

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New directions for the Church 5: open membership

Cartoon of questioner being unwelcome in a church This is the fifth in a series of posts looking for new directions for the institutional churches. Here I argue that they need fuzzy edges.

One of the unfortunate features of the post-1970s version of Evangelicalism currently so dominant is the presupposition that there is a clear distinction between true Christians and everybody else. In reality we are a mixed bunch. We all have different beliefs, doubts and practices. Becoming a Christian isn’t necessarily a big jump.

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New directions for the Church 4: beyond church services

Praying in a chapelThis is the fourth in a series of posts looking for new directions for the institutional churches. I am hoping we can move on from what I have called the post-1970s dominant Evangelicalism of church leaders, to find better answers to the problems that face us.

Here I question the way the churches’ contribution has been so reduced that services have become almost the only thing on offer. Once Christian churches, like other spiritual traditions, offered a worldview – an account of why we exist, how to live well and how to express and celebrate it. Now, it is easy to imagine that it offers just one more leisure activity to rival the gym and the television.

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New directions for the Church 3: explain how it can help

CartoonThis is the third in my series of posts looking for changes of approach in church leadership, away from the post-1970s version of Evangelicalism that currently dominates its thinking and policies. Here I address the need for an outward-looking focus.

I share the archbishops’ sense of frustration. Although the number of full-time paid clergy in the Church of England is declining, there are still many thousands. If the Dalai Lama could command a workforce of this size, wouldn’t Buddhism take over the nation? What are we doing wrong?

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New directions for the Church 2: kingdom of God or cult of Christ?

This is the second of a series of posts reflecting on how the Church is conceived by its leaders, and offering alternative approaches. The first is here .

In the first I described the Archbishops’ ‘global prayer movement’ Thy Kingdom Come. Martyn Percy’s characteristically robust critique of it is well worth reading in full, though Kieran Bohan has produced a useful summary. Here I ask: is the Church just one more club, or something more important?

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New directions for the church 1: whose kingdom come?

Woman praying

You may or may not have noticed, but we are now in the middle of a ‘global wave of prayer’ initiated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, under the name ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.

This is the first of a series of posts reflecting on the Church, primarily here the Church of England. I ask how it is perceived by its leaders, and how we might perceive it differently. I believe their idea of the Church isn’t working. The aim of these posts is to offer positive alternatives. Thy Kingdom Come illustrates what’s wrong.

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Rogation

This is my sermon for Rogation Sunday.

The word ‘rogation’ comes from the Latin for ‘to ask’. There is a tradition of praying for the crops to grow well and produce a good harvest.

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War. What fun!

Air strikeMore air strikes. America attacks. Britain and France meekly follow Trump’s lead. Britain’s four RAF Tornados may not be the biggest part of the initiative, but it means we’re metooing.

Most of the public discourse is about surface isssues: who did what, what do we know, which laws have been broken? Beneath them lie deeper questions which we rarely ask.

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The Resurrection: what happened?

Picture of Jesus and the empty tombA few years ago there was a popular game of Bug the Bishop. Every Easter at least one newspaper would come out with a shock horror story about a bishop who didn’t believe in the Resurrection. They don’t do it so much now, because nobody cares what bishops think.

The catch was: if the bishops didn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead they were betraying their duty as church leaders. But if they did believe it they would be out of touch with reality.

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Responding to sexual abuse

Ancient Greek statue of Aphrodite

Ancient Greek statue of Aphrodite

The recent revelations of sexual abuse horrify us, particularly when the victims were children.

It is one thing to feel horrified, another to respond in a constructive way. Much of the public response has sounded to me like Guardian readers making Daily Mail responses, which they would not have made if the crime in question was, for example, addiction to illegal drugs.

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