This is the text of my Presidential Address to the Leeds Diocesan Synod this morning. (Disclaimer: I wrote it last night at Berlin Tegel and Amsterdam Schipol airports on my way home from an academic conference in Wittenberg, Germany.)

I returned late last night from Wittenberg in Germany. I was there to present a paper at a conference on Faith, Theology and the Church (from Tuesday to Thursday) and then record a programme for BBC Radio 4 on Martin Luther and the Reformation. Having launched the Reformation jubilee last October, preaching in the Augustinerklosterkirche in Erfurt where Luther was a monk, it was a privilege to end the year in Wittenberg where it all kicked off. As everyone knows, 31 October 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the day when Luther is alleged to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schloßkirche, thus challenging the Pope and the Church to address some serious concerns about both theology and the practices of the church.

Many of the stories of Luther’s words and deeds are now of dubious provenance. There is no record of him having told the Emperor at the Diet of Worms: “here I stand; I can do no other”. (Which hasn’t deterred sock manufacturers from producing huge numbers of their products with the phrase added. I might bear the weight of one’s foot, but it doesn’t seem to bear the weight of history. In fact, there is no evidence that he did actually nail his 95 Theses to the church door – something impossible now because the doors are made of bronze.

Martin Luther’s tomb

But, why let facts get in the way of a good story. Whatever the details of who did what and when, we do know for certain that Luther took his life in his hands when he dared to suggest that the grace of God is there for everyone and cannot be bought – even in the good cause of building St Peter’s in Rome. Fear of the consequences of death were trounced by the mercy of God.

Sitting in the Schloßkirche yesterday morning, looking at Luther’s tomb, I was very conscious that we can’t always control the consequences of the decisions we make. The monk of Erfurt changed the world in ways he could never have imagined when he found Paul’s letter to the Romans opening his heart and mind to the riches of God’s unmerited love. Not only a revolution in the church, but political ructions, too, that too often led to bloodshed on a huge scale. I wonder what he would have made of it today, if he had known what he was about to unleash.

This is not insignificant for us here in the Diocese of Leeds. After giving my paper at the conference on Thursday, I took part in a panel discussion with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Berlin and the head of the Protestant Church in Germany (the EKD),where both the divisions and affinities of ecumenical relationships were visible. As the church faces big challenges in British and wider European cultures, the need for Christians to prioritise their common baptismal discipleship over their denominational commitments becomes more urgent.

On of the watchwords of the Reformation traditions is ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’ – the Church needing constantly to be being renewed and reformed. Nothing stands still in this world. And the church can be no exception. Change is here to stay.

It would be ludicrously absurd to compare the changes our diocese has gone through in the last three and a half years with the enormity of the Reformation, but we need no telling that change brings pain as well as opening up new opportunities for those who are unafraid to explore them. And not every outcome can be predicted. As Luther found out – and it caused him a whole new set of griefs and concerns – there is the small matter of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Our diocese continues to change as we move on from the initial phase of our creation from 2014 to 2016. We are now functioning as a single diocese with a single administration, and we are now clear about where we are in terms of shaping support for clergy and parishes as they ‘do’ our mission and ministry locally. But, this has all taken place at a time when the church across the country is facing a hefty drop in the number of stipendiary ordained people during the next fifteen years. This inevitably means that we will need to re-shape not only where we deploy our clergy, but the nature of the role, too. A priest cannot do in six parishes what he or she did in one. And we cannot put clergy into jobs that are not do-able.

In other words, we have a lot of work to do in the next few years. We do so in the face of financial challenges, too, but our primary focus has to be on what sort of ministry and mission we can provide within the constraints over which we do not have complete (or any) control. Now, is this a cause for fear or concern? Well, yes and no. We need to be concerned enough to tackle the challenges head on and pay attention to the detail – understanding the cost of growth as well as the benefits. But, we need not fear. We are engaged in God’s mission, and must never lose track of the bigger picture of God’s transforming grace, his call to keep moving – with him – and to be faithful to him and each other.

Clearly, if our models of ministry are to change, then they will involve re-focusing the attention of clergy and reimagining the role of lay people. Now, let’s get away from some of the moany stuff we keep hearing. Clergy exist for the sake of the laity, not the other way around. That will not change, but, the way we do ministry and mission will look different in the future. This is not about power or rights or means of self-fulfilment; rather, it is about identifying the gifts and vocation of all baptised people, developing and deploying those gifts for the sake of the church … which exists for the sake of the world.

