Friday, 30 April 2010

Politics? It's boring?

One of the things that has struck me as the hustings proceed towards the casting of our votes next week is the changes in the way election is done in our nation.

Thus far I have had a rain forest full of paper wedged through my letterbox in the form of personal letters from my candidates, the majority of which were addressed to an anagram of my name!

I have received telephone calls from people purporting to represent one or other of the parties.One of these telling me how I should 'encourage' those in our church to vote for their party as it was the 'only' choice open to Christians (and they weren't one of the 'Christian' parties either!).

We had the last of the personality/reality shows 'I'm a nice bloke get me into there (No. 10)'. I was confused because I seem to have missed the bit where they have to sing an operatic song, do the ice-dance routine and then find themselves sharing a house with the others so we can vote them out one by one.

What I haven't had is the canvassing visit that so typified elections campaigns of old. The man or woman who went door-knocking to convince the undecided that their candidate was the best choice.

I haven't happened across any of the candidates in any of the places I have been. That said I understand one of the leaders visited but it was short, sharp and nowhere where I was. But where are the candidates?

There's no baby-kissing, something I'm sure the babies are grateful for.

So what has this done for the younger generation? Those first-time and not far off voters? Do we now have a generation who are informed, excited, determined to make a difference with their vote? Are they understanding what the situation is and how the different parties propose to manage UK plc?

Not from what I encountered last night. "Politics is boring and doesn't have anything to do with us," was the overarching response. They didn't have a clue about policies and thought they were voting for the incumbent of number ten, who would then be 'famous!'. Interestingly, one thought all the parties had to have the same policies and it was merely a matter of choosing one of the colours. No hope if you're colour blind then!

What hope do we have when we elect our leaders using spin, stage management and the political equivalent of these ghastly shows where a bunch of hopefuls are slowly weeded out until one of them gets a 'one hit wonder' record deal or the starring role in a show? We need sound policies and honesty.

A parting thought (courtesy Private Eye):

13.6% - Budget deficit as a percentage of GDP in Greece
11.5% - Budget deficit as a percentage of GDP in UK

Now, who's going to give us some honesty about the economy and what they will do to remedy this situation and who's going to pay (I know it's us, but how and where?)

Pray, pray and pray again I guess - oh yes, and ask questions - Tamworth Hustings tonight (30th April - 7:30pm, St Editha's Church, Tamworth).

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Taming the tongue

I awoke this morning with the words of James chapter three echoing in my head:

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways.
And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And ithe tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."

I have been listening to those who wish to make political capital out of Gordon Brown's comments yesterday and I find myself standing astride an abyss here. For whether or not the words were wounding, if the label 'bigot' was what the man thought was appropriate then he was right to say them. I would rather that those who seek to manage my nation were open and honest, even when I might not like the words or sentiments that were used.

If he subsequently apologised for the gaffe because it was a vote-loser and therefore engaged in what is nothing more than a PR exercise then I am more saddened by the hypocrisy and desperation that caused him to issue an apology which was not based on his true feelings.

But. If he really did misunderstand what the woman said and apologised for that and his therefore misplaced comments then all I can say is that the man's obviously as human as me (and hopefully others too - I'm don't think I'm alone here). I don't want a perfect politician, I merely want an honest one.

We all find our tongue dropping us in it at times for after all it is the mirror of what is going on inside. For as Matthew (12:33 -37) says:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It's a great idea to think before you speak. Doing this will make us look like we're nice, sound and gentle people - problem is, at least for me, that my tongue likes to jump the queue and get in before the brain can think and the nice gene can be activated at times - looks like me and Gordon might still have some work to do - how's about you?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Citizens of where?

As the election looms large I have become very aware that I am surrounded by so many pragmatists that it makes my head spin (just a lot!). I have met so many 'Christians' who can't work out whether they are Christians first or Citizens of another place before this. They speak of an allegiance to God and His aims and yet what they really want is for their good before any 'greater' good.

I have been surrounded by Christians who work on the world's premise that the ends justify the means and for whom, those extra-Biblical words, "God helps those who help themselves," are grounds to leave those without still without, after all, what we want is a happy, secure and safe society!

The problem is that what we want is a happy, secure and safe 'us'and we will wrap this up in caring words and rational excuses pointing to the greater good and all the time defending means that fail to honour God. We need to be looking at responsibility and caring for the marginalised, educating those who are uneducated and providing a decent level of existence for those who are at the poorer end of our society.

