A healthy spine?

When in the UK in December I was carrying this sense that there was an increase of apostolic authority to bring a new level of alignment. This was in particular related to England, and coming to Leicester (midlands) it seemed very appropriate for that geography but applicable wider. I was aware that King Richard’s body had been found there but do not think I knew that the confirmation that it was his skeleton was in part because he had a crooked spine.

Prior to coming across I had a dream just after setting the various dates and places. In it I was present in a Christian gathering and there were some great things taking place. People touched by God, healings etc. There was a very clear voice and the people present were focused and in harmony. A person then explained to me that these great things were taking place because of the unity of purpose. I had already observed two things: 1) that the clarity of voice was coming from one person and there was a great agreement with that voice, and 2) that when I looked out the people were of similar ethnic and class background. There was a uniformity to them.

These two elements disturbed me so I took time to respond to what I was being told saying that the voice of God is as the sound of many waters. It does not come through one language or one culture. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a white middle class male. But the fullness of his voice has to come through the diversity, and such diversity will mean that we might not even be able to hear clearly!

Miracles do not attest a person’s authenticity. Paul does say the signs of an apostle were with him and he included miracles as part of the evidence. But by themselves they are not enough. After all Jesus made it clear that there would be those claiming to have done miracles in his name but that they were unknown to him.

The spine and the dream?

A healthy spine is not simply straight but also flexible. It is aligned but allows for movement; it facilitates multi-directional communication.

An apostolic gift must have patience as its context (2 Cor. 12:12) as it seeks to be aligned with the Gospel. Paul exhibited this as he described himself as one called to be an apostle and eschewed the title ‘apostle’. (A title would have given him authority over, the calling a mission to be accountable to.) He was not disobedient to the calling and made himself accountable to heaven for his work. He was aligned personally – he had his ‘true north’ set. If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority then it has to start with right alignment. If those with apostolic gift are not rightly aligned how can they help align the body of Christ. I am not professing to know what this might be but surely at the centre is the commitment to the spiritual and social transformation of the world (let your kingdom come). If there is that alignment in the apostolic then there can be a legitimate voice coming to the body of Christ to align in this way.

True North

A focus on other aspects will be a deviation from true north. All other directions have to flow from that. A straight spine! But a flexible spine that allows and facilitates movement in such a diversity of directions. This is where the multi- and diverse-language voices have to be heard. It is not the voice of the donkey, nor of the white middle class male, but of the multitude who are finding their direction in the light of the true north setting.

If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority that manifest in the UK / England great patience will be needed. A settling for the one voice speaks for all will not be sufficient, and even if miracles manifest there will be a falling short. The diversity might even be somewhat confusing, but the greater fullness can only come that way.

The Brexit

The above thoughts too I believe are totally relevant to a new Europe. The new Europe has to be made up of all of us who are now arriving. We all – those of us who have been established for some time in this context – and those who are more recent on the scene, all have to see ourselves as arriving to shape something new. The Brexit is to do with the reshaping of Europe. The UK (England?) has a huge contribution to make into this context. The gift has to be that of diversity. If a nation can only go where the body of Christ goes then I consider the apostolic increase is needed right now. If not then we are in for a very traumatic future. If it does there is also great trauma ahead, but a pathway through.

A new Europe?

At this time there seems to be so much fear of the ‘other’, expressing itself in xenophobia and centring in on a response to issue of immigration. There are real issues involved, and certainly there might be many good reasons for having voted ‘Brexit’ and a vote to leave cannot be blamed for what is rising negatively in Europe. Maybe though it has inadvertently made a contribution to what we are witnessing in many places of separation from and exclusion of the ‘other’.

The rise in the extreme right is not limited to the European context. Leaders have used rhetoric that has not helped and I think that there are three aspects that has resulted:

  • what has been present there already has been revealed. It is not as if the negative aspects I mentioned above have suddenly appeared from nowhere. They were there prior to Brexit and prior to the rhetoric of leaders.
  • what was there has been fed. This is a serious situation. Leadership rhetoric has permissioned what was there, and once permissioned there has been a growth.
  • it has hidden another narrative. This is an encouraging aspect and one that I had not considered prior to these days of discussion and prayer. There is another narrative, one of recognising that there is a shift to the identity of our world, that the future is going to look different, that those seeking to Europe for safety will be among those shaping the future. This narrative seeks to look at the situation with faith rather than self protection.

