this is a brilliant piece by george monbiot that says it how it is on neoliberalism and economics. it's what i have been trying to say a few times but less eloquently. it's the kind of thing i suspect the old testament prohets would have said - like amos.
How they must bleed for us. In 2012, the world's 100 richest people became $241 billion richer. They are now worth $1.9 trillion: just a little less than the entire output of the United Kingdom.
This is not the result of chance. The rise in the fortunes of the super-rich is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments' refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.
The policies that made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. This is not what the theory predicted. Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and their disciples – in a thousand business schools, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and just about every modern government – have argued that the less governments tax the rich, defend workers and redistribute wealth, the more prosperous everyone will be. Any attempt to reduce inequality would damage the efficiency of the market, impeding the rising tide that lifts all boats. The apostles have conducted a 30-year global experiment, and the results are now in. Total failure.
what's more we have created a narrative that suggests the rich deserve it! it does not have to be this way. another world is possible, another way of doing things, another way of running a society. something's got to change. yet all we hear is about scroungers, people on welfare, cutting benefits, healthcare, the arts and so on! it's madness.
he concludes the piece
As I say, I have no dog in this race, except a belief that no one, in this sea of riches, should have to be poor. But staring dumbfounded at the lessons unlearned in Britain, Europe and the US, it strikes me that the entire structure of neoliberal thought is a fraud. The demands of the ultra-rich have been dressed up as sophisticated economic theory and applied regardless of the outcome. The complete failure of this world-scale experiment is no impediment to its repetition. This has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with power.
it actually reminded me of kate tempest's poem parables which says the same thing but in the voice of the poet. we have colluded with the beast and are reaping what we have sown.
maggi dawn has written a really good piece exploring inclusive and expansive language in liturgy. being inclusive of course sounds a great idea (and is) but maggi suggests that the practice of it can lead at times to other issues and even other exclusions. she suggests expansive language might be a better way to explore...
Rather than make our capacity for naming God smaller, then, perhaps it would be better to explore the breadth of the ways God has been named; to reflect on the refusal to articulate any name for God as a way of acknowledging holiness and mystery. We might rediscover, from the scriptures, and from two thousand years of Christian theology, some of the many names of God: helper, Lord, servant and friend; compassionate father, a mother who breastfeeds her children and who knits for them, a tigress, a mother hen, a shepherd, a rock and a tower, a shield and a defence, a landowner, a housekeeper, a baker of bread, a mighty ruler and a powerless infant, the light that lightens the world, and the darkness that is above all light; the God who is both love and wisdom, and at the same time the God whose name, however close we try to get to it, will always elude us.
we had a grace service a couple of years back where we explored some similar ideas - follow the links to see some of the prayers we produced taking this approach.
i was asked to write a guest post for boats without oars, a blog run by someone i met in austin earlier this year. he asked if i could come up with something using a metaphor for church so church as network is the result which is a reworking of a couple of posts from my series riffing on clay shirky's here comes everybody...
mark scandrette has written to his twenty-something self. probably because i am in my forties, i strongly related to it. there's some real nuggets of wisdom in there. i loved this thomas mertom quote in the mix...
Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious people are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the person or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their lives
letters home is a bulletin aimed at those like CMS who are in new mission communities or orders or sodalities (yes jargon I know but probably useful as a term) and definitely aimed at pioneers. it is edited by beth keith and this is how she describes it...
Letters Home is a collection of thoughts, struggles and dreams; it is in fact a collection of letters home. A collection of letters written by pioneers who have followed the call to go beyond the Church as is. We chose Letters Home because they want to stay connected, stay in touch, and because home is not just where they’ve come from but a family they still belong to.
