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"You have not sought the lost": a reflection from Europe on the WCC theme.

This article queries the title "God of Life," and wonders how this can be intelligible in a European context where God is not associated with life, nor is seen to bring anyone closer to justice or peace. Having outlined the conflicted context of Europe for faith, this article goes on to explore if this context might, nevertheless, offer any clues to constructing a mission theology for the God of Life. Using the parable of the prodigal son, the article begins to explore themes of lostness that subvert the typical reading of this parable and open out an alternative perspective on the experience of God as absent. This creates afresh space in which it might be possible for the God of Life to come in new guises, bringing fresh companions inviting us to enter into a new spirit of mission.

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God of Life, lead us to justice and peace. This would come as a surprising and provocative statement to many in a European context, because here God is associated not with life, but with death. God is associated not with justice, but with prejudice; and after centuries of religious war and rivalry, not with peace, but with intolerance. For many the claim for God is a conservative one, not a transformative one. It assumes a being who is egotistical, punitive, and divisive, whose mission is to quell a rebellious humanity by tipping most of it into hell and damnation. (2) To most of my neighbours, this God has lost, is lost, and it is laughable to suggest he is able to lead anyone anywhere. They will see the "us" of the title as all too obviously a sales pitch for the religious to once more claim special treatment and status. Here, if God is associated with any kind of assistance/intervention, it is in terms of people coping rather than changing, and even in a continent as jaded as Europe we know that justice and peace are the products of change.

"Lost": an uncomfortable climate for faith

In 2007-2008, a Gallup poll (3) across several countries in Europe asked the following question: "Does religion occupy an important place in your life?" The following shows the percentage of people who answered, "No": Estonia: 84%, Sweden: 83%, Denmark: 80%, Norway: 78%, Czech Republic: 74%, France: 73%, United Kingdom: 71%, Finland: 69%, Netherlands: 66%, Belarus 65%, Albania: 63%, Bulgaria: 62%, Latvia: 62%, Belgium: 61%, Hungary: 59%, Slovenia: 59%, Spain: 59%, Germany: 57%, Switzerland: 56%, Ukraine: 54%, Lithuania: 52%, Slovakia: 51%, Montenegro: 48%, Serbia: 45%, Austria: 42%, Ireland: 42%, Moldova: 31%, Croatia: 30%, Greece: 30%, Armenia: 29%, Bosnia and Herzegovina: 29%, Portugal: 27%, Italy: 26%, Cyprus: 24%, Poland: 23%, Macedonia: 20%, Romania: 18%, Turkey: 9%.

David Voas led a project that looked at people's attitudes toward religion in Europe for the Institute for Social Change at the University of Manchester. (4) The following points are typical of their findings: 75% of respondents agreed that "around the world religions bring more conflict than peace"; only 9% disagreed; nearly 75% agreed that "people with very strong religious beliefs are often too intolerant of others"; and when asked if it was acceptable to try to convert others to your faith, 17% said yes, 81% said no.

The project also considered the issue of religion and politics. Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed that "religion is a private matter that should be kept out of debates over social and political issues"; 12% disagreed. Some 75% of respondents opposed religious leaders trying to influence voting decisions; 11% would allow it, less in the Netherlands, where it was 8%. Only 14% were willing to let religious leaders try to influence government decisions, less again in the Netherlands, where it was 10%. Asked the question, "If elected officials were deeply religious, do you think that the laws and policy decisions they make would probably be better or would probably be worse?" 26% of the respondents said better, 45% said worse. The 2011 census in the UK, released in December 2012, reports that the number of people describing themselves as Christian fell from 71.7% in 2001 to 59.3% in 2011. The number of people describing themselves as having no religion rose from 15% to 25% of the population. (5) This trend was already revealed through an earlier survey in Britain conducted by YouGov. (6)

The UK Scout Association is considering an alternative oath for atheists. The Scout promise states, "On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law." The promise has been revised to be inclusive of other faiths, thus Hindus and Buddhists can say "My Dharma" instead of "God"; Muslims can say "Allah" and the phrase "In the name of Allah"; and non-UK citizens can replace the phrase "duty to the Queen" with "duty to the country in which I am now living." (7) The Scout Association hopes that this consultation exercise will yield greater participation and make scouts more relevant in today's world. I am not altogether unsympathetic to the view that a statement offering allegiance to God be dropped, not least as it seems very much to ally God with the status quo. I am surprised, however, that the Scout Association seems to think allegiance to the Queen is unquestioned by young people, that young people are naturally atheists, but could not be republicans too.

