Author and speaker Rachel Held Evans has become an important voice for the many post-evangelical millennials in the US who long for a church with more Jesus and less Republican prejudice. In an interview a few years ago, Evans names progressive values along with sacramental church life as being the reason she joined the Episcopalian church. She was asked to comment the fact that Episcopalianism is rapidly losing church attendees, to which she responds:
Just about every denomination in the American church — including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates… Lately I’ve been wondering if a little death and resurrection is exactly what the American church needs… A church might produce thousands of attendees without producing any disciples.
This is quite remarkable, since the point of one of Evans’ most famous articles on CNN’s Belief Blog is that evangelical churches must become more liberal to stop millenials from leaving them. This is a similar argument to John Shelby Spong‘s famous thesis that Christianity must change or die. A former bishop in Evans’ new church, Spong argued that this change includes stop believing in theism, stop beliving in the supernatural, stop believing that prayer is useful and stop believing in physical resurrection. Pretty ridiculous. Evans is far from this extreme, but her reasoning in the CNN article was similar: liberal Christianity is necessary for church growth. Continue reading Why Both Conservative and Liberal Churches are Decreasing→
What would sixteenth-century Anabaptists have made of the “Toronto Blessing” that has impacted many churches in Great Britain in recent months? How did the Radical Reformers respond to such spiritual phenomena’? The charismatic aspect of Anabaptism has not received much attention from historians, but evidence of spiritual phenomena in early Anabaptist groups is substantial. Some welcomed manifestations of the Holy Spirit, while others were wary and attempted to regulate or discourage such expressions. Basic to the Anabaptist view of charismatic gifts, however, was a belief that a transformed life was the true measure and sign of Holy Spirit presence.
A charismatic view of discipleship
A sixteenth-century Anabaptist named Leonhard Schiemer wrote that believers receive “a power about which they have to say that things that were once impossible are now possible”. Christians lacking such a change, he argued, “are not yet horn again of water and spirit, even the Holy Spirit”.1 Schiemer’s quote indicates two distinctive emphases in Radical Reformation theology: a preference for the term “horn again” rather than “justification by faith”, and a focus on the experience of new life. In contrast to other Reformers, Anabaptists spoke of power to live differently rather than mere freedom from guilt and assurance of forgiveness.
Anabaptists accepted the notion of “justification by faith”, but did not find this term adequate to describe their experience of Christ and his Spirit. Through the death of Christ their sinful past had been forgiven, and now they wanted to live a Christ-centred life in the power of the Spirit. Common Anabaptist terms for salvation were related to the work of the Spirit and the expectation of a changed life. Words that frequently occur are: new birth, conversion, illumination, enlightenment, the new creature, and regeneration2 Continue reading Anabaptism as a Charismatic Movement→
I’ve been a peace and justice activist now for eight years; campaigning, advocating and debating for things like disarmament, pacifism, economic equality, poverty reduction, sustainability, environmental protection, gender equality, open borders and religious freedom. My motives are Christian: I believe this is what Jesus wants me to do and that it makes the earth represent God’s goodness and love better. Still, I’ve stood side by side with atheists, agnostics, Muslims, New Agers, Buddhists and others in a common fight for a better world for all.
I’ve found that activism for peace and justice can serve the role of a common denominator and a platform for cooperation between different worldviews and beliefs. That’s why it plays such a prevalent role in different ecumenical and interreligious councils – we might not agree on who God is, but we all agree that no child should starve to death. It’s why many people who aren’t Christians will still agree with Christians on one thing concerning Jesus: that he was a good moral teacher.
Hence, morality can be viewed as one of the least exclusive claim of any religion. In fact, it can be viewed as one of the least religious! I’ve had several friends who, when they doubt their Christian faith, becomes activists for a while and emphasises Jesus’ ethical teaching, before leaving the faith altogether and becoming atheists or agnostics.Continue reading Why Activists Need God to Make Their Case→