Spring Break with Tim

I did not plan it this way, but Tim Keller winds up being the subject this week. Reasons for further reflection on the oh so successful Manhattan pastor arise from the missus and my visit to Chicago, which has become a tradition. Truth be told, we are urbanists. We met in Philadelphia, knew something was going to knit us together after concluding that Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Manhattan were about two of the best American movies ever made, and then found that life in the city was simply more intriguing (for us) than the suburbs in which we had both been reared (Levittown, PA and Levittown, NY — the odds?). Even living in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia’s suburb in the city, for almost 15 years, we drew energy and — dare I say — inspiration from residing in the city. Going to Chicago is a way to recharge the urban batteries (though one-day trips to Ann Arbor have to tide us over).

I hope I’m proving my urban bona fides, and in so doing suggesting that Keller’s awareness of the city’s appeal is plausible (though I still don’t see much appreciation for Woody Allen in TKNY).

My criticisms of Keller, then, are two-fold. I object to his failure to carry out his duties as a Presbyterian church officer. He may be a good evangelical, even an urban one, but I don’t sense a minister who willingly conforms and belongs to the limits that come with belonging to a Reformed communion. Keller is not alone in that. Lot’s of Presbyterian pastors don’t conform to communion expectations. But as celebrity-Presbyterian-pastor-in-chief, Keller makes the way straight for coloring outside the lines.

The other objection is the way Keller benefits from being pro-urban New York City. As I indicated earlier this week, if you put Keller in Chicago or Seattle would his following be as large as it is? I doubt it. Along with this goes a sense that Keller doesn’t tell the whole truth about the city. Even as he seems to think he knows how to educate future urban pastors about how to do city ministry, I don’t think he acknowledges one simple reality — the city is gosh darn expensive. And that means you have trouble keeping families in cities once couples start rearing children. In Philadelphia, you may be able to commute relatively easily from the suburbs to Tenth Presbyterian Church. But once you leave New York’s five boroughs, you are a long way from Manhattan.

Now notice this: families are important to covenant religion.

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness. (Confession of Faith, 24.2)

Families are the only good way of socializing the young. Yes, they have lots of problems. But would you rather the state through its foster system rear children or take your chances with a man and woman who don’t have the true, good, and beautiful figured out? Or how about the church? Is the church better equipped to rear children than parents? I don’t think so.

Why is it then that Keller has so little to say about families? The index to Center Church gives the family only three entries. Google searches reveal only a few sources. Here’s one right from Keller:

Why bring children into such a bleak world? Religious persons, however, have a profound assurance that in the future is final justice, or paradise, or union with God in some form. They have an over-arching hope that makes them more optimistic about bearing and raising children.

At this point you might think I would simply say “Yay for religion, it is the friend of the family!” It is not that simple. While secularism in the West tends to make an idol out of the individual and his or her needs, traditional religion has often made an idol out of the family. According to theologian Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University, Christianity was the very first religion or world-view that held up single adulthood as a viable way of life. Jesus himself and St. Paul were single. “One…clear difference between Christianity and Judaism [and all other traditional religions] is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers.” (Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character, p.174.) Nearly all religions and cultures made an absolute value of the family and of the bearing of children. There was no honor without family honor, and there was no real lasting significance or “legacy” without leaving heirs. By contrast, the early church not only did not pressure women to marry but it institutionally supported poor widows so they were not forced to remarry as they were out in the culture at large.

Notice the standard third-way positioning. I’m not for singles, nor for families, but here is the via media. Great. But tell me how families are going to afford to live in Manhattan. And also why not tell parents how important they are for rearing children, catechizing, setting examples in the home? Any reflection also on if you can afford to live in Manhattan and both parents need to work, what do you do with a hiring a Christian nanny? Family in this Keller post is an abstraction (that does not dent his larger abstraction of the city).

I also found this, the urban pastor who came around to Keller’s idea that it takes a city to raise rear a child:

[Keller] acknowledges that three factors make it a hard place to raise kids. First, because of the prohibitive cost of everything you’ve got less disposable income to invest in your family. Secondly, he talks about the ‘physical logistics on the front nine’ make it harder to get round the city with small kids. In others words transporting small kids in the city can be a real pain. But after that, the ‘back nine’ is a real joy. Thirdly, the educational terrain is complex and hard to navigate since there are so many options and so little cash!

