Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 5


Thought this was rather juvenile - so I loved it!

Wikileaks: the grand young Duke of York!

It has been revealed that US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, had a bit of a problem with the candour displayed by HRH the Duke of York at a brunch in 2008. Apparently he was in possession of "unmitigated patriotic fervour" and made comments that the Americans "Don't understand geography!' He was also seen to be in possession of a critical stance towards those who were investigating the BAe Al-Yamama arms deal and pointed out that when it came to greasing the paths for contracts, it was no different to France!

Now, I find the Ms Gfoeller (sounds like a character from the man with two brains doesn't it?) is just a little disingenuous with her complaints about 'patriotic fervour' as my time working in the US clearly shows that the 'my country, right or wrong' and the attitudes displayed from the top down and lived from the bottom up would probably leave Andrew looking rather subdued and conservative.

I have to say that I would also consider Andrew to have been kind regarding Americans and geography. After all, this is the nation where I was (proudly) told that no more that 25% of the population have a passport (2009 figures say 22%) and those who have one, have it to visit Mexico or Canada!

I was in an American church which claimed to be African-American and was asked where I'd come from. The answer was 'Kenya' and I was asked where that was. Having replied 'Africa' I was then asked it if were near to Soweto then! This, it transpires was one of the brighter people and even though the walls of the offices were plastered with Masai and other African tribally-clad people, they didn't have a scooby!

The American news is mainly about American and the world news looks out to the East from New York and sees the lights of California on the horizon and this doesn't aid the geographic awareness of this extremely insular nation either.

I understand the Prince's comments regarding BAe, after all what we investigated and acted against would be considered the norm across most of the globe, and in some nations the companies would also be heavily subsidised by the government too (even tho Eu rules preclude such thing - but what does that matter?).

I think Andrew was on form if the reports are even half true and I thank Wikileaks for a bit of a laugh amongst all the revelations that will cause tension and undoubtedly result in loss of life at some stage.

Freedom of speech is not always beneficial, especially if you are the one who will be facing the resultant gunfire or burying the dead and caring fro the refugees. Easy to be smug when you're so far away from any of the results of your acts :(

As for Andrew? Good job he's not a bishop, he'd find himself not suspended!

Monday, 29 November 2010

FIDO - Drinks and biscuits sorted!

Turns out that there's no problems regarding the light refreshments and tea, coffee and the like are now adorning the table in our meeting room alongside an assortment of biscuits that range from 'Rich Tea' through to the blessed 'Bourbon'. Seems that there's not even a problem with Marmite, which I'm sure will please some (I still choose not to like it myself!).

Now, refreshed and replete we can move forwards in our endeavour to disagree in a wonderfully unified and united manner. After all, God has called us to be one with Jesus, to be 'in communion' with Him in the same way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. This is also true of our relationship with each other too, but we need to live in this unity accepting that whilst joined together physically this does not mean we always love each other. After all, this would mean that we'd have to make concessions, listen and speak with a desire to be one and where would this leave us? We'd have to be happy at people using the BCP or singing Kum Bah Ya for goodness sakes (rather than using the Missal, Common Worship or the goose book)!

Obviously when Jesus prays that He wants us all to be one as He and the Father (and the Spirit) are one He doesn't mean this literally, does He? We just need to visit the words and revise the meaning for today's society. After all, it was so simple during the first five hundred years of Church, there weren't differing views and no one tried to interpret the Bible such that their own views, or the values of the society in which they found themselves, had any influence upon our understanding. Nobody was out to have their lifestyles, attitudes or craving for power influence the Bible and the way Christians lived and acted.

We're modern and have so much more knowledge now and we have theology and theologians who can tell us what the Prodigal's brother |(sister and mother too) thought about his return. We know how to make Church and Jesus look much more attractive, none of that killjoy, big stick stuff for us, we're enlightened and we intend to live in that reality. We're sophisticated and know what Jesus meant and realise that those who did the writing probably were a bit naive or uneducated (with the exception of Luke of course,after he had a doctorate and would have been a graduate, wouldn't he?).

It's obvious that whilst we are working towards us all being united in our disagreement, some of those who disagree with us may have to be 'encouraged' to move on as they're the sort of closed minds that will find it difficult to be as free as us and rather than them be sad they can be united with us from a bit further away. It's the kindest option really.

So, we can see the task before us - let's hope we don't get anyone else bringing in those curry cupsoupy things! We do have some standards you know.

Pax

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 4

Not sure how other might take this but I have to admit, I find this card rather funny. Especially as the inscription inside was:

"Saw this and thought of you! Merry Christmas"

Farewell Leslie Nielsen

The world is just little less funnier place today with the loss of Leslie Nielsen at the age of eighty-four.

the man who gave us the timeless gems such as:

Dr. Rumack: Can you fly this plane and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Dr. Rumack: I am serious, and don't call me Shirley

is a great loss to the Vicar household - might just have to arrange a church tribute day and watch the Airplanes in memory of a truly funny man.

dona eis requiem

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Choice or Design - A Bone Fido position?

Things have reached a critical stage already as we have entered into debate as to whether or not the drinking of coffee is a matter of choice or something much deeper. Some claim that they know they've been coffee drinkers from an early age whilst others have been led, dare I say 'groomed' such that they started drinking it as soon as it was socially acceptable for them to do so. There are even some among us who like to drink both tea and coffee!

We even have a member of the committee who although a tea drinker for years decided to start drinking coffee in his mid thirties, making a move that saw him leave his tea cups, tea pot and the lifestyle that went with it for ever. He claims now that he knew he liked coffee all along but the conservatives in his family forced him to drink tea. Tea was only ever offered after the services and anything else, other than squash (which is obviously for the children, was viewed with suspicion.

Mercifully, after a night of slogging over our Strongs' and Young's concordances and finding nothing to either deny or endorse the drinking of coffee and after a quick look at the Thirty-Nine Articles (we are after all, Anglicans) we found that in the Article VII (Old Testament) our salvation is to be found:

"The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore there are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral."

What joy has overwhelmed us, for we find that not only does the Bible not mention coffee but that we are also free from the dietary regulations (one of the guys has just sent out for a prawn sandwich!) but also free us from the religious stuff too! Betty has just asked whether this rule stretches to women too. We in an egalitarian move have decided that it means everybody!

Seems that the Bible is to be the authority for us on all the moral bits. I'm sure this will be a great help as we start to make our progress into a full document outlining our aims and the ways that we can work together (separately of course).

What? It seems someone's just asked if we have any Bovril?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

FIDO - our first difficulty

The traditionalists amongst us rather enjoy tea and this is causing our first piece of conflict as others would rather drink coffee. It was suggested that, in a spirit of establishing a via media of the liquid refreshment kind, we provide both beverages but this has served to highlight other groups within who want decaffeinated coffee, decaffeinated tea and a wild variety of other beverages including peppermint, camomile or lemon tea, all taking different positions.

It seems to me that we're going to have a bit of a task on our hands with this because someone has also asked what biscuits we have. I don't think the answer will be nice.

Hopefully it will be Bourbon!

An Anglican Discord - FIDO

It seems to me that the way forward for the Anglican Communion worldwide is that we all sign a document agreeing not to agree over the key issues but agree to agree over the things that don't really matter. To this end I am founding a new organisation which would, had I had the money,would have been Jerusalem. But, cutting our cloth accordingly, I hope to see those who agree with me presenting a new manifesto for organised disunity in an almost as good location - Hopwas. An ideal location as it has canal (for the launch), a road, two public houses (to enable people to celebrate unity away from each other!) and a telephone box (for the press) .

The new organisation will be called FIDO (Forward In Differing Opinions) a name which will reflect our dogged determination to not be one in the name of unity. We take our stance from the words of the ABC to Synod in 2008:

“Unity in diversity is the cherished Anglican tradition”

Having taken our lead from him, we will of course invite ++Rowan to be nominal head of the organisation (as submissive members of the Anglican communion). Suggestions have been made that we also invite Lord Mandelson, to show submission to the other side (secular, not 'dark') and we will also invite a member of royalty and a queen to provide balance. Other nominations (for self or others) are of course most welcome.

We've only got as far as the first bits, workload being what it is and in recognition that as CofE clergy we're approaching our 'busy time' (i.e. Argostide) so I trust you'll all be patient with us as the steering committee works on the fine details. That said, some initial thoughts which might guide us in our quest:

We need to read the Bible in the light of modern trends and attitudes, to this end we will be commissioning theologians to confirm that there were no typos or mistranslation such that the Creation story might have originally have featured 'Adam and Steve'.

