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In the end

Last month we asked you to tell us about your memories of the magazine over its 39 years, and many of you have. Thank you for your kind emails and letters; it has been a privilege to have had this conversation with you for so long.

It has been bittersweet to hear so many of you say that the magazine has been crucial in keeping your faith afloat. 'Without Third Way I would have left the church', says one letter. Another that 'the magazine is the reason I am still a Christian.'

We did always hope to help maintain the important connection between the internal world of the believer and the external world in which religious practice was, in the west at least, a shrinking corner. But here at the end we want you to answer what now seems to be an important question: So what if you're still a Christian?

It doesn't take a US Presidential campaign to remind us that there are enormous numbers of people using that word. And it has never been Third Way's job to decide if it was appropriate for them to claim it. We have seen, though, in our 39 years, that people called Christians have continued to commit what we would all call crimes. Continued to abuse each other and the planet. Continued to exclude. Continued, in short, to look like something other than the people described in, say, the Beatitudes.

This is no altar call for 'real' Christianity. We have also learned in our time that earnestness and the will to be holy can empty the world of its joys. Our ranks here were full of people who had 'been committed' and 'on a mission' for Jesus, only for Jesus, it seemed, to fail to show. For revival to fail to arrive. The fall out was damaging; the yoke was not easy.

What, in the end, are you a Christian for? We are unconvinced that Jesus came so that we could wear the label. We are unconvinced that wearing it, consenting to the right system of beliefs, until the rapture, is something we should be proud of maintaining as a magazine.

Who knows, in the end, what Third Way's legacy will be? All we can say is where it is. It is in the people who have read it. Peace be with you.