I want to tell you about three meetings of significance in the past few weeks I have been to. 1) is by zoom in Pakistan in a church which desperately needs a canvas roof in an area where most of the villagers are in servitude (can you help?); 2) is the New Wine Leaders’ Conference in Harrogate, where the ‘Lion Roared’; 3) the London Diocesan Gathering with the College of Bishops which was reported in the church press yesterday.

Firstly to the worldwide church, where most of the olive branches of hope for the UK now come from. Picture this: a young evangelist with GCSE level English taking his Pastor Father to a dangerous rural area of this Muslim majority country on the back of his motorbike and looking after the small congregation that has grown up there as they meet with the sun beginning to beat down and praise Jesus from the dusty floor. Children, women and men gather around the zoom call as I falter out a message about Job and Jesus and then pray, as last time for healing and salvation. Reports come back that heaven has come close and miracles have happened. Somehow the church keeps growing among those who are poor in a way we struggle to imagine.

Secondly to the national church, where the stream that is not a denomination, gathered for what is becoming an annual ‘New Wine Leaders’ pilgrimage to the affluent and desirable town of Harrogate. Beautiful location, conference centre and hotels were packed out with 1760 delegates seeking God (with a flurry of late bookings emerging from those Anglican New Winers who were disturbed in Spirit by the General Synod direction of travel and sensed the need to gather together). It was billed as the conference that wouldn’t talk about the main issue facing the church today, but would handle that on zoom before and after the conference, but then a holy rebellion broke out.

After an innocuous start the evening began with God-centred worship, and then Lauren (St Aldate’s) sensed the need to sing the Agnus Dei:

Holy holy holy are you Lord God Almighty

This began from the band, but suddenly the congregation picked it up as well

Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb, you are worthy

The band stopped after several minutes of repeating this cry of heaven’s congregations, but the gathered conference did not stop. It was time to put the Holy God on his Holy Throne. The Lord God Almighty was proclaimed thrice holy, the Lamb of God, Jesus, was pronounced Worthy. The leader at the front couldn’t bring herself to shut it down so ten minutes or more of holy rebellion broke out and the Lord was pronounced Holy again and again as he continued to call out a Holy People for a Holy God.

Then Jill Duff, Bishop in the CoE and trustee of New Wine spoke. She has a new book out on Beacons (revival fires) around the Uk God wants to light, but began with the cross: we need to be penitent, and then continued with the cross: we need to the fellowship of sharing in the pain of the cross if we want to be like our saviour. It was an open, humble and vulnerable message that helped many.

The morning worship on Day 2 had a similar prophetic edge, this time led by the band: It led us to a place of praying for those who felt muted in the past few months and years. The prayer was that they might speak out the word of truth boldly. That didn’t take long to be answered.

John McGinley then arrived on stage with a fire in his belly. His message was not to give up on the entrustment that God has given you. He’s not asking you to carry on in the same way but to carry on in God’s way. You can’t give back your calling. One day you’ll stand before Jesus and he’s going to judge you twice: for your life and second for your willingness to fulfil your entrustment for his people. He spoke from the Revelation letters (echoed also by the evening speaker), showing that the way Jesus speaks to the church at certain times can sound shockingly harsh. Jesus’ message was to those who see themselves as ‘rich’ and it shows that it is possible for a church to reject Jesus… who in turn will ‘vomit them out of his mouth’. Like Jill he talked of repentance being the doorway, or his relationship with them would decisively change.

Then echoing his new book he did some church history/comment on our current situation. Every 500 years or so a shake up occurs in the church he contended (in an argument worth pursuing further by reading his book). This is because the ‘trellis that helped to grow the vine become prison bars’ preventing what used to be New Wine from getting out. As culture has changed around us and we’ve moved from Christendom we now have a stark choice to make. We used to be ‘friends with the world’ because the world (State+Media) basically agreed with us. Now state+media definitely does not. We’ve moved from being in the collaborative majority to the conflicted middle wondering how we’ve lost out ease of influence. But that leaves us with just two choices: A compromised mythology or to become a creative minority, on the edge, embracing the pain of not fitting with the state+media narrative any more.

It was a sensational moment in the conference, not easy to hear for many as he pointed out that our gospel has so often been a gospel of affirmation not a gospel of the cross. But you could see those who had spent most time in the trenches after the Anglican Synod were utterly energised by this clarion call. It felt like the rise of Apostle John, and all of this was affirmed by the evening guest speaker who again called the church to reject sin and seek the ‘glory’ of the holy God at all costs.

Finally, the London Church “Compelled to Resist Meeting”
I mentioned in a previous blog the meeting of 180 charismatic, evangelical and catholic clergy with the assorted Bishops of London. The Church Times had also picked up on this and so I added a few comments on twitter to clarify/expand on what occurred. Someone kindly pulled them together as prose, emailed it to a friend ‘as an anonymous first hand account’, and the friend then sent it on to me thinking I’d be interested in what had gone on here! i So here it is in case you are:

Compelled to Resist: standing room only at the back

It was extraordinary. The meeting was called with expectations that usual suspects (St Helen’s) would turn up, but had to be relocated when it was clear that there were more than a couple of dozen people coming. Then we heard that not just one or two bishops would be there but the whole college of London Bishops. They spoke of unity and anxiety and then (eventually) opened up to the floor.

A series of highly gracious comments were then made including from young global majority heritage clergy saying that their whole church was leaving the CoE with or without without their minister. “of course we’re leaving the CoE” one charismatic church plant with a non-white congregation’s whole leadership said to their minister, that was echoed from 4/5 other charismatic churches with Global Majority Heritage congregations from across several networks.

One contribution talked of someone who’d already left their church because of the #houseofbishops direction of travel and he’d been a major donor for a small suburban church which had enabled one of the diocesan flagship church plants to happen (£100k+ donation). Then the bishops responded before an intervention from the ‘father of the house’ figure in the room, a charismatic, who said he’d been ordained 47 years, in the diocese for 40 years and that there had always been rogue/renegade bishops but this was the first time that the #houseofbishops had collectively gone against the majority view of the Anglican Communion, anglican doctrine and biblical authority. This was greeted by rousing applause and a turning point in the meeting after which the bishops mainly and graciously listened (partly in shell – shock).

Several young ministers said that they were likely to leave the CoE including some incredible and brave contributions from women clergy, global majority and UKME. Others talked about unity with the gay celibate people in their congregations being more important to them than unity with the Bishops if they were forced to choose. A gay Catholic celibate priest talked about how costly his calling was and how this undermined it. A quick mental maths in the room would suggest the churches there represented 70-80% of the church going children and young adults in the Diocese. Never in 45 years has such a gathering of evangelicals and catholics been achieved in the Diocese, and the sense of unity was palpable. It was an enormous shock to everyone there to see that the ‘as we pray, so we believe’ principle held so true for these Anglicans who were ‘compelled to resist’ the House of Bishops’ motion in the words of the Bishop of London’s invitation to the meeting. And with the Bishop of Coventry’s latest mea culpa blog explaining the ‘dog’s dinner’ process, who can really blame them from either side of the argument?

So three meetings of significance. At each the lion roared. One had women and children with no roof over their heads, another a crowd of leaders coming back to life after the long-sleep of covid, the final one had ecclesiastical ramifications and shockwaves we are yet to see the full impact of.

We live in interesting times


[Next Post: A plea for onboarding the conflicted middle – may be relevant to those who feel at ease with the above]

{nb: if you’d like to support SOMA UK please go to https://somauk.org/donate and if you’d like to know more about funding that roof in Pakistan please let me know}