As we come nearer to voting for a new government in the UK it is obvious that we are being wooed with promises of continued comfort and yet, unlike Egypt thanks to Joseph's interpretation of dreams, we have failed to store up enough for ourselves in readiness for the coming famine. We have feasted, yet again this week can see how those in the upper echelons of investment banking and the markets have learned nothing, and are now about to enter a period of famine. This is obvious and yet none of the politicians I have heard have voiced this reality, none have spoken of the massive cuts needed to change the situation whereby every four hundred pound of government spending requires one hundred pounds to be borrowed. We are living outside our means and the time is coming when the piper must be paid. Greece is bankrupt and is now has 'junk bond' status - which means today will be a sell, sell, sell, aaargh day, for the markets.

Why don't the politicians tell us the truth? Because none of us want to hear it!

Christians are called to stand up for the weak, the oppressed, the poor, the marginalised and yet I have heard a fair few utter thoughts and views and display attitudes that have nothing to do with humility, justice or mercy and even less with God's call to those who call themselves Christian.

Who you going to vote for with your life? Will you make a cross on a bit of paper and think that that's 'job done' or will you take up your own Cross and follow Him I wonder?

Time is short - a new government is coming soon

So is Jesus!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Busy? Of course we're not busy!

All clergy have to do is the Sunday Services . . .no wait, there's somethings else. Oh yeahm there's:

Home Communions, Home Visits, Hospital Visits, Midweek Services, Church Council Meetings, Mandate Team Meetings, Staff Meetings, Chapter Meetings, Deanery Synod Meetings, Churches Together, Teaching, Daily Offices (morning and evening prayer), Kid's Club, Air Cadets, Sea Cadets, Army Chaplaincy, Police Chaplaincy, School Assemblies,Pastoral stuff, Funerals, Baptisms, Weddings, Counselling, Spiritual Direction, Vocations Testing, Equipping the Members, Writing Sermons, Putting together the Worship, Playing the Worship, Clearing the Gutters, Lent and Advent Courses (at the right time), Christmas, Easter, Church Growth, Fresh Expressions, Evangelism, Community Stuff, Governor in local Schools, Alpha, Start, Housegroup stuff, Drop-ins, Turn-up-after-midnight Folk, Families Work, Barbecues (Yeah!), Washing up (bleah!), Missioner Work, Giving People Lifts, Theological Study, Quiet Times, Training & Development (personal), Training & development (others), Taizé Communions, Reflections, Meditations, Retreats, House Clearance, Writing for Magazines . . . Sorry phone's ringing.

"Me, Busy, no of course not! Be over in five minutes!"

I'm sure there was more :)

Remember to pray for your minister, pastor, priest or whatever you call them today - after all, they're not busy either;)

Happy Tuesday

Happy Monday - Live it to the full.

This weekend has been beset by deaths and the rushing of loved ones into hospital for a number of people that I know and serve. Another community has been hit by the death of a friend and fellow hobbyist who saw taking his own life as the only way out. A family mourns the loss of their unborn child and others at the death of old, but not elderly, family members.

"The only two certainties in life are death and taxes." So said Benjamin Franklin speaking of the terminal condition that is life itself. Well we pays our taxes and we moves ever faster to our own demise - but this is not a moment for gloom but a moment to celebrate what we have and what those who have perhaps left us have left us with.

Can I encourage all who read this to take pleasure in the people they have around them and to take just a moment to regard how they live their lives. What we hold today could just as easily be gone tomorrow, regardless of age or health, for indeed all the days we have are in the book and when the page turns there is no opportunity to re-rad our lives.

Let's try to live each day as if it were our last and let's help others live that way too.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinner or sit in the seat of mockers.
But has his delight is in the law of the LORD and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tended tree planted by streams of living water which brings forth its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! For they are like the chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous
But the way of the wicked will perish.   (Psalm 1)

May we prosper and bear fruit today and all the days that we have before us.


Sunday, 25 April 2010


25th April 1915 saw the start of the Galipoli Campaign, a campaign in which almost nine thousand Australians and three thousand New Zealanders (along with another thirty-two thousand from Britain, France, India and Newfoundland) die in the abortive eight month campaign.

This was the coming of age for these two antidopodean nations and is a day when we remember the sacrifice of those who were landed in the wrong place at the wrong time with such cost.