That is the problem. The solution? Kids turn out hip, believers, and real (really!?!).

That said he then lists eight counterbalancing factors that sway the pendulum in favour of staying put and not giving flight.

1. The kids will grow up thinking that they live in the real world rather than growing up in the suburbs and straining at the leash to get to the real world. Of course everywhere is the real world but they don’t think like that. The city is where it’s at and they know that. That’s why they want to escape surburbia or the regions as soon as they can. But if they grow up in the city they know that they live in the ‘real’ world.

2. The kids grow up knowing that you have a real faith. They want to believe that their parents’ faith is disconnected to reality. It gives them permission to be disparaging about Christianity. But they can’t do that if they know that you’ve had to work out your Christian discipleship in the real world. It undermines their desire for unbelief.

3. The kids will grow up and become self reliant, independent and confident because nothing freaks them out. As a country boy who went to sixth form with mates from the city who then moved to the ‘big smoke’ in his mid twenties, I’ve got to say he’s absolutely right on that one.

4. The kids grow up being adept at handling diversity. Most surbuban white kids don’t grow up with Muslim neighbours and Afro-Caribbean mates. But you do in the city. Their breadth of cultural engagement will far outweigh the kids who grow up out of town.

5. The kids grow up being pushed into family. The city is a relationally intense environment. It ‘forces’ families to spend lots of time together. The commute is less, the house is smaller, there aren’t any fields to escape to. It all adds up to lots of ‘face time’. If you’re into relating with your kids, that’s a good thing.

6. The kids grow up with Christian role models. In the suburbs kids grow up with a peer group. But do you really want them learning about the faith from their teenage mates? On reflection, not really. In the city they get to their teenage years and they see the Christian life being modelled by credible ‘trendy twenties’ whom they respect. In the suburbs they get to see the Christian life being lived out by guys with kids. But who grows up wanting to be like their Dad! In the city they don’t have to.

7. The kids grow up facing the issues. They’ll be exposed to a whole range of ethical issues a long time before the suburban or rural kids. Because London is like a massive University Campus we get to go to College with them before they’re even old enough to apply! They’ll come across homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, crime, sex and so on and we’ll be with them when they do. Unlike the parents in the suburbs who live out there to escape from it we have to confront it and get to help them deal with it.

8. The kids grow up without the pressure to conform. The city is so accommodating of diversity that it’s hard to think of a fad, fashion or obsession that it wouldn’t tolerate. And so the kids get to grow up being themselves, without having to become a carbon copy of others.

This is frankly a bizarre recommendation of the city. Great! Let’s rear kids so they don’t want to be like their dads #6.

Great! Billy and Susie grow up surrounded by sex, drugs, and crime #7. Retreating to the suburbs is so squaresville.

Sheesh.

What about kids who grow up without a smartphone because parents can’t afford one because rents are so high? Does Redeemer have a diaconate that helps families with the costs of living in the most expensive place in the United States?

And then I also saw this from Christopher Lasch:

If conservatism is understood to imply a respect for limits, it is clearly incompatible with modern capitalism or with the liberal ideology of unlimited economic growth. Historically, economic liberalism rested on the belief that man’s insatiable appetites, formerly condemned as a source of social instability and personal unhappiness, could drive the economic machine—just as man’s insatiable curiosity drove the scientific project—and thus ensure a never-ending expansion of productive forces. For the eighteenth-century founders of political economy, the self-generating character of rising expectations, newly acquired needs and tastes, and new standards of personal comfort gave rise to a form of society capable of indefinite expansion. Their break with older ways of thinking lay in the assertion that human needs should he regarded not as natural but as historical, hence insatiable. As the supply of material comforts increased, standards of comfort increased as well, and the category of necessities came to include goods formerly regarded as luxuries. Envy, pride, and ambition made human beings want more than they needed, but these “private vices” became “public virtues” by stimulating industry and invention. Thrift and self-denial, on the other hand, meant economic stagnation. “We shall find innocence and honesty no more general,” wrote Bernard Mandeville, “than among the most illiterate, the poor silly country people.” The “pleasures of luxury and the profit of commerce,” according to David Hume, “roused men from their indolence” and led to “further improvements in every branch of domestic as well as foreign trade.” Both Hume and Adam Smith argued that a growing desire for material comforts, wrongly taken by republican critics of commerce as a sign of decadence and impending social collapse, generated new employments, new wealth, and a constantly rising level of productivity.

