"Eccentric and Anarchic" again

After I had posted yesterday’s blog my brain was still buzzing with one particular word. Organogram. So I went searching for it and now I make no apologies for re-posting this slightly edited post from 2016.

I reason that if I could forget so completely, after studying Toolkit Two so assiduously, perhaps this repeat may help all the young, and not so young, clergy struggling with MAs and MALs and other horrors, which were created before they were even ordained. 

So here is some of what I posted under the title “Eccentric and Anarchic” on August 29th, 2016. But first I thought I’d add this selection of ‘Brand Images’. They will make the page look pretty and it seems a waste not to use them since they must have cost a lot to get designed.**

“I used to wonder how long it was going to be before Bishops worked out that ‘secular’ not only is not working but is actively putting people off. The answer isn’t going to be found in 2020 Vision – Unlocking Your Potential, Toolkit Part 2.

“For those who have been lucky enough to miss this blundering step forward in organising a church let me give a bit of history. This particular Vision applies to the Anglicans in Wales, but something like it could well be coming to a church near you soon. The Bishops decided to get three experts to review the situation, tell them why so many people were leaving the church and suggest what should be done about it. We all know what Experts are, don’t we? Ex-has-been; spurt-a drip under pressure. The experts they chose were a former bishop from the dreaming spires of Oxford, a former professor of the London Business School and a former Chair of the Scottish Episcopal Church Standing Committee.

“To get information for the Review they had a jolly around Wales, looking at various churches—I hope they took in a few castles as well; that might have given them food for thought—and talking to senior clergy, bishops’ advisers and staff from the Welsh theological college of St Michael’s, which was threatened with closure two years later. They also met 1,000 people in public meetings, which is the worst possible environment for voicing your deepest worries and fears. They then went away and produced a Review, published in September, 2012 which lead to 2020 Vision.

“When Toolkit Part 1 of this Vision landed in my lap in 2014 I was secretary to my Parochial Church Council so I had to struggle with it. The Bishop of St Asaph, when promoting this ‘Vision’ several times mentioned the word ‘radical’. Even then my over-riding thought was, ‘Radical is not enough. Revolution is what’s needed.’

“Now here is Toolkit 2 – still trying to unlock the potential of the remaining few.

“It is written in trivial ‘management speak’. Somewhere there are ‘Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ but if you are hoping for something worthy of St Paul you’ll be disappointed. This kit is definitely modern, secular, of this world—worldly.

“Here’s an example. ‘A SAMPLE Mission Area Decree with annotations attached explaining its purpose and effects.’ That’s eight pages (without the notes) of jargon. Skip it.

“However, “The Seven Steps to a Mission Area” has a bizarre fascination. The good news of Jesus Christ is mentioned, just in case we’ve forgotten that all this is happening in an attempt to revitalise His Church. I’ll reproduce Step Four to show what I mean.

“‘A strategic Mission Area Executive (MAE) is formed to look at recommendations and devise a development plan for the first five years. The MAE is accountable to the MA Conference (MAC) and led by a potential Mission Area Leader (MAL) or elected Lay Chair. The Shared Ministry Team (SMT) will represent those who offer a range of ministries. MAs need to be aware of existing training and how to access more specific and effective training to meet the needs of their MA.’

“The bit of the toolkit I found most fascinating is this Organogram. (The spell checker accepts it quite readily so it must be a real word.)” It takes up a lot of space but if I make it any smaller you won’t be able to read the bottom line which I think represents the individual church Treasurers. They are the people, apparently at the bottom of the heap, who undoubtedly have the hardest row to hoe.

[I’m sorry this image is cock-eyed but perhaps that’s appropriate.]

What isn’t clear to me is exactly to what or to whom the middle arrow on the left is pointing. Possibly no one knows, which would explain a lot.

“Here is another organogram.

“For a start I can’t work out what’s important here. With Flow Charts you start at the top and things flow down. And there are Venn diagrams and Pie charts, where size matters. With Mind Maps you put the most important thing, the reason for everything else that you want to say, very big and bright in the middle.

