BEYOND SPONG: SOME IMPLICATIONS OF RADICAL AND LIBERAL THEOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE OF ANGLICANISM

INTRODUCTION In one of her interviews for her book 'C of E The State It's In' Monica Furlong talked with Archbishop George Carey whom she quotes as having said: "I'd like to argue, you know, that the broad church that we are now is probably a foretaste of what is to come. If we want to think about the coming great church, then it is going to be one in which we have to accept huge differences within the family, and we are not going to have final answers this side of eternity. Living with differences I think is actually the genius of Anglicanism." p.162.

The suggestions to be made in this paper would test this so-called genius of Anglicanism for living with differences, if they were to be carried out and put into practice. In essence, this article states that, as a matter of justice, minority rights where possible should be observed, respected and made room for within the church. In particular, it states that those whose theological convictions do not take a Trinitarian form should be allowed to experiment by trying to create new forms of worship appropriate to their beliefs.

For over 250 years research has been taking place into the historical Jesus, and the results of this research and interpretation are diverse and conflicting . There are people today in the churches, and others who were formerly in the churches, who find themselves drawn to the viewpoint of those theologians who might be said to have two things in common with the historical Jesus: firstly, like him they believe in his God; and secondly, like him they do not believe in the Incarnation of his God (not that Jesus or any of his fellow Jews would ever have contemplated or entertained the idea of such an Incarnation). There has been no "defining moment" of revelation. Their theological position is non-Trinitarian, they do not believe Jesus to be the Saviour of the world, and whereas in traditional Christian thinking he holds a 'centre-stage' position, in their thinking he does not.

The orthodox beliefs of Christianity have been challenged both from within and without the community of Christian believers since its beginnings. This paper is itself a challenge to much of what has been considered to be essential to Christian belief.

PART ONE

ESCHATOLOGICAL EXPECTATIONS

In the first half of the first century C.E. most Jews expected the world, as they knew it, to continue much as before; although some longed to see the independence of their nation. However there were other people such as John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples, and members of the Essene community who were living in the expectation that the end of the world was about to come.

Both the Old and the New Testaments provide evidence of how people had believed that God would be the One responsible for bringing about the end of the world and for inaugurating a new kingdom. She/he might use an "agent" to help in this work, such as a "Messiah" or a "Son of Man". Aswell as a time of great tribulation before the End, there also would be a judgement both for those still alive, and for the dead; only the righteous would be allowed into the new kingdom. This new kingdom would be a good place to live in, ruled over by God herself/himself, with peace, justice, and joy for all. Sometimes the new kingdom was thought of as going to be here on earth, at other times it was imagined as going to exist in heaven.

Here are some of the texts which are generally accepted as relating to these beliefs and expectations (though a detailed examination of each text is beyond the scope of this paper):

Daniel 7.9-10 "As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgement, and the books were opened."

Daniel 7.13-14 "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."

Daniel 7.27 "And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most high; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them."

Daniel 12.1-2,4 "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. ..v4: But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end."

Isaiah 9.6-7 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it , and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this."

Isaiah 11.1-9 "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

Luke 3.2-8 "in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits that befit repentance, "

Matthew 10.23 "When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of Man comes."

Mark 9.1 "And he said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.' "

Luke 9.7-9 " Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen. Herod said, 'John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?' And he sought to see him."

Mark 10.35-38 "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' And he said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?' "

Matthew 19.28 "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' "

Luke 12.49-50 "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!"

What are we to make of all of these beliefs and expectations contained in these texts? The most obvious point to make is that the end of the world has not come. People such as John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples held ideas which have been proved to have been mistaken.There have been many other individuals and groups of people since then, who have also lived with an expectation that the world was about to end, and their beliefs too have been proved to have been misguided, mistaken and deluded. We might well think of such people as loony crackpots.