Each and every day we need to remind ourselves of the conflicts that are taking place and give thanks for those who do march away and serve the cause of peace and justice. We also need to ensure that memorials like Armistice, remembrance Day and all the others are kept as active reminders to the fact there is nothing noble in being dead but there is great nobility in the way that some have given up their lives.

I know there are foolish people who think otherwise and thank God for those who died so that they could have the freedom to express their think regardless of its paucity.

I leave you with the words of Ataturk:

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Dona eis requiem

Saturday, 24 April 2010

England - a nation to take pride in

Last night I was privileged to have been invited to a dinner where I heard of the manufacturing tradition of our region and found that, despite a marked lack of apparent will on the part of our political types over the past years, manufacturing is still alive and well, especially within the West Midlands.

The success that is the Acme whistle company, manufacturers of the distinctive police whistle and the world famous 'thunderer' - the whistle that is football refereeing! The success of the Morgan car company, a family run business that has been making superlative british sports cars and continues to keep this a much desired marque to this day. Expertise that means that wherever you go it's a sure fire bet that whatever is flying you there, driving you there or present when you get there has some link to the Midlands and manufacturing.

We are still very much a nation of engineers and manufacturers despite the trend towards importing rather than making and this is something, like England and St. George, that we need to celebrate and engage in a little bit of national pride over. Hadron collider? Yep, you'll find the seals in it were made in the Midlands (to 0.025 mm tolerance) - the list is endless - so take some pride in the fact that we are still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to doing stuff of the manufacturing kind.

Think I'm going to have to encourage our kids to do science and engineering - it's in our blood and I reckon is something we inherit from God - after all, He's pretty big when it comes to great design and brilliant manufacturing, isn't He?


Friday, 23 April 2010

Telling truth as we live it

Last night, whilst watching television, I was struck by the fact that the person who had caught my attention gave all the appearance of being someone who supported and was perhaps even a member of the Christian faith. This was a bit if a surprise as I'd been under the impression, having been told by many other Christians and other sources, that they were not only 'not Christian' but were also rather antagonistic towards Christians as a whole.

Were they wrong? Had I been suckered in by well-meaning Christians who had merely been misinformed and passed this misinformation on? I continued to listen and realised that in fact the words were clever and carefully formed to make them look safe and to give the appearance of being warm and even positive towards the christian faith. They even used a relationship in support of their 'Christian' position to accentuate and confirm this as a reality (or so it seemed to me).

I was concerned at first (and still am) because what was said and portrayed appears not to be the truth and I don't like being conned. I was also stopped short because I realise that whilst this is most definitely deception and deceit in action, it is also something that we all, to some extent do, and it got me thinking about our 'yes' being our 'yes' and our 'no' being equally obvious as such too.

Ever been stopped by someone and challenged about being, for example, a racist? One of the first defences people always (and I mean always) use here is to comment upon the fact that they have umpteen black, asian or whatever friends. On examination this is often found to be a hollow claim and there is some truth in the accusation, fortunately people rarely examine the realities and only hear the words and so the person being challenges wriggles free to hopefully reconsider their position.

I know people who are atheists or agnostics and yet are married to Christians. The fact that they are married to a Christian neither confers upon them any faith (in status or reality) and it makes no difference to their own belief (or lack of it in this case). So, when asked whether we are supportive of Christians, or are ourselves Christian, answering that we have Christian friends or better still are married to a Christian carries no weight and salves no concerns. It is so very clever to answer a question aimed at us by talking about the beliefs or attitudes of another, but it is not telling the truth.

So, when someone asks me my views will I answer, "Well, I'm part of a community which traditionally believes . . .," or will I state my position and views openly and honestly. If we can't do this then how on earth do we state our political views and more importantly, how do we communicate the reality of our faith in Christ. If we can't state our views because they might be offensive or abhorrent to others then we need to examine what we believe, think and do to see whether those who challenge us are right. If they are then we seek to redress the situation and it we are not at fault, to change the position of those who might oppose us, correcting them gently (but firmly).


God for Harry, England and St. George

St George's Day is for every Englishman (and women too!).

It is not the province of the fascist - it is for all who take a pride in being born in this nation of ours.

It is not the vehicle of oppression - under its flag many have given their lives to free the oppressed and to seek justice for all.

It is not a symbol of white supremacy - but a symbol of national pride open to all regardless of colour.

Let us who are English regain our national day and wear our roses with pride and fly our flag with gratitude for our birthright and our home.