“I can see the circle for congregation but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It looks as though they are to be told what to do by the Church Committee (CC) and the Mission Area Conference (MAC), which may or may not include any ordained clergy, while collections of multi coloured conferences, groups, boards and teams float around doing – what exactly?

“After I’d written the rough draft of this blog I started to wonder what would happen if the Bishops and the Deans and their Chapters (DCs), and the Archdeacons and the Area Deans (AADs) and the Chaplains and the Licensed Ministers (LCs) and the members of the Nurturing Steering Group (NSGs) and all the other people in those circles, were to put on their cassocks and robes, best suits and smartest clothes and go into town centres and up and down village streets telling people about the simple rules for a good life in that little book called the New Testament. Of course they would all be arrested. That’s the point! Can you imagine the headlines? The list of broken laws would be long, beginning with breaching the peace for preaching it.

That would be eccentric and anarchic and it might just work.”

**The Brand Images may have come free. Bishop Gregory designs coins and it has just struck me these are reminiscent of the ‘Thrupenny piece.’

20:20 VISION

Here we are at last. 

This is the year that the Vision for the great revitalisation of the Church in Wales finally comes to fruition.

We have climbed the steep slopes to the top of the mountain and now we can stand and admire the view.

Trouble is, when I think about standing on a mountain peak I remember my New Zealand sister-in-law. On one occasion, while visiting us, she took the train up Snowdon. It was beautifully sunny when she left us but by the time the train reached the summit the weather had closed in and she could see little through the mist and cloud. She wondered if she could get her money back. Apparently, if you go whale watching in New Zealand you get your money back if you don’t see any whales.

I think I would like my money back from the Church in Wales!

Way back in 2012 the bishops announced an in-depth review of the state of the church in Wales on the run up to its centenary in 2020 as an independent church. The Chairman of the Review was the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, together with Professor Charles Handy, a former professor at the London Business School and Professor Patricia Peakes, a former Chair of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. (We all know what has happened there.)

At the time I remember thinking that the ivory tower of All Souls College, Oxford, home to Lord Harries, was not an obvious place to begin a review of churches in impoverished mining villages in the south of Wales or the dwindling rural communities in the north. Anyway, this threesome interviewed over 1000 people throughout the Principality and 2020 Vision was the result of their investigations, cogitations and, I hope, their prayers and meditations.

The Review reminded us that “the church is a great institution designed to carry the Gospel message through the ages.” No disagreement there.

It also challenged us on the need for “urgent” change, particularly in the way our churches were set up. The biggest change was the decision to ditch (the Review said “move beyond our system of”) parishes and deaneries and create Mission Areas. (I’m always on my guard when people use five words when one will do.) The fact that many of the clergy now refer to Misery Areas tells you all you need to know. This change would lead to a group of church communities no longer being “inward looking” but would go out into the communities they served. I hope this is true for big towns but it has had the reverse effect in the great, wide, magnificent countryside which makes up most of North Wales.

I only know what is happening in the Diocese of St Asaph, where we have been ‘Unlocking our Potential’ for the last eight years. In Wrexham, for example, Bishop Gregory has spent £2 million of the £10 million given to the Church in Wales, on buying the old Burtons/Dorothy Perkins store on, can you believe, Hope Street. It was clearly meant!

A “brand image” as recommended by the Bishop for use with 20:20 vision. A keyhole. Get it?

One of the things the Review pointed out was that people no longer have to go to church on a Sunday morning for a coffee and to meet people because shopping is the new leisure activity. So it makes every kind of sense to open a “Church/Shop” in the middle of a Mall. Also, an old department store will feel much more welcoming and normal than any of the eight churches in the Rectorial Benefice of Wrexham with their odours of sanctity, overtones of religion and sense of a sacred space.

