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Can Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton save the Church of England?

15 December 2012

9:00 AM

15 December 2012

9:00 AM

Just before stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Robert Runcie told me — in a sotto voce conversation during the General Synod — that charismatic evangelical parishes such as Holy Trinity Brompton (‘HTB’) in South Kensington, with their American-style worship, near-fundamentalist teaching and smart social connections, posed more of a threat to the Church of England than divisions over women priests. I wonder how he would have reacted to the news that, 21 years later, an HTB man has been given his job.

Justin Welby, only recently appointed Bishop of Durham, is being translated to Canterbury with a minimum of fuss. His name just ‘emerged’; David Cameron, his fellow Old Etonian, had invited him to go to Lambeth before the media had even worked out who Welby was. Looking at the situation from the perspective of 1991, Dr Runcie (and I) might have said: ‘Aha! That’s how HTB works. Don’t be misled by the happy-clappy exuberance. Its urbane pastors spread their influence quietly. Look at the way they win converts to Bible Belt Christianity with a deceptively casual invitation to a drinks party. Like a cult, really. Welby? Must be a Manchurian candidate…’

But if he were alive today, and had kept track of Holy Trinity’s growing influence in the Church, I suspect Dr Runcie’s reaction would be quite different. He might say: ‘Thank God that, between them, Downing Street and the ecclesiastical appointments committee have found a man from the one bit of the C of E that actually works.’ Evidence? A simple introduction to Christianity known as the Alpha Course, devised by the parish in the 1970s and still very much the intellectual property of HTB, has now been done by 20 million people across the world. In the process, Holy Trinity Brompton has changed — to the point where choosing one of its alumni to become Primate of All England seems an entirely natural step. Or, to put it another way, the Church of England’s last chance to pull itself together.

When I visited HTB at the beginning of the 1990s, the vicar was Sandy Millar, a former barrister educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. His curate was a tall, thin man with saturnine good looks and crinkly black hair called Nicky Gumbel, also a former barrister educated at Eton and Trinity. Justin Welby is Eton and Trinity, too, though before his ordination he was a senior executive in the oil industry rather than a lawyer. My first impressions of HTB services were unsettling: there was a quaint mismatch between the Christian rock anthems, designed for Californian arm-waving, and the natural reticence of the Barbour-and-cords/Puffa-and-pearls worshippers, for whom waving was something normally reserved for your hosts after an agreeable country weekend.

OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. HTB in those days struck outsiders not only as very posh but also very Protestant — and not in an Anglican way. I interviewed one young woman who remembered the point at which she decided that the whole operation was too ‘cultish’ for her. ‘There was a carefully placed box of tissues at the prayer meeting, for the moment someone cried when the Holy Spirit descended,’ she said. ‘It felt like emotional manipulation.’ Archbishop Runcie had also heard that sort of story; it was one of the reasons he felt he had a cuckoo in the nest.

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The charge isn’t fair now. Nicky Gumbel, still thin and handsome but with grey crinkly hair, has been vicar of Holy Trinity since 2005. He didn’t invent the Alpha Course — designed as an introduction to Jesus for non-believers or lukewarm churchgoers — but it’s thanks to his nervous energy that it has spread to 169 countries. In 1996, Cardinal Hume invited a team from HTB to Westminster Cathedral so he could discover whether it was compatible with Catholicism. ‘That really took us by surprise,’ Gumbel told me over tea in his vicarage last week. ‘It wasn’t just that they were so enthusiastic — it was that we hardly had to change anything when we developed Alpha for Catholics.’

Actually, the bigger surprise is that HTB — which at one point in its history would have regarded Catholics as barely Christian at all — is so Rome-friendly: literally so, in that Gumbel has friends and supporters in the upper reaches of the Vatican. ‘I love Catholics,’ he says with great emphasis, and it’s interesting that he doesn’t use the term ‘Roman Catholics’, which always sounds slightly sniffy to Catholic ears. He met Cardinal Ratzinger shortly before he became Pope, and told him about his own German-Jewish ancestors — something that, coincidentally, he has in common with Bishop Welby.

But doesn’t Holy Trinity sometimes use the Alpha Course to poach Catholics? ‘No! When they do Alpha I say to them: do not come to HTB but go back to your Catholic parish. It’s part of the Church and I love the whole Church.’ Again, this is a shift from the days when HTB, despite its comfortable berth in South Ken, seemed to represent a radical fringe — Bible-bashers using the C of E as a flag of convenience, said critics.

It didn’t help that Holy Trinity had a reputation for ‘planting’ congregations in moribund parishes and stripping the altars, obscuring the reredos with a projector screen and generally dismantling the liturgy. But one of its most recent plants, St Augustine’s in Queensgate, has kept its Sung Eucharist, vestments and incense. The internal divisions of churchmanship are collapsing here. No one should be surprised that Bishop Welby remains very close to HTB while also drawing on Benedictine spirituality.

What’s the next Archbishop of Canterbury like? ‘Justin’s a modest chap — for example, when we were at Trinity he never mentioned that the Master of the College, Rab Butler, was his great-uncle,’ says Gumbel. ‘But he’s also a natural leader, and the Church of England tends to be frightened of leaders because there’s always the danger that they might offend someone. So when he first put himself forward for ordination, it was made clear to him that of the thousand people interviewed he wasn’t in the top thousand.’

Gumbel is a natural leader, too: his confident but self-effacing holiness reminds me of outstanding Catholic priests such as Fr Alexander Sherbrooke of St Patrick’s, Soho, who would have been bishop long ago if the English Catholic hierarchy wasn’t even more terrified of talent than its Anglican counterpart. If we set aside, for a moment, important theological differences, we can see a chasm that runs through rather than between denominations. It divides Christianity done well and Christianity done badly.