Does living in New York City encourage its people to think about living within limits, to regard progress as folly, to be content with less? Is Keller for the city and all its unlimited possibilities? Or does he encourage self-restraint and find ways for his hearers to resist all of the conveniences and temptations of modern urban life? Isn’t he really in favor of a suburban existence #5 — responsible parents, respectful kids, not going into debt, refusing hedonism (except when recommended by co-ally John Piper) — in an environment that as Lasch indicates pushes residents to want to see material comforts increased. Of course, all of America encourages an identification with progress (unless you live in Hillsdale, Michigan). But in NYC this outlook is on steroids (see Lena Dunham).

What if the dangers of urban life are real?

Thanks to President Lyndon Johnson’s so-called “Great Society,” a buffet of new federal programs were established that have been pouring federal dollars into Philadelphia since the mid-1960s. How have those countless billions of tax dollars been spent? In the inner city where the federal dollars were spent by our Democratic politicians, public education is far worse than it was in the mid-’60s; violent crime is far worse; more children are living in poverty; more single-mother families, more homelessness, more hard drug use, more fear, etc. There is not one single criterion under the quality-of-life rubric that has improved in Philadelphia’s inner city since all those billions were brought into the city along with politicians’ photo-ops since the mid-’60s.

But Keller remains optimistic:

Keller believes Christians in New York cannot retreat into homogeneity. They’ll be regularly faced with people who fervently disagree with them. Keller’s church is a multi-ethnic one and even if the believers have a similar religious outlook, they hail from a variety of different backgrounds.

Keller believes serious Christians still belong in cities in general and New York in particular. But it’s a project that will take many more Tim Kellers and much more time. The results, says Keller, are “hard to see except in hindsight, with the perspective of several decades.”

Speaking of retreating into homogeneity, does Keller look at the church as a place of disagreement and diversity? Or has he led modern church planting into a homogeneous place where disagreement goes unanswered and unacknowledged? Can we have a discussion about Presbyterianism in the city? Can we talk about dying to sin and living to Christ in the city? Can we talk about family visitation and catechesis in the city? Or how about the regulative principle in the city?

I wish Tim Keller would think harder about cities and think about them in the light of critics of modernity like Lasch or Wendell Berry. That doesn’t fit with his ministry paradigm. Not reading those critics or interacting with them does not fit the pastor-who-answers-skeptics paradigm.

Postscript: I’d be glad to offer my services as an urban church consultant. I’m a trained social scientist, I like cities, and I’m even a church officer.

Christians and the Life of the Mind

A popular perception out there is that Tim Keller is a version — maybe the most popular one — of a Protestant intellectual. Back when Nicholas Kristof interviewed Keller in the pages of the New York Times (can you believe it? A CHRISTIAN IN THE PAGES OF THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!!! No, I’ve never heard of Ross Douthat), Scot McKnight wrote a favorable piece about how Keller is defending Christianity against the skeptics and cynics of our times:

Kristof is no H.L. Mencken and Tim Keller is no Willam Lane Craig nor is he a Rob Bell. He’s a conservative, Reformed, Presbyterian pastor with a lot in his noggin’ about how to respond to Manhattan singles and marrieds and wealthy-wannabes and educated. He’s done this well. He just told Nicholas Kristof he will need to join the throng of believers in the resurrection. In a pastorally sensitive way. No doubt Kristof got the message.

Maybe his critics would do themselves a favor by looking in the mirror and asking if they are reaching with the gospel and converting skeptics and cynics and doubters. If not, maybe they could look at Tim Keller and ask Why is he? I know I do.

Maybe.

But can’t we ask if Keller has as much in his noggin’ as the promoters promote? Here’s one reason for asking: the recent piece in ByFaith magazine which indicates what Keller will be doing once he retires from regular preaching. He will be training pastors for ministry in urban settings:

When it comes to the urban environment, ministry here requires also a knowledge of urban life dynamics, urban social systems, cross-cultural communication, non-western Christianity, and many other subjects not covered in ordinary seminary programs. I also want to give more than the usual help on both expository preaching, on developing a life of prayer, on leading the church in an adverse cultural and financial environment, and on reading that provides cultural analysis and insight. The combination of the M.A. (which in two years covers all the academic material, including languages and exegesis) together with the City Ministry Year will provide much more space for these than an ordinary M.Div. can.

