A theological approach to human sexuality to inform the Church in a globalised pluralistic culture of the 21st Century

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One of the great problems at the moment, is that the Christian Church has a polarised debate on understanding human sexuality.  The Church for centuries has had a dis-ease with the human body as a source of sin and sexual immorality, rather than made in the image of God if we trust the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures of the bible.  This problem has largely been the achilles heal of the Church because of the heresy of gnosticism that haunts the church, which saw all flesh as evil, as something we should escape from.

What we need is a better theology of human sexuality, and that there is a difference between sexual identity and sexual behaviour.

I therefore post this important paper which I think gives an important broad background and deals with the contention of the interpretation of certain biblical texts.

The Church needs to stop calling this issues around doctrine and the creeds, or heresy, and engage with the fact that we are taking about issues of biblical interpretation.  Then I hope drawing on texts like this we can draw on a sense of unity in diversity rather than the damaging debate where the two sides try to out-bible each other, and can’t accept that maybe we need to get to a place to politely disagree BUT remain brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore a model of the Church to hold into a unity in diversity rather than unity in conformity. See the link below.

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St Luke’s Church seeking an Artist in Residence

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Thurs 19th November 2015

SEEKING A MISSIONAL ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

We are seeking a proficient artist who is interested in getting involved with a parish church in transition to becoming a mixed economy of church with a number of fresh expressions initiatives.

We are seeking an artist to get involved in our nascent new monastic community with its gatherings on Tuesday eventing’s, Sunday evening service and other gatherings. With the Photographer in residence we are seeking an artist to explore contemporary iconography to use in worship and mission, as well as creating content for exhibitions and events. In exchange for this the Church is offering a substantial studio space with separate office space to join in with an emerging new church team.

For more information do see the Church Facebook Page and website currently being redesigned at www.stlukespeckham.co.uk and/or speak to Ian Mobsby our Mission Priest or Marc Gascoigne the Photographer in residence.

Email: stlukespeckham@gmail.com

Great opportunity for Pioneer from Catholic & Sacramental traditions

Really interesting job has come up for a Pioneer Minister of the Catholic Anglican Tradition to work in a new housing estate in the Diocese of Oxford. This looks really good, and a partnership of Catholic and Evangelical Anglicans working together – see the attached info.

Vicar of St Mary’s Headington in the City of Oxford

An exciting new partnership is being set up between this open catholic Anglican church ministering in a diverse local community, and the evangelical city centre church of St. Aldates. St. Mary’s will be welcoming at least about 2000 new people into the parish in the coming years which has encouraged us to consider an innovative approach to this mission opportunity.

We are seeking a priest who will:

  • encourage the congregation to grow in faith with God through preaching, worship, teaching, prayer and service to the community.
  • work strategically and innovatively to engage with the residents of the new homes.
  • value working creatively with the support of the St. Aldates staff team
  • have a heart for community ministry in an urban priority area

Parish Profile and Application Form from:

www.oxford.anglican.org/vacancies

or from:

The Archdeacon of Oxford, Diocesan Church House, Oxford OX2 0NB

archdeacon.oxford@oxford.anglican.org

Closing date: 26 October

Shortlisting: 3 November

Interviews: in Oxford on 10 and 11 November

This post is subject to enhanced DBS disclosure.

The importance of the example of St Brendan for Pioneer Ministers

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St Brendan was an early Christian pioneer from Ireland, who contributed to the re-evangelisation of the United Kingdom from Ireland in the Saxon Period.  He is known as Brendan the Navigator, and I think he has a part to play in our shared sense of vocation to pioneering.

Please hear, that I am one of those type of Christians who bulks slightly at the 19th Century romanticism of ‘Celtic Christianity’, but do honour the importance of key figures like Brendan.

Whilst on a retreat with the Northumbria Community,  (which was a crucial time for me after I stopped a few weeks ago of being the Leader of the Moot Community, and before I and a few mooters move to Peckham to set up a new monastic community and serve the needs of the Parish of St Luke’s North Peckham), the figure of Brendan was an important source for encouragement.

