Monastic Communities


brendan20sail

Andy Peck in Christanity Magazine writes about the ancienst paths and the new journey for monastics from the modern church.

‘Why are increasing numbers of evangelicals embracing ancient Christian traditions? Christianity magazine looks at the reasons behind this emerging trend…’

He asks..read on

So you discover that a friend has left your Anglican church and is now worshipping with Baptists. Are you bothered? It might depend why he or she left, but in these days when denominational ties are weak you’d probably barely give it a thought. After all, within evangelicalism the beliefs and service style will be pretty similar whatever the name on the building.

But what if you were in an evangelical/charismatic church and your friend departed for a church known for its ‘bells and smells’ – Anglo Catholic, Roman Catholic or Orthodox? How would you feel then? More serious? The journey ‘up the candle’, as it’s colloquially known, may put your friend on the prayer chain – as brows furrow and people start asking, “why?”

But this is happening in growing numbers. Many evangelicals have moved to join the Catholic and Orthodox Churches or embraced some of ancient traditions (practices typically associated with these churches) within the last 30 years.

Some of these figures are quite high profile. Francis Beckwith, the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, for example, reverted to Catholicism. On this side of the Atlantic, Michael Harper, at the forefront of the Charismatic Renewal in the Anglican Church and one time editor of Renewal, which later merged with Christianity, left the Anglican Church in 1995 to join the Orthodox Church; Rev Prebendary Nick Mercer, one time minister at Upton Vale Baptist Church and later director of training at London Bible College, now serves as vicar general for the London College of Bishops within the Anglo-Catholic tradition. And there are many like them.

Interesting perhaps, but how is it relevant to you if you are in an evangelical fellowship? Many evangelicals are bringing these ‘ancient traditions’ – practices normally associated with the High Church/Roman Catholic Church – into corporate worship and private devotions: liturgy, incense, meditation, fasting (when it isn’t even Lent) retreats, spiritual direction, scripture reading and prayer using methods perfected in monastic life.

Andrew Walker, professor of theology and culture at King’s College, London, was brought up a Pentecostal and now worships in an Orthodox church from the Russian Tradition. He gave a paper at St Paul’s, Hammersmith in 2003, and said that, “The Principal of Spurgeon’s College identifies himself as a ‘Catholic Evangelical’…. Canon Tom Smail, veteran of the Renewal, considers himself an ‘Evangelical Catholic… In the New Church sector, Roger Ellis in Chichester has incorporated elements of Celtic spirituality and prophetic symbolism into Charismatic rhapsody.”

These people don’t see ancient traditions as ‘lifeless ritual’ but a vital part of their moving forward with God. So why are some evangelicals switching churches and others embracing ancient traditions? Here are five explanations they might give.

1. We believe the same things

On February 8 1952, CS Lewis wrote to the Church Times of the great unity that existed between the high (Anglo- Catholic) and low (Evangelical) churches over against the liberal and antisupernatural churches. He used the phrase ‘Deep Church’ or ‘Mere Christianity’ to describe their common faith. Recently this ‘Deep Church’ language has returned to describe the truths shared by Churches (such as Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant). But most evangelicals typically didn’t accept this: jumping from the book of Revelation to the Reformation and the break with Rome. Evangelical essentials including salvation through grace by faith reminded them (as every new believer came to faith) of the evils of any religious approach that favoured works rather than the work of Christ, which would include of course classic Catholic and Orthodox doctrine – at least as they understood it. Many forget, or render insignificant, that for a thousand years from AD 37-45 to AD 1054-66, all believers in the UK were part of the undivided Orthodox Catholic Church – the latter date representing the time when the Bishop of Rome split, forming what we know as the Roman Catholic Church. In those days of course, the visual and symbolic were especially important in telling the faith story.

In recent decades many have realised that evangelical heritage has to include this period, (or was God absent for 1,000 years?) and concluded that the basic tenets of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches are the same: indeed David Watson, at the forefront of charismatic renewal in the 70s and 80s, even concluded that the Reformation was not necessary!