For one thing, this was precisely the sort of agenda that William Rainey Harper took to the University of Chicago Divinity School almost 120 years ago — the idea that modern (read urban) times need new ways of doing ministry.

For another, how does someone with at most a D. Min. have enough intellectual chops to discern which books to read on urban life dynamics, urban social systems, cross-cultural communication? And is Keller proposing for pastors what medical specialists endure — 12 years of training (9 beyond the basics of Greek, Hebrew, exegesis, systematics, church history, etc.)?

In other words, the different parts of an urban setting require specialists in academic disciplines that go way beyond the competency of a specialist in the Bible or even a Ph.D. in historical science. To suggest that a person with a D. Min. is competent to adjudicate sociology, political science, urban studies, history, economics, demographics, anthropology and communications is not intellectual but borders on middle brow if not anti-intellectual.

And not to be forgotten, once you’ve mastered planting a church in Manhattan, are you really prepared to minister to the outer boroughs — Trump country?

Calculating Vice

H. L. Mencken poked holes in the numbers:

How little dependence is to be put in the tales of vice “experts” was lately shown in New York, when a man employed by young John D. Rockefeller made the astounding statement that there were 26,000 white slaves in the greater city–not merely prostitutes, mind you, but white slaves, women “owned” by definite men and regularly robbed of their earnings by these men. A brief examination is sufficient to show the absurdity of such allegations. Go to the figures yourself. The present population of Greater New York, according to the usually accurate estimate of the New York World, is 5,173,064, but this includes the population of two suburban boroughs, Richmond and Queens, in which no white slave trade is alleged to exist. The population of the other three boroughs, Manhattan Brooklyn and the Bronx, comes to 4,476,098.

How many of these New Yorkers are female? According to the census of 1900, the last for which complete figures are available, the population of New York is almost evenly divided between males and females. This gives us, in the three boroughs, 2,373,049 females. But how many of them are of white-slave age? Let us assume, despite the crusaders’ donkeyish theory that a prostitute lasts but five years, that some of the white slaves are as young as 17 years and that others are as old as 34. This gives us a range of 17 years. How many women between these ages live in New York?

Going again to the census of 1900 we find that women between the ages of 17 and 34, inclusive, make up exactly one-third of the female population of the city. Now divide three into 2,373,049 and we get 791,016, which is the maximum number of possible white slaves in New York, counting in married women, college girls, suffragettes and all other indubitably virtuous women. Now divide 791,016 by 26,000 and we get just 30. What does this mean? It means, in brief, that young John D.’s “expert” alleges that one woman in every 30 in New York city, counting in even respectable women, is a white slave.

But ordinary prostitutes are yet to be considered. According to Young John’s “expert,” they greatly outnumber the actual white slaves. How far they outnumber them he doesn’t say: he will come to that by and by. But meanwhile, his statement that there are “many more” justifies the assumption that he means at least half again as many more, That assumption given us 39,000 as the number of ordinary prostitutes. Now add 39,000 to 26,000 and we get 65,000. What does this mean? It means that one woman in every 12 in New York is a prostitute!

Could absurdity further go? And yet such bogus statistics are accepted with the utmost seriousness and published broadcast. The newspapers print them, moralists weep over them, the public is appalled by them. But it seldom occurs to anybody to question them, just as it seldom occurs to anybody in our own dear Baltimore to question the grotesque overstatements of such ludicrous crusaders as Dr. O. Edward Janney and the Rev. Dr. Kenneth O. Murray.

Perhaps John D. Rockefeller was applying “white slavery” in a Sermon-on-the-Mount way, those women who were “white slaves” in their hearts.

Imagine if Tim Read Tim

Would Tim Challies tweak this post on how to lose your zeal for Christ for Tim Keller’s discomfort?

Love the world. “How can we be zealous for heaven when our hearts are wrapped up in earthly civic things? How can we lift our spirits heavenward when our minds are weighed down with the cares of this life the city? How can we be zealous for God when our love is divided between Him and this world global urbanization? Worldly mindedness will starve our zeal.” Jesus promised us that we can serve only one master; our zeal will diminish when our loyalties are torn between God and mammon the metropolis, God and this worldThe Big Apple.

