Thinking Anglicans

columns from the British press

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about Rowan Williams visiting Westminster Cathedral yesterday: Williams harks back to Anselm. (The BBC also carries a report on this visit, Archbishops pray for tsunami dead.)

In the Guardian the godslot is written by John Newbury The Christian centre cannot hold.

The Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka, Duleep de Chickera writes in The Times about the tsunami disaster: Our solidarity after the tsunami shows the way to a lasting peace. Part of this reads:

“What have you to say about the kingdom of God?” ( “now” clearly implied) was the question fired at me by a Buddhist from a leading local NGO as soon as I sat down next to him at a lecture in Colombo. This forthright (theological) question centres on God in the tsunami. For the churches of South Asia, steeped in poverty — and within living memory of dominant colonial Christianity — the “vulnerable God” theory is relevant.

A powerful dominant God is distasteful and alien to the poor and powerless. Much more, the “vulnerable God” theory flows very much from the text as well. The incarnation clearly conveys a God of love who deliberately takes on vulnerability to identify and save.

As waves ravaged humans, the vulnerability of this creator God of both waves and humans was sensed in the deafening silence. God is love and the freedom that love confers imposes inherent restrictions on controls on all creation. Human relationships, between parent and child or among spouses, bears this out. So the loving, liberator, parent God who was not in the wind, earthquake and fire was certainly not in the tsunami.

The vulnerable God however is not a passive God. This distinction is essential for faith to be kept. To borrow a phrase from Bishop Geoffrey Rowell’s recent pastoral letter to his diocese, this God is an insider. In Christ God took human form to stand with humans in our suffering and loss. The incarnation is historical fact as well as a telescope into the ways of the same God in past and future history. As God was in the historical incarnation, so God has been with those who suffer grief and loss. This God invites God’s people to do and become likewise.

The usually gentle waves of the sea are soothing to tired Asian feet that stand in poverty and bear an immense burden. The vulnerable servant Lord touched and washed feet. This was more than an act of humility. This was an enacted parable highlighting that relevant ministry begins from where people are placed — where they stand — and addresses suffering.

Large killer waves destroy all within their path. Dominance, whether in our theologies about God, leadership, aid or attitudes, is anti-Christ and counter productive to peace, justice and reconciliation. The way forward for all, South Asians who grieve as well as the world at large, is mutually to touch and wash each other’s feet.

Also in The Times Michael Binyon writes about The struggle to keep the faith in Bethlehem.

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