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Can we preach on the ‘texts of terror’?

Yesterday I was preaching on Judges 19, the story of the dismembered concubine, as the final sermon in our series on the Book of Judges. Because of its challenges, it is a text that has been long debated in scholarship, but (unsurprisingly) it is seldom preached on or referred to in church worship. (A member of our congregation commented to me that, in more than 30 years of attending church as an adult he had never heard it mentioned; another said they had never read the story.)

Along with the stories of Tamar, Hagar and Jephthah’s daughter (on which I had preached two weeks previously), it forms one of Phyllis Trible’s ‘Texts of Terror’. Although Trible is writing from a feminist point of view, her work was pioneering in using rhetorical criticism to listen carefully to the text, rather than imposing a particular point of view on the text. Trible comments on this passage:

To hear this story is to inhabit a world of unrelenting terror that refuses to let us pass by on the other side.

The challenge to the local church is whether we will, indeed, ‘inhabit’ this world, even for a short time, rather than ‘passing by’.

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Defending the rural church: Delusional or Essential?

In a guest post, rural minister and General Synod member Tiffer Robinson writes: “Rural churches have experienced falling congregations for decades” or so says the Guardian article about the Church of England proposals to remove the need for weekly Sunday services. The Church in the countryside is seen as being in the last stages, the […]

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Can we use social media for evangelism?

What is the new environment of the world of social media like, and how can we fruitfully share faith in it? In some ways, there is no bigger question facing the church in the West, and it is key in our engagement with the under 40s, Generations Y and Z. And it is the subject […]

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Searching for Super(wo)man…?

Three years ago, Trinity College Bristol were looking for a new Principal, and for some reason several people drew this to my attention. So I looked at the ad, and this is what I found they were looking for: a person of integrity, humility and wisdom; a leader of leaders, who thrives on the sharing and multiplying of leadership; […]

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Did John ‘see’ Jesus?

Revelation has been hugely influential on the history of Christian art. If you are in the habit of visiting church buildings that have stained glass, you won’t have to travel far to find images drawn from the book. But what is striking in the images of Jesus, based on Revelation 1, is that Jesus is […]

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Letter to the College of Bishops

I am publishing here, with permission, a letter that has been sent to all members of the College of Bishops prior to their next meeting to decide what proposals to bring to General Synod in February. I am not offering here a full exposition of the text, but there are a few things worth noting […]

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How do we reach the under 40s?

Here in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, we are just completing our diocesan conference at Swanwick, and it has been focussed on issues around our aspirations for growth under the heading ‘wider, younger, deeper.’ This includes seeing, by 2023: 7,000 new disciples in the Church of England in this diocese; 1,000 new young leaders; a […]

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Is Pastoral Accommodation the way forward?

Andrew Goddard writes: As we move from shared conversation to shared deliberation, initially among the bishops, there are a number of important elements which must be at the heart of the discussion. We do not start from a blank sheet. The Church of England has set out its official teaching and discipline in relation to sexuality […]

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What should ecumenical unity look like?

Last the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, meets Pope Francis in Rome, their third meeting since taking office. There was a time when such meeting at all, let alone with this frequency, would have been considered unthinkable, and this meeting will celebrate the first meeting of an Archbishop of Canterbury with the Pope since the Reformation—that […]

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Resolving tensions in our reading of Scripture

Following my previous observations about Tony Campolo no longer calling himself evangelical, Tony himself responded on Christian Today. Every once in awhile unfair judgments are made. That was the case when Christian Today contributor Ian Paul wrote that I, along with other Red Letter Christians, emphasised the red letters in the New Testament, which in many Bibles highlight […]

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Is ‘mindfulness’ Christian?

Mindfulness is the topic of the moment. The father of one of our daughter’s friends was seriously injured in Iraq, and he has only been able to recover a sense of stability in life by means of mindfulness. (He was part of Gareth Malone’s Invictus choir at the Rio Paralympics.) Mindfulness is increasingly being seen […]

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