Thursday, April 30, 2009


"Negativity is not intelligent. It is always of the ego. The ego may be clever, but it is not intelligent. Cleverness pursues its own little aims. Intelligence sees the larger whole in which all things are connected" - Eckhart Tolle (hat-tip to Janet Lynn Kroeker)

"Those who can combine simplicity and intelligence can prevail. But what is simplicity? What is intelligence? Simple is the one who in the transfiguration, confusion and twisting of all concepts keeps the simple truth of God in focus, who is not double-minded, not a person in two minds (James 1.8), but has an undivided heart... Because simple people do not look past God to the world, they are in a position to look freely and naturally at the reality of the world. Thus simplicity becomes intelligence. Intelligent is the one who sees reality as it is, who sees the foundation of things... The perception of reality is not the same thing as knowledge of certain external processes; it is, rather, seeing the essence of things. The most intelligent are not those who are the best informed." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (1940-43), p.67-8. 

[Image: (c)]

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Today is St George's Day. In the past this has been misused in England as an excuse for narrow nationalism, bigotry, xenophobia and imperial self-regard. It doesn't have to be like that. Sadly, however,  those traits are still around. In an uncertain, conflicted world, identity remains important. Who are we and who or what are we loyal to? Trying to "re-invent Englishness" without questioning our past, present and future amounts to attempting to fashion national cohesion without honesty and humility. It is not only flawed but dangerous, given what is lurking (rather openly) in the shadows. One place we could start is by looking at what we have done to the myth of St George himself. I've flagged that issue up (so to speak!) this morning. Ekklesia took a more lengthy look a couple of years ago in When the Saints go marching out? St George for a new era

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


"Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear ... Christendom adjusts itself far too easiliy to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now."- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, April 10, 2009


Trinity Wall Street in New York, a leading Episcopal Church, has streamed a Passion Play via Twitter.

I've run the embedded link at the foot of this site...

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Thursday was a day that brought together many strands of my life. 9 April is my father's birthday. He died in 1997 (The book Fear or freedom? Why a warring church must change which I edited last year is dedicated to him, and to my mother, who passed away in 1978.) It is also the anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose life and work is one of my inspirations. Though not one that casts me in a particularly good light! There is a family connection, in that I discovered Bonhoeffer through Eberhard Bethge's classic biography on my father's bookshelf, though I think he rather preferred the cautious Otto Dibelius. The new and expanded edition of Bethge is so much better, by the way.

There's no Holy Thursday night vigil around these parts, so instead I have decided to re-watch Martin Doblmeier's moving film Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resister, about his life and influence. The theological dimension gets a look in as well, with an interview from South African writer John de Gruchy - whose stimulating review of Stanley Hauerwas' Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence can be found here. Doblmeier gives an interview about the project on the film website. I must also pick up Geoffrey Kelly's reading guide (pictured) to the Fortress Bonhoeffer works edition at some point. Fresh perspectives are always welcome, and I am far from complete in my reading.

Thinking of the Maundy Thursday vigil: the Eucharist and the stripping off the altar at the Church of the Annunciation in Brighton, where I lived for five years (in the town, not the church!) was always an extraordinary occasion. The then priest, David Wostenholme, who is now in Glasgow, would turn the lady chapel into a flowering garden of waiting and remembrance, complete with the Host and the shadow of the tree of betrayal. It generated a tremendous sense of prayer and suspense before the abandonment of Good Friday. Some people who know the Anabaptist, and especially modern Mennonite, influence on my theological thinking are sometimes surprised that the liturgical and aesthetic dimension of the Catholic tradition is important to me. But as far as I am concerned they are wholly congruent. As Dorothee Soelle once put it, mysticism and resistance are two complementary paths to meeting the Other in the midst.

One final thought, on foot-washing. I was intrigued by today's news that it has been temporarily reincarnated as shoe-shining. Actually, that's quite a creative idea. I'm delighted that money is going to Zimbabwe, too. But in another sense it would be wonderful if church leaders could go out onto the streets and serve for no reward at all. In our commodified culture, "random acts of kindness" are regarded with suspicion, though. Debt rather than grace is the way society is ordered. The church as well, all too often, in contradiction of its calling. So it is worth reflecting again (since I have certainly mentioned it before) that whoever asked: 'what might have happened differently if foot-washing had been the primary Christian sacrament?' posed one of the most important post-Christendom questions of all. Perhaps it will be picked up more and more in the 'new monasticism' (which of course goes back to Bonhoeffer) and in 'emergent' circles?

How gratifying to discover that Ben Myers, who maintains the fine Faith and Theology blog ("for theological scholarship and contemporary theological reflection") has developed an affection for the dissenting Episcopal theologian William Stringfellow (pictured left), who died some 25 years ago... but whose insistent critique of injustice, bold commitment to Christian discipleship and iconoclastic vision continues to resonate when it is given a hearing. Ben's full stock of Stringellow posts may be explored here. (There are a couple on here, as well, relating to the book I'm about to mention again...)

In 2000 I was involved in a conference in Oxford celebrating and examining his life and work. There were some fine speakers, and Rowan Williams gave a good address at the end. His contribution is included in a volume that I also have an essay in: William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective, ed. Anthony Dancer (Ashgate 2005). Ben cites a bit of it. Unfortunately, as with other academic-oriented titles that could actually find a wider audience, it is only available in hardback and for £45. Libraries and aficionados only, effectively. When I met Rowan at a reception a year ago he said that his name could be mentioned in relation to a proposal for a paperback. But I've lost touch with Tony, the editor. One for the (rather long!) 'to do' list.

“We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”– Dietrich Bonhoeffer (executed by the Nazis on 9 April 1945)

“God, for me, represents the holiness of otherness. Through an encounter with the divine Other I come to value the encounter with the human other. What I ask God to do for me, God asks me to do for others: listen to them, empower them, believe in them, trust them, forgive them when they betray that trust, and love them for what they are, not what I would like them to be. More than we have faith in God, God has faith in us, and because [God] never loses that faith, we can never lose hope. God is the redemption of solitude.” – Jonathan Sachs, chief rabbi, reflecting in the New Statesman

“[Christ] was executed by people painfully like us, in a society very similar to our own ... by a corrupt church, a timid politician, and a fickle proletariat led by professional agitators.” – Dorothy L. Sayers (1943)

Saturday, April 04, 2009


"Only through the bringing together of head and heart – intelligence and goodness – shall we rise to a fulfillment of our true nature." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


“When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” - Rudolph Bahro