When we were putting it together it felt like an odd mix combining research, theology, parable and meditation. But it felt important to mix it up. It’s in the mix we find ourselves, combining gut instincts with rationale observations, thought through prac- tices with missional spirituality. The exploration we’re involved in requires all of this.
the first issue explores the tensions pioneers experience as they go beyond the existing church. it is totally brilliant. pour a cup of coffee or something, and sit down and chew over the contents.
beth present's what she has called elsewhere the pioneer's journey. this shouts so loudly to me that pioneers are really well advised to connect with a mission community or network (a sodality).
i really loved a piece by simon sutcliffe reflecting on the pioneer as guest. he creates a map of pioneering that has three types - pioneering in existing structures, creating fresh expressions and the ministry of wandering or being a guest (or sodal pioneer). this is a really helpful piece. i suspect that many in the church think of pioneer as either one or two but life becomes more complicated if you want to pioneer in the last category and dare I say more exciting, unknown, and wild...
then there are a few other pieces as well.
i found today's experience: i tried to cure gay people in the guardian weekend magazine very moving. it has an honesty and vulnerability about it and courage that models the kind of conversation the church needs to have.
i was pleased to see CMS posted an article on kony 2012 because there was quite a lot of campaiging in CMS around 2003/2004 which did quite a lot to raise profile. anyway this article seems to have its head screwed on...
there's what sounds like (and probably is) a slightly technical piece of language floating around mission circles - modality and sodality. i have touched on it before a few times i think - here and certainly in my breakout talks. george lings who is a wise reflector on these things has clearly been thinking this over and has published his thoughts on the matter here in an article - understanding mission and church better through modality and sodality. and there is a conversation developing in the comments. this is an important conversation because it helps shift our imagination around what church might be - we have been so dominated by thinking the word church means gathered together for worship in a locality, this helps open up a different idea - yes church can be that but it is also a spread out community in mission. i guess you can see why i think it's important... if anyone has a less technical language go and suggest it.
ok so that is not the most catchy title ever for a blog post - congratulations if you made it this far!!!
anvil is an evangelical anglican journal of theology and mission that has been revamped and made digital and free and at cms we are very much seeing it as a mission journal into the future. you may remember i had an article on curation in the first edition. well the second edition is now online and is basically a response to steve bevans wonderful book introduction to theology in global perpsective which i review here. for me it's the best book i can think of that articulates what i think an approach to theology should be in today's world.
anyway all that by way of saying it's a really good edition of anvil. i think this could prove to be an exciting journal in an ongoing way. steve bevans reflects looking back at the book and what he has attempted to achieve in a brilliant reflection. the ephesian moment is a term from missiologist andrew walls. here's how steve describes it in the article
our globalized church today is in situation in which it had only been once before, in the community of Greeks and Jews in Ephesus. There in Ephesus, Christians of two very different cultures could have formed two separate churches, but they did not. Christ was the peace that tore down the wall between them, and they became not two, but one (See Eph. 2:14-22), and in that give and take they caught a glimpse of the whole Christ. Neither, says Walls, ‘was a form of Christian faith complete and valid in itself, apart from the other. Each was necessary to the other, each was necessary to complete and correct the other; for each was an expression of Christ under certain specific conditions, and Christ is humanity completed.’ Now that ‘Ephesian moment’ has come again. Today, ‘new Christian lifestyles…have developed or are developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to display Christ under the conditions of African, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Latin American life.’ The Ephesian moment demands a global theology.
in other words we only see who christ is as we see christ's many faces and theologies and embodiments in his body represented around the world. this is a bit of cms jargon and something of an internal joke at times. so i blame steve's time with cms a while back for him picking up on this! but it is an exciting idea. he concludes his piece by saying
We need a theology adequate to the Ephesian Moment in which we find ourselves in today’s world, and we need a theological education that helps students who will minister in a church that, for the first time in history, is conscious of the fact that Christianity truly is a world movement.
timothy tennant has a piece on theological translatability - again this is essentially arguing that we need to become conversant with other theologies especially from the majority world, that we need to realise our own is partial and not universal and that if we are open to it a global exchange will highlight our own heresies and blind spots!
atola longkumer reflects on partnership's opportunities and challenges in another really good piece -
Globalization, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, human rights abuses, fundamentalism, violence, secularism, environmental degradation, and migration are some of the challenges that require creative and healing attention. The global Christian community must respond in unison by transforming the world into a better place — the Kingdom of God. Despite the vastly different contexts with a variety of challenges, Christians around the world are called to be partners in building God’s Kingdom, speaking the truth in love and witnessing together to the Gospel. And in the partnership between Christians of the global south and the global north in carrying out our missional task of witnessing to the fullness of the life in Christ, may we heed the directions of the mission scholar Cathy Ross who has perceptively given the ingredients for a productive and fulfilling partnership: mutual trust, acceptance of responsibilities and willingness to take risks among the partners.
