Sunday, 28 February 2010

Creating over Creation

"It is by faith that we understand the universe was formed at God's command and therefore that which is seen was made out of that which is unseen". This is how Hebrews eleven tells us, regardless of our take on evolution, that anyone who believes in a creator God as per the opening words of the Creed is a creationist. But apparently, 'true' believers' cannot support evolution. Not only that but a man I met this week explained how, as an evolutionist, his beliefs meant he could never become a Christian (or at least that's what 'Christians' had told him).

I never realised that this was such a salvation issue and worse still, that it presented such a bar to becoming a believer. As one well meaning Christian told me regarding this topic, "If you're not 'young earth', then you're not a true Christian!" The earth was apparently formed at 3:15pm on a Monday afternoon some seven thousand years ago and if you don't believe that then you're not truly saved! But there's more; If you don't believe in seven literal days of creation then you're apparently denying the Bible such that not only do you have no faith but you're a heretic as well! And this is all before we even open up the can of beans that is Darwin.

Perhaps you're up on this area and can make sense of it all - if so, I'm all ears - tell me how it works. If you're as confused as me by all the mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-scientific, "I have a God who needs me to skew reality and turn real science on it's head so that Him and His Bible all look good," stuff then join me over the next few weeks on a journey of discovery.

I really don't see this as a salvation issue - perhaps I'm wrong. I also don't see Darwin as an enemy of  Christianity, but then again I could be wrong. So - off we go, let's see what evolves ;-)

Caption Contest - 2


I look forward to your comments on this one.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Mind over matter

I was always told that when it comes to conflict and disagreement the ability to use 'mind over matter'  was an essential part of the process. If when engaged in debate you find that don't mind then it obviously didn't matter! The problem is that where this is not the case we find ourselves entrenched in close quarter battle and the first casualties of this conflict are often truth, respect, love and perspective. This is, I fear, where many of us find ourselves today when it comes to some of the 'big issues' regardless of whether we might be orthodox, traditional or liberal.

The real problem is that most of the issues before us are not that big at all and neither are they really that important. What they really are is a smokescreen which is intended to stop us seeing what is at the heart of all of the ailments that face Christianity today - a devaluing of the practice of trusting God and His word.

More and more I meet people who will tell me that God's word can no longer be trusted or considered relevant for today's civilisation and that we need to re-write it for the times in which we live. This strikes at the integrity of the word and results in people being unsure. Not unsure as to how much we can trust god's word but unsure whether it can be trusted at all. Today I was told that what we have in the Bible was not what God meant for today, it was O.K. for 'then' but now God would have us rewrite the big black book to have meaning in today's society. By blindly reading what was in my Bible and taking it as Gospel I was perpetuating an error that had been enacted against people for two thousand years.

Now it doesn't matter what the issue was, but what does matter is that we are, by our actions and words, rendering the Bible an archaic and irrelevant piece of historical literature. It is no longer kanon (Gk. meaning rule or measure) and if it has no value in gauging what we believe and how we live we are free to engage in the modern fad of searching the Bible for 'many truths'. The problem is that whilst we can find many truths by using a little bit of redaction here and the use of a conditional there and with a bit of discounting we can find many different truths co-exist alongside each other and all are to be considered correct.

I have already admitted that I am merely an exceedingly average cleric with an average theological understanding and this is probably why I struggle with the 'fact' that black can indeed, as has been taught for millennia, be black and yet also be white, grey and many other colours, shades and hues besides. The answer is apparently simple, for just as no one is sure what colour someone else sees when we see, for example, pink. We all call it pink, but what we really see might differ greatly from person to person and yet we all still call this pink.

This is what I am told is what happens with Biblical truth. We all call it Biblical truth and yet may perceive something else. The key is to realise that we can make truth whatsoever we wish and each truth, as different as it might be from person to person, is still one truth. A diamond with many facets - each one shining a different ray of truth out through it. Now I struggle with this concept on a number of levels.

We have struggled to be popular with the world and to find ways that condone and even bless what the Bible tells us is sin (not a popular word I'm afraid and I don't apologise for it though). We scratch our heads and stretch our understanding and imaginations to find reasons to sanctify what we have never before considered acceptable. We claim that the Bible is speaking of coercion and abusive situation and therefore, where neither is present, the acts must be regarded as sanctified. We speak of 'happiness' as the yardstick for all we do when all I see is obedience and living holy lives.

We seek to find agape where the Bible sees only eros and when we can't do so we engage in debate over shellfish or stoning our kids when they're lippy (which I do see as fair - I struggle to ensure that I am being true to God's word and not being tricked into acting against people's actions because I'm being conned. Integrity demands this). But when we can't find warrant for our beliefs we simply attempt to rewrite what is before us to condone rather than condemn.

I am happy to disagree with others, but I wish to do so in a way that still recognises in them the visible image of the invisible God and to continue to love them, because to do otherwise would be to deny Him.

I am happy to disagree with others but I realise that if I no longer respect those with whom I stand opposed then the whole christian message falls and Jesus dies in vain.

I am happy to engage in debate and dialogue, because if I do not how will we ( yes me and you) learn? If we discuss and work intelligently and honestly then we may well find that one of us is just a little mistaken or creative in our theology and the solution, however painful, may be at hand. We may have to admit that which we so much wish to be true is merely error after all and live with the discipline it demands. Perhaps we will come to a place where both of us could be right, in which case we dialogue further and see where we go and how we live in this new found reality. I think this was the restraint that Rowan spoke of and of which so little evidence has been seen (sadly). And before people think I am liberal-bashing or exercising my homophobic tendencies, I must say that there could have been more restraint on all sides of this debate - after all what does the LORD require? Humility, justice and mercy - ain't seen a great deal of them around for a long, long, long time, have you? He requires integrity (which I most certainly haven't seen) and gentle restoration (another missing person from the line up).

Now, look at what we've considered here and tell me what chance the ordinary BOP (bum on pew) and the bloke on the Clapham omnibus who has no faith in believing that the Bible is true? And if it isn't, then neither is Jesus and the whole Christian gig falls as nothing more than fairy tale, myth, fable and superstition - and the bottom line is that Jesus dies and doesn't return on Sunday anymore!

