Movement 107


the magazine of the student christian movement I issue 107 | winter ?OOO/OL




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The bi-monthly magazine of the Sea of

Faith Network "explores and promotes

religious faith as a human creation".

It's the most talked about magazine on

the radical religious circuit, offering a

rational, radical, imaginative and

creative apProach to Christian or

religious commitment, without dogma

or outworn suPernaturalism.

You can subscribe for iust f12 ayear (six issues). Cheques payable to SOF, to Hobsons

Farm, Dent, Cumbria LA1O 5RF.

And we'll refund your subscription if you don't like what you get!

Not everyone can have

Pete Postlethwaite's

cheekbones and

Yoda's ears... BUT ANYONE









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Send a cheque Jot E5 (inc p&p) to SCM'

University of Birmingham Westhill, 14l16 Weoley

Park Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham' s29 6LL



Other resource books on community, death, a new

look at Jesus, sexualiQr, Christian Fundamentalism

also available'


Conflict resolution


huge and controversial subject. So why

should I want to tackle it at all?

It's been haunting me both because of a book I

read recently and a weekend conference I attended.

And I wanted - maybe needed - to bring these two

parts of myself together on paper, and speak to

others who identify themselves as gay, Christian or

both. Perhaps I have an agenda - that's for you to

decide; maybe I am angry; I know that I hurt.

ln November I attended a weekend retreat, with an

organisation called 'Changing Attitude', who work

towards the affirmation of homosexuals within the

Anglican church. We were a small group but diverse

in terms of spirituality and orientation. Some people

had faced verbal and emotional abuse. Most had

experienced rejection or, at best, misunderstanding.

Others had found immense support. Some wanted

to know how to broach the subject in their church

communities and build up understanding and

tolerance. We all wanted to learn.

Diversity should surely be celebrated, coupled with

respect where where there is difference. But the

events at the 1998 Lambeth Conference made my

blood run cold. There American bishops stated that

rejection of homosexuals would be evangelistic

suicide, Pakistani bishops declared that acceptance

was evangelistic suicide. Cultural context, it is clear,

has as great a bearing on theological thinking as it

did in the time of Paul or the Old Testament. An

African bishop attempted to exorcise the General

Secretary of Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. lf

our leaders are unable to show respect for one

another what example does that leave us?

Much has happened since Lambeth, not least the

publication of Bishop Michael Doe's book, Seeking

the Truth in Love, which tries to explore issues of

sexuality in a balanced way, in the context of the

Anglican church.

As a Christian I know the official line (incompatible

with scripture, but it happens), the unofficial line

(don't ask, don't tell), the stories of suppressed

feelings and hidden truths. I have heard about

immense warmth and cold rejection.

As a homosexual, I have spoken to other gay

students: it comes as a surprise to many that being

simultaneously gay and Christian can work. One

student said: "The church is totally against homosexuals,

isn't it?". That is the official line, and one that is

heard; I tried to explain that it's not the whole story.

He was amazed and probably not convinced. Another

referred me to two websites: 'www.godhatesfags' and

'www.godlovesfags'. This, I think, speaks for itself.

The subject is still under discussion - it is not

resolved, it may never be.

ln this debate someone must always take the initial

risk. lt means talking about my sexuality to other

Christians, about my faith to other homosexuals. Can

I ask? Can you listen?

I believe that sexuality and spirituality are linked at

the deepest point of our physical and emotional

existence, at the root of our humanity.

We were made in the image of God - we were made

to be companions, to love one another, and to love

God. And, as a friend recently said to me, one of the

easiest and surest ways to tell whether something

was a gift from God, was if it gave a deep sense of joy.

We all have a sexuality and a spirituality. Why must

we leave bits of ourselves to one side because they

are perceived as awkward, inconvenient, and - dare I

say it - wrong? lf I'm able to bring my whole self

before God - which please God, I can and do - why

should other people judge me for being the person

God made me?


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. Frances Davison is a LayAssistant

at the University of West England in


issue 107 | winter 2OOO/O| _


movement l3


ljy $

Faith in

the flesh

OVER FORTY PEOPLE attended SCM's national

conference in Leicester from November 24-26. The

theme was Fleshing Out Faith, echoing the recent

resource book on bodies and spirituality. There were

two strands - how comfortable do we feel with our

bodies? and what does it mean to be part of the

body of Christ?

The Friday night brought a welcome meal

after a long journey, followed by 'getting to know

you' games and a visit to the pub. The main

part of the conference was a packed Saturday

with three excellent speakers and a choice of

workshops in the afternoon.

Dave Tomlinson, author of The Post-

Evangelical, described his experience of moving

beyond a house church to a discussion group that

meets in a pub, and eventually and to his

bemusement, to ordination. He said that there was

at no time that SCM was needed more - not simply to

challenge fundamentalism, but to put forward new

and creative ways of exploring faith. He gave an

insight into his forthcoming book A Second /nnocence

- he argues that we need the rigours of a critical

approach to reading the Bible, but we must not let this

lead to an arid and constrictive form of belief.

The second speaker Dr Helen Thorne discussed

the pain of women, who are systematically excluded

from the body of Christ. She has carried out a

survey of the first cohort of women to be

ordained in to the Church of England and

discovered they were expected to be both

vicar and vicar's wife; there was no

evidence (as yet) of female priests finding

. their way into senior positions. She also

dismissed the view that woman's ordination

is wrong because it threatens the tentative

unity between the three main confessions - Catholic,

Anglican, Orthodox. "This is too high a price," she

said, "it values unity over integrity".

Pat Madden, from Churches Together, offered a

more conciliatory approach. She described

ecumenism as a journey up a mountain - we have

started the journey but are resting at a stream at the

bottom, enjoying each other company, Which is all

well and good, but it won't get us to the top.

ln the afternoon there was a choice of workshops

on sexuality (what influences our thinking about

relationships?), disability (imagine the world as if you

are blind - are you disabled or does the world disable

you?), massage (a chance to get blissed out and a

great skill to take home), and negotiating the moral

minefield of biqethics.

On Saturday evening there was a disco in the small

but perfectly-formed Chaplaincy centre. lt was a

chance to get bodily after a day of much stimulating

brain work.

On Sunday Justin Moulder (a member of the

Baptist-Methodist church where we were based and a

conference participant) gave a sermon on the

tensions between liberal and conservative ways of

thinking. He compared Christianity and cooking -

some people tend to follow recipes to the letter,

others prefer to experiment and take risks. He pointed

out that liberals can easily become judgmental and

superior. The authority of Delia Smith is a good

starting point but there is more to food/ faith.

A special thanks to all those who made it run so

smoothly - especially to Christchurch Clarendon Park

for their kindness, Yvonne for her excellent cooking

and SCM staff and the planning group for running

around behind the scenes.



Give me my language back New directions

Movement would not be the same if there wasn't news of

Here's a letter from John Earwaker, a minister ln Sheffield, expressing a

sentiment that will resound with many readers.

I very much appreciated Mark Depew's thoughtful discussion of political

conectness (' Li ngu istica I ly Cha llenged', M oveme nt 7O6j.

I thought I had impeccable liberal credentials (l've been involved with

SCM since the 1950s) but after a recent sermon I was gently taken aside

and reminded that my use of the world black was was potentially offensive.

"Oh gosh, sorry!" lsaid, before I had time to think - even adding, "Thank

you for drawing it to my attention.' Then I went home and looked again at

my script.

At first I was mystified, then annoyed. I realised what I should have said:

"No, you idiot, I wasn't talking about 'black' as in darkskinned but the

blackness you get when the light goes outl"

So that's all right then. Except that I went on to read John Hull's piece in

the same issue criticising Jesus for referring to "blind guides", thereby

causing offence to John and all other sightless people. Oh dear. Now I've

got to apologize all again, have l? Jesus and me, both?

I'm now totally 'in the dark' on this and sinking into 'black' despair.

Please can I have my language back?

Yours sincerely,

John Earwaker.

Foraging for food

From a piece written by Ellie Mensingh, SCM's

national coordinator, for a Churches Together

in England publication:

SCM has jokingly sometimes been referred

to as 'The Slightly Christian Movement' by

those who maybe think that the spiritual

element of the Movement has, at times, been

somewhat neglectedl Maintaining a balance

between social justice issues and the spiritual

growth of our members is an ongoing concern

within SCM circles.

SCM seeks to provide spiritual

nourishment for Christian students in several

ways. 0ur publications examine often

controversial and difficult contemporary

issues, such as Clause 28, images of Christ or

disability. We hope to challenge people to

wrestle with the bigquestions (whether that is

a comfortable experience or not) and to

debate them in an environment in which all

opinions are respected, rather than ignoring

complex issues or brushing them safely under

the carpet.

As well as publications, SCM organises

events which bringtogetherstudentsfrom

parts of the country and from different

denominations. These weekends offer a rare

0pportunity for Anglican, Catholic and Free

Church students to spend a weekend


exploring together a theme, and, just as

importantly, to spend time chatting with each

other, exchanging opinions and ideas, and

making new friendships with people they

might not otherwise mix with. Recent

conferences have been on themes such as the

Beatitudes and the Taize Community. People

usually leave these events feeling inspired

and, somehow, more deeply connected with

the wider Christian student community.

Worship is an important part of these

gatherings and is often led by the students

themselves. Planning the worship for

ecumenical meetings presents a real

challenge if we are trying to appeal to and

include everyone and offend no one. However,

when it works well, people seem to be aware

that they have been part of something special

and even if it is just for a brief moment, the

barriers seem to fade away.

It is encouraging to see that most SCM

groups now include some time for worship

even if the rest of the meeting is spent

debating an issue. There seems to be a

general consensus within SCM that our

commitment to social justice ought to be

bound up with the nurturing of our spiritual

lives, if there is to be any integrity to what we

are doing.


staff changes! lt doesn't seem that long since we were

welcoming Mark Depew to the fundraiser post, but he will

be moving to pastures new after Christmas. Mark has

recently accepted a post in community development in

Birmingham. He has been actively involved in community

regeneration work in a voluntary capacity, but now has

decided that this is the area he wants to which he wants to

commit his energies. He is keen to continue supporting

SCM; we will be looking at how he can do this. We wish Mark

all the best for his future work.

Staff and General Council are cunently discussing staffjob

descriptions. We will soon be recruiting a third person to

replace Mark but, depending on the results of the

discussions, it might not be a fundraising post.

...and structures

As well as job descriptions, SCM's overall structure is also

under review. The existing relationship between staff,

General Council and Trustees baffles everyone, including

the Charity Commission. At present, the Trust deals with all

financial matters and GC oversee all other aspects of the

work - recruitment, staff appraisals, SCM's programme of

events and overall direction.

Staff, GC and members of the Trust will be meeting with a

representative of the Charity Commission on January 11

2001. This meeting should enable us t0 see what the

options are and to determine the best way forward.

No decisions can be made without holding an EGM. We will

be sending out invites out for the EGM soon after the

January meeting and we hope that as many of you as

possible will be able to attend.

Training together


30 March- 1April2001

You will see from the diary that SCM and CSC are

organising an additional training event at the end of

March 2001. This event has proved very popular so we

are holding an extra one at the time that many groups

elect new executive members to carry 0n next yeafs


This weekend will not be a repeat of the September

event but will focus on team-building and group

dynamics - themes that should be invaluable to new


movement l5




WHO REALLY CARES about student debt?

Evidently 17,000 students did enough to

turn out for the biggest march in London for

ten years on November 15. They were sup

porting the NUS's demands for an end to tuition

fees and the reinstatement of targeted grants.

Sizable, government-approved debts are part of

student life in a way that was unthinkable a generation

ago. Nowadays the average debt is t6,608 -

collectively students are !1.3bn in debt.

Once you've crossed that barrier - plunged into

that overdraft you never thought you'd need; dug out

the birth certificate for the loan interview; renewed

the request unthinkingly a year on - the numbers

don't really matter. lt doesn't seem to make much difference

whether it is t1,O0O of debt or 110,000,

you're not going to pay it off while you're a student.

And that principle was conceded long ago. The only

question now is: how much debt is acceptable? And

when, realistically, are students going to pay it back?

The knock-on effect of abolishing the grant is clear.

At the march NUS President Owain James said: "ln

2001 the first b6tch of students who have funded

themselves entirely through student loans will

graduate. The deep-seated concern they feel is

directly reflected in the high numbers coming down

from all over the country for the march.

"NUS welcomes the government-led debate on

widening access following on from the Laura Spence

case but if the government really wants to widen

aciess they should abolish tuition fees, oppose topup

fees and reintroduce targeted grants.

"Black students and students from low income

families are far less likely to enter hi$her education if

they are liable to get into significant debt. Numbers of

students from within these groups have fallen as a

direct result of the imposition of tuition fees."

But plovernment ministers have twisted and turned

to deny this link. As the Guardian put it: "Since

scrapping fees two years ago, English ministers have

claimed that the main factors affecting university

enrolments are the attitudes, values and expectations

of students from poorer backgrounds, not the

increasing costs of degree courses."


i !I

Pundits are confidently talking about a Spring

2001 election and, although inequality or university

funding are not the kinds of issues that decide

elections, the uneasy coalition between the Lib Dems

and Labour in Scotland shows what a pivotal policy it

can become.

Currently, and controversially, Scottish students

attending Scottish universities do not have to pay

fees. Most other UK students are paying at least

t1,050 in tuition fees (subject to means testing). But

the Northern lrish and Welsh assemblies do have the

powers to introduce their own support packages and

inay deviate f rom Westm i n ister's recom men dations.

Labour will, of course, claim that education

budgets are higher than ever - which is true, if only

part of the picture. The cost of education for the

student has been escalating whilst the unit cost per

student (that is, the amount the university actually

spends on you - a crude measure of the quality of

education) declined 4.6o/o from 1996 to 2OOO.

The Iimes Higher Educational Supplement has

spotted some other financial jiggery-pokery going on.

On November 17 David Blunkett announced an extra

L978m for higher education over the next three years.

Firstly, there is the old New Labour trick of reannouncing

money (.t295m of this was announced in

1998) and secondly, the figure only makes sense if

private tuition fees, paid by parents and students, are

counted as public investment in higher education.

There are of course advantages to fees. ln

principle it means that universities must spell out

their responsibility to students - and students can

hold them to account. lmprovements in computer

facilities and libraries are measurable. But teaching -

the real nub of the university experience - is less

easily quantified and teaching is relegated as

academics come under increasing pressure to

publish research to justify their existence.

