year of bible – hope wins…

ImageDrawn back to the Psalms this week…

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him (Psalm 62)

Where does your hope come from…?

Like you I’ve got a whole heap of hopes…

I hope that I’m a good husband and father, son and brother…more importantly, I hope that my wife and my children, my parents and my family know they are loved simply by how I talk and how I live…

I hope that I’m a good teacher…more importantly, I hope that my pupils know how valued they are and how much I long for them to expand their horizons…

I hope that I’m a good friend, a good colleague, a good person…more importantly, I hope I’m someone that people around me can rely on me to be what they need me to be…

I hope that I’m a good follower…more importantly, I hope that it makes a difference…

That’s a whole lot of hoping.

But where does my hope come from?

My hope comes from the knowledge that death doesn’t win. That there is another way and that you and I are involved in making that other way happen.

My hope is shaped by a life that was lived some 2000 years ago and still resonates loudly today.

My hope is Jesus shaped.  A shape that doesn’t always fit into the patterns of the world, but makes every aspect of life fit around it.

I’m a bit of a restless soul, always looking for the next, looking over the horizon…but the rest that I find is here in this hope. But it’s a rest that causes all sorts of restlessness…

A restlessness that longs to see my world radically shaped by hope.

What’s your hope?

Because if you haven’t got hope…well, you haven’t got a hope.  I’m not being facetious.  This isn’t a flippant throwaway. This isn’t smiling when all is falling apart.  This is crying and shouting and screaming and pushing and pulling…and it never ends.

Find your hope. Find your rest that brings restlessness.

That’s the first step.

Then see where it goes…

year of bible – songs of the road…

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Earlier this evening we were listening to a radio station when an Oasis song from 1994 was played. Straight away I was transport back to 20 years ago. Facing my GCSEs, thinking that my life was panning out in a particular direction (how many times…). An almost visceral reaction to a few moments of music.

It’s incredible how it can have that impact on us. Like you, I’m sure, I have something like a soundtrack to my life in my head, which when triggered can really transport me back to wherever and whenever that particular piece of music captured me. They can be the weirdest tracks, the most bizarre links…and yet they speak deeply to me.

Each day on this year of bible features words from the psalms. These are the ‘soundtrack’ of the church in many ways – the songs we keep returning to again and again. As I reflected on the song I heard earlier today I began thinking about some of the psalms which featured at particular times in my life.

Psalm 139 when everything fell apart at 16 and the got put together again…

Psalm 1 on my gap year as I was seeking to root myself…

Psalm 51…well…whenever I (all too frequently) messed up…

Psalm 63 in the midst of uncertainty on the journey out of the Salvation Army…

Psalm 23 as words tumbling into my mind preparing a eulogy for my Grandma’s funeral…

We could go on.

These words capture us, challenge us, enliven us, confuse us…

They speak out of the depths of the entire human experience – not just the incredible moments when everything is so straightforward, but the bitterness and anger of rejection and uncertainty. They are human…and yet divine…

Right now the psalms which speak to me are those which call out to God for a sense of presence (for example psalm 44). Sometimes they speak of abandonment, sometimes of despair, sometimes of simple emptiness. I’m not pretending that this is the depth of my experience, but instead it reminds me of the vital place of questioning within the journey. The place where we stand and cry out ‘why’…where we remember the promises, the covenants and we attempt to once more invoke those days gone by whilst simultaneously pressing into the not yet.

We need songs for the journey that don’t ignore these moments. We need songs that speak of disappointment and uncertainty. To ignore them is to ignore life. Let’s not focus on the happy-flappy and emotional manipulation. Let’s be real for once.

Perhaps the most beautiful part of many of these psalms is the way they end. Not with a whimper but with a statement – “and yet still I will praise you”.

This is incredible.

I’m abandoned and yet God, I’m still going to believe.

You’ve let me down…and yet I’m still going to believe.

I’m hurting…and yet.

I’m lost…and yet.

I’m here.

Where are you?

The answer is not always as we expect…or even there at all…but that shouldn’t stop us from asking in the first place.