In my Mission Area things haven’t worked out quite so well. The congregation has halved in number from 40 to 20 and three of those remaining members turn 80 this year! We don’t complain. We struggle on with amazing fund raising efforts and we still manage the occasional community event for the village. But we do it alone without the support of either the Vicar or the wider Mission Area, who, nevertheless, want us to hand over any money we make for the benefit of the wider community. I’m sorry if this sounds selfish. I am not alone in giving very happily to something tangible like more tiles for the church roof or dealing with the damp. Once my groat reaches the MAL who knows where it ends up! Administration? Support for a bishop’s jolly? Money for roof tiles for a church who has failed to fund raise adequately? 

I’m afraid the bishops are asking a lot and giving very little in return. The changes they identified to “re-energise and re-invigorate our life and ministry across the country” are not happening here — but the bishops are doing OK.

Lots more brand images the bishops would like you to use.

Welcome to the Waffling Moronarchy

What does ‘waffle’ mean? The first meaning is a noun and describes a batter honeycomb pancake—crisp and sweet. The second is a verb meaning to speak or write equivocally. Nothing crisp or sweet about that, but something that happens far too often in the Church in Wales.

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This is the Bishop Elect of St David’s

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This is her mission statement

The above picture and quote are from Ancient Briton’s most recent blog. As so often he has been my inspiration, although I don’t think “inspire” is quite the right word. In this blog, he also mentioned “The Time is Now” conference in Llandudno in November 2014. It was things to do with that conference, particularly the YouCubes, that were the straw that broke this Anglican camel’s back. Sadly, everything the Church in Wales has said and done since has convinced me I was right to leave.

Take that phrase The Time is Now. When Archbishop Barry Morgan thought it up he probably believed he was being, modern, with-it, appealing and above all original. Actually, it’s a daft phrase. Of course the time is now. Good Catholics acknowledge this fact every time they recite Hail Mary. “Pray for us sinners, now and in the time of our death.”

Type the “time is now” into Google and you will discover that the time is now for practically everyone. Cybersecurity; sustainability reporting; time banking; LGBTQ youth (natch). It’s even the now time for the “global elimination of Dog-mediated Human Rabies.”

What’s more, most of these websites use many of the same words and phrases as the CinW. Seek to empower; drive to implement; revitalise energy; share resources, skills and good practices; meet the challenges. You’ve heard or read all those words before, many times, by senior clergy bragging about their visions for potential or by CEOs boasting at their AGMs, but have you ever read anything remotely like that in the gospels?

Remember these words from Isaac Watt’s hymn—Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God.

These words proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Would it be a good idea to hear them much more often, alone and unadulterated, outside church, in press releases, for example, rather than this constant banging on about exciting and fresh ways of doing what, exactly? I much prefer a prayer that begins ‘Our Father,’ to one that limits me to ‘God of renewal and transformation’. (That last is the God invoked by the MAL of the Aled MA)

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Absolutely nothing has changed for the better since I published this blog in April, 2016

Here is what the Archbishop said before The Time is Now Conference.

“We want to do ‘church’ differently so that the great resources we have can be used much more effectively than at present.  Hopefully, this conference will be a chance for people from all over the Province to share what they are doing, learn from one another, be enthused and inspired and take away a clear vision for the future of the Church in Wales.”

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Here’s a picture taken a few days before that conference. It looks like a warehouse preparing to send supplies to earthquake victims or refugees. In fact, it is a cathedral and the boxes are empty.

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Here is the Arch Waffler celebrating the Eucharist on an altar made of empty boxes.

Says it all, doesn’t it.

I look forward, in hope, to a time when the Bible is read straight, without cutting out all the nasty bits about Satan and sin, and the clergy admit that only the Truth, not wishy washy weasel words, will set us free.

Today is Election Day in America and we all know how ghastly the run up to that event has been. So why am I writing about something so parochial on such a day. This is a small province on the edge of a small island with only 1% of the population involved in this Moronachy. Why bother? Because Great Britain doesn’t look too Great at the moment, the United Kingdom is anything but and it is often easier to see a universal problem by concentrating on one small aspect of it.

God bless (help) America!

Binary Bishop for St David’s?

Any bets on the soon-to-retire Archbishop of Wales achieving a final glory?

