That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.

I’ve been pointed to a fantastic discussion on Newsweek’s website about disbelieving clergy, and a corresponding study from Tufts University about clergy who have “lost faith in their tradition.” Friend and fellow blogger Jeremy has a great exploration of this article in his blog post on the subject, playing on the questions of how clergy should respond to the doubt they experience, and how we might be honest and authentic in leading congregations from various places of lost faith. I was going to post a reply, but it became an entry in itself…

I find that I “lose faith” in my tradition in three ways:

1. The Dark Night of the Soul. This is temporary, but that temporariness has varied in length, the longest stretch for me being about ten months following 9/11. I didn’t know if I could believe in humanity, much less a loving God or a purpose for life. Fortunately, I was not leading a congregation at that point. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been. As Jeremy says, there needs to be a balance. A couple sermons about the angst and questioning might have been fine, but after a while, I’d have needed to find a way to preach faith in the midst of doubt or something. Still, having been through these periods I believe makes a pastor stronger and better able to minister with those who inevitably face their own dark night, without giving fast and hard answers that sound more like condemnation than help (“What do you mean you doubt you feel God’s presence? God is real and that’s it! You just have to believe a little harder!”). And I think of Mother Teresa, who it seems conducted most of her ministry from within a place of doubt. It doesn’t seem to have diminished the power and faithfulness of her witness, bless her.

2. Loss of faith in the denomination and its policies. I love Wesleyanism and I love the United Methodist Church. I was a denomination shopper, coming out of the Catholic church and seeking a place where I could be in ministry, and I explored a lot of traditions. I think the UMC, of all the specific traditions I tried, is the closest and best expression of the Christian faith for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Sometimes our polity, our way of forcing there to be a majority vote when there is a strongly divided body, and the way some of those decisions shake out (mostly I’m talking about positions on human sexuality, yes), frustrate the hell out of me. I begin to wonder if we as a body really are seeking God’s vision, and begin to question my ability to be an authentic *United Methodist* Christian leader. I think it’s okay to be honest about this too, while leaving room for other United Methodists who are equally frustrated and disheartened with our denomination for exactly opposite reasons, and lift instead the challenge and struggle to be faithful as a human organization, seeking to live into a divine vision.

Those are the kind of easy ones.

3. Lack of adherence to supposedly orthodox theological positions. Most of these, I haven’t lost, but never had to begin with. You see, I believe, but I have been asked (sometimes by myself) whether what I believe is enough in line with my tradition. In the early 1900s, a movement arose to name the ‘fundamentals‘ of the Christian faith, and while the fundamentalist movement has sprung in large part from that, many if not most mainline perceptions of Christianity have also been influenced by it. And so many people think it’s impossible to preach “the Gospel” and *not* believe in a seven-day creation story or a talking snake. Even for the people who get past that, many raise their brows when I say things like “I don’t believe in original sin… at least, not at all in the way it is usually described” (I believe it has more to do with the fact that we are trapped in a destructive narrative [see B. McClaren, Everything Must Change], or that we are in the impossible position of trying to live into our commitments and what is asked of us, which we know we can never achieve [see R. Neville, Symbols of Jesus, I think]). I don’t think God is a being with hands and feet (and gender) and locality in time and place. I don’t place much stock in whether or not the Red (or reed) Sea parted, and I completely doubt that there was ever a prophet swallowed by an enormous fish. I don’t cling to the idea that Mary was (or had to be) a virgin. Doesn’t so much matter to me where Jesus’ DNA came from; I still believe he’s the son of God. I don’t need the the Bible to be infallible; it’s okay for me if it’s a human story of divine encounter. I don’t believe God demands a blood atonement for sin, and inflicts divine child abuse to exact it. I don’t believe suffering and violence and death are redemptive. I’m unsure about whether Jesus’ resurrection was physical and bodily; again, for me I care about what it means– that his life, his love, his oneness with the Divine transcended the grave, was more powerful than death, and we too when we live for him and as he did will find life and love and grace that are stronger than death– but I don’t really bother with the mechanics of it. If we suddenly dug up a body in Judea and proved it was his, that would not make the resurrection one ounce less true for me. I don’t believe that Jesus will come again in a cloud, or that anything described in the book of Revelation is intended to be revelatory of anything beyond the people of God living in faith in the face of the Roman Empire.