This isn't about [insert your contentious issue here] it's about denying Christ, removing the place of faith, discipline, holiness and belief and destroying the Christian message by rendering it irrelevant and unsure. What part are you playing in this conspiracy against the King?

Friday, 26 February 2010

The State We're In

I had a telephone discussion with a fairly old lady yesterday. She'd rung to tell me that she wanted me to tell the bishop that should they ever conduct a 'gay wedding' in the parish church then she'd not only never enter the building again but she'd remove the bequest (£xxk) from her will as well.

Now although I suggested that she might like to tell the bishop that herself and gave her the telephone number of the area bishop she left me in no doubt that she had done her bit by telling me, the rest was my duty.

Following this I found myself in another discussion about the CofE and the state it's in. Having been asked about women's ministry and homosexuality and other stuff I gave the person asking this perspective, which I will share with you (I love dialogue), so are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin:

Once upon a time there were some pointyheads (aka bishops) who realised that less people were coming to their churches and playing with them and God. They looked at the falling numbers of those who came to their CofE churches and started asking people what they didn't like about them and what they were doing. "If we know what the people don't like we can change what we do and then they will all come again and we will all be happy," they thought to themselves.

So they asked and the people's response was that the church didn't treat women well, the pointyhats and the members of the churches were all misogynists and they, the general public, didn't like this at all.

"I know what we'll do," said the senior pointyhead, "We'll ordain women!' So they went out and told all the people who didn't come to church, "Look at us, we support women's ministry - they're equal (or perhaps more than equal even)!" The people stopped and looked at the church and saw that this was indeed the case, but still they didn't come and not only that, but many of the people who used to come stopped coming as well. This made senior pointyhead and his friends very, very sad indeed, after all they'd done what everyone wanted and now even less people were coming. What could they do?

They went back to the people who didn't come to their houses and play and cried out, "Why, oh why aren't you coming to church? What is it that you don't like?" "We don't like the way you discriminate against gays," cried the world. So the pointyheads decided to rewrite two thousand years of Christian practice and ignore four thousand years of combined Judeo-Christian teaching and understanding because if they did, then surely they'd all flock back to church and everyone could be happy again and the parish shares would be paid up and God would be happy about everything, wouldn't he?

So it came to pass that senior clergy could be seen in civil partnerships and the bishops would even vote that 'gay marriage' in the form of blessing civil partnerships could take place in church buildings and then everyone would be happy, after all, there was nothing different in the church from everything that was going on outside it in the world. What on earth could there be to make the world uneasy now - what a great move forward to promoting church as 'safe' and 'acceptable' so that people would come and play again.

But instead, even more people who used to come to church left and still the world did not come and play. The buildings were even more empty and the church looked even less relevant to the point that people who were really clever and lived in wonderful Ivory towers in a land called 'Academe' spoke of living in a 'post Christian age'.

Sadly, as the church building became carpet warehouses and heritage centres, the senior pointyhead went out and asked the people outside the Canterbury heritage centre a question in one final attempt to understand what had happened. "We ordained women, we ordained homosexuals and even blessed what they did. We changed everything you told us you didn't like and yet you still didn't come. Why?"

The world looked at the poor forlorn figure and answered him, "We never intended to come! You merely asked us what we didn't like and we told you! Anyway, what does the church have to offer that the world doesn't? The church has worked so hard to look like us, why do we need to come in to experience what we already have, what do you have that's any different?"

Then, sadly, the senior pointyhead understood.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lentern wisdom from Paul

In 1 Timothy 4: 11 - 16 the Apostle Paul writes:
     
Command and teach these things.  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

As we enter this period of Lent I’d like to be a pain in the nether regions and remind us all of those final words, “Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them.” Do this and we and those around us will indeed be saved!

We are living in a time when more and more we are seeing people rewrite doctrine in order to justify their own lifestyles and attitudes. We are seeing ‘learned’ people rewriting what has for centuries been held as true and orthodox belief and Christian practice. Rather than seek to steer their lives by God’s Word they seek to rewrite God’s Word to condone their lifestyles. This might make people feel better but, I am sorry to say, as I understand it they only paper over the cracks and lead others into the pit with them.

Lent is a time for self-examination and a time in which we need to see just how well we measure up to that which God commands us. We must not look to excuse ourselves or minimise our errors but face them head on and challenge them. Do this gently (just as I hope you would if it were someone else in error) but also honestly.

In this way we will fulfil God’s calling for our life and will be a beacon to others (and have a blesséd and productive Lent too.).

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Cavedwellers - A truly Christian forum

I thought that I'd do a bit of marketing today with my blog and push the forum that is Cavedwellers a bit.

Having been part of a few different forums I came to the conclusion that some were spiteful and extreme, some portrayed that which was not Christian as if it were and others were merely places which offered but one viewpoint and woe betide anyone who dared to question or contradict.

Out of this experience and a brief sojourn in an excellent place which then sadly closed came the recognition of a need for a place that was 'orthodox' and yet not dogmatic. A place where people could put their point of view safe in the knowledge that regardless of their position there would be a fair discussion and Christian attitudes exhibited. This is what 'Cavedwellers' provides. We have discussions about sport, snow, theological issues and liturgy too.

For me it is a place of learning and dialogue, of putting forward ideas in the knowledge that they would be considered and dialogued with rather than merely seeing yet another ad hominem and streams of vitriol loosed at the author.

I'd like to invite those who read this blog to come and join us. There is room (and in fact a demand) for views which challenge and stretch us and there is a need for people who will bring theological insight, experience of Fresh Expressions, mission shaped ministry and just about every other facet and experience of Christian life and ministry.

So, fancy getting engaged in something that is a sort of virtual church (but without the incarnacy it isn't 'church' as I understand it) and group of friends who will pray for each other and challenge our positions over just about everything and nothing!

Hopefully get to see some of you there?

V

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Giving alms - Part the Third

A very valid point was made regarding giving in that, "God gives us everything with no questions asked," the implication here being that when we give to people begging, shouldn't we engage the same policy? This is a superb question as it focusses our thinking on giving and brings God into the equation.

