Tuesday, June 27, 2006

[17.31 GMT] Thanks to Ed Metzler for this: "I arise in the morning torn between the desire to save the world and the desire to savour the world. That makes it very difficult to plan out the day." ~ E.B. White

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

[00.33 GMT] It's been a long fortnight, and I'm too tired to write very much about the good news of the election by the Episcopal Church USA of the Rt Rev Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Bishop of Nevada, as its next presiding bishop. Forget, for a moment, all the frantic media scribbling about divisions, plots, conservatives and liberals. Here is a person of substance - a scientist married to a mathematican, a thinking Christian, a reconciler, a woman of conviction and prayer. In the short run she is probably destined to be referred to as a 'spoke in the wheel' by those who seemingly cannot accept a Gospel that breaks down the barriers that divide us - at least when it comes to the potent mixture of gender, priesthood and sexuality. In forty or fifty years time we will look back on these arguments in a rather different way, I suspect; though the churches have a long history of struggling to get the point of their calling - mistaking for orthodoxy (a right disposition of praise towards God's freeing of the world, ortho-doxology) a rather leaden institutionalisation of selected elements of the Christian tradition. In truth this has little to do with the labels that get thrown around, or even theology, and much more to do with the uneasy psychology of adapting to a world where Christian people are increasingly vulnerable rather than powerful, in the Way of Christ. To understand this, and to embrace each other and dis/agree without fear, we need guidance. And that requires Spirit-motivated people like Katharine... and, though he increasingly seems a prisoner of a dysfunctional institution, Rowan Williams. It may seem feeble to say 'bless them', but nothing greater could be asked right now. Apart from not forgetting to laugh, too. (I enjoyed penning that one).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

[319.1] POLITICAL LIFE AFTER CHRISTENDOM

The long-awaited third book in the 'After-Christendom' series from Paternoster Press is about to be published, and is already receiving vigorous commendations from academics, politicians, journalists and religious leaders. Love it or loathe it (and people will do both), it raises some key issues.

Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy by Ekklesia's co-director (and my good friend and colleague) Jonathan Bartley comes out later this month, and is launched at a conference in Birmingham on July 2006. Addressing diverse issues from blasphemy to religious violence, the Iraq invasion, church schools and the establishment of the Church of England, it invites a realistic and hopeful response to challenges and opportunities awaiting the church in twenty-first century politics.

In particular, the book suggests that where it has previously defended the social order, the church now has a brand new opportunity to exercise its prophetic role, challenging injustice, shaking institutions and undermining some of the central values and norms on which society is built.

"With his background as a former political adviser at Westminster and now director of the Ekklesia thinktank, Jonathan Bartley, one of the smartest young evangelicals around, offers compelling insights and suggestions, based on deep thought and clear-headed research." - Stephen Bates, Religious Affairs Correspondent, The Guardian

That 'evangelical' label is interesting. Ekklesia is also accused of being 'liberal'. It prefers to try to change the terms of the debate and be radical - in the seense of being rooted in order to venture towards the frontiers.

"At a time when the whole relationship between faith, government and public policy is undergoing a historic change in every part of the world, Jonathan Bartley has made a highly intelligent contribution to a debate which citizens of all creeds, and of none, ought to be following" - Bruce Clark, The Economist

"In a ‘post Christian age’, Jonathan Bartley questions the role of institutions both political and ecclesial. He bids us consider what it is to live in a multi cultural , even secular society, where Christianity is stripped of its traditional protections of both establishment and its attendant political authority. This is not so much a book of answers but of pertinent questions. It deserves a wide reading." - Rt Rev Peter Price, Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

[10.56 GMT] Christian think-tank raises radical questions about marriage Ekklesia, 17/06/06. This will certainly test whether the 'post-Christendom' notion is getting through. Difficult stuff to communicate, given dominant assumptions, but worth a try, we think. The fragile fabric of our social order and the messy state of the church makes it an important issue, certainly. Hopefully it will attract serious reflection, not just knee-jerk responses. There's a discussion area on the BBC's story here. And here is the Google News trail on the story.

Friday, June 16, 2006

[12.08 GMT] ... ‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’ George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, June 15, 2006

[06.14 GMT] Restoring our faith in free speech (Third Way and Ekklesia, UK). Simon Barrow explains why Christians should shun censorship...more
[01.02 GMT] Contesting the theft of Jesus Todd Huffman says the US is now a nation of two Christianities. No doubt friends in other faith trdaitions can speak of their own experiences of felony...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

[318.1] A WORD DEVOID OF FLESH

...is what hits me with deadening force whenever I am within radar of a satellite TV and chance upon the 'God' channels. Celebrity perfume to erase the smell of the soul; or what one might call, to adapt the title of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's best-known book, "the cost of non-discipleship."

Jim Wallis summed it up well, and personally, when he described the impact of his first encounter with Bonhoeffer through his written legacy: "I realized that what I had mostly experienced was an American Christianity without Christ, a religion highly conformed to its culture and mostly uncritical of its nation."

(From the foreword to A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Daily Meditations from His Letters, Writings, and Sermons, published by HarperSanFrancisco in January 2006.)

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

[317.1] KEMBER SPEAKS ABOUT POST-IRAQ LIFE - EXCLUSIVE

Norman Kember, the 74-year old peace activist whose kidnapping with three colleagues in Baghdad catapulted the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams from obscurity to global media exposure, joined the group’s UK supporters earlier this week to discuss both his experience and the future work of CPT. Dr Kember, a retired radiation physicist and college professor, attended the second day of a British Christian Peacemaker Teams gathering for members and supporters held at the informal Just Church and Soul Space centre in multi-religious Bradford, northern England, from 4-5 June 2006. Exclusive report here.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

[12.13 GMT] CPT KIDNAPPINGS IN IRAQ - A back-review selection of stories and editorials by Mennonite Weekly Review staff and others drawn from nearly 120 days of captivity for a group of four Christian Peacemaker Teams activists kidnapped in Iraq on 26 November 2005. Also, a timeline of the CPT hostage crisis.