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'Following Jesus on the margins’ is the strapline of the Crucible course, now in its tenth year in Birmingham, equipping pioneers of new forms of church for a changing culture.
Not long before he died in August last year (2012), the Catholic Archbishop of Milan and papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini's final comments on the Church were that its leadership was “200 years out of date” - bureaucratic, pompous, autocratic, inflexible and seemingly remote from the spirit of Christ on key issues.
We live in an era where people are inquisitive about spirituality, but hugely distrustful or even hostile towards ‘organised religion’, especially in its Christian forms.
Whether you find him inspiring or exasperating (and I sometimes find him both!), the work of US theologian Stanley Hauerwas provides a challenging alternative vision of church as subversive, exemplary community - rather than the cement or glue of society, as in the top-down Christendom model.
Today and tomorrow, 27 & 28 October, are key dates in Christian history. Constantine's 'vision of the Cross' in 312, and his attribution of military victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge the next day to God, was the beginning of Christendom in Europe - an era which mixed civilisation with bloodshed, saints with militarism, and faith with often brutal sacralised-secular power.
A year after the repeal of blasphemy from English law, religious defamation laws are tightening their grip on the world, with the apparent support of the United Nations.
Youth Work After Christendom by Nigel and Jo Pimlott will be published in June 2008.