My first thought turned to one of my favouritest passages from the Bible (Matt 7: 9 - 11 // Lk 11: 11 -13)) which I shall Vicarise (VSV) here:

"Is there a father among us who would give his kids a snake if they ask for fish? Or a stone if they ask for bread or a scorpion if they ask for an egg? Just think about it. If man who is fallen and scuzzy can give his children good things, how much more will our father in heaven give us good things?"

God only gives us good things and He only wants that we should have good done to us and that we should do good to others. As I understand it (Biblically), if I am asked then I should give if I can - there are times when I don't have and therefore can't provide any assistance, then I obviously don't and when I do it should be good, for good and be good for the focus of my giving.

If I am asked for money 'for food' then in buying and providing food I am fulfilling that request. The same is true for anything that is asked for regardless of what it might be. If I am asked for it I am being asked as either the sole provider or to be a part of that provision in that my money would be pooled with the giving of others to purchase the focus of that giving.

If the person begging was to ask us for some money to buy drugs, would we still give? I assume the answer for most of us would be a resounding, "No way!" If we were stopped by someone who asked us to buy alcohol, would our response be any different? BUT if the person asking lies to us and tells us that they want the money for food or a cup of tea do we then think that this is now O.K. and give the money because they've changed the focus? Will the fact that they are lying now sanitise our giving?

If they ask for drug or alcohol money we would probably refuse. If they ask for food, drink or whatever - by providing we are not judging the person, neither are we removing their free will. We are merely answering their request and providing what has been asked for - just as our heavenly father does with us and so we are being 'God like' - which is the goal for all who call themselves Christian.

My problem is that many give money to people begging using the same yardstick they employ with sin, namely, "If I don't know about it then it isn't an issue!"

Galatians 6 tells me that (VSV - Vic's Standard Version):

"If someone is caught in a sin, those of us who are spiritual should restore them gently, watching ourselves in case we're tempted to look good or spiritual. We must carry each other's burdens and by doing so we will find in ourselves the fulfilment of Christ's commands for us. If we think we're something special then we deceive ourselves. Whatever we do we should test out motives and actions to make sure we don't stumble and should make sure we walk true."

For me this means providing and offering friendship and a means of engaging with God rather than merely giving and hoofing it. If the money I give results in the death of the person to whom I gave it (immediately or over a period of years of alcohol or drug abuse) then I have neither been a blessing or kept the Lord's commands as I understand them. Just because death isn't instant doesn't take away the weight of the act (or does it)?

Pax

ps. If anyone would like to dialogue further and more specifically about giving (or just about anything else) - come and join us at the Cavedwellers Forum

The inner healing business - a paradox

Having been asked to elaborate on my comments:

"I have often been in a position where I want God to deal with something in me but I'm a bit frightened it will hurt and yet it doesn't. God deals with it gently and lovingly. So the next time I come to a place where I need healing (or correction) I 'bravely' tell God I want it dealt with, even if it hurts, and it does!"

Regarding 'inner' healing, I have many times over my Christian experience found myself facing attitudes and behaviours that I had come to realise were contrary to my Christian witness and were damaging my walk and relationship with God (and many others besides). Accordingly I would find myself asking God to deal with this area and there were times when attached to the behaviour or thought life were a number of painful memories. Sometimes there were hurts that had been inflicted upon me (intentionally and unintentionally) and perhaps failing and failures that were painful to even recall.

There would be times when I was aware of the pain associated with certain areas. It was real pain and it was felt by just thinking about it so the prospect of praying about it, repenting of my acts and forgiving others was quite frightening and painful in prospect. Yet, when I dealt with these areas, time and time again I found that God brought me to a place of forgiveness (for self as well as others), repentance and healing and the experience was not at all painful and the reality releasing and joyful.

Paradoxically, when dealing with something that I knew needed attention but was something that I felt was less painful, I would pray and tell God that I realised that I had that certain flaw or failing in my life and that it needed dealing with. Never thinking it was going to be that painful I would enter into the praying feeling that the is would be a walk in the park and when I'd prayed that I wanted it dealt with, regardless of the pain (wink, wink - this isn't going to hurt), it more often than not blinking well  did. I'd find things attached to the perhaps more trivial area that really caused me pain and repentance!

I realised that when I was totally committed and engaged regardless, God honoured that and dealt with it painlessly (well pretty painlessly), but when I gave Him permission thinking it wouldn't hurt (so I looked good and spiritual), He took me at my word.

Think it's a lesson about integrity, genuine attitudes and God really. Go for it - get it. Posture a bit and feel the heat on the way to getting it. Seems you just can't con God!

Hope this makes sense and helps to clarify  the original words.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Church is not a business!

Continuing my discussion with a few friends and colleagues, we return to the issue whereby people people argue, and even sneer against, sound business practice in a Church setting. So let's look at a few more business examples and see whether the 'spiritual' take on church is as sound as a pound or merely over-inflated!

It is good business practice to put the right people in the right jobs, the marketing people market, the sales people sell, the technical people listen to the end-user and design something that meets the need, the techies build and maintain the product and so on. Putting square pegs in round holes is extremely costly in terms of people management, efficient operating and of course in monetary terms too. A focussed and coherent  workforce is a happy and productive workforce and being in a church setting is not different from anywhere else (except perhaps in secular places people pray less and swear as much!!).

Manager's deal with plant (the church buildings), finances (the offerings of God's people), planning (large-scale projects through to weekends away and the like), organisation (structures need to have clear reporting lines and well-functioning channels of communication) and more besides.

I can already hear the dissenting spiritual voices muttering about the heresy I'm writing and all I can say is, "Stop and look where you 'spiritual only' people have taken the churches over the past years!" We need sound managers who are not only spiritual but willing and able to listen to God and discern His voice.

So let's have some Bible (before you all pray for my redemption!) to show how being a good administrator is a Spiritual gift (1 Cor 12):
   
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts."

Being a manager is a spiritual role. It is both calling and a gift to the people of God and if there is a gift of administration then those who go down the 'spiritual' track are despising and limiting something that is obviously of God.

Now, we move to Matthew 25 (1 - 13):
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
    
Another point for the sound management school! So often we run our churches like the foolish virgins, living in the expectation of what is to come and yet totally unprepared for it!