But, the primary calling of lay people is not to do stuff in and for the church, but to be disciples of Jesus Christ out there in the world. One of the recognised challenges of the church in more recent years has been that lay vocation has too often focused on lay ministries in the church – largely liturgical or pastoral. This is something we need to tackle as we move into the future. Discipleship first.

To this end we are holding a Lay Conference in Harrogate on Saturday 9 June 2018. More details will be forthcoming soon, but planning is well underway under the guidance of Andrew Norman and Hayley Matthews. This is intended to help us re-frame our strategy for lay discipleship and ministry into the future – although this will be a matter of process rather than event.

Nothing of what we do can be done in isolation. On today’s agenda this Synod will address several matters that, together, help us discipline our development and mission. Asking the General Synod to change the name of the See of Richmond to Kirkstall is not a whim or a bit of ecclesiastical fancy; no, it is to enable those outside the church in the Leeds Episcopal Area (particularly) to identify with the area bishop and our church structure. People assume Richmond is up north and can’t see why the Bishop of Richmond is bothered with the city of Leeds. For the sake of our ongoing mission we need to change this. More later, but I want at this point simply to locate this agenda item in our wider missional context.

A communications strategy for the diocese is not incidental. If we can’t communicate effectively in the world in which we now live, then we might as well just tend a long decline. We cannot address the lack of children and young people in our churches without engaging with social media and a way of relating/communicating that is a million miles away from what I grew up with. Do we have the courage to grasp this nettle and learn a new language of evangelism and pastoral care? That is the question – along with: are we willing to put resources into making effective communications and changing the rumour about God and the church?

Rules about synod elections and sizes of synods might not be the stuff of romance, but they matter. It is vital that our synods – at every level – should drive and enhance our mission … and for that we need people – in the right numbers and variety – who are caught up by a vision of the kingdom of God that grabs popular attention, awakens curiosity, draws people in from being met outside on their territory and in their terms. Are we up for this? It isn’t easy, and it will mean sacrifice; but, we need younger energy and vision to challenge us and drag us into new ways of being a renewed and reformed church in this part of Yorkshire.

Again, this is not for the sake of the church’s organisation or own well-being. Yorkshire faces massive challenges in the wake of Brexit (however that might ultimately look…), but also in terms of its own political organisation. Westminster seems to have a view of how Yorkshire might be governed in the future (under its devolution proposals), but how do we want to help drive this for the sake of the common good of the people of Yorkshire? Do we want to be stuck in the past, with old enmities and thinking within old white lines, or can we be bold about developing a vision of and strategy for a Yorkshire that makes the most of the Northern Powerhouse – whatever that means?

What I am driving at here is that we should not be a church that merely responds to the initiatives of others, but be creative ourselves at fostering debate and proposition that, rooted in our traditions, offers a refreshed view of future potential.

Of course, this is all stuff and nonsense if we would prefer to just keep turning the handle. In the diocese we have proved that, even where we might have differing degrees of affection for the diocese we have shaped, we can commit ourselves to it as mature adults who follow Jesus Christ.

At this point I want to pay special thanks to the Dean of Wakefield, Jonathan Greener, who will leave the diocese in November and be installed as Dean of Exeter. Jonathan vigorously opposed the creation of the new diocese, but, since its creation, has been an excellent friend and colleague, a creative and imaginative shaper of new things (three cathedrals and three deans in a single diocese), and a brave contributor to all we have done. We owe him a huge debt. Personally, I will miss him, his wisdom and advice, even his humour. But, we wish him God’s richest blessing and the fullness of the Spirit’s gifts as he and Pamela move into a not-unchallenging situation in Exeter. They go with our love, gratitude and prayers.

So, let me conclude where we began – with Martin Luther. While sitting with three young Germans in the very room in Luther’s house in Wittenberg, around the table where he and his friends argued about theology, politics, beer and bodily functions (I kid you not), having our own feisty debate about the meaning of Luther’s theology now, we felt close to the heart of passion: the passion that is courageous, contagious, irritating, maybe even hopeful – maybe even the passion for Jesus Christ, his grace and mercy, his call to us and his friends to love one another as he loves us.

