The ministry of deliverance was the focus of an excellent study day in our diocese today led by the Bishop of Monmouth. Bishop Walker looked at deliverance ministry in relation to places and in relation to people; his approach was deeply scholarly, rooted in a professional understanding of psychiatry and shaped by experiences at parish level.
The end of such days is always depressing, returning to the actual business of parish life, which is much more mundane and this week includes the delivery of items for the parish fete, buying charcoal for a barbecue, and, worst of all, preparing to move house next week.
It’s hard to know how I ended up in this situation, perhaps through a lack of confidence in the Gospel. I read a provocative piece by Lesslie Newbigin from an address he gave in 1995, when he was 86 years old. It seemed to describe where the Church, lost its way, and how I end up doing the things I do instead of the things Bishop Walker describes.
“The Gospel is a meta-narrative. It is the story of the mighty acts of God in creation and redemption, and of his purpose to complete what he has begun by bringing all things in heaven and earth into their true coherence in Jesus Christ. Sadly, during these past centuries, the European churches in general allowed themselves to be seduced by the other meta-narrative, the story of enlightenment and the coming world civilization. They allowed the Gospel to be radically subverted by turning it into the story of the individual soul and its religious experience. They hoped in this way to make the Gospel intelligible to modernity, instead of seeking to demonstrate to modernity that the Gospel is the only narrative that can make the world intelligible. They failed to recognise that modernity was the most dangerous enemy that Christianity had faced since the rise of Islam, and allowed themselves to be domesticated as collaborators in the dominant ideology. And so it is natural that, with the collapse of this ideology, the churches have suffered a catastrophic collapse of confidence. The European churches, as we know in our own experience, give to the general public the impression of a power left over from the past. In the areas of intellectual debate, Christians are timid and deferential, seeking only to show that Christianity is not excluded by modern science, instead of showing how only the redemptive power of the Gospel can save society from the scepticism into which it is falling. In the world of politics Christianity has largely left the debates of the public square to be carried on by others, only intervening to affirm positions which can be defended on secular grounds, not daring to say: ‘This is what Almighty God has commanded you. And meanwhile, as the churches in Europe seem to lose ground, Christianity in the rest of the world grows more rapidly than at any time in its 2000 years’ history”.
After which, I must get ready for the parish bowling club’s annual general meeting