Professor Andrew Walker, an avid supporter of Deep Church, says, “It is about the marriage between the ‘new thing’ God is always doing in our lives, and the ‘old things’ – the historic givens of the Faith – that he has already done which includes the means of Grace that he has provided for our spiritual nourishment. Deep Church, then, is not just about something old for something new (or the other way round). It is about anamnesia [remembering] and re- imagining. It is about catholicity and a holy separation. It is about a re-collected history and writing a new chapter in the annals of faith.”

Many evangelicals have concluded that we can happily drink from one another’s cup without becoming contaminated; it is time that the old divisions were repaired.

2. We have the same spirit

For many, the impetus to be open to ancient traditions came when evangelicals and charismatics discovered that people with a Catholic or Orthodox (such as Greek, Russian) heritage were exhibiting the signs of the very life God had given them – indeed at an experiential level, charismatics found they had more in common with charismatic Catholic and Orthodox believers than their conservative evangelical cousins. Evangelicals were forced to either conclude that this was ‘human’ or the devil, or indeed the work of God: maybe God didn’t have the same theology of the Reformation which they had!

Asked why he had left Anglicanism to join the Orthodox Church, Michael Harper said, “The Holy Spirit!” and that for him and his wife, the experience felt like “coming home”. Many within a charismatic background are finding that they can combine openness to the spirit with aspects of Deep Church.

Many more, weary of hype concerning predicted revival about to head over the horizon, preferred a backward look to a creedal faith and practices with firmer foundations than the shifting focus of the latest fad.

3. We want to grow

Other evangelicals have found that the staples of Bible study, prayer and strong preaching weren’t leading to godly living. They knew the truth but it didn’t change them at a heart level. Looking for more, they found writers like Richard Foster, who in his book, ‘Celebration of Discipline’ explains that disciplines such as fasting, solitude, silence, meditation (so called Catholic practices) had actually been in the Bible all along. These were not ‘works based’ as often thought, but a God-given means of growth. More latterly his mentor, Dallas Willard (author of ‘Spirit of the Disciplines’, among others) has shared in print and in conferences how he learned to value the pre-Reformation saints. John Ortberg popularised such teaching further in ‘The Life you’ve have always wanted: spiritual disciplines for ordinary people’.

Publishers such as that bastion of evangelicalism, IVP, now have an imprint, ‘Formatio’ dedicated to such material. Many have sought out ‘spiritual directors’ skilled in the art of helping people notice and welcome the presence of God into their personal lives, skills largely found within Anglo Catholic, Catholic and Orthodox settings. Hence even evangelicals deeply suspicious of ecumenical unity, and even of the legitimacy of modern non-evangelical denominations, were prepared to practise what the ancients practised and many found, to their surprise, God working in ways they could scarcely have imagined.

4. We want to build community

But if it is starting to sound as if this ecumenism is all about evangelicals who have become more broad-minded in their old age, there are streams within the emerging church movement (typically younger people) which are mixing vintage wine along with that newly harvested.

In ‘Punk monk: new monasticism and the ancient art of breathing’, Andy Freeman and Pete Greig chart the rise of Boiler Rooms – places where prayer is conducted 24/7 and a community is built around a pattern of prayer, study, celebration and caring for the poor and lost: patterns which sound remarkably like those in a monastery, but then you guessed that already. From humble beginnings in Reading, there are now 56 Boiler Rooms in 14 countries.

Reflecting on ‘Punk monk’, Canon Rev Dr Adrian Chatfield, who heads up The Simeon Centre for Prayer and the Spiritual Life serving Ridley Hall, Cambridge and wider afield says, “There is something in the rights of prayer and the rule of life and a true realisation of community that is attractive. It was seen in Lee Abbey in the 1950s and Northumbria more recently. Young people are saying: ‘We want to belong – we want to join community.’”

In his book ‘The new conspirators’, Tom Sine highlights the ‘new monasticism’ that has developed, including The Order of Mission at St Thomas Crookes Church, Sheffield and The Iona Community, Northumbria Community and the Order of St Aidan and St Hilda who both follow a ‘rule of life’ under the oversight of Franciscan brothers.

