The Anabaptist Network is working in partnership with Paternoster to produce over the next few years a major series of books on the meaning and significance of the end of Christendom in western culture.
Many Christians have focused on the challenges and opportunities of the perceived shift from modernity to postmodernity in recent years, but fewer have appreciated the seismic shifts that have taken place with the disintegration of a nominally Christian society. Although the term 'post-Christendom' is used more often now, it is generally not used with great precision and is frequently confused with postmodernity.
The 'After Christendom' series will explore the implications of the demise of Christendom and the challenges facing a church now living on the margins of western society. The various authors all write from within the Anabaptist tradition and draw on this long-marginalised movement for inspiration and insights. They see the current challenges facing the church not as the loss of a golden age but as opportunities to recover a more biblical and more Christian way of being God’s people in God’s world. For a discussion of the rationale behind the series, see www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/609
The series will address a wide range of issues, such as social and political engagement, how we read Scripture, peace and violence, mission, worship and the shape and ethos of church after Christendom.
These books are not intended to be the last word on the subjects they address, but an invitation to discussion and further exploration. One way to engage in this discussion is via the After Christendom Forum hosted by this website: www.anabaptistnetwork.com/AfterChristendom.
Post-Christendom: church and mission in a strange new world by Stuart Murray
The first volume in the series was published in 2004. This investigated the coming of Christendom in the fourth century, identified the main components of the 'Christendom shift' and traced the development and subsequent decline of Christendom over the following centuries. After explaining why Christendom as a political entity disintegrated during the twentieth century, the book examines the Christendom legacy, which consists of vestiges in church and society and a mindset that may persist long after Christendom itself is defunct. Three final chapters suggest ways in which church and mission may be reconfigured in light of the end of Christendom. Post-Christendom raises numerous issues that will be further explored in the books that follow.
To read the first chapter of Post-Christendom go to www.anabaptistnetwork.com/endofchristendom
Church after Christendom by Stuart Murray
The second book was published in 2005. It explores various questions. How will the Western church negotiate the demise of Christendom? Can it rediscover its primary calling, recover its authentic ethos and regain its nerve? The author surveys the ‘emerging church’ scene that has disturbed, energised and intrigued many Christians. He also listens carefully to those who have been joining and leaving the ‘inherited church’. Interacting with several proposals for the shape the church should take as it charts a new course for its mission in post-Christendom, the author reflects in greater depth on some of the topics introduced in Post-Christendom and the practical implications of proposals made in that book. Church after Christendom offers a vision of a way of being church that is healthy, sustainable, liberating, peaceful and missional.
To read the first chapter of Church after Christendom go to www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/260
Faith and Politics after Christendom: the church as a movement for anarchy by Jonathan Bartley
For the best part of 1700 years, the institutional church has enjoyed a hand-in-hand relationship with government. Indeed, the church has often been seen as the glue that has stopped political systems from disintegrating into anarchy.
But now for the first time in centuries, the relationship has weakened to the point where the church in the UK can no longer claim to play a decisive part in government. Faith and Politics after Christendom, published in 2006, offers perspectives and resources for Christians and churches no longer at the centre of society but on the margins. It invites a realistic and hopeful response to challenges and opportunities awaiting the church in twenty-first century politics.
To read the first chapter of Faith and Politics after Christendom go to: http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/454
Youth Work after Christendom by Nigel & Jo Pimlott
This book, an unexpected but very welcome addition to the series, was published in July 2008. The authors had read Post-Christendom and had realised that this perspective on mission and culture had many implications for youth work, especially youth work on the margins of society. Youth work, in fact, was another lens through which to investigate the Christendom legacy; just as post-Christendom was a new lens through which to search for appropriate and creative forms of youth work in a changing culture. If youth culture represents the leading edge of cultural and societal change, or at least reflects the pressures and possibilities emerging in our society, this volume may be one of the most important in the ‘After Christendom’ series. For if we can re-imagine and re-shape youth work for a post-Christendom culture, perhaps other dimensions of ecclesial and missional transformation will follow.
You can read an extract from this book by going to http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/456
Worship and Mission after Christendom by Alan & Eleanor Kreider
Alan and Eleanor Kreider are American Mennonites who lived in England for thirty years and were at the heart of the emerging Anabaptist movement here. Their jointly authored book, due for publication in October 2009, explores the relationship between worship and mission and how this relationship is crucial in post-Christendom. In worship the followers of Jesus are equipped to participate in the mission of God. This book explores the dynamics of the kind of worship that will equip and inspire us to be missional disciples.
You can read an extract from this book by going to http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/523
Reading the Bible after Christendom by Lloyd Pietersen
Lloyd Pietersen is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of Gloucestershire. This book is in three parts: in the first section the author provides an historical overview covering biblical interpretation pre-Constantine, the effects of Constantine on reading the bible and the contribution of 16th century Anabaptists to biblical interpretation. The second section forms the heart of the book in which the author takes the reader book by book through the Bible, pointing out what can be seen when reading from the margin. In the final section two brief contemporary applications of such readings are explored: reading the Bible for spirituality and for mission. The book’s thesis is that reading the Bible should be a communal activity and so the author opens ways of reading to enable readers to explore the contents of scripture together.
You can read a sample chapter by going to http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/536
Further titles planned for the 'After Christendom' series:
There are several further titles under discussion, but at this stage four more have been accepted for publication by Paternoster.
Preaching after Christendom by Glen Marshall
Hospitality and Community after Christendom by Andrew Francis
Women and Men after Christendom by Fran Porter
Emotions and Relationships after Christendom by Jeremy Thomson
Other books that explore post-Christendom themes:
There are various other books, not part of the 'After Christendom' series and not all written from the same perspective, which engage with the issues raised by the transition from Christendom to post-Christendom and explore related themes. These include:
Scott Bader-Saye: Church and Israel after Christendom (Westview Press, 1999)
Craig A Carter: Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective (Brazos Press, 2007) You can order Rethinking Christ and Culture at Metanoia Books in the UK.
Rodney Clapp: A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society (Downers Grove: IVP, 1996)
Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch: The Shaping of Things to Come (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004)
Michael Frost: Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2006)
Vigen Guroian: Ethics after Christendom (Eerdmans, 1994)
Douglas Hall: The End of Christendom and the Future of Christianity (Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 1996)
Stanley Hauerwas: After Christendom? (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991)
Stanley Hauerwas & William Willimon: Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991)
Philip Jenkins: The Next Christendom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Harry Maier: Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom (Westminster: Fortress Press, 2002)
Hugh McLeod (Ed.): The Decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750-2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Stuart Murray: Beyond Tithing (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2000)
David Smith: Mission after Christendom (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2003)
Bryan Stone: Evangelism after Christendom: the Theology and Practice of Christian Witness (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007) For a review, see http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/464
Nigel Wright: Disavowing Constantine (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000)
'After Christendom' study guide
If you are interested in accessing a study guide to the first two books in the 'After Christendom' series, go to www.anabaptistnetwork.com/book/view/293
You can download here an illustrated summary of Christendom/post-Christendom in pdf format. The second version is formatted so as to enable you to print it off as a booklet.