The NUS's current campaign is not about

grasping for more beer money, it is a principled

response to the current situation:

the introduction of fees and the

reduction of student support has

narrowed access to education. The

Scottish model is the most generous

and most equitable - however,

whether these principles still lie close to

the Labour Party's heart remains to be


(Tim Woodcock)


6 | movement


VOX POPS: How did you fund

you rself th rough u n iversity?

I'm not in debt. I have nice parents who could afford to supp0rt me -

also I played in a ceilidh band every week which gave me some extra


There are people who just don't have enough money to start with.

Caroline, 23, Edinburgh/ Essex,

I've taken out the student /o an for f.6000 - f,7000 per term for tv'/o

years. I knew there was no other way I could afford it. lls the only


I'll have to pay back for my education as soon as I get a job.

Mark, 79, Warwick.

I have sponsorship - f1500 from the BBC. They wanted women and

they wanted engineers!

When I started grants were still in tact and the LEA funded my

course. I usually worked over the summer.

Anita, Leicester


to eack,n the punters


is to have a


big name spea ker. The

run scared or ,pp,or.ffi fhT:#'j;H:X:t *' *eks notice. ar, ion't

regularSCM discussion



rhe bigger the name, th-e earrieryou shourd approach him/her. rf you arready


way through life, dont


principle, but Frn hel,ish busy,, is a good sturt, iuri****berto f.ll'w it up three

know the,inviree' rhar, 0f course, h*lp. - ;;;;ffi:::

months down the line.

0n a regutarweek-ts-week basis want a reriabre and interestingspeakers.

a university-based discussion


group good o;;; rikefy to be acilvists and

academics' Activists can be rurec with irr- p;;;;

a free rnear and a captive

When I was studying I was working almost full time (28 hours a

week). I was a sporTs coach, but thafs not something the majority of

people can get in to.

Rachel, Salford

I had to pay for my student degree by working in the summer. I was

f8000 in debt but I managed to pay it off. I'm n0t in debt n0w.

As a PhD student I have funding - those who don't, can't do a PhD.

David, 27, Sussex

audience. They are good at inspiring. fii. i* a downside: hardened

' campaigners can make a whote group lelt guifiy an;inaaequate for not having

been arested as many times as them. Snitctr on this type to the police.

Academics are curious beasts. someone w;ffi;;rJ*

ur"r,, orr*

may, when faced with an audience, mumble obscute jargon int0 their

moustache. This is even more worrvind nr"- ^_^,.--l

Themost*o-*,,;;;;]';f ;11ffi',::"Tnil,il::_upanorino

out what topics peopre want to expfore. There are *rir-rnuou *orkshops from

I didn't expect I would need a Ioan. But un/ess you never go out (and

spend your life studying in unheated rooms, eating only Safeway

Savers food) it cadt be done.

My parents helped me out - but by the time yodre at university you

want to be able to stand up on your own tvvo feet.

It will be a while until I'm earning enough to pay it back.

Richard,25, Newcast/e

the tikes of SCM, christian Aid and tcsc. ,";;;;;;;;;k if anyone in the group

fancies teading a discussion. yo, might fird ,rt;;;;e b'ring one, who you

neyertalk to, leads a rnysterious double life.

12-14 January

Christians Aware Annual Conference

2 March

Women's World Day of Prayer

St Lukes Church and the Warehouse, London

For more info see

Narrowing the Gap Between the Rich World

or e-mail



and the Poor World

All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney

For more info, tel: 0116 254 0770 or e-mail

barbara.butle@ch k

18-25 January

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

2-4 March

Ecumenical Youth Forum

Cloverley Hall, Shropshire

An agenda-less ecumenical space for folk to

meet each other and chat. There will be a

series of interactive zones which all

participants will be free to explore at leisure.

A weekend for anyone aged 16-25 to discuss

11-15 April

Live the Holy Week Liturgies

Celebrate Easter together with others 0n a

lively community retreat or in the quiet of an

individually guided retreat at Jesuit

Spirituality Centre in Rainhill, Merseyside.

See http// or phone

28 Januaty

and debate, sing, pray and be silent, take

0151 426 4137.

Homelessness Sunday

For resource pack contact CHAS, 209 Old

Marylebone Road, London NW1 gQl

Iel:020 77237273 n.htm


WSCF-Europe consultation on responses to

sexual harassment in Berlin. Details to be

action and eat.

Contact k

Iel: O2O-7332 8230


Training Event for students

organised by SCM and CSC

Cambridgeshire. Details to be confirmed.

Contact uk

20-22 April

LGCM Annual Conference

25th annual conference of Lesbian and Gay

Christian Movement at University of

Swansea. Theme to be announced. Phone

020 7739 1249 for more details.

20-22 Aptil

conf itmed.


13-14 February

Staff and GC to represent ScM at the Bodies

in Association to churches Together in

England Gathering

13 - 15 April

The Critical Mass

An Easter festival of urban art and faith,

including music, comedy, theatre,

installati0ns, experimental worship,

workshops, discussions...

Greenbelt Angels Weekend

"A weekend where the festival's planners

swap ideas with you and where the flavour of

Greenbelt is captured with talks, entertainment,

workshops, a kids' cabaret, and night

prayers." Swanwick, Derbyshire.

See for more info.

movement | 7

christian zionism

The broken promise land

Stephen Sizer is conce rned at Chrisf ian supportfor Zianism

and its effect on the West's approach ta the lvliddle Eastern crisis.


courtyard of the Al Aqsa Mosque along with

over a thousand armed lsraeli soldiers

wiped out any hope of a peace a$reement

between Jews and Palestinians.

It also ignited not only a renewed Palestinian

lntifada but also a revival in Christian Zionist support

for lsrael.

Christian Zionism is simply 'Christian support for

Zionism.' Walter Riggans defines the term 'Christian

Zionist' in an overtly political sense as:

any Christian who supports the Zionist aim of the

sovereign State of /srael, its army, government,

education etc; but it can describe a Christian who

claims to support the State of lsrael for any

reason. (lsrael and Zonism)

ln 1975, the United Nations General Assembly

condemned the ethnic exclusivism of Zionism as 'a

form of racism and racial discrimination.' Contemporary

Christian Zionism is in part a reaction to

increasing world-wide criticism of lsraeli apartheid'

For example, in 1962 followingthe passing of UN Resolulion

242 condemning lsrael's occupation of the

West Bank, the international community closed their

embassies in Jerusalem, the lnternational Christian

Embassy (lCU) moved to Jerusalem expressly to show

solidarity with lsrael.

Christian Zionists see themselves as apologists for

the Jewish people, and in particular, the State of

lsrael. This support involves opposing those deemed

to be critical of lsrael. Hal Lindsey, for example,

accuses those who oppose Zionism of anti-Semitism

and making "the same error that founded the legacy

of contempt for the Jews and ultimately led to the

Holocaust of Nazi Germany."

Similarly, Tony Higton, General Secretary of the

Churches Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ)


It is so politically correct in many church circ,es to

condemn lsrae/?as the recent ritual condemnation

from Christian Aid illustrates) that to make

balanced comments about her brings accusations

of being a right-wing, fundamentalist, Zonist.

ln Der Judenstaat, published in 1896' Theodor

Herzl forcefully articulated the aspirations of Jewish

Zionists for their own homeland, but the Zionist

dream was largely nurtured and shaped by Christian

Zionists long before it was able to inspire widespread

Jewish support a century later. This was in part a

result of the rise of Dispensationalism, the growth in

travel to the Holy Land, and above all because French

and British colonial strategic interests saw control of

the Middle East as essential for maintainin$ their

trade routes to lndia and China. British politicians like

Lord Shaftesbury, Palmerston, Lloyd George, Balfour'

T.E. Lawrence and General Allenby were all Christian



Christian Zionism arose as a movement in the

1820s principally through the endeavours of J.N.

Darby, the founder of the Brethren, Lewis Way and

Edward lrving. lnfluential Christian leaders, meeting

at Albury in the home of Henry Drummond, began to

speculate that promises made in the Hebrew scrip

tures which had not been yet fulfilled literally must

therefore await future fulfilment' The borders of the

land promised to Abraham from the Nile to the

For many Christian Zionists the two nations

of America and lsrael are seen as Siamese twins,

linked not only by common self interest

but more significantly by similar religious foundations.

Euphrates must become the future borders of the

State of lsrael. Because the Jewish temple described

by Ezekiel has never been built, it must one day

replace the Moslem Dome of the Rock' Promises

made during the Babylonian exile of a return are

similarly made to apply 2500 years later to the emigration

of Soviet Jews todaY.

lnstead of recognising how Jesus and the Apostles

interpreted the Old Testament, it is made to speak

about present and future events almost as if the New

Testament were never written. Under the Old

Covenant, revelation from God came often in shadow,

image, form and prophecy. ln the New Covenant that

revelation finds its consummation in reality'

substance and fulfilment in Jesus Christ (see

Hebrews L:t-4, 8:L3,10:1). The question is therefore

not whether the promises of the covenant are to be

understood literally or spiritually as Christian Zionists

like to stress. lt is, instead, a question of whether they

should be understood in terms of Old Covenant

shadow or in terms of New Covenant reality. This is

the most basic hermeneutical error which Christian

Zionists consistently rePeat.

Christian Zionists fail to recognise that in the Bible'

'chosenness' progressively becomes universalised

becoming the gift of God's grace in Jesus Christ to all

. Rev, Stephen Sizer is vicar of

virginia watel, Suiley. He is engaged

in dostoral reseatch on Chlistian

Zionism and has wriften extensively

on lsrael/Palestine.

Ihis article is based on a lecture

given atthe Al Aqsa Nauonal

Conference on Justice forAl Quds,

6th May 2000, University of


8 | movement

christian zionism

who trust in Him, irrespective of their racial origins.

For the Zionists the Jews remain for ever God's

chosen people, the promises concerning the land are

similarly unconditional and eternal. Therefore

Christian Zionists are active in encouraging Jews to

'return' to Zion. At the Third lnternational Christian

Zionist Congress held in Jerusalem in 1996, some

1,500 delegates from over 4O countries unanimously

affirmed the following:

destroy the nation of lsrael. The Palestinians are

determined to trouble the world until they

repossess what they feel is their land. The Arab

nations consider it a matter of racial honour to

destroy the State of lsrael. /slam conslders it a

sacred mission of religious honour to recapture

Old Jerusalem.

Franklin Graham, of the Billy Graham Evangelistic

Association, made the following remarks in a recent

newspaper interview.

The Arabs will not be happy until every Jew is dead.

They hate the State of lsrael. They all hate the

Jews. God gjave the land to the Jews. The Arabs will

never acceptthat. (Charlotte Observer, Oct. 76)

For many Christian Zionists the two nations of

America and lsrael are seen as Siamese twins, linked

not only by common self interest but more significantly

by simitar religious foundations. Together they

are perceived to be pitted against an evil world

dominated by lslamic regimes antithetical to the

values of America and lsrael.

The Lord in His zealous love for lsrael and the

Jewish People b/esses and curses peoples and

judges nations based upon their treatment of the

Chosen People of lsrael. According to God's distribution

of nations, the Land of lsrael has been

given to the Jewish People by God as an everlastin{

possession by an eternal covenant. The

Jewish People have the absolute right to possess

and dwell in the Land, including Judea, Samaria,

Gaza and the Golan.

These theological presuppositions clearly have

serious political implications.


Christian Zionists, while lovers of lsrael, are invariably

also hostile toward Arabs and Palestinians. Anti-

Arab prejudices and Orientalist stereotypes are

common in their writings. Hal Lindsey is the most

popular Christian Zionist author with sales of 20

books exceeding 50 million copies. He insists:

Long ago the psalmist predicted the final mad

attempt of the confederated Arab armies to


The 1967 'Six Day War' marked a significant

watershed for Christian interest in lsrael and Zionism.

For example, Jerry Falwell did not begin to speak

about modern-day lsrael until after lsrael's 1967

military victory. Biographers Price and Goodman


Falwell changed completely. He entered into

polttics and became an avid supporter of the

Zionist State. Ihe stunning Israeli victory made a

big impact not only on Falwell, but on a lot of

Americans. Remember that in 7967, the United

States was mired in the Vietnam war. Many felt a

sense of defeat, helplessness and discouragement.

Many Americans, includin(, Falwell, turned

worshipful glances toward lsrael, which they

viewed as militarily strong and invincible. They

gave their unstintint approval to the lsraeli take

over of Arab lands because they perceived this

conquest as power and nghteousness.

Hal Lindsey dogmatically asserts, "The Bible

foretells the signs that precede Armageddon. We are

the generation that will see the end times and the

return of Jesus. Never before, in one book, has there

been such a complete and detailed look at the events

leading up to 'The Battle of Armageddon.'"

For obvious reasons Christian Zionists are pessimistic

and even antagonistic toward peace negotiations

in the Middle East.

Christian Zionists also oppose the dismantling of

the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Territories.