This is not the place to discuss the deep single meaning of any of these statistics. My intention is to point out the unstable and contested ground if one is to claim that there is a God of Life who wants to lead us to justice and peace. The message about religion from a sceptical and disillusioned continent is that "everyone should leave everyone else alone." Europeans are no longer convinced or impressed by the rhetoric of the religious; there are too many current and historic examples of religion being the prompt to hostility and intolerance. Attitudes of the religious to people outside a faith, and even inside a faith, continue to foster the view that to be religious is to be small-minded and meddlesome. The representation of the religious as dogmatic and conservative persistently offends against attitudes to issues of freedom and personhood, whether they be the rights of women, the recognition of different sexual orientations, or perspectives on diversity, disability, and moral agency. There is the grudging admission that religion can be good for people, just other people. It can provide a crutch for the weak and credulous and the overwhelmed, but it does not offer grounds for the renewal of society or for a grand vision, nor is it the inspiration for a transformed world. (8)

One can see that an appeal to God is no grounds for common action or consent, and any claim church might make for God can hardly go uncontested or unscrutinized in the European context. We, the religious, might bewail this and feel we have failed. We, the religious, might denounce it and feel somehow superior. We, the religious, might deny it and feel somehow self-justified. But if we are to assert that the WCC theme is for a whole inhabited "us" and not a narrow ecclesial "us," we might wonder with what ethos we will turn to our sceptical but perceptive neighbours. Were we to do this companionably, it would lead us to the implicit invitation in our theme to leave behind the God of church and seek and follow the God of Life.

These statistics point up some trends and realities in Europe for our theology and missiology, but most perplexingly they tell us that God is not an ecclesial concept at all. There are Europeans who believe in "god" but don't need church to encounter or express this belief. Europe may be offering an opportunity to encounter the God beyond God, which, for me, is the God of Life, not the God of the church. This is the God who does not resemble the totems various Christian traditions have erected in their own image or for their own interests. This is not the God who is conveniently the guarantor of certain ecclesial or political status quos. This God is hardly God, whose need now for hospitality makes him the outcast not the one who casts out, who comes as the stranger to earth not the saviour of heaven. (9) British novelist and fugitive from religion, and Pentecostalism in particular, Jeanette Winterson once commented, "You find manifestations of God everywhere ... so the obvious places where God is to be found--in the synagogues or in the churches, or in the scrolls of the law--are not where God is found. God is fugitive from our authority. We try and contain God and God always says, 'I'm not here. I'm somewhere else.'" (10)

"Lost": a theological context and promise for God

I have written elsewhere of God's absence in the European context,(11) It seems to me that the absence of God is the most powerful religious experience in my generation. To many of my neighbours, family, and friends God is almost entirely absent, certainly rather elusive, and all too easy to miss in the midst of life in Europe, despite all the claims church makes to the contrary. Are they wrong? Do I, as a professional Christian, have much authority to counter their experience? It is customary for the church to denigrate the experience of God's absence as a further manifestation of sinfulness, to see it as something faith and the church can remedy if people accept our discipline. But it is time to see this in a new way, as a strange spiritual gift, a deeper realization of the "un-communion" of things, and it is Europe's gift to the wider world. Europe's irreligious societies should be seen alongside religion's anti-social history in Europe, be that centuries of religious war or our intolerance of difference. This has driven God out of life and into the void, which some call secularism but is also inevitably church. It is easy to cast out my neighbours as sinful unbelievers, but perhaps they have arrived not simply at materialism but at a spiritual perspective on the other side of religion, a perspective that Jesus may have recognized.

