Kenarchy!

A short while back Roger Mitchell (as lead editor) launched The Kenarchy Journal. Here is the link:

https://kenarchy.org/

Volume 1 has been there since the start, and now there is the drawing together of articles for Volume 2… and they are also welcoming submissions for that volume. (There is also a forum for the interaction with all current articles.)

Here is a short note from Roger:

If you are not aware of it already would like to draw your attention to The Kenarchy Journal, www.Kenarchy.org, a new online academic resource launched this summer embracing a wide and interdisciplinary perspective relevant to the politics and theology of love. Its purpose is to advance applied research, and it includes a forum that we very much hope will provide the opportunity for thinkers and activists beyond academia to engage with the online material. Volume 1, Starting Points, deals particularly with the theology of Incarnation, Trinity and Lament and then focuses on reinstating the feminine, advocating for the poor and reintegrating humanity and the creation. Volume 2, Spring 2021, will continue to explore Starting Points focusing on the remaining themes central to kenarchy, namely the priority of children, welcome for strangers, justice for prisoners, and health for the sick. We are currently inviting submissions exploring the theology of the child, immigrants and asylum seekers, restorative justice, and health and wellbeing. Please encourage students and colleagues or fellow researchers to consider submitting an abstract for an article relevant to these themes via the website, or to let us have sight of an unpublished article they may have already prepared on one of these themes. We would of course, be delighted to have a submission from you!

Human

Fully and Truly Human

The second chapter in the awesome first volume is going head on with a view on humanity. (I am on zoom with a small group Sunday and we will be gradually working through this booklet. The full booklet I will publish here in due course.)

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your hand-made sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way? (Ps. 8).

Many views of post-fall have humanity as basically evil, totally depraved. Better forms might suggest that totally depraved means affected in every area, but the final result is whatever good is done it is but ‘as filthy rags’. Having no value before God. It is easy to pull together Scriptures that prove a point (I would never do this!). filthy rags has a context, and it the context is not – regardless of who you are it is all rubbish whatever you do. The context was concerning religious behaviour.

Jesus is fully human, not semi-human. Although never ceasing to be God he becomes full human, sharing in our humanity (for those interested I am pretty much in the kenotic camp that he does not draw on his divinity while on earth). Beyond that, and unlike all of us, Jesus is also TRULY human. Coming to faith is a journey toward being truly human, final transformation will be ‘we will be like him’.

In this chapter I am seeking to establish (from my bias) that humanity is not evil but fallen. What is fallen can be redeemed, what is evil needs to be judged. Hence all behaviour that humanises is ‘Godly’ behaviour. dehumanisation is the work of the demonic. So sadly we can do ‘Christian’ things in a way that dehumanises and therefore does not resonate with godly behaviour. And by way of contrast, even someone who expresses no faith, can do genuine good, godly acts.

Where this is going is not in a therefore ‘all are saved’ direction. I want to take it in a value of human life; and beyond that the ‘ekklesia’ (this will be volume 2) is responsible to create a shape where the good that is in people comes through and the bad held back. Of course if we have a Gospel that is but if people are bad they need salvation and we don’t reach those who are ‘good’. For me that is a challenge to the gospel we believe and present.

This chapter is to bridge us into the next ones – Judas comes first, the disciple who is very like us, but whose human weakness was exploited. Then to Peter and with both of those disciples how their view of the Messiah is what messed them up. Our tendency is to be always on hand to be there to help Jesus out. Good motivation!! However, gets us in trouble every time. Passion + (our) vision of the kingdom = trouble.

A few posts to read

Want something a little deeper than I write here, some writers worth engaging with. OKAY – don’t all shout ‘yes please’ at once. I don’t want to be too disturbed. Into my inbox came three posts simultaneously that I thought would be of interest…

Andrew Perriman does a quick review through John Piper’s ‘Coronavirus and Christ’ in this post:

Review: John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ

The divide not simply between the Reformed and a more Arminian position will be clear, but Andrew who seeks to operate within a full-on narrative-historical approach makes it very clear about why he objects to the Piper position. The Reformed position that Piper articulates requires a healthy dose of (un-???)healthy faith. Piper writes:

The secret… is knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it.