there is also an interview with miroslav volf, a tribute to john stott and a poem by rowan williams.
congratulations to the editorial team - this really looks set to become a good online journal. i haven't added hyperlinks to articles because you need to register and login to read them - it is free which is also amazing judging by the price of most academic journals!
luke bretherton has written a good reflection on the occupy movement at st pauls
rowan williams piece in the financial times was wise and thoughtful as ever
and jonathan bartley of ekklesia muses on why the danger isn't over
the greed creed at asbojesus is still probably the most insightful of the lot!
the only thought i have to add to the debate is a naive one...
why not just cap salaries all round? does anyone need to earn say more than 200k in a year? set the level at whatever level you like - equivalent to the prime minister's salary maybe (150k)? or 400k if that makes life simpler? that would shift everything. footballers, bankers, investors, etc etc would all be able to earn enough in a year to buy a small house - does anyone need that anyway?! and there would be huge amounts of money to invest in the poor, in employment, in the arts, in charities and non profits and so on. i know it's naive but we have to address the fundamental problem of obscene disparity and greed. why not have a society that values something other than individual 'success' and 'achievment'?!
this is a post on newness in relation to the church in mission. i can't think what language might be more general that would apply in other sectors. perhaps intentional community? leave a comment if you have ideas of that...
there is a stereotype of a pioneer as a lone individual who goes off to stick their flag in the land to begin something new. there is also a stereotype of a prophet who lives alone in the wilderness communing with god and appearing occasionally to deliver their message. but in terms of newness i think these are really unhelpful pictures. the kind of imagining out of which genuine newness might emerge is much more likely a communal one. in the case of prophets in the old testament there were certainly schools of prophets and i suspect pioneers were rarely alone. the nurturing of an alternative consciousness and imagination will surely come through dreaming and reflecting with others, knocking around ideas, eating together and conversation and nurturing the kind of environment in which poets and artists gifts can flourish. for this sort of environment there needs to be something intentional about community. i think this is particularly the case when we are all so co-opted by the dominant culture of consumption, and the dominant culture of business as usual in our churches. how will we find space to detox and grieve and imagine alternative worlds are possible and be energised in hope towards them? it needs a depth of community and relationship to have any kind of chance of developing a missional discipleship. but i am beginning to wonder in our world of loose networks and 'friends' if we have forgotten that to find depth in relationships requires commitment, or to use an old fashioned word fellowship which as andrew jones has pointed out originally meant buying into a cow or something together! i.e. you put your commitment on the line.
connectivity is crucial for innovation as i have blogged in the previous post connect don't protect. but loose networks and 'friends' in social networks don't afford the kind of depth required for prophetic imagination and community. they are opt in when i feel like it arrangements - typical of the postmodern avoidance of fixation or commitment. jump on board when something interesting is flowing and jump off when something else catches my attention.
perhaps one of the reasons for the resurgence of interest in monasticism is because of wisdom around community life and how to find this missing depth - in grace we were helped many years ago by roy searle's ( of the northumbia community) insights that ethos is central to community life and to see a function of leadership as guarding ethos. developing a rhythm and/or rule of life, practices of contemplative spirituality, hospiltality and lots of other things could also be seen as treasures. ian adams cave refectory road is a delightful book in which he explores some of these.
i am particularly interested in the ways that religious communities have (and might still) nurtured prophets, dissenters and refounding persons in the past. gerald arbuckle has written at length on this (yes sorry - arbuckle again!). in from chaos to mission he looks at formation and how that might be refounded in religious communities precisely to cultivate this sort of newness. one of the things that he highlights in a very helpful way is that it is not monasticism per se that forms people in this way. it's a very mixed picture. in particular, it is not a cloistered (or residential) monasticism that we should look to if weʼre interested in prophetic ministry and mission. the purpose of formation in cloistered orders was obedience and conformity and stability in an unchanging world. but for the spread out orders (friars) - the likes of the jesuits and fransiscans and celts - prophetic mission to the world was at the heart of their concern which requiried radical flexibility and imagination. the purpose of formation in the spread out communities or mission orders of friars is inculturation - i.e. innovation in relation to gospel and cultures. being part of a mission community like this formed people to engage in prophetic mission.