Father God,
The legend of St George leads us to fight against dragons and to rescue the helpless.
Enable us, by the Gospel of truth, to free all from the slavery to sin and death
And to free the oppressed that your light may shine again on upon England, our home. Amen.

God for Harry, England and St. George!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

BBC Politics - Will Christians Swing the 2010 election?

Having just read an interesting piece by BBC News political reporter, Justin Parkinson I thought it was worth publisihing it here as it sits so well after my earlier piece today:

"Tony Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell famously once said the prime minister didn't "do God" when talking to the media. Religious pronouncements were kept to a minimum, for fear of risking the broad political support for the New Labour project.

Mr Campbell's simple words illustrate how Christianity is generally treated at Westminster. Explicit mention of religion is seen as "un-British", a bit "American" and a "turn-off" to the electorate. But, with a closely fought election in the offing and a desperate fight taking place for marginal seats, might candidates become more open about their beliefs if it means a few more votes?

The preacher Canon J John, a prominent figure within the evangelical community who wants Christians to become more politically involved, urges his fellow believers to "do our best to find out about our local candidates". He adds: "We might want to ask whether they are genuinely committed to moral values or do they simply adopt whatever is the current fashionable view? Does the candidate place their party's ideology above everything else? Would they be prepared to vote against the party line on moral grounds? "Are they grappling with the bigger issues or are they simply interested in small-scale, day-to-day matters? Perhaps, above all, we should ask whether potential candidates seek to be elected in order to serve their self-interest or the interest of others." The implication of Canon John's words is that, to satisfy a Christian voter, they should put morality above party.

What electoral value is in this for would-be MPs?

James Panton, a politics lecturer at Oxford University, said: "We live in a society which allows the free exchange of views and it's obviously the case that church leaders want to be involved in shaping the views of members." He added: "Across society as a whole my view is that it's not a statistically relevant phenomenon at elections. There aren't enough people like that, whose Christian views are going to be vital to how they choose their MP.
"But it's possible that it may be more important in a marginal seat which has a big support base for a highly politicised Christian organisation." In the US religion plays a large part in the funding and organisation of politics. In the UK it is less influential. For Canon John, though, is not a voice in the wilderness.

The Westminster 2010 Declaration, signed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and Cardinal O'Brien, the leader of Catholics in Scotland, has some strong advice for the one in 10 or so people thought to attend church every week. Christians should work to ensure "religious liberty and freedom of conscience are unequivocally protected against interference by the state and other threats", while they "will not be intimidated by any cultural or political power into silence or acquiescence".

The declaration goes on: "We call upon all those in UK positions of leadership, responsibility and influence to pledge to respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold these beliefs and to act according to Christian conscience." Its website encourages voters to e-mail parliamentary candidates to find out their views. More than 30,000 people have backed the declaration.

Paul Woolley, director of the Christian think-tank Theos, said: "The fact that the election looks very close will give a certain relevance to the question of whether Christians can influence voting." He added that, despite a commonly held view that British public life is becoming ever-more secular, parties had been "working hard to make inroads into faith-based communities and organisations".

Will faith influence your vote?

Conservative leader David Cameron's call for a "Big Society", including government working with voluntary and faith groups, is one example. Prime Minister Gordon Brown makes frequent references to the "moral compass" he inherited from his clergyman father.
Mr Woolley said: "We did some research last year looking at the rhetoric of Gordon Brown and others in their key speeches and the extent to which they used Christian or theological or biblical language." With Gordon Brown it clearly colours his narrative. He draws on it to speak.
"Similarly David Cameron conference speech last year - there were parts that were strikingly biblical in their rhythm. Sections seemed like the Sermon on the Mount."
Mr Woolley added: "I would say politicians are more religious in their rhetoric than they were. Harold Wilson used to remove words from speeches which came naturally to him. He didn't want people to see him as using religion. "These days people are talking about it more. We definitely have politicians far more inclined to visit churches or Christian festivals than we would in the past." Indeed, the main parties are trying to mobilise the "God vote". Might Alastair Campbell's advice be modified today?

