A couple of weeks ago, Angela Tilby (retired Canon of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford) unleashed a peculiar diatribe against the upcoming prayer initiative Thy Kingdom Come, complaining that it was tantamount to an ‘evangelical takeover’ of the Church of England. The movement itself is interesting, in that I understand it to have been the personal initiative of Justin Welby, rather than something arising from any committee or strategy meeting, it is clearly rooted not just in broad Anglican understanding but in an idea from the Lord’s Prayer that would appeal to any orthodox Christian, and it appears to have been communicated and executed very well. A broad, interesting, appealing initiative done well by the Church of England—who would have thought?!
Tilby’s criticism has some obvious oddities to it. On the one hand, she notes that ‘the communication gap between the Church and the rest of society grows ever wider’—but her remedy for that is to communicate less. She criticises the breadth of the appeal—and then criticises it for being too narrow in its appeal. And she will be joining in prayer that God will save her from evangelicals, instead of praying for the stated aim of the initiative: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is inviting Christians around the world to pray as one for people to know Jesus Christ.’ If Tilby really does ‘understand all too well why people take their souls to the surgery’, why not join in that simple prayer?
There was a wonderful response in a joint letter from parish clergy, led by my friend Alasdair Kay from Derby:
We do not see this project as a takeover by Evangelicals (of any network) of the Church of England. Instead, we applaud it as the product of an earnest desire to make the Church of England fit for its purpose by bringing us back to our raison d’être: to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. The tone of Canon Tilby’s column was, we feel, cynical, patronising, and, frankly, very discouraging.
We as parish priests, many other clergy, and thousands of our parishioners will between us fast, donate time, sacrifice sleep, and give ourselves to praying for their friends and loved ones, both during Thy Kingdom Come and beyond; Canon Tilby has reduced these heartfelt acts of love and compassion to coffee, crafts, and semantics.
Others resented the ‘victim language’ of Tilby and rejected what they saw as the caricaturing of other traditions, not just evangelicals, as though no-one else is interested in seeing people come to know Jesus Christ in living faith.
The truth is that the Evangelical churches have confidence in their message and are competent in the delivery. This is why their churches and initiatives like Thy Kingdom Come are flourishing – it’s got little, if anything to do with churchmanship.
So, regardless of what flavour of Church of England you are, say whatever it is you want to say with confidence – pitch the vision and pitch it like you mean it. Whatever you do, do it with competence– process with dignity, elevate the blessed sacrament with profundity, choose your hymns sensitively, produce your booklets beautifully, project your images tastefully and, if necessary, do less, but do it better.
Still others pointed out the irony of Tilby claiming she held on to the unchanging tradition of the C of E whilst evangelicals were trying to hijack it.
I point all this out because Angela Tilby is a result of multiple radical shifts in the CofE from the last five hundred years. She is the result of multiple ‘takeovers’ of the English Church: the Reformers in the 16th Century, the Laudians in the early 17th and Latitudinarians in the later 17th Century, the Erastians in the 18th Century, the Tractarians (via the Liberal Catholic movement) in the early 20thCentury, and the radical liberals in the 60s and 70s. Each of these radical – and often hostile – takeovers have gradually settled into becoming part of the Church of England’s ‘traditional’ religion. Each ‘takeover’ has alienated as many ‘traditional’ worshippers as it has gained them. And yet now, because the ‘takeover’ is from a group of which she is not a part – the Open Evangelical movement – she is praising the wonders of traditional religion. This tradition she talks of is often but a husk of what previous generations would consider ‘traditional’. At which point she may claim the notion of ‘development’ – but anyone who is in any way versed in critical theory would know that traditions do not have an inevitable direction.
Following on from this came another critique of current approaches from the Christchurch, Oxford stable, in the form of a more theological assessment of evangelism by Martyn Percy, Dean of Christchurch. Like Tilby’s piece, it contains a fair share of caricature and cynicism—but I wanted to read it in the most positive light that I could. The closing observations about the importance of listening in the context of sharing faith, rather than thinking evangelism is about using a megaphone, are always worth noting, regardless of where such points are made—but of course that observation has been made by others. The difficulty with hearing the point in this piece is that it is surrounded by so many errors of observation and fact.