The old standards and beliefs are to be continued with the extension that being honest (telling us your a sinner) will negate any sinful act because you are regarded to have integrity. Not only this, regardless of the relationship the defining issue will be fidelity. Whilst others might consider it wrong, as long as you've been doing it wrong a long time, this will render the act as permissible and obviously right.

All opinions and attitudes will now be deemed correct and so the wearing of vestments and the swinging of burning handbags will be as valid a form of church as horn-rimmed glasses, brown brogues and the (mandatory) open-necked check shirt.

BCP, the Missal, ASB, Common Worship, Flung Geese and the Rupert Bear Prayer Book will all be acceptable and permitted forms of worship.

Plainsong will be seen as preferable to plain speaking and the precepts of St Thumper of Bambi in that, "If we can't say nothing nice, we won't say nothing at all!" will probably mean that Anglicanism will become a worldwide (silent) religion!


Pax Vobis

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 4

A card for the mathematicians among us:

Friday, 26 November 2010

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 3

Here's one of the best nerd cards I've seen:

What's the Covenant?

Nothing like going back over new ground, but when (for many it appears) this is new ground, it's probably worthwhile.

Rather than fill the blog with myriad numbers of words, here's a link to read it for yourself:

The Anglican Covenant

Hopefully we can deal with any issues that arise as they do.

HTH

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Covenant - Like a woman buying a hat!

Sorry for the analogy but having been out shopping with my Mother only to find that she ends up liking the hat she was wearing when she started looking for a new one, it seems to me that something is going very wrong with the Covenant, General Synod, Conservatives and GAFCON (a critic yesterday explained that the latter was an amalgam of Gaffe and Conned!).

Seems that the primate house of GAFCON has engaged in monkeying around (or should that be aping?) regarding their support of the covenant because its wording is 'fatally flawed' such that their support for it is 'no longer appropriate'.

Now GAFCON has no influence or voice in itself but the primates do and the indication of withdrawal of support, being signed by:

The Most Rev’d Justice Akrofi, Archbishop, Anglican Province of West Africa
The Most Rev ‘d Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Rwanda
The Most Rev’d Valentino Mokiwa, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Tanzania
The Most Rev’d Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Most Rev’d Henry Orombi Archbishop, Church of Uganda
The Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya


Pretty much indicates that the measure is doomed (it falls unless ALL thirty-eight Provinces approve).

The morning session of the General Synod showed that there is a large degree of support for it (even though some must be described as 'cautious')

So what's this all about? If the measure falls and the lunatics continue to run the asylum unabated and unchecked will this see some of the provinces (interestingly including those of the signatories above) throwing up their arms and taking their toys off to another body (mmm, now who could that be?) and the internecine struggles between revisionist and orthodox (the high church contingent having swum the Tiber leaving the C of E to sink so that they can issue a heartfelt 'mea culpa' for the body they loathe (sic) so much?

I think this morning, the Anglican Communion and GAFCON in particular are deserving of the 'You're a Golgafrincham' Award'in that they're:

"A load of useless, bloody loonies!

What is the issue here? Church unity. Church discipline? Orthodoxy vs Revisionism? Just wanting it all your own way?

Will someone please enlighten me?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Christmas is coming and . .

One of the cards we've been discussing led me to ponder the suicide rates at Christmas.

When I started training in the area of counselling we were all told that Christmas was a time of great joy and also a time of:

Suicide (especially amongst men),

Marital breakdown,

Murder (and/or domestic violence), and the onset of

Mental illness.

But is this really the case? Let's start with the first category and see if we can establish some truth regarding suicide rates (UK):

This is a chart showing suicide rates by sex, United Kingdom, 1991-2008 

Figures for year ending 2008 (Source ONS) Men =17.7 per 100,000, women = 5.4 per 100,000.

So we can immediately see that the assumption that suicide being a male dominated sport does have some credibility. But what happens if we can find rates by month (or at least season) will this support Christmas as a prime mover for suicide or do we need to then expand our thinking to include SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) such that we find Christmas gets off from being the culprit?

A 1993 study (Cullum SJ et al) focussing on London hospital admission of self-harm compared Christmas Day, 7th February and 15th August over a seven year period found the following:

Christmas day - 12 cases
7th February - 25 cases
15th August - 25 cases

Compare this with another study from 1991 (Masterton G) focussing on adults (>16) in Edinburgh for the period 1969 to 1987 who were admitted due to parasuicide incidence (i.e. deliberate self-harm) at Christmas in Women.

This report saw a 20% drop for women in the month of December followed by an 11% increase in the first week of January
For men, there was no difference in incidence (or admission) during the same period and no subsequent rise either.

The reality appears to be that suicide and parasuicidal activity (i.e. successful or otherwise) actually decreases around Christmas. I guess this makes it an urban myth! (and now we can debunk that myth, which is always fun!)

The reality is that because of the season, people tend to notice, and perhaps comment to others more, suicide and so the awareness if raised, rather than the incidence.

If you'd like some studies to read regarding this, how's about

Ajdacic-Gross V, Wang J, Bopp M, Eich D, Rossler W, Gutzwiller F. Are seasonalities in suicide dependant on suicide methods? A reappraisal. Social Science & Medicine 2003;57(7):1173-1181.

Cullum SJ, Catalan J, Berelowitz K, O'Brien S, Millington HT, Preston D. Deliberate self-harm and public holidays: Is there a link? Crisis 1993;14(1):39-42.

Jessen G, Jensen BF, Arensman E et al Attempted suicide and major public holidays in Europe: findings from the WHO/EURO Multicentre study on parasuicide. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 1999;99(6):412-418.

Jessen G, Jensen BF. Postponed suicide death? Suicide around birthdays and major public holidays Suicide Life Threat Behaviour 1999;29(3):272-282.

Masterton G. Monthly and seasonal variation in parasuicide: A sex difference British Journal of Psychiatry 1991;158:155-157.

Phillips DP, Wills JS. A Drop in suicides around major national holidays. Suicide Life Threat Behaviour 1987;17(1):1-12.



Enjoy

While Shepherds . . .

Watched their flocks. Good job they weren't Welsh, if they were then the angelic hosts might have had some competition to worry about:

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 2

One of the weirdest cards I've ever seen!

Look upon it and worry:

Dialogue with views which differ from our own

Rowan said of dialogue that whilst he might not be able to agree with those who differ, he could say:

"I know you’re serious! And that’s dialogue for me – the recognition of the serious."

One key issue for Christians lies in the area of dialogue with others of a different faith, or often trickier still, no faith.

Dialogue requires lots of listening to understand what the person is actually saying. This becomes even more difficult when we are dialoguing with someone over what had been reported as something they said and takes wisdom and discipline when it relates to what has been reported regarding a third party.

It is far too easy to hear what someone has said rather than hear what it was that they said. The written word doesn't help as, of course, raised eyebrows, smiles and frowns are lost and without them, the nuance can also be lost. This is a difficulty that we especially encounter with our modern electronic communication modes, especially that of the social networking phenomenon and email.

Another problem we have before us is the media, which only a fool would consider to publish 'pure' and unadulterated news. Some sources are more trustworthy than others and some have an agenda and impart spin as an everyday reality.

The red tops are notorious for their spin and popularist 'dumbing down' coupled with the facile headline.

The Daily Fascist (aka Mail) always has wonderfully right-wing spin and rarely lets facts get in the way of the story they weave. Whether it be Sandhurst becoming 'non-Christian' or the latest witch hunt against a bishop who has his own views regarding the secular world, the facts and the full details rarely get in the way of a good ranting crusade. Better still, the fascists all love to rush for scythe and tumbrel to take up the cry!

The Grauniad (that wonderful source of typo's) is always good for a bit of a twee, muesli, Laura Ashley and stripped pine social working, trendy lefty viewpoint and this is good because when taken alongside the Torygraph (not as rabid as the Fascist) you are left with a pretty balance understanding of the facts.

I enjoy the Indie and the Thunderer (Times) but find myself rarely engaging with the latter since they've decided to charge for internet access.

There is too much opportunity for us to pronounce something which is inchoate and therefore potentially knee-jerk. Would that those who occupy the senior pointyhead ranks of our denomination would bear that in mind.

Pax

It's good to talk, ain't it?

So said one of the people I met this evening regarding + Pete Broadbent.

The majority view was that everyone hoped the marriage would be good for them both and would be an enduring and supportive thing. The problem was that all these celeb' style weddings were more about bling and the event than the people. The support for +Willesden was variable in that whilst they didn't totally agree, they disagreed more with +London!

Seems to many that his friendship with Charles has rather coloured (and shaped) his response and led him to act against nothing more than a little free thinking as if it were a breach of canon law or supporting (or even performing) something that goes against church law, the wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury or Church unity.

