Sunday, March 27, 2011

If Stale Expressions Were Doing So Well

There wouldn't be Fresh Expressions. Okay so its not fair to characterise the alternative to Fresh Expressions (of the church seeking to be missional in new, different ways to connect with changing cultures) as Stale Expressions. There are plenty of old, familiar ways of the church being missional which connects with changing cultures which are fresh and vital. Questions which can be asked, however, include whether as many cultures are being connected with by the church doing what it has always done as by Fresh Expressions. The point of Fresh Expressions is not so much that there are 'stale expressions' but that there are a lot of people untouched by the gospel as communicated by and through the church being the church in familiar modes of existence. Is it not worth having a go at reaching the unreached with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?

With H/T to Thinking Anglicans the above paragraph is provoked by an article by Australian theologian Bruce Kaye writing in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Religion and Ethics webpage, titled Does Fresh Expressions Misrepresent the Gospel? In turn his article is catalysed by a thoroughgoing theological critique of Fresh Expressions recently published in the UK by Andrew Davison and Alison Milbank called For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions. I encourage you to read the article (if not the book as well). I intend to read the book - it's on order for Theology House library - and then to review it.

But I am wondering already, based on Kaye's thoughts, whether the book is mistitled (more accurate would be: For the Ideal Parish or For the Parish as Intended A Long Time Ago?) or even misleading: the real issue about Fresh Expressions is not whether or not it is for or against the parish system (and whether or not the parish system continues to be fit for 21st century purpose) but whether it is 'the church' at work in the world or some false apparition of it. Kaye, Davison and Milbank tells us that the gospel cannot be divorced from the church as the incarnational presence of Christ in the world. Fair enough. But is Fresh Expressions a movement of the church or apart from the church?

And what is the church? If it is the church of a particular liturgy or style of music or way of doing things decided upon in 1559 then that must be news to God!

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