Jesus tells many parables about the lost and the late, the hidden and the absent. Luke 15:11-32 is known to us by a number of names. Different traditions name this parable the prodigal son or the lost son, but the title is ironic and teasing because only the initial reading of the parable suggests that it is the young son who was lost. In him we see the people lost outside the church. He values money and freedom more than family and duty, and waltzes off the family farm with more than his fair share of the inheritance. The text tells us in censorious tones that he spent it all in dissolute ways and tops it off with a banquet amongst the swine. Then the reprobate remembers it was better at home. He plans an emotional speech that mentions but does not ask for restoration. He is feted on his return and is proclaimed lost no more. But his attitude to the father and the farm is unchanged and as cavalier as ever.

The older brother is also lost. He represents the hard-working faithful one, always diligent despite his father's poor estimation of him. He continues to be committed to the family business while the father mopes around the farm grieving for his favoured younger one. When the younger one returns, his rage is complete, because no one cared to mention this to him or include him in the party. He is not placated by the father's tender words about a dead son now alive and is almost entirely estranged from them. The happy family is lost. I wonder if the older brother would have quite liked his younger brother to come back as a servant and not as a full member of the family. In him we see the attitude of those lost inside the church, as they feel so bitter and estranged from those outside.

The father acts in prodigious ways and it is hard to see any merit in his behaviour either. This is troubling because we normally assume we are supposed to see God in the father figure and his forgiving of the younger son. But, the father is a bad dad. When the younger son leaves he takes with him half of the inheritance. But in Jewish law he was only entitled to one third. The eldest son is meant to inherit two thirds. The father calls for a celebration but overlooks the absence of his eldest son. He has also entirely infantilized his sons, who are not able to relate horizontally to each other but only vertically through him, and able only to relate to him in passive-aggressive ways. One is obsessed with money, the other with property, both of which they assume should come from the father. And this is the God figure Europe has lost, or perhaps outgrown.

This familiar parable comes as perhaps the most famous in the midst of a series of parables about lostness, each seemingly posing a question: Who is lost? But in fact these parables are really asking, Do you notice if anyone is lost? They query whether we care that some might be lost, let alone give ourselves to the search for them or the celebration of their return. It is not clear that they answer such questions. They seem to act to aggravate and tantalize the certain and the sure, to question really who are "the lost" and who, if any, are "the found." There are a series of subversive inversions in which the criticism of the morally lost by the self-righteous is exposed as a deeper alienation from God than living in ways the religious criticize and despise.

There is more to the puzzle of this parable about lostness. In fact we need to pay attention not to the character the parable seems to point at, but to the character it fails to notice or misses. A lot goes un-noticed in this story. The party is in full swing to mark the youngest son's return and no one has thought to wait for the eldest, or even to send for him. But this is a clue to a further absence that also seems to go unnoticed and unremarked, which is, of course, the mum. In this carefully constructed, slow-burning subversive story, what are we to make of this? Perhaps she is just a minor omission because she is unnecessary to the plot. After all, in a patriarchal system she can hardly have an important place in the family. Furthermore, the dominant metaphor for God is a male authority figure. Yet, this is to miss the point of a story about those who are missed and those who are not missed. This must lead us to wonder what prevents us from noticing, or indeed missing the missing? Is it because we have no need of them in our self-seeking self-serving theologies?

There is not space here to consider the range of possibilities for the mum's absence. She could be mad, of course, and therefore have been shut away. Dead perhaps. She may have been sent out to work abroad, or may have decided she had had enough of this dysfunctional family and walked out. All of these possibilities could enable us to talk about God's absence in the European context. The irrationality of belief, (12) the death of God, (13) the outsourcing of God to the future or to other continents through the mission movement, or indeed the new exile many point to occurring in Western culture. (14)

Perhaps the mother in our story brings us to the narrative limit and edge of the story. She is not to be explained or excused but observed only in being missing, if not altogether missed. Hers is an inexplicable absence that life must accommodate, and if necessary ignore. Her character is to be missing and unfathomed. No explanatory narrative is needed as the story and its teller refuse to co-operate with our sentimental need for perfect family units. There is a "missingness" at the heart of this family that we might use as a symbol for God, and with it a tacit acceptance that she is lost from the children she bore. Her absence cannot be used to baptize self-referential embodiments of the divine, instead her life persists without and beyond us, definable in terms of her own mystery and "contrary" to us. Her life is not dependent on our life and thus the experiences of absence all create spaces through which the God of Life may enter or leave.