This narrative that is hidden has to be the shaping narrative for the church. It is the resistance to fear and an openness to the future. Prior to these days I had not seen that this narrative is present, rising from the grass roots. This is what gives hope for the future. Stories such as those from Germany of many finding faith when they have relocated should encourage the church enormously. Surely in the move from their homelands God is at work to reveal himself.

Another aspect of our praying was to see a shift from an over-Western orientation. This would impact on a shift from a male-dominated / masculine-bias to a more female / feminine approach to issues and relationships. A further shift in the economic base.

One of the aspects that we can see visibly, certainly in Spain, is that there are changes already taking place where there is a greater femininity in politics that promotes a third way beyond conflict and opposition to that of dialogue.

One of the participants read from a book reflecting on native north Americans’ experience of the Europeans who came with their different cultural values. That colonial encroachment and domination is always a provocation, but it prompted a new language. Rather than ‘then the Europeans came…’ to the concept of in the current scenario that the new Europeans ‘arrived’. There has to be a new Europe and that is more than the reshaping of an institution (EU) but is with all those who are committed to the geography, that means all of us, all of us who are arriving now – even if we have been present before. Again the concept of the body of Christ modelling this is the challenge before us.

The final aspect that I will reflect on here is that – and this is a push theologically – that we should be expecting people to rise up who are committed to doing an ‘apostolic’ job in and through society. It seems

  • our responsibility to hold the shape so that they can emerge;
  • that it is immaterial whether they are believers or not;
  • that when they get in place we need to pray for their protection. It is easy for us believers to be alert to spiritual attack (mainly in the form of betrayal in these settings) but someone who does not believe in spiritual realities is not going to be alert to this.

The photo above the article is of the parliament building in Strasbourg. The building is modelled on Bruegel’s painting of the tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babel

The similarity can be read as a clear sign that the EU is simply Babel… and it is in as much as there is Babel within all institutions, or as seems to be symbolism, the EU is a project that will never be finished, and if the attempt is simply to raise it up from the earth it is doomed for failure. A place therefore to contribute I consider.

Where to Europe?

The final four days we spent in the UK was with 20 other people from England, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Germany, France and Sweden to consider how to pray into the future of Europe with the ‘Brexit’ somewhat as a background. A very good and trusted prophetic friend had emailed most of those in the above group with a vision that she had very soon after there was an announcement that there would be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. The summary of that vision was that the UK would be removed and in that time light and colour would drain out of the European continent, but at a later stage there would be a re-connection and a corresponding shift in the continent. An obvious, and possible, interpretation to the former part was that the referendum would be a vote ‘out’. And given that this vision preceded any referendum we have given it a lot of weight. The context though that our friend said was that this next season was more about the future of Europe than of the future of the UK.

Our days were less focused on the Brexit than on where to Europe. However, it was interesting that although the dates were set months ago the context of the debate and total lack of clarity was the context for our gathering.

(Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

We met in Ashburnham Place, a most remarkable centre, given the geography of an event that shaped England with the Norman Invasion of 1066. An event that only left the city of London free – and the origins to this day of its status that allows it to be one of the ‘treasure islands’ that can defy taxation laws. Ashburnham Place as a land is also most interesting in that it was originally part of land that was apportioned by William’s conquest but had been given away freely. The sense of the land being free was tangible and gave a real leverage point.

With reference to the loss of light and colour for some time we have considered that this loss is embodied in the rise of xeno- and other phobias, the demonisation of ‘immigrants’, the rise of fascism and the like in almost all European nations. This suggests that there has to be a shift in the UK if there is to any level of re-plugging to bring about a change in Europe. Prior to meeting I would have been very negative about any such change being possible, but having been in England for these past two weeks. But I am convinced that there is a real (and maybe still hidden) shift taking place as I sensed the biggest spiritual change in England in the 10 years we have been in Spain.

Whether the Brexit is abandoned or not is not the key issue. The EU has evolved and has many flaws for sure, though with the vision of being together to avoid the horrors of war, my strong preference would be to see it reformed from the inside. The primary aspect of the future is not reversing the Brexit but for something to rise that is inclusive of the ‘alien, widow and orphan’ so that a new Europe can arise.

Rather than prolonging this post I will post again tomorrow…

A pre-Christmas post!!

This post will not have much to do with Christmas, just flagging up that I have made it well through December and hardly posted at all, but this will be in cyber space before Rudolph and his partners are in the air.