At the 11.30 service at HTB last Sunday, the Christian rock anthems were performed by professional musicians. They sounded nothing like the disgusting racket of ‘folk Masses’ inflicted on Catholics throughout Britain; in security of intonation, if nothing else, they had more in common with the Palestrina and Victoria sung at the London Oratory, the giant neo-baroque church next to Holy Trinity which also falls into the category of doing Christianity well rather than badly.

HTB, like the Oratory, now has a multi-ethnic congregation. On Sunday I sat next to an obviously prosperous Chinese couple on one of the sofas that the church reserves for latecomers. (Incidentally, I can’t recommend the service-on-a-sofa experience too highly, though it’s hard to see how it could be made to work at the Oratory.) The worshippers were mostly well-off — and the sermon, by a young curate called Miles Toulmin, was artfully tailored to yuppie temptations: shopping, social media, internet porn and ‘the biggest idol of all’, the craving for success at work. Toulmin employed the split-second timing of a stand-up comic: that is, a professional expertise rarely displayed by the hand-wringing mediocrities who become archdeacons or monsignors simply by turning up to committee meetings.

In the end, leadership goes hand in hand with an attention to detail that can spill over into demanding perfectionism. This is as true of the Church as it is of society as a whole. As Nicky Gumbel says, Christian leaders can offend people — not by accident, as the current Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster manage to do, but semi-deliberately, because they know that worship and evangelism lose their edge at the first sign of sloppiness. A spirit of amateurism has been sucking the life out of English Christianity for decades now; we’ll know very soon if Justin Welby can use the lessons of HTB to breathe some of it back in.

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Show comments
  • Crosso

    I really can’t understand why this, like a previous report a couple of weeks ago in The Spectator, make mention of HTB as a cult. HTB is a popular church, there is nothing strange or excessive about anything I have encounteredor heard of as a regular attendee of this church for the last couple of years. If these harmful assertions are repeated without evidence, is such reporting informative journalism or just cheap innuendo?

    • http://www.davidlowry.co.uk davidlowry

      In my reading the two uses of the word cult were clearly from archival quotes and not current opinions. Wonderful to read such a broadly positive article on the church from the mainstream media.

  • musicman

    I, as a Catholic, would love to see a HTB influence on Catholicism in England, not in place of traditionalist sentimentalities but in addition to them. Lets do contemporary well and let’s do traditional well.

    HTB’s recent olive branches to Rome (and vice versa) are excellent signs for the future. If just a handful of people in my parish had the passion of HTB I would be very happy, regardless of whether we are using praise and worship music or Gregorian chant.

    • PJ Campbell

      Musicman, what you are talking about already exists in the form of Youth 2000, which attracts thousands of young Catholics every year

  • HTB Member

    I totally with this article, straight to the point. I can only summarise my opinion in these few words, as a regular at HTB Brompton, St Pauls and St Augustine in Queens Gate all they have in common is uniformity, lack of spiritual duties within local communities. Celebrity driven manifesto, relying on intellectual wisdom, and not Godly One, not operating under HIS authority, but theological nonsense, the case of most churches nowadays, as if they are afraid to frighten away congregations and heavy tighthers. The word “SIN” is hardly mentioned, the first we were asked, when first joined one of their pastorate sessions: Is what we do as Work? To scale us down and measure our positions and social status, soon after, not even couple even ten minutes away from the end, the host ladies turned away from us, ignored us, and what we got, was second hand gazes, saying we are not welcome, later on that same evening, the lady asked us to contribute towards food, as if we went there, to fill up our bellies or as scroungers, then towards the end session, on our departure, an American of Asian origin, who appeared in Louis Vuitton dress, was asked and invited to stay over for a glass of champagne! That said it all, and we left bewildered, to our astonishment to our degraded treatment. Where is Christ in all of this as One family and organism, instead we felt we have joined an organisation growing in numbers, celebrity and worldly status. This is what I can only describe as a “Conservative Party in Prayer” I thank the Journalist above, I totally agree with you 120% of your conclusion the truly the “Cult” virus affecting all churches nationwide, the enemy is still good at his work, hearted out the scriptures and substance and Persona of Christ and replaced it reasonable deception. He is master deceiver and truly kept succeeding. Pastors and Vicars are appointed according to their background, intellectual and theological achievement lacking spirituality, not called and anointed by God.

    • David Wilson

      Well – HTB have a great prayer ministry – and are starting a 24-7 prayer room. They also do ex-offenders rehabitation and food bank. These are not the ministry activities of the prosperity gospel. The sermon I heard last month, by someone who is going to serve Jesus in helping ex-sexworkers and the sex slave trade, on giving away your money.

      I imagine their membership is ironically much more broadly base sociallythan 20 years ago compared to today, because of the success of alpha. I was surprised when I went to HTB Onslow square of number of blokish preachers.

      The real problem with love of money is that is the acceptable face of the prevaling culture. No doubt there are many affluent people who join HTB. HTB are successful in actually getting new members – which means that they face problems that other dying churches do not have. One can equally have a love of money and have no money – but as Jesus said your heart is where your treasure is. One can only pray that the love of Jesus increases and they are convicted to lose their love of money. I have been to successful expositionary preaching churches – which also suffer from a love of money in teh congregation – it is their biggest problem. When you ask the vicar why this is – he says I can only continue to preach about the love of money.
      There are many people in the church who agree that alpha – which is just the first proclamation of the gospel – has been very successful in bringing people to church – and therefore it is very much of God. For you to say that Nicky Gumbel, is not called and anointed by God is not borne out by the facts.