The Welsh poet R. S. Thomas has voiced this very beautifully and painfully in his poem "The Absence":

   It is this great absence
   that is like a presence, that compels
   me to address it without hope
   of a reply. It is a room I enter
   from which someone has just
   gone, the vestibule for the
   arrival of one who has not yet
   come. I modernise the anachronism
   of my language, but he is no more here
   than before. Genes and molecules
   have no more power to call
   him up than the incense of the Hebrews
   at their altars. My equations fail
   as my words do. What resources have I
   other than the emptiness without him of my whole
   being, a vacuum he may not abhor? (15)


Thus it seems to me that the God of Life leads us to a life beyond ours, filling and emptying our language, our experiences, and in ways that cannot be proscribed by the church. God and humanity are too wilful for that. This comes yet further into focus as Europe contends with the God the church claims as omnipresent but also omnipotent.

Europe's 19th-century disenchantment with the divine followed an intellectual tide; Europe's 20th-century disillusionment followed an existential crisis, a crisis that reformulated our notions of humanity and divinity. The Victorian concepts of human progress, ironically expressed by biologist Charles Darwin, as much as by historian Thomas Macauley, sank in the mud of the Somme and Verdun of the first world war, and were put further beyond reach by the Holocaust of the second. The Sho'ah has left a profound question mark over belief in the potency of the divine, both for Christians and Jews, and set the theologians of both religions deep and difficult questions of theodicy and agency. These are issues of peace and justice and there is no confidence here that this is something that God may lead us to; divine impotence is writ large on the history of Europe.

Frances Young reminds us how the early church embraced vulnerability, and that this was an embodiment of their theology of Jesus. The potency of the mission of the early church amongst the lowly in Roman society, the ability to face persecution, came she thought because "[i]n a funny kind of way, god chooses to be the hidden king, who does not coerce but invites and woos us through Christ into living as if God's values were realizable, despite our failure and sin." (16) The kenosis of Christ invites the church to reformulate her life vulnerably and generously. (17) This is the life of the one God sent vulnerably into the world. (18) The one who understood himself to be commissioned by the Spirit to bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken hearted, set free the prisoners, and bring release to the captives (Is. 61:1 if, Luke 4:16ff). These themes stand in impotent contrast to the impassable imperial Christ Europe peddled for so long and Europeans have latterly so come to disbelieve. Perhaps they turn us away from the inviolable God and move us to search instead for God in vulnerability, the God who knows life is fragile and precious.

My congregation initiated a street art evangelism project that depicted Jesus each week in Lent 2011 in a graffiti style, capturing him in a particular moment yet simultaneously liberating him from the church building. He appeared in a typical Jesus-like form, barefoot, slim, with a beard but in casual contemporary dress. He appeared first in Christ the redeemer pose, at the crossroads, with his arms outstretched. He then disappeared and reappeared with a woman on his arm and balloons and a bottle of champagne. After this he returned playing with a child. Such images displayed the openness of Jesus to people, but these gave way to images about his challenge. He appeared next with a dog and a placard reading "Keep your money--I want change." This gave way to an image of him in confronting a preacher who was threatening him with the Bible, until the next image where he was arrested and restrained by riot police. At his death a simple loaf and wine bottle appeared on the wall, but his resurrection was displayed on a wine bottle label, with his stepping out of the label and the frame and, by implication, the church. (19)

This became an experience of vulnerability. Many were anxious that Jesus would be vandalized out there on the street. (20) But the point was to free him from the church, to put him back in his original setting and leave passers-by to make whatever sense of him they could. The street art provoked some interesting responses and he seemed quite welcome on the street. However, I want to explore the latest image, around which a curious silence descended. This one appeared in August 2012 and followed the Olympic and Paralympic games in London. We wondered what name/rifle to give it and settled on Good Looking Jesus. This is the caption we placed with the accompanying poster, "Good looking Graffiti Jesus. He's back! Isn't he beautiful and strong? No wonder all sorts felt safe with him, inspired by him and followed close to him."