Zoe Dixon, chairman of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, said: "If you have a candidate who is a strong Christian you are going to go to churches to try to get people to vote for you."
She added: "The difference it could make would be in a marginal seat. Everyone should elect the person they think would make the best MP for their area, almost regardless of party.
"We shouldn't get side-tracked by the national agenda. Certainly we try to mobilise the Christian vote in our favour in constituencies." And, of course, election hustings are often held in church halls. Stephen Beers, of the Christian Socialist Movement, said: "Anyone at all could be there, but it's quite likely to have a fair number of Christians among the audience."
He added: "Groups like ours are trying to influence policies; we are not forcing our views... Voters should consider parties as a whole, look at the whole political platform."

Elizabeth Berridge, chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, thinks low turnout at elections means Christians play an important role, as they are more likely to vote than most people - with about 80% doing so. She said: "It could have a big impact. In some seats the church meeting is the only one candidates are asked to attend.
"At this juncture, following the expenses scandal, Christians are going to be concerned with how someone comes across, whether they are genuine, what their character is like.
"They might disagree with the candidate's views, but if his or her character seems good, they might hold sway."

If leading politicians do not mention God very often, the A-words - "atheism" and "agnosticism" - are something of a taboo at Westminster. So it was surprising that, shortly after becoming Lib Dem leader in 2007, Nick Clegg replied "No" when asked whether he believed. He later modified his remark, saying he was not an "active believer" but had "enormous respect" for those who were, adding that his wife was Catholic and that his children were being brought up under this faith.

Mr Woolley, of Theos, said: "I think the original effect of Mr Clegg's words was that people could appreciate he was being straightforward with us. People don't like people pretending to be what they are not. "But Mr Clegg felt he needed to qualify what he was saying. I mean, why would you do that unless there was a political imperative? He was trying to assure people."
Parties, by their nature, are broad coalitions, with members holding sometimes widely different views. Westminster wisdom has it that maintaining discipline, and alienating as few potential supporters as possible, will aid success.

Over the last few years, explicitly faith-based political parties, tired of compromise, have featured more prominently at elections. A spokesman for the Christian Peoples Alliance, which is putting up 17 general election candidates, said: "The big parties are trying to pursue big-tent politics, looking to reach out to the largest possible spectrum. That's the politics of the last century. We are building for the politics of tomorrow." He added: "There is a compromised moral relativism which is endemic in British politics. The moral compass has to be pointed north if we are to get away from big-tent politics."

The alliance harbours long-term ambitions of emulating Christian Democrats in much of northern Europe, where they are effectively the main conservative parties. The spokesman said that policies like cutting inner-city poverty, restricting bankers' bonuses and giving financial help to mothers and fathers who want to care for their children, rather than return to work, would prove popular in the long term. Many voters, beyond just Christians, would see these issues in moral terms, he added. Even if they take a few hundred votes from one of the major parties in a marginal constituency, the alliance or its rival Christian Party, which is hoping to field more than 100 candidates, could swing things.

The two parties, which were in a pact at the time, gained almost a quarter of a million votes at last year's European election. Christian Party leader George Hargreaves said: "Most of our general election candidates are in marginal seats. We can have a king-maker effect, depending on what message we want to send out. "We could say to our rivals 'A plague on both your houses'. We could say 'A plague on one house or another'. Or we could say nothing about our rivals and just put our own message across. "We will look at other parties' candidates in full to see what they stand for. That's democracy in action."

They are encouraging Christians to look at politics through the prism of their own beliefs. If the electoral sums on 6 May add up, "doing God" might not be a rarity in British politics for much longer."

Britain's got Politics

I am slowly despairing of this election on the grounds that it is becoming more and more like the celebrity dance, sing or whatever shows that cause me to turn my television off almost every weekend. Now it seems that we're going to vote according to the reality television/talent show model. The only thing missing is the fact that we don't have to phone in to vote (but don't say that too loud, it's a great way of taxing the voter for the privilege).

As someone who is working frantically to ensure that Friday the thirtieth of April sees a hustings take place in Tamworth I have become even more interested in politics that is usual for me. I am more aware of what is being done by the candidates and their supporters and more aware that many of those who have a vote will either fail to use this right or will vote on a whim.

What worries me is that many of the Christians I speak to are more keen to see a government they think will put more money into their pocket than they are to see a government that supports Christian values and standards. I'm not pointing the finger at any one party standing neither am I singling out any individual either, but I am asking all those who read this to ask the right questions of their candidates regarding doing what is right within a Christian framework.

A few for instances:

One person was promoting a particular party and their candidate and when it was pointed out that they were vehemently against any 'pro life' issue they responded that that wasn't an issue, having their party in was all that mattered.