Theodore Beckett, Chairman of the Christian Friends

of lsrael Community Development Foundation has

initiated an'adopt-a-settlement' program among

American Evangelical Churches. Over seventy Jewish

settlements have apparently been adopted in this


movement l9

christian ziontsm


Kenneth Cragg summarises the implications of

Zionism's ethnic exclusivity, as follows:

It is so; God chose the Jews; the land is theirs by

divine {ift, fhese dicta cannot be questioned or

resisted. They are final.such verdicts come infal'

Iibly from Christian biblicists for whom lsrael can

do no wrong-thus fortified' But can such positivisrn,

this unquestioninS finatity, be compatible

with the integrity of the Prophets themselves? lt

certainly cannot square with the open peoplehood

under God which is the crux of New Iestament

faith. Nor can it well be reconciled with the ethical

demands central to law and election alike'

The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)' representing

the indigenous ancl ancient Oriental and

Eastern Churches, has been highly critical of the activities

of Christian Zionists. They regard Christian

Zionism as a deviant heresy which is subservient to

the political agenda of the modern State of lsrael' lt

represents a tendency to:

reiect the movement of Christian unity and inter-

Christian Zionism distorts the Bible and

the universal imperative of the Christian

of equal grace and common justice' s

religious unclerstanding which is promoted by the

(indi$enous) churches in the region' The Christian

Zionist proSramme, with its elevation of modern

politicat Zionism, provic)es the Christian with a

world view where the gospel is identified with the

ideolo$y of success and militarism' /t places its

emphasis on events leadin$ up to the end of

history rather than tiving Christ's love and iustice


Essentially, Christian Zionism distorts the Bible and

marginalises the universal imperative of the Christtan

message of equal grace and common justice' lt offers

an uncritical endorsement of lsraeli apartheid and at

the same time shows an inexcusable lack of compassion

for the Palestinian tragedy' ln doing so it has

legitimised their oppression in the name of God'






disarming actions I helen steven

SS b of IV n th e u ps d

offe red th e ity e e-down

nevl ta bl e We a re p0

Th e e n d S n 0t


its dawn n a re a rea dy h e re

an d the S S Of


ki ngdom of n 0 n VI o le nce



Heads of government, meeting in the Hague this week, have

aUAKERS SUCH AS MYSELF are not supposed to pay

IS changing due to carbon

much attention to the Liturgical Calendal of the admitted officiallY that the cl mate

emissions. but as write protest ts buitdi ng up agai n to cut the price

church, but must confess that for me Advent ts a very

of fuel. ln December NATO heads meet to review its nuclear policy'

special time.

but there is no sign that there will be any serious drawing back from

Not onty the anticipati on of Christmas, for which still have a

catastrophe. lndeed il Bush is elected President iand at the

childl ike delight, but also the whole idea of nevf birth, new ideas,

moment who knows - keep counting) he is committed to deveF

begi nnings. was afl the more struck recently when re-read


oping the Missile Defence Shield which will seriously endanger all


Jim Douglass's book The Nonvrblent Comin{, af God, which sets

existing nuclear treaties. "We have seen inlo the abyss' and not

coming of Jesus tn the context of the end-time. Its first chapter

drawn back".

be$ns startlingly with the words, "l have seen the end of the world

Surely {his is precisely what Advent is all about' The end is not

times, as Dou$ass describes the White Death Train' of


tor the Trident

nuclear warheads rumbling past his door en raute

base at Kings Bay. ln that sense I too have seen the end of the

world, as sinister convoys of nuc|ear warheads frequentty pass

through Stirling and Glasgow en raute between Aldermaston and


Some of Jbsus' more difficult sayings concern his foretellin€' ot


of annihilation. This may all seem a bit extreme and doomladen

(especially as we are thinking tn terms of holly and parties),

but for the haples souls who watched flood waters pouring

through their houses, and the fearful people of Gibraltar being told

that the reactor leaks il] HMS Tireles could have be€n equivalent

to anolher Chernobyl, the end oJ their settled world must have

come uncomfortabty close. This is to say nothing of a large part of

Africa in which serious famines are predicted' or the desperate

lives of sweated labour dominated by global markets' I once heard

the theolo$an Jiirgen Mottmann say, "Nuclear disaster is a possi'

bility, ecoto$eal disaster is a certainty'"



&,- -{. .=



inevitable. we are offered the possibility of tiving the upsidedown


here. This week in the High Court in Edinbr-rgh' law lords are being

confronted with the illegality of Trident' and they are listenin$

protest is grov,,ing at the meetin$s of the World Trade Organisation'

and its etbos is nonviotent; after the acquittal of the Trident Three

sermons of suppori were preached as far apart as Orkney and


"Jesus envisioned and tried to create"' a nonviolenl society

based cn faith in the power of truth and love' That sti'll unrecognised

and unfulfilled vision is the nonviolent coming of God' lts

alternative is ihe end of the warld'"

And bythe way, I am stiu inviting people ts come and be arrested

at the Big Blockade of the submarine base at Faslane on February

12. Already, over 3O clergy have committed themselves - I look

forward to seeing you in the crowds - or in the baek of the police

1O I nrovement



Martin Bucer


small ritual I steve collins

celebrity theologian

So, what's the severe-looking

Protestant divine doing in a

wishy-washy ecumenical

magazine like this?

Maybe because he's a prime

contender for wishy-washy

ecumenical bloke of the sixteenth

century... though he'd probably

be pipped to the post by his

erstwhile guru Erasmus.

A Movement kinda guy, then.

Well, don't get too excited. He

thought the papacy was in

bondage to Antichrist and liked the sound of capital

punishment for adultery,

Likely to get a dinner invitation from lan Paisley?

Probably not. lf he thought a theological spat could be sorted

out by diplomatic manoeuvres in smoke-filled rooms, Bucer

was right in there, lighting up.

So, not a favourite with the theological hard-men...

No. Luther thought he was a bit of a smoothie.

What about the Catholics?

One of them called him a "shape-shifter." But at first they

weren't sure what to think. Some of them claimed they'd

heard him making amiable noises about transubstantiation.

And had he?

Erm, yes and no...

Can you be more precise?

Well, on the one hand...

So, did this man actually have any theological

principles at all?

Bucer was impatient with what he called "theoretical"

theologians - men (and they were all men) who were so

dazzled by their vision of perfection that they got peevish

when they had to settle for anything less. Like Erasmus, Bucer

thought that, theology was actually pretty stmple: trusting in

Christ and loving one's neighbour as oneself. Where people

could be encouraged to do these things, you shouldn't get

too fussy about the theological small-print.

Hence the reputation for sellout and compromise,..

Well, Bucer was actually a very complex and subtle

theologian. Although Calvin fretted at the theological horsetrading,

he reckoned he owed all his best ideas to Bucer. But

Bucer was also a practical man. He recognised that, theology

had to deal with imperfect human beings living in imperfect

situations. This side of heaven, building up a community of

love would always involve solutions which fell short of the

ideal. For example, Bucer was one of the first Western

theologians to advocate the possibility of divorce and


Any other interesting firsts?

He didn't think too much notice should be taken of Paul's ban

on women speaking in church. He claimed that this was an

example of a temporary ruling made to bring peace to a

quarrelling communiiy.

Anything really bizarre?

Well he was burnt at the stake, but not in the customary

way. Bucer had to get out of Strasbourg when the Caiholics

gained complete control of Cermany in 1547. He was given

refuge in Cambridge where he ended his days lecturing in

theology and moaning about the English food. A couple of

years after his death, Mary Tudor came to the throne, She

was really pissed off that she had missed the opportunity to

roast a Cerman heretic. 5o in 1557 Bucer's coffin was dug up

and burnt anyway. Under Elizabeth l, the dust from the

ground on which he was burnt was placed under a wall up

behind the communion table at Creat St. Mary's in

Cambridge, There's a little brass plaque there,

(Nick Thompson)

"Don't ask for retakes of sacraments

if you didn't make the shot first time"

I SPENT MY FIRST SERVICE AS PART of the 'Grace' alternative

worship team hidin€ in the darkness behind a muslin sheet, like

the Wizard of Oz.

My job was to change the slides by hand while giving the impression that the

projector was running through the seguence automatically. Elsewhere in the

church, the congregation were assembling things on the main altar to the theme

of 'setting the table for a guest you $lanted to make feel loved'. When the service

was over and it was safe for me to emerge without shattering Dorothy's illusions,

I went to see the results of the congregation's endeavours. The assemblage was

ravishing - a blaze of candles and beautiful things. We stood there astounded.

v/ishing we didn't have to destroy it to clear the church. Nobody had a camera.

The following week, I bought a small automatic fit-in-your-pocket-ansdleverything

model to always have on me during worship. The environments and installations

of alternative worship necessarily have a short life, but they can continue

on film, as an example, an inspiration, proof of what is possible. I guickly found

that the best way of explaining what we were doing, and horr/ it differed from

conventional church, was to show the pictures. Descriptions get wordy and

tortuous, and one never knorrys quite what lurid scenes are being conjured in

people's minds. Apparently, no photographs exist of NOS's 'bikini*lad dancers'

service for Greenbelt mainstage in 1992 - perhaps the most notorious single act

of worship of the 199Os. Without pictures, how are those of us who v{eren't there

to make up our own minds about whether the fuss was justified or just kne+jerk


So for the last three or four years I have made it my job to attend and record

as much of alternative worship as I can. As a rule, the better the service the more

time I spend with a camera glued to my face, skulking about in corners checking

angles and waiting for people to compose themselves (physically, not


There are certain rules to this game. Firstly, no ttash. lt startles other worship

pers, and drowns out video or slide images. This means long exposures, so you

need a steady hand, Use a fast film. Experiment to see what your camera is

capable ot in low light - the resutts can be surprisingly beautiful. Bluning can be

good - especially when people move. Don't be too obtrusive or blatant in taking

photographs - don't make people feel self+onscious when they are trying to

worship. You will have to pass up the chance of many a stunning image for this

reason. Ask the worship leader if it's OK to take photographs, and tell them

there'll be no flash. Don't ask for retakes of sacraments if you didn't make the

shot first time.

This. for me, has turned out to be a form of worship. The viewfinder is a framing

device - it edits reality to make certain things more clear. lt cuts out some of the

noise and interference. I watch intently, see intensely. My attention is directed

wholly outward, drinking everything in, waiting for the moment. I see things that

the people taking part cannot see. I am op€n to God. I know all this makes me

seem like Ricky in American Beauty. Let me end with what, for me, are the key

words from that film.

Ricky is showing Jane the video of a plastic bag being blown in the wind. Rick!4

"lt's like God is looking right into your eyes. And if you're careful, you can look

straight back." Jane: "What dc lrou see?" Rtcky: "Beauty."

movenrent | 1l

jubilee 2000

An idea whose fime has come

THE JUBILEE 2000 campaign is drawing to

a close at the end of the Jubilee year. We

who make up the international Jubilee

200O movement have much to celebrate.

Rich countries have promised to write off

$11obn of debt; and by the end of the year

20 countries are expected to have received

some debt relief. Many, creditors and

debtors alike, would support the assertion

that this has happened largely because of

Jubilee 200O's camPai$nin$'

The number of children attending primary school in

Uganda has doubled, thanks to its $1bn debt cancellation.

Bolivia will get $1.3bn of relief and is directing

resources released to the poorest municipalities;

while Mozambique has had a $67m reduction in its

debt repayments, allowing it to divert funds to

hospitals and housing.

Encouraged by the international Jubilee 20OO

movement, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan' is

leading the call for independent and fair mediation

between debtor nations and their international

creditors, a call which is backed by many southern


The campaign has become global' and is now

recognised, respected, supported and understood by

millions of people around the world; by the international

media; by leading academics and by governments

and financial institutions. ln Britain' a recent

opinion poll showed that more than twcthirds of the

public support the goals of the campaign'

ln just four years, since our 1996 launch, we have

forced third world debt to the top of the international

political agenda and have helped bring the plight of

the poorest countries to the fore of economic debate'

So we have already changed the world.

However, we have not nearly achieved all we set out

to do. Too much of the unpayable debt has not yet

been written off.The debt relief so far agreed will only

provide an average 30% cut in repayments for the

countries concerned. What's on offer is not fast or

deep enough, nor available to all the countries which

urgently need it. Furthermore this debt "relief" has

been accompanied by more and more stringent IMF

conditionality. Despite much rhetoric about poverty

reduction, countries like Honduras are still denied

"relief" because they cannot fulfil IMF conditions, for

example to privatise their telephone industry. Zambia

is about to receive "relief" but as a result, will be

paying $70 million a more each year in debt service


The blame for the failure to comprehensively cancel

debts and release debtor nations from IMF control

must be laid at the door of the leaders of the richest

countries. We in Jubilee 2000 have done all we can to

harness public opinion in support of debt cancellation.

We have raised our voices. We have demonstrated

- peacefully. We have lobbied. We have

excelled at advocacy. We have effectively defeated

arguments by those opposed to relief. Millions of

people have made clear demands of their elected

politicians: that the unpayable debts of the poorest

countries should be cancelled by the Jubilee year

under a fair and transparent process. The world's

decision-makers have failed to act.

They failed to deliver the debt cancellation that

Archbishop Ndungane suggested would, in the millennium

year, be "an act of immeasurable power and

grace"; they failed "to grasp the nettle and reshape

the world's economy".

The campaign has become global and is

and supported by millions of people aro

But we have not nearly achieved all we

ln Britain we have little to remember this year by -

except the Dome. The bulk of the unpayable debts are

still in place. The unjust international financial system

is still in the hands of creditors, keen to discipline

debtors, but not subject to discipline themselves.

So there is still much to do. We have powerful,

unjust structures and vested interests to transform

and change. We, the global citizens behind Jubilee

2000, have to break down inequities and end what

people of faith call "structural sin"' We have yet to

achieve real justice for a billion people.

But you ask, if there is so much still to do; if

creditors can still not be trusted to deliver meaningful

debt cancellation, why has the campaign come to a


The reason is straightforward. This campaign was

carefully designed to be a shortlife, timelimited

campaign, with a very clear focus and deadline' That

deadline is passin$. The effectiveness of the

campaign has been almost entirely due to this careful

and clear, well thoughtout strategy and purpose. The

deadline also helped harness extraordinaryforces, as

everyone looked hopefully towards the millennium for

a new big gesture, an "idea big enough to fill this

space" to quote Bono.

The pressure of the deadline intensified the

12 lmovement

pressure on powerful elites, who were forced to

deliver results by the end of the year 2000. When we

began they were promising help to four countries by

the end of 2OOO; now 20 can expect some relief.

The fact that the organisation, the bureaucratic

centre, is to close is also a strength. When Ed Mayo

and I first discussed this campaign, we committed

ourselves to building an organisation that would work

for the campaign; as opposed to the many campaigns

that end up working for the organisationl We were

afraid of institutionalizing the campaign, and turning

it into another self-serving bureaucracy. The closure

of the organisation is painful (particularly for the staff)

- but essential to maintaining the integrity of the

short-lived, highly focused nature of the campaign.

One of the major lessons from the campaign is that

we will not break the chains of debt, or even achieve

deeper, broader, faster debt cancellation, without

changing the process whereby debt cancellation is


And that, after all, is the central lesson from the

biblical teachings on the Jubilee principle: that as well

as extraordinary acts of grace in the Jubilee year, we

need to address "structural sin" - structural injustices

- if we are to achieve real change.

