Inaugural Annual Lecture

On 8 October Professor Tom Yoder Neufeld delivered the inaugural annual lecture which launched the Centre. His title was “Anabaptists, the Bible and Violence” and the lecture was delivered to a packed audience. He drew heavily from his acclaimed book, Jesus and the Subversion of Violence: Wrestling with the New Testament Evidence (Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament in the USA). Noting that contemporary Anabaptists themselves have a variety of ways of interpreting the Bible, Tom  sketched approaches from the simple biblical literalism of the Amish at one end (he certainly was not disparaging their approach) to the passionate concern for global peacemaking and justice of Christian Peacemaker Teams at the other.

Tom, although passionately advocating non-violence as the appropriate stance, nevertheless acknowledged the ambiguity of the biblical witness and deliberately focused on the New Testament to illustrate that this was not immune to the accusations of being a violent text. He used the account of Jacob wrestling through the night in Genesis 32:22-32 to advocate an incarnational model of reading scripture. Jacob wrestled with a man but claimed to have seen God face to face. So, in wrestling with the very human words of the text, we seek to find the word of God – the Word in the words and we do not stop wrestling until we find a blessing. His honest account of wrestling with the text, including stating that there were texts that he just did not know what to do with, drew an appreciative response and provoked a number of interesting questions from the audience.

Tom’s lecture, which we hope will subsequently be available in print, was certainly a fitting way to launch the Centre.

Six forthcoming webinars

The Opportunities and Challenges of Post-Christendom

Six webinars featuring the authors of already published or forthcoming books in the popular ‘After Christendom’ series

21 October 2014: Stuart Murray Williams: ‘The Fading Brilliance of Christendom’

The Christendom culture that dominated Europe for centuries and transposed itself with great success into many other nations was undoubtedly a brilliant achievement. It was also brutal, suppressing dissent and extending its influence through violence as well as persuasion, but it has left a remarkable legacy in all walks of life and most areas of society. As Christendom fades, should we grieve or celebrate its passing? What resources should we carry with us into post-Christendom, and what baggage should we leave behind?

Stuart Murray Williams, the author of Post-Christendom and Church after Christendom, is also the series editor of the ‘After Christendom’ series. He is a trainer/consultant working under the auspices of the Anabaptist Network, director of the Centre for Anabaptist Studies at Bristol Baptist College and one of the coordinators of Urban Expression.

20 November 2014: Lloyd Pietersen: ‘Reading the Bible after Christendom’

The Bible is regarded as a classic of Western civilization but today is hardly read and its contents are not well known. Christendom used primarily the Old Testament as a foundation for statecraft and marginalised the teachings of Jesus. This webinar will draw from Lloyd’s book with the same title and will explore ways of reading the Bible that take seriously the teaching and example of Jesus.

Lloyd Pietersen has a PhD from Sheffield in Biblical Studies and has written extensively on the Pastoral Epistles. He is currently writing a book on the spirituality of the Pastorals. He was formerly Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of Gloucestershire and is currently a Research Fellow at Bristol Baptist College and serves on the Steering Group of the Centre for Anabaptist Studies. He has been treasurer of the Anabaptist Network for many years.

29 January 2015: Andrew Francis: ‘Hospitality and Community after Christendom’

This seminar explores how and why we should use sharing food to both practise hospitality and build up Christian community, whether at house-group or congregational level. Reference will also be made to the style of hospitality and food-sharing which ‘eating Jesus-style’ demands.

Andrew Francis is a community theologian, published poet and writer of several books, including Hospitality & Community After Christendom (2012), Anabaptism: Radical Christianity (2011) and What is God’s Name are You Eating (2014). He was the UK Anabaptist Network’s first Development Worker and served as executive vice-chair of the UK Mennonite Trust until 2013.

26 February 2015: Nigel Pimlott: ‘Youth Work after Christendom’ – revisited

Mission and work with young people has undergone significant transformation since the publication of Youth Work After Christendom back in 2008. Great strides have been made. There has been an emergence of a post-Christendom narrative as pioneers and prophets have begun to dance to a new missional tune. However, for many people in churches, it is still about getting young people’s bums on seats on a Sunday. The Christendom mindset is alive and well and continues to unhelpfully inform far too much Christian-motivated work with young people. This webinar will reflect back on the original 2008 book and consider models of mission with young people based upon symbiosis, social justice and explorations of new uncharted waters.

Dr Nigel Pimlott is passionate about work with young people. He has worked for Frontier Youth Trust for many years and offers a wealth of experience and insight about faith, mission and the world we live in. He is author of a number of books and youth work resources, and is just about to have published, ‘Embracing the Passion’ – a book about Christian Youth Work and Politics. He is married to Sue, spends far too long on Facebook, and is a life-long supporter of Manchester City.

6 May 2015: Simon Perry: ‘Atheism after Christendom’

Throughout history, Atheism has been marked by a subversion of gods of the state. As such, from classical Greece, Imperial Rome and Medieval Christendom, Atheism was a criminal charge. After the European Reformations (16th Century), Atheism became a term of abuse and after the Enlightenment (18th Century) it became a badge of honour. In the postmodern era (21st Century) Atheism has become a measure of religious orthodoxy. The more domesticated Atheism has become, the more it has lost its subversive element, climaxing today in the endorsement of the very type of state activity it once opposed.

Simon Perry is Chaplain to Robinson College, University of Cambridge.  He is author of Atheism after Christendom: Disbelief in an Age of Encounter. His other publications include the historical fiction, All Who Came Before (2011) and theological monograph, Resurrecting Interpretation: Technology, Hermeneutics and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (2012) and Jesus for Humanists (2014). He is currently writing about Olympian gods in both Archaic Greece and the 21st Century West.

2 June 2015: Brian Haymes and Kyle Gingerich Hiebert: ‘God after Christendom?’

Whatever is happening in history, whatever deals are struck between the Church and the state, whether a Christian voice is increasingly heard or marginalized in the arenas of power, God remains God and that is good news. At least it is so long as God remains God and not some being, even a supreme being. God after Christendom? revisits the long tradition of Christian speech about God with the conviction that in scripture and in the history of Christian reflection on these matters there are rich resources for faithful discipleship that enable us to confront the contemporary temptations that too often unwittingly re-make God in our own image. Beginning with the biblical witness, the presenters explore some classic Christian affirmations and argue that they remain crucial for reflection on how we speak of God today, and subsequently move on to explore issues of evil and suffering and why faith in the Triune God inexorably leads to worship and peace.

Brian Haymes is a Baptist minister who has served in several pastorates, the last being Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, London. He has been Principal of the Northern Baptist College, Manchester and Bristol Baptist College.

Kyle Gingerich Hiebert is a Canadian Mennonite who holds a PhD in theology from the University of Manchester.

Each webinar runs for 60 minutes from 7.30pm and can be accessed from any computer.

There is no charge, but donations are welcome.

These webinars are presented by the Centre for Anabaptist Studies at Bristol Baptist College in partnership with the Anabaptist Network, the Mennonite Trust and the Church of the Brethren.

To register for these webinars (which can be watched live or as recordings), or for further information, please contact Stuart Murray Williams at anabaptist@bristol-baptist.ac.uk.