Another person was putting forward an opinion that said that those who were in them poverty-ridden slums of Birmingham probably deserved to be there and that everyone should vote for the party he favoured as it would benefit those who had because they worked for it!

More worrying was the person who told me that we needed to send all immigrants home and have jobs and homes for the English (which means that the Welsh, Scottish and Irish would have to go too I presume).

What is the Church teaching when Christians can come up with views like this? How do we stand against such attitudes?

Answer's easy - love, honesty, Bible and prayer. Let's get out there and make a difference (Please).

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Not the Service Area

Last night, on the way back from an out and return trip to Colchester, I foolishly stopped at a service area on the M1 for what the Americans call, 'a comfort stop'. Being quite late (c.23:00), I was tired, needed a drink and fancied a sandwich. Nothing surprising there I guess - But . . .

The M&S shop was closed, the Burger King (aaargh!) was shut and although there was a café-like place (which was open) it only had one Panini type thing which was Mozarella and toe-nail clippings and this ran in at about £3,000 (not sure, didn't actually bother to look at right price but I know it was more than £6!).

When I mentioned this to a manager-like person I was told that I could buy drinks from WH Smith and they sold sweets, crisps, biscuits and hot drinks too. I asked where I could get a sandwich and he pointed me to a garage at the next exit! He explained that it wasn't worth keeping everything (anything) open at that time because there was only a trickle of people and that it was there to make money - not serve the needs of the odd individual.

I can live with that reality as I'm a very odd individual! Just will be avoiding service areas from now on (except for a spot of comfort) and heading for the nearest proper sandwich seller off the motorway - probably save money too!

Don't you just love our customer-facing, the customer is a blinking nuisance, culture?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

For God's sake?

There are times when I despair of the Christian world and more specifically those within it. I am so grateful that we have a God who cares, is involved and who doesn't give up on us, especially when I see the way that so many of us serve Him!

The fact that He continues to bless when so many of us continue to bleat, perhaps this is why Jesus used the sheep analogy for us!

The fact that we have so many people who appear more keen to build their church or to be the best at [insert area of pride] even though in the world's eyes it isn't anything that special!

I meet so many people (at all levels within the Church) who seek to sow negatives, pull others down and stir the pot, creating and/or escalating conflict, and generally making lots of noise but doing very little.

The world is full of naysayers and people who will deny the Cross of Christ in their own lives and the lives of the wider Church by their action. It is full of people who appear to have lost the plot when it comes to being and fall even further back when it comes to doing (unless it is for themselves or their own little church).

If the Church is to be effective in a 'post Christian' setting it needs to be Church! The leaders need to be actively working together and the people need to be trained, equipped and released to be Church. The people who make up the Church, the laity, need to be active and to work with others to maximise their effectiveness and most of all to fellowship with one another.

A few things we need to consider:

i. What am I doing in my own life, what are my personal interests and ministry area that I could be doing more effectively if I were working with others from other churches in my area?

ii. Are there others in my church (or fellowship) who would be more successful or fulfilled by working with others? If so, how can I encourage them to work in a wider Christian setting?

iii. What is my church doing to work with the wider Church? How can I be that person who assists this and encourages others to stand with those outside our own walls?

Jesus is coming soon but rather than trying to look busy let's try to look like Church instead.


Monday, 19 April 2010


No, my keyboard hasn't broken!

That's the name of the volcano in Iceland that's stranding people across the world and is reputedly costing airlines $200m a day. We have friends who are stranded in the US and I have heard of so many tales of woe as people are stranded across the globe by this.

The airline operators are desperate to fly because they're losing money and over the past few days Lufthansa and KLM have sent up a few test flights. Some people are already warning the public that we will soon have food shortages if we can't fly and the operators are claiming that this situation is a great European farce in that it took them five days to organise a conference call between the transport ministers of the affected countries. Not only that but they're claiming the whole thing is but a kneejerk in that there was no risk assessment!

To counter these comments the governments says that they have been advised that the cloud is dangerous and they are not willing to see aircraft go down because of the ash. Safety first (always a good policy when you can't stop the vehicle and walk home!).

The airline industry claim that the governments should be using test flights. Of course some have done this and claim all is well whilst scientists are (even today) claiming that there is potential danger in flying through the stuff.

One commentator (from the airline industry) said today that, "Airline operators would not put passengers at risk on the basis of monetary considerations!" I have to say that I would hope not but don't have a great confidence - the bottom line is that some airlines will fold if they don't fly and therefore it's a risk some would (I am certain) be willing to take.