Contrary to Percy’s claim, there are fresh expressions of church for those a long way outside mainstream society—and of course the reason for there not being a fresh expression for the LGBTI community is that they are so well-represented in the C of E, as well as having their own denomination in the Metropolitan Community Church. I don’t think that the Decade of Evangelism was the ‘vehicle’ for evangelical ascendancy, and its failure was due to the focus on liturgical revision and the church not be ready for the kinds of initiatives (like Thy Kingdom Come) which many now recognise are essential. And the notion that the national Church is ‘stuck in broadcast mode’ [note: the sower in the parable is in fact ‘broad casting’ the seed in Mark 4 and parallels] is really laughable in light of the facts on the ground—that the vast majority of Anglicans admit that they know someone whom they could invite to church, but simply have no intention of doing so. For most Anglicans, the megaphone has been switched off and put away in a cupboard in the vestry, left to gather dust.
But there are two theological claims Percy makes that caught my eye and deserve a response. The first is his (slightly flippant) comment that ‘Jesus did not advocate ‘Fresh Expressions’ of synagogue’.
We must also remember that Jesus did not plant synagogues. Jesus did not grow synagogue congregations. Jesus did not advocate ‘Fresh Expressions’ of synagogue. But Jesus did spend time with the marginalised and disenfranchised. Jesus did challenge prevailing religious structures and outlooks. Jesus did admit people to the Kingdom of God who were not Jewish – often, unconditionally. None were Christian at that point, or became so, needless to say.
The talk of whether people ‘became Christians’ is oddly anachronistic. And it is very strange to suggest that Jesus ‘admitted’ anyone to the kingdom of God ‘unconditionally’, since his repeated challenge was that entering the kingdom (or becoming a follower of Jesus—he appeared to have treated the two things as almost synonymous) demanded a cutting of family ties, a willingness to leave behind past commitments, and a radical commitment to let go of life (‘take up one’s cross’). As has been explored extensively in recent discussion, Jesus’ invitation might have been unconditioned (in that it was not limited to a particular group) but it was hardly unconditional. Did Jesus ‘grow synagogue congregations’? The gospel writers record much of Jesus’ ministry occurring ‘on the way’, on the roadside, by the lake, in fields and on hills, so it was certainly not confined to buildings. But Jesus appeared also to be in the habit of attending synagogue, like any good first century Jew, and when he was there, the crowds came. If you do a quick word search for ‘crowds’ in any of the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) you will see that it is the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry—that it drew the crowds. Perhaps there is a theological lesson for the Church today.
But was Jesus hoping for something like a ‘fresh expression’? The serious question underlying this asks whether current missiology has any connection with Jesus ministry as recorded in the gospels. The first place to look is Jesus’ selection of twelve men to be appointed as his ‘apostles’, that is, his ambassadors who are trained in his presence to hear and understand his message and his person, so that they can be sent out to make it known. The choice of twelve has such an obvious symbolism that it is easy to overlook: in his ministry and message, Jesus was hoping for the renewal of Israel as the faithful son of God. More than the other gospels, Matthew emphasises Jesus’ ministry ‘to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matt 15.24), but even he cannot help himself from giving glimpses of what he knows will follow—the good news reaching gentiles as well—for example in recording Jesus’ saying about those coming ‘from the east and west to feast at the table in the kingdom of God’ (Matt 8.11) in the context of healing the centurion’s servant. And the episodes in Luke 9 and Luke 10 of Jesus sending out the 12 and then the 72 on a mission of teaching, healing and proclamation look very much as though they anticipate what Luke will go on to record happening throughout Acts—not surprisingly. Luke sees a very clear connection between the teaching and ministry of Jesus, and what his followers then continued to do in establishing culturally engaged worshipping communities well beyond the boundaries of ethnic Israel. Percy is right in noting that, in mission we take ‘nothing’ with us. But the ‘nothing’ in Luke 9 and 10 appears to comprise ‘nothing but the message of the kingdom, and the power to heal the sick and drive out demons’, which feels like a very different kind of nothing from the nothing that Percy is advocating.
The second theological issue Percy raises is our understanding of church and Spirit.
What is strange about this situation is that the drivers of the agenda are deeply concerned about mission and evangelism. So, they act out of the best of intentions. But the problem is that the underlying theology of mission and of the Holy Spirit – missiology and pneumatology – is deeply deficient.