Mind you, when that occurred round the corner from +Richard at St Bart's I don't recall any withdrawing from public ministry (did I miss it?) or anything on a par with the treatment of +Willesden.

Over-reaction made all the more worrying by lack of reaction elsewhere over other issues perhaps?

Think this is a sad issue that's destined to become much more than it ever should have been!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

+Willesden Silenced by fascists?

The bishop of Willesden, being a supporter of that nefarious organisation, Tottenham Hotspur, generally has to be regarded as a much loved but fallen member of the Christian community.

That said, he's made a few comments about a royal and his prospective missus (wedding - Westminster Abbey, Friday twenty-ninth of April 2011) and pointed out that the aforementioned group (royal, not Tottenham fans) haven't had a great track record of fidelity (don't know though, just how many managers have they had?) and compared them to 'shallow celebrities' and marriages that fail to live past the itch (seven years) and these have caused some to scream and shout for his blood.

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London and well-known disciplinarian and all-round nice guy speaks of the situation, thus:

"I was appalled by the Bishop of Willesden’s comments about the forthcoming royal marriage. In common with most of the country I share the joy which the news of the engagement has brought.

I have now had an opportunity to discuss with Bishop Peter how his comments came to be made and I have noted his unreserved apology. Nevertheless, I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice. I have also been in touch with St James’s Palace to express my own dismay on behalf of the Church.

Arrangements will need to be made in Bishop Peter’s absence and further details will be given in due course.

With thanks for your partnership in the Gospel.

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres KCVO DD FSA"


Now, whilst everyone is telling me Pete's not suspended, I struggle to understand what 'being absent' is if this is not removal from duties. The bloke made a few comments which of course he's perfectly able to do, it's called freedom of speech and whilst I don't agree with him, he has broken no church rules (although he's probably upset the Supreme Governor).

Interesting how others, closer than Willesden, have broken church rules and received nothing more than an investigation from an Archdeacon (which amazingly came to nothing - certainly nothing compared to Pete Broadbent's discipline). Suffice to say, I don't think Willesden's going to get the job officiating.

Still, always a bright side to life as he can enjoy a home match against Liverpool this Sunday and perhaps David Urquhart (Bishop of Birmingham) will offer him lunch if he pops up for the away match against Birmigham. If he's lucky, he might still be off on the twelfth of December for the home match against Chelsea (another Sunday off - perhaps I'll make a comment as well!) too!

Still, a victory for suppression of free speech and the power of the press to force us down the road of keeping within their limits. The man is, and has been a credit to the Church of England and I am sorry to say that I feel this storm in a teacup shames +London rather than applauds him. After all, I don't like Marmite and know that some who obviously do berate me for it. :)

Pax

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 1

I thought I'd start giving you a lead-in to the madness that is Argostide with one of what I think is a good, and is therefore one of my favourite, Christmas card images.

The Accused - Found guilty?

A nice lady from the BBC Vision has just told us why 'the accused' is a great piece of  work:

'The key isn't whether it's factual but whether it's a good piece of fiction that is important. Not only that but Jimmy McGovern's father was in the army and it isn't a 'docudrama'. This is merely a set of fictional stories about moral scenarios and we're sure that people can discern between fact and fiction.'

Let's look at some of the things said  regarding this programme:

'I can't believe that elements of this don't go on.'

'The helpline number at the end of the piece serves to confirm that it went on, after all 'why would they ask people who have been subject to things in the programme to contact them if it hadn't happened?'

Think the BBC have nailed this one, don't you?

Of course it's only drama

And no one ever believes that drama is true, do they?  Well actually they do as stories of various soap villains being hit, abused and the like because of the things that their character did on the moronoscope!

The latest offering from the BBC 'Jimmy McGovern's - the accused' displays things that, as far as I am aware, are not and in so doing will undoubtedly bring further pain and distress to the families of people who either reside in the QE Hospital, Headley Court and other places where recovering wounded are to be found, and for those who (sadly) possess the Elizabeth Cross) provides the cherry on a very painful cake!

Controversial drama is all well and good, but there has to be some balance. It seems to me that there is (as always) an agenda with this production.

Actors in the production say that it has left them with 'more respect' and claim that it is nothing more that a 'piece of fiction, a 'what if' this happened in the British Army?"  The problem is that there are many who will see this as a 'what is' in the British Army and therefore it fuels things which might best best left.

If people would like a dialogue on Afghanistan, a true image of 'what is', honest and open, full and frank, then I am surely up for that.

Then again, the number of people who tell me, 'we shouldn't be there' and are surprised when I explain the implications on the nation state of Pakistan or the realities of having 'something terrorist' coming to a town or city near you, the destabilising efforts of other nations upon Iraq (whom we left before the job was done as I see it) and Afghanistan and the role that we are playing out in dusty and rocky places - I get the 'Oh, I didn't realise. I thought it was all about oil!'.

As for bleats about 'my dad went to war and was proud that he ever even fired his weapon!' from the writer. This is the truth - every soldier want to walk onto a battlefield, find peace and never have to fire their weapon.

Pity he didn't write about that and the fact that the British Army understand LOAC (Laws of Armed Conflict) and live by them.

Pity he didn't choose to reflect on the Values and Standards of the British Army:

Selfless Commitment

Respect for other - respect for self

Loyalty

Integrity

Discipline, and

Courage

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Monday, 22 November 2010

Reading Air Accident Journals

For those of you who have never had the fun of reading Air Accident investigation Branch (AAIB) reports, I have to tell you that you've been missing out. Here's this months offering:

AAIB Bulletin - Nov

Not only do you get some interesting reading (well it is for aviators) but you find some great sermon examples too! Not only that but there's pictures (great for that sermon illustration):



Not only in the AAIB sources of course. There's also 'Air Clues' (essential reading ) and of course Pilot, Flyer and best of all 'Popular Flying' (magazine of the Popular Flying Association).


So now you know - have a read, they're great fun.

Rupert Bear Prayer Book - revisited

Was at a service a while back (just found the service sheet) which had the most wonderful example of 'A Service of the Word (according to Rupert Bear)'. It contained these gems:

Welcome.

We come into God's presence
To bless Him and praise His holy Name.

Let us pray
O God who is three in one, Father, Holy Spirit Son,
We come before you here today to sing your praise, Read and Pray,
Expecting you to draw us near as you our prayers and cries do hear.
So take us in your arms we pray and bring us solace from our day,
And by your love we are made one. Through you father, Spirit and the Son. Amen.

We come to bless His holy name.
We come into God's presence.

Now, I understand the sentiments but have to ask, "What on earth makes people write stuff like this?" Surely we can write liturgy that says what it needs to without resorting to the tragedy that is rhyming?

The service continued with some really nice imagery and then as we approached the prayers, Rupert re-entered with a salty sea captain and a friend:

Intercession.
We bring to you praise and the needs of ourselves and others,
Knowing that you hear and answer because you love us.
In supplication, Lord, we come, asking that your will be done . . .


I love people trying to respond to God and to encourage others to do this and applaud anyone who seeks to write liturgy that helps us to reflect on God's love and respond to it, but there are limites. Seems that along with poor theology we will have to also expect to endure the continuing reality of naff, rhyming, liturgy too!

Still Christmas cards are on the way . . . (Advent 1 next week)

A Wee bit of humour

Some time back I was reading through some aircraft incidents journals and one of the entries rather caught both my eye and imagination. It related to an old people's home and Urinary Incontinence!

The staff at the home had a number of residents who had problems in the waterworks department. The solution was to have them fitted with something called a 'Transurethral bladder stimulator', a device which when activated cause the person them to empty their bladder.

What was causing some concern (and workload) was that fact that at certain times every person in the home who had one fitted urinated at the same time! The staff tried for ages to sort the problem and neither they nor the medical teams could work out the cause. The equipment was working well and nothing, it appeared, would ever be identified as the source of the problem. That is until one afternoon when just as an aircraft passed overhead on its way to East Midlands Airport they noticed that micturation was the sport of the moment!

The staff member noted the time and asked staff to keep notes as to other occurrences. As I recall it happened during weekdays. After a couple of weeks it was obvious that there was a pattern emerging and so the relevant aviation people were contacted and a correlation between their residents peeing and aircraft arriving some five minutes later was sought out. It didn't take too long to establish the link between one aircraft, a cargo carrier, and the peeing.

Flight paths were checked and it turned out that one of the aircraft's avionics (a transponder) was activated as they approached the home. The authorities asked the carrier to fly over the home (without transponder activated) and found that nothing happened. The aircraft overflew the home again, this time 'squawking' (i.e. transponder on and sending an identification code which is seen on radar screens by controllers). Bingo! The cause had been found - turned out that one of the aircraft had a faulty bit of avionics - they were home dry!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Hijacking Argostide?