    • David Wilson

      If you are honestly a member, why are you still a member?

  • george

    It’s great to see the church making a difference in today’s society. HTB HAS had a positive impact and many people will testify to the life changing experience they’ve encountered through taking an Alpha course.

  • G R Anderson

    HTB is representative of the flourishing evangelical and charismatic movements in Anglicanism around the world. Another classic example is the Anglican Church of Nigeria which has gone from about 5 million active members to well over 20 million active members in the last few decades. Likewise Uganda’s Anglican Church has over 10 million members in their pews every Sunday and the number is continuing to increase. Even “Down Under” the Anglican Diocese of Sydney has about 5000 more people in its parish churches every Sunday than what it did a few years ago. These facts are helping the public to understand that the words “moribund” and “Anglican” don’t go together anymore.

    • Randal Oulton

      Too bad the Uganda Church has to advocate the slaughter of minorities to get enthusiastic bums in its pews. The churches you cite make it seem like “christ” and Anglican don’t go together anymore.

      • G R Anderson

        I think you’ll find that the Ugandan Anglicans are saving not slaughtering minorities. It’s a big difference.

        • Raman_Indian123

          So you are happy with Black immigrants?

  • Randal Oulton

    Sorry, been through the happy clappy, prosperity gospel phase. It’s really very very shallow — and American. No thanks to a repeat.

  • Michael990

    I look it at in the same was as I look at Islam. Both sinister cults for the dim.

  • Raman_Indian123

    Christianity itself is the biggest of deceptions, based as it is on the palpably false assumption that Jesus was a Christian when he was in fact a devout Jew. He believed fervently in the full Mosaic code, and declared that he had come to preach only to Jews. Paul and the so-called Church Fathers scrapped much of the Mosaic code so dear to Jesus and made converts among gentiles. They also launched a more virulent anti-Semitism than any ever known. All this was horrific from the viewpoint of Jesus the Jew.

    People like Gumbel keep braying at all and sundry to follow Jesus. But Jesus was a Jew and to follow him one has to join Judaism, not Christianity.

    When people steadily tell “Christian” hot gospellers this, that the Saviour was never theirs, the life will begin to go out of Christianity. True ideas are very powerful.

    • David Wilson

      Raman – I have a friend who is an ex-president of the Hells Angels – a motorcycle gang. It was Jesus who saved him 30 years ago – and for 30 years was a prison pastor. He has done remarkable work. He told told me once, that the Lord would often speak to him before he went to see a particular prisoner – with the words – this one will believe – and he did. When you see His love then you will know He is love – and He is God. Last month I met an Iranian human rights activist – an ex-muslim – who had an encounter with Jesus in a Tehran Prison 30 years ago, when he was being tortured.
      You make the false assumption that Jesus is not actualy living.

      • Raman_Indian123

        Fine. So convert to the religion of Jesus: Judiasm.

        • Peregrinus

          That is what Christianity is: the radical interpretation and fulfillment of the Law of Moses to include all people.

    • Crosso

      Hi Raman_Indian123, the Christian faith is based on the fact that Jesus (Yeshua) was a Jew. The death and resurrection of Jesus wouldn’t have meant anything to humankind had it not been for the fact that he, a Jew from the line of David, followed the Law perfectly and fully. His sacrificial death fulfilled the consequence of the Law, which is death, so humankind can now be free from death and spend eternity in the presence of God, the same God as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, YWHW. Jesus having fulfilled the requirement of the Law means that we now no longer have to follow the Old Covenant Law, as by grace we can be accepted by God as righteous if we have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice as being sufficient for us. We now turn away from our own ways and follow the Law of Christ as described in the New Testament. Paul together with the ‘so-called Church fathers’ were all Jews whom Jesus gave authority to ‘bind or loose’ on earth the Law. What they decreed was as authoritative as Old Testament scripture and is recorded in the New Testament and they decided we didn’t now need to follow all of Old Testament Law, such as food restrictions. Jesus, the Jew, freed humankind from the Law by his death. If we put our faith in his sacrifice we are free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Happy Christmas!

      • Raman_Indian123

        That sort of rationalisation – that someone gave you the authority to disregard vital things he himself lived by – is the stock-in-trade of all corrupters and distorters of great teachers. Stalin claimed he was a devout Marxist even as he flouted the most central canons of Marxism.

        Jesus lived by the Mosaic code, which was almost completely scrapped by Paul. Paul, accordingly, was no real follower of Jesus, nor are Christians Jews. The Church Fathers were virulent anti-Semites, too.
        To follow Jesus one needs to be a Jew, not a Christian.
        Scholarship increasingly sees Jesus as a Jew (see the books of Geza Vermes and Hyam Maccoby) and this will in time destroy the Christian fabrication.
        Happy Hannukah.

        • Crosso

          Shalom

        • Peregrinus

          Hannukah ended on Dec. 16 — two weeks ago.

          A few more facts that you should check – the Church Fathers strongly disagreed with the rejection of Jesus by some Jews and welcomed other Jews. They were not anti-Semitic; some of them were Semites.

          The virulent persecution of the first four centuries, when the Fathers were writing, was against Christians! The Romans were systematically murdering Christians with the aid of other groups. Check it out.

          The “virulence” today seems to be the hatred you share with others for Christians who do more to bring healing and comfort to people regardless of race or religion than any other group, organization or nation e.g. the Catholic Church is the largest deliverer of aid in the world — this is an established fact. They don’t just deliver it to their own faithful but to people of all races, languages and creeds.

