Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Opinion - 23 May 2018

Jeremy Morris ViaMedia.News From Windrush to Windsor: Who Do We Think We Are?

Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau New directions for the Church 2: kingdom of God or cult of Christ?

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Safeguarding, IICSA and the Care of Survivors

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Jonathan Clatworthy extols precisely the aims of Bishop Michael Curry in his calling for Episcopalians to see themselves as part of the Jesus Movement. The present judgemental, evangelical cult of Christ in the CofE is off-putting to the wider community who see it as a club for smug bigots. How inspiring it was for 2 billion people to hear an Anglican bishop invite everyone to join a loving, inclusive movement instead of a homophobic cult.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 12:10pm BST

Re:Jonathan Clatworthy, there are a number of things in the author's macro- analysis I agree with; but I find his query 'Kingdom of God or cult of Christ" elaborated in the article as 'Jesus movement' v. "Christ cult' dichotomous and ultimately unhelpful.

For example, Clatworthy writes, "When we worship Jesus rather than God, we distinguish ourselves from those outside the Christian tradition. When our worship is directed to the God who created the universe and cares for everybody alike, we remain inclusive."

Focus on God as Trinity. Doing so facilitates dialogue by reducing down confusion and frustration on all sides. Permeable boundaries are more effective than either barriers or lack of structural integrity.

Clatworthy's assessment of evangelical/church growth campaigns is agreeable. The end game seems to be turning the church into a kind of 'chateau clique', to continue with his metaphoric locale.

References to Faith in the City call to mind the insights of prescient philosopher Jaques Ellul who drew on the distinction between 'growth' and 'development'.
The former is quantitative. The latter is qualitative. The church might spend less time in 'broadcast mode' and put more of its energy into conviviality. The kingdom of God is an extended metaphor for the community making willed for Earth by our Father in heaven, incarnate in the actions of Jesus the Christ, and continuously revitalized by the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 4:40pm BST

Stephen Parsons speaks a lot of sense. The work of safeguarding children is very different to the work of supporting victims & survivors of abuse. And that support is needed for the long term, not the short. An investment of some of the CofE’s long term assets in such an independent body would be a powerful witness - a good use of reform and renewal funds? The Diocese of Tasmania has been forced into such an exercise ( - better that it should be done voluntarily in the interests of healing and justice.

Posted by: Jeremy Fagan on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 5:45pm BST

Jonathan Clatworthy says he is looking for a vision for Christian mission that is God-centred (rather than Christ-centred) and that is praying and engaged with the world rather than a closed separatist cult. He might be encouraged by these statements from an old pioneering mission report:
‘A missionary church is focused on God the Trinity. All of its life and activities undergirded by prayer.’
‘A missionary church is incarnational … seeks to shape itself in relation to the culture in which it is located or to which it is called. It is called to be cross-cultural [to] to lay aside preferences about church to allow the emergence of the form or style of church to be shaped by those they are seeking to reach.’
‘A missionary church is relational, characterised by welcoming hospitality …. open to change when new members join. It is aware it is incomplete without interdependent relationships with other Christian churches and communities. It does not seek to stand alone.’
They are quotes he seems to have missed in the Mission-Shaped Church report.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 at 7:30pm BST

"The present judgemental, evangelical cult of Christ in the CofE is off-putting to the wider community" says FrDavidH.

Certainly, I agree, that the present strategy (epitomised by Thy Kingdom Come) is doing little to connect with those who are not middle class or who naturally incline to a superficial form of the evangelical way of faith. But I am not convinced by the easy dichotomy of 'Jesus' and 'Christ' and this needs more theological scrutiny. As Jonathan Clatworthy notes, TKC is a movement of prayer that more people will come to 'know Jesus.' But how can Christians 'know Jesus' in isolation from the Father and the Holy Spirit? Is Jesus part of the identity of God or not? Do we worship and pray through a Galilean preacher who was crucified, dead and buried a couple of millennia ago, or the one who was raised from the dead as Lord and Christ?

The rather thin Christology underpinning the current debate is symptomatic of a hierarchy that is impatient to put bums on seats at the expense of tradition, reason and the scholarship that might enable questioning people to explore the claims of faith in a complex world, and against the complex challenges of living in a deeply secular culture. Thinking people will not be easily patronised, let alone engaged, by plasma screens, easy slogans and meaningless syncopation. Nor, in time, will they swallow a simple narrative about 'Jesus' against the backdrop of a Trinitarian framework. Talk of a 'Jesus Movement' is all very well; but I find little of that sort of minimalism in the teaching of the Early Fathers, for example.

That the Welby/Sentamu strategy is a panic-driven quick fix is hardly contestable. The real question is: what is being stored up for the future of the Church, once they have cleared-off into well-pensioned retirement? Will we wake up one morning to realise that we have allowed ourselves to sleep-walk from being the National Church, with our claim to be both Catholic and Reformed, into a declining, sectarian membership organisation that has lost touch with the foundational sources of faith because the current Archbishop of Canterbury is unwilling to engage with the academic community? As one Cambridge Dean told me recently, Welby declines all invitations to preach in his former university.

Posted by: Graham Hardy on Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 8:28am BST

Mr Hardy, DavidH: I'm a cleric and the emphasis on Jesus as my best friend does nothing for me. Never has. I think it's not too strong to say it repels those outside that particular sect. To many it's risible. But people are, in my experience, intrigued by notions of The Divine, God if you like, rather than the infantile emphasis on Jesus. This can be harnessed. As Denis Diderot wrote: Enlargissez Dieu. Enlarge the image of God.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 9:02am BST

*Certainly, I agree, that the present strategy (epitomised by Thy Kingdom Come) is doing little to connect with those who are not middle class*

I think the "current CofE strategy is middle class focused" argument relies on a particular definition of middle class which is rooted in age and capital rather than broader class markers. If you look at 25-ish university graduates, which is a reasonable definition of middle class if you strip away home ownership and good pension arrangements, then their willingness to join homophobic organisations is going to be lower, not higher, than the population more generally.

There is a middle class which is homophobic, but it looks like Justin Welby: middle-aged, and with very limited views on "proper" behaviour. The idea that you could walk into an urban coffee emporium and shout "come join my club! not you, gay people, you aren't welcome!" and get a race to the exits is pretty fantastical.

The problem with Welby's "OK, the middle classes are enough" strategy is that it doesn't even appeal. You won't get far on campus, or amongst recent-ish graduates, advocating homophobia as a policy.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 11:59am BST

"I'm a cleric and the emphasis on Jesus as my best friend does nothing for me. Never has. I think it's not too strong to say it repels those outside that particular sect. To many it's risible."

I was at a play several months ago, which in part dealt with the relations between American Indians and the Dutch colonists of New Amsterdam (which upon the English conquest became New York.) The play was mostly a drama but with some comedy included.

The line which raised a huge amount of laughter -- by far, by far, by far, more than any other line in the entire play -- was the line by the Dutch Reformed cleric to several Indians, "I've come to tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ."

I was immediately shocked by the audience's reaction. But on further reflection, I guess I'm not surprised. The play-goers were a group of highly educated people to whom the church and Christianity has become a big joke.

We in the church can blame the secular humanists for this situation (and blah, blah, blah) but we have to do some serious reflection about how much the actions of the institutional church are primarily to blame.

Which is why Michael Curry's sermon was so important. It's one of the few things in decades that actually blasted through the church walls into the secular world in a way that the secular world actually heard it.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Thursday, 24 May 2018 at 8:57pm BST
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