Sunday, 28 December 2014

Anger is An Energy by John Lydon Reviewed

With only a small number of children there the adults in the Christmas morning service were turned to and asked what they got if they'd already opened their presents. As I answered I had a decision to make whether to give the correct title of the book I'd been given or use the name which some of the older members of the congregation might be familiar with. So it was I went with the latter and told them I got the Johnny Rotten autobiography. Thing is the book isn't that Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored is the autobiography of John Lydon and there is way more to that than the Sex Pistols and the Rotten persona.

The book is like the recent Morrissey Autobiography in that after a fairly in-depth discussion of his early years there is plenty of content relating to being let down by record companies and fellow band members but there is more to it than that, and Lydon's is far the better of the two.

There is a fair amount of discussion of the Pistols, and of course one would expect that.  This is Lydon telling it as he experienced it but with a clear awareness that Malcolm McLaren is now dead. As you read the part focused around the mid-late 1970's it feels like he is saying this is my side of the story but can we move on from that and focus on PiL (Public Image Limited). The music of both and relationship with other members of the two bands is central to the book.

He slips in odd comments about his relationship with and/ or view on certain other groups and celebrities too along with the odd bit of social commentary. One interesting point he brings up on more than one occasion is how he believes the history of that era has been miswritten in a way which is largely misogynist. He had far more time for the punk bands which contained a female voice (e.g The Slits) than those which he regarded as too socialist and/ or following a formula (i.e. the Clash).

The book also clearly explains why he believes certain drugs, such as heroin, should be avoided. Whilst standing against censorship he is clearly not against boundaries or the importance of good education. The book itself provides a sensible discussion of drugs which should act as a warning about the dangers of them as well as the impact on creativity.  

Another thread running through the book is the negative views which Lydon has on religion. He addresses both formal religion and new age spirituality and has no time for either. Whilst I disagree with his end conclusion I think he makes some important points which are worth consideration. He could be argued to be taking a fairly traditionally Marxist view regarding the manipulative nature of religion and the way it lets people down. Yet it is clear this negativity comes from observation and experience rather than an ideological analysis. Personally, I would agree with him that organised religion has often been manipulative and in some cases abusive yet that is not what I believe the bible actually teaches. I would argue what he doesn't allow for is the way in which whilst it might have been abused and corrupted by some it is that misuse which has been wrong rather than the teachings it is based upon and the religion itself.

Also sprinkled in are various comments which underline his commitment to inclusivity but also a desire to address some of the very real problems which the UK is currently facing. He very intentionally talks of the way he values the LGBT community, multi-culturalism and the white working class culture from which he comes. Towards the end of the book he then speaks out against health tourism and the surveillance culture. Yet he is clear and explicit that he does not agree with UKIP and their vision of the future.

Whilst I didn't agree with everything he wrote this book did make me think and question and that is and has always been the point about Lydon and his words, whether spoken, written or sung.

It also made me smile and laugh at times too and that is important. The biggest smile came as I read about the 2002 Chrystal Palace gig. He writes, "Still, we flooded the place with all the alleged villains and hardcore Sex Pistols fans Britain had to offer, and no trouble was had. We were friends amongst each other." (p425)

The last part of that sums up much of what I remember about that day. The Drop Kick Murphys were great and the crowd loved them. There was a serious pit that day and then it dissipated as the Libertines came on and I don't think I was alone in being seriously underwhelmed by them. Then came the Pistols and it was one massive sing a-long party before we all squashed onto the trains going back into London. Yes it was possibly pastiche and pantomime in places but in amongst the fun it was still bringing the weirdo's and the freaks together with their subversive view of the world.  

Punk did get incorporated just as Hebdige claimed but within it all, as the book shows, Lydon has sought to maintain his own path.

So is it worth a read? Yes if you're a fan of Lydon in whatever guise or if you are generally interested in popular culture. Yes too if you want to be made to think quite deeply. Otherwise perhaps not. I've also read Paul O'Grady's Still Standing (the third volume of his autobiography) this Christmas and I have to say O'Grady was far the more entertaining read of the two.

Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored by John Lydon, (2014), Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4711-3719-8

Friday, 26 December 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings & Five Stones and a Burnt Stick Reviewed

Boxing Day was spent exploring the story of Moses using two different forms of art. The first was the film Exodus: Gods and Kings and the second was the book Five Stones and a Burnt Stick: Wisdom Stories about Intimacy by Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriaga Steele. In this review I intend to look at each individually, but also how engaging with both together provides an interesting new look at Moses.

Exodus: Gods and Kings from director Ridley Scott which was released in the UK today is in many ways a retro movie; a large scale biblical epic with more than a feel of a bygone era to it. Christian Bale plays Moses in a way which has depth but it is Joel Edgerton as Ramses, the Pharaoh in the latter part of the film, who has the type of intensity which one associated with the classic actors of the 50's and 60's. He would have fitted in perfectly alongside Richard Burton of Charlton Heston and the scenes with him and his baby son, (both when alive and dead), were particularly moving.

Whilst employing some dramatic licence it was reasonably near to the Judeo-Christian narrative apart a couple of key things. The first problematic movement away from the text was the fact in the film Moses had no problem with speech and thus his brother Aaron was not required to speak for him. The second was when he left to go back to Egypt his wife and son did not join him in the film. Neither was a problem in itself but was slightly annoying. It was also not made clear in the film that Moses would not see the promised land and rather it would be Joshua who would lead them into Canaan. That said it was far better than Noah, the other recent biblical narrative. Whilst not the best film I have seen this year it was certainly not the worst and if you have a couple of hours to spare it is certainly worth a trip to see.

As I indicated in the introduction I also read Five Stones and a Burnt Stick today. It is a short book, a mere 90 pages, which uses Moses to explore the theme of intimacy in its various forms. The six chapters, sandwiched between the prologue and epilogue, alternate between looking at intimacy with God, self, a sexual partner, (in this case Moses' wife Zipporah), and one's children.

This is a creative piece of theological writing which imaginatively uses Moses as a springboard. Whilst it does contain reference to the biblical narrative, like the film, it veers from it to explore the emotions and intimate relationships Moses had. This means one is forced to move away from the common problem one has when reading the bible of reading in a way which makes the key characters somewhat one dimensional.  Rather you engage with the character as a person who had emotions, relationships and a whole lot more going on in the background than the biblical narrative might tell you.