Percy’s conviction is that ‘The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, and at work ahead of the Church, and outside it’, and he supports this with reference to the gentile mission, in which ‘the Jewish disciples, for example, ‘discovering’ that God is at work amongst the gentiles’. Having just preached on the Cornelius episode in Acts 10, I am pretty confident that this is a misreading. God wants to do something amongst the gentiles, so he actually stirs Peter up through visions and visitations to go and explain to Cornelius all about Jesus and the gospel—and that is the moment when the Spirit comes. Yes, God is sovereign, and can do the most surprising things, like ‘anointing’ the pagan king Cyrus in order to effect his purpose of leading his people home. But the New Testament—and all of Scripture—is emphatic that the Spirit makes real the presence and power of God amongst his people. For Paul, the work of the Spirit is tied quite firmly to the testimony of Christ as Lord (1 Cor 12.3), which it would have to be if our understanding of God is properly Trinitarian. For Luke, Jesus can only minister in the power of the Spirit, not just following the testing in the desert (Luke 4.14) but even after his resurrection (Acts 1.2). There is no question that Christians can learn from the world around them, not least because the ‘world’ is often much more savvy than believers are (Luke 16.8). But this needs to be rooted in a theology of creation and grace, not a misshaped theology of the Spirit.
There are, no doubt, questions to be asked about all of the C of E’s current initiatives—and I have just spent two days in York at Archbishops’ Council, where we have been asking some serious questions of all of these, as critical friends. But if people like Angela Tilby and Martyn Percy are going to ask questions, they will need to do so from a better understanding of the facts, and with a much better grasp of New Testament theology. In the meantime, I will be joining 1,200 others for our Thy Kingdom Come event in Nottingham on Friday evening.
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34 thoughts on “Did Jesus want a fresh expression of Israel?”
Thanks again Ian. Just sitting here reflecting on the readings for Pentecost prior to writing my last ever Sermon for St Lawrence’s…… Maybe part of ‘Thy kingdom come’ I shall pray that Angela Tilby is baptised in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost this year! Cheeky I know. I am also so privileged to have been heavily involved in three Church plants in my ministry – two in Oxford and one in Kidderminster where it was the evangelical/charismatic that supplied the people and the finance. One church I was part of (which shall remain nameless) was very ‘anglo-catholic’ but we were happy there and it was our local church. Unfortunately the Rector there consolidated the position and replaced the usually evangelical team Vicar with another anglo-catholic so the evangelicals in the church had no-one to relate to – most of them left! I did warn the Rector…… the upshot was that he lost about 20% of his congregation but also lost over 80% of his income! So very sad!
Does that mean that Evangelicals tend to be the better-off? (Remembering how ACs were the forefront of “slum ministry” in Victorian times, and still seem mostly to be found in the cities)
Or that they are more generous givers on a similar income range?
Not that our preferences should ever be governed by “what the audience will pay for…)
If you are referring to Terry’s comment above, then I think the point he is making is that the group who left were the most sacrificial givers to the church
I am: we do not know, from that comment alone, whether we are looking at the rich man’s tossed crumbs or the widow’s mite. It would be helpful of him – if, indeed he knows, such things being properly private – to clarify how “sacrificial” those figures really are.
I can’t be the first to find it uncomfortable when some well-off Christians (of all shades of practice) apparently see their giving as the purchase of power to dictate to the rest of the Body – not so much a “sacrifice” as a contract. It’s a temptation at once as old as time and utterly characteristic of the modern “services” age.
But there is an alternative interpretation: that those who are giving are the very ones who are taking their discipleship seriously. To marginalise them is therefore a grievous thing…
To marginalise anybody is unconscionable: once we make Church about who is “good enough” or “serious enough” (and surely judging by the size of one’s financial contributions only, rather than those of time or effort or talent or even prayer, is no way to do that!) we aren’t telling the Good News, we are selling it.
Karen, I don’t really understand how you make the leap from the marginalising of those who contribute being a bad thing, to the idea of selling the gospel to the wealthy.
The point Terry was making was that there was a deliberate attempt to exclude a particular tradition…and it was ironically self-defeating. Nothing more than that.