I was at a dinner last night and one of the casual conversations that cropped up contained something either quite frightening or rather amusing when a lovely old chap (he's been churchwarden in his time) asked me this question as part of his, "Coming up to your busy period with Christmas approaching," chat:

"Don't you think that sometimes the Church tries to hijack Christmas and make it all about Jesus and Church?"

He went on to explain that after all, "Christmas is for the kiddies and toput all that religion in just makes people feel guilty about not going for the rest of the year!"

I have to say that I was, most uncommonly, left almost speechless (well, for a second or two)!

I'll leave you to ponder that for the day - I'm going to celebrate Christ the King!

ps.

On the way back I had the munchies and ended up going to a fish and chip shop for some battered mushrooms. I walked in to the shop (in full mess dress) and realising the look of surprise from the other side of the counter quickly explained (with shock and horror) that I hadn't realised there wasn't a dress code and must look horribly overdressed!

Broke the ice and made for a fun few minutes!

Pax

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Schism? No, we're just a bit married!

The position we appear to be occupying is very similar to a colleague of mine who used to describe himself as being 'a bit married'. What he meant was that he 'was' married but that he also felt himself free to have other relationships outside of the marriage. He would tell (anyone who'd listen) of a relationship that meant when he was home and with his wife he was totally committed to her and when out with us lads, he was effectively free to act, as long as it didn't get serious and as long as he ended up going home afterwards. His wife understood that he needed his freedom to roam and was secure that he'd always end up coming back to her.

Of course, we never got to meet the wife and therefore the explanation was extremely one-sided and as we all know (Prov 18:17) one person always appears to be in the right until we hear the other person's side of the situation (i.e we begin to ask questions).

It seems to me that we are living in a church that is just a bit married and this, to be honest is the way that the via media that is the Church ofEngland has functioned for an extremely long time (like, err, for ever?). The willingness and ability for the central position to straddle the extremes occupied by the evangelicals (who refused to wear dog-collars and eschewed any of the trapping of Romish heresy) and the Anglo-Catholics (who naughtily use the Roman Missal and pray for Benedict 'Our Pope').

We have lived within and celebrated the 'broad church' that is Anglicanism and rightly so, but we are in danger of losing the breadth and exchanging it for a narrowness that excludes moral, Biblical and theological rectitude for a mess of socially acceptable potage.

Where God has called us to live lives of holiness some are calling on people to live lives of happiness.

Where God has called us to be disciplined and discipled others are calling us to live lives which accept and accommodate just about anything in a manner that renders the Gospel outdated and Christian living as outmoded.

Whilst some sad and puerile types might see the fact that I choose to follow Christ. To attempt to ridicule the reality that I choose to put off any selfish desire to engage in whatever I wish, ignoring the fact that it appears to be proscribed (in my Bible), because I want to exercise my right to be happy, have my bell rung or whatever because it's not what God calls me to. This mocking is no different to the way that they mock Christ and so I should be grateful that I have no opportunity to catch flees by sleeping with them.

We really do need to see the Church of England and Episcopalian move to a position where each can exist independently (here and in the US). The former can be the broad church that always has been the Church of England and |Anglicanism whilst the latter can be the province of revisionist and promoter of liberal lifestyles. Once we are here we might be able to exist outside of each other and still find places to dialogue and celebrate those areas of mutual belief.

Like my colleague, we're merely 'a bit married' and that just won't do! We're either committed to being Biblical Christians or we're not, and if we're not, then we need those who wish to bring about a new dynamic must accept that they also need to invent a new religion too!

It isn't Anglican and it shouldn't be allowed to be either.

The time has come when we can take the easy option or the right option - make your choices now (and defend them and the right to have them, the right way!).

Friday, 19 November 2010

"Let us stay," said the Liberal!

Having engaged some of those who are threatening to leave the church for something 'better' I sought to engage with someone who assumed the church would be a 'better' place once those who were so disaffected had left.

This person spoke of 'tolerance' and 'unconditional love', of 'fidelity' and 'acceptance' and to be honest, the words were attractive and enticing. We needed to revise the ways we read the Bible and to see that we needed to be relevant and realistic in this twenty-first century if we were to bring Jesus into it. Or, as they put it:

"What we need to do is to see how we need to change to fit in with the world and its lifestyles and attitudes. Jesus needs to be brought up to date and the Bible to be interpreted for today so that it is relevant for today, and this means re-interpreting it and perhaps changing the taboos of old for the acceptance of the new. Jesus needs to be welcoming and supportive, not condemning and against what is these days the norm! Those who oppose suchviews are like a cancer, they eat away at the love of God by their rules and their old oppositions and condemnations."

I have to be honest, I'm not sure what's more frightening, the potential for some to leave or that some remain! On one hand we have people who will leave because of the errors before them (rather than make a stand). On the other hand we have people who are so accepting of others and their views that they will (apparently) harry and vilify any who dare to oppose them. Oddly, I see in many of these combatants nothing to separate them from the other!

It is grossly immature to say that ones support all views and lifestyles and yet so obviously (and spitefully in some cases) oppose those who hold differing views. It is arrogant (and bordering on the insane) to believe that taking up the position of, "Because we say so!" will confer any weight to a position or make it any more valid.

We are supposed to be Christians, that is 'followers of the Way that is Jesus, the Christ' and so my question is, "Why the bloody hell don't we act like it?" (I know, but that's what I feel).

When we discuss homosexuality, it might be a topic to discuss for us, but for the homosexual it's talking about who they are!

When we discuss women and ordination, we're talking about people and although for us it might just be an issue, for women who are ordained, considering a call to ordination, or just being women, it's something that's up close and personal.

When people discuss misogyny and the wicked 'high church' types they are condemning people who are merely trying (in many cases) to maintain their integrity insofar as what they believe is true regarding ecclesiology.

Whenever we attack others to defend our positions we weaken that position.

I don't believe we can exist in a church where homosexuality is supported and the minority who practice it can be ordained without destroying the integrity of the whole. It is as absurd as thinking that a vegetarian organisation can have a meat-eating section. What we have is a split church - so perhaps better to separate it and have two entities who might then discover where the mutual areas are and celebrate them rather than continue the spats, factions and divisive antics within it.

Pax

Thursday, 18 November 2010

"Let us flee," said the fly (ing Bishop)!

I was engaged in a rather tense and potentially difficult conversation regarding two flying bishops, one retiring bishop and a further two retired bishops who together will be hereafter be known as (no, not 'Wild Stallion') but the fleeing five (FF) as perhaps opposed to the 'Fab Four!

I was told that the damage inflicted upon the C of E by their departure to the Ordinariate was a stand for the followers of the 'True Church' within the Anglican structure. This was a 'death punch' which sounded the 'death knell' for the Anglicans who would be sorry when the 'True Church' had left for Rome. For all that would be left was people with 'no liturgical expression and no ecclesiastical structures or history!' Once settled in Rome the faithful could work for a proper 'Catholic' Church of England (in England).

Blimey, all this talk of death this and that and no liturgy makes it sound a bit like a tub-thumping American Pentecostalist meeting doesnt it?

I looked for solace towards another member of my group, but they told me that soon and very soon the 'orthodox' would be leaving to be part of the 'Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans', who once away from the errors of being Anglican could find the freedom to be Anglican!

My Evo, charismatic colleague just sat there content that son and very soon the whole thing would collapse and the happier (and clappier) evangelical type could all just change the signs outside their buildings to 'Vineyard' or 'New Wine' and rejoice at being away from gays, liberals and those 'Mariolatry' types.

Blinking Heck people - here's a few truths from the place where I am now hiding:

1. Like the Lotto, 'You have to be in it to win it' (or perhaps that should be, 'to influence it!). Living in Roma and being RC gives you no right to comment and no right of influence in the Anglican offshoot that is the C of E. You've gone and you've left us to stew and head towards the very situation you predicted (and have assisted perhaps by your departure?).

2. If you leave something, then you are ex-somethings! Therefore, leaving the C of E, or the Anglican Communion, surely leaves us with the Fellowship of Confessing Ex-Anglicans. You, like those eating Spaggy Bog and sipping Chianti, might be happy where you have absented yourself to, but again - you have no right to expect to be able to influence the C of E or others within the Anglican branding.

3. If you move to a position where 'believers baptism' and being distinctly 'not Anglican' are not on the menu, you are not Anglican either and even though you're happy and perhaps even (clappily) growing, you've left Anglicanism for new and distinctly different shores.