These are not temporary doubts for me, nor are they political debates. These are things I actually believe are theological and spiritual positions held by some that need not be held by all in order to live and believe an authentic Christian spirituality. And I will preach them. Again, leaving room for those who do believe that Mary was, by necessity, a virgin, and that Jesus’ blood did indeed avert the deathly wages of sin being extracted from humanity. But I have often said that if one need believe that God demands blood sacrifice in order to be a Christian, count me out. If one’s faith hangs on whether Jesus was a resuscitated corpse versus a spiritual being come Easter morning, I’m out of the club. I hear sighs of relief; I hear people give thanks, that they can now consider themselves Christian, when before they thought they were excluded. I also hear murmurs. Okay, then, what *do* you believe?

I believe God is; transcendent and immanent, Ground and Source of all Being, and that we are in God as a sponge is in the sea. I believe the Bible is the story of humanity’s relationship with God, filled with truth and beauty and adventure and sacrifice and chaos and anger and doubt and triumph, and that this story is true, regardless of whether it is factual. I believe that Jesus was, more than any other wise prophet or old soul, one and the same with that Divine, that to see him was to see God, to live the Way he taught is to live God’s Way. I believe that the consequence of confronting power and corruption and violence and domination, the cost of articulating God’s vision in the face of humanity’s greed is deadly. I believe that the life and love of God, and God in Christ, and now God in us as we are in Christ, is yet more powerful than the deadly force of Empire and fear and greed and corruption. I believe such life and love is eternal, and so Christ was and is alive beyond death. I believe that this Divine One, this God, is present with us even now, that we feel movement through Spirit and in community, that we are still called to be and build and participate in a new way of being and living, God’s realm, come to earth. I believe we are invited to make this new Way, together with God, and live as a people connected to God, to one another, to all of life, part of what Brian McClaren calls “God’s Sacred Ecosystem.” When that happens, we will see face to face, we will live as the Body of Christ, fully restored. We will see the fulfillment of all that needs to be.

These are my fundamentals.

But they are not sufficient for everyone. I have been told many times that I should renounce my wicked ways and confess before my congregation that I am not fit to be their pastor because I do not believe in the true tenants of Christianity. I have been told that I must have lost my faith, and that I must repent and seek the assurance of the infallible Bible, the inflexible answers, because to question is to doubt and to doubt is to deny God. I think to question is to invite deeper faith, to seek to know God more, to admit that I don’t have or need answers, only ideas and a direction to begin and begin again on the journey of faith that leads, as it must, to the Holy.

And so here, I reject the premise that this could be considered a loss of belief. I believe very strongly. I would challenge that simply because what I believe is not the orthodoxy from an older age or the post-intellectualism ideas of fundamentals, that doesn’t mean I question the deep truth of the Gospel. I would not count myself among disbelieving clergy, although many have pointed their fingers at me with just such an accusation. To my congregations, I say simply that I am on a journey with them. I have deep truths, and deep faith in God on which I stand. And if we differ from there, or you wish I articulated more solid answers, then perhaps your faith is in a stronger or wiser– or maybe just different!– place than mine. But if you question too, then be not afraid. I’ll hold your hand through the dark night of the soul; I’ll rage with you when our human institutions fall short of the Divine justice and truth we strive to live into; I’ll listen and hear and hold your questions about God and truth and Christ and existence, and share my own and maybe together where us two are gathered in Jesus’ name, we will find his presence with us. I’ll preach that: what I believe, what you might believe, what others might believe, because more than anything I know we all see God only in part, and only together can we begin to piece together how massive, how mighty, how all-encompassing, how grace-full, the Divine truly is.

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32 Responses

  1. I think it is a requirement that every blog post on this issue use a song title.

    And I think I need to print out and read this very carefully before I reply. Thanks for some lunchtime reading!

  2. […] clergy who “no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination.” Both Jeremy and Becca Clark have thoughtful responses to the conversation and the question about what pastors should do when […]

    • At the above link, commenter PamBG (http://pambg.blogspot.com/) writes these words that I think are brilliant and beautiful, and I wish I had articulated them as well as she did:

      “I don’t believe in Christian exclusivism; I don’t believe that gay people can commit monogamy as a sin; I don’t believe in bodily resuscitation although I believe in resurrection; I don’t believe in heaven although I believe in the Kingdom of God; I don’t believe that hell is a place to which God sends people; and I don’t believe that what doctrines we hold is more important than how we treat others.”

