How did I get to here? I often wonder! I was brought up with Church, the child of a Baptist Manse, baptised as a teenager, then a deacon, youth leader and even a Minister (briefly) - but always a bit of a rebel.
After taking a Sociology degree and CQSW at Bath University, (the first boy from my stuffy grammar school ever to go on to study such a subject), I began my professional career in 1974 as a social worker with the now defunct Avon County Council. In those days social workers were generic, not knowing much about everything! Then, following the sudden death of my father - who was also rather unconventional - I decided to take a break and study theology at the radical Northern Baptist College and University of Manchester. This was suicide as far as many Baptist Churches were concerned but opened my eyes to a world of academic thinking and experimental worship and practice-based theology. My 'faith' had to grow or die now that it had emerged from its safe little world.
I did a postgraduate theology degree (First Class!) focusing especially on church history and social and moral theology. I even learnt to read the NT in Greek, (which I've now forgotten). I also spent a short time at the World Council of Churches Study Institute at Bossey in Geneva. These were exciting years in the late 1970s and early 80s as I encountered the whole area of contemporary debate about God, the incarnation etc. In those days the nation was actually interested. But the Church soon closed it all down and has retreated into a mixture of fudge, denial and inevitable decline.
Because it seemed the logical next thing to do I then became a Minister myself for over 5 years in a Midlands brewery town. But I'm not sure that such a role was ever right for me. I simply didn't have the confidence in what I was supposed to believe, though those outside the Church seemed to welcome my interest and care. I generally felt more at home there! So I then went to work for the Diocese of Lichfield Board for Social Responsibility at the time of 'Faith in the City', helping parish churches to make connections between what they did on Sundays and the rest of the life of their local communities.
But I had become increasingly sceptical about traditional Christian beliefs so when that job ended I went back into social work and Education Welfare as my full-time career. I carried on occasionally preaching and leading services for another 10 years as a Church of England Lay-Reader in two Stafford parishes, then pretty much walked away from any involvement in church life in 1999.
As well as my day-to-day work, I published widely on the educational implications of the Children Act 1989 and other welfare issues during over 20 years' experience in Staffordshire and Wolverhampton Local Authorities until I took early retirement in 2011. I then ran courses and worked with schools as an Independent Consultant and Trainer until I retired again from active work in early 2020.
I know I have set myself an impossible task - to redefine 'Christianity' without a God. I am nobody important or influential - just one beggar telling another beggar where there might be some bread. But this journey won't last forever, so this Prodigal is returning to ask some awkward questions before it is too late.
I am also the Convenor of the East Shropshire and Wolverhampton group of the Progressive Christianity Network.
There are those who argue that support for Ukraine is misplaced. Of course NATO, including the UK, has been far from innocent or consistent in its response to other injustices and in its choice of friends. The talk of escalation on both sides is very worrying. Some refugees are clearly more welcome than others. I accept all that. But Putin created this crisis. He has dangerously raised the stakes by his invasion. The suffering he is causing is immense, including clear crimes against civilians. Calls for ''peace"' are meaningless when there is no genuine willingness to draw back. So I stand with Ukraine and its people, but with a sad and heavy heart. Yet there are also many stories of generosity, courage and simple human kindness: these are surely evidence of the 'Kingdom', or as I would put it, the 'God-ness' within and around us. But a 'God' will not intervene to solve this disaster for us. We can only try to find at least some encouragement in these human signs of hope. And keep Jesus, himself the victim of murder, at the heart of our thinking.
Make a loan. Change a life.
Support small businesses in developing countries with microloans. Then, when the loan is repaid, you can lend the same money again!
The Jesus story is a 'myth' for our times which, if looked at differently, can still tell us a deeper truth about life and how to live it well. The Christian 'religion', however, is a set of doctrinal claims based on pre-scientific assumptions that no longer fit with modern knowledge. No wonder most people have rejected it. It may be best to leave a 'God' out of it and move on.
In Study Resources you'll find a PowerPoint (with audio) on 'Who Wrote the Bible'? This is so important and so often ignored. And some Discussion Notes on the classic book from the 1960s, ''Honest to God' which still raises so many key questions that have never been answered.
Book Reviews suggests some reading which I've found helpful.
Friendly Feedback is always very welcome. Please let me know if you have found my ideas interesting.