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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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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Sex abuse and godly power

Fiona Scolding QC, IICSA

Fiona Scolding QC, IICSA

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) is currently investigating the Diocese of Chichester as part of its study of whether Church of England leaders have failed to protect children against sexual abuse.

Abuse survivors sometimes say that in their experience the motivation was power rather than sex. This post reflects on power relations within religious communities. Of course other factors are involved as well, but here I focus on power.

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Who is to blame for snow?

Me with my daughter and a snowball in 1982 How dare it snow, and mess up our plans? What went wrong?

Okay, you and I know that nobody is to blame. No human, anyway. So why do we call it bad weather?

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Abusive spiritual beliefs produce abusive acts

Naturally, the Evangelical Alliance has defended itself against Jayne Ozanne’s critique of its teaching, especially in the light of the recent survey by the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service on the prevalence of spiritual abuse.

But the defence fails. I focus on the EA’s main argument: that the term ‘spiritual abuse’ is inadequate because abuse is about actions, not motives. In this way they seek to insulate their teachings from the actions those teachings sometimes provoke. On the contrary, abusive beliefs lead to abusive actions.

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Health: what are we trying to achieve?

Detail from The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt, 1854This is about the nature of health. In a recent post I argued that health services should take priority because everything we do depends on having enough health. Here I ask what we think good health is.

This is about attitudes we usually presuppose without thinking about them. Some presuppositions work better than others. It makes a difference what kinds of gods, if any, we believe in. I draw on the distinctions between polytheism, monotheism and atheism that I analysed in my Why Progressives Need God.

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