St Davids Cathedral.jpg

As so often I am indebted to Ancient Briton, this time for his latest blog, Deception. This has both informed and inspired me and also given me some small seeds of hope.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 10.25.00.pngHow encouraging to find the Governing Body of the Church in Wales at last confessing to “a heavy heart.” It’s a pity they’ve taken so long to appreciate what the rest of us, both in and out of the church, have been suffering for years. I do wonder, though, whether the Standing Committee will take note “as a matter of urgency”. There might have been some hope if they had stuck their collective fingers in the holes in the dyke when they first appeared. Instead of which they stuck their fingers up at those who advised caution on the subject of SSM and the whole mad 2020 Vision fiasco. Now, I’m afraid, all they can do is man the lifeboats. Secularism, the LGBT brigade and the “read the Bible anyway you like” theology have inundated the Church in Wales.

If Jayne Ozanne has her way it will wash away the Church of England as well. (We talk a lot about washing away sins—we just never thought it meant our churches.) By following the links in Ancient Briton’s blog I now know much more about her and have watched the video of her interview with Ruth Gledhill. Well, she’s certainly a name dropper! She seems to number as her mates most of the great and good among the most senior clergy. When she ‘came out’ she had lovely letters from them, reassuring her that she was a child of God. What did she expect? I was taught that in Sunday School. What’s more it was at a time when Hitler was still alive. I realise now that my two Sunday school teachers must have had an extraordinarily firm faith to take that on the chin and explain it to five year olds, to remember and hang on to more than 70 years later.

There are two things that immediately worry me about Ms Ozanne. First her YouGov poll which, she claimed, showed 45% of the 1500+ Anglicans surveyed supported same sex marriage. Unfortunately, a goodly number of those same Anglicans also think pornography and adultery are all right.

My other worry is this. She says she came out when she “fell madly in love” and entered into a relationship with another woman which lasted six years.

In my book, if she had been heterosexual, she would either have been living in sin, as we so quaintly used to put it, or she would now be divorced. Either way, I don’t think that’s anything to boast about.

Shades of Sir Humphrey

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 16.04.12.pngThat popular diocesan magazine Teulu Asaph is at it again. In the last issue the editors explained Mission Areas to their readers. This time they have called in the Venerable Peter Pike, Archdeacon of Montgomery to explain the tortured terms more fully. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand them either.

The first question he is asked is “What is a church committee?”  The first part of the answer is easy. Each church may elect its own Church Committee (CC) to be responsible for running itself. [That word ‘may’ is interesting. Does it mean that a church may choose not to accept this responsibility? If not, who will?] This CC will do all those things which PCCs currently do, except for matters now given to the Mission Area Conference (MAC).   At this point the Archdeacon is reduced to quoting from The Decree (whatever that is) to explain what bits MAC will now take over.

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“The Mission Area shall appoint a Mission Area Conference which shall have the powers and responsibility of both the Parochial Church Council and the Deanery Conference as set
out in the Constitution (sections 4b and 4c) including, but not limited to, promoting the whole mission of the Church and assessing the needs of the Mission Area in respect of finance, personnel, and buildings and property.” This is Sir Humphrey speak with a vengeance.

 

 

Do you know anything about the Fog Index of readability or the Flesch reading ease score? Or the one I really like which is the Smog score. [Simple Measure of Gobbledygook] You really need to if you want people to read what you have written, and, more importantly, understand it.

If your sentence is 8 words long everyone will understand it. 9-14 words and your readers will absorb 90% of what you’ve written on first reading. 20 words is a good modern day average. Clever writers like Dickens could have sentences of 30 words but not too often. Increase the sentence length to 43 words and only 10% will make sense of it without effort. You would need a reading level capable of absorbing a legal document.

The sentence which forms the third paragraph above is 65 words long!  I fed it into one of the readability test websites for their analysis.

They gave it a score of 0.3 and added the comment, “That’s really hard going. This is at the same reading level as the Harvard Law Review. Chances are, you could do a few things to simplify it.”

I then put this bit of the Gospel according to St Mark, chapter 1 40-44, through the same readability test.