          The first people you see brining aid in the worst situations are Christians, aid workers, nuns etc. This is a simple irrefutable fact about what Christians both Jewish and Gentile do in light of their faith in the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth.

          • Raman_Indian123

            The usual self-serving churchianity propaganda – claiming all virtue for yourself and denying anyone else even an atom of it. Typical huckstering drivel. Increasingly, scholars are stressing the character of Jesus as a very observant Jew, who could not imagine working for anyone except the House of David. Christianity was the invention of Paul, who was to Jesus what Stalin was to Marx: an unscrupulous power seeker who used the image of a prophet and distorted his ideas without scruple. Of course he claimed to be a devout follower of Jesus, even while scrapping the Mosaic code that was so precious to Jesus. In just the same way, Stalin claimed to be a Marxist.

            Jesus was a communist – he disdained property. He did not know of the Communist Manifesto, but then, he hardly knew what Paul was going to do to distort his specifically Jewish message either.
            Take Jesus and restore him to the Jews, and see how foamingly enraged the “Christians” get.

            Without nearly 2000 years of ferocious Church anti-Semitism, there would have been no Holocaust. It was Christian emperors of Rome who systematically treated Jews as social lepers and forced them to wear the yellow patches that Hitler enforced on them later.

          • Peregrinus

            You neglect the truth about the persecution of Christians (e.g. Jewish Christians like Peter and Paul) executed by the Romans and the thousands of other martyrs who went to their deaths affirming their faith in Jesus the risen Messiah whom they had encountered. So many went blithely to their deaths filled with faith — how do we account for this courage had they not been convinced by the Holy Spirit of this truth?

            This physical persecution of Christians goes on today in Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and numerous other places around the world. More subtle but vicious persecution continues in the West through the bile and hatred of those who write and speak lies about the Body of Christ.

            Countless Christians have suffered and continue to do so for simply affirming the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who commands that we “love our neighbour as ourself”. This is the contribution of the Church which, though all its members are not perfect, has made a greater contribution to peace, democracy and compassion than any other group in history.

          • Raman_Indian123

            Christians have been among the most ruthless persecutors in history, especally of Jews.

            A BBC reporter notes:

            Geza Vermes and Ed Sanders are two scholars who in recent years have drawn wide attention among Christians to Jesus’ Jewish origins, though Christians earlier in the 20th century (R. T. Herford, George Foot Moore) had also explored this trend, which has now become widespread and crucial within Jesus studies. At least until the 1970s, it was common for New Testament scholars to portray Jesus as a kind of prototype exponent of idealism. Many betrayed an instinctive antisemitism. They depicted Judaism at the time of Jesus as ‘late Judaism’ (Spätjudentum), as if Jewish religion had ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, or should have. This position was based on the conviction that post-exilic Judaism had ossified and betrayed the prophetic faith of Israel. It contends that Jesus stands outside such a hardened, legalistic religion, a stranger to it, condemning the scribes and the Pharisees who were the fathers of Rabbinic Judaism and who have thus misled modern Judaism into perpetuating this sterile, legalistic religion.

            Jesus was a Jew, not an alien intruder in 1st-century Palestine.”

          • Peregrinus

            Yes a Jew with distinct ideas which inspired the largest spiritual movement in history which recognized him as the Christ — the Messiah.

          • Raman_Indian123

            No other religion has such an appalling record of calculated mass cruelty as Christianity. It was certainly not kind to the Jews to tell them as the Christians did and still do that their religion was outdated or superseded and no longer had the right to exist. It is exceedingly arrogant and wicked to tell any people to abandon its faith, instead of asking them to reform it of possibly objectionable features. That would respect both the religious variety of the world and the different peoples involved.

            Jesus in any case was not a Christian, and would have had no desire to see Judaism dying when he was so devoted to it. He would not want the abolition of its traditions and customs which he observed all his life.

          • Peregrinus

            Once again. Yes, Jesus of Nazareth was a devout Jew who came to be recognized by the largest religion in the world as the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate.

          • Raman_Indian123

            No other religion has such an appalling record of calculated mass cruelty as Christianity. It was certainly not kind to the Jews to tell them as the Christians did and still do that their religion was outdated or superseded and no longer had the right to exist. It is exceedingly arrogant and wicked to tell any people to abandon its faith, instead of asking them to reform it of possibly objectionable features. That would respect both the religious variety of the world and the different peoples involved.

            Jesus in any case was not a Christian, and would have had no desire to see Judaism dying when he was so devoted to it. He would have been aghast at the notion of abolishing the rich Jewish traditions and customs which he observed lovingly all his life.

            Christians have been among the most ruthless persecutors in history, especally of Jews.

            What is worst about Christianity is its terrifying nihilism – its death wish. Faced with all the often beauteous and multifarious religious traditions of mankind, Christianity as invented by Paul is gripped with one savage, Hitlerian thought: wipe it all out! Make the slate clean. Smash all the old gods and old traditions, begun history over again and leave the various nations no memory except the memory of the Middle Eastern fanaticism started by Paul. The achievements of no other people matter: in fact they lead to hell. This is a hellishly destructive vision, resembling that of the Nazis and the Sendero Luminoso and the Pol Pot fanatics of Cambodia. If it wins, my own Hindu traditions will perish from the earth, like Buddhism and Confucianism and Shintoism and Judaism and Islam and so many other religions that give the world spiritual variety. Mankind will perish of totalitarian, culturally impoverished, history-less boredom.