The strength of this approach is that it challenges the reader to re-engage with the patriarch and what can be learnt from him. We are encouraged through this to think about our own intimacy and relationships. Three chapters do this particularly well, these are entitled The First Stone: Demarcation, The Forth Stone: Disclosure and The Fifth Stone: Discovery.

The first of these briefly explores the importance of having our own boundaries, which contains our "own sacred space". Through this we protect ourselves but also ensure that we respect others and allow them their own freedom.

The middle uses the concept of the Leviathan to explore the way in which fear exists within each of us and is the biggest curse resulting from man's sin. Yet, as this chapter proclaims, fear can be overcome if we understand we cannot fight it but rather through disclosing it, confronting it, naming it and eventually taming it.

The final of these chapters, the one on discovery explores vocation. It links finding one's true vocation to freeing the soul and so it is possible to look "beyond the interests of money, power and lust". It is interesting that Steel is not only a writer but also an artist and Anglican priest and as such should know much about the topic of following ones vocation(s). Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that this was probably the most profound part of the book.

These were the strengths, yet there is a major weakness and it is one in some way shared with the film. There was an awkwardness in the romantic, more sexual scenes between Moses and Zipporah. Such scenes are notoriously difficult to write and it has to be said that whilst the screen writers handled them better than Steel in both they were slightly awkward and made one relieved to have got past them. The intensity of the relationship between Zipporah and Moses and the sexual nature of it was important but could have been portrayed equally well implicitly.

I would recommend the book, but with the caveat that you may wish to skip quickly over parts of Chapter III Welcome Home and Chapter VI The Last Night where the awkward prose weakens the generally imaginative narrative.

I would also recommend the approach of reading the book and watching the film in a close time frame. I found they did complement each other and having watched the film I was able to picture the dialogue between God and Moses in a way I hadn't previously. In Exodus: Gods and Men God (Yahweh) is portrayed as a child, who looks somewhat like a young Buddhist monk and in both book and film the dialogue between them was strong and complex. This portrayal of their relationship was a strength of both.

Both the book and film are worth giving time to I think because they help the reader engage anew with the biblical narrative in Exodus but also to think beyond it. The nature of the two gives the reader an invitation to bring their own imagination to the text and allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to speak to them through this.
Five Stones & a Burnt Stick by Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriaga Steele, (2014), Whispering Tree Original Books, ISBN: 978-0-9927363-1-6

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Magpie Teaches Secularisation Theory

I am a magpie, a scavenger constantly surveying what I see around to identify what I can snatch and use. Oh, it's not anything physical that I'm on the lookout for it's things which I can use as teaching resources.  I do the same, to a lesser extent, with worship resources too.

Teaching secularisation to my A2 students this week I have been particularly aware of how knowing what is out there makes such a difference in teaching. I share this post to give encouragement to those doing the studies and producing such resources - they are being gratefully used. I also want to encourage some of them to perhaps produce resources specifically for Sociology, rather than just RE.
I also put this post up to try and encourage other teachers who may be wondering how to get good quality resources for their students without having to break the department budget.
Finally, I share the following to provide a guide to those who might be interested in exploring the topic but don't have the resources to invest in a range of texts and don't have access to an academic library. It relates only to one area of the syllabus and Sociology of Religion but it illustrates the vast array of resources available if you know where to look.

To give an outline of the secularisation thesis I used a 2012 Religious Studies Project podcast from Linda Woodhead. It didn't take that long to produce a set of questions to go with this and it took them through the debate.

I have also been using the material from the Church Growth Research Project with them to help them identify how things may be more complicated than some would argue.

With regards to getting them thinking about how the churches and denominations have been responding to secularisation I have referred to the Fresh Expressions movement. Cook @ Chapel is a Fresh Expression fairly local to where we are and so I was able to use their film as a resource which related to where the area they knew. This enabled me to refer back to our work on types of religious organisation and get them to think more about the problems with some of the definitions and categorisations of religion whilst helping them see what is going on locally.

The Office for National Statistics You Tube video relating to the 2011 Census Data on Religion in England and Wales is something else which provides excellent information and which the students can use to find information from.

To think about whether we have moved from being religious to being spiritual I have gotten them to explore the Kendal Project website. The Spiritual Revolution is a key text which the text books talk about and students can be guided to this website to do their own notes about the methodology of the research and key findings.

With regard to evidence to support Grace Davie and the Belief Without Belonging thesis I have been able to refer them to Guest et al; Christianity and the University Experience.

One of the resources which I am keeping a key eye on is the Westminster Faith Debates website. They produce some excellent teaching resources for RE via RE:Online and I hope they might consider expanding these teaching resources to also provide materials for the teaching of Belief in Society/ Religion modules in Sociology.
With regard to thinking about the changes which are occurring linked to immigration I am able to refer to them to a local example I am aware of. Whilst I do this on a worksheet for the students I am aware readers of this post may be interested in the example and so I refer them to two posts I have referred to it in (a) and (b).
Of course I know this is ethnocentric and I do get them to think about what is going on in other parts of the world too, taking the exam board point that many of what we do with our students is too Christocentric. However, the point I'm making here is there are some really great resources out there and they are enabling teachers to provide good quality resources to their students with the most up to date information.

We might complain sometimes about the current age and the move to technology but when I compare it to teaching the same topic a decade or so ago I am aware exactly how far we have come and how well resourced we are now compared to back then. So hurrah for the technology but greater thanks to those theorists who are taking public engagement seriously and giving us those resources in the first place.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lovebombed with Online Care

This week my partner and I have been love bombed. We have experienced what love, support and pastoral care looks like in the digital age, as Karl has had his chest surgery. In this brief post I want to make comment on what our experience has been because I think it shows the benefits of the digital age in providing pastoral care and the way in which the on line / off line divide is to some extent irrelevant.

To give some context Karl has been in St. Georges, London receiving outstanding care. The surgery he has had is reconstructive chest surgery (involving a double mastectomy and nipple graft as part of his female to male gender reassignment). Whilst he has been undergoing this I have been the proverbial blue ended fly shuttling between the hospital and my job in Milton Keynes and have been trying to get my marking done in between.