      I’ve found a new pastor blog to subscribe to!

      Becca

  3. Pastor Becca,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas. It is hurtful that our brothers and sisters can be so “harsh” whenever we think “outside the box” so to speak. I always come back to visit your website because of your warmth, honesty and courage of conviction.

    Any chance of coming to the Virginia Annual Conference to set up a church?!!

    Shalom,

    Richard

    • Thanks for your comments and your kind words, Richard.

      I don’t currently have any plans to set up shop in Virginia, but you never know where the winds of the Spirit will blow!

      Blessings from across the connection,

      Becca

  4. Give Me That Old Time Religion

    I really wonder sometimes if all of the clergy who want to create their own religion were “honorably located” and therefore had no right to an appointment and were removed from the pension system whether much of our financial issues would go away.

    • Actually, I think that would make the financial problems worse (yes, yes, I know, I’m treating this comment as if it raised a thoughtful question when I doubt that was he author’s intent, but oh well). For the record, I think the converse would also be bad, to remove from the appointment system all clergy who cling to orthodoxy at the expense of being relevant and connected to what is going on in the world or in themselves. In either case, we diminish the scope and reach of the UMC.

      The beauty and relevance, I think, of the United Methodist Church is that we can have a broad reach. There are plenty of churches where you cannot appoint me: churches where questions about orthodoxy, where a pastor who blogs– heck, where a pastor who blogs about *her* pregnancy– would be a threat to the stability and vibrancy of the congregation. But there are also many congregations where you can’t put a pastor who gives the party line but shuts down questions because such a pastor would be out of touch with the authentic seeking and integrity of the members of the congregation. In places like that, places where I am appointed, a pastor who struggles and wrestles and is honest about deviations from alleged orthodoxy actually, in my experience, allows the congregants to ask and explore for themselves, to internalize and authenticate their own faith.

      Anyway, I do want to thank “Creed” for at the very least illustrating the point. Anyone who thought I was exaggerating when I said that I was called unchristian or my credentials and integrity in ministry were called into question when I expressed my true beliefs can at least see what I’m talking ’bout.

      Also, at least our Office fan upheld the song title theme. Bravo.

      • We know them by their fruits. The Western Jurisdiction is rapidly melting away. The Vermont churches are going to the New England Annual Conference which is already the smallest (in number) in the Northeastern Jurisdiction despite covering the largest land area.

        You have every right to be in a pulpit. But, do you really have a call to be in two United Methodist pulpits? If you wanted to be in an UCC or Unitarian church, then you can believe whatever you want.

        • There are fruits and there are fruits. The UMC, and the Christian Church as a whole, is in decline in all of the “first world.” I believe one of the reasons we see more drastic decline geographically in the northeast and western United States is not because the churches there are more liberal, but because the people are. In maintaining our adherence to so-called orthodoxy, we undermine our ability to be relevant in these changing cultural contexts. For the most controversial example, here in geographic New England, where five out of the six states have or have had laws protecting either equal marriage or civil unions/domestic partnerships for all couples, I minister in a denomination where I am forced to turn away couples seeking the spiritual gift of marriage. In my town, I join only the Catholics and Baptists in doing so. I think this significantly inhibits our (the UMC’s) ability to be in ministry in a time and place where the church’s understanding of homosexuality is radically out of touch with the culture and spiritual beliefs of the people we’re trying to serve.

          All that said, in the midst of the wide-scale and geographic decline you’ve named, the churches (especially the larger one) where I serve have seen growth: modest growth in terms of new attendance, significant growth in terms of giving of time and treasure, and growth I can describe as nothing short of miraculous in terms of outreach and ministry to the community and the world. Would those be the fruits you’re talking about?

          Your challenge is a separate question. I don’t think anyone has a “right” to a pulpit. A pulpit is a call and a privilege, not a right. In any case, I do believe I am called to United Methodist pastoral ministry. I am Methodist by choice, having come from another denomination. It is not a decision I took or take lightly, but one based on prayer, reflection, examination and discernment, and based on the UMC’s theological heritage (prevenient grace), commitment to empowering mission and social justice, and our polity. While imperfect, I found the UMC to be the closest to what I think faithful Christian faith looks like. I wholeheartedly believe I am indeed called to serve in United Methodist pulpits (even if I tend to preach in front of them, rather than behind them).