“40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”

They gave Mark a score  of 79.4 and commented, “Nice. That’s the same reading level as Harry Potter.”

 

Disclaimer!

GENESIS 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-11 at 09.37.18.pngI think I should make it clear that I did not tamper with the text of this bit of the advert for tomorrow’s service in any way. It is just as it left the printer.

However, in our Humpty Dumpty world it is sometimes difficult to work out which word to use in any given situation. If you are likely to be travelling around in New York any time soon I would advise you to keep your mouth firmly shut. Sit next to a bearded man on the metro and refer to him as ‘he’ and you risk a hefty fine because he thinks of himself as ‘she.’

However, for those of you who get confused beyond L and G let me explain.

B is Bi-sexual, but can also stand for Bi-gender.  (Not to be confused with Defoe’s Big enders in Gulliver’s Travels)

T, here, is transgender, but it can also stand for trans sexual and Two Spirited. Two spirited is used by some indigenous North Americans to describe people who seem to have both male and female spirits within them. Perhaps the Bishop of Grantham could be one of those.

Q here means Questioning. It’s a personal description and seems to mean puzzled; it doesn’t apply to people who can’t work out if they are sitting next to a man or a woman. Q can also mean Queer and is now an OK word. For people of my generation it was a pejorative description for homosexuals, and  it fell out of use many years ago, to be replaced by “gay.” Apparently, it is a rude word no longer.

I’m not sure if Intersex is a medical term but it describes those relatively few individuals who are born without clearly defined genitalia.

Asexual means you couldn’t give a damn one way or the other. You are thus spared an awful lot of angst and frustration suffered by those who are either/or or both/and.  What I don’t understand is why, if you are well out of all this confusion, you would want to label yourself among them.

There are more categories that probably you should be aware of lest, through ignorance, you give offence. Pansexual is the exact opposite of Asexual. Then we come to Agender.  (This word is not to be confused with Agenda, though many of the LGBT brigade certainly have one of those.)  They also call themselves genderless, genderfree, non-gendered or un-gendered. The OK2BME website, which provided me with this information, explains that “This category includes a very broad range of indentities which do not conform to traditional gender norms,” so I’m not surprised I’m having difficulty getting my head round it. There is also Gender Queer which is another ‘umbrella’ term for “those who are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.”

At this point in my research I ran out of steam, rather as I did when faced with all the explanations about unlocking my potential through 2020 Vision. There again you need a codebook to enable you to make sense of all this Humpty Dumpty speak. For those who still have the energy, you have the website and there are three more categories—Bigender, Gender Variant and Pangender—to wrestle with. There is also a School Colouring Contest, whatever that means.

 

 

 

Eccentric and Anarchic

 

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How to save the Church in Wales

 

If I had been in a certain Cardiff church yesterday morning I would have heard the preacher say: “If God’s measures are eccentric and anarchic in the extreme, how can we be sure of our invitation?” My feeling is we can’t be sure of anything until we become eccentric and anarchic ourselves.

Many years ago I read a book called, ‘Weird, because normal isn’t working,’ by Craig Groeschel. I seem to remember it got very weird and I gave up, but since then I’ve often thought of the words of the title.

How long have our clergy been doing normal? By normal I mean the stupid tinkering little changes intended to make church increasingly friendly by becoming increasingly secular. This includes:-

  1. Pastors in chapel being sacked for quoting Corinthians and upsetting the prisoners.
  2. Embracing the latest fad and jumping on the newest bandwagon, such as introducing Zen Buddhism to York Minster, as though Christian meditation is too old fashioned.
  3. Abandoning clerical clothes and dressing down, presumably in the hope more people will flock to church if the vicar wears jeans and the bishops wear sweaters and anoraks.
  4. Swapping prayer books for bits of paper and re-writing the liturgy so that even the long serving congregation don’t know what’s going on.
  5. Dumbing down by using the Apostles’ Creed in place of the Nicene Creed and skipping confession because the word sin puts people off.