Together with Jubilee 2000's Africa and Latin

America representatives, Kwesi Owusu and Liana

Cisneros, I will be leading a new initiative - Jubilee

Plus - which will act as a global support unit to

campaigns working on debt, especially those in the

South. Working with "new economists" at the New

Economics Foundation, we will be monitoring debt

developments; and hoping to maintain Jubilee 2O0O's

very high standards of up-to-date intelligence

gathering and news on debt, on our website

http:/,/ However, while we will be

tough on debt, we will be even tougher on the causes

of debt. Jubilee Plus will be undertaking research and

analyses into the international financial system, and

hoping to suggest a new global campaign to tackle

structural injustices - which would be as focused and

clear in its objectives as Jubilee 2000.

Adrian Lovett of Jubilee 2000 will be leading a

short-term campaign to mobilize support for next

year's Summit of the G8 in Genoa in late July 2OOt -

and to achieve deeper debt cancellation. He will be

working closely with the ltalian Jubilee 2000

campaign, Sdebitarsi, who enjoy the backing of the

Vatican and many ltalian celebrities. I know that he

would welcome support from you all.

ln the meantime let's keep the flame of Jubilee

2000 solidarity, co-operation and unity alive. Let's not

stop until we have cancelled the unpayable debts of

the poorest countries under a fair and transparent


jubilee 2ooo


2/ tl/ 00 -fheworldwill

nevet be the same again.

A group of SCM members and

staff were present at the final

2000. We met


centre in

whose ceillng












the 41

Ihis set a

has now.


the campaign

marc*bd down Whitehall to

Tralalgar square fot an emotional

final meeting addressed by Bob

Geldof among others. SCM had a

banner made by Mark and Ellie

reading"SCM We've notgone away

J2000"and it appeared for half a

sec{ind in the"background ofa shot

on the lIN news.

(David Anderson)



bursting bubbles I sara mellen


"This year, I chose to spend the festival with the person who has come to embody

'family' for me, and not those who would traditionally be regarded as my next of kin."

BY THE TIM€ THIS COPY OF MOVEMENT reaches ycu, I will have

spent my tirst Christrnas away from the family home. lt's a

planned move, but still a little daunting. Far 26 years my

Christmas boliday has followed the same pattern with only slight

variations (apart from lvhen my parents were living in Zambia for

a while). When they spent their first Christrnas abroad, we all went

horne as usual but, due to their absence, we drank a littte more

than we usually woutd, The whole family spent Christmas dinner

in a state of intenuptlon, leaving our plates for otfi two minutes on

the phone to Afiica, I found my brothers in the kitchen afterwards,

suneptitiously snitting into the holly-ringed serviettes. lt didn't feel

ii€St, somehow, to spend this day apart from rnum and dad.

The past fey years have brought a shift for me, however, in the

way lview Christmas with my family. My partner of nearly four years

has yet to spend a Christmas with me - she [s not welcome in my

parents' home. So this year, I chose to spend the festival with the

person who has come to embody 'family' for me, and not those who

would traditionally be regarded as my next of kin.

It wasn't easy to make this decision - I have a shared history with

the people who will meet for Christmas in my absence and I won't

find it anywhere else. But for the last few Decembers there's been

an emptiness at the centre of celebration for me. We've done the

same old stuff - mulled wine and carols on Christmas Eve, my

nieces waking everyone in the moming, all the familiar faces round

the table for Christrnas dinner And each time, I've wanted to share

this with the person I love but she's been hundreds of miles away,

enduring her family's eccentricities and missing me as much as I

miss her.

I suppose l'm blessed to have had so many Christmases that I've

enjayed. For many people, there's nothing worse than the thought

of the forced jollity and unwanted intimacy of a family holiday. Old

arguments llare and goodwill tends to be the last thing on

everyone's mind. But what are the alternatives?

There's likely to be a charity near you that can use extra help with

soup runs or temporary hostel provision. Or maybe your church

makes meals for the elderly (Meals on Wheels closes on Christmas

day, would you believe!) Doing something practical for the day

prevents loneliness or boredom, and it brings home the reatity of

the Christmas story in a way that no sermon ever will. And it will

settle the issue for those couples between two offers of Christmas


For others, it may be that there are people who they wish to

celebrate with - those who are closest and dearest to them - who

are no blood relations. More and more, particularly in the gay

community, we are fsrming our own kinship groups based on

chaices not biology. Ofd systems have failed us, as they fail many

people, and we are finding nerv ways of being together. lt's a risky

business, but then so is having babies in barns.

rnovenrent I 13

alternative worshiP

>retmagining worshiP

Tue ueaouNEs GENE RATED BY THE Ntlve O'Ctocx Senwce






soMErHtNc nHAT wouLD ENABTE THEM To woRsHlp Goo





sEEMs ro BE GRoMNG, Nor co,NG. ls rrrs rHE FttruRE oF

nt Wrsttnru Cruncr?

>define' alternative worshiP'

ALTERNAIVE WoRsHtP ls NoT A srYLE, BUT AN APPRoASH. lt iS what happens when people

make worship for themselves, in forms that fully reflect the people they are and the

culture they live in. lt's an attempt to make a space where people can be real and

relate honestly to God and each other without religious masks or imposed forms

behaviour. ln practice this involves a complete reappraisal of what a church service

actually consists of - what it's for, how it's led, what kinds of things can happen'

what kind of language is used, where people sit and what the space looks like.

The trouble with the term 'alternative worship' is that it places the emphasis on

one aspect of being church, albeit the most public one. How we worship grows out

of who we think we are as Church, so any process of reinventing worship involves

hard thought about what being the Body of christ actually means, for us in our own

place and time. while most alternative worship groups remain within larger

churches, there is often tension with their parent bodies since their experiments

critique the accepted structures and behaviours of the Church'

>why are people doing this?

Txe rnrrnnnl guLTURE oF MosT cHURcHEs is divorced from the surrounding world'

outsiders it seems quaint or alien - a thing of the past' or a strange

universe. Even church members feel that church is a separate world. Some see

this as a sign of holiness, and some like the escape it offers from normal life. Put

it another way - churches cater for people who like church' lf the stylistic aspects

of alternative worship appear remarkable, that's just proof of how disconnected

normal church service actually is from the surrounding culture'

This culture gap is a major factor in the collapse of church membership and thet

general lack of credibility of the Christian faith. Many believers feel obliged to

accept a compartmentalised life, and get used to leaving their normal tastes and

thought patterns at the door as they enter the church building. Some can only deal

with the contradictions by leaving the Church altogether - others leave the outside

world to live in a Christian subculture. lt's sad that church, which should be a place

of wholeness, forces split personality on its adherents' Alternative worship is an

attempt to create forms of church that are authentically Christian and yet arise

naturally out of the culture of the people taking part.




tlYiT* -'*tt;;i toil ...=.sfuffi

What matters most to You about

alternative worship?

That's a tricky question to answer

are so many things that mafter to

alternative worshiP. Our

community is a Place where I

be myself, where I can be honest

friends and with God without fear

Iooked down upon or'judged'. That

a rare and wonderful thing. Also the

to express my faith and worship God tn

many different artistic and creative ways

been very important to me, and has inspired

me immensely.

What do you think is its biggest failing?

I think its biggest failing is publicity. lt is no

good at sellrng itself. Sornetimes it is so

scared of manipulailng others or sounding

too pathetic or clichdd that it forgets to tell

others about what a fantastic thing it is! How

rts honesty, creativi$ and community love is

so wonderful and has been a breath of fresh

air, or even a resurrection to many people's

flag,ging spiritual lives.

Sue Wallace, Visions, York



14 | nrovement

alternative worship

>modern ity and postmodern ity

There are a number of factors involved in this cultural disconnection, such as the

conservatism of institutions and a misunderstanding of what an unchanging

gospel means for church practice; but the form it's taking has much to do with the

shift of Western culture into postmodernity, while the Church still lingers in


Modernity, the underlying cultural phase of the last two or three hundred years,

centred on belief in objective and verifiable truth mediated through language as a

rational and stable medium. Science, the supreme embodiment of modernity,

carried all before it, and the Church was obliged to alter its discourse to suit. The

questions of modernity were 'ls it true?' and 'Can it be proved objectively?'. So

Christians engaged in rational arguments about proof, historicity and so forth, and

non-rational aspects of the faith were an embarrassment - to say nothing of the

supernatural [which is what many preferred to do]. Forms of worship during these

centuries tended to be based on words and reasoned argument, doctrine sung as

hymns and spoken as sermons. Rational persuasion came to be seen as the best

conversion technique.

t Epicentre, London


.! this rs not trendy evangelism

Alternative worship is not a form of evangelism. lt is not about dressing the Church

up in contemporary clothes to appeal to outsiders. lt is not about putting on a

spectacle in order to get a message across. Many evangelical churches now use

contemporary music and media, but their emphasis remains on the leaders and

the message. Alternative worship, whatever its forms of technologr or culture, puts

the power in the hands of the participants to construct their own encounter with

God using the materials provided. There are no strings attached and no

predetermined outcome.

Evangelism is a dirty word in our culture, because it's seen as power play. Many

people fear being 'got at' if they set foot inside a church, and are hlghly resistant

to sales pitches, especially from authoritarian institutions masquerading in trendy

clothes! People are suspicious about the real motives behind the use of

contemporary culture in worship - they assume that it's just bait to catch recruits.

But worship that connects with real life connects with non-Christians too.

Alternative worship services never'target' visitors but encourage them to take part

in the worship at whatever level they feel comfortable - or just sit back and watch.

Much of what goes on is accessible to people at many levels and degrees of

involvement, and the absence of'threat' encourages openness to God.

Alt.worship is the chance to share, explore and discover

together. We've discovered it also works on two /eve/s -

those who meet to create the worship value the creation of

worship that is honest and heartJelt and the chance to

share that with each other. Those who just turn up to the

worship itself have told us they really appreciate being able

to share in the creattvity and spiituality that flows through

the worship.

What do you think is its biggest failing?

Because we intend our worship to be an integral part of our

Iives rather than an add-on, it rs susceptib/e to ideas of

fashion ancl cool - all those consumerism things that affect

us. We have to be careful to keep it pure whilst retaining

10096 cultural relevance. If you play it safe you end lostng

that relevance, but if you go too far the other way there's

a danger you'll end up with something aesthetically

gorgeous, but of no real substance. But only by erastng the

boundary between church ancl real life do we genuinely

engage with following Christ.

Adrian Riley, the alt.worship collective, Bradford

movement | 15

alternative worshiP

>some historY

The term 'alternative worship' emerged in the early 1990s' to mean forms of


evangelism. The most influential example of how to do this was the Nine o'clock

Service INOSI 1988-95, which pioneered postmodern worship based on club



theology, new liturs/, media and music' and the stunning results were an

inspiration and source oi nop" to many that the church could be relevant to real

life again. Fired by this example, alternative worship groups sprang up, not just in


not just by the multimedia aspects of NOS but also by the thinking that had been

done about how Christianity might be reimagined for a postmodern world'


psychological abuse, the entire movement seemed in peril; but it became clear






necessary anymore' But the movement continued to spread quietly since the





lf alternative worship is about bringing your everyday culture into church' the form






openly spiritual environment than churches was an important trigger for many in

alternative worshiP.

However, contrary to popular misconceptions, few alternative worship services


deafening noise of the dancefloor' Chill-out rooms showed just what a church in

the emerging culture mi$ht be like - a reflective' relaxing place to think or talk

quietly, visually and sonically rich but gentle' a relief from noise and activity'

Just as important as a point of reference is installation art. A large proportion of


or curated environments to convey meaning and affect the way one sees the world'

Most installation art has a narrative structure, explicit or implied, and clearly such

narratives can be relevant to spiritual growth or even worship. some alternative


and art installation, drawing equally on both'

Not onry can instailations form the environment of worship, they can be created as

part of the worship by members of the congregation' This is a widespread and


making something interesting - and often startlingly beautiful' Many of those

involved in alternative worship are artists, for whom it offers a far wider field for the



styles are suitable for worship and which are unsuitable'

16 lmovement

alternative worship


Alternative worship services generally use music as a continuous ambient rather

than discontinuous songs. The music works as a TV or movie-style soundtrack

behind everything. One thing flowing naturally from another is more important than

musical genre, but the DJ soundtrack approach allows a much wider range of

music ilatin jazz/pop anthem/film theme/symphonyj than even the most versatile

worship band can supply. The music can comment on what's going on, or change

its mood.

A large part of the music used is secular stuff brouSht in from home - because

people have perceived spiritual content in it, or just because it works with what's

happening. The result is that worship has the same soundtrack as the rest of

people's lives, but the church context changes the perceived meaning. This can be

revelatory, and can stunningly transform the way that the same music is heard in

its usual secular context. Some would say that the use of secular music in church

profanes church, but the experience of alternative worship is that the current flows

the other way!

What matters most to you about alternative worship?

I think that I have a contribution to make that is much more

fundamental to the workhg of contmunity than in ordinary

chLrrches. )bviously rn most churches you can do your bit,

but in an alt.w community if you don't it cloesn't happen. My

contribution actually shapes the path the contmunity takes,

no-one tells me what is right or wrong, if I've got an iclea I

have the space to explore it - even if it isn't fully fornted.

What do you think is its biggest failing?

Difficult one. / suppose our failure to convitce the bigger

church community that we are a serious movement not a

small group of hip and trendies rninistertng to the "Yoof

culture" (l suppose the IVOS experiment has a lot to answer

for in that respect). Different groups have differing /eveis of

success in thei own areas but for iVoC, people will never

get over the stigrna of our past and we haven't done

enough to get people to change their opinions.

Michelle Vantoop, Nine O'Clock Community, Shettield

This musical approach does away with the dominance of the worship band, where

the congregation becomes an audience. Nor is worship experienced largety as the

singing of songs. The music becomes servant to prayer, liturry, silence and activity.


Most alternative worship services incorporate some kind of ritual or symbolic act.

Rituals have got a bad name as something incomprehensible done by a man at the

front, but alt.worship rituals usually involve the whole congregation in something

that sums up and consummates an aspect of the service. lt takes the congregation

from thinking to doing, talking to being. An effective ritual does not merely

symbolise a spiritual change - it produces it in the people taking part. Many

alt.worship communities are experimenting with Holy Communion. To rewrite the

rite is to make it one's own, taking one's place in the story, passing it on as a live

tradition. Alternative worship tends to take a sacramental rather than ecstatic

approach to meeting God - that is, it expects God's presence to be mediated by

the created world, or actions, or people, rather than being a purely supernatural

experience outside the run of the service. This is not to denigrate such experience

or the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, but is derived from a concern at the dualistic

aspects of charismatic evangelicalism - the oppositions between body and spirit,

the world and heaven, and the assumption that we will leave one behind for the


v Sanctuary, Bath






>tools for encounter

Alternative worship tries to give people 'tools' for honest encounters with God.