The first night he appeared someone drew devil's horns on him and wrote above his head, "Ha Ha Cripple." He sat there for some time at the road crossing. One man stopped me in the street to tell me how much it meant to him to meet Jesus here like this every day. This man was of course in a motorized wheelchair. We offered Graffiti Jesus to our neighbours like this for a number of reasons. We offered him as the stereotype of disabled people. So he came, firstly, to acknowledge our questions about the ability/ disability of God to sort out our problems. Europe has looked at the Christian God and felt infantilized by him. Christianity has traded on the utility of God, represented Jesus as a panacea and God the one who answers our prayers. This image threatens to reveal God as useless to us, which is what many of my neighbours feel. However, it also challenges the passer-by to relate to Jesus, if at all, in terms of who he is rather than what be is. God has been made useful to humanity, and thus one wonders what real relationship can ever prosper for a being considered the ultimate utility.

Yet, this image is to subvert the stereotype and presents as beautiful, dignified, vulnerable but strong a figure whose humanity is not compromised, but altogether more visible. This image challenges norms of beauty and power, norms Europe is obsessed with of course. The image appeared in the midst of the Paralympics, and the TV advertising for the games included these straplines: "Meet the superhumans," "Forget everything you thought you knew about strength," "Forget everything you thought you knew about humans." (21) Looking at this figure I am reminded of what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers staff say to any of the migrant workers who come to them for assistance from the Florida fruit and tomato fields, "We cannot solve your problems, but we can share your struggle." (22) There is a fresh revision going on of attitudes to disability in the church and in the Bible. (23) I hope this might invite us to look further at how the God of Life is absent from figures of power, yet found in figures of strength whose life is conveyed especially as spirit. I hope too that it will encourage us to embrace the missiological task of deconstructing the hollow uber-God, realizing the God of Life is at home lost, with the lost.

Lost: a missiological and spiritual space for life

"My anger will be kindled against them in that day. I will forsake them and hide my face from them; they will become easy prey, and many terrible troubles will come upon them. In that day they will say, 'Have not these troubles come upon us because our God is not in our midst?' "(Deut. 31:17). Deuteronomy's painful portrayal of God's withdrawal as an expression of punishment remains the dominant way we understand God's absence. God's absence is the context for evil, or sin. But, John's gospel has some alternative ideas for us to come again at the notion of God's absence. Jesus tells the crowd at one point, "You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come" (John 7:34ff). The Pharisees puzzle over these words and imagine him meaning he will head off into the Diaspora and continue his troublesome mission beyond Jerusalem to the Greeks (John 7:36).

Jesus returns to this enigma with his disciples a little further on, as he says to them:

"Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward." Peter said to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times." (John 13:33-38)

Jesus plays openly with the scandal of his coming disappearance. He realizes it is disturbing and distressing, to both the disciples and the Pharisees, to those who care and those who could not care less. Yet, this coming disappearance is deliberate, it is a further sending of the Son, and thus an aspect of the mission of the Son. And it is not open to others yet to share. Peter shows the typical lusty belief the church values, feeling able to cheerfully contradict Jesus. But losing this certainty is the entry point into the lostness that will help Peter ultimately follow in a new but more humble and companionable way (John 21:15-22). (24) Peter's denial becomes the deep experience of lostness and un-communion for the follower, so that in time it can yield a way to a fresh life of discipleship. This requires a spirit of searching and seeking, especially by those who felt sure they had nothing or no one further to seek.