From the total of your comments, I’m not sure how you can extrapolate your concluding, comment about “selling the good news.” And people are buying it with their giving. No-one is suggesting here that financial giving is worth more to God in the “economy” of His Kingdom than prayer. Indeed why don’t you join in the Kingdom prayer, if you already don’t? Financial giving may or may not reflect whole life transformation of the Gospel, may reflect Lordship of Jesus over every part of our lives, including finances. It may or may not reflect a theology of tithing into the new testament era. But, the tenor of your comments, is to cast doubt on the motives of giving, while at the same time saying that these things can not possibly be known.
Why would people stay in a church where they are not being fed or led, or when they can not buy into their beliefs, sermons, so much so that there may seem to be worship of a different God. Their giving leaves with them. But what do I know?
You seem to be in opposition to evangelicals, however you may define them
Actually it was “evangelicals” who were on the receiving end, in the instance I most recently saw – and one of the actions was as public and crude as actually removing a donated grand piano to re-donate it elsewhere. We have seen unGodly legal contests both here and in the US where leavers and stayers in some doctrinal dispute have squabbled over the assets of a divided Church – such a good look to the watching world outside! And there is extensive discussion, in the context of giving money directly to the homeless, on whether a gift with conditions is actually a gift at all.
I merely queried the apparent comfortable assumption that the leavers in this case were “more committed”, given their willingness to “shop elsewhere” when they felt their requirements were not being met. I and some others have made a different decision, and it has been the work of the Spirit I think that adjustments have been made in both directions – the incoming minister is learning traditional liturgy (and has a potentially fine singing voice) and the worshippers are coming to terms with “home groups” and modern technology – again, the Rev-not-Father is showing tact in not placing screens actually in the sanctuary or above the altar.
All is done with much prayer: I can’t speak for giving as our congregation is largely composed of the elderly, poor families, and the disabled (hence my querying of the 80/20 figure – a few relatively well-off members like me could easily cause a similar disproportionate effect). But the Lord moved a recent decedent to leave a huge legacy which has enabled long overdue building work to be done as well as funding the computers and TVs.
I am waiting to see if the various worship experiments bear fruit and praying the Lord to be as unambiguous in that respect as He was when the Church first diverged from Jewish tradition in the Acts – and that those “added to our number” will be new Christians and not just those who “couldn’t be suited” elsewhere. Also that links to neighbouring churches forged by us occasional moonlighters (a few missed a particular weekly service and I prefer the old Maundy service to the new “party” format) will reduce the silo effect and rivalry in favour of genuine family diversity, relationship and growth.
I’m sorry to go on but I hope it fills you in a bit on where I’m coming from on this.
There seems to be a huge lack of understanding, agreement of what is God’s Kingdom is (and isn’t) and where it is or resides and why it needs to spread. The usual, who, what, where, when, why and how questions, in fact.
Yes, I think you are right.
The answer to ‘What is God’s Kingdom’ depends on a prior question: whether Article 9 of the 39 Articles is right in its assertion that we all deserve from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God, and whether that wrath and condemnation includes retribution on and after the Day of Judgment for all those whom God has not delivered from wrath and condemnation by his great salvation. If Article 9 is right, then such deliverance must be the paramount need of us all; relatively infinitely more important than all other human needs, harrowing and important as many of those needs are. The disagreement about what is the right answer to this prior question is the most fundamental disagreement among those who believe that Christianity is in some sense true.
This reference to the the Holy Spirit leads me to take issue with the current mantra “See what God is doing in the world and join in.” I have grave difficulties with this, because it confused God’s common grace with His special grace. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost God’s gift to the church, and it is as the church listens to the Holy Spirit through worship that she discerns her mission to the world.
Yes, I would agree. I feel the need here to deploy the technical theological term ‘utter twaddle’…! I don’t know where the phrase has come from…and I struggle to understand its appeal.
Ian – what are you saying is ‘utter twaddle’? the mantra ‘find out what the Spirit is doing and join in’ ??
Yes. I can’t think of anything in Scripture which would justify this understanding of mission.
What Scripture appears to say much more clearly (if it says anything in these kinds of terms) is ‘Find out what God wants to do through you and get on and do it’.
The problems with the other approach are highlighted by Percy’s reading of the Acts 10 Cornelius incident. God wants the gospel to go to the gentiles—so he gets Peter there to preach. Peter doesn’t discover what God has already done (as Percy construes it) but discovers what God will do once he starts preaching.