So how do we view this and pray intelligently?

1. We need to be praying for those who live to service aircraft and airports. The people who make the food for the flights, the people who work for companies who service airports and those who rely upon the travelling population to pay their bills (i.e. taxi drivers).

2. We need to be praying for those scientists who are trying to do the right thing and must surely be under great pressure to open the skies again. In situations like this the general rule is that we should err on the side of safety but there are many voices who are sowing enough doubt to make this a really pressurised part in the unfolding aviation scene.

3. We need to be praying for the governments that they make the right decision rather. It would be easy to open the skies and find themselves prosecuted and vilified should even one aircraft go down. If 99% of the aircraft that usually operate are safe, what does this mean for those whose loved one might be on that 1% remaining? Wisdom and facts are needed.

4. Pray for COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) - that body of scientists and other experts who advise the government over this issue.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

A very human problem

One of the interesting things I was told at theological college was that regardless of how hard you worked you would not only never manage to please everybody but you would just about always hear of others displeasure, discomfort, theological distress of 'better ways of doing it' at least third, and more usually fourth, hand.

Some time back I had a couple of people mention 'issues' others have had regarding something I organised. There were great issues to have had and stemmed from those twin towers of 'we always do it' and 'I would have', the twin voices that often become a great death knell for any institution or organisation. Notice of course, that it's always 'others' who have the problem by the way - wouldn't do to come with your own :) .

Now the interesting thing was that in another Christian group when a volunteer to coordinate some event was asked for, not a soul came forward. The reasons for this were:

i.    We are all too busy,
ii.   There's too much to be done, and not enough time, and
iii.  Who wants the hassle of doing it knowing how likely it is that someone will berate you for doing it.

Every organisation, club and institution suffers from this. How often have we (yes I mean 'we') mentioned our complaint over something to a third party knowing that really it was our complaint? We just don't like looking like we're complaining so we assign it to a mysterious third party.

How often have we 'gone off on one' regarding something or other only to find when an explanation was offered that there were conditions or restrictions which meant that rather than whatever is the focus of the niggle was actually well delivered? Facts are awful things for the often take away all the fire and passion of our argument.

Are we ever guilty of the, "But we ALWAYS do this?" syndrome? It seems to me that we do it once and it's novel, different or even wrong. Do it again and it's, "What we do!" and keep on doing it and it's writ in law and holy Scripture. There are times when we do something the same way because we're lazy or perhaps creatures of habit and just don't have the imagination (or intelligence?) to see further than the end of what 'always has been'.

Here's a thought as a new week looms large to help us all deal with whatever we encounter this week:

If you're confused by it - find out what is really happening and why. Facts are useful,

If it's different - before you complain that, We always do it this way," find out why it's been done,

If we have a better way of doing it - go tell the person and dialogue. We might be right but then again we might not have done the the first two steps and act out of ignorance and act as a stumbling block to those who are doing stuff.

Have a super week people.


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Caption Contest - 8

Got the election fever yet? This totem poll gives you another opportunity to wow us with your captions:

Friday, 16 April 2010

Polish Air Disaster

Yesterday I was privileged to be present at the National Memorial Arboretum for a memorial service for those who died near Smolensk on the tenth of April.

There were many veterans present and the service was predominantly done in Polish (apart from my bits of course which were broken English) and it was extremely moving at the end when after the service was completed to hear those present sing in their native language.

Some of these were members of the RAF and flew during the battle of Britain. Many had caterpillars on their lapels (denoting the fact that they've actually used a parachute in anger) and there was a far few medals, even on the chests of the flew bombers ;), denoting service to their homeland and to the allied cause.

Can I ask those who read this blog to take just a moment to pray for Poland, a nation whose leadership has been decimated by this crash, and for the people of Poland and the wider political scene.

As this flight was made to remember Katyn and the massacre of some twenty-two thousand Polish Officers it would also be fitting to pray for reconciliation between Poland and Russia.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tamworth Hustings

I am pleased to be able to say that after lots of rushing around, there will be a hustings held in Tamworth on Friday 30th April @ 7:30pm. We will have all four (that's all the candidates at the moment) candidates present and will have two sessions.

The first session will deal with questions that have come in by post or email and the second will take questions from the floor.