My mobile has been the main source of interaction with the outside world. Whilst sitting on trains between the marking I have been able to pick up messages and comments of support and love. Over the last couple of days there has been a stream of love flowing over us via FB and I have been able to tap into that at the times which have suited me. I have been able to access the messages and comments and respond to them without having to use too much energy engaging in proper conversation or feeling guilty about taking up other people's times. Also it has enabled us to receive support from people all over the country (and indeed from people around the world). As people who have moved around a lot and know people all over the place this has been particularly important.  

Karl and I have also been able to keep people updated via Facebook and give mass thanks in a way which has worked for us.

In terms of how this has worked with relation to traditional forms of pastoral care it has been interesting. Facebook and email have both been used effectively meaning I have not had to field phone calls when that would have actually been more of a stress on me. We have known there is physical support there and it will kick in more when Karl comes home this weekend but it has not felt overwhelming.

What I want to draw from this is the way in which social media and the internet really can be a useful tool for pastoral care and support when used well. It won't be the right way to support everybody but for us it has been amazing this week. So thank you to all of you who have supported us this week and liked, commented, or messaged. Taking the time to press that button, give a few words or send a specific message has really made a huge difference to us and the love and support was felt in a very real way.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Your Loving Brother Albert & Nellie - A Review

One of the hidden gems of Milton Keynes and the surrounding area is the vibrant local theatre scene. Last night we went to see the Pepper's Ghost Theatre Company production of Your Loving Brother Albert and Nellie at the Radcliffe School Theatre in Wolverton. The two plays, directed by Rosemary Hill, are both set in the Edwardian era and based in Wolverton, one of the small towns on the edge of modern Milton Keynes.

Nellie is a short musical play devised by Roy Nevitt and Roger Kitchen. It is based upon the diaries of Nellie Abbey nee Smith from 1901-1920. It is a deceptively gentle play which follows the early life of Nellie (Erinne Kate Barr) and her friends as they enter adulthood and become what today would be referred to as community organisers. It is a story not only of friendship but also of struggle. Nellie and her friends work in The Sewing Room, under the watchful eye of "The Dragon" (Joc Rose). As they become aware of the dreadful conditions they are working under they begin to campaign for what today would be regarded as basic working conditions.

Leisure is also a central part of the plot and the problems faced for young women like Nellie and her friends Effie (Georgia Tillery) and Ethel (Ciara Price) by bicycles, due to the restrictions placed upon them by the clothing of the era, are also highlighted.

A final subtle theme bought out in the play is the way in which young women emigrated to countries like Canada to marry. As Nellie's best friend Effie leaves to marry it is not clear if this is to somebody she knew or whether her family has arranged it. The ambiguity is a device this play uses to great effect.

The production was extremely well cast and their singing was excellent. Erienne Kate Barr gave a strong performance as did the other cast members but the most striking performance came from Georgia Tillery who was also in Your Loving Brother Albert. She has a strong stage presence and somewhat dominated the stage in Nellie.

The second of these community plays was Your Loving Brother Albert also devised by Roy Nevitt which was first performed in the Stantonbury Drama Studio in 1980. The play follows the story of a young man who would be what a recent TV documentary described as one of the Teenage Tommies. Albert French (Charlie Woolford) joined the Army in 1915 and died in the trenches a week before his seventeenth birthday. He is one of those remembered on the war memorial in the Anglican church in Wolverton, a short walk from where the play was being performed. The play is derived from the letters sent home by Private French to his sister, May (Georgia Tillery), which can be read on the MK Heritage website.

The play is also a musical but rather than the cast singing the music came from the band who were Shahnaz Hussain, Brad Bradstock and Dave Crawford. The folk songs which helped tell the story were performed to the same high standard as I have heard from any act at Cambridge Folk Festival or The Stables.

I would challenge anybody to watch Your Loving Brother Albert and not be moved. Seeing a young man in uniform tell the story of what began as an adventure and ended as a tragedy is poignant enough. However, when it is acted as well as Charlie Woolford did with the soundtrack accompanying it the events become even more moving and striking.

The set designed by Kevin Jenkins, which included photographs of the time projected into the background, also added to the gentle but moving atmosphere, making it feel far more like a real theatre than a school hall.

At the end of the production a poem was read which highlighted the way in which the official records had sought to cover up the fact Albert was underage. It also described the way in which historians were able to identify those men from the Wolverton Railway Works who had signed up....they were the ones who are logged as having "left without notice".

The two plays which are being put on as part of the Great War MK project are on at the Radcliffe School Theatre, Wolverton until Saturday 15th November, (when there is also a matinee performance).  If you get the chance to do go and see them because they give a deep and insightful glimpse into Edwardian Britain in this small corner of Buckinghamshire as well as an enjoyable evening out. Tickets are available online.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Feminism for All or Selling Out via Incorporation?

From the Premier Christianity magazine to Elle it seems that feminism is well and truly back on the agenda again. GQ has its own spin on it with a list of Britain's 100 Most Connected Women in the current issue which has a category within it "Campaigner and Change Agent" and unashamedly quotes Gloria Steinem.

The articles are interesting because apart from with Christianity magazine they sit amid the very adverts and photographs which theorists such as Mulvey argue reflect the male gaze. That is the adverts and articles around the Feminist focused adverts can be argued to sexualise women and portray them which reflects the way men want women to look. Page 59 of GQ has an erotic shot of a topless Emily Ratajkowski with the promise of exclusive bonus shots for users of ipad, iphone and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. The advert for Miss Dior on the back of Elle is best described as sultry and seductive.  

The first question this raises in my mind is has the current wave of feminism been incorporated? By this I mean has a potentially counter cultural movement had the power removed from it and has it been made into a consumer product which is almost a parody of itself in the same way as Hebdidge argues happened to punk? Or as I saw one Tweeter put it, "has feminism become meaningless?"

Well, on one hand yes, I think there has been incorporation and there are problematic issues regarding some of the other content of some of these magazines which need to be raised and addressed. However, on another I think something more powerful is happening and that is I think the debate around feminism is being taken to a broader audience rather than expecting them to come to it, which let's face it they are unlikely to.

I want to briefly look at each of these three and see what we can learn from them.

Firstly, the November issue of Premier Christianity. The cover was divided into two reflecting the different models of womanhood which popular culture and conservative church culture promote with the heading of "What Women Want? From feminism to head coverings: challenging how society and the Church define gender roles" bridging the two.