I wrote recently that: I am more in camp of the atheist on the issue of suffering than in the camp of ‘God is sovereign, we do not understand his will, but he has foreordained all things’.

Scot McKnight is a prolific writer – where does he find the time? In this review of Lee Camp’s book Scandalous Witness he posts:

Is America a Christian Nation?

Please do not simply think this is an ‘American’ question or critique. McKnight and Camp are north American hence the focus. I can substitute any other nation for the ‘America’ word.

In short he states that ‘Nation-state and Christianity are too much at odds to become partners’.

Finally Roger Mitchell re-posted in the current context a post he wrote a while back. I appreciate there are different perspectives on the ‘Brexit’, and maybe at some levels that is how it should be as all choices of that nature are never perfect, however there are underlying principles that inform our choices. In the post he engages with Anthony G. Reddie, who puts forward a critique from a black post-colonial liberation theological perspective. Vital we are critiqued from outside our own context.

Advance notice: Roger is working on launching a site for a Kenarchy Journal: articles grouped together exploring how the outpoured life of heaven engaged with sets our priorities for engagement with the world.

OH – almost forgot Roger’s post! Read it here: Why we must not let last December’s election result or the Pandemic obscure the roots of Brexit

Humanising the divine

Well what strange days indeed. We have just entered our second week of being allowed out for an hour a day – FREEDOM, after for us 9 weeks inside. But I think hugely rich days, and we continue to pray for the reset that is over-due. In it all there are a few subtle re-definitions coming to the surface. Essential work being one of those. (I have suggested that Paul was clear that if one does not work then one does not deserve to eat… our ‘we can monetise everything’ world has changed the text to ‘if one does not earn money’…. thus distorting any theology of work.)

There are places and times that are leverage points – the wider effect is greater in those places and at those times than we have previously experienced, finding that we shifted more than we anticipated. This is such a time. And no, this is not just going to disappear, indeed I have been saying this time is more of a sign than a simple reality as I consider 2022 being when there will be a combination of situations that will converge at the same time. Now is real, only too real, but at the same time it is a sign; signs point somewhere; it is the alarm, and the alarm is to wake us up into a new reality.

We have had to make practical shifts but the number of connections, particularly via ‘zoom’ has increased with a mix of old and totally new connections. At the same time I have been writing. In the mid-90s I coincidentally met Mark Dupont who did not know me from a bar of soap and immediately said ‘books, books, books… I see a stream of books.’ Since that encounter I went on to write 6 books, with chapters in some other, and translations into 4 languages. That was that era.

I have now entered the final phase of my life (no death wish I can assure you!). The final phase is to be the least public, but most effective, and I would love it to rock on for at least another 30 years. It probably needs to last that long as it would be nice to at least achieve a level of maturity that one might expect in a 21 year old. (Hey I was 21 once and was achieving a level of maturity back then that was frightening; the last years have been about growing down to the level of immaturity that I really have.)

A few years back I met Mark again, and again before there was any ‘hello’ he said ‘writing, writing, keep on writing… there is more to come.’

I have thought about that many times since. Books are strange, they are strange for an author as they catch something in time. ‘I wrote this back then because that is where I was, but it is in print so cannot change the text.’ Also strange because there is a practical element of how one publishes and sells. I suspect if I were to publish I could move around 150 -200 (such impressive influence!). So I have wrestled with the what, how questions.

I have no idea if I have answered the what and how, but I have completed what I grandiosely have called volume 1 and have entitled it ‘Humanising the Divine’. How, and whether I publish I am not sure, but on Sunday I will begin with a zoom to 6 other people where we will go weekly through a chapter.

I am beginning with a high view of humanity, although clearly acknowledging that God is not simply a bigger version of us. There is an otherness in God, but humanity carries the image of God; Jesus came in human form, and retains that; the hope is for the resurrection of the body not some spiritualised life after death.

Theology’s norm is to start with the doctrine of God (after all it is THEOlogy), while having a logic to the order also starts with what we do not know. Quickly the omni- words kick in. Then down the line comes the anthropological section and the human race is put in their place. Sin with all its wonderful words, often with ‘original sin’ right bang in the centre.