'Tools' might mean prayer, pens and paper, a video loop, something to eat,

someone to talk to, Holy Communion, or anything else that can help us to meet

God in some way. Alt.worship creates new tools and reinvents old ones, but they all

have one impprtant characteristic - they don't lead to predetermined outcomes.

That is to say, alternative worship seeks to bring God and the participant together

- but not to manipulate the encounter to get specific 'results'. This is essential to

protect its genuineness.

But 'openended tools' will seem dangerous to many - how can we be sure it's

'safe'? What if people get the wrong ideas? Well, there has been editorial control,

if you like, in the designing of the 'tools' - they are designed by Christians, used in

the context of a Christian act of worship, to make an encounter with the Christian

God. But what the parties do with the encounter is up to them. We trust God to

make use of what we offer, and we trust people with the tools rather than treating

them as children who must be kept under parental control.

roq;d/\- F







movement I 17


alternative worship

>the future is small

The alternative worship scene prides itself on fluid structures'

maveriek perspectives and a scepticism of charismatic leaders'

Strange then, to interview a leader of a movement that would

rather do without leaders.

New Zealander Mike Riddelt - along with Dave Tomlinson and Andy Thornton

in the uK - is unquestionably a fi$urehead in the alt.worship scene, someone

who was there when it emerged and someone with a pretty Sood idea where

it's $oin$. He has written numerous books - rangin$ from scholarly polemics

and novels (Tbreshold of the Future, The lnsatiable Moon) to unclassifiable

experiments (alt.spirifuality@metro.m3 and Pradisal Projectj - but at their

core is a deep love of storytellin$.

Years of living hand to mouth and on the road has $iven him a unique perspective:

he puts profundities next to profanities and for once 'journeying faith'

isn't just a lazy metaphor' ln Godzone - A Traveller's Gutde' he writes:

"Godzone is different. As far as I'm aware, there are no signs indicating where

it starts and stops. You never do entet it, or leave it for that matter. You're

standing in it, as the farmer said to the tlavelling salesman."


: Your Third way column describes you as 'a freelance theolo$ian". ls that a

fair description?

Ahh... reasonably. I am actually employed quarter-time by Otago University

teaching theotogy - so I'm not entirely freelance now. I'm getting used to

describing myself as a "recovering theolo$an".




I a-




I How do you find the university settin$?

I hate it. That particular subculture doesn't cio much for nre. lfind it constricting'

although I love teaching and the ldeas. The whole university system in New

Zealand at the moment is jusi tied up with people wanting to get prornotion,

stabbing each other in the back. lt's a really sordid world, which, to my mind' is

detached from the mainstreanr of life. I appreciate the great learning, but for me

the university system just doesn't work.

r There,s that guotel "university politics are vicious precisely because the

stales are so small."

(laughs) Thafs right. That's good.

r ltow did you get involved in the Prodi$al Proiect.

The three of us who wrate it are friends, all involved in alternative worship. we

live in different cities, but we tend to get together at regular



Pierson and I have taught a number of courses on alternative worship and had

quite a lot of material from over the years. so we thought maybe we should try

and draw this stuff together into some sort of book. Then there's cathy

Kirkpatrick, she's a graphic designer, so she did the CD-Rom.

So these dinner table conversations actually resulted in something - it took

a long period of time, about two and a half years. We were e+nailing drafts all

round the place. The whote thing was co-written. ClRoms are complicated

things but it's amazing what you can do with them.

I From what I know of what you do there's lhe Yery traditional storytelling and,

at the same time, thele's the challenging, postmodern way of structurin$


I feel veryenthusiastic aboutthe postmodern approach to culture and learning.

I'm quite happy to play along with it - and it is mostly 'playing along', doing

things on several levels, juxtaposition, contrast... so I love the opportunity fo

present material in that way.

18 | nrovement

alternative worship

I have never seen it as that necessary

to be into the institutional Church.



L. *.







4 *

r Can Christiaaity wholeheartedly embrace postfiodernism?

Christianity has always adapted to whatever culture it is in. you can't exist

outside of the culture.

Postmodernity is the same as any other culture - some things can be

enthusiastically endorsed, some things we'd want to stand in resistance to or

jump up and down about. Overatl I actually think that modernity has been much

damaging to the Christian tradition, than postmodernity. So many important

parts of the Christian tadition have got left behind - you need ritual to make

sense of things. Rationalism transformed faith into a set of precepts, a

concentration on verbal forms of faith. I think we have cocooned the heart of the

faith in a great web of words and ideas.




ll: -.

'i rad$


t Vaux, London









r From a personal perspective, how did you come to anive where you are ngq

in terms of your relationship to the Church?

Well, it's been a long journey. I started on the outside of the Church - I was

converted when I was 21. Didn't have any contact with the established Church

for two years after I came into faith. So that was very sisnificant as well - I was

cut off from it. So I have never seen it as that necessary to be into the

institutional Church.

Having said that I was a Baptist minister lor ten years and I was teaching at

a theological college - so lwas right in the heartland of the institution.





r Would you see altemative worship as being the future for the malnstream

church, or will it always be a minority taste and counter-cultural?

It's transitional. I don't think the future lies in everyone becoming an alternative

worship group. I just couldn't imagine that happening. But I think it will enrich

the life of the Church greatly.

My take is that the future of the Church lies in small groups of people:

community, people who know each other really well, that is the life of the

Church, Then they come together on occasions to worship.

r ln lbresfiold of The Future you're quite bleak about what's going to happen

to the Church. Do you really think the prospects are that grirn?

I do actually think that. I've often made a comparison bei.ween socialism before

the fall of the Berlin wall and the established Church. lt appeared to be

indestructible, butjust disappeared overnight because the foundations it stood

on had been eaten away. I think the Church has got such a strong institutional

base, so much money, that it's not going to disappear overnight. But as an

effective force in our culture, it's heading for disaster.

Not many people agree with me. ljust look at the patterns and the statistics.

The church requires a radical reformation if it's going to survive.

I Do you see any hope in the fundamentalist movernent? ls there any way of

harnessing that energiy?

'It's unsustainable. lt's a reaction against confusing times. I think it's greatly

been in{luenced by millennial pressures - uncertainty about the end of the

world. I just hbve a sneaking suspicion that over the next ten years the influence

of right-wing conservatives will diminish a bit. There are times when

conservatism is an appropriate response, if you want to preserve something you

care fsr; but just at this juncture in the Church's life I think it's exactly the wrong

response. lt's a time to try and understand the culture, leam to interact, before

we lose all touch with people.

tt's not hard to organise a populist religion. I think it's very easy, just give

people what they want - that's very simple. Whether it's Christian or not is

another question. I suspect that the gospel movement is probably always going

to be reasonably small. I dont hotd any visions of taking over lhe world, we had

that with Christendom. Being faithful to the tradition is hard - the future is


t Cyberfeminist Eucharist, Greenbelt 2000

What matters most to you about alternative worship?

AIt worship communities can gain a voice in the bigger

picture - but fundamentally we create a space for

ourselyes. What mafters most to me is that there is space

for those who are determined to worship God but feel

uncomfortable in their local church sefting due to culture,

theology or hierarchy. The way we put services together,

the language we use and how we treat each other all

matter in alternat:e worship. And these actions should be

based on a strong theology which asks hard questions

about traditional Christian concepts - what do we mean

today by sin? salvation? reconciliation? and so on...

What do you think is its biggest failing?

I don't see alternative worship as a movement which is

necessarily aiming for growth, nor to overtake the

mainstream, so in this way I don't see any failing in what's

happened so far. But of course there are some things we

could do betIer... One failing is that alternative worship

communities often fail to engage with those outside - not

the church but the communities around them and big social

issues. Ihis also links to the brggest problem for alt.

worship: time and resources for something that is not in

the Christian mainstream... Finally - another failing lsee is

the way we can become too stressed in organising to

receive from what we are aiming for...

Clara Swinson, Epicentre, London

movement I 19


alternative worship

>cultural incarnation

PopuLAR cutruRt FEATUR€s l* A NyRtAD oF wAys rn ALrsRrArv€ wonsrue. The space itself is likely to be marked

out by televisiorls with looped images and screens with projecled still images. These migllt tlell include

traditionat icons but are Usualfy interspersed with images from contemporary culture - for exanlpie, a

McDonalds sign juxtaposed with a slogan fast food for Lent: or a looped image of a sped up tube

joumey to convey the busynese of urban lite. Otten there ls a continual backdrop of music lracks. much

of it insuumenlal but carefully selected from tle chill out end of danc€ music. Vocal tracks that either

ha!€ a spiritual message or have v{ords that are made meaningful by the context they are used.

Musical accompaniment to songs is likely to be either sampled loops or dance lracks - whaiever lYay

they are conslructed. they closeiy connect with particular subcultural slyles of popular music. The signs

and symbols us€d in rituals may well incorporate popular cultural reso[rces. The language in liturgy

and prayer references popular culture.

The extent 10 which popular cultufal resources are used in altemalive worship is fairly widespread.

lheir us€ is seemingly effortless - the resources are teadily available io thos€ constructing lie

worship. The way ihey are used displays a very high level ofsubcuttural credibility. lt wo$ld be very easy

to dismiss this usage al popular cullure as nothing nrote than a gimmick, a change of style, a kind of

trendy clrurch syndrome, bul I suggest thai what is going on is much more significant than that.

WR ffi



; _"€-


ln a consurner society people use the cullural resoutces available to thetn to make meaning by

construcling a sense of their o!.!n seif and the r.rcrld in which that self lives. For large nunlbets of

p€ople, especially those born since the sixlies, popular culture has provided the majority ot these

resourceg. Many lvriters on mission and culture articulate lhe importance of the inea.nation as their

basic theologcal inspiration. The incamalion its€lf gives us the model of televance. God snows up on

our lurf speatiing our language so that we might understand- Whitst e\€ry alternati\€ worship group is

differenl, for most the incarnation is a theological foundation. it unde€irds their seemingly intuiti!€

approach to using popular culture in worship. Wth this incarrrational apptoach' the use of popular

cullure in worship polverfully brirrgs the teal world inio the presence of God and enables Gods presenc€

to be disc€med back in that real ilorld. Any notion of a split lretrveen sacted and secular is rejecled.

Groups are viilling to use ideas. malerials and forms from ihe secular world in worship. lmplicit in this

iilcarnational approach is a very positive theology of creauon and its redemption-

'J*= ,]



What matters most to you about akernative worship?

T.Being part of a community and a place where the music,

art, movies, images and issues that are meaningful and

significant to me are taken seriously and are an integral

parl of my worship.

2.That we are modelling ways of being church that will help

shape the future church and ensure its relevance in the

emerging culture.

What do you think is its biggest tailing?

We often lack any working theology of mission, we can be

reactionary, and we don't know what to do with children in

our worship.

Mark Pierson, Parallel Universe, Auckland NZ

^r Visions, York

The church often dismisses the use of popular culture as bad iaste or a gmmick. ln part this is

because a high/loer view of culture siill seems to be prevatent. But I think it's more that the cunural

forms of church have become so normative that 10 insiders they have become tlre most natural or

'correct' tlay of r,$rshipping God - you miglrt say culture has trecome an inlisible part of the equation.

In this reitication. popular culture is simply out of place because it transgresses established sytnbolic

boundaries. Te'evision. say', in church is nol natural.

Change takes time in any culture- The use of lrorship bands with electric guitars and microphones has

becoilte enculturated rvhere i! *asn't some years ago. But it is very dilficutt al present to see lhis

process oi enculluralion taking place on a muclr lvider scale. This is for several reasons, but the chief

ones are to do with porver and control. Time and again the experience of those either in alternative

ryorship or youth ministry taking new and creative approaches to v/orship is thal they are

misunderstood. Ralher than contextualising the gospei in a variety of subctdtures, lhe expectation {rom

lhe church is ihat they will socialise people inlo vrhat already exists as chulch - i.e. put butns on pevJs.

Those who hold tile po\rer can control v{hat is or is no1 permissible. Ofien this is done by an appeal to

upilokl the tradilion or what is Biblical. The problem here is self evidenl - those preserving the

tradition, the ones wilh lhe poyier, are the 1/ery ones who elaim that what they are already doing is bolh

Bibljcal and lhe way the tradition is preserved! A fresh i,nderstanding of tradition is desfJerately needed

if tlre Church is to avoid the slide into e!€Fincreasing irrelevance.

,n a positnodern cultrrre iradition and continuity are actually an incredibie $fl. Being locate(t within the

Christian lradition and seeking to be faithful to it helps to avoid the beliefs of groups and individuals

beconringtoo subjectir,e or personal - it offers a check on spirituality. lt also lums outto lle a tradition

*ith a vasl antount of resources and an increditlie global nehvork. The basic and seenlingly obvious

point about the Christian tradition is that i1 is living aod nol closed or completed- ln this resp€ct the

use ot tradition to defend the status quo is not faithful to the tradition at all. Part of the process of

carrying a tradition lorward is slruggling with it. and engagrng in debates as to how its enquiries can be

carried forward. On the suriace, the use of popular culture does not appear that significant - it's by no

means ttle ansyr'er to the Church's problems. 8ut underlying its usage is a strong incarnational theology

and an understanding of traditjon as something that needs continual renewal ii it is to be faithfui to


Jonny Baker is a member ot'Grace'altemative $rorsfiip community

and London Director of Youth fsr Christ.

20 | moverlent


So if alternative worship is culturally attuned and has integrity, why do groups

remain so small?


Alternative worship is usually aimed at a type of person that scarcely exists in most

churches - it's too contemporary for most people in the churches, too Christian for

most people outside,

>suspicion of innovation [see also cultural conservatism]

Some of us remember our friends' struggles to be allowed to play their guitars in

church 15 or 20 years ago. They were told it was the devil's music back then, but

it's alright now apparently - 20 years late. We anticipate with some horror that

1990s-style alternative worship will be quite normal in the 2020s.