The initial editorial welcomed us to their "female focus edition" before we were launched into an article giving the profiles of 5 women apparently in the running to be the first female bishop. Christian Feminist and popular social media user Hannah Mudge had an interesting article outlining how the media, society and church represent women and why she is a Christian Feminist. Within this article she makes the important point that "finding common ground across the theological divide is important, but so is building bridges with the secular women's movement."

Whilst being careful not to other the oppression of women the article on the Female Cost of War was one of the most powerful of the issue. The article on headcovering by Heather Tomlinson looked at both sides of the argument in a way which was fair and balanced.

Finally, in the Science in the Bible theologian David Instone-Brewer explored what the bible had to say on gender and transgender issues. On one hand this article, with its discussion of intersex issues, this was a useful article however, I believe to label it as an article on what the bible has to say on gender and trans issues was unhelpful. The I in LGBTQI is very definitely separate to the T and trans issues were not really touched upon at all. The article should have stated clearly it was looking at what it meant to be Intersex not at wider gender and trans issues.

Whilst I applaud what was being done in this issue it highlighted a problem which the December edition of Elle also reflects, that feminism and gender issues are something which should be othered and labelled in a way which commodifies the issue.

The Elle magazine article focused on the results of a survey they had commissioned and an interview with Emma Watson. It also had the photos of various men in "This is What a Feminist Looks Like T-shirts", something which the Daily Mail turned into a storm when they claimed the t-shirts were unethically made. The Fawcett Society in turn published a statement refuting the Daily Mail allegations.

The article by Janice Turner with the survey results was interesting because it outlined how the key problem which we face is apathy and misunderstanding. This is what allows inequality to fester and continue in our society unchallenged by most. It is also what allows feminism to be a term which continues to be viewed negatively and as extreme by many. Yet, Elle was also the most heterosexist of the three in many ways and that was something I found problematic. Whilst Diva may be the magazine of choice for many LGBTQI women, we do like magazines like Porter and Elle too and wish we would be reflected more within them.

Then we get to the November GQ list of influential women, similar in some ways to the Rainbow List of LGBT influencers in the Independent this Sunday in many ways. By that I mean both are focusing on who they see as the key movers and shakers who are influencing society and thought. Within the GQ list it was encouraging to see Rev Lucy Winkett named, somebody also in the Christianity list of possible future bishops.

There were women in the list who can definitely be described as feminist such as Stella Creasy MP and Caitlin Moran but many would probably not be so readily labelled. The list contained the straight, the gay and the single. One notable omission was Paris Lees, number two in the Rainbow List and a highly influential woman. Her omission showed that it was a cis list and we there is still some distance to go before all women are included in such polls.

Yet, it was an informative and useful list. Combining the information about the 100 women in the GQ list with the survey data in Elle and the information in Christianity gave an informative an interesting snapshot of where Feminism is today and to an extent some of the issues women today face. Looking at the three magazines aimed at their differing readerships, one mixed gender, one a female audience and one a male audience also shows the complexity of the Feminist movement today and its relationship with the media and potential allies who may not seem natural for those who might more naturally and easily describe themselves as feminists.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Cranky, Beautiful Faith - A Review

Cranky, Beautiful Faith by Nadia Bolz-Weber is the story of a contemporary female Lutheran priest based in Denver. It is a fairly standard Christian autobiography on one hand being a set of stories and anecdotes which give the reader a controlled level of insight into the life and experience of somebody who is a major Christian speaker. There are the transformative experiences, ministering to those who are seen as marginal by the rest of society and the frustrations of ministry which seem to be part and parcel of these types of books. Yet this isn't your standard Christian paperback because Bolz-Weber is a heavily tattooed pioneer minister and nothing is quite standard in her life it seems.

 The endorsement from Gordon Gano, lead singer of the Violent Femmes, which comes before the main text says "For anyone who is Chrisitian, interested in Christianity, anti-Christian (or anti-Religion) I recommend this book" . This sums up who the book is for, at least in theory...everybody.  

The likely readership for a book published by a Christian publisher however provides a paradox but it is a paradox which Bolz-Weber deals with herself in the book. She is pastor at the House of Saints and Sinners a pioneer community/ church and it is a church which was set up to minister to the sorts of people who couldn't deal with traditional (inherited) church or more to the point those types of churches couldn't deal with. There came a point when the group started to get publicity and those who responded to the publicity were the people who turned up in their Dockers and got their news from papers not online sources. Bolz-Weber recounts how she had her heart turned about the need to include these people too. This book is like that. Clearly written for people who don't do church or feel the church can't cope with them yet likely to be read by nice middle class Christians.

Before it gets to the point of talking about this paradox at the end of the book Bolz-Weber begins by talking about her own experience of rejecting the fundamentalist church she had grown up in and becoming an alcoholic stand up comic. She moves on to getting clean and falling in love with a seminary student and finding herself at a point where she ends up training to become a minister. It's an engaging description which feels a bit like it has come out of a Douglas Coupland novel. In fact the whole thing reads a bit like it could have been written by Coupland.

As she talks about her ministry at The House of Saints and Sinners the types of people she is talking about will perhaps be challenging or alien to some of her readers. I didn't find it challenging in that way though.  I don't know if it is because there are aspects which I could identify with, which are part of the world I live in particularly relating to LGBandT stuff and the people who part of her congregation. She talks for example about a trans naming ceremony in one chapter. The liturgy which Bolz-Weber put on the net was what Karl adapted and used when he was putting together the naming ceremony he had at the very mainstream church he goes to, a couple of years ago.  Or perhaps it was because I am an avid Coupland reader but this book felt comfortable rather than shocking. However, as I say this book with its use of the F word every so often and descriptions of chaotic lives would have more of a shock value for the type of Christians who would find it an insight into the type of world they know nothing of or really are challenged by.

The book does highlight how Bolz-Weber has a real heart for and ability to minister to those who society would regard as being on the margins and how creative her ministry is. Whilst being rooted in liturgy there is a creative edge to it, as with many pioneer communities and that is what comes through. She also talks in a real way about the ways in which she has been challenged by a range of people and the place the support of good friends, family and colleagues has had.

The stories of journeying with and ministering to those on described as being on the edges and to those who are part of the institution (she tells the story of talking to a bunch of ministers and being honest about an event she'd put on which didn't work out) have deep theology and meaning within them put forward in a deceptively easy read. The story just referred to together with a story about when she found herself getting ripped off by somebody pretending to be a Hurricane Katrina survivor have something deep in them which I think make this book useful for Christians involved in ministry at various levels. Those people who get held up as successful suffer all the same sorts of issues as others.