I am sure I could have posted these past days, but we have been ever so busy. Twelve days in the UK. Probably the longest stint there in these past 10 years, taking in Chester, Leicester, North London, Leatherhead (family) and Ashburnham Place. It was a really great time and I probably won’t be able to do it justice in this post.

The diversity of the body of Christ is always a joy to touch, and there is, I am sure, more to come of the diversity. In Chester I had some personal time with Andy and Sue Glover who have faithfully held in at many levels for the health of the city. I was also there (unplanned) for the last prayer breakfast before one of the key families relocated to France. An expansion of boundaries for sure.

In Leicester I was privileged to address in the morning and early afternoon church leaders, followed by an evening in a prophetically orientated Anglican church. And down in Ashburnham Gayle and I met with 20 others over 3 days to pray into the future European shape, partly in response to the ‘Brexit’.

The above is a brief ‘what’ and ‘where’. It would not be possible to recount blow by blow each place so I will rather summarise a few points below.

In the various times of coming to the UK over the past 10 years I was convinced this time that there is something ‘brewing’ in England. There is an increasing apostolic call and mantle. This will manifest in a diversities of ways. Encouragingly I was given very positive statistics of growth in London, mainly among Afro-Caribbean and Anglican churches. There is a new wave of activity there. There will also need to be a turning to society where there is an apostolic release also coming (more below). When in Chester Andy asked Sue (as I was coming silently down the stair case so that we could leave): ‘I wonder if he is ready?’ I jokingly said that was such a penetrating question! But I quickly sensed the Holy Spirit was saying that England is ready. (We will also feel unready, things not done that we should have done, and of course that is the case, but there is a real readiness in the nation.)

Before coming over I had a dream in which I went to a place where there were many good things happening including miracles. I was told of the clarity of voice and direction. However, when I looked out I saw that the people were all pretty much the same colour of skin and of ethnic background. I had to then say that God can speak through a donkey, or a white faced person, and that what was said was the word of God, but that the richness of his voice is as the sound of many waters and that until there was a reflection of the diversity of ethnicity there will never be the fullness of God’s voice. His fullness comes when the diversity means we cannot easily hear but are deeply impacted. (In Leicester I also prophesied that there was coming now an increased move of the Spirit among the Asian community.)

The second aspect was that of being called to ‘straighten the spine’ of England. I did not realise that in Leicester the discovery of King Richard’s body was confirmed by the fact that the skeleton’s spine was twisted. The spine must become straight but flexible. A strong but flexible spine will mean that the body can extend further than ever.

I will post another time to reflect a little more on our time in Ashburnham, but will simply note one element here that has been something strongly on my heart for some time. It is that God is not simply looking for forerunners for the church, but that there will be those who will open up space for true forerunners to rise up in all the areas of society. Gayle and I have come home with the increased provocation to pray for their protection. They are vulnerable. If we (believers) have some understanding of spiritual opposition we might be able to withstand some of the attacks, but for those who do not know Jesus we now sense we have a greater responsibility to stand for them. There is an apostolic (foundation laying) mantle coming for society. In the chaos of Brexit and the European scene this might not look likely, but of this I am convinced. Those with a wisdom who see a third way through the extremes, deeply practical but with vision. They are coming… and as many of them will not profess faith we can be the ones who raise a shield around them.

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Where, how and what

A historic election took place last night in the Southern comunidad of mainland Spain in Andalucia. Historic as there was the breaking of a 36 year hold by a particular party, but more historic in the level of vote a new ultra-right party received. At one level a resurgence of Francoism, using the language of, for example, ReConquista, but positioned within the rise of the popularist and nationalistic ultra-right across Europe. Two further provocative aspects for us… the entry in the South, and the birth of the new party leader in Bilbao (the north). Some 4 years ago we went the first time to Bilbao to make a declaration that from there new thinking will come forth into Spain. We left though to pray for the richness of diversity within unity.

I had an email recently from someone who in passing asked a question about the EU, stating that I was ‘for the EU’. Maybe I am… maybe I am not. It is far from perfect, and not being a fan of bureaucracy and red tape it is not too difficult to see why anyone could find one or two reasons to resist the ‘beast’ (small ‘b’ as this applies to all power bases that control). With the EU there seems to be two choices – get out for the above reasons or try to stay in and see change. Pulling back, strengthening national sovereignty and seeing the breakup of the EU is more likely, in my opinion, to further strengthen what we saw last night in Spain. And it is the future that could spring from last night that is the concern. Living in mainland Europe it is probably not surprising that I am ever hopeful if we can hang in together that there will be change, particularly as the EU, in measure, acts as a lever to weaken the sovereignty expressed in nationhood.

