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’…

moving…

Those of you who know us well will remember that we’ve been trying to sell our lovely little flat for the past 4/5 months.  In fact we first tried to sell last year, but didn’t get anywhere with it.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, the good news is that we received an offer on 23rd December that we’ve accepted, so now just need to find somewhere to live!

We’re aiming to move further into Exeter from where we are now, in particular a lovely part of the city called Heavitree, where a good number of our friends live and are part of a great project called Parklife.  We really feel drawn to this – and feel it might be where our desire to ‘do’ community might be fulfilled.

The thing is, we’ve got two properties that we’re really interested in.  We’ve seen both of them, and both of them are really great, for different reasons.  I don’t want to talk too much about them, but would ask you if you pray to spend a little time listening to what God might be saying to us.  I know that might sound weird, but I believe that this kind of thing is best done in community – and, well, you’re my community…

Obviously, we’re not taking anything for granted as any offer on either might not be accepted – we’ve got limited resources as we’ve suffered from some of the well publicised issues with the housing market (trying to sell a flat that would be ideal for first time buyers or buy-to-let market is hard work at the moment!).

Let me know either by comment below, or via message on Facebook.  Let’s see where God might be on this.

holding my words…

apologies for the recent lack of posting.  I’m trying to keep my mouth closed for a little while as I finish up at the Diocese.  It’s been a long couple of months, with lots happening.  Also had lots to chew on from stuff I’ve been reading and conversations I’ve been having with our emerging Park-ology group…I’ll come back to that.  I’ve chosen not to post as the last couple of weeks in particular have been a mixture of frustrating and at the same time really good.  Once I’ve properly finished I might share …

If you’ve hit this page after clicking on the link from my last e-bulletin for work – hi!  Feel free to leave a comment and stay in touch.  Would be awesome to have you around!

Here’s to finishing well!

and now onto the next page…

…so, here it is…the big news that I’ve been waiting to share…

Yesterday I found out that I’ve been accepted for a place on the Graduate Teacher Programme with the University College of Saint Mark and Saint John, Plymouth. Basically, that means that I’m going to be starting to train in September as a secondary RE teacher ‘on the job’ at St Luke’s Science and Sports College here in Exeter, the school where I currently serve as a lay House chaplain.  I handed my notice in for my current role with the Diocese of Exeter today so it’s all official…as I have to give 3 months notice that means I’ll actually finish in mid-August.

There’s a real sense of this being a part of my ongoing journey seeking to follow where the Spirit leads. This is something that’s been around for the last couple of years, but has really come into focus over the past 6 months. I know that it’s going to be a tough year at times, that I’m going to be really stretched…but I’m really excited about what this future holds.

I’d appreciate your prayers, if you do, in this new thing…pray for us all; Kay, Sephi, me as we adjust to this whole new life…

Some words that have been important to me over this time of transition…

Isaiah 43
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland”.

a brief aside…

I decided to create a new page on the blog with the text from the pdf I posted this week about how and why I moved away from being an ordained minister with The Salvation Army.  A good number of people went the extra mile to download the pdf, so I thought that I’d make it available for anyone who wanted to learn a bit more about the guy who writes this blog.

So…if you want to read it…you can see it here

bleak youth…

Excellent article online at The Guardian today about how young people are bearing the brunt of cuts to the public sector.  The position in Devon is pretty much as this article outlines, but the voluntary youth sector are being particularly hard hit by 100% funding cuts to Voluntary Youth Services Devon, a key network in supporting all kinds of youth groups/organisations.

The great shame, of course, is that all the evidence is suggesting that young people have been hardest hit by the recession that we’re experiencing, from youth unemployment to not being able to afford first mortgages etc.

Cue headlines in a year or two about the rise of youth crime/disaffection…

And we wonder why some of the student protestors might resort to violent methods to drive home their point.  No justification here from me…just a reflection.

Where are we, the Church, in responding to this?

One of my key training resources asks two simple questions
- what are young people looking for?
- what can the church offer young people?

Every time I say the same thing – hope…as in the hope of the gospel, the hope of a life transformed, the hope of life in all it’s fullness.  I think it’s about time we started doing something about that…

21st century parenting…

Modern Motherhood - The Guardian, Saturday 26th March 2011

Just read this article after being pointed towards it by Kay…

What do you think?  Comments here at t’blog (http://missiome.wordpress.com) not on FB if you don’t mind…that way I’ll be able to read them and respond.

I’ll put my thoughts in a comment below in a little while…

a quick quiz…

…why not give it a go?

The Guardian carried a blog post from Richard Adams today which caught my eye: ‘Are you smarter than an American on religious knowledge?’ – couldn’t resist it!  Read the article, then take the quiz

Done it?  Well, not boasting but…I got 15 out of 15…maybe a career as an RE teacher beckons?!  Not sure if getting full marks is something to be so chuffed about, though!

Sobering reading is the break down of scores at the end of the quiz, where basically you can check your performance against those in the different faith groupings, by gender and by worship attendance.

What did it tell you about your ‘religious knowledge’?