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Why on earth do religious events that happened abroad five hundred years ago have any significance for today’s world? Or for the church? Remember, France and Italy worked hard to omit any reference to the Christian history of Europe from the preamble to the Lisbon Treaty – purely for ideological reasons. How stupid can intelligent people get? You don’t have to sympathise with that history, but to write it out looks suspiciously like blanking Trotsky from the photos.

Well, I am in Wittenberg for an academic conference that goes with the exciting title of Faith and Theology: Basic Insights of the Reformation in Ecumenical Debate. Theologians from around the world have come together to explore from different perspectives how the legacy of the Lutheran Reformation speaks into the situation faced by the church today. In fact, after two introductory lectures – which demonstrated immediately the different cultural approaches to theological method in Germany and the USA – we broke into groups to consider the necessary contextualisation of faith and theology. My group heard from a Brazilian and an Indian who teaches in Australia.

One of the concerns that runs though the conference is a worrying tendency to relegate rigorous academic theological thinking and research into the realms of private interest and out of the world of public truth. In short, faith needs the critical distance and hard thinking of theology, whilst theology has no point if it is not rooted in commitment to what that theology addresses.

Tomorrow morning we will pray together in the Schlosskirche, onto whose doors Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses on 31 October 1517. Later we shall explore questions of faith, theology and exegesis, followed later with consideration of faith, theology and human action. We then continue into Thursday when the conference will end with papers on the ecumenical challenges presented by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Berlin, the Ratsvorsitzende of the EKD, and me.

If it doesn’t sound very exciting, all I can say is: you have to be here. It is intellectually stimulating, theologically challenging, and the people are really nice to know.

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The first time I went into the Foreign Office in London I was somewhat taken aback by the sight of murals depicting renowned military victories of the British Empire – scenes that now provoke embarrassment or shame even though they belong to their time and to a particular colonial narrative of national identity.

How do we deal honestly with conflicted histories?

Well, this is a question that is dividing America as pressure grows to remove statues of Confederate leaders who 150 years ago fought a civil war over the rights to enslave other human beings. And the problem is this: how are we to remember the past with honesty and courage, not celebrating, but remembering and learning?

This is not a new problem. Walk around some German cities and you find yourself treading on small brass plates set in the pavement, recording the names and dates of Jews who had lived there before being deported and exterminated. More powerful than some huge memorial covered in names, these so-called ‘stumbling blocks’ (Stolpersteine) have a massive impact as you realise that they are everywhere.

In fact, Germany has form here. Look up beneath the roof outside the east end of the Stadtkirche in Martin Luther’s Wittenberg and you see a mediaeval engraving of a Jew being baited in a pig sty. Exposed during restoration after German reunification, rather than put it in a museum or cover it up, they shone a light from a memorial placed beneath it to the fallen Jews of Wittenberg during the Holocaust.
Somehow this faces the horrors of the past in a way that draws a line to the present and educates those whose memory doesn’t stretch that far back.

The German approach is partly informed by its Christian culture which itself is shaped by Jewish notions of memory. To re-member means, literally, to put back together the elements of a story in a way that is healthy and true. The people of Israel, having been liberated from over 400 years of oppression in Egypt and 40 years in a desert (allowing the romanticises of history to die off), prepare to enter the land of promise. And they are warned: as time goes by you will quickly forget that once you were slaves. Then you will start treating other people as your slaves. If you forget this, you will one day lose everything.

So, they shaped the year around rituals and festivals that even today re-tell that story and militate against cultural or religious amnesia.

Maybe this offers a clue not only to Americans wondering what to do with statues of Confederates, but also to the rest of us who have to wrestle with ambiguous or shameful histories. Face it, but with the humility that remembers rightly. Not “forgive and forget”, but “remember and forgive”.

This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans Show:

I have just got back from ten days in Germany. The first half was work – speaking engagements in Halle, Jena and Berlin; the second bit was holiday with friends. Now, I know this wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of fun, but one of the best bits was a tour of the German Foreign Ministry – used to be Hitler’s bank, then became the HQ of the East German ruling party. History haunts the corridors here.

But, the absolute best bit of the trip was a Bible exhibition in Wittenberg. Yes – a Bible exhibition in Wittenberg.