I am not a political animal as I have so little understanding of how it works and what really ‘left’ or ‘right’ means, but I have many concerns about what is rising. When we pull back, when we have language that seeks to exclude all others of a different opinion, parties that seek to shut the freedom of the press then there is great concern for the future. The election in Andalucia last night certainly was an earthquake and a strong sign that the past can come back around.

We live at a point in history when the unthinkable could bite. Whatever the future of the EU, whatever finally (!!) outworks with respect to the Brexit, we will continue to pull for friendship across the borders, co-operation, a weakening of sovereignty so that borders are not shut inhumanely. One has to be optimistic when we know that we have access to prayer. Prayer to go deeper – yes we will have to go deeper – and pull up roots, and to connect with imagination for the future.

An earthquake last night? Maybe. A wake up call? Certainly. A provocation? Indeed.

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Power or change?

I am not sure if the brief title is adequate but I wish to explore what our beliefs are concerning societal transformational change. The political scene across many countries and regions is changing quickly and radically. In Europe the polarisation is increasingly visible and unless bridges are built the result will be increased division, hatred and violence. What fuels this is a mixture of fear (real and fabricated), being blindly wedded to a party political ideology, and what is important for this post – a belief as to how change takes place.

I have written before of an appointment we had in a local bank. The person attending us had our account on the screen in front of us and when she saw that we had actually been donating a small amount to a particular political party she responded with obvious disapproval. We then spoke of their approach to the issue of corruption that is evidently endemic throughout the political system in Spain, to which she replied with, ‘I will tell you something that you need to understand. Corruption is here, nothing will ever change…’ A few more words to educate us, then it was obvious our time was over as she said using the nickname for the political leader, ‘Now you can leave with your…’

We did not donate the money because the party is God’s answer in the sense that we have to get them in power and all will change; we did not support them because we line up with their ideology at every point; but we did support them as they would not take money and be bought by power and had been calling for radical change particularly into the aspect of corruption. At this point of time they are the smallest of the four main parties in Spain and we watched with interest when the leader was asked a direct question a couple of nights ago as to whether they would ever be in power. The response was, from our perspective very mature. Whether they ever got into power was somewhat secondary, but that their presence and where they were currently positioned meant that they had been influential in change over a number of policies. The change taking place was not through power but through influence.

There is a very revealing text that I have oft quoted in Luke’s Gospel:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:1-3).

There is no indication in this that the Gospel is somehow non-worldly and non-political. Indeed far from it. In the context of the lock up of power, both politically and religiously there is outlined the process for change – the word of the Lord coming in the wilderness. Change not beginning in Moncloa, Number 10, Brussels, nor the White House. It was something along those lines that impressed us with this party leader’s response to the interview, where he explained about change through influence rather than through power.

The challenge at this time to the right and the left as things polarise is that both are committed to a change process which is effectively, get in power and change things top down. Maybe this is understandable for without a revelation of Jesus what alternative is there. Understandable for those without faith to take that approach, but what about those of us who are believers? Do we want power by aligning ourselves to those who have power, or are we looking for change?

John’s baptism was a preparation for a renewal of the people of God. He goes to the entry point to the land with a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We should not understand this simply as an evangelical baptism but as a baptism for a covenant people who had failed to live up to the commission of heaven. The original people had been delivered from the Imperial power of Egypt, they were walking away from those centralised power structures being shaped by the law of God. But they had over years succumbed to the same powers that they had been delivered from with the decisive shift being their demand for a Monarchy. The result was that they understood their great days through that lens but eventually had ended in submission to the power structures they had emulated, the latest Imperial structure being that of Rome. The baptism was to prepare a people to be renewed so as they could step up into the commission of being a royal priesthood for the whole earth.

I have always been blessed when I have met people who have stood in the gap for someone else or for a situation saying that their commitment was that they would hold the space ‘on their watch’. Corporately this is how I understand what it means for the body of Christ to be the salt of the earth. That salt that inhibits the growth of evil and promotes the growth of righteousness if truly present means certain things will not take place on our watch.