Again (Acts 6: 1 -7) we find evidence of skills based team selection. Another sound management model:
"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Sound management models bring a clear division and utilisation of labour (with the blessing of God it seems). Here, rather than neglect the ministry of the Word to wait on tables they appoint others to fulfil this role. Time and time again we can see sound business models employed in a Biblical Old and New Testament setting. Look at Joseph and the provision he put in place when famine was on the horizon. Is not bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse (Malachi) not good management? Can anyone tell me that living in one's own home and yet ensuring that no one goes without is not a model for co-operatives, a successful means of running companies (Acts 2:42 . . .)?

Being businesslike is to be Godly and spiritual and to be a good steward of the talents God has given them and a good steward of the money and people God has given His Church. We don't do stuff as a business and we don't ever forget who we serve and why we serve Him but we do employ sound practice. We just never let the world subjugate the things of the Spirit but never let being Spiritual be an excuse for our own foolishness.

Getting the picture yet guys?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Giving alms - Part the Second

Ever offered to buy someone the food that they're begging money to buy only to be told what to do or where to go? What do we do then? Do we meekly smile and walk away or perhaps engage the person begging in a dialogue or perhaps even feel we're being conned?

Whenever someone asks me for, "Money to buy food," I offer to provide the focus of their request, which is of course the food. When they tell me that they don't want the food I then realise that the request is merely a pretence and what they really are asking for is money. "Give me your money," just doesn't really work so we wrap it up in some window dressing just like everyone else in the world (and the Church too!).

Wondering what I mean? Let's move the focus to healing. I have often been in a position where I want God to deal with something in me but I'm a bit frightened it will hurt and yet it doesn't. God deals with it gently and lovingly. So the next time I come to a place where I need healing (or correction) I 'bravely' tell God I want it dealt with, even if it hurts, and it does! You can't con God but we can con each other. Another example is when we're all together being holy and we're busting a gut to be given a role or work in a certain area. What do we do? We make it look like we're not asking for it but do so in such a way that we will probably get it and even protest a little or feign shock or faux humility. Isn't Church great ? It's just more of the world but forgiven and living in that reality.

Yep, beggars are merely human like us, just not as fortunate in their circumstances and although this is often a result of their own folly this is not always the case. This is where treating beggars like human comes in handy because we actually find out who the person is (for even beggars have names) and some of the circumstance or situation that brings them to place you find them.

So when we're asked for money for food or drink, or clothing or a journey somewhere and it's refused because they want the money what do we do? I offer to meet the need, although these days I offer to take people to the place where possible as well as offer food or drink. I am happy to give but I don't want to fund something that will go against what I believe in the form of illegal stuff.

So here's a thought (answers most welcome). Am I wrong to think and act as I do and should modify my position to give and not be concerned with where the money will go? After all, as I was recently told, it's their life and they'll buy drugs anyway so what gives me the right to take away their free will to spend the money as they please by only providing what they ask for (food) and not what they want (money)?

Am I being controlling or merely exhibiting wisdom and compassion in one act?

I await responses with anticipation (and those who email me can just stick them here ;-)  )

Friday, 19 February 2010

Working with the chain gang!

For most of us the 'chain gang' is a group of prisoners chained together to perform various tasks outside the prison walls. What many people don't know is that the local dignitaries within British town councils, like Mayors, are also part of a 'chain gang' too. This time though  the chains are of a golden colour and denote membership of a very privileged group within a town's community.

There are a number of thoughts surrounding the existence of the latter. The majority appear to see the wearer of a chain of office as being the 'first citizen' of the town, a sort of nobility conferred on the incumbent of the office by the town in recognition of their service to that place. This is not a bad take on the role of Mayor for indeed there has, generally, been commitment and service to the place where they serve. To recognise and honour this is both fitting and right, although the mayor is perhaps more accurately 'primus inter pares', that is 'first amongst equals'.

There is a potential problem apparent in that some clergy have Jesus telling those who wear their chains that they are not only the first citizen but that they would, as a result of the wearing of such adornments, hear Jesus one day applauding them with the, "Well done my good and faithful servant," speech'. Sorry people, I have to stop the party and just point out that you can wear whatever you wish but unless you know Jesus first hand then when you get to meet Him, and believe me, we all will, all you'll hear Him say is, "Who?" Doesn't matter what rank you've held, how many people have honoured you or what you've got after your name, the reality is that if you don't know Him then he isn't going to know you when the final parade takes place. We need to make sure that we don't strive so much for things in this life that get rusty, tarnished or stolen that we find ourselves excluded in the place that lies ahead of us.

I really enjoyed the fact that there were really ordinary people wearing chains where I was last night, shows that, regardless of social class or education, people can make a difference and can 'get on'. There were also the, "I'm obviously much better than you," types too! The presence of aloofness and decorum can probably be explained by the political party subscribed to and here's the good news (well, not really): Hell, like membership of the chain gang, is open to people of all political persuasions and social standings, all of whom think they're doing the 'right thing'. Not only that, but just like the place I found myself last night, it's full of really nice people and they probably have Jive Bunny being sung there too! So, be warned.

A fun note this evening came when a member of the German twinned-town contingent at the dinner won the raffle and chose the canteen of cutlery. Sadly though I fear that she might have a few problems if she takes them on the flight home (best take her shoes off as well ;-)).

Pax

Giving alms - Part the First

I had an excellent discussion regarding giving to people who beg on the streets during which I explained that my policy was always to give, but never give money. If they ask for food or drink I endeavour to meet that need, the same goes for transport, accomodation and just about anything else that gets asked for. I just don't give money.

I have taken my position for a number of reasons. One of these being that a bloke who became a christian in a church where I once was told me that he could make well over £1,500 a week begging on the Central Line of London's underground system and that by giving I was not only helping people feed their habits but was helping pushers buy stock too. He also told me that what stopped some people admitting they needed help and seeing them return home was the fact that 'mugs' like me kept them going.

Now I have to admit I struggled at this and having discussed it with my Senior pastor was told that I had to adopt a policy of giving to meet direct need but not to fund, indirectly, the very things that kept people bound. he used the words of Matthew ten, verse sixteen:

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as cunning as snakes and as gentle as doves." The meaning was obvious in that I realised that is seeking to be a 'good Christian' there would be people out there who wanted to take me for a ride, that is - to con me. I needed to fulfil the call of being a Christian but not let myself, by good works, fuel or fund things that work against God and the good of the focus of my charity (or others as a result).