So as we walk this road I wonder if we could create something that embraces this lost heritage. Something that expresses the fullness of the life we live seeking to follow – the gethsemane as well as the resurrection, as it were.

Then, well then we’re singing.

year of bible: the open road…

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The last couple of weeks have seen us walk through the book of Exodus. For those of you who may read this blog but don’t read the bible I’ll try to summarise it. Basically God listens to the cries of his people who are in slavery, send along his chosen man (Moses: Hebrew/adopted Egyptian/man of few words and winder up and calmer down of God) to lead them out of Egypt. We have the big party tricks (the ten plagues), the great escape (the Red Sea crossing) and then…well, and then things become…interesting.

A traditional reading of the text tells us that the Israelites settle down for a while in the wilderness where God starts to give them their ’religion’ and provides for their needs. Amongst that is the setting up of the tabernacle, the establishment of the system of priesthood, sacrifices and festivals which would define Israel’s relationship with its God.

This is all about, we’re told, God establishment his covenant community, about marking Israel as ‘his’, about making them the beacon of his light that he has always called them to be. This usually becomes a preach about being part of the new covenant in Christ, becoming his holy people.

I’m not suggesting anything new, or even discounting this message at all…but I wonder if there’s something else to be found here.

What if we were to read this as a story of the people of God seeking to restrain that God? What if Exodus and the remaining books written by ‘Moses’ (the Pentateuch) are actually much more about religion, about creating rules that in effect serve to keep us safe from God? It’s almost as if the authors (probably post Babylonian exile editors) are constructing a new paradigm for a new people – setting down the laws, practices and system that will guide them as they seek to understand the cataclysm they have experienced.

Fascinatingly, Israel has a habit of seeking to restrain God, of boxing him up in rules and regulations and ultimately a building (here the tabernacle, later the temple). This becomes the centre of the cult, with Priests and Levites becoming inbetweeners – standing between man and God and God and man. It becomes the place on earth where God resides, the touching place between the eternal and mortal. As the story progresses, we learn how devastated the people are when the temple is destroyed – symbolising God leaving his people, complete (and explained as deserved) abandonment.

We see this also with the desire for a King during Samuel’s time – the desire for a perfect leader (Messiah) which leads them to reject Jesus when he turns up. They want something, a barrier perhaps, between this divine presence and them – they’re terrified. They want what all the other nations have – a temple, a priesthood, a king, religion.

Israel’s journey, though, is different. It’s a story of man and God conversing directly. An open road. God calling, Abraham following. Jacob wrestling. God ahead, beckoning his people on. Not buildings, but people. Not priests, but normal folk. God everywhere. God in all of creation.

And when Jesus does turn up he’s exactly this. He seeks to dismantle barriers, to destroy religion and yet fulfil everything. He beckons the people back to the open road, to following wherever this siren God calls. Out of the restraints and out of the boxes. Temples destroyed, priesthood opened to all. Away from comfort to the wilderness. Only one sacrifice necessary.

Maybe this is the message to us today. Maybe we’ve settled for a domesticated, religious god – a god who can be limited and explained and is full of certainty. This is far easier for us to cope with. We can predict what that god is up to. We can even claim to control it.

Far less disruptive and disturbing.

But that isn’t God. That isn’t the Jesus who calls to us.

He’s full of disturbance and disruption, power and uncertainty. Full of unexplained and vastness and…well…words run out. There is no logic, no reason…and yet he makes glorious sense. He’s in the dust and the dirt, amongst the great and the good but perhaps more so amongst the worst and the least.

I ask myself this: am I temple orientated? Do I cling to religion? Do I grasp for those things which bring order?

Or am I part of a people who are seeking to hear the whisper of a Presence ‘out there’, wherever and however dark it may be?

Am I out on the open road?

Please God, yes.

year of bible – raging against the machine…

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When I was going through ministerial training the big thing was all about ‘post-modernism’ – the gift from the ‘modern’ way of explaining our world and existence to one which sought to embrace a different way of viewing pretty much everything. To put it simply, modernism was all about objectivity (being able to step back and neutrally examine and comment on something) whilst post-modernism was more about subjectivity (the theory that we all view the world through a set of lenses that cannot be abandoned – we are all biased one way or the other). Modernism seeks to prove ‘truth’, whilst in many ways pm asks ‘what is truth?’. This explanation is far too simplistic – but it’s a starting point far what follows.