What I liked about this book is that it is an easy read which makes you think. It's not a classic but it is well worth a look.
Cranky, Beautiful Faith by Nadia Bolz-Weber is published by Canterbury Press. ISBN 978-1-84825-531-9

Sunday, 19 October 2014

AE & Outcome prompted reflection

Yesterday I attended the Accepting Evangelicals (AE) AGM and ten year celebration in London where Vicky Beeching and Steve Chalke were speaking. The AE account of this event is available on line at their website and includes access to a recording of Steve's talk which was outstanding. This morning I read the Outcome post reflecting on the findings of their survey which came out of their co-ordinating committee meeting yesterday and which invites further discussion and debate as they finalise their strategy.

 What follows is informed by the former but is in many ways a response to the latter, drawing in part on a recent Fresh Expressions article by practical theologian Michael Moynagh exploring on how the mixed economy of church develops. It acts as a solidification of some thoughts I have been having in recent months as I have been observing what has been happening within the English context which may be the basis for some serious writing in the future. I make no apology for this being somewhat more lengthy than an average blog post. I will use sub-heading to help the reader decide what they wish to skip if necessary. I also make note I am paraphrasing a large body of work within this post but cannot reference every point in this type of post....I hope at no point I fall into plagiarism.

The wider changing context

The church in both local and nation sense is evolutionary and organic, even at times when institutions make it seem like it is static. As it evolves the central heart of having a good news to share remains the same but the way in which that good news is shared changes over time. The core texts found in the bible also remains the same on one level. However, the words used within that text and the ways we interpret it change over time as the wider society and its use of language develops. Each evolutionary cycle or paradigm shift (depending upon ones view) also adds something to a central body of tradition which develops along with the church. The experiences of those within the church on one hand remain the same, there are some things which I believe can be found in any society at any period in time. However, the way in which those emotions and actions are expressed tend to differ according to the specific context one is within. Thus, experience is contextual, particularly as changes within the church are often linked to wider socio-economic and political changes.

In the last 45 years we have seen an evolutionary cycle or paradigm shift occurring in wider society which has impacted the church and over the last decade the speed at which change has been occurring has increased due to our move into a digital age. As numerous theologians and social commentators have made clear that in Western Europe, Australasia and to a lesser extent North America has led to an increase in secularisation and a change in the way in which we do church, particularly in light of a reducing number of children and young people in church. We have moved into a mixed economy which Moynagh and others have been at the forefront of analysing and explaining.

This evolution in the church occurs on both a structural and a individual level and going back to classic Functionalist theory what often accompanies it times of rapid change as we are currently in is a sense of anomie, a loss of knowing what the norms and values are or a feeling of isolation. This can be linked to feelings of dissonance when what you "know" and what you "experience" don't match up. This is currently what many within the church are facing with regard to sexuality and gender identity issues as well as wider issues of theology.

Having listened to some of what he said yesterday at a earlier Two:23 meeting as well as yesterday I believe this is at the root of the experience of many people like Steve Chalke, who discussed within his AE talk how his attitudes have changed over a period of the last fifteen years or so.

The changing LGBT Christian Context

Over this current period of change part of the evolution within the church has included changes of thinking over the issue of sexuality and a growing understanding that this one area where norms and values in wider society are changing and that it is an area the church needs to address.

There have been several waves of groups working for the rights of and/or providing pastoral support for LGBTQI Christians emerging during this current evolutionary cycle. In the mid/late 1970's the group now known as Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement emerged as did the EvangelicalFellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians. Whilst the latter seems to have been working more on providing safe networking opportunities and providing some level of support the former was involved more in working for structural change in the church and providing safe spaces for Christians to meet together in fellowship type groups. One of the fellowship type groups which developed out of LGCM was YLGCM for young lesbian and gay Christians. It was out of this stage of the movement many of the denominational groups seemed to have emerged.

It is also worth noting at this point that there was a binary focus within these groups which is reflected in their names and which have in some cases been the reason for embedded attitudes and language continuing until very recently.

From roughly the early 1990's up to the early millennium there was a shift going on in the evangelical wing of the church which saw the rise of  post-evangelicalism (see the work of Dave Tomlinson and others) and the emerging church movement and the beginning of a  challenging of the apparent consensus within the evangelical church on a range of issues including sexuality. It is apparent that at this point there were a number of people who left evangelical backgrounds and became part of mainstream denominations/ churches. It was at this point in history which Courage led by Jeremy Marks who is now one of the patrons of AE moved from being an ex-gay ministry to being an affirming ministry. It was also the time in which AE was founded by Benny Hazlehurst. As Hazlehurst says at this point whilst people were challenging the consensus thinking almost all were unwilling to do this publicly. At this point I believe Greenbelt also starts to become increasingly significant in providing a networking/ teaching space for the LGBT Christian community. Some local groups also emerged at this point.

Over the couple of years there has been another shift occurring which in part represents a handing over of power from one generation to another and also comes from the experiences of those people who left the evangelical churches in the previous wave but in many ways never gave up on evangelicalism. What has happened in this current wave reflects the type of mixed economy which Michael Moynagh refers to the church having moved into in his article. In this wave there has also been a change occurring within the movements which come out of the two earlier waves. It is this current wave which I want to reflect on now, having shown how the three waves have developed.

The Current Situation

Whilst in his article Moynagh refers to the way in which the mixed economy develops in a range of ways relating to Fresh Expressions I believe he provides a useful model to show what has been happening within the LGBTQI faith community.

Moynagh says one way the mixed economy develops is through a blended church experience where some people will develop commitment to more than one church community. This, I would argue, is what some LGBTQI people have done and is one of the ways in which MCC has grown from the anecdotal evidence I have heard over the years.

The second aspect I want to pick up on from his article is church at large and I want to argue this has been a key aspect of what has been happening. As I say from the second wave onwards Greenbelt has provided a focal meeting point for many people and over the years residential weekends and retreats have been important for first wave groups. What has been happening more in recent times is the rise of specific meetings to which "lost generation" LGBT Christians have been travelling for worship as well as discussing LGBT issues. Two:23 is a specific example of this model and is something which has succeeded in attracting a mix of dechurched and churched evangelical Christians.