Practices thought by evangelicals to signal withdrawal are seen by some to represent the very basis for engagement and service that a modern, rootless generation needs.

5. We want to value the arts

Inevitably many church trends mirror the cultural environment. Is it any surprise that a postmodern world with its mistrust of texts and authority would value the visual and aesthetic offered by ancient practices?

John Drane, author of ‘After McDonaldization’, says, “Our culture is more visual today. Classic evangelicalism is so abstract. Jesus called us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Evangelicalism has focused on the mind to the exclusion of the other three.”

“Do we know God cognitively or affectively?” asks Chatfield. “There used to be a belief that words were sound, whereas art was more slippery. The advent of postmodernism showing that words themselves are be interpreted by the reader/hearer and reminds us of the affective nature of our faith. It is not just in doctrinal formulations that we experience God.”

Hence many evangelicals who once eschewed anything showier than a text on a banner or a decorative communion tablecloth, see the majestic, almost theatrical services of High Church as potentially attractive to seekers – witness the recent boost in attendances of Christmas mass at cathedrals nationwide. Some within the emerging church incorporate ritual, art, symbolism and liturgy into their gatherings as they help postmoderns connect with God.

A healthy trend?

So what do you make of all this? Should you welcome it, be alarmed or just be neutral?

For a start we need to say that it’s not a case of ‘We are all going to Rome, Moscow and Athens, will the last one to leave evangelicalism please turn out the lights’. We don’t yet know whether to describe this as a trickle or a stream.

Clearly there is a difference between changing churchmanship and adopting practices which cohere with evangelical distinctiveness. Maybe evangelicals can be positive if changes in churchmanship are made out of genuine convictions in a heartfelt embracing of how God is leading them. And it would be churlish in the extreme for evangelicals to be prejudiced against practices included in scripture just because they perceive them to be ‘High Church’ or ‘Roman Catholic’.

However, it also needs to be noted that although evangelicals have missed and lost some of the insights of pre-Reformation Christianity, let’s be clear that this wasn’t all good either. The ancient traditions did not save the ancient churches from a quagmire of ritualism that gave Christianity a bad name. God had to send a new wave of the spirit in Pentecostalism in the early 20th century.

So as evangelicals reject a sectarian approach, they need great wisdom to assess what it is appropriate to embrace. There were good reasons why evangelicals historically rejected the aesthetic and visual dimensions of faith knowing that the New Testament was keen to break with those visual and ritualistic parts of Judaism that had been replaced with Christ.

All spiritual disciplines, (evangelical classics such as Bible reading, prayer and listening to God’s word preached, as well as fasting, meditation, spiritual direction and monastic living) are tools God can and will use, but need to be used properly lest they merely pander to a self-obsessed age and aid a Christian retreat into cloistered environments.

The touchstone should surely be, “Does the way I worship and practise my daily devotions help or hinder godly living for Christ where he has placed me?”

For many, embracing ancient traditions has served that end – and even if you decide it’s not for you, hopefully it will be with a greater respect for those who kept the torch of the gospel shining in the past so that future generations, like you, may live in its light.

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0001-0411-0919-5036_ruler_inches_and_centimeters Something that I have been thinking about for a time is a rule of faith. The benedictines and most monastic orders have them, but I have very much like the Rule of St Benedict.
And so my church is currently looking to introduce this is a slightly different way. We would like to introduce it as mission, a personal mission possibly as a primer to baptism but also as a help to spiritual growth.
These are my suggestions thus far:

I have approached looking ahead to it being used as a baptism primer and for furthering spiritual growth/discipline and discipleship of all.

Connecting to God on a daily basis

A Daily Office and Bible reading

A different daily quote to contemplate or ponder

Daily Format

I have considered an online format but on reflection I think we should print our own books. This can be done quite cheaply at http://www.bookprinting.org.uk/  or a similar site. This has the advantage of being to carry it and freely access it anywhere.