Wittenberg is where 500 years ago an angry monk got fed up and started a row with the Pope. Martin Luther triggered the Reformation, and the Reformation changed Europe and the world for ever. So, last weekend 100,000 people came together in a field outside the town to celebrate under the blazing sun.

While there we popped into the exhibition where, among other things, we saw Elvis Presley’s Bible. In fact, two of them. In one of them he has written against the note of his mother’s death: “I love you Mama.”

Now, Elvis recorded a lot of Gospel music, but it’s hard to know how he related what he read and believed to how he lived. I sympathise with him, and no one should stand in judgment. And we should remember that, 61 years ago yesterday when he introduced his new single Hound Dog on the Milton Berle Show and shocked the world by wiggling his hips, he probably wasn’t thinking about world revolution. Yet, he changed music for ever, didn’t he?

Now, Martin Luther and Elvis Presley are not equals in what they achieved, but they both knew about what Christians call grace. Both show that the world can be changed by ordinary people who take the risk of doing something extraordinary – usually without calculating the cost or the consequences. Both men were conflicted – a bit of a mess in many ways. Which makes them just like you and me.

You can see why Elvis called his home Graceland, can’t you? Maybe ‘Love me tender’ was a plea. Hounded by the dogs of other people’s demands on him, he still, ultimately, found himself in the same place as Martin Luther… and me: all shook up by mercy.

Yesterday was Remembrance Day (der Volkstrauertag) in Germany.

I left Erfurt on Sunday afternoon, having taken part in the morning service in the Predigerkirche. This is where Meister Eckhart was the prior, and you can still touch the wood that he touched when leading his Dominican monks in worship here in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century.

The service was packed – loads of young families with loads of children, elderly people, and everything in-between. The Lektorin who preached was excellent. I just brought a Grußwort at the beginning of the service, then enjoyed the rest of it without responsibility.

It's always instructive to share in someone else's memory. The poignant-yet-triumphant patriotism that sometimes characterises Remembrance Day events in England was entirely absent. Not only is Volkstrauertag for remembering the dead and the fallen in war, but it is also for rehearsing what caused war in the first place.

No romanticism, then, in the place where Hitler did his worst – and even the Roman Catholic Cathedral still has a wooden carving in the chancel of a Christian crusader knight on his horse fighting (and defeating) a Jew riding a pig. No sanitising of history here in order to shape a different – or more convenient – narrative. No hiding behind fantasy from the shocking consequences of conventional inhumanity or fearful silence.

I was reminded of a line from RS Thomas's poem The Evacuee: “… she leaped from a scorched story of the charred past”.

The other place that brings this home is outside the Stadtkirche in Wittenberg. This is the town where in 1517 Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche, thus igniting what became the Reformation. This is where the grace of God was found and proclaimed… and where the Stadtkirche still has built into its exterior (just below the eaves of the south-east end) a relief of Jews being baited in a pig sty. It could have been removed as an offence – and this was considered at the time it was rediscovered after German reunification when buildings neglected by the soulless DDR were being renovated in the 1990s. But, it was kept as a reminder that history cannot simply be removed in order to temper our contemporary sensibilities… and beneath it was placed a permanent memorial to the Jews of Wittenberg who experienced a more contemporary form of the old brutality.

Sitting there in Meister Eckhart's church yesterday morning another German memory revived in my mind. In 1999 I stayed for five weeks with German friends in Jakarta, Indonesia. While there I was taken on a trip through Bandung and other places. Up in the hills one day we drove for miles, visiting a tea plantation and then heading up into the terraced hills. Way off the beaten track we came to a small settlement in the middle of nowhere and I had no idea why we were there.

A short walk led us to a small cemetery containing (if I remember accurately) just half a dozen European-style graves. The story goes that during the Second World War a group of German soldiers was posted here. When the war ended, so ashamed were they of what had been done both by them and in their name, that they decided not to return immediately to Germany, but to stay and serve that small community of Indonesians. They all died of diseases fairly quickly and they are all buried here. The German Government pays for the upkeep of this small piece of earth that is pregnant with both the sadness and generosity of humanity.

Everywhere there is a story to be told and a story to be heard. And often the heard story will challenge the prejudices, preoccupations and absolutisms we nurture when confined to the familiar and the assumed.