We need next to ask about the specific beliefs of ancient Israel regarding the end of the world. Modern study of their beliefs shows that, for a very considerable period, they had no beliefs regarding an after-life. Such a belief in Jewish circles was post-exilic. There seems to be no good reason today to buy into their speculation about a "Son of man", or a "Messiah" who would be God's agent in helping to process the events imagined to precede the end of the world.

We simply do not know when or how the world will end. Nor does it seem credible to accept that those who have died are in some mysterious place of the dead waiting for their judgement at the end of time, and the outcome of that judgement. Such a belief was reasonable, when it was also believed that the new kingdom would be here on earth. If there is an after-life, it is more credible to believe that a person at their death is received by God into this after-life. Though what such a life will be like is a mystery; and people who reason and speculate about it, which they are entitled to do, need to remember that their thinking is just speculative.

Some of the first Christians like St Paul thought that death was a punishment that had come upon the human race because of sin. The modern believer today may well disagree. Scientific evidence would point out that both animals and human beings have bodies that can not last indefinitely. Whether we live for our expected life span or not, one thing is certain, and that is that we will die at some point in time. This fact would suggest that the theological theory that death had come about for the human race, because of sin, is nonsense. Paul's view that death is a punishment for sin, lies behind his interpretation that the death of Jesus is for the lifting of the punishment of death; this theory can now be seen to have lost its point. Jesus' death had nothing to do with such a matter. There is another objection to the belief that death is a punishment for sin; which is that it makes God out to be very wrathful and vengeful, which conflicts radically with a picture of a God of tenderness, long-suffering, compassion and forgiveness.

Furthermore, the theory held, by many Christians, that Christ died in their place and suffered a punishment that rightly should have been borne by them, as sinners, is both immoral and offensive to the principles of justice. No judge should knowingly put on a person a punishment meant for someone else, even if that person were willing to accept it and suffer it. A central belief in any notion of a credible God is that such a God is just. So, the theory that Jesus bore some punishment in the place of sinners is untenable on these grounds too.

It would seem that Jesus did come to believe that in some way the tribulations and suffering expected to precede the end of the world would find their focus on him. Since the world has not ended, we can say that Jesus was mistaken not only in believing the end of the world was about to come, but also in thinking that there would necessarily be a period of suffering that would find its focus on him. (In fact, he died because the Roman rulers in Palestine accepted that he was seen as a threat to the peace). He was misguided, deluded, and mistaken in more ways than one. As were his disciples too, and John the Baptist and the members of the Essene community.

It is important to be clear about all this, because these mistaken beliefs and expectations were to have a very significant influence on the subsequent beliefs held about Jesus by his disciples after his death.

RESURRECTION

We have drawn some conclusions already from the fact that the world is still here, despite the expectations and predictions of John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples. One of those conclusions has been that it no longer seems necessary to give credibility to all the weird speculative ideas that came originally out of Judaism, and that included such figures as a "Son of man" and a "Messiah", and such notions as a period of immense tribulation before the end, and a belief that the dead were waiting in some shadowy place for their judgement, and their eternal destiny in heaven or hell. The modern believer does not need to buy into these ancient parts of Israel's religious imagining and speculation.

Although the world did not end; yet, after his death Jesus' disciples still took up the point of an imagined tribulation, preceding the end : it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, they claimed. If it had not been for their crazy expectation that the world was ending, would they have gone on to state their bizarre conviction that they believed Jesus to be alive again; who they also adamantly proclaimed would soon be returning to oversee the ending of the world and the beginning of a new kingdom of everlasting life? None of which has happened.

The point has been made frequently that since Jesus' disciples were extremely frightened when he was arrested; therefore something such, as his resurrection, must have happened to give them the courage to continue believing that they were living in the end-times; and to go on believing that Jesus had already and would continue to have a special role in the events of what was imagined to be a crucial time.