I also suggest adding:

Three sections of teaching notes

Christians Classics list

Web resources list

Room for notes

Daily Prayers (Daily office)

One Daily Office per day consisting of:

The principal prayer – the opening prayer of the day

Daily reading from scripture

The confirmation of the Trinity

Declaration of Faith

Lord’s Prayer and Amen

Duration

Forty days which is in keeping with Jesus time in the Desert/Moses on the mountain/Jews in the desert and is a time period of transformation in scripture. 6 weeks and 2 days – for instance it could run from on Sunday Jan 11th and that means it would run through to feb 27th.

Teaching

All teaching session should be over a simple meal

After church on a Sunday

The teaching should cover all basic areas of belief

Serving

All should serve each week

People would need to be placed in different ministries to understand service and serving

Giving

All people should be giving, that includes financially, time and energy

It should be with a joyful heart

Percentages may make it feel it’s about money or people are in some way having to pay for the course which may detract from the spiritual aspect of it.

Small Groups

All people should be a member of a small group

Mentorship

Initially this could be divided among the three leaders.

For baptism primers I would suggest one on one

Those who have done it before to do it with those who are preparing for the sacrament of baptism

Finishing up

A day away at an abbey/convent for some quiet reflective time and a chance to share for all members

A meal together the night before the baptism

 
 

 

 

Farmington Institute Paper on The Celtic Church in Ireland

Contents

This text has been written specifically to assist teachers and students to meet the requirements of CCEA’s GCE Religious Studies AS course on the origins of the Celtic Church in Ireland and the beginnings of its missionary outreach.

Background to the Mission of Patrick

The Work of Patrick

The Beginnings of Monasticism in Ireland

The Penitentials

Missionary Outreach in Britain

Glossary of terms

Bibliography

http://www.farmington.ac.uk/documents/new_reports/TT220.pdf

 

Although not considered as one of the Mysteria (Sacraments) of the Orthodox Church, because it is not essential to being an Orthodox Christian, monasticism plays an important role in Christian history and is highly valued by the Orthodox Church.

The monastic calling is considered to be a personal gift from God, which is for the salvation of the monk or nun and a service to the Church (or Body of Christ). The monastic vocation is the calling to personal repentance in a life dedicated solely to God. The ultimate Christian virtue of love is sought by the monk or nun primarily through prayer and fasting, and through the exercise of the Christian virtues of poverty, chastity, humility and obedience.

The monastic Christian does not normally exercise any particular ministry in the Church such as that of priest, pastor, teacher, nurse or social worker. The monk is normally a layman and not a cleric, with each monastery having only enough clergy to care for the liturgical and sacramental needs of the community itself.

In Orthodox Christian history many missionaries, teachers and bishops have come from men with monastic vocations. For centuries the bishops have been traditionally selected from among the monks. These additional callings, however, are considered to be acts of God’s will expressed in his people, and are not the purpose or intention of the monastic vocation as such. Indeed, one must enter a monastery only in order to repent of his sins, to serve God and to save his soul according to the ideals of monastic ascetism. The ceremony of monastic profession indicates this very clearly.

The monastic hierarchy

The Orthodox monastic tradition has four hierarchical levels that apply equally to men and to women. The first level is that of a novice. At this level the candidate for monastic profession simply lives in the monastery under the direction of and is obedient to a spiritual father or mother.

The second level is that of riasa-bearer, which means that the person is formally accepted into the community, and is given the right to wear the monastic robe, called the riasa. At this level the candidate is not yet fully committed to the monastic life.

The third level is that of the small schema which means that the person is a professed monastic. He or she now receives a new name and wears the monastic schema (a cloth with the sign of the cross), the veil and the mantle (mantia). At this stage the person pledges to remain in the monastic community in perpetual obedience to their Spiritual Father and to the head of the monastery, called the abbot or abbess (igoumenos or igoumenia). The service of profession, in addition to the hymns and prayers, includes a long series of formal questioning about the authenticity of the calling, the cutting of the hair (tonsuring), and the vesting in the full monastic clothing.