I used to wonder how long it was going to be before Bishops worked out that ‘secular’not only is not working but is actively putting people off. The answer isn’t going to be found in 2020 Vision – Unlocking Your Potential, Toolkit Part 2.

For those who have been lucky enough to miss this blundering step forward in organising a church let me give a bit of history. This particular Vision applies to the Anglicans in Wales, but something like it could well be coming to a church near you soon. The Bishops decided to get three experts to review the situation, tell them why so many people were leaving the church and suggest what should be done about it. We all know what Experts are, don’t we? Ex-has-been; spurt-a drip under pressure. The experts they chose were a former bishop from the dreaming spires of Oxford, a former professor of the London Business School and a former Chair of the Scottish Episcopal Church Standing Committee.

To get information for the Review they had a jolly around Wales, looking at various churches—I hope they took in a few castles as well; that might have given them food for thought—and talking to senior clergy, bishops’ advisers and staff from the Welsh theological college of St Michael’s, which was threatened with closure two years later. They also met 1,000 people in public meetings, which is the worst possible environment for voicing your deepest worries and fears. They then went away and produced a Review, published in September, 2012 which lead to 2020 Vision.

When Toolkit Part 1 of this Vision landed in my lap in 2014 I was secretary to my Parochial Church Council so I had to struggle with it. The Bishop of St Asaph, when promoting this ‘Vision’ several times mentioned the word ‘radical’. Even then my over-riding thought was, ‘Radical is not enough. Revolution is what’s needed.’

Now here is Toolkit 2 – still trying to unlock the potential of the remaining few.

Toolkit 2 is written in trivial management speak. Somewhere there are ‘Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ but if you are hoping for something worthy of St Paul you’ll be disappointed. This kit is definitely modern, secular, of this world worldly.

Here’s an example. “A SAMPLE Mission Area Decree with annotations attached explaining its purpose and effects.”  That’s eight pages (without the notes) of jargon. Skip it. The Seven Steps to a Mission Area has a bizarre fascination. The good news of Jesus Christ is mentioned, just in case we’ve forgotten that all this is happening in an attempt to revitalise His Church. I’ll reproduce Step Four to show what I mean.

A strategic Mission Area Executive (MAE) is formed to look at recommendations and devise a development plan for the first five years. The MAE is accountable to the MA Conference (MAC) and led by a potential Mission Area Leader (MAL) or elected Lay Chair. The Shared Ministry Team (SMT) will represent those who offer a range of ministries. MAs need to be aware of existing training and how to access more specific and effective training to meet the needs of their MA.

The bit of the toolkit I found most fascinating is this Organogram. (The spell checker accepts it quite readily so it must be a real word).

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For a start I can’t work out what’s important here. With Flow Charts you start at the top and things flow down. And there are Venn diagrams and Pie charts, where size matters. With MindMaps you put the most important thing, the reason for everything else that you want to say, very big and bright in the middle.

I can see the circle for congregation but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It looks as though they are to be told what to do by the Church Committee (CC) and the Mission Area Conference (MAC), which may or may not include any ordained clergy, while collections of multi coloured conferences, groups, boards and teams float around doing – what exactly?

Toolkit Part 1 had plenty of photos to jolly things up. However, most of the people sitting around tables consulting about their unlocked potential looked a lot like me. My age, my shape, my look of bewilderment. At my time of life I can’t cope with organograms, or MACs, or EMAs or modern toolkits that don’t even include a spanner to throw into the works.

After I’d written the rough draft of this blog I started to wonder what would happen if the Bishops and the Deans and their Chapters (DCs), and the Archdeacons and the Area Deans (AADs) and the Chaplains and the Licensed Ministers (LCs) and the members of the Nurturing Steering Group (NSGs) and all the other people in those circles, were to put on their cassocks and robes, best suits and smartest clothes and go into town centres and up and down village streets telling people about the simple rules for a good life in that little book called the New Testament. Of course they would all be arrested. That’s the point! Can you imagine the headlines? The list of broken laws would be long, beginning with breaching the peace for preaching it.

That would be eccentric and anarchic and it might just work.