Monday, 21 January 2008

This Week's Poll 21/1/08

If you want to do more than just click comment on this post.

Last week's poll. Should Home Mission stop funding churches opposed to women ministers? 17 votes in total, 10 yes, 7 no. One more vote - tricky one this, I reckon Dick's comment carries more weight than some of those who replied appeared to ready to give it. The difference between this and opposition to black people in ministry is surely, from Dick's perspective, that the Church is agreed (at least in theory) on race and ministry where it clearly isn't on women in ministry. However, I do reckon some issues are so fundamental to the heart of the gospel that we may need to go ahead and use power (subject of course to agreeing to act) to further the cause. So I vote "yes".

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Evangelical - Muslim Dialogue

Encouraging news from Ekklesia.

Sounds like my kind of dialogue

Private Schools, Charity Law ... and the Hand of God?

According to the BBC private schools may lose their chariable status if they cannot show that they offer genuine benefits to wider society. Failing to establish that they are not "exclusive clubs" and failing to show that they are "outward looking and inclusive" will mean having to forgo the financial benefits and enhanced reputation that comes with recognition as a charity.

Mmmmmm .... By the same criteria I can think of lots of churches who should be looking over their shoulder lest the charity man come a knocking. Or is that the hand of God at the church door?

For the full BBC report see here.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Header Headache

Why does blogger keep slicing my header in half?

This Week's Poll 12/1/08

If you want to do more than click, comment on this post.
(A bit in-house-Baptist this week. For those who don't dwell in this particular denominational domicile, Home Mission is the central source of top up funding for those churches and ministries that can't afford to meet all the costs of a paid minister.)

Last week's poll: "monocultural church" is a contradiction in terms, 8 votes in total, 4 agree, 4 disagree, one more vote, I vote disagree.
(As Catriona pointed out, it all depends on whether you are referring to local congregations - in which case culture-specific church can be a necessary and indeed very good thing, even if it still falls short of the ultimate ideal - or to the wider church - in which case, contradiction in terms, no question.)

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Elaine Storkey Sues Jim Jones Over Wycliffe Hall

The wrong kind of Evangelical? Check out Ekklesia for a rather sad piece of news

Progressive Evangelicals

 blog it
That's another label to add to your list!. Hadn't intended devoting so much space to this issue but Jodie's challenge that I should explain how I label myself reminded me of the generous orthodoxy site. It's an American based resource centre cum network cum think tank that tries to chart a way beyond old dichotomies. Check out the link in the sidebar.

(As an aside it's interesting that the two issues which seem to have generated most reaction on this site so far have both been to do with identity.)

Friday, 4 January 2008

This Week's Poll 4/1/08

If you want to do more than just click comment on this post.

Last week's poll: When describing Christians the labels conservative, evangelical, radical and liberal are completely past their sell by date. 14 votes, 7 agree, 7 disagree. One more vote, I vote "disagree".

Sooo Not Dead

Nate and the dinosaur
Originally uploaded by holgaguy
This is the last of my three posts arising from comments on the poll relating to conservatives/evangelicals, liberals/radicals and evangelism.

I have to confess that some of the comments irked me. Let me respond first of all to Graham and Tim’s observations.

Graham expressed surprise that anyone still used the labels in question and Tim was of the opinion that the terms were “so twentieth century” and tells us that he is in the habit of “ignoring people who use such labels.”

I am tempted to ask if Graham and Tim are living so much on the cutting edge of the brave new postmodern world that they have lost touch with the world as it actually is. They may well want to get beyond the era of evangelicals and liberals but I have to tell them we certainly ain’t there yet.

Taking evangelicals as an example (the movement I know most about), if Tim is to continue ignoring people who wear that particular label he’s probably going to end up shutting his eyes to the church of the future. As Philip Jenkins points out in his top notch The Next Christendom it looks exceedingly likely that the future of world Christianity will be southern (hemisphere), conservative/evangelical and pentecostal. Already in this country, if it wasn’t for those churches which choose to identify themselves as evangelical, the church attendance stats would be even more depressing. (See for example Peter Brierley’s observations on the 2005 English Church Census in his
Pulling Out of the Nosedive.)

We may feel that evangelicalism and liberalism are such thoroughgoing modernist expressions of the faith that they are ultimately doomed. Maybe. But don’t underestimate just how long modernity will be with us. Don’t underestimate the number of people in the church who for good or ill find the certainties of modernity (whether rationalistic certainties or fideistic certainties) a very attractive refuge from the shifting sands of the post. And don’t overestimate the proportion of Christians who have embraced the move away from the old and admittedly creaking categories. (I suspect the fifty fifty split in this weeks poll result is a long way from being representative of the church at large. You are a weird bunch.) We mustn’t project our desires for how we would like it to be onto the way it actually is.

As for describing the labels as “so twentieth century” that’s just sooooo pretentious.

Jodie’s observation got under my skin for different reasons. It is worryingly sweeping and dismissive. Let me quote his comment in full:

“Yes conservative/evangelical Christians are great at getting people to leave their brains at the door, recite a formulaic prayer and provide little evidence of extending God's amazing grace to the least. Well done!”

Now, to a certain extent, this is a fair description and a justifiable criticism of evangelical attempts at disciple-making … but only if we are talking about evangelicalism at its worst. At its best, and even at a fair bit less than its best, evangelicalism has had a far more positive impact for the kingdom than Jodie suggests.

The revivals of the 18C did make a significant and welcome if relatively short-lived difference. Some of the social/political reforms and hands on social action of the 19C evangelicals (such as Wilberforce and Booth) ought not to be set on one side so easily. More recently the likes of Rene Padilla and other Latin American evangelicals who were influenced by liberation theology have played a key part in helping western evangelicalism to shift back towards a more holistic understanding and expression of the gospel.

I admit that in many ways contemporary evangelicalism is ripe for criticism. (Indeed I’ve spent a fair bit of time in recent years having a go myself – and will no doubt continue to do so in the future.) But this is precisely why we need to be careful. It would be so easy to turn this vigorous, varied and influential (if deeply flawed) movement into an all too easy whipping boy. ASBO Jesus is good for a laugh but it is only a cartoon. We are experts in the church at overreacting to our recent failings by running so hard in the opposite direction that we fail to carry the strengths of our recent past with us.

There’s no doubt that evangelicalism as a movement is undergoing huge changes. There’s no doubt that the meaning of the term is shifting in all sorts of ways. It is certainly filling out. At least in the evangelical academy it is adding a more substantial theology of creation to its traditional crucicentrism; adding an appreciation of more contemplative spiritualities to its traditional activism; embracing notions of journey in ways that substantially modify its traditional conversionism and becoming more diverse in the way it expresses its traditional Biblicism. Will these trends filter down into evangelicalism on the ground? I hope so. Will the term become so extensively modified and stretched as to cease to be of use? Possibly. Will it find a recognisable home beyond the predicted demise of modernity? Let’s see. But whatever is happening, whatever will happen, whatever I would like to see happen, whatever Tim, Graham and Jodie think is happening I’m pretty sure it’s far too soon just yet to be writing obituaries.