The sea in early Christian writings, reflected the space like the desert for the desert mothers and fathers.  It is dangerous, wild, uncertain, unpredictable, and life threatening.  But facing the desert and the sea, is about discipleship, where they act as a metaphor for the spiritual journey of life.

 

I like many others have got older, now 47, so pioneering seems to get harder, taking risks, as you get older.  So I have had a lot of fears about starting out again, partly because pioneering has cost me a lot emotionally and financially let alone socially and personally.  But Brendan and the creative writing around his vocation, really helped me to focus on what God was calling me into next, and to find peace in uncertainty.

In the Northumbria Community’s Daily Celtic Prayer, Part XVI for Brendan, I found the following prayer absolutely spot on.  I am now trying to pray this every day as part of my prayer time, that it can in me incarnate hope when I hold onto much fear. So this is a quote of that prayer and I highly recommend getting hold of their Daily Celtic Prayer:

Lord I will trust you
help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, can I trust you?
to be stronger that each storm in me?

Do I still yearn for Your glory in lighten on me?
I will show others the care You have shown me.
I determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust.

I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life.
I believe You will make a way for me and provide for me,
If only I trust You, and obey.

I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times are still in Your hands.

I will believe You for my future,
chapter by chapter, until all the story is written.

Focus my mind and my heart upon You,
my attention always on You without alteration.

Strengthen me with Your blessing,
and appoint to me the task.

Teach me to live with eternity in view,
Tune my spirit into the music of heaven,
Feed me, and, somehow,
make my obedience count for You.

The Simplicity of the Benedictine Way

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I have been really struck by the Prologue to the Rule of St Benedict:

Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov 4:20).  Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labour of obedience you may return to God from whom you have departed by the sloth of disobedience. 

In essence Benedict is opening up the idea that Christianity is about a way of life. This is an important corrective to the reformation which puts the emphasis of belief on thinking.  Benedict’s Rule is an attempt to help people grow a distinctive Christian faith which is less ‘What should I believe’ and more ‘How should I live’ which is a crucial question then and now.  How do we LIVE the Christian life which is about prayerful action.

The opening sentence of Benedict’s Prologue make this very simple, that involves four elements:

1. Listen – to the masters instructions who calls us daughter and sons.
2. Receive – the grace of receiving the love of God that brings health and transends defensiveness and encourages honest loving vulnerability.
3. Labour – put what you have heard and received from God into practice in the way you live. Prayer must lead to action.
4. Return – that even though we stuff up a lot, God always receives us back.

These four are one of simplest but most profound summary of what discipleship is all about.  Benedict was trying to ensure that monasteries focused on Christian discipleship.

The prologue also emphasises urgency, the need to get on with it.  ‘Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you.’

But with the full assurance of the love of God: ‘What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, that this voice of the Lord inviting us?  Behold in God’s loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.’

This is incredibly beautiful.  TO see the whole of the prologue for yourself click here

Big changes afoot for me, heading south of the river

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After 13 years working with Moot, it is going to be announced by the Dioceses of London and Southwark, that I will be leaving Moot and the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary at the end of June. I will then take some time off before heading south of the river to be a part time Priest with an inner city parish wanting to develop mission, and also part time Woolwich Episcopal Area Parish Mission Enabler.  I look forward working with the mission team in Southwark Diocese and in particular with Jane Steen the Archdeacon of Southwark and Bp Michael, the Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich.

This is going to be a big change, as I have working all my Ordained life so far with the Moot Community in the Diocese of London.  It is time for me to leave, after 13 years where the last two have been particularly challenging, and where they really need to move from start up to sustaining, which requires different skills to those that I am good at.

So thanks to all those in the Diocese of London and Moot who have helped me reach this far.  I look forward to continue to develop fresh expressions and being an Associate Missioner of the Fresh Expressions movement, as well as working with new colleagues in the Diocese of Southwark.  New beginnings!   I am sure Moot will go from strength to strength in the next phase of their life, and I remain very committed to developing New Monastic Communities in the UK and beyond.  I hope to sustain my ministry to teaching and training that will continue in the UK and abroad.