The final level of is the great schema. This level is reserved for very few, since it is the expression of the most strict observance of the monastic ideals, demanding normally a state of life in total seclusion in perpetual prayer and contemplation. With this final profession a new name is again received, and a new monastic insignia, the great schema, is worn.

In the Orthodox Church there is no prescribed length of time that a person must remain in one or another of the monastic levels. This is so because of the radically personal character of the vocation. Thus, some persons may progress rapidly to profession, while others may take years, and still others may never be formally professed while still remaining within the monastic community. The decision in these matters is made individually in each case by the spiritual director and the head of the community.

Types of monasticism

Although the Orthodox Church does not have religious orders as does the Church in Rome, there are in Orthodoxy different styles of monastic life, both individually and in community. Generally speaking some monasteries may be more liturgically oriented, while others may be more ascetic, while still others may have a certain mystical tradition, and others be more inclined to spiritual guidance and openness to the world for the purpose of care and counseling. These various styles of monasticism, which take both a personal as well as a corporate form, are not formally predetermined or officially legislated. They are the result of organic development under the living grace of God.

In addition to the various spiritual styles of monastic life, three formal types of organization may be mentioned. The first is that of coenobitic monasticism where all members of the community do all things in common. The second is called idiorhythmic in which the monks or nuns pray together liturgically, but work and eat individually or in small groups. In this type of monasticism the persons may even psalmodize and do the offices separately, coming together only for the eucharistic liturgy, and even then, perhaps, only on certain occasions. Finally, there is the eremitic type of monasticism where the individual monks or nuns are actually hermits, also called anchorites or recluses. They live in total individual seclusion and rarely join in the liturgical prayer of the community. In the rarest of cases it may even happen that the holy eucharist is brought to the monk or nun who remains perpetually alone.

The Augstinian Order

The Augustinian order (also known as Austin Canons, or Black Canons) came to England and established themselves at St. Botolph’s Priory at Colchester, c. 1106. They spread rapidly, reaching Scotland by 1120. At their height, the Augustinians had over 200 houses in England and Wales.

Each of the houses was governed by a prelate, usually a prior, but sometimes, an abbot. The monastic “rule” followed by the Augustinians was that of St. Augustine of Hippo and was not particularly austere. Each of the Austin Canons was a priest and as such was not bound to his house, but was free to have outside responsibilities, such as to a parish. The Black Canons also ran schools, hospitals and almshouses.

Some well known Augustinian houses are Holyrood, St. Andrews, Jedburgh, Lacock, St. Botolph’s, Leeds (Kent), Llanthony, Walsingham and Barnwell. Their habit consisted of a hooded black cloak over top of a black cassock. The Augustinian Friars are another, separate order.

Most religious traditions embrace elements of monasticism, the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to devote one’s life to spiritual concerns. In a modern spin on that concept, a growing number of progressive Christians are leaving behind the materialism of Western culture to live communally and serve the poor in some of the nation’s most blighted areas.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a 25-year-old divinity student at Duke University, is one of the leaders of this movement, dubbed “new monasticism.” The name comes from a book titled “Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World,” written by Wilson-Hartgrove’s father-in-law, Jonathan Wilson, a professor of theology and ethics at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia.


What is “new monasticism” all about?

 

The idea is that the way of life in Western culture is fragmented, and as a result Christianity seems to have fallen apart with it. We are trying to put the pieces back together again by rediscovering the early version of the church. We live communally, sharing what we have in common, and we settle in areas that have been abandoned or neglected by American society, where we try to serve the local populations.

The word monasticism usually refers to people living an ascetic life, cloistered away from society. That sounds different from what you’re describing.

That’s true. For one thing, we’re not necessarily celibate. I’m married and so are others who live in our house. We’re also not trying to separate ourselves from society. We’re intentionally engaging in our communities through active peacemaking, hospitality and service.

Tell me about the area where you live. What’s it like?

We live in a neighborhood called Walltown, which is a historically black neighborhood in Durham, N.C. Durham’s a typical Southern town in that it’s split up between black and white sections. The whole town is built around Duke University and the hospital. In that sense, the black neighborhoods are almost like servant quarters for that complex. In fact, people in our neighborhood still call Duke “the plantation.” So it has that dynamic of racial segregation and the economic differences that go along with it.