Thanks Ian – I have often mused over this term and an instinctive tensing whenever it is used in an unqualified way, especially on the lips of Liberals who see the drive of culture as not just ‘where’ but ‘what’ the Spirit is doing – and so reduce the mission of the Church to “letting the world the agenda”. In recent years it seems to be located in the Missio-Dei concept of God abroad in his world as the instigator of mission – which is fine, as long as we recognise Scripture tells us the what and how of that mission. I see it has also popped up in some charismatic evangelistic contexts where folk seek words of knowledge/prophetic leadings to initiate gospel encounters.
Personally, I think it is only legitimate if interpreted Scripturally, evangelically – where we are called to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ who is always sending the church out to witness to Jesus and make disciples and become more like Christ: ‘convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment’, ‘he will glorify me’, ‘you will receive power when the Spirit comes and be my witnesses’, ‘being transformed from one degree of glory into the likeness of Christ – which comes from the Lord the Spirit.
So, in the mouths and minds of some liberals it’s often little more than a pseudo spiritual phrase for legitimating the spirit of the age – but in mouths & minds of orthodox, its a call to holiness, worship and mission.
correction – word missed out – “letting the world SET the agenda”
Actually in that incident it’s both – Peter both obeys a threefold direct command from God, AND finds out that the Spirit has spoken to Cornelius too: the messengers are already at the door whatever his response might be.
I wish it was always as clear and unambiguous as that – we would then have a lot fewer people thinking that “what God wants to do through you” is gang up and bash some other guys you already didn’t much like.
(For the avoidance of doubt, that is a generalisation from too well-known human history and not pointed at any individual now reading…)
” ….. the current mantra “See what God is doing in the world and join in.”” is a new version of 1960s and 70s liberalism, allied to ‘liberation theology’ which variously identified the work of the Spirit with socialist movements, revolutions, anti-colonialism etc. Apparently the Spirit keeps changing Her mind.
Joshua Penduck’s historical resume on movements in the C of E was very helpful, particularly the note that the liturgical liberal Catholicism (or ‘Catholic Lite’) which is regnant in cathedrals is only an offshoot of 19th century Tractarianism – however much cathedral circles believe it represents the C of E immemorial.
But the issue evangelicals will have to face up to is whether the liberal evangelicalism that Welby and Sentamu are promoting (through promoting Vivienne Faull and Sarah Mullally) is also the same thing as they have always believed. The Cathedrals of England and their Deans are the new engine of Liberalism in the C of E.
……’the current mantra “See what God is doing in the world and join in.”” is a new version of 1960s and 70s liberalism, allied to ‘liberation theology’ which variously identified the work of the Spirit with socialist movements, revolutions, anti-colonialism’…..
Thanks Brian – yes, I think that’s in the mind of many who use it – though not all. Its a way of legitimating the drive of zeitgeist and the Liberals have often done this – seeing the locus of God’s revelation spotlighted on the canvas of history and culture and their understanding of Paul’s “keep in step with the Spirit [of Jesus]” becomes “keep in step with the spirit of the age” which, is all too evident in our church today.
That said, I look at great social transformation movement of the late C18th & C19th and see them as keeping in step with the Spirit – but in the context of evangelical awakening.
‘But the issue evangelicals will have to face up to is whether the liberal evangelicalism that Welby and Sentamu are promoting (through promoting Vivienne Faull and Sarah Mullally) is also the same thing as they have always believed.’
I’m not sure that it will have been, but also not sure that it matters. The point at which you substitute a snippet of secular wisdom in place of the biblical imperative is likely not to be the point where you end up. And that’s important to remember because you may well have done it for the best of motives: hoping to make the Gospel more attractive / understandable / accessible / welcoming etc.
It seems to me that the end result is always going to be that it is you who move progressively further away from your original clear understanding, and so the power and clarity of you message is reduced rather than enhanced. It may conceivably end up as a parody rather than the real thing – a truly sad outcome.
It’s not so much that there’s a rigid set of rules for how you go about mission, but a determination never to dilute or downplay or obscure the truth even when you might think there’s a certain pragmatic reason for doing so. I can’t think of any situation where Jesus (and his faithful followers) would have done that. Yet it never inhibited him from using gritty down-to-earth logic or the full scope of imagination in his many parables!
Thank you Ian for a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of these issues. I found it very helpful and an encouragement in these days when there is so much negative comment. Please keep up your good work.