All sorts of things are touched by this – not least how we view church, organisation and institution. Many in my training cohort were probably, like me, a mix of both camps – being children of modernism and yet enjoying some of the freedoms pm gave to us to allow our worlds to be shaped by our experience. We rejected a lot of the things we were told were ‘just so’ – we wanted to push boundaries, to be allowed to reinterpret our faith, our culture and our entire modus operandi. This brought clashes with ‘the system’ – and for many of us, deep suspicion of anyone making decisions that might impact our future – especially if we had limited say. And so we raged against ‘the machine’ – that unfeeling, all powerful unseen…ironically populated by people just like me.

I guess I would still count myself as deeply suspicious of institutions and hierarchy – although accepting that these are almost inevitable in any organisational culture. Our journey away from ‘church’ is partly shaped by this, as we have sought authentic ways of being community and sharing life and faith with those around us in our everyday existence.

So…where’s the link to the year of bible?

I’ve just finished reading a passage in Matthew (chapter 23) where Jesus rips into the religious culture and institutions of his day. Go away and read it…seriously…it’s an epic work of deconstruction (a very pm concept!).

It’s stunning – ripping away at a rigidly structured system which confers authority upon those with titles – those who see themselves as ‘experts’. Jesus hits out at hypocrisy, pulls apart the desire to be respected, reiterates the upside-down “last is first” nature of the kingdom. Beautiful!

He even talks about not calling anyone on earth ‘Father’ when we have a father in heaven – ha! Perhaps he had a bit of foresight about what lay in store for the emerging Christian community!

I remain utterly convinced that although church is a vital part of life for many, and does an incredible amount of good for both individuals and for communities, it is not what we’re supposed to be. It too often embraces all that is bad about the world’s way of doing business, perhaps unintentionally ignoring Jesus’ words on simplicity and humility and the reality of direct access to God that he makes clear.

We need community – please don’t hear me wrong. We need brothers and sisters. But I’m not sure what else we need. Perhaps we long to replace that direct access with a priestly model that gives over our responsibility for our spiritual life to someone who stands between a and God? Perhaps we don’t trust ourselves? I must be honest, I just don’t get it anymore.

We need accountability, we need ‘fellowship’. Of course we do. But I’m not sure if that’s what Jesus was speaking about. However – that’s the beauty of the bible – we can often justify whatever we want to think with quotes and interpretation that serve our view (but then – that’s a very pm thing to say!).

I don’t think it’s about cutting ourselves off from 2000 years of church history, of declaring ourselves as right and ‘them’ as wrong. Do we take what is useful and use it to help shape the future as well as define the past?

We need to share life. We need to seek to follow faithfully where we must – to continually reinterpret what it means to follow Jesus every day. To be courageous in living out what we think it means.

I’m deeply flawed in all of this – I’m sure I often get it wrong…but it seems better to be here than there.

All from a relatively short bit of text…I’m enjoying this…!

year of bible – Joseph the persistent…

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This week I have mostly been thinking about Joseph.

If you know me, you’ll know I have two daughters. One of whom is Josephine – which means ‘God will extend’, apparently. Anyhow…I don’t think that we chose the name particularly because of this story, but it’s been funny how much the story has stuck with me this week.

Those of you familiar with the story will know that Joseph has a bit of a raw deal – although he does deserve a bit of this due to a bit of youthful arrogance in the early part of the story. He gets betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, accused (falsely!) of sexual assault, thrown into prison, let down by his friends…life pretty much sucks for the majority of the story. Every time he gets himself back on his feet, within a short while he’s smashed back down.

But there’s a remarkable thing that happens throughout. In each context he finds himself, no matter how crap, Joseph finds a way to turn what is rubbish into good. Sold as a slave, he shows his trustworthiness and is soon placed in charge of his master’s household. Thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit he again proves his worth and is soon running the prison for his boss. Remarkably he even begins to rub shoulders with people close to the pharaoh (technically they’re out of pharaoh’s good books!) which leads, eventually, to the point where his life becomes utterly transformed for the better.