On line groups such as GCN and GCE and special interest forums on sites such as Ship of Fools have also had a specific role in the development of these types of relationship. There is one set of online relationships which have in many ways developed out of the second wave discussed and relate to Christians now in their late twenties to mid forties. Through the type of off line opportunities referred to in the previous paragraph and more leisure based gatherings relationships and networks have developed which are now seeing new leaders emerge.

The online element has also facilitated the rise of a new group of younger LGBTQI Christians specifically through the launch of DiverseChurch which is focusing on providing support for 18-30 year old evangelicals. Again this is taking on the type of model discussed previously which involves a mix of online and offline interaction.

The result of this for LGBTQI Christians is that denominational identity has become less important in some ways. Besides the fact that some have moved almost as refugees into denominations which are not their own there is also more ecumenical mixing and fellowship occurring. Therefore, it becomes problematic when denominational LGBTQI groups are not part of wider networks and when groups such as AE concentrate on building links with a narrow band of denominations. Methodism, for example, does contain an evangelical wing and we need to build links with them, rather than falling into old flawed understandings about who is liberal and who is not. (Moving away from these categories is something Chalke referred to in his talk).

The Outcome post asks about how to get in touch with the under 30's who are largely unrepresented in their survey. I would suggest that this can be done in two ways. Firstly, by connecting with those involved in denominational youth participation strategy and asking for their input and ideas. It may be the survey is the wrong way to engage with this group and what might be better is to hold a listening exercise at 3 Generate and/ or ECG for example. The second is by networking with groups such as Diverse Church who are working explicitly with this age group of LGBTQI young people and may include Methodists amongst their numbers.

 There is another element to the current wave which is important to note and that is there are a number of big names in the Christian sub-culture who are willing to associate themselves with the LGBTQI Christian cause. This has included those who have taken what Warner in his writing describes as a more entrepreneurial approach to church have broken their silence on the LGBTQI issue and become allies. Steve Chalke is probably the foremost amongst them. The place of straight allies is very important and I think we need to utilise them all we can whilst not falling into the trap of having straight cis people talking on our behalf. 
There have also been some significant coming outs by some very media savvy evangelicals, not least Vicky Beeching's. What this all seems to be resulting in is a long overdue more professional approach being taken by these organisations who have for many years been working on a shoestring and a handful of dedicated volunteers.

A note of warning here which I pick up on from yesterdays AE event and the moving interview with Vicky in particular. Coming out is not an easy process, particularly if you have aspects of your career or housing which could be effected. For many it has loss as well as relief associated with it. The support and pastoral care element of these groups or if they don't provide that themselves the signposting aspect is very important and must be a clear part of any strategy.
There is also the element of those who are LGBTQI and in authority not wanting to be labelled as being gay and so having the rest of their identity marginalised as a result. I think this is an important issue to wrestle with. We need to ensure that people don't become seen just via this element of their personality and we don't put pressure on them to be out or publically out if that is not right for them. We need to ensure that people have the option of being private or public members (as AE do) and that we respect the level of involvement they wish to have. Referring to the "glass ceiling" comments in the Outcome report this is what I think we need to address...we need to make people feel comfortable that in being members of Outcome the organisation will not seek to put them in difficult or compromising positions rather that we will seek to treat and support them as we would any other member with respect.

This professionalism I spoke of also seems to be coming from the fact institutionally the LGBTQI groups are now being taken seriously as voices who need to be heard within current discussions and we are at a point where we know we have to be working for change on an equal basis as those who are working against it. What I am pleased to note is that amateur doesn't seem good enough anymore, strategy, fundraising and growing membership are being put forward as important issues to wrestle with. This quality appears to be extending to the new groups which have been emerging over the past year or so.

This latter point is important, as I see it, because the current wave appears to have a edge to it focused on real discipleship building and being more missional which does require real resourcing. The current wave is not interested in licking wounds rather they are focused on building God's kingdom which will happen to include LGBTQI people. There is a real understanding that the exclusion of LGBTQI people has been one factor contributing to secularisation. An aspect Chalke picked up excellently in his talk.

A final aspect I want to bring out is that intersectionality is being taken seriously and the previous binary where the focus on lesbians and gays at the exclusion of others in the LGBTQI spectrum seems to be disappearing. Trans issues, for example, are being taken on board by these groups although as the language at the beginning of the Outcome article shows there is still some learning / refocusing required.

So where do we go from here?

As I see it the next two years are going to be a critical time and that is widely acknowledge by all. We need to all be working together to ensure that true and full inclusion occurs.

With regard to the Methodist situation which Outcome are addressing I believe that means working towards a situation where there are no spaces in Methodist churches which are unsafe for people to come out as LGBTQI in and no spaces where they will find they are not affirmed (and so working towards our current CPD being worked out in practice). This will mean having a specific goal of seeking to monitor practice and being able to call for accountability where the practice is not meeting what Conference has agreed. It also means being ready to support allies.

The building of alliances needs to continue so part of the focus of future strategy I would argue should be on building a coherent and well networked movement. This movement needs to continue to be based on sharing worship and fellowship as much as it does campaigning. As I see it the Spirit appears to be moving because what is happening in many of these movements also includes discipleship building and a focus on getting back to the bible. The need for good theology which Chalke refers to in his talk is not just to enable us to discuss with others but also because there is a need for us to grow as disciples of Christ.  

I would also say we need to work towards situations where ministers are able to treat marriages between people of the same sex exactly as they do ones including people who have been divorced, as a matter of conscience. We need to work to get inclusive liturgy which can be used by all.

In terms of these and other strategic goals the building of wider alliances with allies in our denominations and beyond both in religious organisations and secular ones such as Stonewall is also important. As the new AE strap line says we are "better with everyone".

Friday, 17 October 2014

Old Times, at Stantonbury Theatre, Review

Going to see The Play's The Thing Theatre Company production of Old Times by Harold Pinter at the Stantonbury Theatre in Milton Keynes last night was a thought provoking experience.

The story is set in a remote farmhouse, the first act in the lounge and the second in the bedroom. Anna (played by Beverley Longhurst) is an attractive and apparently sophisticated woman yet her speech appears to come from a bygone age. Anna unexpectedly visits the more homely Kate (Kathryn Worth) her old flatmate and Kate's husband Deeley (Alex Reece). As the play unfolds they reminisce about their experiences in London twenty years previously. However, as the evening moves on a dark web is woven revealing, as the programme synopsis put it, "a game of power and possession as memories unfold and are used as weapons of sinister manipulation".

