Winchester Diocesan Synod Conference 2013

Diocese of Winchester

This last week I was privileged to join with 200 other Diocesan Synod members and guests at the Winchester Diocese Synod Conference at The Hayes.  God did some truly amazing things as we talked, prayed, worshiped and listened together – uniting such a diverse group of people around four priorities for the next three to five years is no small miracle.

Below are the links to all my live-blog posts from the different sessions:

Please remember all of these blogs were written live and so won’t always be 100% accurate, and may contain typos and spelling mistakes. For further information about the Diocesan Synod Conference check out the Diocese of Winchester website.

Winchester Diocesan Synod Conference 2013 – Session 9

Diocese of Winchester

Session 9 is Bishop Tom Wright’s third session.  This is a live blog – apologies for any spelling mistakes and/or typos.

Jesus’ mission – our living of Jesus’ mission – we’ve had a decade of mission shaped church, which needs an eschatology – what has God promised to do eternally.  Otherwise Christians vary over what mission is and where it leads to.

The problem is since the Middle Ages the entire Christian discourse has assumed that the theory of eschatology leads to going somewhere else.  What happened at the Reformation, a bunch of people determined to give biblical answers to the questions, but oyu can give biblical answers to the wrong questions.  Justification of faith says no purgatory and if you have faith you go upstairs not downstairs.  If Ephesians had been used the theory of going somewhere else would have been got rid of, and we would have been reminded of the last scene of a new Jerusalem.

Eschatology must be about new creation, the rescue and restoration of God’s creation – resurrection isn’t about how amazing he is, although he is, but the re-affirmation of the good original creation.  Once evil has been defeated God can re-affirm the goodness of the original creation.  Move away from that you take a big step towards to Gnosticism.

Rev. 21-22 heaven and earth coming together, symbolised through the marriage of church and Jesus.  God wants community, the tower of Babel etc wasn’t entirely wrong.  God wants a rich community – garden and city coming together.  The city is the new holy of holies of the Temple.  The symbolism of the presence of God in his creation, is to become utlimate reality.  There is no sun and moon, so even great first lights are pointers to the new creation.

In the new creation there is discontinuity in several significant ways, but there will be much continuity, astonished and thrilled at all the beauty and life, but also astonished at how much of the old world will be re-founded.  All our language about the future is a set of signposts pointing to a glowing mist.  It is a symbolic language, iwll pets be in heaven, shopping in heaven – all of us are in a constant process of change – all our molecules change every 7 years – so we are like the curve in a waterfall – continuity in form, discontinuity in matter – we will be made more truly ourselves than ever before.  Heaven is important but it is not the end of the world!

Rev 22:1-5 is where you get Genesis, Ezekiel, Ephesians: the river is flowing out of the city, out of the temple, cf. John 7 flowing out of the believers heart; tree of life growing either side of the river, fruit every month.  The last scene is not a tableau but a project.  People ask questions about suffering and wrath – the thing which is being said is that evil is a destructive force – in the new creation there is no little place for the serprent in the garden city.  We downplay glory, we’re afraid of triumphalism, which is not in the gospel of the Messiah, but in Romans and Revelation it is clear GOd’s people are to be sharing God’s rule over the world – theocracy.  The rule of God’s people is the as so thing.

We are not there yet, it can sound like I’m saying the world is getting better, we’re on our way, a realised eschatology.  We know that the world is still a place full of groaning and sorrow.  Rom. 8 picks up on inaugurated eschatology – the now and the not yet – you have to say both – if you say now you become proud and if you only say not yet you will become miserable.  All the agony of the world, sea change of divorce and gender confusion – we should be people wrestling with these things too – personally and pastorally – not just sitting on the side.

The vocation of the church living the mission of Jesus is to be people in prayer in the Spiritt with the world in the places people are in pain.  The heart surgeon – a wonderful title for God – the world, the church and the spirit.

Eschatology – God is building God’s kingdom in the world.  No idea of progress or optimism.  There is a firm basis but it doesn’t mean the world is getting better, we know God will do for creation what Jesus did at Easter, we are caught up inbetween praying for it, reflecting on Easter, but we don’t know when things will happen.

Stone masons in the Cathedral yard.  Carving that stone, being instructed, but one day the master mason will gather the stones, and the stone mason will see his little stone meaning far more than he had ever imagined.  Not building the kingdom, God builds his kingdom, we are building for the kingdom, on the basis of the resurrection of Jesus, with anticipation towards God’s final work.