>stuck in a niche

Most current alternative worship fits into a particular stylistic niche - and so is

regarded as such by the church at large. More effort needs to be put into

explaining the underlying principles, and more examples are needed of those

principles applied to other cultural niches.

>the amount of effort involved in creating your own worship

Many are put off by the amount of effort involved in 'making your own worship'.

Most people in the 20s-40s core demographic live over-busy lives already, and can

barely find the time to consume church let alone make it.

>inability to commit

"l really meant to come this time but..."

>lack of support from hierarchy

There may be problems with culturally or theologically unfriendly church leaders,

ranging from well-meaning inability to understand to outright get-out-of-my-church


>cultural conservatism

Many Christians see the Church as a bastion or refuge against the contemporary

world, and don't take kindly to attempts at bringing that world into worship!


Since alternative worship is not yet part of the standard church 'system', there is

no crOche or Sunday School to park your kids in. Alt worship is generally childfriendly

and enjoyable for them, but services are often 'after their bedtimes' and

periods of meditative calm may require diversionary tactics [at least there will be

something to play withl. Team involvement can be a problem if someone always

has to stay at home to babysit.

>lack of intensity

Evangelical Christians flock to new forms of worship - but they tend to seek

intense experiences or an emotionally charged atmosphere. Alternative worship

services tend to be laid-back and contemplative, partly out of suspicion at

emotional 'hyping'. Many evangelicals feel that they haven't 'really worshipped'.


One of the ways in which alternative worship succeeds is by touching people on a

deep and personal level, but there is often no support afterwards to help people

process matters - no 'holding'. The pub is not always an appropriate place. The

team are preoccupied with taking down, people are going home - but some go

home alone wrestling with major personal issues. lt's a reflection of our atomised

lives - we talk of community but live lives of dispersal.

alternative worship

> reso u rces/ t nfo rm att o n


The best ptace to find out more about alternative

worship is the internet. Most groups have websites

with links to other groups. There may be downloadable

resources. The online worship sites offer new

forms of interactive screen-based worship.


Greenbelt alternative worship pages

llinks to many groups UK and worldwidel

http :,7www, greenbelt. org. uk /altgrps,/

Small Fire

lphotographs of worship in progress

& links to many groupsl

http :,Zwww. s mal lf i re. org

Alternative Worship FAQ lndex

lresources and informationl

http ://www,trinity-bris. ac. uk /altw_f aq,/

The Prodigal Project

lresources and informationl

http ://www. p rod i ga lp roj e ct. c om

One Small Barking Dog

lworship video resources]


[muslc,/liturgy resources]

http ://www. p roo st. c o. u k

Online worship:


http ://www. e m body. c o. u k


http ://www. h oly spac e. o rg



The Prodigal Projec[/Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson, Cathy

Kirkpatrick/SPCK - includes CD-ROM - a guide to new ways

of being church.

Mass Culture - Eucharist and Mission in a Post-modern

World/Pete Ward/Bible Reading Fellowship - seven writers

from different church kaditions look at how Communion can

come to life in today's culture.

Refreshing Worship/Brian and Kevin Draper/Bible Reading

Fellowship - a theoretical and practical guide to alternative


Threshold of the Future/Mike Riddell/SPCK - reforming

the Church in the post-Christian West.

Alternative Worship in the Church of EnglandzPaul

Roberts/Grove Books - an explanation of theology and


The Rise and Fall of the Nine O'Clock Service/Roland

Howard,/Mowbray - how an experiment went tragically


Fresh Vital Worship,4onny Baker and Steve Collins,/CPO -

a practical guide to getting creative with worship.


- resources for

PrayerlSue Wallace/Scripture Union

experiments in prayer

movement | 21



Deliver us from thinking

PICTURE THIS: the soldiers captured Jesus,

stripped him, wrapped a purple cloak

around him and placed a crown of thorns

on his head. Then they mocked Jesus,

struck out at him and spat on him. He was

fore€d to carry the cross, surrounded by

onlookers; to Golgotha, where he was

crucified. Thb nails were hammered into

his flesh while soldiers continued to hurl

abuse at him.

The accounts of Jesus' arrest and crucifixion

conjure up some pretty unsavoury images. They are

by no means a pleasant read- God did not intervene

to stop these gruesome and tra$c events from taking

place. He did not prevent Jesus! family and followers

from having to witness such disturbing and incomprehensible

scenes. lt was not only his horrific and unexpected

death that challenged people's Core values

and beliefs, but also Jesus' words .and actions

throughout his life.

So why should following Christ be any different

today? Removed from the biblical accounts by time

and geography as we are, it is easy to read them,

might introduce an element of risk or uncertainty?

When .Jesus appealed to the first disciples to follow

him, did he say to them, "Make yourselves comfortable

on the sofa, have a mug of hot chocolate and

some biscuits while we discuss what the implications

of following me might be?" No, he asked them to

leave everything that was familiar to them right away,

their families and their work, to follow a complete


His approach was far

inviting them to ta ke a con

been a deeply unsettling experience but there was

something about him and something in them that

compelled the disciples to follow Jesus. This apparent

neglect of their protection continued even afterthey'd

had the guts to follow him. Jesus neitier offered them

an intensive training course to prepare them for what

lay ahead, nor did he ask them to wait to one side

while he spent time with society's undesirables - the

prostitutes, tax collestors and the lepers. No, he

them to be in lhe thick of it alongside him.

why do we think that Christians today, whether

from ideas and views that miglht confuse them

. SCM material contains unsuitable and offensive


Well, hang on a minute, who is doing the defining

here of what is and what is not Christian? ls it really

that black and white? ls it our job to protect those new

to the Christian faith from all ideas and images that

had SCM publications been displayed, then

withdrawn because of negative responses from the

customers. Stores have to take action if a particular

item on sale is causing offence and losing them

business. The reality is that some people do dislike

SCM resources but, equally, many people find them

helpful and stimulating. Customers are not even

22 | movement


being given the choice to decide for themselves. The

decision has been made on their behalf, by the store


We have to ask ourselves whether it is right for

store managers to take it upon themselves to decide

what literature is Christian and what is not, or what literature

is appropriate for customers and what is not.

You may think I am exaggerating but I believe that

Bookstore X is exercising a subtle form of mindcontrol

or censorship.

ln an ideal world, liberal and evangelical Christians

would be able to engage in dialogue and in doing so,

come to accept each other's differences and

recognise the validity of each other's points of view.

Unfortunately, the dialogue between SCM staff and

this bookstore did not have this healthy and constructive

feel about it. lt felt as if we were operating on two

separate, irreconcilable wavelengths. Attempts at

communication kept hitting a brick wall.

Our fundamental understanding of the Christian

faith seemed so different that there was little

common ground on which to agree. Bookstore X is

promoting Christianity as an exclusive religion, membership

of which requires individuals to sign up to a

set of defined beliefs. Adherence to these beliefs is

the only way of guaranteeing salvation and it also

ensures that you maintain your Christian identity in a

fallen world. Any beliefs falling outside these parameters

are considered to be unchristian and generally

unacceptable. SCM resources contained views and

images that fell outside the parameters of acceptability.

The concept of exclusive Christianity is completely

alien to the inclusiveness and acceptance at the

heart of SCM's work. The inclusive approach is

evident in SCM publications by the sheer diversity of

views and discussions presented in them. SCM literature

has never shied away from addressing complex

and often controversial issues. lf anything, such

topics have been central to the publications because

they provide a rare space in which this kind of openminded

social and theological debate can exist in a

form accessible to students.

SCM staff, although concerned and frustrated by

the response of Bookstore X, were also energised by

it because it was a strong reminder of why SCM's contribution

is vital. We are now looking at other ways of

marketing SCM publications: we will not be gagged!



. Ellie l\4ensingh is formerly SCI\4's

groups worker and now works as the

national co-ordinator,

ties and binds ljim cotterffi

"l sometimes want to banish the word 'love',

significant as it is in my religious and emotional vocabulary."

lT WAS FLATTERING and humbling all at once to

receive an invitation to write a column for Movement.

Writers are vulnerable to criticism and always

surprised by praise: they want to be noticed but don't

expect to be. So it was heartvyarming to be thanked

for Quiverful, 'thoughts for the day' on issues of

sexuality, especially same-sex relationships. I think

the editor found them provocative and humourous.

Well, there's nothing like writing an exaggerated

review of your own work! Perhaps they are quirky and

peculiar - if you get my mean,ing.

But humbling as well. Those who write or teach or preach have to

discover their own voice, but they often tremble at the responsibility

and quiver with the insecurity that their words are no more than hot

air, to be losi or punctured like so mary little balloons. Gan I reach

out across not merely one generation gap but, I suspect" genera

tisns X,Y andT? {Perhaps that means we're going to start alt over

again, only this time it'll be an interaetive Garden of Eden...)

t'd better come ctean at the startt I was born during the El

Alamein campaign. "The what?" I hear you say. But I think it's a

question that should be within the mnge of a pub quiz and probably

too easy for Universrty Challenge. My mind's ear catches a snort

from Jeremy Paxman.

Seriousty though, how do we communicate with one another

when words are used differently and are often devalued? And can

l, an ordainecl inheritor of the Judaeo{hristian 'tradition' {or 'faith

in momentum', to use the title of a book by George Guiver which

gives more of a sense of movement than the usual way we think of

'tradition'), hope to say something that will connect even with those

in sympathy with that inheritance, when so much of it is in

fragments, when we realise how many of the words of Scripture and

church leaders have been used to inflame and justifu so much

cruelty, when, with Auschwitz and Hiroshima resonating strongly

across those brief generations, so much cheap talk about God

shrivels in that dust to which so many human beings have been


I am also uneasy when I realise that the vocabulary of World

English has to be precise, each word having one specific clear

meaning. I know that technologicat descriplions have to be exact

{even if to me they are impenetrable), and l'm comforted that air

traffic control and pilots understand each other. But I cant write

poetry in that kind of En$ish. tf you are caught up in such usage for

most of your working hours, is not the ima$nation in danger of

atrophy? And what tJren is our mode of entry into the discourse of

the spiritual and the divine?

We're in confusion, too, in the language of relalionshlps. I

sometimes want to banish the word 'love', significant as it is in my

reli$ous and ernotional vocabulary. t want to ask for a translation

of "l love you". Which of the following do you mean? I fancy you? I'm

fond of you? I want sex? I want to be held? I'm desperate? (Fill in

current slang here.) You're more important to me than an1rcne else

in the world? I'll do att that I can for your well-being, even at cost to


God{anguage will have to wait for another column - though,

come to think of it, it may have slipped in at the end of that last


movement 123




"|MAG|NAT|ON lS MYW0RLD. This world

of Dross is beneath my Notice and

beneath the Notice ofthe Public. I

demand therefore of the Amateurs of art

the Encouragement which is my due."

William Blake lTate Britain, London I until February 11

So wrote William Blake - poet, painter, printer,

and revolutionary thinker - in the early nineteenth

century. ln a life that spanned sixly tumultuous

years (1757-1827), Blake created an elaborate

world of imagination' with close connections to

the London where he lived and died. That'encour

agement' Blake sought was largely unavailable

during his lifetime (it is telling that his beloved wife

Catherine served as someone's housekeeper after

his death). Since then, however, his work has had





a radical influence on people as diverse as the

Pre-Raphaelites (one look at his beardy men and

nubile women and one can see why), Jim

Monison, W. B. Yeats, Allen Ginsberg, and

countless others. Now, until early February, one

can witness the full splendour of Blake's artistic

output. The Blake Exhibition attheTate Britain

offers an intimate look at Blake's interwoven

literary and artistic endeavours in an exhaustive


survey of his life work.

The elongated figures with wild eyes and unintelligible

gestures, the Gothic-winged angels,

coiled snakes and bdarded patriarchs, and finally

the fiercely visceral depictions of emotion - one

can spot a Blake image immediately. His poems

and images - meant to be seen together - illustrate

both the poverty of industrialised Britain and

the exaltations of his own inner world. They also

capture the tremendous uneasiness of his time -

with the violence ofthe French and American Revolutions

revealing that "cruelty has a human heart"

('A Qivine lmage'), Blake and fellow liberals

struggled to reconcile their belief in freedom with

the growing evidence that revolution can heighten

24 lmovement

atherthan alleviate oppression. Despite the politically

unstable climate of Europe and the New

World, Blake still found hope in the idea of London

as the possible location for a new Jerusalem.

While recognising "marks of weakness, marks of

woe" ('London') in the faces of impoverished

Londoners, Blake also saw the potential of

England's "green and pleasant land"

('Jerusalem').'Jerusalem' expresses his longingfor

the presence ofthe "Countenance Divine" on

England's "clouded hills". Played out in text and

image, Blake's works continually question

authority, and frequently reinterpret Biblical and

religious narratives (such as 'Eve Naming the


Ihe exhibition traces out particular strands in

Blake's work - his interest in Gothic art, his focus

upon the imagination, his years in Lambeth, and

his graphic interpretati0n of scenes from the Bible

and from Dante's Divine Comedy. Glass cases

contain individual leaves from books so that one

can read 'Jerusalem' page by intricately printed

page, making one's way around the room atthe

same time. The exhibition is exhausting: one's

mind is overstimulated by the walls of images

interspersed by spare curatorial notes.

I found myself struggling through all of the work

to get to the man himself. ln the second-to-last

room, one comes as close to seeing an image of

him as possible - his life mask rests in a case at

the room's centre. The slightly bulging eye

sockets, the sagging lower chin - not quite the

"flashing eye" and "floating hai/' ofthe Romantic

poet Coleridge imagines in 'Kubla Khan'. ln fact,

as the curatorial notes indicate, the slightly pained

expression on the mask is not the result of inner

turmoil but because in the process of removing the

plaster it pulled away some of Blake's hair as well.

(lncidentally, you can buy a replica ofthe mask at

the gift shop for only f,95 - an unusual Christmas

present for any mystically-minded members of

your family).


The notes leave out a great deal of information

- they touch upon Blake's relationship with his

wife Catherine and his innovations in the printing

trade, and his run-ins with local authorities but

leave several enticing blanks: what is all this about

man's original bisexual nature and female emanations?

How did Swedenborgian belief and his conventional

church upbringing inform his work?

Finally, how do his belief in visions - he saw a

treeful of angels in Peckham Common - and subconscious

creative urges inform his treatment of

Biblical figures in his art? Ihe tight juxtaposition of

traditional Christian imagery and his own

mythology reaches an apotheosis in works like

'Glad Day' where the Messianic figure of Albion

resonates closely with his images of the

resurrected Christ.