I am not suggesting the above is illegitimate, simply that is not the lens that I have had or used these past years. There is such a need to draw a distinction between ‘evil’ and ‘fallen’. Even creation is fallen, but has a voice calling out for the right rhythms – there has been a response to that voice in this crisis. Humanity too!

I will eventually post what I have written on these pages, and if the guinea pigs survive and find it moderately helpful I will look to multiply the zoom calls. Oh… and now I am on volume 2 so later today will be pushing those keys once again.

Covid-19 and impact on faith

Our good friend Noe from Calpe sent us a link to this article. It is from Marcos Zapata who both leads a church (in Lugo) and the Evangelical Alliance of Spain. He hosted us, Noe & Loli, and Samuel Rhein a few years back when we began to look at praying into the expulsion of the Muslims. A humble person well respected, including inside a number of government situations, due to the serious impact they are making not just spiritually but socially.

It is a really good read. I wish, for example, I had come up with the following:

The leadership by those who seem alien to suffering will never produce disciples but only admirers. My time of suffering and fighting against the illness has reminded me once again that the Father already sent a Savior—and it is not me.

And Jesus spent time in prayer in order to choose some ‘Admirers’!!!

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/spain-covid-19-coronavirus-survivor-pastor-advice-churches.html

A sweet day!!

Today was a big day to close a loop in Spain, and of course what I write here is a perspective on the events. The Valley of the Fallen was a burial place for Francisco Franco (driving force in the Civil War (1936-39), dictator until his death in 1975), José Antonio Primo de Rivera (founder of the Fanlange party, shot in Alicante, 1936) and 33,000 combatants from the war – from both sides… but many of them were also left in unmarked graves. (Spain is said to be second behind Cambodia for mass unmarked graves.)

In the Civil war there were terrible atrocities committed by both sides, so a one-side reading cannot do justice to what went on. However, the inappropriateness of Franco being buried in a place of honour along the dishonouring of those crushed has been an offence to many Spanish. And of course for Gayle and I this has been a focus for us for many years. It has taken us to the (now previous) actual grave of Franco, his birth home – the day after which parliament passed that he was to be exhumed. We have also been to the grave of Franco’s daughter which is in the main cathedral of Madrid, and was the place the family had wanted Franco to be buried if the exhumation went ahead. Gayle placed a blade of grass on it, declaring that all of us are as a blade of grass. Transient, and the effects of Franco’s domination was over. There followed many court cases fight both the exhumation and seeking to ensure that following any exhumation that the remains would be placed in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. Nice to get a result – though we are sure that whatever difference the above made, any shift that takes place is almost always due to the many unknown acts of people who have stood for the future.

So 80 years after the end of the Civil War, 44 years after Franco’s death and 41 years after the (supposed) end of the Transition to democracy, a HUGE event has taken place. We are so pleased that his remains were not moved into the main Madrid Cathedral. We have been praying and declaring – with some huge setbacks – that ‘Madrid will be the tomb of fascism’. Had his remains been moved into the Cathedral it would have become an easily accessible shrine to fascism.

The prime minister with great perception said a few days ago that this will bring the Transition cycle to a close. Those words sparked faith in our spirits as we had been praying into the completion of what was in its time, a good move forward, but increasingly was being shown as lacking completeness.

This day marks something enormous!! And we love days such as this. Now there are some real possibilities… and also perhaps even greater challenges. For the past 3 weeks I have had 2 nights of unbroken sleep – last night being one – so it seems to signify that there is a peace that had come…. that peace marks the closure of an era. ‘Tomorrow’, whenever that is, we will move forward from a place of rejoicing to put our shoulder back into things. As one wise politician said today (with a play on words), the remains of Franco have not been moved, his corpse has. The remains of Franco are in and through all the institutions… now is the time to move the remains of Franco.

A significant peg that was holding things in place has been removed. A brindis (toast) is in order, and tomorrow we will be calling for tomorrow. If the past cycle has been closed, now the only immediate question is what shapes what is to come.

