Missional Musings 3

These notes and some following posts come from my seminar at the Mission of God conference where we began to try to think about how the missional purpose of the church actually impacts practice of how we ‘do church’ in what is increasingly a post-Christendom Ireland.

A simple proposition: if the way we have ‘done church’ has been deeply shaped by Christendom then how we ‘do church’ in a post-Christendom climate will look different.

Of course, tons has been written about this, mostly in an American context. And its easier said than done to suggest how church might work differently in an Irish post-Christendom context.

Christendom in an Irish context was as strong a version as perhaps anywhere in the world. The table shows its main characteristics and how they are changing. This is ‘big picture’ stuff which we’ll keep discussing over the next while. Any thoughts?



The fusion of church and state

Ireland, North and South did a pretty good job of this. Independent Catholic Ireland took it further through extensive legislation of Catholic morality.

Fragmentation of church-state relationship

Ongoing repeal of 20th C legislation and the state increasingly detaching itself from personal moral choices whatever they are – within the law

everyone ‘belongs’

Religious identity was comprehensive and all embracing

Increasing pluralism

religious identity one amongst many

belief in God-ordained structures for the place of the church

This attitude shaped 20th C Catholic Ireland

Public role of  the church increasingly questioned and peripheral

One sociologiest of religion suggests that contemporary Ireland is fleeing from the past in ‘disgust and panic’ at what it was.

‘bounded set’ – strong boundaries of belief

Protestant / Catholic division and competition

No centre / margins left – a swirling pool of opinions

Cultural, social, religious pluralism

Assumption that people come to church – part and parcel of the culture – ‘attractional’ church No assumptions can be made.A new missionary context

New models of how to do church

Assumed ‘Christian society’ – the ‘Christian West’ or ‘Catholic Ireland’

Everyone a ‘Christian’ – high rates of nominalism

Clarity that there is no such thing as a ‘Christian society’

Increasing clarity and discussion over the question of what constitutes Christian committment

Church practice designed around the central and important role of the church

Building; clergy; budgets; weekly Sunday ‘event’

Reshaping of church structures and practice – ‘mission from the margins’

The challenge for local churches to be communities of missionaries

Religious leaders – tremendous power and respect and influence

With unchecked authority followed unaccountable and awful behaviour; abuse; cover-up; self-interested protection of teh institutional Catholic Church

Radical reversal of fortunes for religious leaders and churches – ‘bad news’ of the church

The challenge for leadership marked by humility, respect, engagement, living with difference, transparency


One thought on “Missional Musings 3

  1. One positive outcome of post-Christendom is God’s people realising that they ARE the Church.

    Hopefully, there will be a re-balancing of Great Commission, with an emphasis of BEING the Church – a Royal Priesthood, rather than a cultish group just DOING church, verbally fixing folk.

    Does this table apply to contemporary Ireland Patrick? I mean, it looks very similar to that which I have seen for U.S and U.K contexts. And, is it broad sweep of all denominations, or more specific?

    Could we get the latest stats up here for Ireland perhaps?


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