For those of us called to be Anglican and who have chosen to be so because of theological realities and understanding, it seems that there are many 'faithful Christians' who seek their own satisfaction at the cost of unity and voracity within the Anglican Communion.

And then there's the liberals (whom we will most assuredly get round to) - time to go, more discussion time beckons!!!

Manuscripts and the Mac

Thought RevSimmy might just enjoy these:




Saves on all that gold leaf!

Death of 'Death by PowerPoint'?

I'm on a course at the moment and one of the shocks has been that people are having the audacity to come and speak to us rather than display PowerPoint slides and then read them to us. It appears that the endless hours of being subjected to 'Death by PowerPoint' are coming to an end (Hallelujah!!).

Of course this brings a new set of problems because now there's nothing to distract or attract one's gaze you quickly find yourself watching the speaker and there's a real danger of actually taking information in!

One of the telling observations was an observation from of the course members: "If PowerPoint is going to be on decline it would be fair to assume we'll all be receiving diocesan training in its use within the next twelve months!"

Of course that might be true but nothing's going to take me away from my flannelgraph!

Monday, 15 November 2010

MacDonald's - It's not fast food!

last year we stopped on out way out of town to buy some food from McDonalds. We ordered food and drinks for everyone and were directed to one of the bays to wait as our order wasn't ready. We dutifully sat and waited until, after almost twenty minutes a management type sauntered over and brought part of the order (which of course was typically mostly wrong!). I went over and negotiated swapping the wrong things with the girl at the window and we waited for the 'manager' to return with the last few items.

When he returned I pointed out that we'd been just a little over twenty-five minutes from ordering to receiving the order. His response was priceless.

"MacDonald's isn't supposed to be fast food," he said as he huffily walked back to his obviously now cordon blue establishment.

I thought that was the ultimate in MacDonaldeze until I received an email with this tale:

"My daughter and I went through the McDonald's take-out window and I gave the clerk a £5 note. Our total was £4.20, so I also handed her a 20 pence piece. She said, 'You gave me too much money.'
I said, 'Yes I know, but this way you can just give me £1 back.'
She sighed and went to get the Manager who asked me to repeat my request.
I did so, and he handed me back the 20 pence and said 'We're sorry but we do not do that kind of thing.'
The clerk then proceeded to give me back 80 pence in change!"


Unsurprisingly I am not surprised :)

When is Car Insurance not Car Insurance?

I always used to enjoy the advert for one of the car insurance companies which proudly proclaimed. 'We Arnott Insured!'. I always thought that being insured by a company with a catchy title was the only way you could legally be covered and yet tell the truth when making that statement.

BUT

Of course I was obviously a very mistaken person as I the insurance renewal for my car proved only too well. In fact it proves a number of things, the most important of which is be wise, ceck your renewal and see if you can beat it elsewhere for:

a. Price,

b. Excess (of the voluntary and compulsory kinds), and

c. Continuation (i.e. where you decide that you won't continue with the insurance provider but they take the money anyway!).

Regarding a. I received a quote for my renewal. It was in excess of £400, which I have to say was rather high. Even when we took into account the number of people using ambulance-chasing, 'no win - no fee' legal eagles and those people shop slam their brakes on so they can have a claim with value-added whiplash, both of which are (or so I'm told) pushing premiums higher and higher.

So I started to look around and found that I could get insurance for about half of the renewal from my previous (seven years with them) company. 'Aha', they cried, 'What about the extras you get for free with us?'

I was brought up short with this as I hadn't considered the 'hidden benefits'. So I started looking at them.

The first areas under consideration was the excesses. These are the bit you pay should you have an accident. My new (cheaper) insurance only gave me an excess of £150. So what of my renewal with the old firm? The combined excess was £550! (£300 'Compulsory excess' and another £250 'voluntary excess' (don't ever remember volunteering, especially for that!!!).

What this amounts is that I'm being asked to pay over £400 for a piece of paper that says 'I am insured' with the reality that I am not unless the costs are in excess of £550! I thought the idea of insurance was that I pay and so do they if I'm unfortunate enough to have a shunt down to my error! Obviously I was wrong, I'm just paying for a piece of paper to meet the legal requirements and not the moral cover from an insurer.

So, I was still looking when I received my new Insurance certificate, as having not contacted them within the week before the old policy expired the insurers had assumed I'd just want to carry on with them!!!

I was amazed when having informed my (now previous) insurer's (very nice, but rather naive)call centre person that I didn't want to use them for my renewal I was told that I could have an additional discount approaching £100 if I stayed with them. I asked whether this would change the excess to £150 (as per new insurance) and was told that it would still be £550.

'So, would you like to renew now we're cheaper?' I was asked! I explained that they were still almost another £100 dearer and that their excess was £400 more (and I didn't mention the fact that the windscreen cover was £75 more as well) and was told, 'But we've dropped the price so there's no reason to change!'

The whole world has gone blinking bonkers!

Make sure you check your insurance when it's due for renewal - a quick shop around saved me over £200 and cut my excess by £400 and I'm willing to bet I'm not an isolated example.

Caveat Emptor people.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Not losing focus

Today throughout the British Isles people will be taking the time to remember those who have given their lives in the service of their country, praying for those who have served, praying for those who serve today and praying for peace in this troubled world of ours.

Each year I am privileged to lead an ANZAC Day service, the coming of age of two young nations and an example of ways in which success can be turned into tragedy as men are landed at the foot of cliffs rather than on the beach across whose shores progress was assured. Organisational folly matched by extreme courage and bravery. War is certainly not glorified here - but we honour those who went knowing full well what the reality is.

Each year we add names to the Armed Forces Memorial. Names of those who have died whilst on active service. Some names, like perhaps Olaf Schmidt, make the headlines. Others like Flight Lieutenant Michael Blee, who died flying a cadet on an Air Experience Flight might not have the same news attention, but is another whose name we remember today.

Perhaps Op Telic and people like Second Lieutenant Joanna Yorke Dyer, Corporal Kris O'Neill, Private Eleanor Dlugosz and Kingsman Adam James Smith come to mind.

Or from Op Herrick we might be thinking of people like Matt Lindly, a bomb disposal officer and a man who typifies courage as every move could be their last and yet the work to protect civillians (Linley was awarded the George Cross for his courage and life-saving acts) continues despite the personal risks.

Others who perhaps aren't recognised as heroes are the SF soldier who dies after leaving the service, the Scene of crimes officer who died after an IRA bomb detonated and many more besides.

I found a book which says "A man doesn't truly die if his name is not forgotten."

We will remember them.

With thanks and with the due respect they deserve. Not ignorant of errors in planning or policy but not obscuring the courage and commitment that sees us sleeping safely at night and free to live in a democracy with freedom of speech.

Dona eis requiem

Thursday, 11 November 2010

We will remember them

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


For the fallen - Laurence Binyon

Ninety years ago today, at 11:00 am (GMT) Armistice Day was marked and an unknown soldier was buried amongst the rulers, nobles and highest of this land. A place of honour for an unknown man. Class, age and education levelled by death through service.

Armistice Day (11th Nov), and Remembrance Sunday, do not glorify war, not does it gloss over the errors and the wasteful losses of life that occurred - but it remembers the fact that as long as men and women wear uniforms of their nation's forces and are willing to 'march away' to combat wrong and to support the oppressed, we have some vestige of hope in this troubled world.

For our future - they gave their present, let's us honour that.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

We're not in crisis here!

Just had a telephone call from a reporter asking for my views as an Anglican dog-collar on the fact that the 'Church of England is in crisis'.

I think I may have been a bit disappointing as, holding my telescope to my blind eye, I asked what the crisis was and whether my name was mentioned anywhere explicitly in the paperwork (always good to check). Apparently I'm still in the clear! Seems the crisis is a mass defection from the Anglicans to the Roman Catholics (don't know whether the 'mass'bit was supposed to be a pun!).

Further discussion came down to the fact that two bishops (Richborough and Ebbsfleet) are resigning, one (Fulham) is waiting until he retires (see Hello John, got a new denomination) to swim and two more, already retired, are also going across. The only 'mass' I see here is according to the Roman rite and I see little in terms of exodus (even if the five hundred clergy and congregation members materialises).

Having managed to garner nothing controversial or in the slightest bit exciting (steady on, I am an Anglican!) I was then asked if I thought many churches would leave, 'lock, stock and barrel' for Rome. But again I proved to be eminently boring in that whilst some churches (meaning the people) might consider 'going to Rome' they'd go without the inanimate contents of the building. Obviously not sensational stuff, we tried once more . . .

"Do you think that this is the end of the Church of England as a 'catholic' reality?" Now here we'd struck oil as I asked which 'catholic' was being used. "Universal 'catholic' or Catholic as a brand," I asked. "What's the difference," came the well-informed reply.

