This weekend gathering in Southwark South London from Friday 14 to Sunday 16th October, is the first gathering of those involved in new monastic communities with some relationship to the Anglican and the Church of Scotland – coming from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, USA and England. The event has been facilitated by the working group of the New Monastic Network UK. Over the last couple of years, sponsored by the charitable group Anglican Religous Communities (ARC) have sponsored dialogue between the leaders of emerging and traditional religious communities. It was Archbishop Justin’s Chaplain Jo Bailey-Wells, now the Bishop of Dorking encouraged the need for a gathering for new monastics to talk to new monastics.
So at the weekend 90 representatives will engage in dialogue from communities such as the St Anselm Community in Lambeth Palace, the Iona and Northumbria Communities, as well as those small missional communities such as the St Lukes Community Peckham. Further, a number of people interested in starting new monastic communities will spend some time reflecting on what, how and why this can be done. We are very pleased that Phil Potter, the Archbishop’s Missioner and Leader for Fresh Expressions will be joining us on the Saturday, and Bishop Jonathan Clark, the Bishop of Croydon will be joining us on the Sunday.
This has been a dream coming together, and we look forward to catching up with what God is doing through this first gathering in the UK.
For more information on the New Monasticism Network UK See the Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1420721808180123/
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.
Now that I am again in the South Pacific amongst some of the most post-colonial and post-secular people, I am reminded how anachronistic is the language we use for God. When speaking of God, we tend to use majestic language – of monarchy – of Kingship and of Lord. In a world that is increasingly discovering a more mystical and spiritual sense, this majestic language creates negative connotations around power, hierarchy and outdated forms of governance.
So what language should we use for God? How can we be authentically Christian yet contextual? This is the argument that Sallie MacFague uses in her writings and I don’t think we have been able to make much progress. She suggests the importance of metaphorical theology – the use of metaphorical language in our pursuit of using affirming and accessible words for God.
In the Moot Community we have used words such as Creator, Redeemer and Companion as functional metaphorical language instead of Father, Son and SPirit. But we still have a long way to go.
In countries like Australia, I am reminded that contemporary culture is much more interested in premodern modes of expressing spirituality. There is great interest for example in the pantheism of Australian Aboriginal culture oppressed by colonisation in the modern period. So in our now post-secular culture, premodern language finds new resonance.
So how do we express the deep mysticism of Christianity in a language that is accessible to post-secular seekers. Well for me it starts with a re appreciation of how the Hebrews developed a language for God coming from experience. This is the judeo-christian tradition at the heart of the faith that finds its fulfillment in the Holy Trinity. So we need to increasingly find post-patriarchical and non-power language for naming God.
Just read a really interesting Article in the Australian Newspaper which interviews Tony Blair about politics and religion. It is an interesting reading about the rise of a global post-secular culture, and the dangers of religious radicalisation. Although I don’t agree with Tony Blair about a few things, I think he is right to point out these issues. To read the article see here.
This week, I have had the wonderful good fortune and opportunity to be able to teach at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge MA USA, with a finale of giving the keynote speech at this years Episcopal Village Day Event at the Episcopal Cathedral in Boston.
From the discussions, I have been struck by something I had missed before. Many of my pioneering and missioner orientated colleagues in the UK have been frustrated, that the projects they have incarnated out of hopes and dreams, seem to have started with not being able to make an impact on the totally unchurched – the primary focus, and instead have started with a ministry that began with the dechurched.
Now, it has struck me that this is my experience too in the Moot Community, something that we have faced some criticism for in the early days. But – it has struck me, may be this is the intentions of the God outside of our own needs and desires. Jesus himself in the Gospel, very rarely goes directly to the unchurched from a Jewish perspective – I can think of the Samaritan Woman at the well and a few others. No, instead Jesus associated with those who were Jewish who were outside of the powerful temple system to build up a new community of disciples with jews who were very similar to the dechurched. It seems that Jesus was intentional about gathering around him a community of the dechurched, who through God’s death and resurrection are empowered to become the Apostles, and the beginning of the Church through mission to the Gentile unchurched. May it just be that ecclesia, and the building of ecclesial communities begins with pioneer missioners building small communities of the dechurched to create deep and radical Christian community that then has the maturity to start and sustain mission and evangelism to the unchurched.
In the Moot Community we have spent 7 years building up a community of the dechurched, which now is intentionally starting out to seek to service God by reaching out missionally to the unchurched. Maybe – focusing on the dechurched first is right strategically, as long as this then is matched by a commitment for the previously unchurched to mature into the call of seeking to serve the unchurched.
So pioneering missioners, don’t be disappointed that what you are doing seems to attract the dechurched and not the unchurched, just maybe this is the starting place to build community to be able to reach out to the unchurched effectively. I think this is true…..