          • Peregrinus

            We can only pray that you can be healed of your hatred. Such vitriol has clouded all reason.

            Today, tt is largely in countries which were founded by Christians or developed under the Western Christian influence that people are free to practise their religion: Britain, Canada, US, Australia, Europe.

            We don’t see immigration to most of the countries that profess the list of religions you claim are under threat. Why is that? People come to the West and to Christian countries because of the rule of law and tolerance which is at the heart of Christianity and which have allowed for freedom.

            Again, Jesus came to fulfill the Law not to replace it.

            Christians continue to be persecuted systematically in China, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, etc. that is in many of the places that have large numbers of the faiths you seem to think are under threat. This is the reality and is clearly documented.

            Many of the greatest supporters of Israel are North American Christians. Just ask any Israeli. Facts are facts.

          • Raman_Indian123

            I do not care for the prayers of the devotees of a cult so nihilistic that they have the sheer incredibly brutal effrontery to tell a people with such an immeasurably rich faith tradition as the Jews that their faith is redundant and should vanish. As for Western tolerance, that is not because of Christianity, but in spite of it and in the teeth of its ferocious resistance. As long as the churches had unchallenged power in the West, the place was a cesspit of savage intolerance and superstition and anti-Semitic hate.

          • Peregrinus

            So you are saying that the world improved once the opponents of the Church had control: Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot?

            The 20th century presided over the murder of more people in the name of Nazism, Communism and other atheistic ideologies than all others combined.

            Don’t give us the worn-out response that Hitler and Stalin were baptized. It is quite clear to all real scholars that they rejected Christianity . . . and we see the result.

            If the self-sacrificial love as expressed day in and day out by Christian sisters and brothers on behalf of those of different faiths all over the world is not enough to convince you to be tolerant then you must continue to be in our prayers for the healing of your blind hatred.

          • Raman_Indian123

            Study the scholarly books of Professor Geza Vermes, a most distinguished Bible scholar, and you will see that Jesus was Jewish, not Christian.

            Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had to give Vermes a very uneasily respectful review. Williams knows this is an atom bomb that if detonated will destroy Christianity.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/book

            The truth about the Christian hi-jack of the devout Jew called Jesus has, in other words, finally got abroad. It will relentlessly spread.

          • Peregrinus

            In the article you quote, Rowan Williams aptly points to the fact that Vermes misses certain facts in the development of Christian doctrine from its Jewish sources as well as facts relating to the Roman Empire and the official development of doctrine under Christian influence.

            The development of the Jewish Christian community is described in terms of the radical teaching of Jesus regarding care for the outcasts and children — a development of the Law of Moses which was distinct from other Jewish schools of thought.

            Williams points out that most scholars agree that Jesus taught:

            “a radically simplified version of the law of Moses and the religion of the Hebrew prophets, with a special stress on the claims of those who think of themselves as having no claims – the destitute, the marginal, the failed. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of all is the way in which Jesus puts at the centre of his world the child, the one who responds without reserve to an unreserved gift of love.:

            ‘Neither biblical nor post-biblical Judaism,’ Vermes notes, ‘make of the young an object of admiration. ”

            The result Williams shows is that:
            “Parts of the [Jewish Christian] family open up to non-Jews, others don’t.”
            Williams continues:
            “This connects with an aspect of the Jewish world of Jesus’s day that Vermes skirts a little. The authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls thought of their community in its remote desert setting as the “real” temple. The great structure built by King Herod in Jerusalem was an empty shell: God did not live there but among his faithful servants in the desert. Something of this carries over into the New Testament. Where does God “live”? Among his people; his name, his full, identifiable presence, is to be found among those who associate themselves with Jesus. And if the community around Jesus is now a temple, the high priest who offers sacrifice there is Jesus himself.”

            The development of the synagogue tradition following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Roman pagans (not Christians) ran parallel to the development of the Christian Eucharist which re-presented the one final and complete sacrifice of Christ.

            The fact that these two streams developed separately led to misunderstandings on both sides but ultimately to reconciliation e.g. under Pope John Paul II. Believing Christians and Jews (not secularists and ideologues) are in productive dialogue on many levels in the world today and do much to support religious toleration generally.

            Again, these are facts on the ground.

      • Raman_Indian123

        Jesus was a Jew and a communist.

        • Peregrinus

          Did he also have a copy of the Communist Manifesto in Aramaic or Hebrew 1900 years before it was written — that would be another proof that he was God incarnate.

    • Peregrinus

      Raman speaks of:

      “the palpably false assumption that Jesus was a Christian when he was in fact a devout Jew.”

      – Of course Jesus was not a Christian, he is the Christ. Christians are those who follow and are incorporated into the Body of Christ – – the Church. That is all people: Jews first and then Gentiles.

      What is “palpably false” is your total misrepresentation of Judaism and Christianity.

      Your next false statement:
      “He believed fervently in the full Mosaic code, and declared that he had come to preach only to Jews.”

      – Of course, Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic code.

      – To say, however, that Jesus only preached to Jews is a lie directly contrary to the words and actions of Jesus himself. Jesus not only spoke and taught those who were not observant Jews, he was criticized for it by the Pharisees and other devout Jews at the time.

      Jesus made a Samaritan (non-Jew) the subject and hero of his most famous parable about caring for all people regardless of who they are. He healed non-Jews and ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus healed the daughter of a Roman centurion and spoke and taught Romans and all others he encountered.

      Your statements are not only wrong, they are preposterous, slanderous of Christians and hate-filled. May God, the Holy Spirit bring light to your darkness.

