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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!

too quick to judge...

Monday, July 28, 2008

'This', from Bishop Alan's blog, is brilliant - a warning to those who spend too much time hunting for 'dodgy'! Go read...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:17 AM | link | 1 comments |

did Jesus deconstruct?...

Monday, July 21, 2008

just trying out an idea here...

I was in a discussion earlier today in which we were comparing Jesus' non-directional teaching and non-hierarchical 'church' structure to that which we find in Paul's letters. Where Jesus seemed intent on rejecting status (see Matthew 23:8-12) and on asking more questions than he gave answers, Paul seems equally intent on introducing structure, firming up theological convictions and making requirements of 'leaders' that set them apart from the rest (e.g. Titus 1:5-9, assuming Paul wrote Titus which I'm happy to accept). This cursory reading of both Jesus and Paul has led many people to set them up against each other and plump for the teaching of one as their 'key texts'.

As we were discussing this I started wondering if it could be argued that Jesus was engaged in deconstructing the inherited religious patterns, by his teaching and example, subverting the status positions found in his society and the powerplay of directive teaching. If so, can we argue that Jesus was intentionally engaging in encouraging people's faith journeys on from a stage 3 inherited faith (using Fowler's model) towards stage 4 and beyond?

Following this through, we could then argue that Paul was merely beginning the process of reconstruction, trying to make sense of his own religious heritage, the teaching and practice of Jesus and the social context(s) in which he found himself. At times Paul can seem a bit confused with himself - not surprising for someone moving through a stage 4 towards a stage 5 faith!

If this were the case, we could draw a couple of interesting implications...
  1. Paul's project was not contra to that of Jesus, but was a development of Jesus' own ministry. It is desireable (or is it?) that deconstruction leads to a reconstruction where the latter takes account of the journey and the changed perspectives and so may look very different from the pattern held prior to deconstruction, whilst having some similarities. Compare Paul's church structure and pattern for leadership with that of 1st century Judaism - similarities and radical differences.
  2. Paul, in reconstructing faith and community structure was doing so for the 1st century world(s) in which he lived and travelled. He wasn't necessarilly setting a definitive pattern that has to be adhered to by all people of all nations in all times.
Is it then the task of the church in every new context, be it cultural, historical or whatever, to be both allowing Jesus' teaching and ministry to deconstruct inherited patterns of faith and community, keeping us centred on the teacher rather than the teachings, the divine rather than the institution, whilst at the same time engaging in reconstructing new patterns of church and ministry that take into account the story so far and the social context in which we currently live? This sounds a bit like N T Wright's 'faithful improvisation' arrived at in a very different way!

This is clearly not a thought through theory, just something I'm mulling over! Any comments?...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:49 PM | link | 2 comments |

a good question...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

an interesting question raised by 'zero_zero_one' to my last post...

"Another thought - can churches choose to opt out from being under the authority of a MALE bishop? Obviously at the moment there are only male bishops in the Church of England, but when female bishops come along will churches be able to say, for example, "The (male) bishop of our diocese voted against female bishops, we do not agree with this on a theological basis, therefore we want a female bishop or a male bishop who agrees that women can be bishops"?"

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 1:58 PM | link | 0 comments |

equality, but only if you want it...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Once again, Jon Birch hits the nail well and truly on the head...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:39 AM | link | 2 comments |

at last!...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The final amended motion was:

That this Synod:
(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;
(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;
(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and
(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.

for more information about this historic vote, and some interesting links, see the Church Times blog

I followed the debate yesterday through Ruth Gledhill's excellent live blog-cast (is that a new term?!) - well worth a read to fill in the gaps!

Let's continue to hope and pray that the code of practice and special arrangements being drawn up don't serve to water down the important step taken, by making women bishops appear to be 'second class bishops'. I agree that there are very complex pastoral considerations needed for those who in conscience can't accept this decision, but the Church, through it's recognised structures, has decided and this should now be regarded as the understanding and policy of the Church of England. Women will be bishops and, when that happens, should be treated by the Church as equal to any other bishop - anything less would be to treat with contempt the historic decision that Synod has taken which would be a travesty.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:11 PM | link | 1 comments |

not a 'Christian country'...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

'This' is a great post from Steve Hollinghurst, and well worth a read especially if you're a church minister in the UK! I've lost count of how many times I've read or been told that England is a Christian country, and it's often a statement masking a more sinister unspoken view that either verges on racism or anti-youth sentiment. Steve hits the nail on the head when he writes:

"the reality is that a modern democratic society can never by identity be a 'Christian country' and the use of this phrase does not promote the Church's influence i think it actually undermines it. it simply serves to remind everyone that the church is a thing of the past, that we used to be a Christian nation and that whilst some bits of that legacy where good we no longer need the Church to tell us that, we the citizens now decide what are 'good Christian values' and what are 'bad traditional religious morality'. anyone caught using the phrase 'we are a Christian country' is at best well meaning but irrelevant and at worst a power mad oppressor who wants to run the country their way and not our way. Christians need to wake up to this and start admitting we are not a Christian country." (bold highlights mine)

I've recently been teaching the 'Mission in Britain Today' module on a regional course training people for lay and ordained ministry in the anglican, methodist and baptist churches. Interestingly, the session on post-Christendom has been met with differing, sometimes strongly held, views. Some people do grieve the passing of Christendom; that is until we start to dig a bit deeper and read our history in the context of the New Testament and the mission of God. I'm of the belief that continuing to live with a Christendom mentality is perhaps the thing, above any other, that paralyses the church with respect to mission.

It seems that Steve is in agreement...

"... when we stop trying to claim some privileged position because 'we are a Christian country' and admit we are not we then get freed up to start fulfilling a calling to offer vision in our nation in the only way we can, by inspiring individuals, whether in government or in the local street, by what we say and what we do."

Read Steve's full post 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:59 AM | link | 1 comments |