Session 4

Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalised Jesus and has left the churches ill-equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.

1. Reflect quietly on this conviction and then (if you can) share with one or two others your response to any of these questions:

  • How (if at all) does this differ from what you have known and believed before?
  • Who do you know who lives out this conviction and commitment?
  • How does this conviction inspire your imagination?
  • How does this conviction challenge or empower your faith?
  • How might this conviction impact the way you live?
  • 2. Read the article from Anabaptism Today that explores this conviction:

  • What questions does this article raise for you?
  • What aspects of the core conviction does it not address?
  • Are there elements of the article or the conviction with which you disagree?
  • Are there elements that you strongly affirm?
  • 3. Check whether there is any difference between the current version of this core conviction and the earlier version on which this article was based. If there is:

  • Why do you think a change was made?
  • Which version do you prefer?
  • Are there further changes you would propose?
  • 4. How do you regard the ‘Christendom shift’ in the fourth century – as a courageous attempt to Christianise society, as unfaithful compromise with empire, or something else?

    5. What are the gains and losses as Christendom comes to an end in western culture?

    6. Which vestiges of Christendom do you regard as inappropriate and unhelpful – in church or society – and how can they be removed?

    7. How do you answer those who ask why, if Christianity is true, so many Christians have behaved so appallingly over the centuries?

    8. Now that the church is once more on the social margins, what new opportunities do we have?

    9. What liturgical resources – songs, prayers, poetry, icons, rituals, etc. – do you know that might enable you or your church to express and celebrate this core conviction and renew this commitment?

    NB: Further resources for this session can be found at www.postchristendom.com and www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/293