He doesn’t mope around…

He doesn’t feel sorry for himself…

He doesn’t give up and fade into obscurity…

He doesn’t rage against the injustice…

He sucks it up and he gets on with being a person of integrity, seeking to do what is right even in the darkest of days. The text tells us ‘But the LORD was with him’ – in the midst of the crap, not necessarily rescuing him from the pits of despair…but helping him to become a beacon of righteousness in the darkest places.

I don’t think that I’ve ever read the text like this. I’ve noticed all sorts of different things, but I haven’t noticed that essentially Joseph is the difference in every context. His attitude seems to be to make the best of what he finds himself in…or perhaps even better…to BE the best wherever he finds himself,

Fascinating.

I’m not suggesting this as an appropriate response to some of the suffering we encounter, or even as a way to let God off the hook of bad stuff happens, but there is something really powerful about this idea. You make the difference. You find God in those places and you hold on tight to him.

Interesting.

year of bible – tricky God…

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One week further into this meander through the pages of this most intriguing of texts. We’ve continued our journey through the patriarchs in Genesis, seen Jesus’s ministry established and expanded in Matthew, cried out in despair with the Psalmist…and at times been befuddled by Proverbs!

What caught my eye this week?

Well, an unusual thought.

One which may cause consternation amongst those who don’t like to challenge too far their understanding of God.

The thing that seems to happen over and over again throughout the earliest stories of the people of God is this theme of trickery. Abraham tricks Abimelek, Isaac then copies his Dad and does exactly the same (perhaps a different generation who hadn’t experienced the first play!). Jacob, Isaac’s son, cons his brother first out of his birthright and then out of his father’s blessing (ably assisted by his Mum). Jacob runs off and in turn is tricked by Laban, who promises Rachel but delivers Leah. Later on, Jacob’s boys trick some nasty enemies as an act of revenge…phew…are you catching the drift here?

So what? These people are ordinary humans who will do anything to survive or even flourish…even extreme acts at times. What intrigues me, however, is that this is who God anoints as his ‘chosen people’. He chooses tricksters…and perhaps endorses their behaviour by choosing them? Do we see a God here who prizes cunning and sidestepping above frontal conflict?

Interestingly, this idea connects with something we read in Matthew, where Jesus sends out his followers on their first mission trip. In his instructions he includes this: “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). Later in the story we see a mischievous Jesus in the resurrection – either hiding his identity, or allowing his grieving followers to continue in their misunderstanding until the time is right for the ‘big reveal’.

I’m not really sure what this all means…other than perhaps if we view God as some cosmic lawgiver with no sense of humour perhaps we miss out on a vital part of who God is. I don’t think that this ‘tricky’ God is in it to damage humanity, but perhaps realises that this survive at all costs, cunning and sidestepping is a necessary part of the human existence. What if our world values the strong, values those who can use violence to achieve their goals…and what if this trickster God is stimulating a spirit of subversion, of revolution against this culture?

Like I say, I don’t really know. Just pondering on this idea of being “cunning” and yet “innocent”…

Another quick thought…isn’t it interesting that the God of Genesis isn’t really daily involved in the lives of his people? Sure, there are big set pieces…and even face to face encounters from time to time…but in the main, God is this presence in the background that seems to provide the framework for all else to hang on. As the story develops we seem to see God get more involved…and then back off again…and then more involved…and then the cycle repeats. All the way through the story – bursts of activity…and then silence…

We would do well to remember this in our own journey. We may well experience incredible highs – but also times of deply frustrating disconnection. We may punish ourselves, searching deep inside for the flaw within that has forced God away from us. What if this is the way that is meant to be? Perhaps the measure of us will be in how we continued even when the voice wasn’t heard.

Interesting…well…I think so anyhow!

year of bible – in the beginning…

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So, here we are – a week into 2014 already. How have you used your first week? Not trying to show off…but I’ve welcomed our second daughter into the world. Not a bad start, eh?!