he suggests that denominatons struggle to contain this gift and people. they simply don't know what to do with it or them. it makes far more sense all round that these mission communities nurture and form the dissenters/prophetic ministry. the religious communties are then a 'shock therapy of the holy spirit for the church as a whole'! especially if they are actually ecclesial (part of church in and of themselves) as opposed to para church (a bit on the side of church).
i say a bit more about all this in the breakout talks and this blog post is in danger of going on rather a long time! but research is backing this up - pioneers are far better placed to bring genuine newness today when they are located in and out of a mission community/order (such as cms, church army, urban expression, the methodist venture fx diaconate etc).
this is by far the hardest piece to write so far in this series and is in many ways the most contentious, if not weird - i welcome any feedback and discussion on it. the implications are pretty huge if it is anywhere near correct... if you are a dissenter/pioneer/prophetic or whatever language you prefer get in an intentional mission community of some sort. and if you are in a denominational or equivalent structure looking for newness make friends with those in a mission community and ask them to work with you and with anyone you nurture in this prophetic mission to help form their prophetic imagination and to connect them in with a community that gets it and them. it's why am a member of cms - a mission community. it nurtures me into this kind of imagination and ministry and mission.
(if this is all too established i think it might translate for non conformists at the local level into small mission communities gathered around shared ethos values and practices and those communities networking together but with some genuine buy in and not just a loose network?)
perhaps this should have come much earlier in this series but prophetic imagination is key to nurturing genuine newness. imagination is hugely under-rated. i have no idea why. anything that has been created someone must have imagined. without imagination there will be no newness. prophetic imagination is the kind of imagination that is able to nurture a vision that is alternative to the dominant or royal consciousness. it is a kind of seeing.
It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination to keep on conjouring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.
walter bruegemann's book the prophetic imaginaton is amazing on this theme. he suggest that there are two moves in this prophetic imagining - grief and amazement. i have blogged at least twice on this before and quite recently - grief and amazement, and grief and amazement in the life of jesus. the role of the prophet is to evoke grief - the shedding of tears where we have become numb, and it is to create amazement that new worlds are possible. he also calls these two moves criticising and energising. we might conceive of this in relation to capitalism or where the church has become stuck and wedded to particular ways of acting and being and so on.
there are many ways of thinking about mission. it's partly why it is such a rich way of thinking about what it means to follow christ. one that i often come back to is a way john taylor describes it in the primal vision. he suggests that we could conceive of mission as an adventure of the imagination.
one of the mission words i incresingly find helpful is inculturation which is the process of how the gospel will be imagined and embodied in a culture from the inside. it sounds simple but it is clearly much harder than you might think judging by the ways foreign cultural robes are imposed from the outside in new cultural spaces. bevans and schroeder have a new book out prophetic dialogue which i will review at some point (it is brilliant) which has a chapter on the spirituality of inculturation which i found incredibly helpful on how to help nurture a genuine newness in mission. they suggest that there are two different postures or stances of those who come from outside a culture and those who are on the inside. the outsiders key task is letting go:
Outsiders need to let go of their certainties regarding the content of the gospel. They need to let go of cherished practices and ideas that have nourished and sustained them in their own journeys towards christian maturity. They need to let go of the symbols that anchor them in their human and christian identity and let go of the order that makes them comfortable….