The play which has some very amusing one liners in amongst the darkness ends but never fully concludes and you are left to come to your own conclusion as to what exactly you had seen and heard. Pinter, we discovered, is not for the lazy; it demands intellectual engagement and left Karl and I in deep conversation afterwards trying to figure it out.

It was a very well acted production with a strong cast. Beverley Longhurst stood out as having a particularly strong stage presence but one couldn't be sure how much of that was related to the character, particularly as Anna appeared to somewhat erotically flirt with Kate, and how much came from the actress herself.

For parts of the play the character of Kate is largely silent whilst she is being discussed by the other two and so the acting required relates largely to showing reaction through facial expression and body language. Kathryn Worth played the part wonderfully and was entirely believable as the middle-aged housewife.

Alex Reece played the part of Deeley very well but was never entirely convincing. Indeed in those places which consciously referred to the events being discussed being 20 years ago his presence was a distraction. The problem was not in his acting which was excellent, particularly towards the end of the play when he is required to sob, but rather in his casting. Reece simply looked too young and both Karl and I kept thinking but he would have been about 12 then, although a look at his biography online indicates he is of the right age for the part. It was just he looked far too young and fresh faced compared to the two women he was playing alongside.  

It was a play I was glad I had gone to see. It was well produced and directed by Rosemary Hill, a leading arts figure in Milton Keynes, who founded The Play's The Thing Theatre Company in 2008. Besides introducing me to Pinter's work which I enjoyed the challenge of it introduced me to a wonderful venue.

The Stantonbury Theatre is a modern well equipped building which is part of a wider community campus also containing a school, gallery, gym and church. Beyond Milton Keynes the venue itself would be described as an arts theatre being quite intimate and putting on relatively small scale professional performances, which seem to go between the educational (Shakespeare) and the challenging (Pinter). Now I have discovered this gem I look forward to seeing more work there.

Friday, 10 October 2014

More Perfect Union? - A Review

More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-Sex Marriage by Alan Wilson, (Bishop of Buckingham), is being launched at the Church House Bookshop on Wednesday. It is an interesting exploration of scripture, tradition and reason which also touches upon experience. It is not the only new book on the market on this topic, Robert Song, (Professor of Christian Ethics at Durham University) has recently published Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same Sex Relationships. It will be interesting to compare the two texts and the differences between what they are saying.

Alan Wilson could be described as the modern turbulent priest. He has been the most outspoken Church of England bishop on the subject of same sex relationships. Thus it is no surprise that this book on one level is a polemic directed at those who would seek to maintain a status quo in which a gay clergyman may live with his partner but not marry him. However, it is certainly not a book filled with hyper-bole. There is a clear, well reasoned argument put forward in this book as to why the Church of England should accept same-sex marriage and allow gay clergy to marry as well as letting those priests who wish to do so marry same sex couples.

There are distinct elements to the book which guide the reader through a well constructed argument. Within the introduction he explains how he got to the stage of feeling that he had to come off the fence and speak out. Whilst he does not at any point say he felt he had to be the one to say the emperor has no clothes that is the implicit message within this text. What he does say explicitly is that he feels the legalisation of same sex marriage spells the end of the "don't ask, don't say" culture.

Whilst odd references are made to other denominations the book is unashamedly Anglican, reflecting the conversation it is seeking to specifically engage with. The first main chapter guides you through the recent history of the Church of England on LGBTQI issues touching on how wider societal issues weave into the story. There is a brief, interesting, reflection on how the Church of England initially reacted to the AIDS crisis which is an example of the type of useful anecdote which Bishop Alan can provide as a CofE insider who has over 30 years experience of public ministry including a decade as a bishop. This status as an institutional outsider gives him an authorative voice when he suggests that "by 2014 there were said to be a dozen or so gay bishops." He has made clear on social media and elsewhere that he does not believe that these bishops should be outed and I am glad for that. The book underlines that he understands a lot about the difficulties and pain these men, his colleagues, are wrestling with being based in the institution which is the Church of England.

Within his discussion of what is regarded as unnatural by some and explanation of why he disagrees with those views he relies strongly on reason. Within this part of the book he refers to sex and gender bringing in trans issues in a way which challenges the reader to think through the issues which exist and way they touch upon each other. It is in this part of the book he introduces his "Janet and John" description of the world many opponents are inhabiting, have inhabited. There are various statistics thrown in to back up his arguments which make interesting asides to think about.

The chapter on equality is perhaps the most bitter of the book and is certainly one where the humour becomes almost caustic. Wilson clearly feels alot of frustration.

Whilst many will be familiar with the biblical debate it is important to cover it in a book such as this and Wilson does this in a way which hits just the right tone. The discussion of biblical material covers three distinct chapters the final of which explores biblical marriage. This I would argue is the strongest part of the book as the bishop moves away from points scoring and on to clearly guiding the reader through the relevant biblical passages.

History is clearly a passion of the author and as he guides us through the history of Christian marriage it felt as if you were watching a BBC Four documentary, (and not just because at least one of the examples had also been used in a recent history programme I had watched).

The differing views in different parts of the world and in turn different parts of the Anglican Communion has been something many critics of gay people getting married has focused upon. Wilson explores this mixing contemporary statistics with historical understanding to give a commanding case.

The book ends by summing up the reality of the situation we now live in and in doing so sums up his convincing argument.

The book which is very readable builds up a specific argument intended to contribute to a specific debate and is carefully crafted on this basis. It therefore concentrates on the Church of England with minimal mention of other groups. Yet I believe this is a significant weakness in some ways. Within Bishop Alan's diocese lies one of the most ecumenical areas in the country and so he is well aware of the negotiations and discussions which apply to an increasing number of areas which contain LEP's and churches where the CofE is one of a number of partners. The law is framed in such a way that what is happening in the CofE does impact upon other denominations. This is something I believe could have been further explored, looking at where the development of CofE policy differs from other denominations not just the current point.

Additionally whilst he touches upon the way in which these debates are important in relation to mission he fails to really develop this. Thus, I think the 172 page book could do with about another 40 pages.  

Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely. Whatever your views it is useful to be guided through the arguments involved and this material does provide some food for thought even to those who are very familiar with the debate.

