Posted by: rogermitchell | April 25, 2012

new theology for the repositioned ecclesia

For some time now, a bunch of us have been contemplating the idea of a Kenarchy Course. Something that would provide a new theology for the repositioned church, or ecclesia. Something relational, collaborative and practical but with meaty content you can get your teeth into. As we are convinced that the very nature of knowledge is relational and collaborative, we are keen for your help in putting this together and I will be using the blog for this purpose for a while. So please, whoever you are with an interest in this, join us in putting the course together, and then, if you are motivated by the experience to get more deeply engaged, join the course and encourage others to do so. We are aiming to have the material ready to begin in September 2012, and we are anticipating a combination of freely motivated distance learning, mutual mentoring, coaching, evening seminars and occasional over night residentials. Depending on the take up we hope to base these in various regions and cities both within the UK and further afield. If you like the idea of something happening where you are, don’t hesitate to let us know!

For those new to this blog, let me quickly explain this word ‘kenarchy,’ as it is probably new to you. It is invented out of two Greek words, kenō to empty and arkhō to rule. This word kenō is used by the apostle Paul to describe what Jesus was all about when he explained that because Jesus was God-shaped, he emptied himself out in love for the rest of humanity and the whole creation. The word arkhō is used in scripture in some very interesting ways, and is applied to Jesus by Luke when describing the beginning of his ministry (Lk 3:23). It basically refers to the priorities of governance, or what is of first importance. After a lot of discussion with others, some of it recorded in the early stages of this blog, as to a contemporary way of describing the kingdom of God, it seemed that kenarchy, combining ’emptying out’ with ‘the beginning of rule’ was a good way to refer to the substance of God’s kingdom or rule as revealed in Jesus. As it is a new word, it forces those who encounter it to rethink what the kingdom of God means, and this, in our view, we urgently need to do. As my friend Andy Knox put it when several of us met last night to discuss this, there will need to be three essential components to the course: what kenarchy means for our understanding of God and the created world, what it means for our personal life and identity, and thirdly, what the practical implications are for social and political life on the planet. Given this pretty much encompasses everything, there will need to be a few sub-categories!

It may be helpful at this point to state what is original and ‘new’ about the theology of kenarchy. This is its procedure of working from Jesus to God in all our understanding of his character, nature and relationship to the world. This is a very different starting point from the traditional one, although we hold that it is the heart of Jesus’ own teaching as found in the gospel narratives. The traditional approach begins with the assumption that God must be sovereign in the way that he operates. This is often expressed in something like Thomas Aquinas’ categories for the definition of God, in terms of what I call the ‘omnies.’ That is to say that to be God he has to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent and that because he is all powerful like this he has to be obeyed. You might say that rationally you would expect God to have these characteristics, or that if you were God it’s how you would operate. But the theology put forward here doesn’t begin with human reason or inclination as its starting point, but our encounter with the Jesus of the gospels and it argues from him to God. From this perspective, instead of the big thing about God being his sovereign power, the big thing is his kenotic love, that is to say the way he emptied out the great power that he had in order to initiate and sustain humanity and the universe. It is from this starting point that everything else flows.

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Responses

  1. Looks like a great way to proceed. May God bless the endeavour!

  2. The concise explanation of kenarchy is, once again, really helpful – and, of course, I’m totally up for being involved in the development of the course!

    • Thanks for the willingness to be involved, you’ll be hearing from us soon!

  3. this looks really interesting. time and money permitting, I would love to learn from this course.

    • We’d love to have you on the course. We are deliberately shaping it so that the cost in time & money can work for people. Basically the plan is to spread it over shorter or longer periods. We are also aiming to keep the overheads low

  4. I would be interested in this course mainly as I want to see how this understanding of Jesus can be applied. And I want to know how to reread scripture out of a kenarchic perspective. I’ve found over the past several years of reading/responding to this blog that frequently I am pulled up short and then delighted to see how you have re-examined and given fresh understanding to biblical verses I thought I knew. So I would be very interested in something like that.

    So I assume there will be an online component to this as at the moment commuting to the UK on a regular basis is not possible for me. There are all sorts of online learning possibilities that include group chats as well as dissemination of material. It would be great if you could take advantage of that. c.

    • Thanks Cheryl, your response is encouraging. We are planning to adopt the latest networking resources and have the expertise between us. Looks like I’ll be in the Toronto area connecting with likeminded friends somewhere around 12th – 19th June so might be other Canadians wanting to be involved. Not that I’ve forgotten it’s as big as Europe!

  5. I am not hesitating then to confess the desire for something happening in my local area regarding Kenarchy and a conference or two. Even though I thinking it is happening in practice with a group of people in our town, and yet I think more people locally need to understand it as I feel I do personally. From Christine.

  6. Sounds like a very exciting challege please keep me posted on any developments.

    • Thanks – shall certainly keep you in the picture!

  7. Hello Roger,

    Historically our colonizing behavior in evangelism has been one of the reasons it is difficult for the world to “see.” I wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful to be able to test historical accounts by locating how humanity has been full-of-themselves instead of kenotic. Wouldn’t be hard to find examples. I just completed a paper for my university on de-colonization in which I reported on a decision the world court made in 1975 on the right to self-determination for people of the Western Sahara. To make this short the outcome was that in spite of the world court establishing the legitimacy of these folks to exist (based on a history of self-government) somehow in the Americas as well as many oceanic territories governments did not have to cede land to indigenous people because of a legal precedent referred to as “impossibility” . Seems there are plenty of “impossibility” factors that keep us from the radical lifestyle you are talking about here.

  8. I would love to be involved in the course, starting in September. Please keep me posted. We live in Wirral, Merseyside

  9. Hello Roger,

    Thanks for responding to my message last weekend. I’ve replied, but for some reason the email bounces. Can you suggest another way of getting in touch?

    Richard


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