I view as an insult to the body of Christ that levels of corruption can exist; that cultures that blame women for how they dress is enough to justify men’s lustful behaviour. Protests against those things sometimes seem to rise up in spite of the body of Christ, but I think they also rise up as a sign that something is shifting spiritually. This is an aspect that Gayle and I take seriously. If a political party believes that change can only take place through becoming the ones in control so be it, but if we align ourselves to that conviction we will soon lose sight of, and belief in, the transforming power of the cross. We do not look for something to rise up that is perfect, but we also look to seek to be faithful during our watch. I am sure we have missed many aspects, but if Spain is to come to a place of freedom then there has to be evidence that what has been rooted in the land is unrooted and cannot take root to the same extent again.

The answers do not lie in the right nor in the left, and certainly not in either when they believe that change is through imposition. Neither will the solution take place through the agency of a church that is aligned to the same belief about the process of change, who align themselves to the person or party that will bring in some imposed form of morality, regardless of how they speak of and treat others, and meanwhile the marginalised are marginalised even more.

We live at a dangerous time, but a time of great opportunity. I do believe there is another financial crisis waiting to happen, but my main concern is for a shift to take place in the body of Christ. That we do not retreat to another cycle of conferences that strengthen (spelt ‘isolate’) who we are, but that we find a wonderful re-positioning, an alignment from having discovered true north.

Not called to have power over… but through a commitment and alignment to the cross to have such an influence, even if invisible, that visible change takes place. Dangerous times but times of such opportunity. Not a time to quickly align with the rising extremes but to the process of change that begins in the wilderness. I suspect when that day reveals all we will discover that the changes took place not through those who held power (though there is an accountability for them) but through the unknowns who had been faithful. We will discover that it was on their watch that change took place.

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Can we see in colour?

I have referred to an open vision that someone sent us – along with others – many, many months before the UK referendum on EU membership. In it she saw, and no one was even close to predicting this at the time, that a hand would come and withdraw the UK from the map of Europe. The result was that light and colour drained out of Europe, she saw it going down something like a hole in the south of France. We did endeavour, with those she sent the vision to, to close the hole by travelling there some two years ago.

I appreciate that for those within the UK there is divided opinion on the merits of the (less than perfect!) EU. I voted to remain as an embracing of the continent has always seemed very important to me spiritually – and of course one could vote ‘leave’ and still hold the importance of being together relationally. I also voted that way as I see NO reason from Scripture to suggest the evil beast of Europe – if only it was that easy!! The beast is a lot more subtle and more widespread than anything Brussels could ever compete with. Anyway enough of that and back to the vision…

In these past weeks I have been thinking about what a draining of colour would mean, and realised that colour is diversity. In the diversity of the light spectrum came the promise of God’s commitment to the world. In the diversity of the oft-four times repeated (and varied) phrase in Revelation: ‘every tongue, tribe, peoples and nation’ we find that God is glorified.

The history books that will be written of this period of time will I suspect reflect on a battle for the future of Europe and its identity. Either the future could be more diverse (with the wonderful challenges presented by that) or there could be a shutting down and an exclusion of what looks different. Colour or monochrome?

I think it is very rare that God says, close the door!! It seems he usually says open the door and make room. To do so necessitates that we come out from under the fear narrative. Many in Germany have done just that and we hear wonderful reports of those who have fled there, with no faith or with faith in a God other than the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus, who have come to faith. It would not be the first time in history that God has revealed himself to those fleeing imperial power.

While reflecting on the vision it becomes apparent that the response of the UK is very important. More important than a referendum on the EU, important as that was and is proving to be, is the willingness to embrace at a deep level diversity. Easier said than done, but an open heart to travelling unknown paths is a starting point.

It is interesting living life in a land that is not one’s birth land. I cannot claim to understand being an immigrant – I am probably a hypocritical one. (Hypocrite was ‘actor’ in Greek.) Gayle and I have privileges. we can live here legitimately. We are not in fear of someone banging on the door and we are deported – and even if we were we are not being sent back to a dangerous situation. We refuse to live as ‘ex-pats’. We are immigrants. I was told by one of my more honest neighbours recently – so you have lived here 10 years and your Spanish is a disgrace (OUCH!). We are immigrants, but only slightly on the outside. I guess all we can do is continue at the hypocritical (acting) level and maybe we will so get into the character that we become more genuine. We can only give what we have and what our situation allows us. That is our very small contribution into the plea for colour to be present in Europe.

Our contribution is small – all our contributions are small, but maybe in the context of the future of Europe those living in the UK might just have a big say. Bring on the colour!!

