That is, of course one end of the spectrum. For open evangelicals are not an homogenous group. At the other end, there are those for whom the term ‘open’ is problematic, but perhaps not as problematic for them as ‘conservative’ has come to be, and the name ‘evangelical’ allows them to affiliate themselves with an open label. For some ‘open’ is a comparison to our other siblings who name themselves as ‘conservative’, for others ‘open’ is its own name.
These musings brought me into contact with the Northumbria Community – not in the flesh, but, as one might expect for a blogger suffering from severe cyber-philia, mine was more of ‘virtual’ contact. I began to be interested in their ‘rule’, the marks which are their distinctive calling, namely Availability, Vulnerability and the Heretical Imperative.
Now, I don’t know about you, but most of the time, Evangelicals are not known for being enamoured with those who float around on the edge playing with the heretical. But I have always been one for questions. Yes, sometimes it gets me into trouble. But mostly, that’s because, frankly, human beings like answers. When I looked at the wonder of virtual wonder that was the Northumbria Community website, I saw people being encouraged to live questioning lives. That questioning is how we should live our lives.
So, I found myself at one of their conferences last week. A joint venture between the Northumbria Community and the Anabaptist network called ‘Prophetic Voices’. The idea is that the fringe groups of New Monasticism, Celtic Christianity and Anabaptism have something to say both to the Church and the world in how we do ‘being human’ and ‘being Christian’ in our post-modern society. Roy Searle from the Northumbria Community and Stuart Murray Williams from the Anabaptist Network mapped out the distinctives of these three voices which might help us to find our way.
Prophetic Voices: Celtic Christianity
Roy Searle talked about the following things as the distinctives of the Celts:
Monastic – the ‘one thing necessary’: seeking after God, return to the simple thing, the inner journey and the transformation of the human heart (he suggests that programs don’t do that), in protest to information overload, superficiality.
Community – built out of monasticism: recovering the trinity and living it, covenant not contract, communers not consumers (root meaning devourers...)
Hospitality – welcoming the stranger as Christ: a challenge in a world of diversity, where people who are different might be felt ‘deviant’ or ‘wrong’.
Holistic – all life is holy to God: the stuff of life is good, mucky, messy, rooted
Redemptive – positive, not negative, or renouncing, or retreating, but redeeming and life affirming.
Environment – respect for nature
Learning – Scripture and education, missional tools of establishing schools, catechising, storytelling
Heart for the poor – intentional
Women valued – in church and culture, leaders in both, eg hilde, bridget, celts influenced by desert fathers and mothers, a real renunciation of power
Wanderers and risk-takers – symbol of cell and coracle: in and out, adventurers, a pilgrim people, we are in such a risk averse culture, have courage.
Apostolic and missional – not primarily attractional and pastoral, reaching out beyond our communities.