So I explained that 'catholic' was the Church universal and 'Catholic' was the trademark of Rome plc. After a few seconds (what I assume was( thinking, back came the response, "Err, both!"

So it began, "Well, we've not been 'Catholic' since about 1530 something and the Act of Supremacy, but we are a 'reformed and catholic' church which means we share creeds, formularies and the like. Of course, whether or not we can claim this a few years hence is another thing as the very people who claim to love the church (of England) and endorse the catholic bits of it are apparently leaving. If they go, who will stand for it (catholicity) and who will seek to keep it's integrity and maintain its practice and theology?" Seems that perhaps we have a self-fulfilling prophetic body!

By now the poor dear was obviously wishing they were reporting on a cake or flower-arranging competition out in a rural village and was getting confused more confused. After all, "Why were they in the Church of England anyway? Shouldn't they have gone back to Rome when Henry took over? Not only that but shouldn't 'catholics' be in the Catholic church, it was wrong to keep them in the Church of England!"

You know, perhaps we are in crisis, perhaps not in the church (or the Church) but most definitely in the way we teach, educate, train or whatever it is schools do these days. Perhaps we should call Catholic - Roman Catholic and catholic - universal, it might save time when reporters come a calling!

Discernment: Telling good from evil

According to Proverbs 3, discernment is, along with sound judgment, something we need to preserve and treasure. Add Hebrews 5 and we get a fuller picture:

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."

If discernment is 'distinguishing between good and evil' how do we do it and what are the parameters?

Revsimmy throws Matthew 7:20 into the pot, reminding us that it is 'by their fruits that we will whether the tree is good or bad'. One of the features of some of the obviously non-Christian sects and groups is that they work hard at appearing to produce good fruit. People see them doing good and being nice people and think, "I'll go join them, what a nice bunch!" - guess it's called PR and marketing.

For me, I would need to see that the group are 'orthodox' in that they stand the test of being examined with regard to 'Scripture, Reason and Tradition' (Experience also being valid here).

I also consider the structure of the group and the ways that people relate within it. What looks like a loving group from the outside can be extremely controlling and very different from within. I'd also have to look at the history of the group and the reasons it came into being. Those who founded it are often telling too!

Another area of consideration has to be consistency and purpose. If a Vegetarian group suddenly decided that being carnivorous was cool, I'd have to ask what brought about this sea change. The same is true for some of the groups (i.e. LDS) who were extremely antagonistic about being called 'Christian' and yet are now spending money to convince people they are. Why? I assume it's because if they can be labelled 'Christian' then those with no understanding of what Christian really is will be more easily attracted. They know the brand name but don't know what it offers and so they're easy pickings!

I am having the same concerns over some of the other groups who keep their structures, leaders and the like but have brought their group into the fold. Revelation of the truth or realisation that by appearing to be sound there are people on the edges who might be won in and restore the revenue of the good old days?

So, when looking at a Church, denomination, local fellowship or whatever, it seems to me that we need to employ the following checks:

ORTHODOXY - Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience (needs to be more than a 'tick the box' exercise

FRUITS

ORIGINS - Key people then (and now), beliefs, reason for coming into being

ORGANISATION & STRUCTURE - How it runs, what it does with money, how do the members relate with each other (and the leadership)

JESUS - We need to be able to see Jesus in the organisation - its mission, ministry, life and attitudes. If we can't then it just isn't Christian even if the words used or the beliefs stated make us want to be lazy and welcome them in.

This is an area that I confess I have been lazy with. I haven't thought about protecting those around me because the threats aren't there. But when they come it would have been easy for me to have been asleep. Something those of us who are called to shepherd the sheep and to be watchmen over must never do.

Be on your guard for "Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Pe 5:8

Pax

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Christian Brands and Discernment

Being Christian and having discernment is something that I, sort of, expect Christians to be good at and yet it appears that, far too often, my expectations are dashed and fall empty to the floor.

When it comes to deciding which brands are Christian, I'm finding that some of the easy choices are exactly that, after all, we 'know' they're dodgy because we were told this by people we trust or it's obvious because they're not mainstream (ever seen a kingdom hall or actually spoken to one of the two identically dressed Mormon clones that are sent to evangelise our towns?).

The problems come when:

i. We employ a tick box mentality which assumes that as long as we can garner enough ticks from whatever 'church, community or gathering' under the microscope then they are rendered 'safe'; and better still, as credible Christians.

ii. We decide that popularity is an indicator of theological integrity and moral rectitude.

iii. We look at the things people want us to see, and having seen what we were meant to, fail to see that we've just consigned the sheep we are called to care for to be taken up by shepherds such as are warned of in Ezekiel 34: 1 - 6:

"Then this message came to me from the Lord:
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them."


We need to work hard at discerning what is on offer with the Christian brands and the local franchises, even those of well-known and generally approved brands. It's not just us who are risk but others, who might rely on us to protect and advise them.

How are we doing?

WGC - More thoughts!

Before I could finish my tea and think about creeping of for a couple of hours sleep (yes, it is 5:00!) I received a mail with a link to http://shadowsofwcg.com/?p=30.

Entitled, More thoughts on the name change of the former Worldwide Organisation, it makes an interesting read. The problem with cults is that those who remain in them are convinced of their good and those who have left are damaged, negative and sometimes lacking in focus (which is understandable) and there is a need to see through the smoke on both sides and find the truth.

So, here it is. Make of it what you will:

"I wanted to write one more post on the name change of the Worldwide Church of God to Grace Communion International, and make a few points clear as crystal.

Why is it that the ex-COG bloggers have had less than positive reactions about the change of the Worldwide Church of God to Grace Communion International?

Before I get into answering that, let me make a few observations about the name “Grace Communion International”.

It’s awful! The name does not roll off the tongue, for one thing. For another “Grace Communion” just sounds odd, overall. And thirdly, WHY “International”? It just keeps following what other COG Churches have done – adding International to the end of their name. We have United Church of God, an “International” Association. We have “Church of God International”. And now we have “Grace Communion International”. Am I permitted to simply say “Who cares about the International”? So what! Honestly.

The above was simply my personal opinions to the Name Change. Joseph Tkach and Company gave their opinion. They say that grace lies at the heart of their values and mission as a “transformed church”. They say their spiritual unity with God and one another is vested in the word “Communion”. and the word “International”? Because they have members that span the globe. That’s their interpretation.

I want to talk a little bit about their statement that they are a “Transformed Church”.

Any transformation is purely cosmetic as long as they maintain the rigid power and government structure carried over from the old Worldwide Church of God. It is true that they have abandoned the core doctrines of Herbert Armstrong’s empire. They no longer enforce Sabbath and Holy Day observance, they embrace mainstream celebrations of faithful people, yet the crucial staple that ties the “Grace Communion International” Fellowship to the Old Worldwide Church of God is by NO means transformed. In fact, it holds GCI to WCG like superglue. The name change means nothing as long as the President holds totalitarian power over the organisation. The “transformation” is only in what they believe, not in how they do business. Has the financial accountability been transformed? No. Has the totalitarian power system been transformed? No. Is the President still the same one that was ordained by the former leader of the Old Worldwide Church of God who was ordained by the Cult Founder himself? Yes. Did this organisation authorize the book of horrible artwork of gloom and destruction and fear? Apparently yes, according to recent articles and statements. Thus, even though the people of Grace Communion International are transformed from hardcore armstrongism advocates to people of Historic Christian Faith, those whom are members of Grace Communion International are willingly joined to a system with the same government structure and leader with a direct tie to Armstrongism. For me, it would be morally and ethically wrong if I was to convert to mainstream Christianity to stay in an organization with even the slightest operating mode that resembles armstrongism, no matter how much chocolate frosting they put over the mildew.

All of this, however, though valid, is not getting to the root of why individuals are not reacting with joy and glee over this change. The root of it is summed up in this sentence: The Worldwide Church of God is attempting to distance itself from its past without removing itself from its past, it is attempting to make a dramatic separation of itself without separating itself totally from the system that made it what it is. As “Aggie” points out on Armstrong survivor, they continue to demand and collect money from their members while refusing to provide financial accountability.

Do they really think that people cannot see through this?

If they truly want to call themselves transformed, they must do what I outlined in a previous post. Joe must step down as President, the bylaws must be changed, finances must be publicly accounted for,and a new President must be voted in who is solid in the Christian Faith with no ties to Armstrongism (but is acutely aware and against the system of Armstrongism).

I will never believe they are transformed truly until these things occur. They must occur. They are the right thing to do, and it is the right time to do it.