I love Thy Kingdom Come and am using it with my Youth group who are totally up for it. So I was intrigued to read Angela’s article, thinking how could anyone criticise TKC? These words of hers struck me:
“Too often in church, people in distress are patronised by the saved and the certain, infantilised by a faux inclusivity that has them playing with tea lights and cutting out little paper flames, while they are jollied along to find Jesus over (excellent) coffee.”
Unfortunately she is spot on here. I know what it is to be in distress and be patronised by well meaning evangelicals.
I wonder if this is at the heart of her tirade against them?
And I enjoyed reading the different perspectives from the comfort of my own personal echochamber! Thank you all.
I too have bought into the “See what God is doing and join in” and wonder whether it’s just rather a loose use of language, allowing multiple perspectives (and thus disagreement) to surface. Ian’s version – “What Scripture appears to say much more clearly (if it says anything in these kinds of terms) is ‘Find out what God wants to do through you and get on and do it’. ” – is a lot tighter.
I for one have found myself guilty of jumping in with lots of ideas and energy before carefully considering God’s will for me and also to consider corporately what He’s wanting for my church. So this idea of “joining in with GOd”, though imprecise, has been a very helpful reminder to me.
Re Tim Buckley’s comment on the mantra ‘See what God is doing in the world and join in’:
Yes. How does one determine ‘what God is doing’ or ‘what God wants’ in the first place? I think that the fatal flaw in all this is that it is assumed that this is an easy thing to do aside from longstanding and traditional perspectives. I would have thought that attributing any intentions, let alone fresh intentions, to God is exactly the opposite to easy: it is presumptuous to the nth degree, an almost impossible thing to do. Nor will there be agreement among those who come up with insights here. The only intentions we can attribute with any confidence are those which have always been attributed to God so have stood the test of time, and which align with God’s character.
What they must therefore be meaning is ‘Look at what’s going on in the world’. If this means ‘Look at what’s fashionable’ then it’s a bad principle though in particular cases it will be a good (or bad) move. If, however, this means ‘Look at what present projects there are and see which ones delight and enthuse a person who already has the Spirit of God’ then it sounds a good mandate.
Why would people specify ‘in the world’, though? This is too broad. Everything from the best to the worst goes on in the world. Is it a deliberate attempt to say ‘world as opposed to church’ to prove it is not an us-and-them thing?
All good points, Chris.
Whatever people feel about Angela’s latest I for one are grateful for her little book on the Creed, “Wont you join the dance”. I have given this to adult confirmation candidates and others and they told me they had found it helpful.
But if you use the phrase “See what God is doing …” as it was originally meant, then it all becomes rather different. See https://theologyeverywhere.org/2016/11/21/see-what-god-is-doing-and-join-in/ for example. If folk are jumping on the “… in the world …” then don’t worry – it wasn’t in the original quote.
Thanks for the link…but I confess I am not very persuaded. My scepticism is reinforced by the fact that the author completely misreads Matt 25…
Indeed, and since when are we to look for Jesus in everyone?
I use the phrase ‘See what God is doing and join in’ as a reference to John 5.19, ‘the Son can do nothing by himself… He can only do what he sees the Father doing.’ The phrase stands up well as one way to think about mission with this background. God goes before us in mission, preparing the way. Getting better at being attentive to that, especially in church leadership, is no bad thing. An extended season of prayer and waiting on the Lord, like Thy Kingdom Come, certainly helps.
For sure…but that is quite different to the way it is used, for example, by Martyn Percy. ‘Seeing’ spiritual what the Father is doing is quite different from looking at the world and wanting the Church to match it…
“‘Jesus did not advocate ‘Fresh Expressions’ of synagogue’.”
I’m currently writing a book interacting with scholarship over the last 20-25 years on the historical Jesus. This last week I’ve been writing on Tom Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God,” a book I first read when it came out in 1996. In that book Wright most certainly makes the claim that “Jesus was reconstituting Israel around himself.” So Percy is right (at least, if Tom is right); Jesus did not advocate fresh expressions of synagogue: he advocated something completely different altogether, a reinterpretation of what the God-Israel relationship was all about and where it was going in its entirety. This, I agree with Wright, did include a radically different conception of social relations and community. Whether you can parse this into modern church terms is questionable but the idea that Jesus just went with the flow and accepted the structures in place is, in my view, a poor way to read the gospels and a worse way to do history.