Thus there is a sending into lostness for Jesus, a dispersion into death. There is a sending into lostness for the disciples, for them to discover again the depths to which the divine will go to exceed expectations and resist limitations. This mutual lostness is the basis for a new more humble companionship, a companionship consummated in the mission of the Spirit. This withdrawal of the Son is to give space to the Spirit. Jesus tells the disciples, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). The Advocate's arrival reminds us of the injustice done to Jesus, his rigged trial and expedient political killing are the acts that prompt the God of Life to resist with new life. The sign of this, the guarantor of this comes warm on the breath of the wounded Christ, as a means to peace and forgiveness (John 20:19-23).

This mission of space and life needs a spirituality to sustain it. The assembly in Busan brings forward a new statement on mission that particularly acknowledges the necessity of missiology and spirituality to go hand in hand and for mission to be freshly expressed in terms of the life and person of the Spirit. This has already brought a new air of companionship to our engagement with the oikoumene.

   Our faith reveals to us that we do not walk alone. We have a
   companion who walks with us, weeps with us, struggles with us and
   sings with us. This companion is the Spirit Christ promised and
   exemplified. This companiable Spirit accompanies us through all of
   life. Thus, we might ask, who are our companions in the Spirit and
   how do we share with them when they are our enemies and our
   friends, people of our faith and people of alternative faiths? The
   Spirit is leading us to perceive and articulate God in all
   cultures, others and even ours, but we have yet to discover a
   language to convey this. This also extends beyond our human
   neighbours; all creatures find in the Spirit a companion. Thus we
   seek a spirituality for mission that is companionable to the earth
   and her Creator.

   Such a spirituality is clear in Jesus, who came as a fellow
   traveller to many. His journey through death to life opens the way
   for us and Creation to follow. He put his arm through the arms of
   many to accompany them to new places of relationship and
   understanding. He made room for all sorts of people at his side and
   gladly accepted the invitation of strangers to come to 'their
   homes. He helped people to walk again, see again, start again. He
   felt their hurt and their joy, and however vexed he became, never
   despaired or despised those he came to change. He kept close
   companionship with his Father, found space to seek him in prayer.
   He relied on the power of the Holy Spirit who sent and sustained
   him until the end. He then gave up his spirit at the cross 0ohn
   19:30) to make room for the new companions he has called,
   generation by generation (John 17:20-21), that his new breath at
   resurrection may empower peace and forgiveness (John 20:21-23).
   (25)


Europe may be welcoming of a God whose main aim is not filling churches but making space for life to become while walking companionably with the life that is. This wandering companion, who comes as missing Mum, lost Son, and wayward Spirit, has no power to impose but has charisma to inspire and to reveal who and what it is we seek: strength for and from the weak, healing of and from the sick, release of the injured, return of the strayed, and the companionship of the lost Ezek. 34:4). Thus we might seek the paths towards justice and peace, passing through Busan grateful of the companions God gathers there and hopeful for the presence, for a time, of the vagabond Spirit of the God of Life.

(1) Ezek. 34:4.

(2) See an interesting discussion of this in Richard Harries, God Outside the Box: Why Spiritual People Object to Christianity (London: SPCK, 2002).

(3) Lack of Importance of Religion in Europe by Gallup poll (2007-2008), http://missiodeiscandia.wordpress.com/2010/10/ 27/lack-of-importance-of-religion-in-europe-by-gallup-poll-2007%e2%80%932008/

(4) The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) produced survey modules on religion, 1991, 1998, and 2008 and a bilateral project with researchers in the Netherlands: see: http://www.norface.org/files/David-Voas.pdf.

(5) "Religion in England and Wales 2011," Office for National Statistics (UK Statistics Authority), at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/ rpt-religion.html.

