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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!

oh dear...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

'This' is great! As Alan Hirsch writes, it's a wonderful reminder and demonstration that "you can’t solve the church’s problems with the same kind of thinking that created them in the first place." Go see...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:07 AM | link | 0 comments |

amazing grace...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Have you any idea of the extent of God’s grace?

Look closely at your life;
Explore the dark places,
The secret aspects that are far from sorted…
Your attitudes
Your thoughts
Your desires
Your words
Your actions.

And yet, know this:
Though the secret places are not hidden to God
God accepts you just the way you are.
God loves you!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

Our story is one of unbelievable grace.
Why then is it so often proclaimed with anything but grace?
Why does our concern for truth and holiness
lead us into judgement and condemnation of others?
Why have we been so blind to the point of it all?
What was it Jesus said again?
"As I have loved you…"

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:44 AM | link | 0 comments |

act now...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I don't normally use this blog for petition signing and the like, but when a dire situation arises accompanied by an opportunity to do something simple and potentially effective, I think 'why not?'!

Last Thursday, 23 South Korean aid workers (pictured left), most of them young women, were taken hostage by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The Taliban are threatening to execute them later this week, an action that could force aid agencies to pull out of Afghanistan, denying millions of Afghanis the help they need after years of war.

The situation is desperate, but there is a possible hope. The Taliban are all from the 'Pashtun' ethnic group, and observe a strict code called Pashtunwali. This code demands, above all else: "hospitality to all, especially guests and strangers". There are rumours of infighting among the Taliban over these kidnappings, because they clearly violate the code.

A global outcry for the Taliban to follow their own code would certainly be covered by media in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban are based, creating massive local pressure on them to free their prisoners. These hostages are living under a 24 hour death sentence and so avaaz.org have arranged a global online petition to try to generate this kind of publicity and pressure. It's simple to sign - only taking a minute of your time - but it could make a huge difference. Go 'here' to sign the petition and try to pass word on to others who may sign. It would be great if you left a comment here too...

see the Guardian's coverage of the crisis 'here'
sign the petition 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 8:00 PM | link | 1 comments |

grace in the midst...

Not having a great week so far!... I managed to spill a full cup of coffee on my pda yesterday which has completely killed it! It's a funny, and strangely unnerving, feeling going out without a functioning diary. The very helpful woman at the insurance company, when I phoned to claim, said to me, "I'll stress that this is urgent as you can't do without it" - a sad reflection on modern living if ever I heard one, and yet it feels that she's quite right!

Anyway, with one thing and another, I have no profundities (or time!) to share in the blogosphere today, but then I don't think I could have possibly offered anything better than Kester's inspired piece, 'stones'. So, hoping that he doesn't mind (!), I'll just paste it here in case you've not seen it - it's a wonderfully sober reminder that grace should always win the day...

Stones by Kester Brewin

If we could all
just stop throwing stones,
and stoop, knees bent
and write in the dust,

we'd see that the dust
was once stone -
grand, and hard, and proud, and tough -
now ground and dissolved
in grace and tears.

So... how much better
to be a grain of dirt
on that kind prophet’s hands
than a stone
in the cold, accusing Temple
of the pure.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:03 AM | link | 2 comments |

is sustainability sustainable?...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

David Hayward posts 'here' about the vulnerability of the early church, in which he writes...

"Read the gospel of John, The Revelation and the three epistles and you pretty much witness the erosion of church communities. I don’t think because they didn’t have church growth or maintenance skills, but because there’s a gene present in any biblical community that prevents it from growing into some kind of tower of Babel. I think the healthiest communities do not have the guarantee of permanence."

Over the last few years I've been involved in numerous conversations regarding the 'maturing' of the emerging church - questions of when does an emerging church community 'grow up' (so to speak)? For some, the issue is financial, and I guess there is something valuable in a community being able to pay its own way and not be financially dependent on another institution. But the response that gets me most nervous is the 'sustainability' one - the view that a mature church, and by implication a 'successful' church, must be sustainable long-term. I suppose I get nervous about this, not because I don't think it's a good thing for a community to have a long life, but because once the 'sustainable' goal becomes the primary focus, a community is in danger of crossing the line between mission and maintenance. Not that I want to set up a false dichotomy here - effective mission may well lead to community growth and so 'maintain' its life for longer. The shift that I'm nervous of, though, is a subtle but potentially damaging one - it's when the primary motive for any activity becomes 'ensuring the future survival of the community', such that mission becomes a means to that end rather than about Kingdom ministry.