What do you see as your role in the neighborhood?

I guess we’re here to serve people and to change ourselves in the process. It’s not the typical missionary model of going into a community and fixing things. We are in fact learning a lot here. We have a few rooms where we invite people to stay with us when they are coming out of prison or in transition. Usually, there are a couple of folks staying here at any given time. We also host four big community meals a week, and we invite our neighbors to join us.

Do you see yourself as evangelizing people?

I like to think of it more as evangelizing ourselves. We are trying to experiment with the way of life that Jesus taught, and we do invite people into that — they kind of journey with us. I guess in that way we are evangelical, but it’s not like we are trying to beat people over the head with the message and get them to sign up for something.

Do people accept you, or are you treated more like an outsider?

At first, they treated us a little hesitantly, which I suppose is understandable. But the more we stuck around, people learned they could trust us. I think it helps that we have a close relationship with the local Baptist church, which has been here as long as the neighborhood has. I work there part time.

You mentioned before that you see the world as fragmented. What do you mean by that?

Think about suburban culture — people live on a cul-de-sac, get in their cars and drive to work. They drive somewhere else to go to church. Then they get in their cars again to visit a friend in another town.

People’s lives are all over the place. They’re torn in so many directions. And they’re driven by the market economy and by advertising, which encourages them to identify themselves by what they buy, by their choices in the marketplace.

It’s no wonder people can’t find much meaning in their lives. They are longing for a deeper sense of what life’s all about. I think that’s a longing for all the little pieces of life to somehow be put together as a whole.

 

And how does the way you’re living address that need?

We are trying to work from the ground up. So we have planted a garden — and really planted ourselves here, too. We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, and we try to take care of each other in the community. We are committed to staying here and working on the problems, like entrenched racism and drug trafficking.

You grew up in a pretty conservative, middle-class community not too far from here. What made you decide to give up that life and move to the inner city?

I think the change started after meeting poor folks when I was living in Philadelphia, where I went to college. I hadn’t had much contact with anyone homeless before. I suddenly realized there were a lot of people who didn’t live the way we lived and that, lo and behold, the Bible had a lot to say about the poor, and the poor know that. They can usually quote the Bible to you. You know, there are 2,000 verses in the Bible that have something to do with the poor.

So we started telling our homeless friends, “You know, we think God is calling us to be poor.” And they said, “Man, have you ever been poor? This isn’t the easiest thing in the world.”

I think we came to a vision of redistributive economics, or a sharing of lifestyle, in the way that the Scriptures say that whoever gathers too much wouldn’t have too much, and whoever gathers little wouldn’t have too little. It’s sometimes called the Jubilee economics or Sabbath economics — the idea that there is a time to redistribute what you have.

How does that play itself out in your life?

Well, it’s the economics that we try to practice here together in the house. We share everything we have, and we try to do that with our neighbors as much as we can, whether it’s food or cars or anything else. And we’ve started something called a relational tithe, where we pool 10 percent of our income and have it available to share with folks when they need it.

The life you’re describing really goes against the mainstream of American society. Do you think of yourself as a rebel, in a way?

You know, the word radical comes from the Latin for “root,” and I think that more accurately describes what we’re doing. We are trying to get at the root of what Christianity is about.

 

We certainly get plenty of people who are calling us crazy. But, you know, I think it is also true that — and lots of people recognize this — that some of the ways that we are living in the United States right now are crazy, so it’s almost like it’s a time when you have to choose in what way you want to be crazy. And we want to be crazy in the way that Jesus was crazy.

I think that’s radical. That’s not rebellion in the sense of just doing what’s different for the sake of being different.

You went to Iraq before the war began on a peace mission with a group of Christians. What were you doing there?

We were there with the Iraqi people — kind of bearing witness to them that not all Americans wanted them killed. But also witnessing with them what was actually going on and trying to report that back to the United States.

What happened on the trip?