          This belief of mine has been affirmed by four bishops (the one who commissioned me and the three who ordained me), by the cabinet who appointed me, by the Board of Ordained Ministry who examined and approved me, by the clergy executive session of the Annual Conference who voted me into membership, by the local churches who supported me in my candidacy, by the three congregations where I have served out my ministry, and by the congregants, colleagues, and communities with whom I’ve been in ministry. So all that is to say, yes.

          • It’s also a little funny when people state beliefs that are outside the mainstream and then act surprised when they are challenged especially when they are paid based on possessing certain beliefs.

            If you were right about the problem in the Northeast and the West being an “excess” of orthodoxy then how do churches like Saddleback do well??? Also, wouldn’t the UCC and the Unitarians be growing by leaps and bounds since their defining characteristic is an openness to differing beliefs. Instead, the UCC decline is very steep. The Episcopalians show that ordaining homosexuals is not a step for growth either.

            I can hope that your attendance growth is accompanied by membership growth as well. Do you get professions of faith?

            • Wow. I am most certainly NOT paid based on possessing certain beliefs.

              The United Methodist Church is not a credal church; that is, no specific profession of a creed is necessary for membership in the body or for leadership as a pastor. What is required (for pastoral ministry) is an earnest desire to know and love and serve God, an ability for those in leadership to articulate sound theology (which may or may not be mainstream, but is judged by the Board of Ministry to be sound and in accordance with Methodist tradition), and the gifts and graces for leadership. Once appointed, I am paid to use these gifts and graces in service to God in a particular time and place.

              I don’t think you can compare a localized church like Saddleback (remind me– is that the one that paid visitors a cash bonus for coming on Easter Sunday?) to a national or world-wide denomination. Nor do I think we can make blanket assumptions about why particular churches and denominations rise and fall over the course of time, particularly when we compare again new churches and movement to those centuries old.

              Sure I get new members, and professions of faith, but I tend to value attendance and participation in ministry over membership numbers. Data points are interesting; hearts and hands working for Christ are transformative.

              • It wasn’t Saddleback. Saddleback is Rick Warren’s church–Purpose-Driven Life. But, it is a growing church in California which tends to disprove your argument.

                Actually, I would have thought Bridge Church in Jacksonville would be something you’d want to emulate rather than denigrate. http://www.outreachmagazine.com/news-and-stories/churches/3559-Florida-Church-Pay-Light-Bills-for-Visitors.html

                But, going back to the beginning of your reply, what do you think the Historic Questions are??? There is a BIG difference between questions of how often to have Communion or whether to use intinction versus “I don’t think Heaven is a place and I don’t believe in Hell either.”

                The whole point of the Washington Post article (and Jeremy continued it) was that there is a line beyond which a pastor shouldn’t be in a pulpit (whether temporarily or permanently). Your belief statement in “About Becca Clark” was fine whether I agreed with every word or not. But, you have moved to a different place judging by your words in this post. The role of a pastor is to kindle and nurture faith not create doubt.

                • I think the point beyond which a pastor shouldn’t be in a pulpit is when she or he no longer feels authentic, no longer feels able to express faith for oneself or to nurture and guide others. I wholeheartedly disagree that someone else can point at a pastor who is not in such a place and cry “you’re no longer fit for a pulpit (if you ever were)!” simply because one disagrees with their take on certain theological positions.

                  Again, I think faith is sometimes kindled and nurtured in honesty, wrestling, and the ability to believe despite doubt and struggle.

                  Shalom,
                  becca

                  • Again, you aren’t the sole arbiter of your effectiveness as a pastor.

                    You decided to go from a comment on Jeremy’s blog to a whole diary on your own about disbelieving clergy. You appear to move from your previous statement of beliefs to one that seems more heterodox. Despite saying that you are looking for answers, you get rather defensive when you’re questioned.

                    If you weren’t looking to spark a debate and weren’t looking for affirmation for your faith stances, then what were you hoping for????

                    • ach, these comment frames get narrower and narrower; maybe wordpress’s way of telling us to wrap up the conversation.

                      Again, you aren’t the sole arbiter of your effectiveness as a pastor.

                      Surely not; I simply am pointing out that neither are you– I leave the task of assisting me in discerning that to people more familiar with me and my ministry.

                      Despite saying that you are looking for answers, you get rather defensive when you’re questioned.