As I promised, this post will be a reflection based on a week of reading through the bible. I want to use this as a marker for myself and perhaps a useful resource for others who are interested in the same concept. It’s vital in my mind that we treat the bible as a coherent whole, although it can be fairly incoherent at times…I suppose what I mean here is that we don’t just pick and choose bits that we like, but that we try to get a sense of the narrative that might be at work behind the text we hold in our hands today.

So, firstly the details.

7 days of reading.

19 chapters of Genesis – Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, Soddom and Gomorrah…
7ish chapters of Matthew – birth, magi, baptism, sermoning on the mount..,
8 Psalms – awe, wonder, anger, depression, guilt, rage…
2ish chapters of Proverbs – wisdom and sound bites galore…

So – what stuck in my mind this week?

I guess it was the inevitable – the focus on new beginnings. What with Genesis and the birth of Jesus, alongside the arrival of my new girl…well, yeah, inevitable is probably the best description.

Whether you’re a literalist or not, you can’t help but be struck by the wonder of creation. However it happened, I think we can agree that those key words, ‘and it was good’ littered throughout the first chapter are inspiring. Inspiring in the sense that it causes us to step back and contemplate what we see before us – outlandish beauty and yet the brutality of ‘nature’. I include the latter part of that sentence because I can’t help but think that one of the things we Jesus followers are called to do is to be amongst those who see the hopeful in everything. Not in a naive, blind faith kind of way, but in a way that grits its teeth and says, ‘I’m going to work to bring hope and see the potential in every thing I come into contact with’. I want to be someone who sees what God declares as being good and joins in with him in declaring that over that which seems broken.

Of course, the beauty of reading of the arrival of Jesus alongside the creation story is that we see God at work to put it all back together again. We see within a paragraph in Genesis how what is designed as beautiful becomes broken, and how we are invited to bring light into this world. That’s what I want to be part of through seeking to follow this Jesus guy. He arrives on the scene and gets straight into the business of turning his world upside down. He loves and he challenges and he stirs and he doesn’t blink. He stares down injustice in whatever guise…especially that caused by religion.

And so I’ll continue to try and figure out what that looks like to a 21st century British school teacher. Probably the same as it meant to a first century fisherman or rabbi.

The scene may have changed, but the script certainly hasn’t…

challenges…

calendar1Over the last few years I’ve tried to set myself an alternative to traditional ‘resolutions’.  I guess one of the reasons behind my thinking is simply my uselessness at keeping to those resolutions that I’ve set for myself, whereas the idea of doing something that potentially improves me and those around me appeals so much more!

So, for 2014 I thought I’d set my sights on a new, slightly different goal.

I want to read 12 books by 12 authors whose work I haven’t read before.

Simple, eh?

Well, on one level, of course not.  I should be able to read twelve books in 12 months, shouldn’t I?  On another, it’s going to be massively challenging.  The moment that I get back to school I seem to lose reading time…or at least the energy or headspace to pick up something that isn’t work related…sad, really…especially for a teacher!  Add to that the imminent arrival of baby Thompson, and that finite amount of time that I might have set aside for reading will be even more pressurised!

I believe in reading.  It’s a life blood of a mind that is hungry for learning and growth.  As a teacher I think it’s lifeblood.  That’s why I know it’s important to set this challenge.  Rare indeed is the book that has no impact on me or forces me to think about the world in which I live.

So – here’s the communal bit: recommend a book or an author that I really should read below.  I’ll make a note of them all and then see if I can get my hands on them through our local library or something along those lines.  I really appreciate your wisdom on this…so please do participate.

I’m also going to set a second challenge.

I want to read my way through the bible once again this year.  It’s something I’ve been talking about a lot with friends recently.  As we’ve moved away from church it remains vital that I’m connected into this story that shapes us and our world.  To try and help with that I’m going to try to commit to writing a weekly summary of my thoughts on what I’ve read.  I also want this to be collaborative, so I’ll ask you to join in with me.  I think that the scheme I’ll follow is this one - you can use an app to follow it – but I think I’m going to try to do it ‘hands on’ with a real proper bible.

So, two challenges for 2014 that should in some way stretch me and help me grow…and possibly also others around me.

Here’s to 2014.

