After all this away time I have a storm of ideas now going on in my head about what I could write now... lots of things have been going on for a while and as I'v wondered whether or not to give up blogging altogether something has kept me from deleting New Kid and perhaps I've just needed to marshall my resources and begin anew. I am on limited access for the next week or so, as well as using a laptop which is not good at holding it's charge, so this is more of a 'shot across the bows' than the full steam ahead of blogging I am hoping to get back to soon!
So, how are you all? Keeping well, I trust. Sorry it's been awhile, but the joys of microblogging (www.twitter.com/revdal) and Social Networking - ie Facebook have kept my interest and online engagement going over the past months. But I do think that there is a place for some longer engagments with the wide world beyond the real life interactions which fill so much of my time.
I still write my weekly thought for the local paper, and review sporadically at www.crossrhythms.co.uk, life in the Mission Community keeps me engaged, busy and sometimes stressed and there's lots going on in and around the Diocese that I like being a part of. I am feeling drawn to some deeper reflection and perhaps even to some more substantial writing too.... watch this space....
At this moment I am on a French Campsite called Le Pas Opton which is run by the Christian organisation called Spring Harvest, which is part of the inspiration for writing again. The programme on this holiday includes 'Bible Studies' - which like many Christian Conferences are less Bible Study than someone standing up and telling you what they think, though to be fair the format and numbers attending don't really allow for a full and interactive engagement with the group or the context or the Scriptures themselves. Anyway, this morning's study had me thinking hard about not just the subject (Grace), but the method of teaching, the way that the Church, particularly the evangelical end of the Church is engaging or not with issues of 'Grace' and 'judgement', and whether or not there might be some signs of institutional or at least collective maturity in the evangelical world as attitudes change from a negative to a positive view of God and God's interaction with t he world!
This may seem a bit obscure until I make more of the statements above and give some contexts, but if you have been good enough to drop by please hang on - it may take a few days, or a week or two, but I will explain as much as I can now and more later.
The wonderful, longed for, rarely expressed statement that came from this morning's session was "we need to start with Grace, not judgement, when we share and live the Gospel". Now, for many of you reasonable, faithful, switched on folk out there this is no revelation at all - but in some parts of the church this is such a sea change as to cause tears to spring to my eyes. For so many years, and still now in the realms of John Piper and Mark Driscoll and the like, there is such an overwhelmingly heavy stress on sin and sinfulness - a constant desire to tell people how wrong they are and how deserving of judgement they are. It can be seen in the religious right wing in the Northern Parts of America, in Europe and the UK - and in some of the growing churches of the two-thirds world as well. The emphasis is on sin and judgement and God's response of salvation, rather than God's prevenient grace, God's love that comes before, after and even during our sinfulness and anything we may or may not do which is against the will of God for us. It's often tied up with a certain kind of conservative moralising which says much much about what we in the UK might call middle-class or 'victorian' values than any hint of what may be present in the Bible or any of what Jesus said.
Of course, this is where much of the furore around Rob Bell's 'Love Wins' comes from. A desperate need for some Christians to feel able to say 'we're in - they're out, and God has to punish those people for not being like us'. This all gets tied up with politics, religious observance, morality and a certain sense of superiority from many who call themselves Christians.
So to hear a speaker say 'God's grace and love comes first' from a platform at a conservative evangelical conference/campsite was and is a joy. And hopefully a sign that the Churchh is starting to grow up.... but more of what that means another time.
It's been fun. Laters :-)