Joseph Tkach calls his church transformed by the power and grace of God. Until Joe does the right things and proves to us and the world he isn’t in this game for the money and the paycheck by stepping down, we all have to wonder and make our own judgement as to whether Joe himself is transformed, or not. Until he makes the changes that really matter – not a cosmetic whitening , but a complete and total root canal, I will never believe that he is, and neither will anyone else, no matter what side of the fence you are on. He has never shown us the meaty changes that need to happen.

And until they do, all I have to say about the name change is this:

“Who cares!”


Bed :)

Worldwide Church of God - more grist!

I have had a few responses to my post regarding the WGC (GCI), some posted here, others by email. Here's three of them:

1. "They're now very very kosher - defo mainstream Evangelical, but still keeping the Sabbath on Saturday. There's a great book by one of the lead pastors - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transformed-Truth-Joseph-Tkach/dp/1576731812/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1289214167&sr=8-1"

2. "If by 'very kosher - defo mainstream' you mean you can use your pencil and tick off the thing that make them 'Christian' without dialogue with the past and the amazing sea-change that has occurred such that pretty much everything previously believed has been 'binned' so that evo's can cheer and unquestioningly accept what they see before them because it look like what they want to see - then you've been conned."

3. "They are now a cult dressed in sheep's clothing. This is purely for the purpose of continuing in the way they were but with the approval, and a therefore wider assisted net, of those who would merely extend open-arms without first examining the facts."

A couple were rather harsh and vitriolic and so have been discounted.

Another urges caution and bemoans the trend to accept anyone without question as long as they give the right answers and points out that there is a long history and a number of 'uncorrected erros and assumptions' within the WCG and its offshoots that lead one to a place of unease and concern.

I post the links for four pieces, two on either side of the fence and await responses, evidence, experiences and anything that will assist me in this topic area. There is a can of worms before me and am (having read the material below) firmly stuck on the fence, for I don't want to label people but then again I don't want to send sheep into a place of danger either!

Letters to Janis Hutchinson

A cult in transition

From the fringe to the fold

The road to orthodoxy

Apart from the specifics of this organisation, I have to say that this whole issue has raised some interesting questions which I intend to take a look at. What makes a group authentically, and safely, Christians?

Pax

Monday, 8 November 2010

Christian Brands - WCG (aka GCI)

The Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International in the States)

Origins: America
Began in: 1933 (America), 1963 (UK)
Founder: Herbert Armstrong
Membership:c. 40,000 worldwide
Bible: It's there! Their beliefs state an orthodox 'inspired and infallible' / authoritative position and their quotes are NIV. Starting here they look authentic.

Beliefs:
When I started reading about this group (and the many offshoots) I found that they were the source of that interesting read, 'The Plain Truth'. As I read I found that in 1994, in an attempt to become 'mainstream', the beliefs of the group changed. Here's a bit of a then and now relating to their beliefs:

Trinity: THEN. The doctrine of the Trinity is false, the Father and the Son are two separate and individual Persons and the Holy Spirit is 'an active force emanating from God'.
NOW. They proclaim a more orthodox position on the Trinity.

THEN. Salvation Grace was not sufficient, works were also required (plus tithing and the like). Their beliefs make them way outside of the 'born again' or evangelical (or even moderately orthodox Christian poisition, and . .
NOW. Adopted a more orthodox stance.

Reading some people's views, it appears that (like the Mormons?) the WCG (CGI) leaders have taken a move to become more 'mainstream' and therefore perhaps improve the failing incomes.

Cynical? It is, but I'm not sure on whose part, that of the church or its critics!

A quote which I have found in a few places (source: (The Biblical Evangelist, Nov.-Dec. 1997, p. 7):
"While going through their alleged metamorphous from a worm to a butterfly, the leaders repeatedly changed and modified their statements to please their 'guides.' For example, in the matter of the Trinity, especially as it related to the Holy Spirit, they would agree among themselves as to a position, then go to those whom they were trying to please, saying, 'How is this?' The latter would reply, 'It doesn’t go far enough.' So they would go back to the drawing board and make suggested changes, then return to ask, 'Now what do you think?' That kind of 'doctoring doctrine' is not the stuff of which true Bible believers are made, nor the stuff that may be called orthodox conviction"

On the other hand, there's and interesting read here.

Are they Christian?: On the surface they are, but there's something that I'm rather uneasy about. Looking at the ways that some of the other obviously 'not Christian' groups have realised that their future financial and numerical success depends on portraying themselves as 'Christian' I have some unease (which is shared by the various cult recovery centres) and a little worry that some are all to keen to 'include' when it comes to ecumenical endeavours.

Then again, I'd hate to exclude people but wouldn't want to include because I was scared. Better to protect the sheep and keep the faith is the line I take in these situations - and the test of time will be an aid here I'm sure.

Jury is out but I'd tread rather warily regarding this one.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Contrasts

Waiting is something that it is so very easy to tell others how to do and yet, for many of us, something that we personally find difficult to do.

Sinning is something that we find ourselves telling others not to do, and yet, behind closed doors and in the dark, is something that we seek to perfect in ourselves.

Love is something we tell others they have to show to us, and others, and yet we live in a world where love is at a premium whilst there's judgement to spare.

Being listened to is what we all want, and need, and yet there are so many deaf ears.

Engagement, social action, righting the wrongs and standing for the underdog is who God call us to be and yet all too often we find ourselves explaining away inequity and injustice.

Coming again, that's what Jesus is, coming for those who did!

Did what?

Stopped their own sinning.

Loved as He not only commanded us, but showed us.

Listened to the unimportant.

Told the important.

Took the gift of life from His pierced and blood-stained hands.



And now we give you thanks that he is the King of glory,
who overcomes the sting of death and opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
He is seated at your right hand in glory and we believe that he will come to be our judge.


Amen.

(Italicised is the post-communion for third Sunday before Advent)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

It's that time of the year . .

When the 'We don't like Remembrance' pixies makes their annual pointy-toed appearance to tell us that everyone involved in every conflict died in vain and that we'd be better off reading some newly released (i.e. last year's with a new cover) brilliant observations.

I'm hoping and praying that we won't be subject to the Olympian ivory-towered navel-gazing but I somehow doubt it. Still, it's no worse than people who tell us that their (usually multi-million pound) research studies conclusively show that single-parent families fare less well than families with two (different-sex) parents or that things always tend to fall on the floor when dropped.

Just a shame to start a Sunday with such a frustration.

Happy Sunday

All things bright and IKEA

Hot of the press (thank you Phil for sending this) is a version of 'All things B&B' as a tribute to IKEA (or perhaps not!):

All things bright and u-ugly,
All features great and small.
All things self-assembly,
Ikea made them all.


Each little handy pencil,
Each brightly coloured bed.
Ikea made these structures,
For victims to lay their heads.

All things bright and u-ugly,
All features great and small.
All things self-assembly,
Ikea made them all.


The staff are beyond counting,
The Cafe's nearby.
Everything you need in,
The store that zombifies.

All things bright and u-ugly,
All features great and small.
All things self-assembly,
Ikea made them all.


The Christmas sale in winter,
The January clear out.
the broken vending ma-achines,
No one ever gets let out.

All things bright and u-ugly,
All features great and small.
All things self-assembly,
Ikea made them all.


There are adverts on the T.V,
With the slogon 'must end soon'.
All this brainwashing material,
Send many to their doom.

All things bright and terrible,
All features great and small.
All things self-assembly,
Ikea made them all.

Parodies of Worship Songs and Hymns

Many years a go I worked with a small group of society's outcasts. There were sex-workers (male and female), 'trans' (transexuals) and 'trannies' (transvestites) and a few (to put it mildly) weird (yet wonderful) members of this world that we inhabit.

This odd collection of people were a blessing and a joy (with more than a few moments of panic and concern)and although their sexual existences, which were often accompanied by alcohol of other abuse, and outward appearance were perhaps rejected by the world in general, and some Christians in particular, it was a time of blessing and healing for many of them (and me too!) and a time I look back on fondly.

One of the members of the group was a trannie who loved the chorus, "You shall be Joyce and I will be Glad'" as being something he could identify with.

He's left me with a permanent inability to sing the right words unless I concentrate and whenever I hear it I can't help but smile at the oddities God has in His box!

Another of my personal loves comes from Monty Python who gave their treatment to that dreadful dirge 'All things B&B':

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.

Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom,
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid,
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did.

All things scabbed and ulcerous,
All pox both great and small,
Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
The Lord God made them all.

