Beyond 400 – thoughts so far

Now the 6th voice has been published I thought some reflections might be in order; though for the full effect you need to read each entry and the comments yourself. Three things have struck me so far:

1. We need to acknowledge how broken the current denomination is. Peter Dominey spoke of grieving what is wrong, something I have not grasped clearly enough, but until we recognise this all our solutions will be sticking plasters. The temptation is always to look on the bright side, to be an encourager and seek to move forward. But what if the way we have done ‘denomination’ is broken beyond repair? What if the reason the ‘one more push’ approach is failing to resonate is no one cares about having systems like the URC, Methodists or Church of England, and people are distrustful of a 'welfare state' approach to funding?

2. Mutuality will be a key to the future. There has been much talk of margins and poets but the reality is that we need a wide mix in church life. I’m sure we have undervalued the prophetic and the need for creativity, particularly in our approach to mission and evangelism. But we also need settled patterns of relationship, ways of resourcing each other and sharing insights. In future this might fit into patterns of networking and movement but, whatever it looks like, as Chris Duffett says, we need to be people who love.

3. Courage is in short supply. We rightly talk about risk taking and freedom to fail. There is a recognition that we need to release entrepreneurial people to pioneer. But risk taking is a value we all need to embrace, particularly those who have influence over the whole. As Ivan King comments ‘if He calls us to juggle with the Wedgewood, we must be free to do so’; which is a lot easier to do on the margins than if you fear that your decision might break the Union. Taking risks will require courage at every level of our Union life.

No doubt other voices will bring fruitful thoughts to the discussion. My hope is that as we think about what makes us distinctive, the importance of our history and the possibilities for the future we can do so with humility and with open hands; may whatever emerges be of value in the purposes of God.

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