The final bit of memory on Sunday actually arose the previous day. I was shown round the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Severikirche by the Dompropst. The Severikirche contains the tomb and relics of St Severus who was elected Bishop of Ravenna in 342AD. Two things struck me whilst standing before the tomb: (a) there is a clear relief showing the Holy Spirit sitting on the head of Severus, identifying him as the one chosen by God to be bishop; and (b) atop the tomb the reclining figures of Severus, his wife and his daughter.

Think about it. (I asked the Dompropst what the Pope thinks about the great saint-bishop having been a married father and still chosen by God and the church to be a bishop. This led to an interesting conversation – for which I am very grateful – about the nature of priestly ministry, celibacy and other matters close to the church both here and there.)

(And then I got my highest ever score for my fantasy league football team…)

 

When I suggested I might post 9.5 Theses from Wittenberg (a poor substitute for the 95 Theses Martin Luther supposedly nailed to the door of the Schlosskirche in 1517), I didn’t think it would be too difficult.

It is.

It is commonly thought that Luther, angry with the dodgy theology of the Pope, launched the Reformation and split the Church. However, Luther was doing more than this. The Church was raising funds to build St Peter’s in Rome by selling forgiveness and guarantees of heaven to gullible sinners. His protest was not just at the control-freakery of the Roman Catholic Church and its dodgy theology of atonement, but was also a strike against the political, cultural and economic power of the day. It was rooted in theology, but was aimed at ‘the Powers’.

So, against whom would he protest today? Not just the Church, but those political and cultural ‘powers’ that imprison people in today’s world. He went to the heart of what made life worth living for people of his world: key to this was the radical idea that you could be made right with God (happy?) without being manipulated by the Church. So, the Theses I propose here are aimed at wider targets than just the Church, but they include the Church.

Anyway, here goes (but I admit it sounds a bit trite – I can’t work up the anger of a Luther and it’s late):

1. Today’s big lie is that you can earn or buy happiness. Consumer culture is seductive, but things won’t being you joy. Nor will working yourself to death. There is more to life than ‘stuff’. Freedom from our slavery to consumer culture can be found in discovering that we are known by a God who cannot be surprised.

2. Systems are supposed to serve people, not the other way round. Visa does not make the world go around. Money might bring power, but it does not necessarily bring freedom and it certainly brings accountability. If banks cannot be allowed to fail, why can millions of poor people? If banks can be saved, why is it the poorest who will suffer the most?

3. Economic decisions have moral consequences – what is done in one part of the world affects real people everywhere else. Everything is connected and moral responsibility for the fate of others cannot be ducked. (That also goes for discouraging use of condoms in Africa…)

4. The material world should not be exploited by today’s powerful or greedy consumers, the price being paid by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We must be prepared to pay a price for reducing our consumer demands. Responsibility means making hard choices now.

5. Celebrity culture is a form of distraction therapy from the reality of the world. Think of Weimar Berlin… or Marx’s ‘opiate of the people’ observation (which he aimed at religion). Ask why our media collude in this destructive and ridiculous fantasy.

6. Get a sense of perspective. Human beings might be clever, but we are not omnicompetent and we are expert in screwing up the world, ourselves and our societies. It is not clever to be selective in our historical remembering, harbouring grievances from long ago that serve merely to fuel (justify?) our corporate resentments and narcissism. (And, pace the French, you can’t just pretend Europe’s Christian history – for good or ill – did not happen…)

7. Security will only be found where the security of ‘the other’ is also protected. Building fences and walls will not ultimately protect – just prolong (and justify?) the cycles of violence. Love of one’s neighbour makes forgiveness possible and new relationships imaginable. Self-protection without regard to the security of others is futile.

8. Those who hold others to account must themselves be made accountable. Freedom of the press cannot be extricated from the responsibility of the press to act justly, fairly and accountably. If no other group (MPs, for example) can be trusted to police themselves, then why should the media be allowed to do so?

9. Hierarchies of victimhood are a symptom of a feeble, introspective and rootless culture. Some Christians (including the Pope) and others who think Christians are being ‘persecuted’ in Europe need to drop the whingeing. Vigorous debate should be enjoined with confidence, joy and freedom. Not surprisingly, this demands a recovery of intellectual rigour and apologetic confidence.

9.5. The Christian Church should get into perspective its primary vocation which is to look, feel and sound like the Jesus we read about in the Gospels. Anything else is a fraud. The divisions between Christians – and the ways they are expressed – are a scandal, an offence and a distraction for the world that needs to discover joy, freedom, forgiveness, new life and generosity.