                      I wasn’t intending to come across as defensive– true, on my blog, I don’t like for personal questions to go unanswered or remarked upon, just because it seems cold to me. But I have no vested interest actually in whether or not I convince you of anything. More on that in a sec…

                      If you weren’t looking to spark a debate and weren’t looking for affirmation for your faith stances, then what were you hoping for????

                      I was looking to express what I believe in response to what I thought was a very interesting article and study (not just Jeremy’s blog post, much as I love him, but the source material) I don’t mind debate (I rather enjoy it), but when it comes to personal profession of faith, it’s just that, a personal profession. It doesn’t require affirmation or refutation– just adding my voice to the cacophony of Christian voices standing somewhere and saying “I believe.”

                      Blessings,
                      Becca

                • Creed: I think that I made the remarks about heaven and hell, not Becca. Are you familiar with N.T. Wright who is generally considered a great champion of Evangelical Christian theology? I find it funny that I can agree with his views and when I say them I’m a heretic and when he says them, he is a champion of true Christianity. This happens quite frequently on the internet.

                  And, by the way, anyone who has eleven years’ history debating Christian theology on the internet certainly doesn’t expect to be affirmed. “Get out of the denomination” is pretty well the standard response; any affirmation is actually a bonus. I guess my counter-question would be, what kind of a response did you expect in delivering that message?

                  Now, on the subject of heaven and hell being spiritual places to which our disembodied souls are sent, this is a Greek concept. Scripture speaks of resurrection into the Kingdom of God; I don’t think that I have it “nailed down” what exactly that means, but not having the meaning nailed down is precisely what it means to trust in the God of salvation and resurrection. Your mileage may vary, of course.

                  • I’m not so sure that Bishop Wright would agree with you.

                    I know that those gems were yours but Becca said that they fit her to a tee.

                    • I’m not so sure that Bishop Wright would agree with you.

                      I guess I missed the entire conversation where you asked me what I meant by my comments. I guess I missed the bit where I elaborated and where you listened and where we had an exchange of ideas. I must have missed all of those bits because otherwise how would you be able to compare what I believe to Tom Wright’s thinking? If you don’t know what I believe, how could you make that statement? I really must have missed our conversation. Strange.

  5. I’m not sure that one can make a generic and anonymous accusation of heresy against a stranger on the internet unless unless a person has said something extremely clear like “I categorically deny the doctrine of the Trinity”.

    Generally, much of the debate about heresy tends to revolve around “This is how I interpret your beliefs and therefore I declare you to be a heretic”. Much of the “heresy debates” in the Church seem to revolve around this kind of process and I’m not sure it’s valid. I’m pretty sure that I could use a certain interpretative framework to declare St. Paul a heretic on the resurrection based on his writings in 1 Corinthians. “See, he’s trying to make us think that he actually believes in the resurrection with his fine words ‘If Christ be not raised then our faith is in vain’, but then just a few verses later he makes it pretty clear that these are not the sort of bodies we have today, so really he doesn’t believe in resurrection at all.”

    Also, I think that if a person is going to tell another individual to get out of the denomination, then one should at least have the guts to make themselves identifiable.

    • This is really bizarre. I use my real name and “PamBG” says I’m anonymous?!? I am the lay leader of West Side UMC in Millville, NJ.

      If you are serving as a supply pastor in Ohio, then you should be preaching UM doctrine.

      I’m not sure what type of Christianity doesn’t believe in Heaven. What is your vision of the “Kingdom of God?”

      • So you actually share a name with the actor and character on “The Office”? That’s just cool.

        Again, I will point out that the UMC doesn’t have doctrine. We have polity, principles, resolutions, discipline, articles of faith, and so on, but not a doctrinal statement. We don’t preach UM doctrine, but Christ. Who, it seems to me, spoke a whole heck of a lot more about the Kingdom of God than about “heaven.”

        Again, Creed, you are just illustrating my point. The personal judgment against both Pam and I that, because we deviate from your understanding of orthodox we are therefore not Methodist or even Christian is what this post was all about. My argument is that there are many faithful responses to the gospel, many Christian, indeed, many Methodist faithful responses to the gospel. It is counter-productive to assume that one’s own is the only valid one.

        Thanks for engaging so strongly in dialog.

        Peace, Becca

        • I didn’t write your blog entry. I think that Dan Dick’s Call Waiting entry speaks to some of these issues as well. I don’t know if you were hoping for a lot of affirmation or what you were looking for.

