Over the last year, I have been reading some some books which have caused me to have a major re-think…
Biography by Eberhard Bethge, The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, True Patriotism, The Way to Freedom, and Christology. All read over this last 12 months, and amongst the many thought provoking things are the following:
He loved his own denomination but worked closely with others as part of the Ecumenical movement during times that created many tensions and problems.
He saw the need for Pastor’s to be nurtured, and for them to be able to think through issues – often on the hoof due to ever-changing circumstances. Bonhoeffer responded as Paul the Apostle did to fledgling churches and Ministers…. he was always available as best he could despite the busiest and most complicated distractions.
I read a book which was recommended to me by someone I admire and trust after having a discussion: The Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare and Hugh Rayment-Pickard. This book has greatly influenced my recent thinking on the people that Jesus refused to isolate regardless of faults. We cannot be inclusive selectively. There are times when the evangelical in me wants to disown it totally.
Brian McLaren’s ‘A generous orthodoxy’ – another example of someone seeing the wide cracks of the evangelical world and instead attempts to show that we need to be rooted in something far deeper, and far more gracious. Again, one of those books that speaks clearly of God’s inclusiveness.
The Return of the Prodigal son by Henri J,M, Nouwen – an excellent book that reflects on the story via the painting by Rembrandt. A reminder to look deeper than the surface and from multiple viewpoints to understand things more fully.
I am at a difficult juncture as a Minister. I love Prison Chaplaincy, but it is increasingly turning, and being steered into being nothing but a job. I don’t want a job, I want to be able to give more of myself in service. I am a firm believer in the idea that God is more interested in the right motivation, and looking out, listening and being influenced in the myriad of God’s activity in the every day things and places.
The Bonhoeffer books particularly have been making me feel uncomfortable with small denomination thinking, the way our congregations don’t understand holiness and it’s implications…. the ongoing discipleship and transformation which is ongoing towards that great moment of perfection with Christ. I see and hear too many who think in terms of being perfect at a defining point in time and remaining in that ‘state’ from then on – a heresy of sinless, angelic perfection (as the influential Dr. Herbert McGonigle has said). Also the notion of separation from the unholy, and a tendency to be involved in sin management and the avoidance of becoming tainted.
We, I need to be amongst the unholy outside the realms of a church building or service…… We shall see what happens.