Reflecting on the “disestablishment” of the mainline Protestant churches, Walter Brueggemann once observed that those churches and their members are for the time being living in a kind of exile. He offered the further challenging and comforting observation that though exile entails humiliation and suffering, it is not necessarily a bad place to be.
What a great party Aaron managed to throw while Moses was on
sabbatical! (Perhaps Exodus 32 is a caution for associate pastors
against starting new initiatives while the senior pastor is on
vacation—even if the people beg.) Jesus too offers a parable of a
party. Such festivity will likely be the last thing on most people's
minds this week, however.
As Bill McKibben explains in this issue, people love the Tuscany region of Italy because of its comprehensibility. From a hilltop you can see vineyards and olive groves in their entirety, and you can trace the course of rivers. And you can see where much of your food comes from.
It's one thing to profess; another to do. Christians put a lot of
emphasis on professing—belief, repentance—but we also know that without
doing, those words are just so much hot air. Still, how do you know how
to be what you believe? Paul says, "Work out your own salvation with
fear and trembling.” This suggests to me that Paul didn't have an easy
A statistical projection is not a prediction, but if the number of Christians in Britain continues to decline at the current rate, there will be no more British Christians by 2067. Between 2001 and 2011 the church lost 5.3 million members—about 10,000 each week. The rate of decline in the Church of England is higher than that of other denominations. In one survey the numbers dropped from 40 percent of the population in 1983 to 29 percent in 2004 and just 17 percent last year. The decline in the Catholic Church is not as precipitous because of the influx of Catholic immigrants. Sometime in this century Muslims will outnumber Christians in Britain (Spectator, June 13).