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For our question at hand, this book gets a 1 out of 4 stars. It does not get at the formation practices that are necessary either to equip people to begin or to sustain people in the doing of missional living.
It is, however, I think are critically important document for churches in the West. It represents the very thoughtful and honest work of the Church of England to deal with the simultaneous and interrelated challenges of rapid decline in membership and rapid change in culture. It is refreshing to see the sober awareness of the world in which they now find themselves. There is no self-congratulatory remarks about past success. There is no bemoaning of forces working against the Christian origins of their nation. There is no presumptuous sense of knowledge about the strategies that will fix the crises. There is no alarmist or reactionary claims that everything from the past is irrelevant and outdated and to be done away with.
In short, it was refreshingly sober.
I would suggest before reading the whole book, which can be technical and dry at times, to read this article first. If you are sufficiently inspired, go for the whole book.
The main critique I would have would be the same one that Alan J. Roxburgh had about his own work within the missional movement - it is too much about the church. As soon as we attach “church” as the object of the qualifying word “missional,” then we get off course. That is why Roxburgh wrote Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood to correct his own book Missional Church.
I am aware the the document that became the book in question was birthed by a church council to address to future of their churches in England. Even with this context, though, there has to be great caution in addressing our present realities with the church-as-institution as the unquestionable filter for the dialogue and strategies. The language of “fresh expressions” in the work has the potential to take us to that place, but does not get drawn out too far in that direction in this text.
One of the descriptors I am working with to define Johannine spirituality is one of “dispossession.” More on that to come. For now, though, here is a representative statement of that kind of spirituality It is from missiologist Leslie Newbigin who is commenting on John 15:18-27.
"The promise to the community of disciples is NOT that they will have the Spirit at their disposal to help them in their work of proclamation. That misunderstanding has profoundly distorted the missionary action of the Church and provided the occasion for a kind of missionary triumphalism of which we are right to be ashamed. The Spirit is not the Church;s auxiliary. The promise made [in John 15:18-27] is NOT to the Church, which is powerful and ‘successful’ in a worldly sense. It is made to the Church which shares the tribulation and the humiliation of Jesus, the tribulation which arises from faithfulness to the truth in a world which is dominated by the lie. The promise is that, exactly in this tribulation and humiliation, the might Spirit of God will bear his own witness to the crucified Jesus as Lord and Giver of life."
- 1 year ago
"Heretics reject paradox in favor of false clarity and precision. True faith can only grow and mature if it includes paradox and creative doubt. Faith in God does not, contrary to religious assumptions, bring the false peace of answered questions and resolved ambiguities. Faith, in reality, is about living into a process of ‘unceasing interrogation’ of oneself, God, the world, Scripture, etc. God enters our lives with disturbing questions. And, without the presence of creative doubt, the religion we build in His name becomes hard and cruel, degenerating into the confident convictions that breed intolerance, insular institutions, and unassailable traditions. Unless we protect doubt, the power and inspiration of religious language is lost. The repression of doubt has brought about serious harm to the spiritual life. If we have an orthodox faith in GOD and not a heretical faith in the systems we have constructed to define, worship, proclaim, etc. GOD, then doubt IS faith."
- 1 year ago
A great statement about how what appears to be betrayal is really obedience.
"Change is only betrayal if we forget that the CENTER of tradition, the heart of what we hand on as saving faith, is the possibility of new beginnings and the truth that our errors of interpretation are not the last word in a community which exists because of a belief in the indestructability of God’s commitment."
It takes a lot of courage and humility to live like that. For the sake of the world, church, lets get on with the sacred work of betraying the harmful barriers created by the edges of our traditions to obey the center of our Tradition."
Consider the Trumpet Blown.
Without question one of the most special holy days for me is the Church’s observance of Ash Wednesday. Every year I go to a 7:30am service at an Episcopal Church. Every year the same Scriptures are read, the same prayers prayed, etc. We kneel at the same time, are silent at the same, receive the ashes at the same time, etc. The only thing that changes is the content of the brief message offered by the priest.
