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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!

music with windows...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Richard White, from the Dream network, just sent me a link to this to see if I missed those wonderful Windows sounds since making the transition to Mac. The short answer is 'no' but it's still well worth having a listen to this...


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:08 PM | link | 0 comments |

missio dei and the church...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Last night I began teaching a twelve session course, Mission in Britain Today, for the SNWTP; a partnership of the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches across Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Chester, training people for church ministry and leadership. I had a great time with the group I'm teaching and we began a fascinating discussion which is likely to continue throughout the course. I'm blogging about it here because I'm interested in your response too!

By way of introduction to the theme of mission, and as a basis for understanding mission, we looked at the concept of missio dei and discussed the implications of believing in a God who is constantly engaged in his (please note that I'm using the masculine pronoun here to personalise, not to genderise (sic), God) mission in and beyond the structures of the organised Christian Church.

As part of this discussion, I sketched the two well documented alternatives regarding the implication of the missio dei for the Church. The first (put forward by such as A.T. Van Leeuwen and J.C. Hoekendiijk) is the suggestion that the Church is pretty much incidental to the success of the mission of God. The argument goes that, since God is engaged in mission and uses various agents to bring about his purposes of justice and salvation, it makes little difference to the success of this mission whether the Church has got its act together or not - God will achieve his purposes with or without the Church. Nor is it significant to the overall mission of God as to whether the Church is growing or not - God's mission is beyond, though it does include, the Church.

The second alternative to understanding the implications of the missio dei for the Church is that argued by such as Andrew Kirk and Wilbert Schenk. They emphasise the belief that, although God is indeed active beyond the Church and although the ultimate purpose of the divine mission is the Kingdom and not the Church, nevertheless the Church, as the community of those who have entered consciously into relationship with God, is central to God’s way of working in mission. The Church, they argue, is both an embodied sign of the Kingdom and a foretaste or sacrament of the Kingdom, and, furthermore, it is the only intentional agent of the Kingdom. Therefore, it does matter whether the Church has got its act together or not - although God is not restricted to working only through the Church, he has established and called the Church as the primary agent and visible sign in the missio dei, and so the mission of God will suffer if the Church is not fulfilling its calling. Likewise, Church growth is evidence of the success of the missio dei.

Of course, the proviso for this second alternative has to be what we understand by 'the Church'. Church growth does not simply mean more bums on seats in organised churches. But it does surely refer to the community(ies) who consciously identify themselves as followers of Christ engaged in the mission of God, rather than some vague and undefined concept. Indeed, it's this conscious identification that differentiates the Church from the wider Kingdom, of which it is a part.

So that was the gist of last night's discussion. Over to you... is the Church incidental and inconsequential to the missio dei, or is it the central agent through which God choses to work his purposes? Does it matter whether the Church has got its act together or not?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:34 AM | link | 0 comments |

the cost of democracy...

Monday, February 18, 2008

... I hope and pray that it's worth it; that the newly elected Pakistani government, whoever it may be, respect the immense price that many ordinary Pakistanis have paid for these elections, in the hope of better and more stable times ahead.

See Pakistanis vote in tense election

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 1:44 PM | link | 0 comments |

visual theology...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'This' is great - I love the artwork and the reflection that follows... "Where do we "put the camera" when we read a particular story in the gospels? " is a brilliant question. Thanks Richard!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 8:50 AM | link | 0 comments |

Pakistan bomb...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Another bomb blast in Pakistan as the country gets closer to the scheduled February 18th elections. This time 18 people were killed - a tragic waste of human life and, I suspect, not the last in the days ahead. Keep Pakistan in your prayers.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:11 PM | link | 0 comments |

debating the wrong things...

Various people, over the last couple of days, have asked me what I think of the Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks regarding Sharia law and British law, and I've avoided doing so because, to be totally honest with you, any comment would be made out of relative ignorance. I don't claim to be an expert in any way on Sharia law and I'm pretty sure that most of the voices we've been hearing recently are in the same boat! What do they say about ignorance breeding contempt?!

And so, with my reluctance to comment noted, here's what I wrote in an email to one such inquiry...

Re: Rowan’s speech – I haven’t read it in full (which is the problem with most comments being made about it!). That said, I’m not sure I totally agree with his conclusions BUT (a very important 'but') I find it very sad that most of the debate that has ensued has had little to do with what he actually said or with what he wanted people to be debating. I think he has some very good points – my concern is where it may end or what it could lead to, rather than with what he suggested per se.

I get really angry though with people who use one interpretation of Sharia to whip up a frenzy of anti-Islamic sentiment. That is the worrying thing, and it seems to be happening a lot at the moment - one example is the completely misleading and downright prejudiced comments of Douglas Murray (from the
Centre for Social Cohesion - how on earth did he get that job?!) on last night's Newsnight program. On the other hand Prof Tariq Ramadan spoke a lot of sense on the same program. He confirmed that most British Muslims are not calling for Sharia as a separate code of law, stating that "equality before the law is our Sharia". In other words, Prof Ramadan was arguing that for the majority of British Muslims, British law is already in keeping with Sharia and so is sufficient.

I guess the Archbishop wanted to take things slightly beyond this though and raise some discussion concerning family law in particular. But why are people going on about public flogging and hands being cut off – that has nothing at all to do with what Rowan Williams was talking about, and just serves to direct the discussion away from the important, if uncomfortable, issues that he was raising!

The Archbishop's website has posted a very helpful article, What did the Archbishop actually say? (with a link to the full text of the original lecture) and there are several measured posts from people more qualified than me to comment such as those from Richard Sudworth, Kester Brewin and Maggi Dawn. If you missed last night's Newsnight, you can read about it and watch it again from 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:12 PM | link | 0 comments |

the hardest word...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 1:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

which religion?...

A man who clearly has much in common with David Beckham, who famously said, "I want Brooklyn to be christened but don’t know into what religion yet"...

hat tip... Matt Stone

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

landing the plane...

'This' is an interesting reflection from Tony Jones, that relates to the question I was posing in my last post. Go read...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:40 PM | link | 0 comments |