May it be a year full of moments.

restart…

restartTime to end the blogfast…haven’t written anything since May 19th – 70 days.  Woh.

I haven’t shutdown or decided to sign-off.  But I do sense it’s time for a bit of a restart…

A lot has happened since the last post…

Finished my first year at Uffculme, as a grown up RE teacher. Loved it. Love it. It’s not complete, it’s continuing. Next year is a little daunting – teaching a bit of English. Lots to learn, but that’s a good thing. Never cease learning…

Shared the news that we are expecting our second child. It ‘it’ is anything like ‘it’s’ big sister, we’re in for a treat.  Blessed doesn’t even begin to sum it up, but then I think if you read this blog you’ll know how I feel about being a Dad…

Kay decided to finish work for a year to let her focus on what lies ahead.  Much I could write about the why behind this, but sufficient to say that it’s utterly the right thing…

Started to train for the Great West Run with my friends Andy and Tobit. I tried this in 2007, not hugely successfully, but hoping and training for better things this time.  Enjoying the discipline of getting out on the road – even on my own now.  Currently up to about 7 miles in a reasonable timeframe.  Lots more mileage to get under my belt, but not a bad start…

End of school meant end of the reading famine – currently on my third book of the holiday…only one week in!  Just don’t seem to have the staying power during term-time…

Looking forward to Greenbelt and our little arts project we’re dreaming up at the moment.  I’ll keep you posted…

Feeling like something within is reawakening – something tied to the past that is linked to Isaiah 61. Perhaps something to explore over the next 6 weeks before getting back to school.  Too early to say what, but something is brewing.  Much to ponder, much to develop…

It is good to be alive.  It’s good to be thinking.  It’s good to be sharing life with my beautiful family and friends.  It’s good to celebrate all that is behind and embrace all that is ahead…

So, here’s to a blogging restart…

some thoughts for the CofE…

I’ve been thinking about posting on this subject for the last couple of days as the news has gradually leaked out about the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC)…

Before I write any further, however, I guess I should explain where I’m coming from. I grew up in the Salvation Army, eventually becoming an Officer (minister) before feeling led ‘out’ of the movement into something new. The next 5 years would see me working as Diocesan Youth Work Adviser for Exeter Diocese, the Church of England in Devon. Not only that, but we found our spiritual home with an Anglican fresh expression of church – Exeter Network Church, who we would journey with for several years until moving our attention into a more organic, community focused approach to ‘being’ church. During this time I was baptised and confirmed as an Anglican – so I guess I am ‘Anglican’…whatever that means?!

I guess I write this to explain why I might feel qualified to have anything to say on this appointment. On Friday I talked to one of my year 11 groups (I teach Religious Education) about the appointment of Justin Welby, explaining why this was so important for the CofE and also the wider impact it might make on society. What struck me was the sheer apathy of young people (who can be naturally apathetic at the best of times!) towards this news. They only started to get excited when I discussed the two major issues facing the new ABC – women bishops and same-sex marriages. I guess I’d summarise their views as ‘what’s the problem?’.

This got me thinking. Dangerous thing, thinking. It made me wonder about the self-consuming strife that is encompassing Anglicanism about these issues. We don’t need a Dawkins tearing away at us. We don’t need apathy across society. We don’t need ‘persecution’. We’re doing a good enough job at ripping ourselves to shreds, aren’t we?

I suppose in some ways I might call myself dechurched now, if we mean ‘institutional’. I got tired of fighting against the system from within as youth work adviser, watching as senior church leaders were more interested in scoring political points or preserving their ‘patch’ at the expense of truly embracing the missio dei. How is the church ever going to reach out to its community if all it ever does is focus on preserving itself – whether it be stopping women from being bishops, or using the Book of Common Prayer or whatever?

The church I belonged to, ENC, was wonderfully free of much of this baggage, and was a hugely healing place for us after years in a highly institutionalised movement such as the Army. We were free to focus on being us, to seek to be who God made us to be, to deconstruct so much of what we’d built up and focus on what was truly important. Moving on from ENC was moving on into the next stage – deconstructing to explore what it might be like to ‘be’ church rather than ‘do’ church.