Below is a provocative photo. The flag is a republican flag. Bottom line we do not give our allegiance. I was tempted to photoshop Gayle on the photo as this was something she might have crazily done!!

No it is not Gayle!! The flag? But the cross to mark such a place is not appropriate.

Heaven’s help needed

I do not know how much the current unrest in Cataluña is being covered in international press. Below is a link to a set of photos from the third night of unrest. At this time there are 5 marches also en route from across Cataluña that are due to arrive in Barcelona on Friday.

Photos of third night of unrest.

There are questions that arise at such times, though the questions raised are always present, just not in such a provocative way as they are currently. Two simple questions that can be asked (though not so easily answered) are:

  • How much is what we are seeing simply a revelation of what was already there beneath the surface?
  • What level of expectation can we have to see a shift in the current crisis?

The only aspect of such a clear crisis as we are facing currently is that it helps one to focus. It is ever so easy to go through life and not see what is there. We can isolate ourselves, even isolate ourselves inside the Christian community, even by experiencing heaven’s touch, but not face the huge issues around us. I passionately believe that ultimately the keys for change do not lie in a White House, a #10 or a Moncloa (or a Brussels!), but are in the hands of believers, who understand that ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ are in the hands of the Risen Lord.

Of course the current crisis has a context. A long historical context where two stories have been rehearsed. A story of oppression, restriction and persecution; and an opposing story of rebelliousness, selfishness and greed. The immediate past few days have added fuel to the fire with the sentencing of a number of Catalan political leaders. The result has been a large divide. Some of course protest concerning the harshness of the sentences – sentences for enabling people to express a vote concerning their future, and that vote facilitated by those who do not have any accusation of violence against them. Even last night from prison, Oriel Junqueras who was sentenced to 13 years, was appealing for non-violence, saying that ‘this is not who we are.’ Others have called the sentence a disgraceful sign of state weakness, calling the action a ‘coup d’etat’, and the sentences a betrayal of the constitution. That extreme view can be seen with one party leader appealing to the king to intervene as the sentences should have been up to 70 years long.

There is a context historically, but there is also a context spiritually. In a few days we should have the bones of Franco removed from the Valley of the Fallen. For some 5 years we have been praying into the constitution of Spain, and four years ago went to the Valley of the Fallen where Franco is buried, since that time we have prayed into the Transition years (1975-78) as we sensed they were far from complete, though almost certainly a wonderful result given that the country was coming out of fascist dictatorship to democracy and with a Civil War as the backdrop. Just a few days ago the acting PM said that when the bones are removed the loop of the Transition will be closed. We are grateful for that prophetic declaration, particularly as we had not seen it so clearly.

The end of a loop! Little wonder so much has kicked off. At a personal level we leave one framework and enter another one through the doorway of crisis, whether that be small or great. Likewise if this is a shift to a new framework in Spain it is not surprising that we are now facing crisis at a great level.

Without a doubt the current situation shows us what is there and things are being brought to the light. They also sadly become the soil to enable what is there to grow to a greater level. So I do not accept that we just sit back and say that it was there all along. Salt was one of the analogies Jesus used for his followers, and the salt of the NT from the Dead Sea had a strong property of preventing growth of what pollutes society. We are meant to limit what manifests as we take responsibility for our setting. The salt likewise, containing as it did phosphates, was also a promoter of good growth, a fertiliser. Our presence is meant to promote the good coming through.

We are not silent… we call for heaven’s help… we recognise the closing of a loop, the end of an era… and we call because we know that salt, as a metaphor, suggests that we do not need to see the full manifestation of unfettered division, hatred, anger and violence.

The next 20+ days leading to the national election will be very challenging indeed. Turning points often come at great expense. One of the key turning points in the original Transition took place with the non-violent response to a brutal assassination. That event was a major draw on us to live where we live, in the shadow of one of the most powerful sculptures remembering that event. We are watchful in this season for obvious reasons.

This has been a personally insulting year with many set-backs in our focus, and it probably indicates that we missed some keys along the way, yet even when we fail there is not a loss that cannot be redeemed.

What can we expect in Spain and into the crises we face? As we increasingly stand in the gap in whatever way we are led in our diverse settings we can expect a new landscape to appear that is more fertile than before. I remain ever so hopeful. None of us are alone… heaven loves to send in help. And we need it ever so much.

