Archive for March, 2009

Zen Bishop

The new Bishop-elect for the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan is in hot water with conservatives in the US because he practices zen. See articles on The Times website here and here if you want to read more.

There are a couple of things I want to say about this:

1. Firstly, as Ruth Gledhill points out in her article,  it’s sad that once again when truly unbelievable things are going on in the church (the Nazi bishop who wasn’t excommunicated etc.)  that this is the kind of story that makes the headlines.

2. It seems quite clear to me that Zen is not a religion but a philosophy or set of practices. There is no God in Zen. As such I don’t think there is any reason to think that a Christian can’t also find Zen helpful. I do. Bishop Kevin says that Zen practices deepen his relationship with Christ. I think I would say the same. As the Irish Jesuit William Johnston points out in his book ‘Christian Zen’, there is a difference between Zen  and Zen Buddhism. A Zen approach can be taken to any of the religions – so we could have Zen Judaism, Zen Islam, Zen Christianity as well as Zen Buddhism. I think Zen helps us to see but doesn’t tell us what we should see (a helpful phrase I have taken from Richard Rohr’s analysis of Eckhart Tolle) – i.e. Zen is about process not content.

I am resolutely Christian – for me it’s all about Christ who is the ‘really real’ (to borrow a phrase from Gregory of Nyssa). But there is stuff in Zen that can help me receive Christ and follow Christ and which I can learn from. Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr have been saying this for a long time!

So let’s lay off Bishop Kevin!


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img_9438The Stillpoint launch on Wednesday night felt like a significant moment in my life – a moment of stepping into a new chapter and embracing a new vocational dimension.

120 people joined us at The Phoenix cinema to hear about the vision Ian and I are crafting for (and through) Stillpoint, and to  engage with Jamie Catto from 1 Giant Leap and his films – someone I think really has his finger on the pulse – and also to listen to Bishop John – the Bishop of Oxford.

Some may be sceptical of someone like Bishop John or see him as representing religion (bad) as opposed to new spirituality (good). But Bishop John really cares about the work Ian and I are doing and has a passion to see the church nurture a depth of spiritual experience. So we were really glad to have him there and his generosity has made it possible for us to get Stillpoint off the ground so he is very much a friend of Stillpoint.

Anyway – it was a good night and seemed to really resonate with a wide variety of people which is a really positive thing. Really pleased that both church people and non-church people connected with it and we very much want Stillpoint to resource all kinds of spiritual seekers without people feeling like it’s a way to get people to come to church (it’s not!). Of course it was just the launch so in a sense the real work now begins – next up is the Stations of the Cross art event at easter (more details on our site). There are also some photos from the launch night here.

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Sorry for the recent blog silence – I have been busy…mostly with the following (and isn’t it ironic how busy one can become organising something called ‘stillpoint’!)

We are launching Stillpoint on Wednesday this week (March 4th) at a special event in The Phoenix Cinema in Jericho, Oxford.

We will be joined by the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, and also by Jamie Catto – one half of 1 Giant Leap (“genius film makers” according to Bono). We will be presenting the vision for Stillpoint and talking to John and Jamie as well as showing some chapters from 1 Giant Leap’s latest film, ‘What About Me?’

We have had a really good response to the invites we’ve sent out but we still have some spaces available. If you would like to come please let me know (leave a comment to this post).

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