. Katy Gordon holds a PhD in Scottish

Literature and has a particular interest in poetry.

I l,






,i .J

.1 d movement 125

Stand by your man

THIS B00K WAS, quite frankly, nauseating - and imprisoned for a long time and she was then

I'm not sure whether this wasn't perhaps the

deluded into believing he had been killed in

desired effect!

prison, so remarried for the sake of her family. She

Hidden sorroq lasting joy lAnneke Companjen

Hodder & Stoughton

Hidden Sorrow, Lastint Joy - The Foryoften of

the Persecuted Church is essentially a collection of

stories of Christian women the author has met

from around the globe. She is the wife of the President

of0pen Doors lnternational, an evangelical

missionary organisation. Her role seems to be that

of supportive wife, and general comforterto all.

The women shd has met have suffered in many

ways for their faith, mostly through persecution for

their beliefs, whether they have directly suffered

themselves, or through losing their husbands

through imprisonment, torture or murder. The stories

themselves are very moving, and one or two

are inspiring. She has chosen many women, from

countries in all continents, and relays their suffering

to us.

She begins with the story of a Vietnamese

woman, KSup Nri, whose husband was arrested

for his role as an evangelical pastor. He was

later discovered that he was still alive,

and ended up committing suicide,

unable to cope with her situation.

Jhe book continues in a similarvein. lt is split

up into sections for different areas ofthe world

and each woman is given a chapter.

I was disappointed with the book, as I liked the

cover (sad, but I do, too often, judge books by

their covers), and was intrigued by the idea behind

the book. We all too often hear the stories of men

who are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or murdered

for standing up for their beliefs, lt is perhaps

time more was written of the women all too often

behind these men, who get left behind, and often

pay perhaps the bigger penalty for their beliefs

within their own community, especially in less

'developed' cultures than our own.

However, from the word go Companjen set my

teeth on edge, with her excessively pious and

ingratiating tone. She seemed to manage to deny

these women the recognition of theirstrengh and

suffering by telling their stories in a manner so

lacking in insight. Perhaps it is lack of skill as a

writer; perhaps she loses something by writing in

English (she is Dutch); perhaps it is due purely to

herfairly narrow perspective ofthe world as an

evangelical Christian. Perhaps, though, she just

chose to try and include too much in one book.

Companjen did manage to salvage the book

slightly for me by showing some insight into the situation

ofthe Palestinians, particularly the Christians.

However, this was the only situation she

wrote of that she seemed to understand in any

way, beyond a very superficial recognition that still

in many places in our world people suffer for

making a stand 0n what they believe.

I am finally beginningto be inspired to attempt

to 'change the world' again, after a couple of years

of burying my head in the sand. I guess I was

looking for inspiration. I didn't find it here,

although I'm certain the women she describes are

incredible women who've managed to come out

the other side after the roughest oftimes. Their

stories are sad - unfortunately she tells them like

bedtime stories.

(Emily Bardell)


Reinvenfing the ideal

lf evolution, quantum plryslcs and arttficial intelli{ence are taken for {ranted,

where does that leave our images of Gad? David ltl$fns explores

EVER SINCE THE lnquisition condemned

Galileo, science and Chtistianity have

existed in tension with each other.

But in recent years we have seen many scientists

and theologians claiming that the two are in

fact compatible. Ihis book is in that tradition: a

collection of very short essays arguing for a positive

view ofthe relationship

between the two


There are fifty contributors, many of them eminent

British or American theologians, but their

pieces are designed to be accessible to a wide

readership - the kind of thing you might find in a

newspaper 0r magazine. Whilst there are a few

essays by people of other faiths, most of the

authors are Christians, and most of those happen

to be Protestants. lf you are familiar with the science-and-religion

debate, you will recognise many

of the authors represented here. lnterestingly,

there is no orthodox contribution at all.

Ihe book falls into eleven sections covering

areas like creation, genetics, evolutionary biology,

and the limits of science. At the start of each one,

Russell Stannard gives a summary of the pieces to

follow, He does not have a hard job: most 0f the

essays are concerned with making one simple

point. Unlike much theological writing, they are

admirably concise and clear. I cannot hope to tell

you about all 0f the essays, but I'll pick out a few

to give a flavour of the collection.

Paul Davies points outthat, accordingt0

modern physics, time came into being along with

matter at the Big Bang. So asking what happened

before the Big Bang is like asking what lies north

of the North Pole. The Christian doctrine of creation

cannot mean, in Davies' words, "God

pushing a metaphysical button and sitting back to

watch the action"llnstead, creation is "God sustainingthe

existence ofthe universe, and its laws,

at all times, from a location outside of space and

time". lhe lawlike nature of the universe is a better

starting-p0int for dialogue between science and

religion than the meaningless question of what

happened before the Big Bang.

Anne Foersfs article on computers in the'Personhood

and the Soul'section considers what it is

that makes us people ratherthan machines. ls it

our use of language or our capaci$ for abstract

thought? Foerst rejectsthese ideas, saying

instead that it is God's creation of us (and the

relationship with him that he offers us) which

makes us individuals. ln that case, there is no

reason why a sufficiently complex computer could

not be a person. Foerst is pointingto the relevance

of theological thinking in the context of computer


God for the 21st Century I ed, Russell Stannard I SPCK

One point that crops up several times in

the book is the discovery that if the universe's

basic physical laws had been just

slightly different then human life could

not have evolved. For instance, Michael

Poole reminds us that afterthe Big

Bang there were only the simplest elements,

hydrogen and helium. These

fused together in nuclear reactions

at the centre of stars to give the

more complicated elements, like

oxygen and carbon, from which

organic life is made, "But how

do stars form in the first

place?" Poole asks. "Through

gravity compressing a cloud

of gas, and ignitingthe nuclear

fusion fires.... Make gravity any weaker, and the

stars will not ignite. Make it any stronger, and the

stars will burn too fast, and long-lived stars like

the Sun will not exist." lhe universe seems to be

fine-tuned for life.

Not many people like to sum up theirthoughts

in a few rhetorical paragraphs, and so its unfair to

judge the contributors on what they say here. But

one does not get much of a sense of an ongoing

engagement from which these conclusions spring'

ln this respect, Stannard's earlier book, Science

and Wonders, is much better, containing as it does

some sceptical material from such people as

Richard Dawkins, lt would be a more helpful book

to use if you are looking for material to spark off a




Science is a method of arriving at conclusions through

A tedious proportion of the essays in this book

conclude with a paragraph of radiant optimism


aR rr,


{f it ruRl



-. r 5I4

i",, , o

conjecture and experiment. ln contrastto religion,

science has been enormously successful.


26 lmovement



concerning science's challenge to theologl. For

example, Robert Herrmann's piece begins with a

reminder that it was the very success of science

that led to the separation of science and religion,

but his final conclusion is that "science now

appears to be pointing to religious faith as an

equally valid source of truth". This seems to me to

be a rather rosy view.

The idea of compatibility occurs in many of

these essays. For instance, there is the claim that,

although science has no room for divine action,

the idea is still compatible with science, for God

acts in and through the laws of nature. (Paul

Davies' redefinition ofthe doctrine of creation is

another example.) But I can't help feeling that this

liberal move is not quite enough of a response to


It is clear both that the conclusions of science

sometimes appearto challenge faith and that

there is no need for us to have the sort 0f faith

which can easily be refuted by science. Yet science

is not only a set of conclusions; it is a method of

arriving at them through conjecture and experiment.

And, in contrastto religion, science has

been enormously successful. We can now predict

when eclipses will happen, make stronger and

more useful materials, and understand what

causes disease (as well as being able to cure

rather a lot ofthem). ln contrastto religion,

scientific conclusions tend t0 be agreed upon by

the whole scientilic community. All of this seems

to make scientific assertions more justified than

religious ones.

To put it another way, once we have taken religious

claims away from the domain of science, as

we must, it becomes unclear how we are supposed

to come to know that they are true. Compared with

the tested conclusions of science, religious doctrines

are aptto seem arbitrary. Certainly, one can

saythat regularities in nature are God acting, if

one wants to. But why would anybody ever want to

describe them in those terms?

One way to deal with this might be to talk of the

Bible, or Church tradition, or mystical experience,

as an infallible source of authority about religious

matters. But I do not think many of us can take

this path. Anyway, until theologians can demonstrate

not only how the claims of theologly are

compatible with those of science but also why we

might want to assert them, then science's

challenge to religion will not have been answered.

One of the essays in this book begins to suggest

a response to this question, a response that

resonates strongly with my own thoughts, As

Willem Drees writes:

It is unsatisfacto ry to reSard faith as though

itwere merely a matter of transferring

information... A /over says to the beloved, 1ou

are the loveliest: and to$ether they travel in

trust and love. But no investigation on Earth

and beyond has been made to justify that

statemenq no cosmic claim is being asserted.

So too will reli!,ious language always be c,ose

to our hearts.

. David Liggins is currently studying philosophy

at Sheffield University. He is a member of

Sheffield SCM.

Weighty, worw


but worth it?

0UCH! OMY S0 I'VE GOT problems with the title, these changes and in so doing shows how we (the

but more about that in a moment.

Christian Community) have played, and can play,

Public Theologr for ChangingTimes I John Atherton I SPCK

I like the book and recommend it, but (oh no, an active role in such change. Partnership and reconciliation

are the "how" of this. All this happens

this spells death ! ) a prior reading of An /diofs

Guide to Iheo/ogy would help. lt gets a little heavy in part one.

around some phrases and topics and you might

After intermission (a quick reel change)

to a "human person". What other kind of person

do you get? What theology is there apart from

public theology? Hence, its use in the title appears

to be more than just a little of an orymoron. My

spin. 0K, enough alreadyl I just had to get that off

my chest,

Before I end, I was also a little put out by the

quotation from Hans Kung (the eminent German

have to fake understanding these parts to finish it,

but it does give some neat (UK usage, not USA

usage) answers to the kind of "how do I as a Christian

understand what is happening in the world?"

type of question.

John Atherton is Canon Theologian of Manchester

Cathedral and it is in the context of that

Referring lo a public theology is like trying to refer lo a human

person. What theology is there apart from pu bl ic theology?

city that he works out his theology. He writes: "lt is

this book's purpose to establish connections

between secular dnd theological in the contemporary

arena." So, what's it about?

ln a nutshell, it's an exploration ofthe

meaning of partnership and reconciliation for, and

through, an understanding of public theolo$/. lt

looks at the huge changes of the past 40 years

from a British and a global perspective.

John Atherton examines these changes at two

levels: nationally as they affect our lives, and internationally

as they affect politics, the global

economy, the spread of poverlry and the divisions

between nations. He offers an interpretation of

national levels. Now, what about the title? Well, I

am unhappy with it because it appears to undermine

the very substance of his text. He writes at

length about partnership and reconciliation, yet

his use of the expression "public theology"

appears to create a dichotomy.

This is my spin on it: lf we talk about "public

theology" this might then imply another theology

that is "private". This is the dichotomy lfear. All

theology finds Creation as its context, because it is

God who speaks the word and brings forth the Creation.

lt is the Logos who enlivens the Created

0rder, God's "Godness" is "out there" (public) so

to refer to a "public theology" is like trying to refer

comes parttwo in which he works out "a code of theologian) which SPCK have put out on the back

practical divinity'- meaningways in which our cover. lt reads like a personal endorsement by

faith is worked out atthe local, national and inter-

Kung ofthe book. lmpressive! ln fact, it is a quotation

from Kung, written three years earlier, in

another context about a theological process, not

about this book at all.

There is no doubtthatJohn Atherton writes

from a wealth ofexperience and academic expertise.

The material is topical, readable and challenging.

lf it does nothing else - and I hope it will

do lots - it will Sive you some good phrases to drop

into almost any discussion aboutthe Global Community

and our place and responsibility in it,


(David Hart)

movement 127


God on the racks


DARK!' screams the headline of the

Weekly World News, while the National



Seeking out God on the magazine racks is a

pretty daunting task in a store that carries as many

magazines as Chapters in downtown Toronto.

Although precedent would suggest that He has a

predilection forturning up in the weirdest places,

l'm not really up for ploughing through a ton of

tabloid conspiracy theories on JFK, UFOs and

Princess Di in order to find out Jesus's thoughts on

0J Simpson, So I look for the nice man in charge of

the magazine section and ask him ifthey carry any

magazines on theology, "...0r philosophy?" I add,

trying not to seem desperate as he tries not to


Apparently, there isn't an awful lot of demand

for specifically 'religious' magazines, but there are

one 0r two titles carried by the truly huge stockist

that do deal with spirituality and spiritual issues;

perhaps less surprisingly n0ne of them are specificallyJudaeo-Christian.

Most hail - again, unsurprisingly

- from the USA, but a whistle-stop tour

through three titles picked at random offthe racks

causes less eye-rolling than your average liberal

Christian might think,

Skeptic - if you can deal with the US spelling -

is a jolly romp through agnosticism, and makes for

a pretty good read consideringthat it's a magazine

written by people who are proud to say they

don't know what they're talking about. lt has

some good articles about whether a reconciliation

is possible between science and religion,

but some of the columnists are more

cynical than sceptical, and relish

bashing Bible-bashers, which grates

somewhat, after so fiany professions of

- well, scepticism. As the remit is

that of dubi0us agnosticism rather

than of Christianity, it doesn't really

have much to do with theology, but it

does try to cover issues like objective

morality and epistemology from an

alternative perspective, which is pretty


W hat is Enlightenment? is another

American glossy, and looks a bit like a

28 lmovement

Whlch? special on faith: the big names tried and

tested against a few own brands. Founded by

Andrew Cohen - who is "notjust a spiritual teacher

Ibut] an inspiring phenomenon" accordingto the

editorial, it tends t0 cover mainly Eastern and

mystical religions, and new religious movements.

The theme of this issue is "What does it mean to

be in the world but not of it" and includes articles

by self-help gurus and former hermits, though a

page each is given overto a Rabbi and an lmam.

Christianity seems represented solely by the experiences

of one Carmelite monk, which seems a

striking omission, given that the issue in question

has perplexed the Church for centuries. What is

Enlightenment? basically seems to espouse a

pantheistic liberal philosophy that shares many of

the basic spiritual and humanitarian tenets of

Christianity - but without the Christ part, or indeed

any serious concern for social justice issues.