More Perfect Union? Is published by Darton, Longman and Todd. The ISBN is 978--0232-53125-1.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Pioneer Gift - A Review

The Pioneer Gift: Explorations in Mission edited by Jonny Baker and Cathy Ross has clearly been written, to some extent, as a text book for the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training Programme and other courses around the country which are looking at pioneering. It reads as a set of chapters intended as the basis of pre-reading for seminar discussions and the majority of contributors are people who lecture or are/ have been students on the CMS programme. However, that should not put off those who don't need a text book but do want to reflect more deeply on the theology of pioneer ministry. This is an important and somewhat innovative resource.

I say the book is innovative because books on pioneering in the UK have tended to take three forms. The first category is the book which has sought to map how and why pioneer movements have emerged. Gibbs and Bolger's Emerging Churches is a sociological study which is perhaps the best example of this type of study. It uses qualitative interview data and contains a range of in depth interviews with key players in these types of movements. The second type of text has been a variation on the first and has been more reflexive and less objective in the way in which it has looked at the reasons why a more contextual approach was needed. Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost is a good example of this. The third type of book has sought to mix theology, (normally coming from institutional gate keepers or "permission givers") with reflections on specific projects, coming from pioneers who have normally been ordained. This book differs in format because whilst it is written by practitioners, (and even the academics involved are practioners on one level or another), it is more theological in its approach. There is far less descriptive material than in the previous types of text mentioned and much more theology. It is also much more ecumenical than many of the other texts on the subject have been.

The book begins with Jonny Baker's introduction exploring what The Pioneer Gift is. Within this he starts by discussing the theme of "the gift of not fitting in", which you may have heard him speak on at Greenbelt and elsewhere. He then discusses how CMS fits into the pioneer movement and what the benefits of pioneering are as well as some of the challenges faced.

Lecturer Cathy Ross discusses the theme of missiology before discussing theological homelessness and its link with dissent. The style of this chapter underlines her familiarity with writing for this type of text, yet it is not so academic it feels out of place. It is within this chapter we first get the feel for how liberation theology and feminist theologies have influenced the pioneers.

Scottish theologian Doug Gay, who will also be familiar to Greenbelt audiences, has a reflexive style similar to Frost. His chapter is perhaps the most descriptive within the book. Within it he raises and important aspect which I feel helps make this book such a useful resource, this is the interplay and complexity of relationships between the institutional church and pioneers. Too often there has been a binary approach taken which has seen a mixed economy as being inherited church verses fresh expressions. This text has several points which illustrate the way in which the relationship is far more messy, involving over lap and grey areas. The issue of permission giving is discussed in a much more objective and at times negative way than in many of the books so far published on this topic, which have tended to have had direct input from the permission givers, (normally Church of England bishops).

Anna Ruddick's chapter on the subject of transformation is interesting. It examines both language and praxis, focusing on the Eden Network which has grown out of the Message Trust in Manchester. Within this chapter she makes use of some interesting qualitative research to illustrate the transformation which takes place and the way in which significance is created. I found this one of the most interesting chapters within the book.

Karlie Allaway is a student on the course and a Roman Catholic who has come to that denomination via a range of evangelical Protestant groups. Her chapter, perhaps more than any other, moves away from the traditional discourse which has tended to link sacramentality in these groups primarily with new monastic movements or see pioneering as beyond traditional institutional settings. Rather what Allaway does is examine the possibilities for community which being rooted in an existing institutional setting gives. As somebody who has struggled getting my head around what others see as the gift of sacramentality I was grateful for this chapter. It helped me understand how others have experienced freedom and healing through the Eucharist. There is also some beautiful poetry and liturgy in this chapter.

Jim Barker who works for CMS, but has a background in the NGO sector writes on communities of practice and how learning occurs within them. The diagrams and language within this chapter perhaps make it the most academic. However, this does not mean it is inaccessible. It is a thoughtful and interesting chapter which raises important questions. As with many of the latter chapters of this book it includes the findings of small scale research. Due to the subject matter and overall size of the population the small sample isn't a problem with this chapter although I would suggest in other chapters the sample size is too small to make them definitive.

Beth Keith, focuses on Jeremiah and the idea of pulling down and building up. Her use of the categories of modal pioneers (based in fresh expressions within existing church structures) and sodal pioneers (those working outside existing church structures) was interesting and useful.

Gerald A. Arbuckle is an anthropologist now working in a research ministry in Australia. He wrote a really interesting chapter on the place of myth in narrative. Within this chapter there is an interesting discussion of Vatican-II and the current papacy of Pope Francis and the changes he is making. Arbuckle makes the point that both cultures and structures need to change if conservatism is not to re-emerge and become a powerful force once more.   

Simon Sutcliffe is a Methodist Venture FX pioneer. His chapter discusses the nature and importance of contextual theology and role of the pioneer in this. What I find interesting is that nowhere within his chapter does Sutcliffe link contextual theology to the more established discipline of practical or applied theology which contextual theology grows out of.

Andrea Campanale has produced a very important chapter which needs to be taken seriously and developed. In her discussion of shame and the implications for missional communities she draws heavily on Alan Mann's work but develops it to ask important questions relevant not only to pioneering and fresh expressions but also to more traditional forms of church. This theme is further developed in Emma Nash's chapter on redefining sin. Both chapters deal with shame and guilt and the consequences of certain understandings of language used within the church and beyond.

I think that these chapters have important issues to raise for those working with LGBT people and those groups which are in there own way pioneering but which may not be described as fresh expressions. This is an area which I would like to explore further and I was grateful for the mini literature reviews at the beginning of each of their chapters.

Kim Hartshorne's chapter on the Upper Room is again a more descriptive chapter. However, it rounds off the book well by looking at inclusion and vulnerability as well as liturgy. Hartshorne draws heavily on Brueggemann, as others do and it is clear he has been one of the influential theorists discussed on their course along with David Bosch. The writings by the students, particularly, therefore reflect their ideas.

Overall as I say a useful and interesting book which I would highly recommend to anybody who seriously wants to engage with the theology emerging from and underpinning the pioneer movement. I would also recommend to those who wish to be challenged to reflect theologically on their own context as this is an easy to read book which raises important issues which go beyond pioneer communities.
The Pioneer Gift Explorations in Mission, Edited by Jonny Baker and Cathy Ross, ISBN 978-1-84825-651-4