  • Raman_Indian123

    Jesus was nothing but a Jew, of course, and the churches have no claim over him. How could they, after Paul scrapped much of the Mosaic code to which Jesus gave such central importance?

    This central truth which Christianity evades – that Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian – will be more and more exposed. It will have its effect on Christian morale. It becomes hard to hector people to follow Jesus as Christians so love to do if you can sweetly reply that the man was a Jew and to follow him one has to convert to Judaism, not Christianity.

    • David Wilson

      You need to study much more. The term christian was coined at Antioch in the first century – it means little Christ. And Jesus was the Christ. John the baptist – widely recognized as the prophet of God – Declared right at the beginning He was the lamb of God, that He was the Son of God. Peter also acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ – the Messiah that was waited for.

      • Raman_Indian123

        Jesus was the prototype of a kind of person I love almost more than any other: the classic leftwing Jewish intellectual. He was a Jew and a communist.
        He was the original for Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Radek. There was nothing “Christian” about him, thank God. He was 1000 per cent Jewish, a kosher, bar-mitzvah, synagogue-going type. But despite this vast dedication to Jewish tradition he was also a real social radical. As happened to Luxemburg, Trotsky and Radek, his twentieth century successors, he was crucified by the conservatives.
        So Jesus I love, as I do Marx. He was hi-jacked by the Stalinists of the day, the Church, counter-revolutionaries who continue to exploit his name in the interests of the property holders. That hard-hearted consetrvative schemer, Paul, was to Jesus what Stalin was to Marx: a great distorter of the original radical ideas.
        But scholars are increasingly uncovering the real Jesus, who was a Jew. That will in time shatter christianity, that great blinder and misleader deployed by property owners..

        • Peregrinus

          Ignorant rubbish.

          It is hard to know where to start. Of course there were no Christians in Jesus day because he was a Jew and the unrecognized Messiah.

          Christians were all originally Jews — Paul et al. They were, if you like, Messianic Jews who saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham.

          Later, inspired by the Holy Spirit these followers of Jesus the rabbi seen to be the Messiah and sacrificed for all mankind admitted Gentiles to the community of faith (later called Church) all of whom were united to Jesus, the Christ in baptism and so became the New Israel.

          Christianity was a branch of Judaism which recognizes Jesus as Messiah. Of course Jesus was an observant Jew — that’s what Christians understand him to be.

          The Marxist comments are anachronistic nonsense . . . one could go on.

          • Raman_Indian123

            If Christians are Jews, how come they have scrapped the Mosaic code which was so precious to Jesus and by which he lived? That is why they cannot be Jews, and would not be accepted as such by him.

            He was an observant Jew – sedulously so – and they not only do not observe but have ABOLISHED the Mosaic code.

            Christians also launched the genocidal anti-Semitism that almost got the Jews exterminated.

            Once one challenges the right of “Christians” to Jesus, they panic. Thje wind goes out of them.

            Jesus was, of course, also a communist.

          • Peregrinus

            In the words of Jesus:

            “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’

            Simon Peter [a Jew] answered, ‘You are the Messiah,* the Son of the living God.’

            And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” – from THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW (a Jew)
            Chapter 16 verses 15-17

            In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament there is a very clear account of why Christian Jews (the first followers of what as then called “The Way”) were the first to be called by God into the renewed covenant — the New Israel with the coming of the Messiah. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles (all Jews) states clearly whom these Jews understood Jesus to be. For them he is:

            “the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus” – from THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 3:20

            and continues:

            ” Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people* a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out from the people.’ And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ ” ACTS 3: 21 – 25

            The first Jewish Christians in the Council of Jerusalem changed some rules regarding diet, circumcision and other rules to allow Gentiles (all people other than Jews) to join with traditional Jews in the “New Israel” (the Church). This was to fulfill the Law of Moses.

            You should read the sources before making blanket statements about how Christian Jews understand themselves.

            The Jewish Christian interpretation of the Mosaic Law was in light of what they, as Jews, saw to be the fulfillment of the Covenant and Mozaic Law made by through sacrificial blood (death) and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah – Jesus Christ.

            Reform Jews and other Jewish groups to this day are not accepted by Orthodox Jews as belonging to the Jewish people. Many Jews whose father is Jewish but do not have a Jewish mother have been denied citizenship in Isreal.

            So there is lots of disagreement within Judaism about who is and who is not a Jew. Certainly there are Christian Jews to this day — I was just speaking with some last week. They consider themselves Jews though others do not, even some who are themselves not considered Jews by some Orthodox Jews. And so it goes on.

            St. Paul proclaimed (as an observant Jew) that the “New Israel” is open to all who, like Abraham, have faith in the Gospel (Good News) about Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah. As he put it:

            “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” – from THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS 1: 16

    • Peregrinus

      Christianity is the development of Judaism based upon what Jesus taught.

  • Raman_Indian123

    Study the scholarly books of Professor Geza Vermes, a most distinguished Bible scholar, and you will see that Jesus was Jewish, not Christian.

    Even Rowan Williams had to give Vermes a very uneasily respectful review. Williams knows this is an atom bomb that if detonated will destroy Christianity.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jul/11/christian-beginnings-geza-vermes-review

    The truth about the Christian hi-jack of the devout Jew called Jesus has, in other words, finally got abroad. It will relentlessly spread.

    • David Wilson

      All we can say is that Geza Vermes has no love for Jesus – not that he is a great scholar. The blble would say he was a blind shepherd.