I realised that to avoid questioning each person as to the result of my giving or to find myself doubting or judging the person asking I would need to engage a blanket rule (a standardised policy and response). This I have to say is something I have done pretty consistently for the past twenty-three years (there have been exceptions, I do try to listen to God whenever I find myself here) and I believe there are a number of benefits to adopting a policy such as this.

Here's a thought for you to chew over regarding giving to those who ask for money on the streets. There's two parts of the same scenario, which do you identify with and which would you prefer is you were asking for charity?

1. Having disembarked at a major London terminus for a number of years I became aware that many of those who 'gave' merely tossed some coins in the general direction of the begee. They rarely looked at the focus of their giving and often the money never even changed from hand to hand but was merely tossed. Having 'done their duty' they moved on without thinking about it nor regarding the focus of their charity.

2. I found that engaging the begee and asking if I could get them food or drink, in compliance with their request, and by doing so (and spending a few minutes talking with them - engaging them as not only human but as an equal) I was giving something much more precious that money - I was conferring humanity upon them and giving them regard as a fellow human. This was, I was told, as welcome (perhaps more) than the food and drink.

I wonder what your thinking is about this? How do you give and why. A clarification from James perhaps:

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is uselessWas not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

It's not a question about giving, merely a clarification of how (and why) we give that we search for surely?

Pax

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Church Leaders - Be the difference!

I have just returned from a secular training course. A bit of a different experience for me these days as I usually only find myself training in 'Christian' setting as and more often than not these are full of leader or 'go for it' enthusiastic types so it gave me an opportunity to canvas, examine and most of all, enjoy, being in the 'world'.

Seems to me that since leaving the world for the realm of believer nothing much has changed out there, the hopes, fears, challenges, aspirations and life all seem the same. As I thought, the world is full of really nice people just doing what they need to do to keep their families fed and their lives on track for whatever it is that they want to achieve. You know the things, the kids growing up happy and as part of the family, managing to pay the bills and having a 'quiet' life, planning and working for those two weeks abroad every year and watching TV (I obviously don't do enough of the latter as I didn't have a clue about the latest TV celebrity reality extravaganza 'Britain's got disabled people in wheelchairs dancing on ice' (or something like that!).

What was even more interesting from my social experiment (I'm a Vicar, get me into here?) was the fact that I was approached and engaged by a few of those on the course with stories, views and questions regarding 'Church'.

The first of these was a lovely young woman who exuded energy and fun. She told me how a hospice chaplain had arranged for her to be married in the hospice and how the chaplain had been accommodating, friendly and engaged with her, her needs and the family. For her, 'Church' was a positive and affirming experience.

Another came to me and was a equally lovely, intelligent and obviously capable young woman (did I mention the course was eighty-seven percent female by the way?) who told me that she'd been a member of a church and how she'd given up her faith because of the limp and ineffective minister who lead it. 'The Church has no balls," she told me. "Rather than stand for what it believes it tries to offer this grey, weak, anything goes face to the world in the hope it will offend no one!" I probed a bit more and found that this woman, engaged in the toughest areas of a tough city wasn't some hard-line evangelical but some one who realised that truth has to be truth even when it becomes unpopular truth. That 'Yes' needs to be 'Yes' and that 'No' cannot be allowed to become 'Possibly'.

We discussed some of her recent experience from a family church event and she'd found it as equally weak and limpid as her previous experience and was happy she'd made the journey into watching TV and doing other stuff on a Sunday rather than suffer such pale and placid waters.

Seems to me that those in leadership of the Church need to realise that people want certainties and direction and to be lead by people who are sure of their faith and how it engages with the world and all its ailments, needs and challenges. Seems to me from the other couple of conversations I had this week that how Church was perceived and engaged with was all about the way the local clergy engaged and responded and how definite they were about their faith and where it came into contact with the world (even when they didn't agree). Out of eighteen other people training two that I knew of were churchgoers. (11% of the population)

So a thought for those of us who consider ourselves (or who are considered) to be leaders. For goodness sakes lead! We need to realise that we have a Calling (and a duty) to preach the Gospel in and out of season, where it is welcome and where it's not. The Gospel needs to be preached openly, honestly and without fudging or weakening it in case we offend - it's supposed to be offensive! We need to learn to say 'Yes' when people ask us if we can do something (and then struggle to work out how we do it) rather than issue lame excuses and bland ineffectives and present the Church (and therefore Christ) as unengaged and uninterested.

And a thought for those who don't see themselves as leaders but rather as led. Dear sheep, grab your shepherds and get them to realise what it is you need from your church and from them in leading it. Don't settle for a second-best of weak platitudes and limpid excuses for life's errors, trials and demands - You, the Church and Jesus demand and deserve much, much more than that.

Pax.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Minimal Sufficiency

A new term for some perhaps 'minimal sufficiency' is the art of doing as little as possible to effect the greatest transitions in a person's life!

Seems to me that this is the exact opposite of how we Christians want to work and although most of us might laud the words attributed to St Francis of Assisi which call believers to, "Preach the Gospel, using words if we have to." (In the Provocative Church, Graham Tomlin reckons it's unhelpful and theologically misleading as we must have words to do evangelism) We don't take them to heart, not if the number of words I hear are anything to go by!

'More is better' is obviously the mantra Christians are called to, especially when it comes to words and action,  and I am amazed that so many of us will take a thousand words to convey what John 3:16 does so succinctly or to correct as Paul does in Romans when he asked us whether we should continue sinning. Some preaching training I've sat through told us to tell the people what we were going to say, then say it, then tell the listeners what we said - sadly, doing this does not confer efficacy, correctness or value to what has been said.

So here's a little challenge for each of us this week. Pick someone you know is struggling and with as few words as possible and as little interventions from you in their life find out what you need to say to help them find the right path and the answers. Please don't tell them the answers. I am pig-sick of Christians telling people what to do to be 'right' with God, especially as more and more I find that the answer is actually theirs and not God's at all!

