The Dream – a new paradigm
In my experience, a paradigm shift is taking place in the Church of England, difficult though it is to discern if you look at the central structures of the Church. Change is happening at parish level and in the many friends I have and networks I am part of. Many of my friends have abandoned attendance at or involvement with the Church, despairing of its teaching, worship and leadership and finding it no longer fit for purpose.
A new and confident configuration of faith and of people’s experience of the holy has been growing for at least a century (Teilhard de Chardin wrote his first outline of a spiritual biography in 1918, setting out elements of his mystical experience and vision). The source of the changes that are now coming to fruition can be traced back to the nineteenth, eighteenth and previous centuries. Copernicus formed his theory that the earth revolved around the sun in 1514 and gave fuller expression to the theory in 1543. The current source of our present reformation movement might be rooted in the sixteenth century when the last period of dramatic reformation was in full swing.
Many people have been writing about a new reformation, or the great emergence, progressive Christianity or evolutionary spirituality for the past five decades. I would like to provide a focus here, a site where people can find assurance that they are not going mad, nor the only person thinking these thoughts in their church or congregation. For me, there’s a parallel with the experience of becoming aware I was gay – at first, I had no idea whether any other people had thoughts akin to mine).
Among my friends there is now a growing network of people whose relationship with the Church and the way the Church organises the practice of faith has changed, often dramatically. People have become open to new patterns of living, and the practice of stillness, silence, meditation, contemplation, awareness, or mindfulness. Many are deeply frustrated with the inadequacy of church worship, prayer life, biblical exegesis, stance on gender and sexuality, and lack of emphasis on holistic living, incarnational body awareness, evolutionary vision and intuition – the list is long and complex.
There are many for whom the content of the words God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, as used unthinkingly by the Church, have become problematic. These are often people of profound faith, deeply committed to a spiritual path and practical action.
The content of many people’s faith is changing dramatically, away from what has become normative for the Church of England. For me, the Church of England’s normative teaching and practice has become increasingly regressive in the five decades since Honest to God was published in 1963. Honest to God was and is a significant marker of change, for better or worse.
- I have been exploring in myself and want to explore on this site the integration of the contemplative and activist dimensions of life and faith.
- I have been exploring in particular the effect on these dimensions of faith of the Anglican Communion’s dilemmas over gender and sexuality.
- What does being a Christian mean for those who are drawn to the contemplative apophatic path of unknowing combined with the activist kataphatic path of knowing in the depths of one’s body and soul?
- Developing a contemplative presence which opens heart, body, mind and soul to the infinite and intimate presence of the God we already know, with qualities of love, truth, beauty, goodness, wisdom, and grace, is of the essence.
- We are living with a Christian vocabulary of easily grabbed and quoted texts and memorable phrases on the one hand and an exegetical and theological fundamentalism on the other. It is, I suspect, uncreative, unimaginative, and inadequate to the challenge faced.
- We live in our bodies and our being in Trinitarian relationships, with ourselves, with the world and people around us, and with the Holy Other who is fully intimate.
- We are a unique gift in creation, our lives and energies contributing to the transformation and evolution of being.
- Western culture and western Christianity have long neglected the body - our feelings and emotions, and flow of energy, a holisitic relationship with mind, body, heart and soul. Christian teaching practice is overly head-centred, valuing intellectual performance and achievement above innate awareness and intuitive presence.
- Many times the Gospels report Jesus as saying “fear not”, “do not be afraid”. I link this advice with the simple, direct statement in John 1.10: “I have come that you may have life, life in all its fullness.” For me, Jesus means, don’t be afraid of being alive, of allowing your potent, creative energy to flow, your imagination to flourish, don’t be afraid of the radical, evolutionary, revolutionary experience of being created in the image of God, of infinite, unadulterated love.
Unadulterated Love doesn't have a programme and is not an organisation. I offer my dreams and thoughts as a resource in the hope that the energy and conviction that enthuses me will be channelled by others to create change in individual lives and corporate Church life, and that we, who engage with this site, will evolve in the energy of unconditional love.