    • Peregrinus

      See response below.
      Williams takes Vermes up on several points regarding the radical interpretation of the Mosaic Law by Jesus and the Jewish group which followed him, developing into Christianity from its Jewish roots while welcoming people of all races.

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.brook.18 Martin Brook

    Love it.Bring it on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.brook.18 Martin Brook

    May it reach as far as Holy Island and further as soon as possible.

  • kyletwebster

    Please credit your contributing illustrators! ; )

  • Raman_Indian123

    The countless woefully ignorant “Christian” dupes who put up the dreary signs in their houses that Jesus is “the unseen guest at every meal” in their dump do not reailse that if he were there in the flesh he, a devout Jew, would require kosher to be observed. He was a Jew, you see – not a Christian. And a communist, too.

    • Peregrinus

      Jesus ate with outcasts and sinners. He was criticized by Jewish Pharisees for doing so but held to his radical interpretation of the Law of Moses and offered himself for all humans. Yes, Jesus was the perfect Jew — the incarnate son of God and a man for others — whose love has transformed the world.

  • Raman_Indian123

    Whence this deopressing determination to reduce the whole world to your dreary pattern?
    Supposing you succeed and we all end up braying praise-de-lawd and indulging in the personality cult of a devout Jew called Jesus hi-jacked for the cult – in what way will the world be more interesting? The world needs its religious variety.

    I am a Hindu and content to be one. I would like Jews to remain Jews, Anglicans to stay Anglican. Cut out the proselytising and I have no problem.
    It is curious, though, that the British preach secularism to India and are yet an Anglican state with the political leaders and the education system under Church control. Will Christian hypocrisy ever be plumbed? A hi-jacked Jewish god and a secularism reeking of religious control.

  • Raman_Indian123

    I have attended an Alpha course, and nothing could be more drearily philistine.

  • HTB Member

    Sometimes, if not most of the our worldly time spent, we are Wise we Might Think, but Wise In Our Conceit!
    HTB and its other branches, are my beloved churches, are no doubt doing good works, most of its leaders are men of God, humble and committed to their work, as too Pastors Nicky Gumbel, Ken Kosta and many others, the list is very long, are by God truly Men of Vision, and that vision I share as a faithful member of this extended family, is seeking Kingdom of God, if we are about to save Nation Great “less” and “less” each day.
    Although, my intention in my comment is wholly objective Remarque, and no more or less, I trust as a member of this family, I should not be denied the right to cast my opinion. After all the initial intention of the alpha course, that I have attended more than ten times, is The Revival in this country First before anywhere else. We need to be humble, and with humility and absolutely obedient to His Word. Unlike Mary, Joseph, as too the Wise Men in their time, had something in common worldly PLANS. But were ordered and reassured by Him, to trust in Him, and put their plans aside, but follow and obey HIS WORD. So they did , from their humble origins, God tended their to needs and fought their battles for them.
    In life of Jesus Christ Almighty, as too in the Bible, there is no where we could find mentioning the Word Money. But once only when Jesus ordered Peter to fetch a coin from a fish to pay His taxes. In Jesus Life, and His followers never they carried wallets, money nor was it in their list of primary worries, when we obey in His Word, God takes care of the rest, make no mistake of that.
    Revival is needed in this Country First, then God takes care of the rest. Politicians should come to understand, that they can never legislate quick fixes for this Nation’s well being, or save US from troubles, by legislation built on volcano of lies, or intellectual non sense, the Fix is simple and easy. We need to pray for our leaders, they might finally have a courage, humility and accept the facts. As the solution is in Him, Obedience, not Pride and overcome the Spirit of Fear and Panic. That is what we see in them every day.
    As for my church and many others.
    They should be reminded, to accept everyone in His Body: We Are Equally Sinners with no distinction.
    In Him, Blessings.

  • HTB Member

    Sometimes, if not most of our worldly time spent fooling ourselves, imposing our foolish plans, then ask God to come and bless them, we are wise, we liked to believe that, but Wise In Our Conceit!
    HTB and its other branches, are my beloved churches, are no doubt doing good works, most of its leaders are men of God, humble and committed to their work, as too Pastors Nicky Gumbel, Ken Kosta and many others, the list is very long, are by God truly Men of Vision, and that vision I share as a faithful member of this extended family, is seeking Kingdom of God, if we are about to save this Nation once Great, but now Great no more “less” and “less” each day.
    Although, my intention in my comment is wholly objective Remarque, and no more or less.
    I trust as a member of this family, I should not be denied the right to cast my opinion. After all the initial intention of the alpha course, that I have attended more than ten times, is The Revival in this country First before anywhere else. We need to be humble, and with humility and absolutely obedient to His Word. Unlike Mary, Joseph, as too the Wise Men in their time, had something in common worldly PLANS. But were ordered and reassured by Him, to trust in Him, and put their plans aside, but follow and obey HIS WORD. So they did , from their humble origins, God tended to their needs and fought their battles for them.
    In life of Jesus Christ Almighty, as too in the Bible, there is no where we could find mentioning the Word Money. But once only when Jesus ordered Peter to fetch a coin from a fish to pay His taxes. In Jesus Life, and His followers never they carried wallets, money nor was it in their list of primary worries, when we obey in His Word, God takes care of all things and the rest, See Joseph, from his childhood, knew at all times, what his brothers were planning for him, but had faith in God and obeyed, even in prison God was with him, taking care of the plotters, and the event, truly he stood and passed all tests, to become second in command, Our does not give His Power to unholy men, but to the humble and obedient, make no mistake of that.
    Revival is needed in this Country First, then God takes care of the rest. Politicians should come to understand, that they can never legislate quick fixes for this Nation’s well being, or save US from troubles, by legislation built on volcano of lies, or intellectual non sense, the Fix is simple and easy. We need to pray for our leaders, they might finally have a courage, humility and accept the facts. As the solution is in Him, Obedience, not a Pride and Narcissism. To overcome the Spirit of Fear and Panic. That is apparent, and what we see in them every day.
    As for my church and many others.
    They should be reminded, to accept everyone in His Body: We Are Equally Sinners with no distinction.
    In Him, Blessings.