The accounts in the Gospels of "Jesus' resurrection" have been studied and written about by countless theologians. It is well known that the stories contain many conflicting details. We will never know, for certain, what triggered the disciples' conviction that he had been raised to life again. The question that needs to be asked is this: if God did raise Jesus from the dead and did make him alive again, what reasons would he/she have had for doing so?

Despite the convictions of Jesus and his disciples that they were living at the end of the world, it seems reasonable to believe that God knew that they were deluded and mistaken. God also knew that the whole package of Jewish speculation about the end of the world is simply the product of the religious imaginations of the people of Israel at work, over several centuries. So what good reason would God have had for raising Jesus back to life in the ways described in the Gospels? It is hard to imagine any, unless there is some truth in the doctrines of the Atonement and the Incarnation.

ATONEMENT AND INCARNATION

Both Judaism and Christianity have pictures of God as loving and forgiving. The modern believer may well wonder why it is necessary to have any intermediaries between himself or herself as a flawed person and God. If God loves each individual person unconditionally, and is in a one-to-one relationship with each person; then does it not make sense to speak of forgiveness taking place between God and the person who has sinned, without any other person being involved (such as a Mediator)?

Like many other religious peoples, the ancient people of Israel claimed divine authority for their rituals of cleansing and forgiveness. Animals were sacrificed for various reasons or driven out into the wilderness from the Temple in Jerusalem. There is no ground for doubting that they were sincere in their beliefs that what they were doing in these rituals had been commanded by their God. However in the light of anthropological studies of ancient societies, it has become much less credible to believe that God had planned and sanctioned a whole range of different customs and rituals for the different races and tribes around the ancient world. It is more believable that each society developed their own customs and rituals themselves, though claiming divine authority for what they did.

When the first generation of Christians began to think and write about the meaning of Jesus' death, they looked to their Scriptures (our Old Testament) for ways to understand and interpret it. In passages such as Isaiah ch.53, they found much that they regarded as helpful in this regard even though originally in Isaiah's day this chapter had a quite different and more contemporary application and meaning. Verses such as: v.3 “he was despised and rejected by men”, v.5 “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our inquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed”, v.6 “he was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth” were all pondered over and used in giving various meanings to the death of Jesus which all connected with the common theme of reconciliation and forgiveness, and the lifting of the imagined punishment of death which, they believed, had been placed on all people because of sin.

Some of the other better known texts are the following:

Romans 5.8 "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

Romans 5.12 "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all because all men sinned.

2 Corinthians 5.18 "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself"

Hebrews 9.11-14 "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

We have seen already that a theory that is based on the belief that Jesus died for us is unsustainable. What about the contention that Jesus' manner of dying, uttering words of forgiveness, is a revelation of the unconditional forgiving love of God? The German philosopher, Hegel, wrote that God does not offer himself (/herself) for observation. This is a way of saying that God always remains hidden, mysterious, and unseen. So, when we speak of revelation, it does not mean, in theological terms, what it means in ordinary discourse.

In ordinary speech we say, for example, that a woman bends down and her white slip (which would not normally be seen) is revealed as she does so, because her dress has been raised slightly. However in theological discourse when we speak about revelation, we do not mean that the hidden unseen God becomes visible in some way, she/he remains mysterious and unseen as always. What we might mean though is that something or someone in this world has enabled us to be clearer in our understanding and faith.

We do not know that God exists and we cannot prove or disprove his/her existence. God may not exist and may simply be a figment of our imaginations. All religions exist at the level of faith, not of proof. So when we speak of revelation, we are meaning that in some way we are reminded of God or given some insight into what she/he may be like, if she/he exists at all. Among some New Testament theologians there is doubt and debate about how much real and accurate reporting the accounts of Jesus' crucifixion contain. It could be that the details have largely been created by the first Christian generation. For example, Psalm 22 may have been one source for their stories. (This Midrashic use of Scripture is considered by some to have also been used in constructing the birth narratives of Jesus).