New beginnings!!!!! I would value the prayers of all my friends and colleagues.

Premodern meets Postsecular: What is a Christian? The importance of listening to the early mothers and fathers

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Some have asked me recently, why do you spend time reading the translated works of the early desert mothers and fathers (sometimes called unhelpfully Patristics) to be able think about the faith and mission in the 21st Century?

Well firstly, because this writing was written before modernism.  So much of what is written from the enlightenment to recently is based on a western modern culture.  For example much of Anglican and Lutheran writing is set in the context of the reformation onwards.  Modernism is so deep in the DNA of much writing, that we forget that there is a premodern source for Christianity.  If we look to the early writers of the premodern period, then there is real wisdom in some of what is written that can be a deep resource for reflecting on modes of understanding and expressing Christianity in a post-secular context.

A good example is the book, The Roots of Christian Mysticism by Olivier Clement.  This is an amazing book, that explores authentic Christian approaches to meditation and contemplation drawing on ancient thinking and understanding.  This book has literally challenged me deeply.

One of the most beautiful writings regarding what it means to be a Christian was written in a manuscript called “A Letter to Diognetus Chapters 5 and 6″

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practice an extraordinary kind of life…But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and other ethnic groups as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvelous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a homeland to them, and every homeland is foreign…They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all people, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. (Chapter 5)

In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the diverse cities of the world. The soul has its abode in the body, and yet it is not of the body. So Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world. The soul which is invisible is guarded in the body which is visible: so Christians are recognized as being in the world, and yet their religion remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and wages war with it, though it receives no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they set themselves against its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh which hates it, and the members: so Christians love those that hate them. The soul is enclosed in the body, and yet itself holds the body together; so Christians are kept in the world as in a prison-house, and yet they themselves hold the world together. The soul though itself immortal dwells in a mortal tabernacle; so Christians sojourn amidst perishable things, while they look for the imperishability which is in the heavens. The soul when poorly treated in the matter of food and drinks is improved; and so Christians when punished increase more and more daily. (Chapter 6)

Beyond shame and guilt … returning to the faith free from control

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Over the last week, I have encountered a number of people exploring spirituality, who have used that well known mantra, “I am spiritual, not religious”.  I have had some quite profound conversations with a number of people that had religious experience in their youth.  Words that keep appearing in these conversations are GUILT and SHAMING.  It seems that these foundational experiences often in more conservative catholic and protestant forms of church, centred on a strong narrative of guilt and shame.  One guy talked to me of his Sunday school being about filling people with fear.   In such a climate it is not surprising that people reject such forms of church as irrelevant and dehumanising.  I have been reflecting that such an approach to church devoid of love, envisioning and the power of God’s grace, is certainly not Good News, and most definitely needs to be avoided.

It is therefore imperative that the emerging church be a real welcoming place, of hope, of envisionment and rest, and not attempt to control people emotionally in any form.  This must be a mission strategy in all that we do, if we are really to engage with contemporary culture, where, whether we like it or not, some of the church has retreated into fundamentalist and fanaticism, and often appears very angry to ordinary people.  We need to live another way of being church and being a follower of Christ, who are not obsessed with who is in and who is out, and about human sexuality….

Interesting posts by Mark Lindores

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Recently I spoke at the Resource training course weekend representing the Moot Community, where we explored mission to a post secular culture of spiritual seeking and new monasticism as a particular model. Mark kindly bought my book I think to follow up what I talked about.

He has now written a couple of blogs concerning my book “The Becoming of G-d” exploring what I looked at last year.  To see what he has written click here

I am currently attending a residential training course on preparation for incumbency through the Diocese of London.  It is an excellent course, and I found it interesting how the concept of managing chaos and complexity returns to the themes of a fluid understanding of life, and some of the elements of a Trinitarian Ecclesiology which was so elemental in the book “The Becoming of G-d”. So very interesting how our learning takes us similar cycles revisiting things as life and vocation changes.

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