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Can we hold the space?

The European project that has been a gift to create peace among nations is under great threat. That project, with such Christian people as Robert Schuman (1886-1963) at the foundation, has been criticised as it developed into the EU. Certainly far from perfect, but if any demise will lead to a pulling back into self-protective borders, we might be regretting the jettisoning of the imperfect. I do not simply refer to the Brexit, but to the responses and tensions within the EU over how the humanitarian crisis is faced. And of course this is not just a European issue but one that is affecting the USA very acutely also.

I live as a privileged immigrant. We have food, we have legal, if not full status. Yet we have come not too different to many other immigrants who are arriving for external reasons. They are forced to come and many wish to make a contribution to the land. We are not here for external reasons, but by inner conviction and seek to make a contribution to the land. We pay our taxes here, and as a result pay significantly more than if we remained registered in the UK. Many come here as privileged immigrants, do not pay taxes and call themselves ex-pats. Those who act in that way are not under any great threat of expulsion from Spain or another similar country. They are, after all, only doing at a personal level what major institutions do at the global level. Finances and power give them the right to live / exploit where they want and when. We do not want that right, and many cast adrift on the Mediterranean of course do not come with finances or power… but if given the opportunity would make a home in the European lands and seek to make a contribution.

The EU is more likely to collapse as a result of the shutting up of borders to the outsider than it is simply post-Brexit. A number of years ago, long before the Brexit we were sent an open vision someone had while praying. She saw that a hand came and took the UK out of a European map. Then colour and light drained out of Europe. This was long before the Brexit and at a time when there was no-one predicting that the referendum would go the ‘leave’ route. We held it as the track record of the person is exceptionally high and noted that she said the Brexit referendum would be about the future of Europe. A number of us have travelled to the place where the colour and light disappeared in the hope that we could sow into the future. There was a second part of the vision also.

While in Prague we were told that most of the Eastern European countries are looking to tighten their borders. We were told this by believers who did not seem to see this as an issue. However, it is not just Eastern Europeans. There are very real issues that Italy and Greece face as most immigrants arrive in those lands and it is easy to criticise their actions of turning away mercy ships. If they turn away ships and other European nations turn away we have a problem.

We are grateful that Spain (Valencia) welcomed the Aquarius (and two other ships) with 600+ rescued from the Mediterranean. Grateful that into a port that brutally shipped Spanish born Muslims in the 1600s it now welcomed some 400 years later others in return. This we have prayed for, ending in Gibraltar last year, and curiously the ship arrived under a Gibraltar flag!

There are very real issues being faced in the so-called developed West over immigration. However, we have contributed to the problem over decades. The supply of arms to these nations where the conflicts exist have meant countless thousands have been made homeless and lives put at risk is down to us. The wealth we have accumulated at the Southern hemisphere’s expense has likewise driven people this way. (And when in Prague, an ex-communist city, it was easy to see that there is no difference between capitalism in its dominant neo-liberal expression or communism. Both are servants of the evil of bio-power. Human resources are their fodder.)

We are not politicians, and they certainly need prayer for wisdom as to how to move forward as so much is at stake. We are not politicians but the Gospel does not allow us to think of the message of Jesus as non-political. We, as the body of Christ, and therefore some individuals within that body will have to step up, have to somehow hold open the space for the future. And in holding the space begin to speak some content into that. God created through holding space (to counter the ‘without form’) and then filled that space (to counter the ‘and empty’). We likewise have to hold space and this is vital at a time when there is the desire to collapse borders. The shape of the EU is not the issue but living as family across Europe is. The Pauline Gospel seems to drive us that way. Living in the one-world government era his one passion was to get to the extent of the borders. The Jews in Exile had a great opportunity to live out life in the imperial world of Babylon – but they hankered for the land and created the synagogue!

Can we hold the space? The lands are changing, and need to change. We have utterly failed in our stewardship of the lands, failing to be a resource to the rest of the world. We can only anticipate that there will be wholesale shifts of population. Can we hold the space for the new? This is not a time to allow small borders to shape the future. And in holding it can we begin to prophesy what will fill that space?

I hope, as a Brit, that the Brexit did not sow something into Europe of closing borders that is now being replicated in other nations. Maybe the Brexit had little to do with political shape and more to do with how open we will be to the other. If so something must begin in the body of Christ as we are called to be the salt of the earth. We will have to step up to hold back the pollution that rises so easily.