The Dream network, of which I'm a part, has been going for more than 5 years now, but along the way we've seen networked communities come and go. Some existed for a short time (less than a year) and engaged a small number of people for that time, and others have been going for the full 5 years. All of them have always been, and still are, vulnerable - if you were to ask me which Dream communities will still be going in 2 years time, I'm not sure I could give an answer (I could guess but I'd probably be proved wrong!) What's important to notice though is that some of the groups that are no more have still reached and helped people along the journey of faith, some of whom are now involved in other Dream groups or church communities. None of the time was wasted; none of the communities, no matter how transient, were pointless. And maybe the key to realising this is to recognise that each group is part of something bigger (the Dream network), which is itself part of something bigger (the 'Church'), which is itself part of something bigger (the Kingdom of God) - it's this final 'bigger' that we're truly members of and it's this that will surely endure without any need for a sustainability strategy!

The words from David's post that most resonate with me are, "there’s a gene present in any biblical community that prevents it from growing into some kind of tower of Babel. I think the healthiest communities do not have the guarantee of permanence." Maybe this is to enable us to keep our focus on the Kingdom of God and on God's mission of which we're a part, rather than getting caught up in maintenance strategies or empire building.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:01 AM | link | 5 comments |

incarnational whatevers...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Matt Stone has two excellent, and very helpful, posts regarding incarnational missiology and incarnational pneumatology. Don't be put off by my 'theological jargon' way of describing the content of the posts - both are really accessible and raise some important considerations for anyone engaged in mission amongst (using Matt's own words) "New Age "whateverists," western Buddhists, yoga practitioners, NeoPagans, witches and goddess worshippers." His diagrams are particularly helpful summaries of the various view points under discussion.

Here's a taster of where Matt ends up in his second post, which may encourage you to follow the whole argument...

"being more engaged with the world than Pentecostalism, missional pneumatology is in a far greater position to speak intelligably back into cultures that practice channelling, holistic medicine and mantras. Furthermore, being more holistically informed by the pre-Pentecost pneumatology of the Old Testament, missional pneumatology speaks of the Spirit of God moving though all creation without confusing Creator with creation."

Go read... [1], [2]

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:08 PM | link | 1 comments |

defining church...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

According to the Pope's responses to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued yesterday, I don't belong to a church, and indeed never have done! I guess this is quite a kick in the teeth for those, like me, who have (perhaps unrealistically) been hoping for a closer unity between all 'churches' (my definition, not the Pope's) of the world. Here's the question and response he gave...

"Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery[19] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense[20]."

notes:
[19] Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.3.
[20] Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Dominus Iesus, 17.2: AAS 92 [2000-II] 758.


So, if we don't take Pope Benedict XVI's somewhat conservative definition of church to be universally attractive (understatement anyone?!) then how do we define 'church'? Answers on a postcard (or blog response) to...

hat tip (and much fuller post!)... Scot McKnight
Update... Dave Walker has a witty post relating to all this 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:34 AM | link | 3 comments |

redressing the floods debate...

Friday, July 06, 2007

With reference to his inclusion in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph article, which quoted various bishops as saying the recent floods are God's judgement on our society's 'moral decadence', Bishop James Jones has claimed that he was misrepresented, saying:

"When people lose their lives, others their homes and livelihoods it is important pastorally to say that their disaster is definitely not a judgement of God on them. That is why I refused to use the language of judgement. God has created a world of cause and effect. If we change the climate through profligate use of carbon it is we who bring upon ourselves and others the consequences of reaping what we sow."

I'm very much in agreement with Maggi Dawn and Kester Brewin regarding the original article, in particular the reported comments of Bishop Graham Dow, and so am relieved that Bishop James has clarified his position.

You can read the press release on the Liverpool diocesan website 'here'. It is hoped that the Sunday Telegraph will publish Bishop James' statement this weekend.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:57 PM | link | 0 comments |

cartoon of the day...

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

(Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more of Dave's cartoons at We Blog Cartoons.)

I've ventured onto Facebook more by peer pressure than by choice, and while it's great to have heard from one or two friends from the past as a result, I really don't have the time or inclination to try to track people down or add numerous friends. Is there such a thing as a 'nominal facebooker'?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:15 AM | link | 0 comments |

blog quote of the day...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"In one sense there’s nothing new in talking about being “missional” or “mission-shaped” etc. To recover our missional identity and to broaden and deepen that identity is to “re-found” our churches; it is to recover and creatively reconnect to our founding narratives – why we are called; what our calling is; and, why are we, as churches, in the particular contexts that we are."
Paul Fromont
(read the full post 'here')

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:17 PM | link | 0 comments |