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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

truth and status...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Here are links to two excellent posts that relate (in different ways) to my Tuesday post 'changing our minds'...

Paul Fromont (on 'Prodigal Kiwi(s)' blog) - Fullness of Truth
Richard White (on the Dream blog) - Jesus never spoke to prostitutes

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:41 AM | link | 0 comments |

changing our minds...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A key part of the ethos of Spirited Exchanges is that it's ok to change your mind, even during a discussion! If we're all journeying in our relationship with Christ, growing to know him better, then it's likely... no, it's inevitable... that at times we will discover that what we previously thought to be the truth is either incomplete and less than the truth or is actually wrong. It's at these times that we need to be able to swallow our pride and concede the argument - to say, "actually, I was wrong on that, now I think this"!

The trouble is, that we Christians (or whatever we call ourselves) are not very good at this! We tend to see changing our minds as a sign of weakness rather than a point of growth - the beginning of a slippery slope towards losing faith! Paul Fromont posts 'here' a link to a paper by Canon Joseph Cassidy, of St Chad's college Durham, in which he writes, "…Spiritual freedom is rather a measure of whether I'd be willing to change my mind if God required it of me. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, urged his companions to aim for 'indifference': though it is a bit of a misnomer, in his terms indifference is a quest for equilibrium, a desire to be inclined to one option or another solely because it is closer to God's will for us. In other words it is a desire to be swayed by nothing other than God's will."

This reminds me of a conversation I was having with a friend last week in which we discussed the problem of power and intransigence in the church and compared it to the frequent cases in the Bible of God jumping out of the boxes that people had put him in. Perhaps the most classic case of this is Peter's vision in Acts 10, where God essentially instructs Peter to disobey the Word of God (not an easy one to reconcile with any notion of scriptural infallibility). Peter's obedience to God's will in this case opened up the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles for the first time.

And so, I wonder... what does the Church need to change it's mind over in order to be obedient to God's will and the missio dei in today's world? What do I have to change my mind over? What boxes have we constructed that we still only expect God to work in and through? Would we be willing to entertain the possibility that this is God's activity if it didn't fit those particular frameworks. I guess Peter could have easily concluded that his vision was 'demonic' once he 'weighed it' against his scriptures. Thank God he didn't!

Another friend of mine once told me that he felt 'called' by God to be a Bishop in the church, but not remotely called to be a vicar (or equivalent). Is he wrong? Is he power mad? Or is our system wrong that sets bishops in some kind of hierarchical arrangement? After all, isn't a bishop simply a member of the community of faith (the Church) with a specific ministry - no more important and no less important than any other member of this community? Why can't someone be called to this specific ministry without a call to other ministries first?

Don't get me wrong... I'm not overly hung up on this one. I guess it just may illustrate one such example of a box we may have put God in that he needs to spring up from and out of. I'm sure there are many more. Suggestions on a blog comment to....

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:05 AM | link | 1 comments |

Liverpool's nativity...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

After the success of the Manchester Passion in 2006, it's our turn to host a modern musical retelling of part of the Jesus story. A three stage live Nativity play will take place on the streets of Liverpool on the 16th December, to be screened on BBC Three. The play will star Geoffrey Hughes, Cathy Tyson and Jennifer Ellison, and, following the example of Manchester's Passion, will include music from Liverpool's rich heritage such as The La's, The Zutons and (surprise surprise) The Beatles. It should be well worth going to, if you're in Liverpool, or watching on the TV in the warmth of your home if not!

For more info see the BBC's press release 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:13 AM | link | 2 comments |

the truth isn't sexy...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Last night over 30 students and young adults took the truth isn't sexy campaign into the pubs of central Liverpool. We went into 36 pubs and bars and were knocked back by only two! We had a few saying we needed to come back when the manager was in or write to head office for permission, but the vast majority took the posters and/or beer mats and promised to display them in their bars. It was a great evening and the people who volunteered for the pub crawl enjoyed themselves so much we're already planning a 'phase 2' to hit more city centre pubs soon!

It's a great campaign so if you're not familiar with it take a moment to go to the campaign website and find out more. Even better... get together a group of people to take the beer mats and posters into the pubs in your area. The wider this material is distributed, the more chance there is that it will have the desired effect of revealing hidden realities, challenging attitudes, and changing the culture that leads to so many women being trafficked and/or enslaved against their will in the 'sex industry'.

The local BBC ran a feature about it yesterday and the BBC web site has a piece 'here' (even if they did heavily edit the quotes!!)

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:19 AM | link | 0 comments |

truth and beauty...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Many faults are the result of an over-correction, or a hang-over from a previous dispute. In the 1500s, reformers could see that many people were worshipping the beautifully-crafted statues rather than the God who made all things. The statues weren't evil in themselves. But their beauty had, for some, become captivating and deceptive. So icons were removed, walls white-washed and incense burners extinguished. A religion of the eye and the nose became a religion of the ear and the brain. The sensuality of the faith had been lost. And it may be worth noting that Christianity, as a mass religion, declined in the following 200 years, losing much ground to Deism and Rationalism."
James Cary, Truth and beauty

The above quote is taken from an article in the November 2007 issue of Third Way magazine in which James Cary comments on the extraordinary beauty of the earth as a pointer to the fact that "God's into beauty." I totally agree with James on this and lament the 'baby' that was thrown out with the reformers 'bath water'. Even today I find myself in conversation with some evangelicals having to justify the use of image and visual in worship - how sad.

Maybe, though, things are changing and the place of ascetic beauty is being rightly rediscovered in worship. James concludes his article by stating, "Things are beginning to change among evangelicals. It's taken 500 years, but fortunately that is like a day to God (although to us it seems longer). Ministers and pastors increasingly want to connect with the creative community..."

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:15 PM | link | 0 comments |

three from elsewhere...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Life just seems to be so manic at the moment that there's hardly time to read the wisdom of other bloggers let alone come up with something worth posting myself! Here are three posts well worth visiting though...
  1. Ben Edson's provocative post that challenges our insecurities when it comes to faith and spirituality - not sure what I think though I'm hugely grateful for people like Ben who push the boundaries and make us think. Also see his follow up post 'here'
  2. A refreshing and inspiring (for personal reasons that I'll post about when I get time!) post from Paul Fromont considering leadership, prayer and priesthood.
  3. Another wonderfully creative piece of mission from friends in New Zealand.
Also, it's well worth mentioning the new double CD from Sigur Ros - great stuff! Looking forward to viewing their DVD too (it's on the birthday/Christmas present list!)

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

a state of emergency...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Regular visitors to this blog will be aware of my connections to Pakistan and the frequent postings over the last few years highlighting some of the tensions in that country. The events of this weekend have had widespread media coverage and so there's little I can add here except to say that I am praying for a country that once again finds itself in turmoil (as it has so many times before).

It's easy for the West to come up with platitudes about democracy and so on without a clear understanding of the issues at stake. I must admit to my own views being clouded by the fact that when I was last in Pakistan I spoke to several people belonging to Pakistan's minority communities (i.e. non-Muslim) who spoke about how things were better for them under the Musharraf regime than had previously been the case under 'democratically elected' governments.

In short, things are seldom black and white but various shades of grey, and I simply have to throw myself on the mercy and wisdom of God, that he might bring clarity, peace and justice to a nation that has suffered so much in its relatively short history. Can I urge you to do the same?...

To keep up to date with the events in Pakistan as they unfold, see the BBC and the Guardian special sections.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:42 PM | link | 0 comments |