Should We Let The Church Die?

At Greenbelt this year we’re going to be exploring two important questions in a series of sessions which we’re hosting in the Christian Aid venue.

There’s a heap more information on what we’re up to here but if you’ll not be attending then let’s start to unpack it here.

Firstly, revival or resurrection?

It’s no secret that many UK churches are facing significant challenges. Not least of these challenges is that young(er) people’s attendances have continued to decline across the board. As someone who fits into this category I can relate to the issue.

 

I’ve heard church leaders talking about the need for a ‘new revival’. I even heard one church leader talking recently about their worry that the last major UK church revival happened over 200 years ago with John Wesley!

This talk of revival leaves me feeling uncomfortable and out of place. Revival sees the problem of decreasing numbers in church and thinks the solution is anything which sees more people in church as we currently understand it. Revival seems to literally mean a revival of the church institutions that currently exist.

I believe the church can and should be doing more to fight injustice, to seek peace and to model the kingdom of God, here and now. As such, I’m much more interested in the question of resurrection.

When Jesus is resurrected he’s the same, but he’s also changed. If the church is the body of Christ, it leaves me with a challenging conclusion - perhaps we should be less worried with keeping the church alive and more concerned with the resurrection of church in new forms.

Maybe we should be less worried about getting people to join us and more concerned with how the church should be in such a way that it is deeply relevant to the world.

To do that we need to figure out how we can be more like Jesus and Jesus’ resurrection – both the same and changed! And that’s a question for us all.

Secondly, movements for change?

Wretched of the Earth, a UK based ‘grassroots collective for Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups and individuals demanding climate justice’ wrote a powerful open letter to the climate activist group, Extinction Rebellion. It was a well-meaning challenge to a movement that, it’s fair to say is fundamentally white and middle class. Does this matter?

On the one hand one could argue that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report from last year and many subsequent media stories have made a case for urgent action. The Time is NOW! We haven’t got the luxury of time!

Or one could conclude that if non-white middle-class people were passionate about the issue then surely, they would be involved?

See, I feel that the importance of the point that Wretched of the Earth made shouldn’t be understated. Yes, we do need to act urgently on the climate crisis, but climate change is a justice issue. The people affected the most by climate change contributed the least towards it. Western businesses and economies are profiting from the destruction of poor communities and racialised people and environments.

Typically, justice is made in the image of the people who won it. So, if the environmental movement is fundamentally white, middle-class and western then it follows that justice will be made in the image of western white middle-class people and their values.

We’re left with questions, desperately important questions that need answers, desperately. We haven’t got them yet, but we can begin to explore, listen, learn, adapt and maybe, just maybe, if we allow ourselves to be challenged and reflect with integrity, be part of the justice movement that our planet and our shared humanity deserves.