  • HTB Member

    Sometimes, if not most of our worldly time spent fooling ourselves, imposing our foolish plans, then ask God to come and bless them, we are wise, we liked to believe that, but Wise In Our Conceit!
    HTB and its other branches, are my beloved churches, are no doubt doing good works, most of its leaders are men of God, humble and committed to their work, as too Pastors Nicky Gumbel, Ken Kosta and many others, the list is very long, are by God truly Men of Vision, and that vision I share as a faithful member of this extended family, is seeking Kingdom of God, if we are about to save this Nation once Great, but now Great no more “less” and “less” each day.
    Although, my intention in my comment is wholly objective Remarque, and no more or less.
    I trust as a member of this family, I should not be denied the right to cast my opinion. After all the initial intention of the alpha course, that I have attended more than ten times, is The Revival in this country First before anywhere else. We need to be humble, and with humility and absolutely obedient to His Word. Unlike Mary, Joseph, as too the Wise Men in their time, had something in common worldly PLANS. But were ordered and reassured by Him, to trust in Him, and put their plans aside, but follow and obey HIS WORD. So they did , from their humble origins, God tended to their needs and fought their battles for them.
    In life of Jesus Christ Almighty, as too in the Bible, there is no where we could find mentioning the Word Money. But once only when Jesus ordered Peter to fetch a coin from a fish to pay His taxes. In Jesus Life, and His followers never they carried wallets, money nor was it in their list of primary worries, when we obey in His Word, God takes care of all things and the rest, See Joseph, from his childhood, knew at all times, what his brothers were planning for him, but had faith in God and obeyed, even in prison God was with him, taking care of the plotters, and the event, truly he stood and passed all tests, to become second in command, Our does not give His Power to unholy men, but to the humble and obedient, make no mistake of that.
    Revival is needed in this Country First, then God takes care of the rest. Politicians should come to understand, that they can never legislate quick fixes for this Nation’s well being, or save US from troubles, by legislation built on volcano of lies, or intellectual non sense, the Fix is simple and easy. We need to pray for our leaders, they might finally have a courage, humility and accept the facts. As the solution is in Him, Obedience, not a Pride and Narcissism. To overcome the Spirit of Fear and Panic. That is apparent, and what we see in them every day.
    As for my church and many others.
    They should be reminded, to accept everyone in His Body: We Are Equally Sinners with no distinction.
    In Him, Blessings.

  • HTB Member

    Sometimes, if not most of our worldly time spent fooling ourselves, imposing our foolish plans, then ask God to come and bless them, we are wise, we liked to believe that, but Wise In Our Conceit!
    HTB and its other branches, are my beloved churches, are no doubt doing good works, most of its leaders are men of God, humble and committed to their work, as too Pastors Nicky Gumbel, Ken Kosta and many others, the list is very long, are by God truly Men of Vision, and that vision I share as a faithful member of this extended family, is seeking Kingdom of God, if we are about to save this Nation once Great, but now Great no more “less” and “less” each day.
    Although, my intention in my comment is wholly objective Remarque, and no more or less.
    I trust as a member of this family, I should not be denied the right to cast my opinion. After all the initial intention of the alpha course, that I have attended more than ten times, is The Revival in this country First before anywhere else. We need to be humble, and with humility and absolutely obedient to His Word. Unlike Mary, Joseph, as too the Wise Men in their time, had something in common worldly PLANS. But were ordered and reassured by Him, to trust in Him, and put their plans aside, but follow and obey HIS WORD. So they did , from their humble origins, God tended to their needs and fought their battles for them.
    In life of Jesus Christ Almighty, as too in the Bible, there is no where we could find mentioning the Word Money. But once only when Jesus ordered Peter to fetch a coin from a fish to pay His taxes. In Jesus Life, and His followers never they carried wallets, money nor was it in their list of primary worries, when we obey in His Word, God takes care of all things and the rest, See Joseph, from his childhood, knew at all times, what his brothers were planning for him, but had faith in God and obeyed, even in prison God was with him, taking care of the plotters, and the event, truly he stood and passed all tests, to become second in command, Our does not give His Power to unholy men, but to the humble and obedient, make no mistake of that.
    Revival is needed in this Country First, then God takes care of the rest. Politicians should come to understand, that they can never legislate quick fixes for this Nation’s well being, or save US from troubles, by legislation built on volcano of lies, or intellectual non sense, the Fix is simple and easy. We need to pray for our leaders, they might finally have a courage, humility and accept the facts. As the solution is in Him, Obedience, not a Pride and Narcissism. To overcome the Spirit of Fear and Panic. That is apparent, and what we see in them every day.
    As for my church and many others.
    They should be reminded, to accept everyone in His Body: We Are Equally Sinners with no distinction.
    In Him, Blessings.

  • Jacob Israel

    HTB? Read the truth at jesusthechristsonofgod.blogspot.com

    It will be worth your while

  • Jacob Israel

    HTB? Read the truth at jesusthechristsonofgod.blogspot.com

    Scroll down to last article: HTB, Tongues and Alpha The Crazy Charismatic

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