Miracle of Leipzig

Jeff Fountain publishes a weekly word which I have given a link to on previous occasions. Today was about the non-violent, Jesus-inspired movement of 30 years ago in Leipzig that grew to be a contribution to the Berlin wall coming down. The quote below from the secret police is so powerful:

We were prepared for everything, except prayers and candles.

Below is a link to the newsletter, followed by the article in full.

newsletter link opens in browser

Thirty years ago this week, a remarkable event took place in the eastern Germany city of Leipzig, inspiring millions to take to the streets across the country and to tear down the Berlin Wall exactly one month later.

The Nikolaikirche was the starting point of this movement of peaceful rebellion against the oppressive communist rule. The church was founded in about 1165 at the junction of two important trade routes, north-south and east-west, and named after the patron-saint of merchants. Luther is said to have preached here. Johan Sebastian Bach was master and organist of the choir, from 1723 to 1750. Many of his compositions were heard for the first time in this church.

The angel of peace above the altar was painted centuries before peace prayer services were begun, each Monday evening in the church in 1982. A protest movement against the arms race, and for justice and human rights, began to grow in the DDR (East Germany). The church became the focus for such discontent, including agitation for the right to emigrate. Believers and non-believers alike prayed, discussed and studied the contemporary relevance of the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus. The church was the one institution in the DDR that seemed to offer protection from the Stasi (State Security Police).

RADICAL IDEA
The pastor of the Nikolaikirche, Christian Führer, relished the chance to speak to a captive audience on the Sermon on the Mount. He also publicly supported those who wished to emigrate. But by late summer 1988, a more radical idea had taken hold: stay and agitate for a free and democratic Germany.

In February 1989, police broke up a rally calling for democracy and freedom. But the Friedensgebete continued to grow and, by the spring, the authorities saw the prayer meetings as a threat. Access for cars to the church were blocked. Even the closest motorway exits were closed off or subjected to large-scale checks.

By the autumn of 1989, the movement was approaching its climax. The Nikolaikirche continued to be open for all: true worshippers, the discontents, the curious, the Stasi and their collaborators, all gathering beneath the outstretched arms of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. Flowers decorated the church’s windows; candles multiplied throughout the building as silent signs of hope. Throughout all, a spirit of peace reigned. Crowds continued to gather at the church. Some demanded the freedom to leave the country; others declared their commitment to stay. The authorities tried to pressure the church leaders to cancel the peace prayers. Police surrounded the church and began making brutal arrests. Each Monday more arrests were being made, yet more visitors flocked to the church, overflowing its 2000 seats.

On 25th September, Pastor Christoph Wonneberger criticised state violence in his sermon and demanded democratic change through peaceful means. At the end of the service, crowds walked around the city’s ring road, gathering support until they were 8,000 strong. The following Monday, 2nd October, 20,000 marched to the Thomaskirche on the far side of the city, where they were met by riot police with shields, helmets and truncheons.

PROVOCATION
October 7 was the 40th anniversary of the DDR, an occasion for widespread protest. Police waded into protesters, arresting many and hauling them off to horse stables.

Two days later, October 9, a thousand Stasi collaborators were sent to the Nikolaikirche to ‘prevent provocations’. By early afternoon, 600 of them had taken up positions inside the church. By mid-afternoon the church was full and late-comers filled up seven other churches in the city centre by 5pm.

After the prayers, the 2000 congregants filed out of the building with their candles, to be greeted by 10,000 peace protestors outside. Waiting soldiers, paramilitaries and police began to move into the crowd seeking provocation, but no-one allowed themselves to react in violence.

Pfarrer Führer described what happened: ‘If you carry a candle, you need two hands. You have to prevent the candle from going out. You cannot hold a stone or a club in your hand. And the miracle came to pass. Jesus’ spirit of nonviolence seized the masses and became a material, peaceful power. Troops, industrial militia groups, and the police were drawn in, became engaged in conversations, then withdrew. It was an evening in the spirit of our Lord Jesus for there were no victors or vanquished, no one triumphed over the other, and no one lost face.’

