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Thank you, thank you, thank you from one working in the old but also dabbling in the new: that is real and encouraging.


well said Jonny, I think this needs to be heard and it is a real encouragement to those of us who love the old/traditional (whatever name we want to give it!) church and all those within it, but are looking at doing new things on the fringes as well as to those who are doing completely new things.


Maybe it's not so much the structures that need ditching but some of the values behind them. But if those values were to go, then maybe we'd see some of the structre being dismantled too.


Having grown up in 'house churches', I'd say that it's not just that there are good things worth keeping, loving and working for in the 'old' structures, but that there's a real danger that if you leave them because you think that there's nothing good left in them at all means that you risk repeating their mistakes,. Worse, you end up creating new structures which are all the worse because you don't realise that they're structures at all and so don't invest in them. There's so much terrible theology, rubbish patterns of worship and problematic forms of leadership in the new churches, and I think it's a lot to do with this idea that all the church has done since the closing of the Biblical canon is betray the gospel.

Alistair Duncan

Theo's article is a strange one - I think its key point occurs at the end when he speaks of 'the need for a new relationship with the festive arts – music, theatre, spectacle'. Based on the odd conversation I have had with him I think that is his real passion - public christian art. Surely that can happen just as much from within the traditional church - one of the most successful bits of public art recently must surely be Beyond's advent beach huts which attracted national media interest and created a reasonable buzz in Brighton ... and Beyond are, by their own admission, traditional in their theology and closely linked to the mainstream church. And .... most independent groups could never generate the funds to stage a major spectacle!

I think there is another issue that may be more foundational in the debate about staying / leaving that has to do with the theological / philosophical journey a community is on. I wonder if, that whilst any group can ask any questions about their faith, only certain answers are publicly permissible if you are in a leadership within a traditional setting - some goal posts cannot be moved regardless of how loosely they are described. For groups who wish to do real radical work on framing a religious context for our time - then to do it outside the church may be the only option. That was how I reacted to Kester's original post - that maybe the 'return to the fold' also represented a retreat from the radical thinking that may have been going on a while back?


Thanks Alistair - that summarises things well for me.
Jonny - posted a little response too, here: http://www.kesterbrewin.com/2010/07/10/dumping-the-ghastly-old-baggage-of-bishops-and-buildings/

Steve Lancaster

Speaking as someone doing stuff (said a minister I know) outside the box the box is in, the only theology that works for me now has to allow both for successful and pioneering traditional church, and equally successful beyond-the-fringe work. I sense that theology alluded to in the Bible, where, for example, the 'so many stories about Jesus they'd fill all the books in the world' are mentioned, but it escapes me as soon as I try to turn it into something systematic. Though, given my starting position, the fact that I can't systematize it is, I suppose, a demonstration of its truth value.

Bottom line (to quote Clay Shirky): God has the ultimate cognitive surplus, and that's as much the starting point for understanding the creation, as its conclusion. Two church forms, both evolving? Great: bring them (and all the rest) on.

Paul Roberts

This sort of thing always reaches a peak every 30 years or so. I'm now old enough to remember when the Restorationists were calling for the same thing in Dales Bible Weeks. Argument goes like this:

- We hate Church the way it is.
- Therefore the Church we've inherited must be completely and irredeemably cr*p.
- The world is in some kind of new, unique crisis never seen before and the Church is not living up to the mark.
- We (a select few) know how Church should be and what the prescription is.
- God (or modernism, or romaticism, or Charismatic renewal, or postmodernism, or something Out There) has given us the destiny to finally dispose with the inherited forms of Church, once and for all.
- Follow us! Follow us! And all will be brilliant.

Nul points for originality folks. I did my PhD on the Catholic Apostolic Church, who, in 1831, were saying exactly the same thing. It was romanticism then. It's neo-romaticism now.


Can I suggest another way of looking at this (not original to me but from a friend in Icthus)
Jesus talked about the need for "new wineskins". So those looking to do mission in struggling churches decide that the wineskin is the problem. But it isn't. (yet). The problem is the wine - we need new wine, the work of the Spirit.
This ties in with your next post, especially the bit about John Taylor, and seeing what God is already doing then joining in.
Only after that can we start deciding what wineskins are needed for the new wine. (And possibly after some of has split the old skins and made a mess!)

Grace & Peace


Thank you! Thank you for the reminder that we must meet people where they are... and remember that even the early church "created" new traditions .

Church Jumpstarter

The Church is the body of Christ. How can we not love it and seek its health?

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