(6) The first of eight questions on religion was, "Do you think that religion is more often the cause of good or evil in the world?" In responses 12% elected good and 58% opted for evil, with the main variation being by gender (61% of men, 54% of women). Twenty-seven percent said that neither answer applied or both equally. Seventeen percent viewed Britain today as too religious, 36% as too secular, 31% as balanced between religious and secular. Men and the under-40s were marginally more likely to describe Britain as too religious; conservatives, the over-60s, and Londoners as too secular. Forty-nine percent agreed that religion still provides critical guidance for our everyday lives, with 51% disagreeing. The age cohort with the lowest level of agreement was 25-59 years (43%). While the peak of 61% among the over-60s was to be expected, less predictable was the 50% recorded for the 18-24s. See YouGov / Sunday Times Survey Results, at: http://cdn.yougo.com/cumulus_uploads/document/6195qkblkr/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-17-190212.pdf.

(7) "Scouts Consider Oath for Atheists," BBC News UK, 4 December 2012, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20584208.

(8) Make no mistake, churches and religious people continue to work for peace and justice in ever unnoticed ways in Europe, both in avowedly Christian agencies or in broad coalition movements and in personal and professional ways.

(9) See a fascinating exploration of this in Richard Kearney, Anatheism: Returning to God After God (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

(10) In Bel Mooney, Derout Sceptics (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003), 185.

(11) Peter Cruchley-Jones, "Seeking the Absentee: A European Perspective on Evangelism," International Review of Mission 100:1 (392) (April 2011), 74-84.

(12) Sam Harris, The End of Faith (UK: Free Press, 2005); Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Black Swan, 2006).

(13) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Vintage Press, Random House, 1974 [1887]). Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton, Radical Theology and the Death of God (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966). John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo, After the Death of God, ed. Jeffrey W. Robbins (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

(14) See for example Michael Frost, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post Christian Culture (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Publishing, 2006).

(15) R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems 1945-1990 (London: Phoenix Press 2000), 361; see discussions of Thomas' writing in D. Z. Phillips, R S. Thomas." Poet of he Hidden God Meaning and Medialion in the Poetr), of R. S. Thomas (Pickwick Publications, 1986).

(16) Morna Hooker and Frances Young, Holiness and Mission (London: SCM Press, 2010), 102.

(17) This has also been a theme in the spirituality and mission materials that contributed to the new statement on mission emerging for the Busan gathering. See influences on kenotic theology and church in J. Moltmann, Crudfied God, New Edition (London: SCM Press, 2001); and Paul S. Fiddes, Creative Suffuring of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), and influences on kenotic theology in creation in John Polkinghorne, The Work of Love." Creation as Kenosis (London, SPCK), 2001.

(18) See for example William Placher, Narratives of a Vulnerable God" Christ, Theology, and Scripture (Westminster: John Knox Press, 1994).

(19) A Facebook group, "Graffiti Jesus comes to Rhiwbina," is covering these images, see: https://www.facebook.com/groups/137957939610686/

(20) He was left unmarked in fact until the last figure appeared with the bread and wine: someone drew an "I love NY" on his T-shirt, which was odd as I have him down as a West Coast kind of figure.

(21) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-APPeRg3Nw

(22) See their website at: http://ciw-online.org/about.html

(23) See works like Nancy L Eieslandd, The Disabled God (Abingdon,1994); Thomas E, Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion: A Thelogy of Disability and Hospitality (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Publishing, 2008) and Amos Yong The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God (William B. Eerdmans, 2011).

(24) This is especially seen the realization that Jesus is allowed to love other people too in verse 22.

(25) "Companions in the Spirit--Companions in Mission, Reflections on Mission and Spirituality", International Review of Mission, New Ecumenical Affirmation on Mission and Evangelism, 101:1 (394) April 2012, 56.

Rev. Dr Peter Cruchley-Jones is a full-time minister of the United Reformed Church in the UK in Cardiff, Wales. In addition he is an honorary research associate in Cardiff University's Theology and Religious Studies Department and tutor in Missiology at St Michael's Church in Wales College, Cardiff. lie was also a member of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism's working group on Mission and Spirituality.
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Title Annotation:World Council of Churches
Author:Cruchley-Jones, Peter
Publication:International Review of Mission
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Apr 1, 2013
Words:6168
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