Later the head of the Stasi admitted: ‘We were prepared for everything, except prayers and candles.’

The following Monday, 150,000 disciplined protestors walked through the city. The next week there were 300,000. A movement inspired by prayer, the teachings of Jesus and the courage of church leaders to stand for truth and justice was spreading across the country.

In spite of Eric Honecker’s claim on October 7th–at the 40th anniversary commemorations–that the Berlin Wall would last another hundred years, it hardly lasted another month. The soft powers of love, truth and justice had finally prevailed over brick-and-mortar expressions of division, deceit and injustice.

Goodbye, friend

I have just returned from a few days in the UK, travelling over for the funeral of one of my earliest and longest standing friends from my days in Cobham / Leatherhead (1977-2008). I worked for many years with Derek, learned so much from him at many levels. Strangely (?) we live just a few miles from where he found the Lord on the east coast of Spain many years ago. His impact on many lives was very marked and the days in the UK were very special. Too many to note all the aspects that made an impact.

I met people again who I was with some 10, 20, 30 and even 35 years ago. I am sure on many aspects we might be on different pages (maybe in different books?), but the connections were so deep. I am deeply thankful to Gerald and Anona Coates who in the late 60s began the unmapped journey that eventually contributed to the new church movement, a movement that shaped many values that I still hold dear today. Here at the funeral were people, whose contexts and expression of the Gospel varied enormously, some 30+ years later, but the passion for Jesus, the appreciation that non-religious relational Christianity is at the centre was so evident. Remove church politics and WOW!! Thank God that in his house are many mansions – some of them way to structured for me, some way to loose! I left Jude (daughter) and Joe’s house at 12noon and returned at 10.15pm. Just meeting people from forever ago.

In the funeral a number of people referred to Derek as their best friend. He was friends to so many. Of course at times in a funeral the person referred to never had any faults (!!), Derek like you and I of course had some… but for sure what I was left with was that what we say and what we do is very important, but ultimately those that spoke of the impact he made on their lives it was not in the final analysis what he said, nor what he did but how they felt when with him that stayed with them. That is a lesson to me – that people might feel accepted, believed in and strengthened when with me. I have a long way to travel on that road.

I, and sure that many other would echo this, thank Sandra, Anna, Lisa and Cara for allowing us also to benefit from his life. After he passed away his family found this on his computer, written a few days before he died. I leave that here:

Humour, and mostly inappropriate humour, has gotten me over most obstacles in life, but for each of us there will be at least one insurmountable step, so high that it can never be scaled. Some of us never get over it – whether it was the loss of someone who was our very life, or a betrayal, an addiction, or the darkest depression. Sometimes, when it is the loss of someone dear to us, we never want to get over it. It has to become part of us. Maya Angelou, if she were here, would say that the insurmountable step defines us. Wounds, damage, heartbreak, failings or addictions, it is how we cope with that step and the choices that we make which make us a bigger or smaller person. Whoever you are, and whatever circumstances you face, don’t let your insurmountable step destroy you. Embrace it and let it define you.

Derek Thomas Williams, 2019

Protests – wisdom

Just over a year ago we participated with a core Czech group and a number of colleagues from UK and France. Two of those were Lee Ann Thompson and Annie Bullen who have (and continue to) invested themselves into the land. Both travel and have lived there – not ‘on’ but ‘in’ the land for sure. One of our last acts there was to go to Wenceslas Square in Prague and call for wisdom to rise from the street:

Listen! Wisdom is calling out in the streets and market places, calling loudly at the city gates and wherever people come together:

“Foolish people! How long do you want to be foolish? How long will you enjoy pouring scorn on knowledge? Will you never learn? Listen when I reprimand you; I will give you good advice and share my knowledge with you. (Proverbs 1: 20-22).

There have been growing protests and today huge crowds. The voice of heaven on the streets… And while on the theme the huge crowds in Hong Kong have been singing ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’.

Come on body of Christ – we can make space for the voice of the Lord, sounding as the sound of many waters in the public space!

Protesting crowds in Wenceslas Square – 23 June, 2019
Perspectives