1 Corinthians 15 – an exposition on the resurrection last 50 verses – which he ends v. 58 “in the Lord your labour is not in vain” – in the resurrection God will unveil that great cathedral he has in mind all along, what you do in the present – strange visit, awkward youth group, horrible committee meeting – the resurrection is the re-affirmation of every last thing you do in the Spirit.

Therefore, our worshipping life must fit this reality.  Worship is not an escape – it ought to be a moment when and a means by which heaven and earth come together again.  There are moments when and places where heaven and earth mysteriously overlap, our time and God’s time mysteriously overlap.  We’ve become a bit rationalist in the Western world – so we screen out the heavenly dimension – so we turn it into words that we reflect on – equally not right to have airy fairy music that we listen along to.  Tunes tell stories, the Bible is a story, a book of story, when you deconstruct tunes watch out what you are doing with the narrative.

There are a 1,000 tasks and none of us can do more than one or two.  That’s why we have the body of Christ and why organised church for all it’s problems is it enables this.  Projects grow not top down, but ordinary unsung heroes and heroines were saying prayers, going to church, and coming out thinking we should do this.

Jn 16:7-10: when God sends the Spirit, it sounds like some important work with rulers who are bullies and getting it wrong, it is great that the Spirit come and do that work.  But Jesus is speaking about the Spirit that he gives his followers – so all of these are tasks that he gives the church to do in his spirit.  It is part of our commission, and for the last 200 years because society has decided that politics is what the world does and we do faith.

Eph. 3:10 the rulers of the world need to know another king is in charge and his name is Jesus, cf. Acts 17.  The dense paragraph in Jn 16 is classic “as so” passage when linked to Jn 18.  When Jesus confronts Pontius Pilate they talk about truth, kingdom, power and more, Pilate kills Jesus but Jesus

If you are interested in political theology, if you’re not frankly you’re not interested in mission.  My kingdom is not from this world – it didn’t start from here – but my kingdom is surely for this world.  If my kingdom was from this world my followers would be fighting to hand Jesus over.  Ironic that so many Christians are happy to use violence when it suits them.

Jn 14:12 – greater works – not sure what he meant, but we do know he did not mean lesser works.  Sometimes we don’t want to say we can do it all.  The Spirit will do it all, but he normally does it through people.  This is how public truth happens.  The reason people became Christians in such speed.  People become Christians because of the community down the road, who healed the sick and stayed when it got tough.

Beauty, justice and evangelism need to be triangulated.  God made a beautiful world, and has promised to re-make it.  God is doing it through the artists, dancers, musicians.  Bach and Handel still know the story of faith because of the Matthew passion and the Messiah.  Justice – God intends to put the world right, can be negative, saying no to injustice, those who crush the oppressed.  But if we are not in the church are struggling with those issues be it Syria or migration and immigration policy then the world can look to us and say new creation it looks like you’re not doing it.  Doing justice in the community as part of the mission of Jesus.  Healing of mind, body, memory, world is where the three meet.

Simply Christian didn’t do apologetics as there isn’t a neutral point for it.  Justice and spirituality is in all of us – we know we’re made for relationships and yet it is all so difficult, we all know freedom is a good thing and yet no one has a clue what it really means.

The missional church doesn’t have answers in the back pocket to dispense.  Because we have truth we don’t know it all.  The Dr can help facilitate health and avoid ill health but they don’t own it, similar to us with truth.  We need to discern where difference with the world is necessary – a gospel need.

In South Africa the expectation was a blood bath, and yet Desmond Tutu led the way in reading the bible and praying with leaders.  Though it is still difficult, who would have thought we would have seen a black Archbishop chairing a truth nad reconciliation council.  Why didn’t we do it in Northern Ireland, can we have something like this in the Middle East.

The church is to be a sign and means of God’s future.  We don’t have to get it all right before God does anything – thank God.  We are part of the process where God is recruiting image bearers – reflect my image to the world, and reflect the praise and groaning and moaning of the world to me – it will be tough – go through fire and water to make waves for the kingdom.  It will be far worse than you fear, but far more glorious than you can even imagine.