And I love it. The repetition, the tradition welcome me in to the season of Lent. If it were altered every year, I am not sure my body could be ushered into this time of reflection and repentance so gently nor so palatably. Changing it would be like undoing and redoing one’s whole set of Christmas traditions every year. Without that certain ornament, song, meal, etc., we would say, “It just isn’t Christmas.”
For the next few weeks, I plan to betray myself on this blog. Using the prayers for the Ash Wednesday service from the Book of Common Prayer as a staring point, I will be offering my own self-betraying confession and meditations on this solemn season of denial and repentance.
The part of the tradition that stuns and stills my soul every year is the reading from the prophet Joel, which begins like this:
"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near…"
The prophet goes on to describe the reason for this trumpet blast. It is to call a “solemn assembly” and to “sanctify a fast.” The prophet is calling the whole nation to a grand, holy worship event. The theme is repentance. Hearts are to be torn before God. And this sacred gathering is so urgent that mothers are to stop nursing and grooms are to leave weddings. Nothing else matters but this time of confession.
In an age when every church has a praise team or a praise band or a praise & worship hour… where are the lament teams, the confession bands, the repentance hours?
I am writing to say that the trumpet has been blown in my own life. I need to betray my own security and pride. There are many schemes afoot about my future, my plans, my needs, my goals, my projects, etc. If I am to keep company with Joel, however, I must make this season of renewal priority one.
For that to happen, though, I must pray a prayer that appears in the BCP for this event: “Grant us true repentance.” You see, repentance is not something I can come to on my own that, once achieved, merits a response from God. Even the act of repentance is a gift of grace, an initiative of God. Only God can bring me to a place of true confession.
May I understand that no other sacrifice will be pleasing to God in this time other than a contrite heart.
May the trumpet be blown in my life that I may come to His holy mountain for a sacred fast.
This is from a little treatise called, “The Challenge of the Present Crisis” by Harry E. Fosdick. Written in response to the first world war. Even more relevant after a second world war, the rapid increase of nuclear weapons, the growth of technology that makes taking lives easier and more remote, and as we are still in the longest war in US history.
"If religion has such a part to play in the program of internationalism, we, as Christians, are challenged to a searching examination of our faith and works, and to a fresh devotion to our cause. One of the wisest and most picturesque explanations of the present crisis is attributed to Bergson, the Frech philosopher. He says, in effect, that the chief work of science has been to enlarge man’s body. Telescopes and microscopes have increased the power of our eyes; telephones have stretched our hearing to some three thousand miles; telegraphs have made our voices sound around the earth; locomotives and steamship lines, better than the seven-league boots of ancient fable, have multiplied the speed and power of our feet; and French big guns have elongated the blows of our fists from two feet to twenty-five miles. Man never had such a body since the world began. The age of giants was nothing compared with this. But man’s soul - there the failure lies. We have not grown spirits great enough to handle our greatened bodies. The splendid new power which science furnishes are still in the hands of the old sins - greed, selfish ambition, cruelty. We must have a new access of moral vision and power or we are utteerly undone.
"As a thoughtful Christian stands before the challenge he must repent, for himself and for the churches, the lamentable inadequacy of our organized religion to meet the crucial need. This war will fail one of its most beneficent results if it does not drive the sense of shame into Christian churches with a poignancy that no excuses can palliate. In the presence of abysmal need, we stand tithing "mint, dill, and cumin, and neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness." We are challenged by this war to a renovation of our popular Christianity, to a deep and unrelenting detestation of the little bigotries, the needless divisions, the petty obscurantisms that so deeply curse our churches, to a new experience and a more intelligent expression of vital fellowship with God. Unless we can answer that challenge, there is small use in our trying to answer any other. We must have a great religion to meet a great need.
"The saddest aspect of Christian history is the misrepresentation of Christ and the spoiling of his influence, not by irreligious men but by the official exponents of religion. The belittling of religion by it devotees is the most tragic narrative of Christendom."
- 1 year ago
The artwork is by Birgit Walker and is based on the famous Sam Nzima photo of Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying 12-year-old Hector Pieterson who had just been fatally shot by South African police during a peaceful student protest on June 16, 1976 in Soweto.
All forms of injustice, even if defended by law or upheld by cultural or patriotic mythos, must be betrayed.Source: babylonfalling