Looking like us is not the key to salvation. Abusing others because of their abominations before God is nothing more than another abomination. Excusing and conferring rightness on acts that obviously aren't right is merely dragging others into the pit with you not helping people to find freedom! What we need to learn is how we can communicate enough to bring people into God's presence and let them move on to the next paving slab in this game of Christian hopscotch. Having done this, wait until the need is there before we speak or interfere again. We could be surprised and find that they don't do the things we dread if left to their own journeying with God (and if they do wobble, we're praying and waiting in the wings when needed aren't we?).
 
Encourage disciples to read their Bible rather than just listen to us (I am including myself here in case you thought I thought I was above this!) or find our solutions 'ready made' and easy to have applied for them.

In closing I turn to Charles Haddon Spurgeon's words about us being, "As one beggar showing another where bread is to be found,"

Take them, show them - don't stuff it down their throats!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A multi-church reality

Just to show I can write the 'Vicar' page stuff for the church magazine!

The body is one unit, though it is made up of many parts, and although its parts are many, they form one body, Paul's words here from 1 Corinthians 12:12 speak of the reality of the Church Universal but also apply in a closer to home way to the four churches that make up the historic parish where I find myself.

Here we have four churches living in relationship because we choose to! We're not a team ministry, but a family who choose to be such. Hopefully this means that we work together for the good of the whole rather than at the expense of one another. It also means that within one geographic area we can offer a wide range of church styles to satisfy everyone. If one church prospers then the whole prospers and if one falls, so do we all.

A parish church is not THE parish, but is THE parish church  - that is the mother church, the place from which other churches came into being. This seems to cause some confusion, especially when as happened today, someone suggested we should all return to the central church. Sadly, this is not the answer for a number of reasons. So what do we do?

Support one another and celebrate the differences that we have in terms of churchmanship. Wise words (from Jesus' lips in Matt 12) tell us that 'a household divided against itself will not stand'. We need to be affirming each other.

We need to take Jesus' words  in John (17:21) to heart and strive for unity. Praying and working such that the reality for our churches is, 'That all of them may be one. Just as Jesus as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. By doing this the world will believe that Jesus is the Son of God'.

A final thought from Colossians (3:12 - 14) springs to minds as relevant here: " Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

As we come together on our Lenten journey let us strive to make unity the byword within the parish and work as individuals for not only our churches but the parish as a whole. We are not rivals or competitors but are co-workers and I strongly believe that the parish church is a spiritual barometer for the whole town and that by working for it we benefit ourselves wherever we might find ourselves as believers.

Pax

Un-Like Minded?

I am currently being engaged by colleagues who claim that 'difference' is good and that unity is not unity but one, dominant, side subjugating the other. The focus of their comments are grounded in their feeling that the liberals are being swamped and oppressed to keep the Church looking united.

I wondered if this was a minority view and as I did, Tom Butler (retiring Bishop of Southwark) popped up on Radio Four (07:30ish) and spoke of his sadness in the way that Rowan had treated the Jeffrey John debacle. John, incase you've forgotten was set to become bishop of reading until voices were raised about his same-sex relationship. Butler, speaking of this said that as John had been in a, "Stable, faithful, long-term relationship," and therefore should have been given the job. Tom continued by expressing concerns that the Episcopalian Church (TEC) might 'float away' thanks to the work of Evangelicals.

I am finding an increase in the term 'un-like minded'. This is the holy grail of being a Church universal. I notice that there's even a leader in the 'Church Times' which speaks of this and how the restraint shown (I am struggling to see where) by TEC is an invitation to dialogue. It also wishes to deny that liberalisation of the CofE puts others at risk and so it's obvious where the spin is taking us in that article isn't it?

Jesus, if I understand the words of John 17:21 correctly, appears to wish for something that is not different but very much the same, at least in mind, and so I get a little confused at this trend. ("That they may be one, just as you, the Father, and I in you, they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.")

I personally am happy for difference, this is what denominations bring us and confirm. Difference is good, but not so much difference within the same body, this is neither healthy nor designed to promote Christianity in anything but contentious ways. I am firmly of the opinion that some of those who wish to have a church which is not subjugated by tradition in terms of interpretation of the Scriptures and practice are actually in need of creating their own denomination or grouping. There is room for another group and this would mean that both sides, the majority centre and the evangelicals on one side and the liberals on the other, could co-exist and be in communion where this is possible and exist within their own difference elsewhere.

It's time to stop looking at expelling people, by force as in TEC or morally and ecclesiastically here, and start looking at convincing people that although a minority, liberals are not the majority of the CofE, they are not subjugated by evangelicals and traditionalists, this is actually the reality for smaller (different) groups who rise up within a movement.

If they are so right then they will have no fear that setting up their own entity would flourish and they could satisfy their 'un-like mindedness' in a consistent and revised Christian faith where Frank and Ernest can be viewed as the right condition for marriage and whatever else they'd like to sanctify. Not only would they be free but Christians in Malaysia and Nigeria (to name but two places - and there's many more) would also be safe.

So a word to those liberals - what you have is wonderful, so why waste your pearls with swines, go start a place where everyone agrees and no one subjugates you and then perhaps we will all be free to serve Christ as we see Him.

Bye! (go to go do first service of the day :-)  )


Postscript.  I do support the right of any group to explore 'other realities' but I also feel it is churlish, having done so to expect this new reality to be adopted or incorporated into the original when the real reality is that it's as  logical as developing vegetarianism and expecting it to be the rule for a formerly meat eating corpus. It's naive at best and arrogant and self-seeking at worst. I wish that these revisionists would have the integrity to take their new branch of Church and make it such in a formal way - this way we might all progress and unlike mindedness could serve a real and positive purpose.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Biblical Certainties

With my being and remaining a 'fundamentalist' (actually, I like to think I'm a 'fun everything') the root of this stability in outlook has been a result of experience and the fact that reading God's word as revealed to us in the Bible and demonstrated to us in His living Word and illuminated by His Spirit lights up so many areas of need and security in our fallen world.

It is true that people do indeed read, "the core messages of the Bible in ways that support their existing views," but it is also true that these views are supported by the way that they read them, perhaps more than by what they read. There are times when the Simon and Garfunkel gene kicks in (the SG7_'A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest' gene) and people will see their own lifestyles, values and attitudes endorsed regardless of whether this is the case. this is why we get all sides of the contest prooftexting and posturing. The problem is that some will read the Bible to establish a basis of support for things that obviously are not of God and are not compatible with a Christian lifestyle and these are to be found in orthodox and liberal wings of the Church, there is no monopoly.
 
