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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Book review by John Twisleton, Mission & Renewal Adviser from Diocese of Chichester

Emerging and fresh expressions of church - how are they authentically church and Anglican? Ian J Mobsby 2007 Moot Community Publishing ISBN 978-0-9555140-0-5 £10 122pp

This is a rather Anglican book full of what many would see as the right sort of questions, shy of over simple answers and giving critical loyalty towards the main sweep of Christian tradition. Ian Mobsby, priest missioner in a London church, gives a defence of emerging and fresh expressions of church that will connect with those who look to the catholic vision of Christianity where God is seen ‘equally in the Eucharist and in drinking beer together in the local bar’.

Four groups are studied including MOOT, the author’s own alternative worship community at St. Matthew, Westminster. Their Anglicanism is discerned in a flexible structure, a focus on bringing relational presence into particular places and networks and the light hand of ecclesiastical authority. Fresh expressions are presented as a leading prong of the contemporary strategy ‘to proclaim afresh in each generation [the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds]’ (Declaration of Assent).

This ‘proclaiming afresh’ is at the heart of the contemporary debate between inherited and emerging approaches to church growth. Is this proclamation a translation of the faith of the church through the ages (inherited view) or is it a synthesis in which the local culture reshapes the church (emergent view)? The writer, a man and a missioner of his age steeped in postmodernism, favours the latter. Ian is frustrated by the Christendom mindset that survives in the Church of England. In that frustration he is one with the Anglocatholic pioneers even if his interpretation of Anglican worship would be worlds apart from theirs.

Since many of those early pioneers were Catholic-Evangelicals they would miss in this book passionate reference to Jesus and to the priest as Jesus’ man (sic). The main theological bearing of the book is an inclusive Trinitarianism that fits a less linear, missionary approach to church than that of Jesus eg. in John 20:21 ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’.

It is a book that speaks powerfully into the current ecclesiological and missiological divide with a brilliance both traditionalists and synthesisers can profit from it. The perception that the miracles of information technology are breeding forms of mysticism is quite fascinating. High theological flight is sandwiched by sharp reality checks such as the prediction that in 2040 average church attendance age will be 64 years.

Ian Mobsby is passionate that the good news of Christ should get out into the 60% of the population who now have no contact with the church and are suspicious of any who hold over-arching world views. Whatever your ecclesiology if you share this concern there will be something for you in this book.

John Twisleton, Chichester diocesan mission and renewal adviser

To purchase the book - click here

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