Anyhow…I guess what I’m saying is that if I, someone with a huge investment in church and Christianity feel this way, what about those who don’t? Those ‘normal people’ who can’t believe that in 21st century Britain we might still be arguing whether women can be in charge or not. Those who think love is more important that gender.

I get that being followers of Christ means being set apart, being different. This is the daily deal. How do we walk, how do we talk, how do we act. Who we are when we’re being watched, who we are when we’re not being watched. I get that we have to stand for something, that we have to ‘believe’ in something, and that sometimes that will go against what society wants us to do. I don’t buy the idea that just because society says its ok, the church should follow suit, should modernise, should be more inclusive…whatever. That just isn’t the way it really works.

What does work in my mind is embracing a theology that welcomes the whosever, the broken, the lost, the hopeless, the rich, the poor, the weak, the powerful, gay, straight, white, black, young, old…welcomes everyone and says “come and be a part of what God is doing here on earth…there’s a part for all of us to play”…We take seriously what Paul seems to be saying when he writes to the young church that in Christ there is ‘no jew, no gentile, no male, no female’.

A church that says we’re all in a process of becoming, that we all ‘sin’ and that all sins are equal, no matter whether they’re ‘sexual’ or breaking the law of the land by speeding. We all need mending and reshaping in the image of the creator, all of us being ‘recreated’.

A church that focuses on who we are, not what we are. Male, female, straight, gay. Who cares? Seriously? I don’t think God does. I say that in all honesty. He has a track record of using the strangest people to change the world. A wandering geriatric called Abram…a trickster called Jacob…a prostitute called Rahab…a teenage mum called Mary…a hate-full young pharisee called Saul…we could go on and on. Ending up with me and perhaps you. It isn’t about apostolic succession – the idea of an unbroken line of men back to the first disciples. I’m not a better Christian because a bishop confirmed me, and definitely not because that bishop was a man (although the man who prayed for me was a wonderful man who happened to be a bishop).

I guess I believe that God is interested in love, and where pure, beautiful love is found, and I mean love, real love, then I think God is there. Whether that is between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman. If hearts are strangely captured by God and are being shaped in to that Image we know we must become then the detail of sexuality simply doesn’t matter. What matters is deep commitment, deep monogamous commitment, to one-another. A commitment that reflects God’s love for his creation. Whatever Leviticus or Paul has to say on the issue. And I don’t say that lightly – I don’t think I’m cleverer or more ‘modern’ than these texts, I just see it differently. And don’t get me started on the myth of biblical marriage…

So…I guess what this ‘rant’ is trying to say is that the time is right to move on, Anglicanism. Choose women bishops. Leave the sexuality thing alone. Not because times have changed but because God is love.

Focus instead on combatting injustice and world poverty. Focus on seeking to rid the world of hate and give it hope. Focus on love. Focus on unity.

Let people run away to Rome if they want to.

Let whoever wants to leave Anglicanism do so if they don’t like women or gays. Who cares if we’re getting it by showing what Christ’s love looks like?

Let priests be priests. Let them serve their communities and try new things. Give equal status to people pioneering as people looking after what’s already in place. Take more risks. Close down stuff that doesn’t work any more. If congregations won’t accept women, let them get on with it without a bishop. They won’t die. Well, they will, but that’s another matter entirely!

Get rid of the bling. It doesn’t do anything magic. Focus on being what we were called to be – salt and light. Give it away. Don’t store up treasures on earth…

Get over the persecution complex until we do something worth being persecuted about (pissing off those in power)…then…well, then we’ll be doing something that might make people interested in finding out who this Jesus is.

The great thing is that beyond all the crap we are doing some incredible things in our communities. In fact, I think we might even be the glue that’s holding it all together in an awful lot of places. That’s the cool thing about Anglicanism, that’s the bit we should be celebrating…

Archbishop-elect Justin – I really do pray that you will know God walking with you during this time of preparation, and that you seek to serve him in everything you do. I pray that you will know peace but also courage to be the man you need to be…and that is who you were created to be…not what conservatives or liberals or even I might want you to be.

Just spend more time looking outside of our church than inside.

You might even find God out there more than inside its ‘hallowed halls’…