Christian Union Mission Week
Today is a big day in the seemingly interminable quest for women bishops in the Church of England, but it really won't change a thing. Honestly, really it won't. Absolutely not.
But what does have the potential to transform lives is the Christian Unions' Mission Week. His Grace had no idea this was taking place until @TheVicarsWife alerted him, and it really is far, far more important than issues of gender and sexuality at Synod.
There are more than 200 Christian Unions on university campuses, representing around 20,000 Christians from across the denominations. The UCCF mission is straightforward: "Living for Jesus and speaking for Jesus at university; we want to give every student in Britain an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus."
This is about students reaching students with the gospel. Of course, Christian Unions are active in mission all year round, but this week is specifically set aside for outreach. Some of you will doubtless write this off as the superficial zeal of crash-bang-hormones, but you judge harshly. Consider the programme - THIS IS JESUS - from the Cambridge Christian Union. It is slick, professional and charged with gospel truth. If the medium is the message, this is laden with enticing credibility. And this - JESUS: CASE CLOSED? - from Imperial College, is vibrant, original and acutely relevant.
Here's another one from Aberystwyth University: just take a look at the sorts of 'Search' topics they address:
Can we have a purpose without God?It is easy to forget that starting university can be a profoundly lonely and depressing experience. Many teenagers are leaving home for the first time in their lives - having to cook meals, wash and iron clothes, manage a budget, cope with debt, as well as handle a myriad of academic pressures and negotiate complex relationships and emotions. In this increasingly secular age, few leave school with much knowledge of Jesus at all, or even a basic awareness of the contents of the Bible. There is often aversion or hostility, mainly due to the subtle inculcation that Jesus was a dude but Christianity just isn't cool. It is often not until students are confronted with the big questions that they are open to thinking about Jesus, and Christian Unions have an immensely important role to play in feeding the hungry, guiding the wanderer and loving the lost.
Does Jesus exist?
Is faith rational?
What does Jesus offer?
Is there only one way to God?
Who was Jesus?
Does God allow suffering?
Why did Jesus have to die?
Why would God send people to Hell?
Did Jesus rise again?
This isn't formulaic evangelism, but acute pastoral care. CUs are charged with teaching and preaching the Word, but often become proactive spiritual consultants in some daunting and occasionally impossible situations - bereavement, drugs, pregnancy, abortion, breakdown, failure - each a cry of despair and a cause of the deepest spiritual longings. Faithful CU members are lay ministers, earthed in their communities, supporting and nourishing their peers while trying themselves to focus the lenses through which they may interpret a confusing and ambiguous world.
Some Christians preach an inaudible gospel; others a partial one; still others an incomprehensible one. Christian Unions are effective witnesses because they inhabit the world they seek to reach: they understand their context and their audience. As Lesslie Newbigin asked and observed:
How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.Those who praise God at university are the ones who are charged with explaining God's message to those who are being lost. Pray for them - especially this week - that the fruits of their labours will ultimately praise God in the world.