Tuesday 28 July 2009

A wet witness?

Last Sunday we had about eighty people crammed into our small building to witness Marijan’s baptism. As it was raining we moved the event from outside into the safety of the church building. She made her baptismal promises and was duly baptised in a pool outside the front of the building.

This has got me thinking about baptism (again) and the fact that some of those in the Christian family see fit to ignore baptism in the Church of England, considering it obviously not ‘proper’ baptism, and re-baptising those who were done as infants.

Now, I was very taken with the words of Paul when he recounts the story of Peter and the other disciples before the Jews, telling them of God’s love and the power of the Cross. Hearing the ‘Good News’ (for this is what Gospel means) the people are ‘cut to the heart’ and cry out:

“Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2)

It struck me once again that the promise of baptism is for ‘us and our children’ and just as has been the practice of the Church (meaning the universal church) for almost two thousand years, this is what we claim when we bring children to baptism.
During a discussion regarding this often-contentious topic I was asked how I would start a fellowship (or family) of people. My response was that I would get people to join. My tutor nodded and smiled, asking.” And then?”

“Well,” I replied, “I’d get them to bring their friends and partners and get them to join too.”

“And when people had children?” he continued. “I’d get them to bring them in and let them be a part too!”

“This is what pioneers do,” the wise man commented, “For when pioneering one brings in adults and then, as the pioneers become settlers, they grow biologically – adding to their numbers the children who are born into the family that is the fellowship. The same is true of Christianity for as the Early Church it added adults and brought along the whole household. As it became settled, those children born into it we added as a matter of course.”

It seems we Christians are in fact an ethnic group – no surprise for Christian is what we are, not what we do for an hour on Sunday!

And for those who are challenged by re-baptism? Taking the lead from Acts 19 they consider themselves to act correctly:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”

We, in the Church of England, do not practice John’s baptism (John the Baptist that is) but following two thousand year’s practice baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We baptise as Christians did in the very earliest times of the Christian Church and our baptism is valid and sufficient. Perhaps some of those rebaptisers out there need to read the Didache and realise that ignoring two thousand years of practice for a couple of hundred years of skewed theological understanding does not hold the water they want to dunk people in :-)

How are you living out your baptismal promises and calling today?



Wednesday 15 July 2009

Left or Leaving Behind? - Part the Second

I was challenged by someone who used the words, " The message given to the Twelve is the same message given to us today, to spread the Good News."

Which of course it is and of course not only that but we are free to shake the dust when we come to a house to which we do not belong and find ourselves rejected too!

BUT, for those who have chosen to remain in the CofE (or even more finely focussed TEC) and still hold to Biblical truths and values we come, not as missionaries or people who just know what is right and true, but are members of that house and therefore engage with Paul's words in 1 Cor5.

To encourage people to leave and shake dust when the Bible commands us to remain and deal with those who are engaged in sinful acts, thinking and theology is surely to be found in error! By doing so we fall foul of the requirements of Ezekiel in that we fail to act as watchmen. In this we fail to engage in the entreaties of Galatians 6 and rather than seek to restore would choose to run and leave the sinful continuing in their sin and us taking responsibility for that state!

I am aware that the situation is that some have reported such that "TEC does not recognize the Christ as the only Saviour and the only way to the Father, so it is not a Church of Jesus Christ, which is where the write of this quote wishes to be."

And as the author of the pervious quote has chosen to leave, for he was not ejected, and in so doing has removed himself from the place and taken away the right to challenge and perhaps change that body from within. This is a sadness and something for which I feel a great sadness, but the reality is that they have remained and he has left and therefore should not be at all surprised to have no voice.

The bed is made and many now have the opportunity to lie upon it satisfied that they possess the higher moral ground outside of the church they claim to belong to still! The claims of "being Happy" make me happy for them meanwhile we remain and continue one person weaker in our struggle.

I hear the comment, "This is where I am, and the grass is so much greener and the air so much purer. I recommend that everyone try it."

But, not content with weakening the battle against error, some (who should perhaps know better) wish to see it become the only voice by leading faithful members away from making a stand and being in the place God has called them to sit by the pool and utter wrong speeches, imprecatory exageration and further weaken the faint-hearted and the fearful.

I have a Bible and a faith. I can deal with the sheep who behave as goats all day long - it's what we're called to!



Tuesday 14 July 2009

Left or leaving Behind? - Part the first

I continually hear people telling me that I "need to shake of the dust" and leave the CofE."

This is the entreaty given by jesus to the twelve when He sends them out (Mk 6 //)

In fact, in the context of being sent out to preach the Gospel, jesus actually says:
"If that house refuses the message, leave it, shaking the dust off one's feet

As I understand it, Jesus having first taught using parables and then resorting to miracles was rejected by those from within his home town. This having been the case, Jesus :

"Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.

These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.

Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them."