Winchester Diocesan Synod Conference 2013 – Session 5

Diocese of Winchester

Session 5 is the second session with Bishop Tom Wright.  This is a live blog – apologies for any spelling mistakes and/or typos.


Change is a challenge of narrative – which script we live by, which story we live within.  Syria, and the incompetence of the Western powers to talk about it, let alone do anything illustrates this.  So many people in the West have a simplistic 18th century model of tyrants are bad, democracy good, get rid of tyrants, everything will work.  That was the script in Iraq, and it is not that easy, or right.  It comes across as a superior people acting as the world’s policeman who sees something bad and then drops bombs on people.  These scripts demonstrate the bankruptcy in the West, it is over simplified, but our stories have not kept pace with reality.  Technology has fed the myth that everything else we have is superior, the horse to bikes to cars, encourage us to feel a moral superiority – as though we are all signed up to an automatic narrative of progress.

We have lived on a parody of the story of God.  It is a ghastly, horrible, parody of the genuine biblical idea of theocracy.  Sounds like mad clergy with a hot line to heaven ready to kill anyone who gets in their way.  Who is the God?  A bully in the sky or the Jesus, crucified and risen, who we love.  The debate of resurrection, e.g. The Jesus Seminar, included a local women who worked in a morgue who testified that dead bodies stay dead!  Homer etc. all knew that.  It isn’t shutting our eyes to science, but saying we believe in a creator and re-creator.  Enlightenment shouldn’t focus on Voltaire etc. but Easter morning.   We need to find the place where the narratives painfully do business with each other.

Since the 18th century the churches in the Western world have regularly colluded with the enlightened world, saying heaven means a pace where people go when they die, bedeviling all our attempts to think missionally.  Some think mission is recruiting more souls to go to heaven, and others think producing better housing, drains, healthcare and more.  They never meet and yet that split isn’t in scripture.  We have backed off from the public square, and fail to attempt to think theocratically, leaving a vacuum which the media fill.  It is part of the church’s mission to speak truth to power, e.g. Jesus to Pontius Pilot and commissioning the church.  We reflect on Leveson and think the church does need to speak truth to power, the media don’t like it as we are claiming back the territory they have usurped.  We need a fresh navigation of this within the larger biblical narrative.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell their story as part of the Biblical narrative.  We tell it as God created us, we messed up, God sent Jesus to restore this.  This is only a third.  God created us to look after the garden, when we messed up, the garden went to ruin and we need to become gardeners.

Ephesians – prejudice is 19th century from liberal Anglicanism failing to see post-Enlightenment German understanding of what Paul should have said in Ephesians and Colossians.  If the Reformers had made Ephesians their key text rather than Galatians the world looks very different.  Ephesians 1:10, 2:10, and 3:10 to bring everything together under anew heaven and earth.  Principalities and powers of Paul’s world tried to flatten everything, similar to the huge concrete blocks used for housing in communist world.  God’s world is creative and beautiful.  A vision for unity, chapter 4, for holiness and marriage, chapter 5, for spiritual warfare, chapter 6.

Could learn Ephesians by heart, adding a verse at a day, some of you here are young enough to do that.

Rescue of creation, not rescue from creation – that’s Gnosticism which the western world flirts with.  Genesis 1 has complimentary pairings, humans working as God’s reflecting agents, reflecting his love to the world, and the moaning and pain back to God, cf. Revelation 4 and 5 – about what is happening as the church worships here on earth, all creation worshipping God, and humans summing up the word “because” you created, because you ransomed people for God.  That is our task – the royal priesthood – ruling the word as God’s stewards, humbling bringing his power, healing and more to bear on it.  If we’re not the Royal Priesthood we shouldn’t be here.

Genesis 3 it all goes horribly wrong.  Humans reflect the world back to the world, worshipping the creature not the creator.  We get the expulsion from the garden, as a Jew in exile or post-exile you know Genesis 3 is your story, having had a wonderful land and told to look after it, you messed up and sent to Babylon.  As Genesis 11 and 12 you have Babel – Babylon.  Cain the first murderer is the first ot build a city.  He knows we are to build community, but the city creates anonymity, fear and more.  The tower tries to reach up to heaven, and we are interrupted by God.