This means that depending on how a person interprets the stories of Jesus' death, they may or may not speak of it as revealing the forgiving love of God. But in the light of what has just been written, we cannot say any more than that Jesus' manner of dying gives us some more insight into the nature of the love of God. All the ways in which human goodness is expressed may help some people to think more clearly about the character of God: in so far as human life is understood, in faith, to tell us something about its Maker.

So far we have not discovered a good reason why God might have wanted to raise Jesus back to life again, in the way the resurrection stories seem to be claiming. His God knew that he was mistaken and misguided about the course of human history, the world continues on its way. His God had not planned any role for Jesus in relation to a "salvation/forgiveness" process. Nor, to substantiate this, had Jesus returned as the Judge and Saviour of the world, as his disciples had so fanatically claimed he would do.

What though if Jesus had been the Incarnation of God? Would that make a difference? One can see, to some extent, how the first Christians got their beliefs in Jesus' divinity off the ground. Perhaps during his lifetime or maybe afterwards, they became convinced that he was the long-awaited Messiah. If he was the Messiah, then was he not also that heavenly figure described in the book of Daniel? And if he was that figure too, and the one who had borne the sins of the world in his death, maybe he was much closer to God than any mere human mortal? And did not his being raised to new life by God (as they believed had happened) confer on him special divine favour? Add to this, that the first generation of Christians lived in a world where other people, in other cultures, accepted quite readily that a god or the gods or goddesses could easily have children of divine and human parentage.

We have seen that such figures as a "Messiah" or a heavenly figure such as a "Son of man" (from Daniel) have no existence in reality. They come out of the imaginations and speculation of ancient Israel, as its people longed for an end to their suffering and subjugation, and hoped for an intervention by their God. But none of this happened, nor, as we have also seen, is it tenable to interpret the death of the misguided and mistaken Jesus as salvific for humankind. If, and when, God decides to bring present human history to its end; he/she will do it in his/her own way and on a global scale. Messiahs and Sons of men will have nothing to do with it.

Suppose though that, despite all this, God had still decided in some way to live a human life and that the person through whom she/he was living this life was Jesus. The difficulty here is that we would never know it had happened. Jesus would have been living his fully human life; and all that people would have been aware of was this human person from Nazareth going about his daily work. Being human implies having only one brain and mind; Jesus did not have an extra divine mind as was once supposed. As God is unseen and hidden; how could anyone deduce that, in Jesus, God was living in some extremely mysterious way? The answer is that one could not have deduced such a thing.

No good reason has emerged for believing that the traditional belief in the Incarnation is true. We are back again to the disciples' claim that Jesus had appeared to them alive after his death. How stable and in touch with normal reality had been the minds of the disciples during the period of the last two or three years? Not very, is the best answer.

Here was a group of people who, with their leader, had been living from day to day expecting the end of the world as they knew it and a major intervention by their God. As they set off to preach their message in the villages and rural districts of Galilee, they probably went believing that the Son of Man (that heavenly figure from the book of Daniel) would arrive to begin his God-given task, (Matt.10:23) of judging the dead and the living. This did not happen; but then it would seem that their leader began to imagine that the time of tribulation before the coming kingdom would have its focus on him. He would die first, before God would bring in his/her kingdom.

The end was so near that James and John could ask about special seating arrangements for themselves in the new kingdom. Perhaps their leader promised them all thrones on which they would sit judging the twelve tribes of Israel, (wasn't that a bit of an insult to the likes of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, et al?). At his last meal might it be true that he had said to them about wine that they were drinking, that he would not drink it again until he drank it in the coming kingdom of their God?

His arrest produced terror in his disciples, but that terror was experienced by people who had been led by their leader to expect some catastrophe as part of the necessary working out of the imagined plans of their God. When those strange visions and experiences began which led to belief that their leader was alive again; some of them doubted, at first, while others were convinced more readily.The appearances and visions only further strengthened their conviction that their God was about to act to bring about the end of their world. There is no record that Pilate nor such Jewish leaders, as the high priest or members of the Sanhedrin, had any visions or experiences similar to the disciples.