What is Enlightenment? looks a bit like

a Which? special on faith: the big names

tried and tested against a few own brands.

At the end of the day, it comes across as something

of a catalogue for people looking for a new

fanaticism: mainstream spirituality is largely sidelined,

and it's concerned with showcasing opinion

pieces by an assortment of independent 'spiritual

teachers', ratherthan genuine theological debate,

Parabola is a lot smaller, and more concerned

with "Myth, Tradition and the Search for Meaning"

as it announces on the cover. Like the other two, it

has a themed format, and the current

issue deals with "Fate and


1" ,:r,e.,i luuu.

F !ub:


violations, magazines also

thrive on stories of the miraculous,

the courageous, and the

heart-rending. Melodramatic,

perhaps - but in a culture of

seven-second sound-bites, the mundane just

doesn't sell.

While advocates of the Christian Parallel Universe

might point out that the underlying philosophy

of most mainstream magazines is avowedly

secular - espousing the prevailing culture of liberal

humanism - it would be naive to assume that

nothing 0f God can be gained from an apparently

unconnected story, This month's Mademoiselle is

a good example. Forthe most part, it's a Cosmo

clone with fewer adverts and more exclamation

marks. But it also features the story of Asha, a

twenty-four year old woman who describes her

fight against breast cancer. She describes the

understandably dark humour she found in the situation,

the friends who stood by her in the bleakest

times, and, perhaps most importantly, whatshe

learned from the experience. "l used to have my

whole life mapped out," she says, "but I've

realised that you can't plan like that." Any spiritual

before her, her courage in battling

the disease, and hersubsequentjoy

in life itself. Ultimately, it's a humbling


The concept of the modern parable

may sound like a bad clich6, but its relationship to

the Christian experience has the potential to be as

relevant as its Biblical counterpart. The question of

what it means to be in the world but not of the

word may remain unresolved, but if you are in the

world, it's worth making use of the teachingthat it

has to offer - and there is always something to be

learned from the experiences of others.

Jhe access to these experiences offered by

magazine culture shouldn't be written off on the

grounds that they don't give the glory to God

specifically. Two thousand years ago Christ was

rather fond of the apparently irrelevant story to

show that God turns up in the strangest places; it

may be that He still is.

. Claire Horsnell is in the first year of a PhD in

English and Canadian Literature at the

University of Toronto. She is a former member

of Warwick SCM.

message that a Christian reader might take away

from Asha's story is likely to be highly personal,

but it emphasises her rise to the challenge placed



THIS NEW EDlTl0N of a classic comes in the after

math of the ordination of women to the priesthood

and makes use of the traditionally complementary

gifts that women and men bring to ministry of all

sorts, and the strengths and risks within these


In other words the inner sense of call is always

to something that will be drawn out from within

you, not something provided for you out there.

A long quote, but it sums up one main theme

of the book. throughout, we are given stories from

individuals pursuing their own calling. Remarkably,

Called or Collared? an alternative approach to vocation

Francis Dewar ISPCK

Ihe book looks at ministry from the perspective

the 'cringe factoi is low. Ihere were especially

memorable tales. Firstly an account of an internal

'argument with God and the eventual 'yes'to

something she couldn't quite define; secondly a

ofthe Church (as an institution), laig and priests.

Following this, the idea of calling is discussed

around the old favourites, 'being' and 'doing,

The'alternative' approach lies in the balanced

combination of an address to 'would-be ordinands'

and an astute look at ministry as a whole.

Calling is understood to mean both to the Church

collectively and to individuals, The point he makes,

and repeatedly, is that'calling' does not necessarily

mean becoming a vicar.'Calling', we are led

to understand, is a personal thing - we are given

skills and the means t0 use them to fulfil our

potentials, and should get on with it rather than

trying to fit preconceived, ill{itting, roles. Chapter

three, A Double lnvitation', states:

Many people feel they have to dance to

someone elsds tune, to sing sorneone elsds

song... But it is a disaster if the whole of your

life is lived like that. For God invites you to sinE

report written by a parish lay worker after spending

nine months discovering the real breadth and

challenges of 'living the job'. 0f the other chapters,

'RSVP' is a series of exercises (no, don't run away

just yet), to think through your own ideas and

strenghs. These need time and space (so I didn't

do them). 'Call in the Bible' is what it says: Moses,

lsaiah, Paul... some reluctant, some less so, and

what can be drawn from their stories.

I would read this again, lt's easy to read, and

gets through lots of material in nottoo many

pages. lt is in plain English and can be picked up

and put down again without losing the thread. Ihe

only thing I found at times annoying were the

references to other books (Live for a Chante and

lnvitations). Not having read them, I couldn't help

the feeling that if I had, this book would be better

read alongside or even afterwards.

(Frances Davison)

your songfor others, yourwords, your music...




Celibacy in the city

I NEVER BELIEVED THAT Catholic priests

were really celibate. When I was little, all

the priests I met were ancient, and

unsurprisingly, the possibility of them

having sex or children never occurred to


Keeping the Faith I dir. Edward Norton

When I met some younger priests later on, I

just presumed (in a rebellious teenager with an

overactive imagination kind of way) that they were

all at it anyway, but were just very discrete. N0 one

ever talked about it.

I often thought that if celibate priests were out

there, doing something that must be pretty damn

difficult, then someone should talk about it publicly.

Which is why everyone should see Keeping

the Faith.

You've heard the start ofthis story before, I bet:

a priest walks into a bar and wants to tell the bartender

about the woman and best friend who

broke his heart. Cheesy, huh? Butstickwith me, it

gets better...

Brian Finn (played by director Edward Norton)

spent his childhood with best friends Jacob

Schram (the very attractive Ben Stiller) and Anna

Reilly (the very blonde and, dammit, the very talented

Jenna Elfman). We get a flashback ofthem

doing the things that everyone presumes American

kids did together in the sixties. That is, hary days

playing basketball in the back yard, walking along

leafy suburb streets in their sneakers, playing with

butthat's all you're getting!

It is a formulaic plot: two friends love the same

woman, but this one has a great twist as both of

them have a religion that is getting in the way of

their being with the woman they love. Although

Brian cannot have Anna and the priesthood at the

same time, this is much more straightforward than

Jacob's situation: he can have a wife, but she has

to be 'suitable'for his chosen life as a rabbi who's

going places. Anna, with neither the right name

nor acceptable background, is definitely not a

good career move for Jacob. The Jewish community's

attempts to find Jacob a more appropriate

Brian cannot have Anna and the priesthood.

Jacob can have a wife, but she has to be suitable

for his life as a rabbi who's going places.

their skateboards and generally having a good ol'

time being a young American, But disaster is

lurking for the blissful threesome.

Anna moves away and the boys are left alone.

Happily, they grow up side by side, one a good

Catholic and one a good Jewish boy. Seventeen

years later, when both boys are now ordained in

their religion, Anna returns and they both promptly

fall for her. I won't spill the beans as to who ends

up with whom... 0K, well one of them gets Anna,

wife may well be a little clich6d but they are also

hilarious and worth watching the film for alone.

Norton handles religion, love and celibacy with

great respect and perception. Within the film, he

even manages to offer an insight into the difficulties

that the young within traditional churches face

when attempting change. Brian and Jacob are the

very cool and sexy "God Squad" who are known

and respected by the community and wantto

change the world. Presented with sensitivity, this

issue is highlighted from both sides, showing the

complications when enthusiasm, experience, tradition

and youth are forced into the same arena.

As well as this, l'm sure the scriptwriter had no

idea thatthe Vatican was aboutto'c0nsolidate' its

position on interfaith dialogue, bul Keepi nt the

Falth offers a timely and superb critique as to how

faiths can share a common goal and overcome

prejudice to achieve great things. The relationship

between Brian and Jacob particularly highlights

how two people who know and understand each

other can bridge what often appears to be an

impossible divide.

Complemented by the fantastic surroundings

of New York and some classic supporting

characters such as the philosophical barman and

psycho Jewish girlfriend, this is a beautiful film

aesthetically and conceptually. lt made me laugh

out loud and cry, and it pleased me immediately

with the storyline and resolution, as well as leaving

me with plenty offood forthoughl. Keepingthe

Faith explores with perception, conviction and

wicked humour the often-ignored world of religion

and faith, handling with ease some of the most

important issues of life and love. A truly great film.

. Anna Hall has just graduated with a law degree from

Newcastle University and now works as a National

Co-ordinator for the Catholic Student Council.

30 lmovement

the serpent


A strange buttrue

factthatwill, I think,

change the way

you view the

world: "ln 1977

there were 150



in the world.

ln the year

2000 there

are 112000.

lf this trend

continues by

the year 2023

one third of

world's population

will be Elvis



People used to wait for

their favourite bands to

split up, die or go

nuts before they

took their songs

on the road.

0r they




fantasies to

playing air guitar in

front of the mirror.

But nowadays you can have a tribute

band doingthe rounds atthe same

time as the real thing. Numerous

0asis-alikes appeared soon after the

Mancunians hitthe bigtime, and

there are several varieties of Spice

Girls. Even a drag act, I seem to

remember, called the Spice Boys.

(Did the Geri Halliwell impersonator

get the boot at the same time?)

The time-lag between the original and

the tribute band keeps diminishing

and soon the tribute bands will exist

before the original... no, hang on

we're straying in to science fiction.

(And that Elvis fact - what a great

premise for sci-fi movie.)


Jhe one redeemingfeature of tribute

bands is the potential for inspired

names, such as Bjorn Againand Alike

Cooper, But they don't all have such

good names... for instance, Ihe Corz,

who try to reproduce the sharp tunes,

luscious dark hair and bone structure

of that fiddlin' lrish family, Ihe Corrs.

They even have a moody looking,

sensible older brother for a drummer.

The evocation is eerie: there are four

of them who have the right number of





about street life in a grimy

But I can't help thinking

that, from the publicity

shot (below), they've

escaped from Band of

northern town. ls he a drummer

or a pimp?

What is most amazing about

the band is their sales

pitch. Ihe Corrz are

billed as a "stunning

re-creation ofThe

Cons'unique Celtic

Gold, the



sound." Pedantthat I am, I can't help

thinking there's something

contradictory between the words

"unique" and "re-creation". And even

more bizanely they claim, "You don 't

have to be a fan ofThe Corrs to enjoy

this performance."


I was delighted to see this promo for

the writings of a minister based in

Kerala, lndia. He mixes the innovative

cadences of lndian English with go0d

old fashioned bigotry, to create

something, well, quite unique.

"Herewith I am sending to you my

recent writings upon the subjects,

lmmorality, Abortion, Homosexuality

and Salvation. Multimillions of our

people are perishing and goingto hell

with out knowing Jesus Christ." Which

is an aftention-grabbing, if

unusual, wayto begin a letter.

Sajan Pallyvathuckal is a

generous man offeringto share

his ministry: "lf you are fall-inline

with me, kindly request to

have discussion upon these

subjects with the different

groups of your Church and

outside." And so he goes on

haranguing of various kinds of

deviants while upholding traditional

morality. He offers useful little

maxims for husbands like "Love

the wife, Lead the wife, Learn the


Enemy number one is "New

Morality, which receives the

applause and appreciation ofthe

people. New Morality is nothing but

simply a legalisation of immorality."

He says: "Also I would like to narrate a

bit aboutthe folly ofthe new

morality..." Anyway I don'twantto

give away the surprise. Ihere's


ln all the acres of

38 pages of this hellfire

and humour.

comment generated by the

American election fiasco, the

star of show has to be Chad

(swinging, pregnant or dimpled). He

sounds like an interesting guy. As a

result of the attention showered on

the small squares of paper, punched

to show the intentions of Floridian

voters, a church in Lichfield has

greatly improved its profile.

the website for St Chad's has

increased its number of hits from four

a day to 300. ln the online guestbook

Chad Walkerfrom Georgia writes,

"Being named Chad and well aware of

the importance ofthe bits of paper

called chads I have been

embanassed by it all. Your website

has restored some dignity to my name,"

The ne)ft step for Chad, a bishop of

Northumbria in the 7th century? Well,

there's talk of making him patron

saint of disputed elections.


Just how much information can you

know about a celebrity? Never

enough, according to 0K magazine,

who.continued their Posh n'Becks

trivia n'tedium campaign. Recently a

tagline ofthe front cover read - and

this is true, although I can't quite

believe it myself - "Victoria always

wanted a dog" and "Secret lingerie

through the post." lfthey don't sound

like songs by Belle and Sebestian, of

some other too clever-by-half fop

group, I don't know what does.

ln the same week rival brain-dead

celebrity-worshipping glossy Hellol

scored a perfect 10 on the

insipidometer with this caption:

"Catchphrase host Roy Walke/s son

Phil and his new bride Janet enjoy a

romantic honeymoon on the Greek

island of Santorini." Ah Phil, son of

Catchphrase host Roy Walker, l'd been

wondering what happened to him.


Real life sems to be getting more

scripted. And I'm notjusttalking

about Brf, Erother. Consider the

recent attempted jewel heist at the

Millennium Dome, where several men

dressed as porters stormed the

Money Zone in a JCB digger

attemptingto nab a DeBeers

diamond, Were the villains on loan

from the makers ofJames Bond who

bonowed the dome for a stunt last.

0r perhaps the thieves in the

pay of Pierre-Yves Gerbeau,




the Dome dunce, in

a desperate lastditch


aftract punters to

the ailing

attraction (pay 820

quid, getyourchance at

liftinga rock). During

the failed raid, as

several papers

noted, a group of


trapped in the

smoke, noise, and

chaos valiantly'sang

hymns'. This embellishment

hits just the right emotional

note, but in terms of reality... nah.

Any resemblance to the Baseball

Diamond heist in lhe Great Muppet

Caper is sheer coincidence.


5 orv\E li-lJr\t e J

r\l OI jiE PUI


Or\l J eE

'- fF

a) Tur f uNclr Boor

b) YouR FArrH

SCM is an opportunity to explore faith in an intelligent and lively

atmosphere. Come and meet like-minded people - people who are asking

the same hard questions you are.

SCM: beyond the bare necessities of life

CONTACI the Student Christian Movement, University of Birmingham Westhill,

t4/L5 Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham 829 6LL, ti 0I2L 47I2404

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