Genesis 12 God calls Abraham an nomad, not a city person.  That is the primary missionary mandate in the Bible.  In the 2008 Lambeth conference someone asked Rabbi Sacks how do you see the mission of the world?  He said how many Jews are there in China, there are 8 Jews, two things – first there will be 9 synagogues, and pretty soon someone will think they are running the country, how many Christians are in the country, you have done what we were meant to do.  You have taken the news of a covenant God to the ends of the earth.  Extraordinary humility but that is the Biblical vision and he knows it, do we.

It is one of the foundational insights in Genesis, the promises to Abraham mirror Adam.  The land was always an advance metaphor for the creators promise for the whole world.  Right from the start Abraham messes up, saying Sarah is his sister, then tries Hagar when having trouble having a child, then Ishmael mess, and so he has to learn in Genesis 22 the pain can only be resolved through death and resurrection in the sacrifice of Isaac.  They can’t be the promise bearers in a triumphant bossiness.  It was easy to take Israel out of Egypt, the hard thing is taking Egypt out of Israel.  They are given the Torah and the presence of God in the Tabernacle so they can learn to be the Royal Priesthood.

The people who are called to be the bearers of the solution are also bearers of the problem.  The entire problems of the OT, and Paul’s theology, is concerned with Israel being promise-bearers but also being in Adam.  The tension of that double identity is only resolved on calvary when the representative of Israel bears on himself the paradoxes, the sin, the pain of humanity as a whole.

In the middle of all that, cutting lots very short, there is one figure who is deeply ambiguous, and has to learn the hard way what it is all about.  Walter Brugemman’s work on the Psalms have held aloof from the Royal Psalms as they struggle with a tyrannous monarchy.  They get rid of George III in 1770 and don’t want him back – they’ve had many George’s since so heaven help them.

Psalm 2 shows this: the nations are in uproar but the king will solve – a direct link to Ephesians 3:10.  Psalm 72 shows a wonderful vision as God’s king is in charge.  The only people who object to a king like that are the oppressors.  God will one day raise up a son of David through whom the promise of Abraham will be delivered, the entail of Genesis 3 and 11 is dealt with.

Isaiah 11:1-9 – this is the creator’s dream, to bring all things together in the Messiah, straight line from heaven to earth, cf. Ephesians 1:10.  Don’t read the Bible in little bits, some just read it in 10 verse chunks, it’s like listening to a symphony and only hearing the 10 bars, you don’t need to remember it all, to whistle it all on the way home, be overwhelmed by it, enjoy it.  Read Isaiah 52, 53, 54.  The kingdom of God through the death of the servant leads to the renewal of the covenant and creation.  At the heart of it Isaiah 55:3 the democratization of the Davidic promise.

Our missionary narrative must be bigger than either of the visions we spoke of before.  It must include the complete renewal of humans.

The New Testament

A lot of Biblical theology lands in the letter to the Romans, lands in many other places too.  In Romans 1:18 we have a Genesis 3 moment and in the rest of Romans 1 we can watch the humanness of Genesis 1 and 2 deconstruct.  In Roman 4 Paul expounds Genesis 15 – a worldwide family – cf. Romans 4:13 – not just the land but the world – Sermon on the Mount – the meek inheriting the world.

Romans 8 – the groundwork of so much of our missional thinking – the new Exodus story, the people labouring under the law in Romans 7 are being led to their inheritance.  Christians think our inheritance is heaven.  But Romans 8 says the whole renewed creation.  The whole world is God’s holy land.  We are led by the pillar of cloud by day and the fire in night, the Spirit is a tabernacling of God himself.  What does it mean to be glorified?  Christians link it to heaven and going to glory.  But Psalm 8, linked to Psalm 2 and 110 is the glory which God shares with his human beings.

If Jesus is heaven, he is in charge, we are supposed to be under God and over the world, a cruciform theocracy.  This draws the sting of the normal objections – Christians have been in charge of the world too long with problems – but we’ve had a Western parody that we can run the world – we’ve done a tower of Babel.

The cross shaped mission of Jesus is to be lived out in humble, costly living.  The Church knows that suffering is part of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven.  Somehow God uses the suffering of now in strange and beautiful ways.

Romans is about justification.  Justification is part of the creator’s plan to put the world right.  God put humans right (justification) to bring justice into the world – putting right people for the world.  It is trusting in the grace of God alone – you are my children, I love you, my son died for your sins, you are my people – recommissioned as the royal priesthood.

We read Romans 8 as the assurance of salvation, not only God’s gift to the church, but God’s gift through the church.