          There are some points that are simply non-negotiable. I do not believe the Bible is inerrant, but I believe it was inspired by God. I believe Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph, was executed and returned as a living being three days later.

          We aren’t a creedal church but our main Communion service includes the Apostles’ Creed. The Book of Worship recommends an affirmation of faith in each service.

    • Pam, I think that’s a good description of where a lot of the debate comes from, and has always come from. At some point or other, nearly every thought imaginable within the spectrum of Christianity has been labeled heretical by one group or another, and where does that get us?

      Bless, Becca

  6. This is really bizarre. I use my real name and “PamBG” says I’m anonymous?!? I am the lay leader of West Side UMC in Millville, NJ.

    I apologize.

    If you are serving as a supply pastor in Ohio, then you should be preaching UM doctrine.

    Direct question: Are you accusing me of preaching heresy?

    Second question: If you are making that accusation, could you perhaps do some theological reflection on what you think a Christian manner of dealing with me would be? Because so far, your posts seem quite adversarial.

    I’m sure you know how to find the name of the DS of the Canal District of the Ohio Northeast Conference in order to report me for heresy? And you could also try reporting me to the Chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District in Britain; good luck with that.

    • I would need your real name to file a complaint. 🙂

      Seriously, I bring up the perspective embodied in the original discussion about disbelieving clergy and despite the desire to search for answers, you aren’t too wild about being questioned about the answers you came up with.

  7. […] on April 20, 2010 by Becca Clark On my (still hotly contested) previous post about clergy who have lost their faith, I listed some of what I believe. I was […]

  8. All you need to do is a Google Search for PamBG and you will find my real name easily enough in one hit. My name is Pam Garrud. I have never tried to hide my identity. I do apologize for thinking that you were not using your real name; I personally think that was a reasonable assumption but I should have done a Google search before making an assumption.

    Seriously, I bring up the perspective embodied in the original discussion about disbelieving clergy and despite the desire to search for answers, you aren’t too wild about being questioned about the answers you came up with.

    I’m not 100% certain of what you’re saying but let me put it this way. Yes, I’m happy to discuss if the word “discuss” means that we arrive at some come kind of understanding of each other’s position and walk away from our discussion saying “I understand where you are coming from and I disagree with you.”

    But where I am now is that I have thrown out a few tiny hints of where I’m at and you are already prepared to come very close to calling me a heretic. So if you’re asking me if I’m prepared to not be heard and stand here and listen to accusations of heresy – well, then what do you imagine my “preparation” will consist of? Probably of being defensive – wouldn’t you feel the same way if you thought I wasn’t going to listen to you?

    So, by all means, let’s have a proper grown-up discussion and walk away from it agreeing to disagree. I’m more than happy to do that.

    • well said about the purpose of discussion. Now don’t let your tin hat spring too many leaks, my dear! 😉

    • Here’s a talk that Wright gave at Wheaton College on April 16th.
      http://www.wheaton.edu/wetn/flash-chapel/chap09-10/100416Wright.html

      One of his subjects is the biblical view of “heaven” which starts about a third of the way through the video (there don’t seem to be any time markers).

      He says: “We have lived in a culture which separates heaven and earth. Which thinks of heaven as somewhere up there, a long way away. Somewhere where maybe we’ll go to one day, but it’s not really got much to do with who we are down here. We didn’t get that from the bible. We got it from the Western intellectual and philosophical tradition which, 200 years ago, conveniently decided that we would kick God and his heaven upstairs out of sight so that we could run the world the way we wanted down here. And we have seen, not only the world but also – heaven help us – God, Jesus, the bible ourselves as praying Christians in the light of that. And we have lived split-level lives and we have got a split-level eschatology about where we will go after death. We will leave this world and go to heaven. But actually, the bible puts it back the other way around. The last great scene in the bible is not about people being taken away from earth to go to heaven. It is about the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth so that God’s world will be one.”

      • I just wanted to note that Wesley House, Cambridge, where I did my theological training, has a wonderful Art Deco mural depicting The New Jerusalem all around the walls of the Chapel.

        The idea of New Jerusalem and New Creation is very much a Wesleyan and Methodist viewpoint. I believe it is the vision that animated John and Charles Wesley in their tireless efforts to do good works as well as to preach The Good News. It’s sad that modern Christianity – of all denominations – seems to have watered the gospel message down to “Choose to be on God’s football team and you will go to heaven when you die”.

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