We visited places that were bombed and we went to hospitals to see people who had been injured. Right before the U.S. troops took over Baghdad, we were kicked out by the Iraqis. So we had to drive through the desert.

That’s actually where the name of this community comes from — Rutba House. It was named after a little town where we had a car wreck.

One of our cars was hit by a piece of shrapnel — we blew a tire and landed in a ditch. Some Iraqis picked up friends of ours who were injured and took them to Rutba for medical care. The doctor said to them, “Three days ago, your country bombed our hospital, but we’ll take care of you because we take care of everyone.”

And so we named our house after them, because we thought it was kind of a modern-day Good Samaritan story.

You’re getting a graduate degree at Duke’s divinity school. Did you always want to be a pastor?

No. I was fairly convinced that the best way to be effective was to go into politics. I was trying to do that by becoming a page in the U.S. Senate and doing the whole Washington, D.C., scene. I think that’s part of the reason that I’m still concerned about what the church has to say about politics.

Which senator were you working for?

Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina. So, you know, you can see where I was coming from.

Yes, I can. So you pretty much made a 180-degree turn in your life. What happened?

I used to think that politics was the way that good Christian citizens could exercise justice in the world. I was particularly concerned at the time with Africa because my church had just sent me there on a youth mission.

And after moving to Washington, I found out most people don’t give a rip about anybody in Africa. Most of their life is about serving themselves and climbing the ladder. That was kind of disillusioning, but it helped me get on a different track of trying to help the world.

What do you think of Strom Thurmond now?

Well, I hope he is finding rest. I think his politics were, you know, problematic. He was a racist Dixiecrat who changed his rhetoric because he realized that if he was going to stay in power he had to stop saying ugly things about black people. That’s an unfortunate history.

There are plenty of people in politics who call themselves Christians but are taking completely opposite positions from yours. They support the death penalty, which you oppose, and they’re cutting programs for the poor. Yet they’re calling themselves good Christians. Are they wrong about that?

Well, I think there are some fundamental problems with a Christianity that has taken shape in collusion with the powers that be. The Roman Empire, if you want to go that far back, became Christian because the emperor Constantine thought it would be politically advantageous to do so. And there have been those kinds of Christians ever since.

In America, in particular, white evangelical Christianity has had a lot of power, and I think that makes it blind to a lot of what the Gospel is really about. I worship every Sunday with black evangelicals, and they see the world in a whole different way because they have experienced it differently and they have heard the gospel differently.

So in order to be a good Christian you have to give up your power?

I think in order to see what Jesus teaches us about power, you have to learn from people who have not had power. I don’t think it means everybody should give up their power, but I do think it means that we have to learn how to share power and how to be critical of power in a way that allows us to really access the power of God.

 

 

 

 

 

Scott McKnight is a well respected auothor and blooger. He recently posted this:

I begin with a confession: I’m not a new monastic, nor am I “tempted” to join. In the late 70s and early 80s, yes, we were a bit interested and did some things with a few folks in an inner-city area. But, I learned from the new monastic types — it was more of a “community” movement at that time. And I continue to be challenged to counter the consumerist lifestyle when I read new monastics. So, I’m glad to recommend for your careful reading a new book by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, New Monasticism: An Insider’s Perspective.

I see the new monastics, along with Tom Sine, as one element in the emerging church movement. The new monastics challenge the way the church has fallen in line with a consumerist approach to life and church and everything else. It seeks to form primary relationships in community instead of forging ahead in a largely individualistic lifestyle. All of this is an important challenge for all of us. How we work it out, of course, will depend on us — and I hope upon how our local community of faith seeks to live out the gospel in our world.

Wilson-Hartgrove interacts with all the principal figures: St Anthony, St Francis, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, and Shane Claiborne. The community in which he lives with his wife Leah is in Durham, NC, called Ruthba House. The major themes are covered, without trying to make all of us feel guilty, in delightful prose and exhortations for Christians to consider new ways — however we are living. Themes like community and economics renewal and peace and grace.

Well, this book is in touch with all the bright lights in the movement.

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