One of the hardest and yet most spiritually enriching tasks of the outsider is 'taking leave of the gospel' so to speak for the sake of the gospel - so that the gospel can be understood in a radically new and meaningful way among new peoples and in new circumstances.
by way of contrast the insider's task is speaking out. they need to trust in their culture and experience and result in a courage that gives energy insight and creativity to articulate how god is present in their lives, focusing on god's nearness in the stuff of everyday life. the insider needs courage to experiment, to risk, to try new rituals, explore new symbols, to have pride in their culture and self identity and risk going too far in bringing the resources of their culture to christian identity.
this is strong stuff! i am convinced that there is great wisdom here if genuine newness is to come in mission. what does this mean in practice? there are plenty of examples of the outsider/insider relationship in stories of mission. sadly many of these don't involve enough letting go from the outsider so we have cultural forms of the church that are overly western in many parts of the world and ongoing struggles around that. but there are also many inspiring stories in mission of how this has worked well. what it might mean for me is that if (and i am not planning to at the moment) i were to move into a new community, i would need to let go of my own ways of worshipping - liturgies, music, movies, rituals and so on, and even the way i conceive of the gospel, in order that insiders might be able to discern and shape that from the inside.
this 'letting go' of the outsider clearly relates to unknowing and darkness which will need to be entered to alow the new to emerge. it also relates to refounding - i am not suggesting a letting go that is a move away from the heart of the christian faith. but this needs to be held in some kind of tension for the outsider.
in the book where good ideas come stephen johnson is interested in discovering what kind of environment enables innovation to thrive. so for example he writes about research that shows that a city of 5 million is 3 times as creative as a town of a hundred thousand because of the natural way it's possible to collide with other people and ideas. it made me glad i live in london! by way of a summary statement jonson says this
We are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them.
ideas flow best in unregulated channels in open environments. this is instinctive to people in the new networked culture but much harder for organisations to wrap their heads round perhaps especially at times of financial pressure when to give and share may seem counter intuitive. in a fascinating piece of research johnson plots inventions in blocks of two hundred years along the axis of market/non-market and individual/network. it completely shatters the image of the lone inventor. the last two hundred years have seen by far the most innovation in the fourth quadrant - non market networked.
he also talks about what he calls exaptation - borrowing an idea from one area and applying it to another. so for example the gutenburg printing press would possibly not have been invented if gutenberg wasn't interested in winemaking. his genius was bricolage from a number of different areas to create the printing press including ideas from the wine press. he also cites a survey of 766 entrpreneurs by ruef which highlights that the most creative individuals had broad social networks that were outside both their own organisations and their own fields of expertise. diverse horizontal networks were three tims more innovative than vertical networks. and groups that are familiar and long term tend to dampen innovation.
i have blogged at length before about clay shirky's book here comes everybody - 1 2 3 4 which looks at network theory and the importance of connectors who focus outside of their small world to increase energy in networks which demonstrates in a different way the same point. one of the creative tips in a whack on the side of the head is to look outside your own area. margaret wheatley's magnificent book leadership and the new science suggests that a very different mindset is required in leaders who operate in this new environment of connectedness.
some organisations have famously sought to encourage this in their staff. so google for example encouraged staff to spend 20% of time following up connections, exploring, nurturing hunches with great effect, enabling serendipitous moments.
it goes without saying that the the internet has opened up connectivity in extraordinary ways. those people who moan about it and see it as a waste of time are somewhat missing the point. that's not to say that all internet use will lead to innovation. it's equally possible to live in a bubble with familiar connections and relationships and web sites that can be very dull and stagnant. instead explore tangents, follow hunches, get curious, connect with new people outside your area of interest and so on.
so what? connect and nurture connections beyond your own area. meet people, drink coffee, exploring hunches, operate out of a posture that seeks to open source and share ideas rather than batton down the hatches.
in terms of newness in the church which is of particular interest to me, this is a hard reflex to develop. theological positions are often entrenched and defended. people go to their tribe's festival, read their tribe's books, do their tribe's leadership training, meet their tribe in coffee houses and so on. it's easy to end up in a loop that is quite small, self referential and ultimately uncreative because of fear. this is equally true of progressive as of conservative as of emerging as of orthodox as of liberal as of evangelical as of catholic etc. by contrast, the body of christ is an extraordinary network of connections that opens up all sorts of amazing possibilities with a different set of instincts out of which much newness could and i hope will come.
a while back i was inspired by richard passmore's theology from below in relation to the parable of the wedding banquet, a very tricky story that jesus told. this was the text in the lectionary this weekend so would have been preached on in churches round the world. jenny was preaching at st marys and as a result we have discussed interpretations at length... she spotted that nadia had published her take on it which is definitely in the passmore school and is quite brilliant - sermon on the worst parable ever.