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Reform Magazine | March 26, 2017

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Editorial: Scrap the Church?

steve_tomkinsThere are two stories in the Gospels about Jesus visiting places of worship. In the first, they try to kill him; in the second, he trashes the place. What kind of relationship does that suggest between Christ and the Church?

The first story, according to Luke’s Gospel, comes at the beginning of Jesus’ mission and sets the tone for his conflict with the traditions and religious establishment of his day. The second comes in the last week of his life – for the good reason that it convinced the establishment he had to be killed. If there’s no record of him darkening their door in the intervening time, perhaps it’s not that surprising.

It’s easy to assume Christ is wholeheartedly in favour of the Christian Church. It’s named after him, worships him, talks about him all the time and has his picture all over the place. But displaying his likeness in church windows is not the same as displaying his likeness ourselves. Is the Church pretty much what Jesus had in mind when he promised the kingdom of God, or is it a huge wrong turning? Do we do the work of God or get in its way? Is there something more Christlike we can be doing than church business as usual?

These are questions that the United Reformed Church is taking to Greenbelt festival this summer, under the title “Scrap the Church?” We are exploring it in a range of events – panel discussion, art installation, cake and debate, pop-up liturgy and through the medium of chat at the URC stall. If you picked up a copy of Reform there, then thanks for reading this far. Keep going, it gets better.

Reform’s own contributors bat these issues around in “A good question” – a regular feature where we ask one question and get four answers. We even got the great Church historian and TV presenter Diarmaid MacCulloch onto the question in our interview.

Pretty much the only voice missing so far is yours. Reform boasts the liveliest letters page in Christian world, but there’s always room a few more wise words. Join the debate!

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This article was published in the July/August 2016 edition of  Reform.

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