KENARCHY JOURNAL VOLUME 1
An Introductory Editorial
Sue Mitchell MSc presently co-facilitates the Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission; conversations between people with lived experience of poverty and decision makers, towards a new sociality.
Co-equal and Co-eternal: Reflections on the Nicene Creed as an affirmation of a non-hierarchical trinitarian understanding of God
Hugh Osgood PhD is a Bible teacher and church network leader internationally. He is currently Free Churches Moderator and a President of Churches Together in England.
Taking as its starting point the current popular theological emphasis on the Trinity, this paper focuses seriously on the Nicene Creed from the devotional perspective of faith in an attempt to configure a theology of the Trinity that avoids early Christian distortions of hierarchy and the tri-theism that Islamic thought justifiably challenged. Grappling with chronology within eternity, the inclusivity of the Father, the begetting of the Son and the process of the Spirit, the reader is invited to eavesdrop on the internal conversations and perspective of Godself in their triune agreement “making decrees together” as far “back” as eternity and even “before”. Focusing particularly on Psalms 2 & 110, the subjugation of the powers, the crucified nature of divine authority and the possibility of a willing people working to counter the powers, right their ravages and promote the crucified rule of the Son are shown to be at the heart of the Trinity’s intent. The ministry of the Son is explicated as the outworking of the divine patience in the great Trinitarian plan to bring down oppressive authoritarianism and liberate transformative hope, the proceeding of the Spirit is reflected on in the light of the suggested past Trinitarian agreement, and the calling of the Church is outlined, focusing on diversity not division. Finally the proposal of a council present in the divine being even “prior” to the strategic begetting and proceeding fulfilled in creation and redemption is considered in the light of historic theology and orthodoxy.
Eternal Counsel, Temporal Instantiation and the Revelation of Triune Love: A creative response to Hugh Osgood
Bradley Jersak PhD is Dean of Theology & Culture at St. Stephen’s University, New Brunswick, Canada, and a Core Faculty Member of the Institute for Religion, Peace & Justice (IRPJ.org).
In a brief (1500 words) response to Hugh Osgood, Brad Jersak systematically affirms the direction in which Hugh “tiptoes” to assert that the divine communion of the Trinity is a kenarchy, not a hierarchy. Following David Bentley Hart’s rendering of Revelation 13:8 as the “lamb who has been slaughtered from the foundation of the cosmos”. Brad distinguishes three aspects of Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s process: (i) in the eternal counsel or triune conversation; (ii) at the time of the temporal instantiation (the incarnation); (iii) in each case revealing that the triune God is continuously kenotic (self-giving) triune love.
The Spiralling Dance of Wisdom
Julie Tomlin, has postgraduate qualifications in both journalism and political theology and is a writer living in London.
This paper is an exploration of the potential for as yet ‘unseen’ political spaces for wo/men. It acknowledges the reality of a system in the West that at a foundational level has deemed the public realm to be the preserve of the masculine, and required wo/men to negotiate themselves into it in order to in- habit it and function within it. The paper draws on fairy tales, myths, stories, and writers who work with them, as alternative imaginary resources of wisdom and inspiration that find resonance with Sophia Wisdom traditions. In particular, it explores a story called The Voices of the Wells or The Well-Maidens, finding connection with biblical narratives that connect wo/men to the wells and generate fresh perspectives about our relationship to the earth. The aim of this work is not to challenge existing structures in order that they allow greater entry and fairer allocation of resources to wo/men. Instead, it problemetises the precepts of the system itself and, in doing so, attempts to open up potential for a different way of being, one that celebrates power with rather than power over and seeks the flourishing of all people, the earth and the creatures living on it.
Kenarchy as a Counterpolitical resource: Re-imagining our understanding of land and nature
Mike Winter PhD, formerly a researcher in Agricultural Biosciences, Mike’s more recent work explores how re-imagining our understanding of God can help us reconnect with land and nature.
This paper seeks to address what the author perceives to be a common misinterpretation of the commandment to subdue the Earth in Genesis 1, using Kenarchy as a means of critiquing sovereignty and re-imaging what a Kenarchic approach to land and the environment might look like. Beginning with an overview of the politics of sovereignty and the development of the nation state, it moves on to consider the impact of this with respect to land, its use, ownership, power, control and borders. It proposes a wider understanding of biopower to include land, its use and the displacement of peoples from their lands, particularly that which has arisen since the industrial revolution, up to modern-day industrialised agriculture. Drawing on contemporary nature writing alongside academic theological texts, this paper aims to open a wider discussion around the ‘othering’ of land and nature, and how this leads to the exploitation of people, land and resources. Disconnection from land and nature has broken a deep-rooted human need for nature-connectedness and encouraged the myth of state soteriology. The paper calls for humanity to rediscover our place within creation with a life-laid-down loving approach, where we work for the well-being of the natural world rather than dominance over it. Citing practical examples, the paper concludes with a challenge to reconsider the command to dominate the Earth, rather hold a new kenarchic perspective to undo the long-held emphasis on subduing nature and rediscover the Earth as a shared resource.