Perhaps the Christian ministry in Toronto or Chattanooga is sufficiently otherworldly to escape Challies’ concern.

Where are B-s Detectors When You Need Them?

AJ reminds via Saul Bellow that New York City is good at business but not at culture:

New York is a publishing center, the business center of American culture. Here culture is prepared, processed and distributed. Here the publishers with their modern apparatus for printing, billing, shipping, editing, advertising and accounting, with their specialized personnel, wait for manuscripts. Their expenses are tremendous so they cannot afford to wait too long; they must find material somewhere, attract writers or fabricate books in their editorial offices. New York, of course, includes Washington and Boston. Some of its literary mandarins actually live in Cambridge, in New Haven, Bennington, New Brunswick, Princeton; a few are in London and Oxford. These officials of high culture write for the papers, sit on committees, advise, consult, set standards, define, drink cocktails, gossip — they give body to New York’s appearance of active creativity, its apparently substantial literary life. But there is no substance. There is only the idea of a cultural life. There are manipulations, rackets and power struggles; there is infighting; there are reputations, inflated and deflated. Bluster, vehemence, swagger, fashion, image-making, brain-fixing — these are what the center has to offer…. New York, then, is not the literary capital of America. It is simply the center of the culture business. It manufactures artistic lifestyles for the American public.

Maybe real transformation needs to happen somewhere other than New York City, or perhaps a papal encyclical will turn Wall Street into a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality.

And to pile on, here’s why H. L. Mencken made money in New York’s publishing business but spent his earnings in Baltimore:

What makes New York so dreadful, I believe, is mainly the fact that the vast majority of its people have been forced to rid themselves of one of the oldest and most powerful of human instincts – the instinct to make a permanent home. Crowded, shoved about, and exploited without mercy, they have lost the feeling that any part of the earth belongs to them, and so they simply camp out like tramps, waiting for the constables to rush in and chase them away. I am not speaking here of the poor (God knows how they exist in New York at all!); I am speaking of the well-to-do, even of the rich. The very richest man, in New York, is never quite sure that the house he lives in now will be his next year — that he will be able to resist the constant pressure of business expansion and rising land values. I have known actual millionaires to be chased out of their homes in this way, and forced into apartments. In Baltimore, too, the same pressure exists, to be sure, but it is not oppressive, for the householder can meet it by by yielding to it half way. It may force him into the suburbs, even into the adjacent country, but he is still in direct contact with the city, sharing in its life, and wherever he lands he may make a stand. But on Manhattan Island he is quickly brought up by the rivers, and once he has crossed them he may as well move to Syracuse or Trenton. (“On Living in Baltimore” 1926)

The Grand Rapids Option

It’s been a while but Tommie Kidd wrote a post about whether historians need a literary agent to get published. The short answer is yes, if you want to publish with a New York City house.

It depends on what type of publishing you wish to do. For most academic publishing, you don’t need a literary agent, because academic publishers are not generally engaged in “trade” publishing, meaning the kinds of books that end up on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. Strictly academic publishing is largely directed toward an academic audience of other scholars in the field, or perhaps graduate or even undergraduate students. Many academic books are priced in such a way ($50+) that the publisher plans to sell relatively few copies, maybe a couple hundred, to academic libraries and a handful of specialists.

For trade publishing, however, you generally do need a literary agent. The large, New York-based trade publishers prefer not to interact with authors directly about contracts, not even established trade authors. For these publishing houses, literary agents are gatekeepers and filters – they let the agents go find and develop promising projects, and trusted agents can typically secure contracts for most of the projects they propose.

Surprising here is that Kidd, who is one of the younger evangelical historians with an interest in writing for people in the pew, neglected to mention religious publishers as an option for historians. Once upon a time the evangelical historical mafiosa (Noll, Marsden, Stout, Hatch) regularly worked with Grand Rapids publishers such as Eerdmans, Baker, Zondervan and (further away) InterVarsity. In fact, you could argue that the Grand Rapids publishers were partly responsible for the renaissance of writing about the history of evangelicalism from which folks like Kidd and me benefit. And yet, for Kidd (and his generation of evangelical historians) these publishers do not seem to be on the radar.