Happy Saturday beloved :)

Woeful Worships, Awful Actions and Clumsy Chords

Here's some more nominations:

Woeful Worship Nominations (Hymns to popular tunes)
i. Why don't you give your life to Jesus? (Match of the Day theme)

ii. God is our strength and Refuge (Dambusters)

iii. Joyful, joyful (Ode to Joy)


Woeful Worship (it just is)
1. Call for the elders of the church (it just is!)

2. Come on a Sellotape, his gift of love, we will Sellotape (Sellotape and string for the King!) One of those 'starter' songs to wake the faithful and flog them into action!

3. Come, now is the time to worship (has to be the first hymn and is used to as 'wake up' call by too many worship bands and their organ grinder masters!)

Woeful Worship (Blinking Actions!)
Shine Jesus Shine (must have that naff 'shine on me' clap, clap, clap action to show the dead as living!)

Agree? Disagree? Have you, or a member of your family been affected by a poor worship song, ghastly actions of a terrible tune? Contact the BBC and tell us . . err, sorry, let me know and we can post it here :)

Friday, 5 November 2010

British politics, a dodgy candidate and a sonic boom!

For the first time in almost one hundred years a parliamentary candidate has been brought before an 'election court' to answer charges of misbehaviour during the recent election campaign. Not only has he been brought before the court but also found guilty of misrepresenting facts to take votes from whites who were fearful of his opponent'selling out to Muslims', refusing to condemn death threats and not keeping a promise to move into the constituency.

In a move which ruled that the General Election result was null and void, Mr Justice Nigel Teare and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said that the naught candidate, Mr Woolas, knowing the claims he made were untrue was guilty of illegal practices which contravened election law. The upshot is a by-election for the constituency and three years ban for Mr. Woolas (who will now seek a judicial review).

So, a bit of election history being made, but for me the most intriguing thing is perhaps the Labour Party and the way it has responded to the result and behaved since the election. |For instance, given the nature of the controversy, who on earth was stupid enough to make Mr. Woolas Shadow Immigration Minister? Fast enough to break the sound barrier (760mph at sea level)we have that Labour voice of reason and integrity (and women's champion), Harriet Harman) distancing her and her party from Mr. Woolas so quickly that the sonic boom could be heard across the floor of the lower house!

She doesn't think that this outcome is a reflection on the Labour Party, then again she didn't think there was a problem with it (the Labour Party) before the Election either - guess she would say that wouldn't she?

How fitting that it comes on the day we remember Guy Fawkes and the plot to destroy Parliament - didn't need gunpowder at all!

Stephen Altrogge on 'writing awful worship songs!'

I am eternally grateful to Stephen Altrogge's article entitled: "Seven ways to write an awful worship song!", which I have posted below:

So you finally learned to play the guitar and now you’re wondering, “How do I write a truly awful worship song?” You’ve come to the right place my friend. Here are some sure fire ways to write a truly horrible worship song.

Recycle A Love Song.
Write a song for your girlfriend. When she breaks up with you, convert it into a worship song. Be sure to change all uses of “girl” or “baby”.

Use Time Tested Rhymes.
Make sure that you rhyme “love” and “above” at least twice. The song becomes doubly awful if you can also incorporate the word “dove”. Example: “You sent your love from above, makes my heart feel like a pure white dove.” You get the point.

Be Vague About Your Theology
Make sure to avoid any theology at all costs. Don’t talk about atonement, wrath, or any other biblical concepts. You want your song to be all about feeling. Don’t let the mind get in the way. Repeat after me: “Worship is a warm feeling, sort of like heartburn, only better.”

Make the Song All About You
The main point of your song should be your experiences and how God makes you feel. Don’t bother with objective truth about God. I would suggest that you use the words “I” or “me” at least 12-15 times. For example, “I feel like singing, yes I feel like spinning, because You make me feel so good inside. Like it’s my birthday, but more awesome.”

Be Incredibly Poetic
If you can, muddy the waters with poetic phrases that don’t make much sense. Example: “Your love is like a warm summer’s breeze, washing over my heart like a crystal river.”

Use Well-Worn Musical Progressions
If you can, keep your music and melody boring. I would suggest that you use no more than four distinct notes in a song, so that by the time someone is done listening to it they want to scream. A worship scream, but a scream nonetheless. It also helps if you use the chords G, C, and D over and over.

Defend Your Song Like It’s Your Firstborn Child
Do not, I repeat, do not, let anyone make suggestions for improvement. Tell people that God laid the song on your heart. Tell people that you really want to preserve the artistic integrity of the song. Tell people that you already did the song at your campus ministry and that a revival broke out. Don’t take advice from anyone.

There you have it. Seven ways to write a terrible worship song. You can thank me later."


He finishes by asking: What else would you add to the list?

So here's your chance to nominate what you regard as awful worship songs, terrible techniques for writing more of the same and some of those actions that some people just have to engage in

Here's a couple of suggestions to start with:

1. 'Cast your burdens' - the reasons being that Jesus can't be any higher, satan can't be any lower and it's a naff 145 (C, F, G) chord arrangement (which it seems the world lives by) and the actions are naff too!

2. "Blesséd be the name of the Lord' is cool until the the righteous start running in or being towers! For me, tends to take the gloss off of things.

Christian Brands? - Swedenborgs (The New Church)

At first I was a bit concerned that this had:

a. Something to do with worshipping that great tennis icon, Bjorn Born (who was after all Swedish), or

b. The followers of that great retail outlet, IKEA, that great shop which sells everything from self-assembly furniture to food, and I've even heard tell of people getting brides from it too! (not sure about that, but I understand there is empirical evidence!).

But, of course, I was wrong (sigh):

Origins: England and America
Began in: 1778 and 1792 respectively
Founder: Emanuel Swedenborg (or more accurately, the followers of Emanuel Swedenborg)
Membership:c. 2,000
Bible: It's there but needs to be interpreted (as Swedenborg did, word-by-word) to discover its true 'inner meaning'. OT contains the pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number and deuteronomy), Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Psalms and the Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi, NT limited to the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and Revelation.
Beliefs:
Don't see Jesus' death as having any efficacy. With regard to the Trinity, God is one person, with elements of the Father (infinite Love), Son (infinite Wisdom), and the Holy Spirit (His presence and work in us) and all are found in Jesus Christ, who is The God. He exists in both the spiritual and physical worlds and is the embodiment of a Trinity of Love, Wisdom and Energy.

Memory is what remains of a person after death and after death the, now, spiritual beings carrying living out their lives in heaven (just as on earth). the dying are aided by angels into death and then, after a few days of resting after the ordeal, they just carry on as if nothing much has happened - merely a translation from one for to another.
No real heaven or hell, merely choices and satan doesn't exist - but is either the group name for evil spirits or for our own, indestructible, desire to do wrong.
This means there is no eternal punishment and even if in your own hell, there is the potential to progress such that you can rise up out of it. Salvation is not a Christian thing, but open to all through their own efforts and merits.

Regarding the spiritual world, like an onion there are many layers which make go to make it - I assume that the outer is one extreme (i.e. heaven) and the inner the other (i.e hell).

The cross did not atone for the sins of mankind and although God did come to earth as Jesus to heal a broken world He is now present in all through love.

God wants us to be happy and to be love and by following His word, and serving others, life and love are found. We have our own freedom to find our way and we begin living heaven here on earth (what a nice thought - I rather like the man, een though I couldn't support him!) through love, reason and consideration for others

Are they Christian?: Well of course it's not Christian.
A very interesting theological and philosophical approach and one that I can see has some attraction (not that much as there's less that 2,000 of them) if you ignore the 'Christian' bit.

When I was a small child I always used to look at the window of the Swedenborgs (near the british Museum) and wonder what they were. I guess they could be subtitled, "The Much Reduced Bible Company". Now I know :)

You Can't Buy Happiness!

These are the words of a retired welder who, after winning $10.9m basically gave it all away to "churches, fire departments, cemeteries, the Red Cross and hospitals'".

After giving some to their own family, they just put the money ($10.2m) where the need was!

Why?

The answer is shocking and so counter-cultural that it's (for some) outrageous and yet for many others, absolutely beautiful:

"We haven't bought one thing. That's because there is nothing that we need."

I encounter so many people who tell me that they only do the lottery to help others and that, of course, the Church would be a major beneficiary should God just happen to select them as the recipients of the treble-rollover of £m.

In a world where possessions possess us and the need to have the large LCD screen (what? You've got plasma! HD!! 3D!!! 175"!!!!), the latest number plate (what do you mean it's changed again!) and all the other entrapments of life (no they're not essentials) it is so refreshing to see someone so normal that they're weird when considered against the consumerism of our world.

A wise thought for the day:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?"

You can't buy happiness - but you can accept it as a free gift from the hands of Christ.

Pax