Challenge is great, especially if we decide where the challenge is to be found. Sadly, this is (or am I unique?) rarely the reality.

So what has experience taught me such that stability and constant adherence to God's word (logos and Logos) is indicated?

That Christians are sinful and these sins involve greed, sex, selfishness, deceit, laziness, self-satisfaction and all the other trappings that make us flawed and fallible creatures. there are none who are free from these and despite the fact that some will carry placards and denounce others, I would not wish to see their private sins exposed for they would look no differ from those against whom they rail. That said, I would not wish to re-interpret the Bible in the light of today's culture in an effort to sanctify that which God obviously hasn't until now! There will be a meeting with the author and I believe He's covetous of His mss and takes fiddling with it a little badly.

That when I engage with humans as described above, I am called to restore them, love them, refrain from condemning them and be grateful that I am not them - all the time remembering how awful my own particular brand of sins are to God.

That there are people out there engaging in sexual sin (of all sorts) who acknowledge that Christ died for them and believe all the same things that I believe - that their sin is not mine neither makes them any worse or me any better - we're all just different sinners. I do believe that there are lying Christians, thieving Christians, adulterous Christians, homosexual Christians, lazy Christians and more beside (feel free to add your own sin to the list)

That Micah 6: 6 - 8 is a call to act justly and to have mercy as a forethought safe in the knowledge that my own sins will keep me humble and from that the realisation that viewing other people's moral certainties and uncertainties, the constant that is either applied or obviously missing in not just the word of God but the heart of God. This doesn't make us liberals, even though I have been accused of this from a number of people, merely more engaged with the heart of Christ.

The Gospel is universal and is for all people regardless of age, nationality, income group, education. Those who live in fat, rich Western nations have no more right to dictate to others and the voices of the poorest, disenfranchised people (and nations) are often that still small voice which we so often crave but fail to hear with our tellyvangelists, prosperity nonsense and triumphalistic nothings.

So when it comes to dealing with sinners, do we allow them (and us) to hear the words that confer forgiveness  and when they end with the phrase, "And go and sin no more," where does this leave us?
 
Personally - on my knees, thankful for the Cross and looking to God's patience and love

What sort of theology do you use?

Seems to me that there are two ways of functioning theologically (three if you include ignoring theological dialogue with your situation!). These are:
  • Let the way we seek to live define our theology (and excuse/permit our life choices), or
  • Let our theology define the way we live.
It is so very easy to make our life choices and then edit (or re-interpret or revise) that which we find in the Bible to support these choices. In so doing we can also introduce spin and confusion in equal measure into the equation such that we can ask questions that have little bearing or relevance on the topic before us such that they form a smokescreen which enables us to continue in our choices. A sort of ad hominem for Bible words!

It is so very difficult for us to make our life choices in the light of our theological understanding, especially if we would wish to have the garland of 'orthodoxy' adorning our existence and values. If we have a desire to engage in what the Bible tells us is sin then we would find this a tough choice - I know I do!

The problem is that I meet people who are engaged in what I would consider to be 'sin' and yet they tell me that they can prove that it is not with the aid of a convenient (contextually, textually and linguistically incorrect) prooftext. The hermeneutic is not fixed but is more fluid and the meaning is well and truly lost in the mix. That said, I meet others who offer equally incorrect and misappropriated prooftexts to display their righteousness and the errors of the naughty people.

I, like one of my commentators, strive to let my theology 'drive the answer' and I find that the answer I have differs from friends (and enemies) at times, yet they tell me that they are doing the same, which adds to the confusion and the debate! BUT I enjoy the debate and am aware that if we are patient with one another there is often knowledge to be gained, peace to be maintained and sometimes (only sometimes though) an outcome which is undeniable and which demands our compliance (however painful and self-denying it might be).

I hope I never try to 'gloss over existing opinions' but (always) engage openly and without guile or malice in the debate with truth and Biblical fidelity and authentic and honest Christian living as the result, This is my goal and the goal (and hope) I have for those whom I pastor. Sometimes the 'existing options' are easily sorted into right or wrong and sometimes we find the 'Perhaps' or 'whatever' (a more modern viewpoint ;)).

Where I find others in error, generally, I hope to embody Paul's words from Galatians in that I will seek to restore those caught in sin 'gently' and I hope that this is the treatment I will receive when I am obviously fallen and in need of love, forgiveness and restoration. This is not to gloss over or condone error. It is not to be afraid to say clearly that I believe their views and actions to be contrary to what Scripture demands. But I cannot condemn nor judge, for I am told (in Matt 7) that the manner in which I judge will set the standards by which I too am judged and that the specks in the eyes of others are outside the scope of my beam-filled eyes. Not only that, but this is the LORD's prerogative and, regardless of how right I might think I am, not mine.

That said, Ezekiel calls me to be a watchman and as Ps 127 tells me, the LORD builds the house and watches over the show too, without this reality how can I build church or function in my duties on watch? But I must not neglect my duties lest those who are engaged in something which is 'unto death' continue unabated because I fail to raise the alarm (now, there's the real reason for us to see to offer correction, isn't it? Well, that and the fact that if we fail to raise the alarm and offer correction we not only fail to save a life but forfeit our own - now there's a motivating thought for us all!).

I will tell whoever will listen that it is folly to condone that which God condemns and it is self-defeating to endeavour to make Church look like the world so that the world will see it as 'safe' and 'attractive' for in fact it merely becomes an object of distaste to God and a source of contempt and ridicule to the world. It does not add to our numbers but has the opposite effect.
 
I will call to those who portray themselves a champions for the Lord and yet fail to stand, running away, when the going get tough, and call them cowards and rebuke them for their duplicity and dishonesty.

So, which theology do you prefer - one that portrays you as right in this world or that which confers righteousness upon you for eternity?

Pax

Friday, 12 February 2010

Clergy Pensions - the good, the bad and the cowardly!

I am amazed at the responses (and lack of them) regarding the motion passed at the Synod yesterday. For those who avoided voting because they were frightened of backlash can I say, "You deserve all you get and before you blame liberals for the situation/s we find ourselves in, take a look at the specks in your own eyes!"