The Necessity and Possibility of Lament
Marijke Hoek PhD, researches suffering and weakness in Pauline literature and the related role of the Spirit. Her writings focus on the Church and the poor, and its advocacy for systemic change.
Lamenting is critical in times of crisis. Lament psalms give voice to our suffering and disorientation and are vital dialogues to restore our sense of agency and hope. Far from being merely a private expression, or a part of a communal liturgy, lament is a powerful public critique that shapes our discipleship and citizenship, thus forming a core dynamic of renewal. Creational desolation, injustice and economic deprivation are rooted in a poverty of relationship and poor stewardship. In our supplication to God, we express our yearnings for His intervention in interrupting the present and reconfiguring the future. It demands a deeper listening, a genuine mourning and a desire to be reshaped and redirected in our un-knowing. Thus, lamenting constitutes the beginning of new realities as it calls for a redesigning through divine intervention. It is at the core of our vocation and collective citizenship as we aim for an emerging future with a greater measure of human and creational flourishing. Biblical and contemporary examples exemplify the powerful nature of a politics of lament.
The centrality of the poor to the work of the kingdom of God in the 21st century West
Roger Haydon Mitchell
Roger Haydon Mitchell PhD is political theologian with Westminster Theological Centre, co-facilitator of Ashburnham Kingdom Research Theology Collective and an activist within Morecambe Bay Love and Kindness Movement.
This paper centres around three foci: incarnational hermeneutics, the social impact of spiritual renewal and the cultivation of emerging new political space. Firstly, the implications of an incarnational or ‘Jesus’ hermeneutic for reinstating the poor as the primary focus for theology is considered. This emphasises the centrality of the poor as a defining characteristic of the Jesus narrative and includes accounting for the displacement of Jesus’ focus on the poor throughout the history of the church. Secondly, a personal and historical genealogy of the last three generations of spiritual renewal is evaluated as testimony to the reinstatement of the poor as primary agents of the gospel. Thirdly, an attempt is made, drawing on the work of contemporary political theologians, to explain and delineate the new post-secular political space in the western world with reference to the inroads of Islamic extremism, Trump’s populism and the UK’s Brexit. Conceiving this space as a fulfilment of the consequences of empire, the poor are presented as a current political category. Finally, the role of the ecclesia as servants with the poor in cultivating the emerging space is configured as an expression of the politics of love. The paper draws on the findings of my own research into the subsumption of transcendence by sovereignty in Church, Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2011) and the experience of The Poverty Truth Commission, http://www.faithincommunityscotland.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Poverty-Truth-Commission-8_opt.pdf and particularly the Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth Commission.
The Commodified Christ and the Economics of Jubilee
Spencer Paul Thompson
Spencer Thompson PhD is an economist in the Scottish Government. His academic research has explored the potential of cooperatives as an alternative model of business.
Spencer Thompson’s article is this Volume’s long read. The basic premise of this paper is that economics and theology cannot be separated: what we believe about God is inextricable from how we organise our material affairs. Specifically, the paper argues that the prevailing economic system and the prevailing theological system are both subsystems of empire, for both are predicated on the fiction that life is essentially a commodity, an object to be owned, traded, and consumed. This fiction extends to nature, work, and money, and ultimately to Christ himself, whose life was supposedly exchanged as payment to a debt-collecting God. While the fiction of commodification has no intrinsic reality, it is reified and deified by the system itself, leading to the systematic destruction of life through the exercise of empire. While the Church has often struggled to distinguish fact from fiction, this paper shows that the Bible is a story of resisting the false god of commodification, often represented by actual deities, and discovering a radically different God, along with a radically different economics. Jubilee – the Mosaic institution of periodically cancelling debts, freeing slaves, and reversing land transactions – is central to this progression, for it exposes the fiction of commodification and points to Jesus as the embodiment of the alternative, true reality, that of eternal life. The paper suggests that the Coronavirus pandemic, set within an ongoing transformation in economy and theology, provides an opportunity to uncover this alternative reality, as exemplified by initiatives like community land trusts, local currencies, and social cooperatives.