OK, this is a start. I could have written 9.5 specifically addressed to the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope while he is in my country and I am at the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. I could have addressed them to the Church of England, business, the banks, the ubiquitous gambling industry or the military. I could have addressed them directly to myself. It all gets a bit confusing in the end.

So, there is my ‘starter for 9.5’ (as it were). Over to you for your ‘Theses’ to ‘the powers of this world’.

In 1517 Martin Luther is purported to have nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, an act that ignited the Reformation in Europe and divided the Church. (Of course, it divided much more than the Church and much blood flowed as a consquence. But, it is naive to draw a straight line between the Luther’s action and the bloodshed without recognising the inextricable interplay of culture, politics, economics and education.)

Well, here I am in Wittenberg, having happily and efficiently completed a substantial part of the Meissen Commission’s agenda and about to do a tour of the Lutherhaus. The sun is shining – unlike the first time I came here in February 2006. Then it was freezing cold, windy and inhospitable. It was then that I was struck by my own thesis that the Reformation could never have happened in southern Europe. It goes a bit like this:

  • In the climate of northern Europe you have to associate indoors with people you choose to speak with. This means it is easy to argue, discuss and see the world in narrow terms.
  • In southern Europe, where the climate is warmer and drier, people spend much more time outside and, therefore, bump into lots of other people. This shapes both conversations and views of the world. It also slows life down.
  • No wonder, then, that northern Europe is Protestant and southern Europe Catholic.
  • Stand in the snow and wind in Wittenberg and you realise why Luther was impatient and had a bad temper…

So far nobody has pursued this suggestion, let alone agreed with me that there is a question worth pursuing!

The story of Luther nailing his Theses to the church door is disputed. No matter, the Theses were disseminated quickly via the equivalent of the Internet of the day. Printing was not welcomed by many in the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the grounds that control is lost when any old pleb can get hold of, read and interpret stuff like the Bible for him- or herself. Luther not only saw the potential and importance of new media, but exploited them to great effect.

Now, I promised that while the Pope is in London I would post not 95 Theses on the church door, but 9.5 Theses on this blog. The intention is partly just to make me think about what might be spoken to ‘power’ today. But, now I am here I have hit on a problem: what or who today is the equivalent authority to the Roman Catholic Church of Luther’s day? In other words, to whom should my Theses be addressed?

There is a wonderful medaeival map in the British Library that places Jerusalem at the centre of the world. The geography represents status, authority and claims to universality in the things of the world. It just looks curious and amusing now. Britain is stuck at the bottom left of this map rather than in the middle of the northern hemisphere as in contemporary maps. Having been in the Vatican it is easy to see how the Curia can think itself to stand at the centre of the world today. But, this is a curious notion when seen from the outside.

The Roman Catholic Church is huge. But it cannot ignore the fact that there are more Christians outside it than inside. In real terms, it is one church among many. This might be an inconvenient and ecclesiologically suspect statement/perspective, but one only has to step back a bit from planet earth to see that the Christian Church is rather big and widespread and more differentiated than we would perhaps like. Simply maintaining that Lutherans, Reformed, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and Anglicans are ‘ecclesial communities’ (rather than ‘proper’ churches) looks increasingly limited.

This fact is unavoidable when we sit (as I am doing this week) with Christians of other histories, cultures, ecclesiologies and traditions and see our own in relation to them. I am praying for the meeting of the Pope with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the world is changing rapidly and common Christian cause should be seen to be more important than constant talk about who is in and who is out.

However, this still leaves me with a problem – here in the place where Papal Bulls were rejected nearly five hundred years ago. Would Luther have been arguing with the Roman Catholic Church today, or would there be a greater ‘authority’ (with greater claims over human life, destiny, values and potential) against whom he would have felt himself compelled to protest? If so, who or what might that authority be?

After all, Luther wasn’t simply obsessed by ‘theology’ (in a privatised, churchy or introspective sense), but by the invitation and demands of God in the whole of life. Power, whether political or ecclesiastical, was always limited: God was top of the pile. And human flourishing depended on (a) getting the theology right and (b) living it out.

So, to whom should I address my 9.5 Theses? And what should they be?

Suggestions welcome before I post tomorrow…