We can do so little. Gayle and I can live here as immigrants, love the land, refuse to live with a border mentality. We can begin there in response, but we know that will not in itself be enough. There will be more we will have to do, but we must start with what is in our hands.

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Where will this path lead?

Stephen Bullivant, St Mary’s University in London has authored a report on the state of Christianity in Europe with a focus on those aged 16-29. It seems hard to argue that the future does not look so good. (Article based on this report can be read at The Guardian.) Here is a sample o the findings.

Those between 16-29 who identify as having no religion:
Czech Republic 90%
UK 70%
Spain 55%
Poland 17%

Those who never attend a religious service:
Czech Republic 70%
Spain 60%
UK 59%
Poland 12%

Those who never pray outside of a service:
Czech Republic 80%
Spain 64%
UK 63%
Poland 19%

In Europe among that age group the Czech Republic was the least religious and Poland the most. The UK and Spain featuring high on the non-religious spectrum. According to Bullivant, many young Europeans

will have been baptised and then never darken the door of a church again. Cultural religious identities just aren’t being passed on from parents to children. It just washes straight off them.

the Muslim birthrate is higher than the general population, and they have much higher [religious] retention rates.

In 20 or 30 years’ time, mainstream churches will be smaller, but the few people left will be highly committed.

Not a rosy picture and one that is sobering. Post-Christendom for sure, but these figures point to something more than simply the demise of the Christendom paradigm. Ancient Rome was of course a challenge to the Gospel’s progress so we should not lose heart, though the level of religious affiliation within that Imperial setting would have been so much higher. (I guess there could also be statistics produced that counter-balance a little the non-religious aspect indicating a percentage involved in spirituality.)

I am not dismayed by the post-Christendom era that has been present for a while and is increasingly the reality. We might not be alarmed if we simply suggest that the Christianity that younger people give no affiliation to is purely institutional and not a reflection of personal faith in Jesus. However, the vacuum that is being let will be filled,and dark controlling powers relish such a situation.

The task is clear. As much as I am an advocate of making the shifts, such as witness rather than evangelise, or seeing fulfilments of the prophetic in liberation, pro-humanity movements, etc., the presence of those with faith, who know the Lord is so necessary. The secular context maybe means we do not need to compete with other religious views and it does present the opportunity for a presentation of Jesus without baggage, but the report clearly says the future will not be an easy one.

If ever there was a time and a context for ‘the multiplicity of the small, and the diversity of expression’ the report indicates this. What an opportunity in Europe! Not the time to import something. The Gospel is in that third phase. From Jerusalem to the Gentile world, embedded in Europe, from there clothed in Imperialism to the ends of the earth. Now there is a return. But the return cannot be back again with the same clothing. Hence something has to be recovered from within, while not ignoring the help coming from the ends of the earth. Back to Jerusalem too, not with a Zionist push (for in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek) but to enable the reconciling Presence of Jesus to show in that very contentious place there is only one humanity.

The statistics are challenging. The focus remains the same. False hope will disappoint. Hope that remains and even grows among a grass roots movement though? That is what makes Europe an exciting place to live.

An end of an era is signalled in those statistics… The beginning of a new era beckons.

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Europe’s opportunity

Yanis Varoufakis writing at SocialEurope.eu makes some insightful points and worth a ponder. He suggests:

The duty of progressive Europeans is to reject both: the deep establishment at the EU level and the competing nationalisms ravaging solidarity and common sense in member states like Spain.

The Catalonia crisis is a strong hint from history that Europe needs to develop a new type of sovereignty, one that strengthens cities and regions, dissolves national particularism, and upholds democratic norms.

in the article he also highlights the approach of Ada Colau in Barcelona, who is pushing for a redemptive way through the current lock up. As mayoress of Barcelona her administration had created excellent housing for 15,000 refugees only to find that central government barred entry to the refugees. It is always amazing what is termed illegal by those in control (referendum = illegal; banning refugees that Spain was mandated to accommodate by the EU is not illegal?).

It is naive to think that anyone – Colau or whoever, or proposals of a new approach – by Varoufakis or whoever, will produce heaven on earth – as if!! But when we understand that the body of Christ is to open space so that it can be occupied by those who will create shapes for convivencia there are exciting possibilities that open up. This I believe is one of the central thrusts for this time, and is part of the recovery of the radical social outworking to the Pauline gospel.

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