Mark 6: 7 - 11

Now this is obviously about sending out the twelve and is often used as the model for mission by many. In the commission and sending out is the explicit trust that God would provide (so we, like them should take nothing lest we go out in mistrust rather than faith?).

Having come to a place, if there was rejection of the messengers or the message then the dust was to be shaken of ( a parallel with that of shaking off the dust of a heathen place before re-entering the land of promise that was Jewish lands or territories. This was don as a sign that what was being left (the land or the place / home) was heather (i.e. where God was perceived not to be or have any part of).

It is a judgement against those who rejected the word when it was taken to them not something that was done in the places where God was perceived to be (as is our denomination and the gathering places and fellowships within it?).

Now, I think that you would be on a more Biblically accurate piece of ground were you to extol the virtues and practices found in 1 Cor 5:

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgement on the one who did this, just as if I were present.

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Now here you have something to work with and something to caution and control also.

Expel those who are immoral BUT beware the yeast!

Saturday 11 July 2009

FCA - The Rev'd Lady who prayed!

At the launch of the FCA the Revd. Carrie Sandom prayed. I was asked how she could be a 'Rev' and be against women's ordination. Here's a brief explanation for those who are also concerned at apparent hypocrisy being present or generally confused (let me confuse you more!):

I know a number of women who have been ordained as deacons and considered this to be the place they are called to rather than follow the erroneous view that many have in assuming that deacon is merely the halfway stage to priest!

We call people who feel called to the diaconate 'Distinctive Deacons' and they generally are people who do not consider themselves called to Eucharistic ministry. They are both male and female and they perform a valuable and valid ministry within the church.

To find out more about this have a look at http://www.dace.org and find out about DACE (who are the Diaconal Association of the Church of England).

It is interesting that being opposed to women's ordination, the lovely Carrie being a Rev. appears to be engaged in that which she opposes, but not so! Those opposed to women's ordination (generally) are happy with deaconesses as the concern comes in with the presbyteral element and the Eucharist and it's validity in particular.

I too have an interesting situation as I straddle (happily for most of the time) FiF and New Wine. This means that I understand many of the positions and also means that I regard the priesthood as an ontological reality and understand the concerns over irregularities involving the Eucharist and with the consecration of women, ordination.

I'll explain if I can:

Many of my colleagues who are opposed to WO are concerned that if they attend a service of communion presided (priests don't celebrate - the people of God celebrate, the priest presides) at by a women their is doubt in their mind of the efficacy and rightness of that Eucharistic meal. Now, if they attend and yet refrain from communicating and there is validity in the ordination of women, they have by refraining from communicating refused the very presence of Christ Himself. If on the other hand they communicate and the ordination is invalid, they have eaten unto themselves condemnation and effectively mocked our Lord.

The same is true of those ordained by a women bishop. If it is invalid (consecration of women) theologically speaking, then those who have been ordained (male or female) are also not properly or rightly ordained and therefore the Eucharist and all matters involving an epiclesis (the invocation of the Holy Spirit) are invalid and therefore also irregular.

I hope I have adequately explained.


Homosexuality - Greenbelt Effect

One man's meat is definitely another man's poison and the issue regarding Greenbelt and the invitation of Gene Robinson at least superficially appears to fit well into this old adage.

I was asked recently to speak to a pro-gay group which was beginning to grow in a local church by a friend of one of the members. I happened across the person identified as a ringleader (at our local BP garage - that great pastoral centre of church!) and greeted him and asked how life was.

After the usual preamble I asked how church was and he told me that one of their former number had returned into their circle and how he'd been effectively excluded because he'd been exposed as having a homosexual relationship. Two or three of them had gone out for a couple of meals with the bloke and invited him to their house group and were helping him to assess his inclinations and the expectations of sexual activity and behaviour in terns of the Christian faith.

Apparently he was confused and hurt and because he was treated rather badly by the Christians he had found himself pushed further into a place which he realised he wasn't really in (a common situation in gender confusion cases - unsure, dabbling and then pushed hard into it by those who want the person to be 'normal')!

I've met him twice and he's not gay, he's never even played penetrative games, he was confused and someone took the opportunity to take advantage of it and also 'out' him - usually works as the 'Christians' then do the rest to confirm what wasn't there (sadly).

The group weren't 'pro gay' and neither is the bloke 'gay' but of course it's much easier to take offence and make accusations than to find out the facts and behave as a believer, isn't it?

Those three / four people engaged with the unfortunate fellow far from being 'pro gay' were actually finding out what was fact, what was fiction and what was all in the head and nowhere else. I saw their 'pro gay' as being pastoral. I saw it as living the entreaties of Paul and seeking to restore one caught in a sin (which our sad fellow had been) GENTLY!

For in this way do we uphold the law and the prophets and act as Jesus would have done and as Jesus would have us act.

We should never refrain from an opportunity to dialogue for in this way we might restore others and perhaps even be restored ourselves!