They quickly allotted to their leader the key roles of being God's right-hand man and awaited his return on a daily basis, frantically going about sharing with people these strange and weird beliefs. Some fell for this message, others rejected it as utter nonsense. Their promise to their new converts that Jesus would return at any moment proved to be false, he never did come back, the world went on its way.

PART TWO In the Introduction to this paper, we read (about the paper): "In particular, it states that those whose theological convictions do not take a Trinitarian form should be allowed to experiment by trying to create new forms of worship appropriate to their beliefs".

The Liturgical calendar is dominated by the life of Jesus, and in all the various Services of worship he holds a key and central position. Whether it be in the canticles of Morning and Evening Prayer eg. Te Deum Part 2, Nunc Dimittis, Saviour of the World, or in the hymns addressed to him, or in his role in Baptism and Holy Communion, or in Confirmation, Marriage or Funeral Services, he holds a dominant and central position. If the integrity and convictions of professional theologians and those influenced by them are to be respected, then it is quite intolerable that the only form of worship available throughout the Anglican Communion should be Trinitarian in form (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

There are liberal Christians such as those associated with the Centre for Progressive Christianity, for whom Jesus is still clearly very important. In the Eight Points by which they define Progressive Christianity they state: "by calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who: 1. proclaim Jesus Christ as our Gate to the realm of God; .....3. understand our sharing of bread and wine in Jesus' name to be a representation of God's feast for all peoples". They do not accept the doctrinal 'savior' language codified in the fourth century creeds, such as Jesus being the sacrificial Lamb of God.

However the position in this paper is more radical than that. Those, whose views are expressed here, have their roots in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but do not want to be constantly looking backwards through nearly 2000 years of Christian history to Jesus of Nazareth and what he may or may not have said or done, and what he may or may not be held to mean today. Kahlil Gibran wrote in 'The Prophet': "For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday." Their theological convictions have set them free to live in the present and look to the future, they challenge them to bring freshness, new visions, and words that resonate into their spirituality and into the forms of worship they would like to see created.

In such new forms of worship there will be a place for readings from the Bible, but such readings will not have any special authority per se (simply because they come from the Bible), rather they will be received as the thinking and believing of people from a very different age and culture to their own which may or may not engage with them in a meaningful way. The real search will be to find contemporary material from poetry and drama, from literature, film and professional theological writing that speaks with relevance and challenge in areas such as justice, personal growth and healing, ethical exploration, wisdom and worship. Good liturgy will seek to deepen the mystery, and not to resolve it.

There will be questions about whether to have a Liturgical calendar or not; whether to simply have a framework for worship allowing much freedom within it; what new feasts or festivals, or new symbols might there be; will there be a new story of Creation, including much that the Genesis myths do not have? It will take time to become used to not having such occasions as Christmas and Easter as highlights in the year, but it will also be a great relief not to have to go through with them. Rowan Williams' words point in the right direction: (though he would not agree with the general tenor of this paper) "where we find a developing and imaginative liturgical idiom operating in a community that is itself constantly re-imaging itself and its past we may recognize that worship is at some level doing its job", p.7 'On Christian Theology'. The Internet should prove a most valuable vehicle for people seeking to create new liturgies.

In their rapidly changing societies in western Europe, many people are struggling to understand the implications of these changes. Anthropologists and sociologists have long noted the connections between the nature of a society, its leadership and authority structures, and its forms of religion and concepts of God. The present generation is not immune in this regard to the changes taking place around them. Many people have noticed that they are Christians in a post-Christendom world, they are in the process of ceasing to be involved with an imperial religion. Others have observed that many of their rituals have lost their resonance; John O'Donoghue described ritual as the creative work over a long time by a community after many internal conversations.

