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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!

doing and believing...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

'This' is a fascinating post offering some reflections on Alternative Worship and Emerging Church from Kevin Corcoran, an 'outsider' (not my description) who spent time with various practitioners and communities. There's a lot in his description that rings true with my own experience and, on the whole, I think he paints a very fair and accurate portrait.

I've been thinking particularly about one of the features he identifies...

"emerging Christians tend to be theologically pluralistic and quite suspicious of tidy theological boxes. They believe that God is bigger than any theology and that God is first and foremost a story-teller, not a dispenser of theological doctrine and factoids. Theology for them, therefore, is conceived as an ongoing and provisional conversation. Emerging Christians are also allergic to thinking which fixates on who is going to heaven and who is going to hell, or on who’s on the inside and who’s on the outside. They stress the importance of right-living (orthopraxy) over right-believing (orthodoxy). What’s important, they often say, is whether you engage in God-love and neighbor-love. Or as one of our conversation partners put it, “We’re more interested in doing truth than believing ‘truths’.”"

As I read this I identified completely with it and yet on a second reading I'm left slightly uneasy! I, for one, don't want to be fixated on who's in and who's out or on neatly tying up following Jesus into a predefined theological and doctrinal package. For this reason, I am 100% behind the emerging church project (as some have described it). However, I guess my unease kicks in when I think about the parameters for Christ-led discipleship. Are there any? Is it really a journey without any givens? Is theology really provisional? If so, how do we prevent this journey of discipleship from being a completely subjective experience, once again playing into the hands of modern Western individualism - "who are you to tell me where my journey with Jesus should be going?"?!

I guess this is why the notion of community is so important to 'emerging Christians', such that "a premium is placed on togetherness, journeying with and alongside others" (Corcoran's words). But even in this community experience (and perhaps, especially in it) are there any givens or norms? Is it a case of anything goes or are there beliefs and values that define the community?

In the emerging churches I've experienced there are often very clear values and/or beliefs underpinning them. Indeed, to say that there are no theological givens is in itself a theological given! I'm convinced, given my reading of the gospels, that orthopraxy is, at least, as important as orthodoxy, but this doesn't render orthodoxy unimportant... does it?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:34 AM | link | 1 comments |

paperwork...

Monday, January 28, 2008

a timely contribution from Dave Walker! I think paperwork (and read 'emails' into that) is the thing that stresses me out more than anything else. It's great when I can finally see my desk... shame it usually only lasts for a very short time!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:29 PM | link | 1 comments |

"don't change your light bulbs...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

... change your leaders."

Bono on the political challenge of global poverty and climate change



see also Bono and Al Gore at the World Economic Forum

hat tip... Andrew Jones

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:09 PM | link | 1 comments |

lost on the way...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"There are two kinds of spiritual journeys or two ways to "be on the way" as Caputo would put it, the first (which is all too familiar to many of us evangelicals) is to know the way ahead of time and then just try your hardest to get there, the second is to be on a trek to find the way but all the while being a bit lost. The postmodern person understands that being lost and at the same time being "on the way" are entirely compatible. Far from falling into the black abyss of relativity that some critics might fear, this kind of a spiritual journey boasts a healthy Christian understanding of the via negativa."

The above quote, which I find really helpful, comes from a post by Charlie Lyons Pardue engaging with John Caputo's What Would Jesus Deconstruct? Read the whole post 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:36 PM | link | 1 comments |

Jesus blogs here...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jesus' Musings is well worth checking out - make sure you read the comments for each post to get it. It's wonderful satire that gets right to the point!

See also 'Weblog of Jesus Stirs Controversy Among Faithful' for more 'comments'. My favourite of the bunch has to be the one (supposedly) written by Christian tract publisher Edward Muehler... "I prefer a gospel that is streamlined, one that fits in a little pamphlet... I know that Jesus has a lot to say about things like poverty and peace, but these things distract from the true nature of the Gospel: freedom
from personal sin and hope for the afterlife."

hat tip... Ben Sternke

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:26 PM | link | 0 comments |

for a new beginning...

Every now and then you read something that could have been written specifically for you at the current stage in your life. A few days ago I came across the following blessing from John O'Donohue's Benedictus: A Book of Blessings. Given the changes in my life at the moment, it has really spoken to me and given me courage as I step out into new beginnings. John sadly died on January 3rd, so it seems fitting to post this as an illustration of one more life touched by his work...

For a New Beginning (John O'Donohue)

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

hat tip... Paul Fromont

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:41 AM | link | 2 comments |

unpacking suitcases...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bishop Tom Wright has a wonderful way with words, as can be seen in this recent interview with the Wittenburg Door's Becky Garrison...

"In Christian theology, such phrases [as "the authority of Scripture"] regularly act as “portable stories”—that is, ways of packing up longer narratives about God, Jesus, the Church and the world, folding them away into convenient suitcases, and then carrying them about with us. Shorthands enable us to pick up lots of complicated things and carry them around all together. But we should never forget that the point in doing so, like the point of carrying belongings in a suitcase, is that what has been packed away can then be unpacked and put to use in the new location. Too much debate about scriptural authority has had the form of people hitting one another with locked suitcases. It is time to unpack our shorthand doctrines, to lay them out and inspect them. Long years in a suitcase may have made some of the contents go moldy. They will benefit from fresh air, and perhaps a hot iron."

Go and read the full interview!

hat tip... Paul Fromont

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:02 PM | link | 0 comments |

why God doesn't go to church...

'This' is great - no need to apologise Jon!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:15 AM | link | 0 comments |

new year... new horizons...

Monday, January 07, 2008

So 2008 is underway and it's a year of changes and new challenges for me! Just before Christmas I signed off on over 8 years of University chaplaincy to take up a new dual post at the end of January. It's a move that takes me back into parish church ministry, becoming 'priest in charge' (a term I really don't like!) of St Mary's, Wavertree in Liverpool. As has become my pattern since 1999, this is only one half of a dual post! For the other half I'll be the deanery pioneer minister for the Toxteth and Wavertree deanery, enabling and encouraging emerging church communities and fresh expressions of church in the area. This will keep me connected with the Dream network, in particular Dream in Liverpool City which meets in the Deanery, as well as giving me opportunity to hook up with some other exciting initiatives (such as this one) and joining others in dreaming up new approaches to mission in the area.

It's both exciting and daunting but it feels like a good move! The people of St Mary's are very friendly and welcoming - it's a church with a long and rich history that doesn't want to remain rooted in the past but wants to build on it in meeting the needs of its community today. I'm also really impressed by their commitment to fair trade and social justice, and look forward to belonging to this community. Watch this space to read reflections and news over the course of time!!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:37 AM | link | 3 comments |