THE CASE FOR STANTON KEBLE
The 19th Century in Britain was a period that acts as “Fullness of Times” paradigm as far as Christian Theology and Mission is concerned. The structural and institutional changes that took place between 1815 and 1914 acted as a microcosm of the Global changes that have taken place from around 1920 through to the present time.
Urbanisation in Britain was fully accelerated by the Industrial Revolution and the shift in Laws concerning agriculture. In short, Britain that was in 1815 an agricultural society by 1915 had fully developed into an Urban dominated setting.
There were very powerful forces of Pluralisation that also took place as a result of both the commodification of labour and as people who were from unlike backgrounds were forced to co-exist in the workplace. Also, peoples from other religions who were integrated into the society as a result of Britain’s Empire. This Empire created the first expansive Globalisation process for nearly one quarter of the peoples of the earth.
At the Idea level it was the 19th Century that saw in Britain the birth of Marxism and Darwinism which when synthesised, created a milieu that became by default a harbinger, locus and breeding ground for accelerated Secularisation.
These are just a few highlight processes that saw 19th Century Britain become an ideal training ground theologically for the 200 years that were to come afterwards.
As the observer reads the A list of British Theologians during this period the relevance of their thinking at the formative level is quite remarkable. The “Geist or Coincidence” of the Romantic Movement created a cultural milieu for theology to flourish inside of, the pre-Raphaelite awakening gave new form to that very Romanticism, which itself spoke and speaks to what we call Post Modern consciousness.
There many other issues we could look at but these are just some of the variants that place 19th Century Britain as the pedagogue for the world to come.
We at Stanton Keble are committed to drawing from that vast pool of spiritual energy and life and seek to bring its outcomes to bear upon the De-Secularising societies that are now fully global in scope.
Q&A WITH BOB HITCHING
Q. In an age of contemporary worship, entertainment based, preaching, why are you focusing on 19th Century models for Mission and Evangelism
A The models that you have described were effective in terms of influencing the culture in the 1980’s and 1990’s perhaps even the early part of this century.
The Spiritual Context in all Urban societies around the world has fundamentally shifted from being secular societies to de-secularising cultures.
What this means in real terms is that if we are to reach the emerging global cultures we will need to do so with a set tools that are very different from those previously or are currently being used.
Q. What are those tools?
A. For example, the number of people involved in witchcraft, pornography and other dark practices has increased significantly in the last twenty years. Previously, we had specialists in our various Church Networks who had “Deliverance Ministries” who we would send people along to for help.
Today the ratio to those in deep spiritual trouble and those able to help them has reached an unsustainable level.
We are saying a local Church now needs to deal with Demons, Demonic addictions and so forth and the historical use of liturgy and what we call Theurgic liturgy as a means of an ongoing renouncing of the works of darkness.
In short, a Christian leader in the Church can influence profoundly the spiritual lives of families by using the ongoing spiritual disciplines of the liturgy to breathe health into people’s lives.
Q. Are there other tools?
A. Think of the times when people reach points of spiritual dryness and coldness and they simply cannot find words to pray in their subjective experience. Allowing the truth of the Apostles Creed to come from our lips actually starts the process of releasing the heart to worship, very often when there is nothing there in our feelings.
Q. Can you give more examples?
A. In the 1990’s there were two very poignant events that took place in the realm of popular culture. Rod Stewart appeared on MTV Unplugged and sang a song for his new wife who was about 20 years younger than him. When he sang he began to weep.
For the 90’s this was a very unusual occurrence. What I saw this as was modern man seeking transcendence through love or romance. Around the same time I was in Florida for some kind of meeting and I was watching NPR which is the Public Broadcasting TV Station in the US. On it was a recording of Andre Bocelli and Sarah Brightman singing, Time to say Goodbye. I saw this as a Secular hymn, a means of reaching by the feeling evoked by the music to some kind of transcendent experience.
It was during this period that much of Protestant Christianity was dominated by the same primary soul force. The contemporary songs in the church were like Rod Stewart and Andre Bocelli reaching out for transcendence by generating feelings within the music.
Within the cultural milieu of that time, Christian Transcendence generated by experience, certainly filled the seats in the Churches.
I knew instinctively that I was leaving this kind of Christianity behind as it was simulated and generated in the same way that Hindu’s, Sufi Muslims and many other religious groups create transcendent feeling.
A few years ago I was in London and I took midday Communion at an Anglican Church by London Bridge. At a level that was far deeper than feelings and certainly not generated by myself, I encountered the Lord Jesus as I took the Bread and the Wine.
That encounter created a response and I came out onto London Bridge and walked across the Bridge praying for everyone I saw. I have grown up spiritually praying for cities at a distance but leaving the Communion Service I was driven to bring the transcendence I had experienced to those I passed by.
It was very much like, I have believed in the God who is there, now I was experiencing the God who is here.
I believe that this true transcendence is what our world is longing for and cannot find in generated subjective experience.
Q. It feels a bit religious and old fashioned, would you agree?
A. All over Europe, Eurasia and North America groups of modern young people are meeting in covens and groups to engage in pagan activities and rituals that are rooted in deep history. The largest growth rate of witches in Europe is among young females under the age of 25. We are calling for history and the sacred content of history to be restored to reach the generation that contemporary Evangelicalism cannot get near to.
Q. In a lot of your writings and group talks you seem to reject the Evangelical narrative. Why is that?
A. Actually, I am an Evangelical, always have been and cannot ever see myself not being so. If we use the term Evangelical to describe a set of spiritual distinctives, a high view of Scripture, The need for conversion, the exclusivity of Christ, love for all those that truly love Christ then it is a body of truth claims that act as an overlay to many different Christian traditions. Conversely, if we define Evangelicalism as Continental Reformed Theology, Conservative politics and pro-capitalist economics then we are defining a subcultural entity. If being an Evangelical presupposes the latter then yes I would reject that narrative.
Q. Your vision in Stanton Keble is to see Mission become influenced by these core values and ideas from 19th Century England. Are you seeing this catch on in Central Europe?
Q. Is that it?
Q. You have to give a better answer than that.
A. We do not do things because they are effective, desirable and the new and latest answer to the needs of the world. We follow the path we do because we believe it is right and are more than willing to look foolish, obscurantist and old fashioned. We do what we do not to create results but to honour the truth.
You may want to visit our Think Tank