Writing about the new Information age, Francis Fukuyama in his book "The Great Disruption" contends that we will see a decline in "centralised religious orthodoxies". If he is right in this contention, it may mean that there will be less resistance to the suggestions in this paper in the future. Great art, and theology too, begin in the unconscious; sometimes the artist has to wait until in Bergman's words "the gods throw down their fire." Some people feel that they are waiting for a new vision of God to emerge and enthuse them.

A symbol that may become more and more important is the ring. It can be used as a symbol of God's faithfulness to her/his whole Creation; "she/he who has welcomed you into life will be faithful to you". It is a symbol of love, hope and trust between God and the human family. The trust is on both sides: we are invited to put our trust in the faithfulness of God and God ultimately trusts us to respond to the belief which she/he has in us.

In the Epilogue in his book "Why Christianity must change or die" J.S.Spong wrote: "Is my reformulation of Christianity adequate for our new world? I would be surprised if it is judged to be so. It is at least the best I know how to offer at this moment, given when I live and how far into the future I can see. But if I were asked to bet on what will happen tomorrow, my best guess would be that my approach will prove to be not too radical, as my critics will claim, but rather not nearly radical enough. I suspect that the next generation might even dismiss me as an old-fashioned religious man who could not quite cut the umbilicus to the past in order to enter the future." p.227.

There is a clear sense that Spong feels it important to go on holding onto Jesus, he remains the 'God-bearer'; by contrast it is as if those whose convictions and vision are described in this article have taken the scissors and cut the 'umbilical cord' between themselves and Jesus; or to put it in another way, Jesus no longer functions as an archetype for them. Monica Furlong wrote: "one of the symbols Jung cited was that of Jesus as the 'archetype of the self' that is to say the symbol which helped us as individuals or as groups to become what is in us to become" p.96 'C of E.'

H.A. Williams wrote: "Or as the preacher puts it in John Steinbeck's novel, 'The Grapes of Wrath': "Don't you love Jesus? Well, I thought and thought, and finally I says, 'No, I don't know nobody name' Jesus. I know a bunch of stories, but I only love people.' " (p118, Poverty, Chastity and Obedience).

A radical implication of this is that the cross as a symbol may be jettisoned, and the symbol of the ring become the prime one - speaking of God's faithfulness. This is not however to deny the costliness of loving or forgiving; these must always be taken seriously, there can be no meaningful insight into the character of God if this costliness is not emphasised clearly and forcefully. To adapt words of Gabriel Marcel: if we treat God superficially, we will end up treating ourselves superficially too. For those who have 'cut the umbilical cord between themselves and Jesus', Kierkegaard's words make sense: (he imagined this question being addressed to us at the gates to heaven) "I will be asked not why I am not more like Christ, but why I am not more like myself."

If some or all of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion ever were to make room for what would, at present, be new forms of worship for minority groupings, then all sorts of difficult practical problems would have to be sorted out. If the minority grouping did not practice Baptism, what provision might there be for new members and how would the majority accommodate themselves to another initiatory rite other than Baptism? Would an ordained minister be required for these new and constantly updated contemporary forms of worship, what about marriage, for example? By dispensing with traditional Christology many re-appraisals are required: in relation to the authority of the Bible, the three-fold ordained ministry, forms of democracy within the churches, and in Christian art, poetry, drama and music. An attempt to answer some or all of these questions will have to wait till another paper.

Any person working on his/her faith and doing some theology needs to take cognizance of the warning of Merold Westphal and this quotation comes from a reference to him in Garrett Green's book 'Theology, Hermeneutics and Imagination': "Merold Westphal characterizes the common hermeneutic of suspicion in Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud as follows: 'the deliberate attempt to expose the self- deceptions involved in hiding our actual operative motives from ourselves, individually or collectively, in order not to notice how and how much our behavior and our beliefs are shaped by values we profess to disown' " pp12-13. In their seeking to serve the truth, people can easily be deceived and this is why belonging to a church of unlike-minded people may help challenge them to constantly test the authenticity of their beliefs, values and lives. But they need to listen to others outside the church too as the quotation from Merold Westphal reminds them.