I am so sick and tired of the moronic curtain-twitchers who are enthralled by the sexual antics of others, tutting and shaking their heads and calling down fire and brimstone (and a Fred Phelps variety of sinful and  unredeemed goings on). They love to chew over every facet of homosexual lifestyle, relishing and savouring every drop of sin and yet apparently, even though they are great at penning letters and posturing, don't have the hutzpah  to make a stand in case the naughty children turn on them! THIS IS CALLED COWARDICE or as we Brit's used to call it - LACK OF MORAL FIBRE.

A quote from the Christian Post to demonstrate what I am speaking of:

"One Synod member, who asked to remain anonymous, said conservative Synod members had deliberately withheld from taking to the floor to speak against the motion for fear of reprisals. "They didn't dare to. There would have been screams of homophobia if anyone had dared oppose it," he said.

It was for a lack of admonishing that Eli's sons died and lost the Ark! Eli dies and Ichabod is brought into the world (read it in 1 Samuel chapter four). There was ample opportunity for 'noutheo' that is 'admonishment' and yet the cowards gathered their skirts and gave up the game!

If you're hoping for a D-Day to come after this Dunkirk experience you obviously have a great deal of faith but little understanding of what you have given up.

Moving on from the cowardly - let's look at the good. Already they are talking of withholding their contributions to the church coffers, for they realise that there is a component of every pound that they pay that goes to service pensions and the £360m deficit will be a lot greater when this ceases. And believe me, from what I am hearing and reading, cease they will. A quote:

"I am considering stopping my standing order to my Church, and possibly all ministry, but don't want to act without consideration. I think it is too far for me."

The problem is that the good will not want their good money used to support what they consider is bad. For them this is a bridge too far and not only insofar as their money is concerned!

And for the bad - I'll leave you to decide who the villains are in this piece. Those who promote and support practices that are contrary to Biblical entreaty? Those who are happy to see such going as on occur because they will strengthen the cause of breakaway 'ex-Anglican' groups? The cowards who claim that they are not bowed or cowed by the liberals and yet time and time again fail to make a stand?

We certainly know how to make a crisis out of what should have been a straightforward situation (and how to blame everyone else for the outcomes).

Mary might well be praying for us (as an RC priest told me today) but I'm betting jesus is weeping!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Why I am Anglican

One of the comments made here recently asked me why I was an Anglican. This is one of the easiest questions I have had to answer of late (although I have a feeling the pension changes might change this as well!).

I am an Anglican because I believe that it is one of the few denominations in the U.K. which enables me to remain a truly orthodox Christian, despite the liberals, and has the soundest combination of liturgy, ministry and theology I can find. I distinctly heard God call me into the C of E proclaiming it to be the 'only boat to fish from' and I have not been disappointed.

Look at the broadness of the Anglican Communion and you'll find we're more Catholic than Rome as there's no influence of Vatican ][ for us (which of course is why Bennie's after our clergy and congregations to bolster a reforming and changing RC church), we do it as it used to be did!

Take a look at the Charismatic and Pentecostal strands and you'll see that the Anglicans do it better (and we're still Biblical with our theology and liturgy - not many can claim ). New Wine, Soul Survivor and much, much, much more (sorry have a long-term Police Academy gene problem) besides.

Looking at the central church and you'll struggle to see much difference between us and the Baptists (except we baptise babies, just like they did in the early church - no modern anabaptist heresies for us folk) or many other non-conformists (except we have a prayer book and ordered and structured liturgy) - but I'm sure you get the picture!

Look at Christians doing the stuff where the rubber meets the road in the many crises that life offers or in ecumenical circles and the majority player is, of course, Anglican. We're happy to share and to help all the churches grow - it's about Church and not 'my church' and we know and live in that reality.

Our liturgy is Biblical. Couple with this the excellent traditions of English Choral music and you'll see that we really do have a great deal to be thankful for. Try a sung eucharist and revel in an organ and an anthem sung well and there's no doubting the reality that the organ is 'the instrument!'.

On the liberal side we're (sadly) more camp than Colditz (but I won't go there :-)  we can escape! ).

Bottom line (can I say that so close to the previous topic?) is that we are still an extremely orthodox denomination and Scripture, Reason and Tradition loom large in everything that is Anglican for the majority of the time and for the majority of the people.

Ask people where their Christian journey began and, for the greater part, you'll find Anglican involvement! Sadly, many get lured away by the buzz, the music and the crowds (but they are sheep and so have to follow I suppose).

For those who are dismayed by today's goings on at Synod, can I encourage you to step back and take stock and then thank God for what the C of E really is? For those who would wish to write us (Anglicans) off can I encourage you to support the sound Christians who make up the best part of the Anglican Communion and stand with us rather than seek to lead people away from our heresy into your promised land?

Pray for us and our situation, for our leaders and for those who seek to make the church look like the world rather than the other way round and for those who remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ and will continue to - because this is where we're called. Bless us and stand with us as brothers and co-workers in the same vineyard.

Pax

CofE Supporting 'Gay Marriage' by stealth

What a clever move by Mark Bratton and what a complete and utter howler on the part of those who claim to be 'orthodox' the acceptance of the motion to 'provide parity of pension provision for surviving civil partners' was. Having been passed in all three houses the CofE has just endorsed same sex relationships and basically accepting the oxymoron that is 'gay marriage'.
    
Oooh, there will be some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth tonight, especially in the non-camp camp as they realise that whilst they went shopping or worded another letter for them all to sign, the deed was being done in front of them. Sadly, they were obviously too dense to realise what the motion meant and decided to be elsewhere.
    
I Can't wait to read some of the responses from pressure groups and others. Here's one that I have to say that I fully understand and support . . .
    
"Utterly ashamed of the synod today. Yes, let's take faithful Christians' money and reward civil partners for a lifetime of committed sin!"
    
Add to this John Broadhurst's comments this week regarding Gene Robinson which basically said something to this effect:
    
"If a man left his wife for another woman he'd be out of the ministry, so how does a man leave his wife for another man and remain a bishop?"
    
A good question but at least we can say that the other bloke will get a pension over here if his  priest partner dies!!! So now we know that civil partnerships and marriage are synonymous!    
Don't we have fun us Anglicans?