As I say, this is odd because of Kidd’s admirable interest in reaching a non-academic and believing audience, which was one of the reasons he wrote his biography of Whitefield the way he did:

Fans of Whitefield know that the chasm between the academic and evangelical approaches to Whitefield is best exemplified by the differences between Arnold Dallimore’s 2-volume Whitefield biography, and Harry Stout’s The Divine Dramatist. Dallimore’s is an explicitly Christian biography, and while Dallimore certainly criticized Whitefield at certain points, it was written primarily for a Christian audience and focused on the ways that God used Whitefield in the Great Awakening. Yale historian Stout (who, for full disclosure, is a friend and a mentor to me) placed Whitefield in the context of England’s theater culture, and focused much more on Whitefield’s worldly context and motivations. To many readers, Stout’s approach seemed overly cynical; indeed, John Piper has said that Stout’s biography is “the most sustained piece of historical cynicism I have ever read.”

I find myself in the strange position of being an admirer of both John Piper and Harry Stout, and a fan of Dallimore’s biography, to boot! In fact, I think that Dallimore’s biography has been one of the best choices for general readers who want to know the amazing story of Whitefield’s ministry, and many evangelical readers will understandably find Dallimore more congenial than Stout. But Stout, and other academic writers like Frank Lambert and Jerome Mahaffey, add a dynamic missing in approaches like Dallimore’s: a broader understanding of the culture and economy that formed Whitefield and made his ministry possible, in an earthly sense.

If Kidd wants to reach a middle ground, and I have no doubt that he does, I suggest that Grand Rapids rather than New York City (sorry TKNY) is the place to go to access it.

Can We Reach Them (and Can We Afford To)?

Are sounds of doubt and uncertainty beginning to echo out of the Big Apple?

First, Tim Keller writes a book notice on Matthew Bowman’s The Urban Pulpit: New York City and the Fate of Liberal Evangelicalism. Although he sounds confident that New York City now has churches who teach “historic orthodox doctrine” and are “also intellectually robust and socially engaged,” he also seems worried.

There are at least 100 churches that we can discern that have been begun over the last 20 years in center city New York (and some older churches renewed) that are closer to the older kind of Christianity that used to flourish here. However, we too face the issue of a culture that is not interested in what we have to say. How do we reach them?

Add to that the recent reflections of an Englishman, Andrew Wilson, about Christianity and the churches in New York and you begin to wonder if all the money spent on Redeemer PCA is going to amount to much (aside from pastoral celebrity):

One of the pastors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church was interviewed on his/their ways of doing youth ministry. His first comment was that, because it is hard to believe in New York City – only around 3% of Manhattan is made up of evangelical Christians, although it is closer to 8-9% in the other boroughs – they affirm doubt. They acknowledge the force of objections to Christianity, and encourage people simply for being in the city and remaining Christian, because they recognise how hard it is. . . .

although the Christian world has mostly heard of Tim Keller and Redeemer, they are tiny in the city. (One of their assistant pastors said that Dimas Salaberrios, an Ethiopian pastor from the Bronx who spoke at the conference, is more well known in the city itself than Keller, even though most Christians outside the city have never heard of him.) A church of six thousand in eight million is a drop in the ocean. But another pastor mentioned the disproportionate influence they have had, simply by demystifying and detoxifying the city for evangelicals. “If they weren’t there, we could never do what we’re doing,” he said. . . .

New York seems both incredibly exciting and incredibly difficult as a place to live, and to plant and lead churches. The energy, creativity and diversity of the city are unparalleled, but the city is less Christian than the rest of the nation (in contrast to London, which is more Christian than the rest of the UK), and the pressures on price and space are even more intense in Manhattan than they are in other global cities. The fact that Manhattan is a separate island makes a big difference here: in London, you can lead a church in the West End, live in Brixton and have your offices in Fulham – and some previous contributors to this blog do – but in New York the equivalent is virtually impossible, because it would mean living, working and leading on three different islands. I’ve just mentioned the six-person family in a two-bedroom flat, and church premises are just as extortionate: many churches share their buildings with (at least) one other congregation, and the one recent building purchase I heard about cost $50 million. (By way of comparison, Kings Church London just opened their newly refurbished building in Lee, which used to be a school, and it cost them around £6 million.) All of which makes church planting here spiritually demanding, financially challenging and emotionally draining, but also exhilarating and rewarding.

If these comments reflect a trend, then they may signal that if you can affirm doubts about Christianity to show you are not a Stepford Christian, you are also allowed to have second thoughts about TKNY and Redeemer PCA.