"Living with differences is I think the genius of Anglicanism". This quotation from George Carey's interview with Monica Furlong, from the first paragraph of this article, speaks of a basic trust in Anglicanism, in its soft edges, in its ability to live not just with diversity, but also with the conflicts that surround it. Time will tell how hard its members will fight to preserve this genius and whether or not they will be successful if they so fight. It would be surprising indeed if the future did not hold many unexpected challenges and revolutions. This present paper is itself making a challenge and calling for a revolution. With real insight, Joan D. Chittister wrote in her book "Heart of Flesh" (p.172): "The revolutions that count come silently, come first in the heart, come with the force of steel, because they come with no force at all. Revolutions of this magnitude do not overturn a system and then shape it. They reshape thought, and then the system overturns without the firing of a single cannon. Revolutions such as this dismantle walls people thought would never fall because no wall, whatever its size, can contain a people whose minds have long ago scaled and vaulted and surmounted it."

There have been those within Anglicanism who have replied to the position within this paper by saying that if people do not believe in a Trinitarian conception of God and in an Incarnational God, then they need to look elsewhere for a different spiritual home such as the Unitarian Universalist church. This works for some people, but for others who feel the "reforming fire" in their hearts and minds, it does not appear to be a viable alternative. There is a cost to being in a minority camp, as there is a cost to tolerating minorities within the main grouping.

The Anglican Provinces have never been strangers to tension and conflict within their membership. Out of such tension and conflict growth has come. The Reformer may be thought of as a heretic and a traitor, but history has confirmed his loyalty and his role on many occasions. Furthermore, within Anglicanism, while there have been some believers who have seen, in faith, the actions and hand of God in many ways; there have been others who have felt much more a sense of unknowing and of mystery as they have thought about their faith and the activity of God. Anglicanism is bigger than the beliefs of any one individual with his or her own limited perspective, and is enriched by the diversity of experience of its members.

A church of unlike-minded people is a guard against any one group within it becoming convinced that it has all the answers, and is not in need of the different perspectives of other groups. The one who sees himself or herself as a Reformer needs to remember that they could well be mistaken about what they are most convinced about as true, history has its lessons to teach in this regard. However, at the risk of error, the Reformer obeys the instinct to study and to think, to discuss and write, to work for change and to bear with the slowness with which change may come about, if it ever it does.

Neolithic man living in Co. Meath 5000 years ago thought, no doubt, that in the generations to come people would be much the same as him: wear the same type of clothes, eat the same sort of food, travel the same way, communicate the same way, and have the same world outlook, culture and beliefs. The Normans built their castles to last for centuries and also no doubt did not expect radical change in future generations. Both Neolithic man and the Normans were mistaken, the world did change radically in ways they could not have imagined.

It may well be that in the future the Christian man and woman with their own distinctive outlook will cease to populate the world. The Christian religion will have run its course and come to its end. What are needed now are people who will venture forth crossing over from Christianity by a bridge, still being constructed, and journey in a wilderness with no familiar landmarks. This does not mean that values such as truth, love, justice, goodness, beauty, forgiveness will be abandonned; but the Christian vision of an Incarnate God being revealed through Christ nearly 2000 years ago will cease to be found credible. Neither the Neolithics nor the Normans saw the writing on the wall, and very few Christians do today. "We do not need a new landscape, but new eyes to see it with" Marcel Proust. If you can imagine yourself for a moment standing on the banks of a river and watching the water flowing past, then remember the message of the river: life brings change.

Our world will change in the future: our culture, our society, our beliefs, and much else too; we cannot imagine or envisage the worlds that lie ahead. We do well to bear in mind the words of Kahlil Gibran who wrote: " Speak to us of children: ...you may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and he bends you with his might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable." Kahlil Gibran ('The Prophet' pp20-23).

Andrew Furlong

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