Four years ago, two blokes got together in a back room at Southwark Cathedral. One of them was Rt Rev Nick Baines (now Bishop of Bradford) and the other was me. We talked, we laughed, we argued, we discussed, we ruminated. Most of all, we had a conversation, and out of that conversation a book was born. 8 months ago that book, with a Foreword by Nick, was pubished.
One of the concepts we discussed in our conversation was the idea of confident humility – in other words such a confidence in the things we believe that we can expose them to scrutiny and debate in the marketplace of ideas without fear. In the book, it came out like this:
People who would speak of their faith need to do so with a kind of confident humility. Because they are confident of their beliefs, they are happy to share them, and even to expose them to scrutiny, without fearing that they will be destroyed. With all humility these convictions are offered up to the international and inter-cultural conversation of faith and philosophy without feeling that this places them in any danger. The people who can do this are confident in their beliefs, but humble enough to know and accept that not everyone will agree with them. They are both confidently humble and humbly confident.
Since the book was published, I have become ever more convinced that the world is more attracted by open conversation than closed certainty. If they are interested at all, the world would rather know what the church is discussing than what it has decided, I think. Not only that, but the digital space provides one of the most fertile environments for such a conversation to unfold. Over the past year these are examples of some of the conversations I have enjoyed through Twitter:
- a conversation with an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi concerning what we wear to worship and how it affects our self-perception.
- a conversation with a feminist comedienne and a tech journalist about depictions of women
- a conversation with the creative agency behind a national advertising campaign about the importance of verbal communication in an image rich age.
- Perhaps most excitingly of all was a conversation which unfolded just after Easter with a Muslim journalist. We were talking about the nature of romantic love and faithfulness. I directed her to a post I had written about how my wife and I interpreted resurrection hope in the light of personal trauma. Before I knew where I was, she was forwarding this post about Jesus’ resurrection to all her followers.
This is not online evangelism, as some would understand it – but then again I am not much of an evangelist. I have conversations, and I can’t help talking about faith because I believe. If God can make some use of that confident humility, then I am more than delighted!