For those who are interested there is a 'Tamworth Hustings' group on Facebook and there is also a website page outlinging it and the candidates:

Tamworth Hustings

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Between Ourselves

I've just listened to an episode of the 'Between Ourselves' programme (series five, episode four)* as recommended. I have to say that it did nothng to make me any more supportive of homosexuality as a Christian lifestyle and did nothing to make me think of supporting the cause of Homosexual clergy - sorry, but that's the way it is I'm afraid.

It was in fact, for me, rather sad listening matter in that it contained nothing new and the focus, being two homosexual priests, was rather limited and the theology and logic rather light (as one probably would expect from such a show). For some it might well represent a 'shop window' in which to display and promote homosexuality as a fidelity-ridden and warm experience but there were so many grating down which one could lose our change that it made for uneasy listening (well for me it did, I'm sure some will go, "Aaah, isn't that nice - they're happy and isn't 'being happy' what it's all about?"

Now, I will come clean and tell people that I am troubled as much by the bigots and I am the liberals and having been attacked numerous times over the fact that I would rather take communion with someone than burn down their house over this issue, found myself amazingly polarised by negative thoughts by the programme.

We find ourselves being regaled with the claim that one of the people speaking is Anglican because they uphold Scripture, Tradition and Reason (the tenets of orthodoxy as I understand it) and yet they then proceed to undermine and effectively deny all three.

I was astounded that because of prohibitions on cooking meat and milk we find an attempt to extrapolate this into deny the dietary and thereby permitting homosexuality. Perhaps a quick read of the thirty-nine articles would be useful here (the religious and ceremonial versus moral bit!).

It was interesting that the image of the 'Holy Family' caused such distress, perhaps we need to revise our Bibles such that Adam and Steve start of in Eden and work our way along to Mary, Jackie and the holy turkey baster or something. Man-woman, possibly spogs (and don't we know people with no kids who also struggle?) seems to be the natural order of things.

Reason - procreation has the potential for progeny, everything else doesn't (excluding the clever scientific bits whereby we don't even need blokes now and women can go it totally alone!!!). Tradition - it wasn't right for two thousand years but now it has to be. Bible - who reads and believes that these days anyway, we make it say what we want (and I struggle over many bits by the way!).

Lambeth - affirms sexual congress as total commitment intended within marriage (only one marriage, male-female) and condemns adultery (hooray) and formication (thanks be to God) and says homosexuality not one of the options. This is bias, bigoted and to be fought against. Seems affirming Scripture, Reason and Tradition isn't what is wanted after all.

I thought the 'moved in together within weeks' was a little telling, but let's not go there. That said, if, as was asserted, 'it's not about sex' why the problem with being celibate? I know a fair few homosexuals and for many of them sex is not part of the relationship at all, it is (as Claire said) more about the focus of their love. This is a big difference and without the act many of those who utter awful and disgusting things about homosexuality find their arguments, like their faith it seems, empty and without any credibility.

My only dealings with 'inclusive church' is that they want an 'exclusive church' and seek to pillory, act against and work for a church whereby they are the only acceptable group. A rather sad and nutty lady I came across worked tirelessly to abuse and hound some people from the church. She started whispering campaigns and tried her best (worst?) to be a focus for fragmentation and fracture. Then she was gone - bitter, warped and perhaps just a little nutty, which was a shame because despite the cheers of others, she is still a human being and is made in the image of the invisible God. (we will we learn we have to get right not even :(  ).

To take a comment passed on the broadcast, "One does not matter more than another," unless of course you are homosexual and then all our attitudes and traditional values and standards have to be put aside.

Not a bad programme though - after all, homosexuals (priests or laity, Christian or other) are still human and need to be treated with respect even when we disagree with them.

A parting thought. Fifteen years ago, whist doing a post-grad course in Applied Theology I wrote a paper which stated that within fifteen years homosexuality would probably be acceptable and in fifty so to would paedophilia. In the fifties homosexuality was abhorrent and aberative but media spin and societal attitudes are changing this and moving the baselines regarding acceptable behaviour. In the same way people, portraying paedophilia as a 'pure' form of love would continue to move the baselines further until we san this as nothing sinister, aberrant or abhorrent.

I hoped I was wrong (and at the moment the press vilify and enjoy the sales paedophilia brings- look at Rome's problems) but we appear to progressing with our own societal version of Rake's progress and standards, attitudes and expectations appear to be continuing in the direction I first noted.

Sad - seems like we need a Saviour!

* This programme will only be accessible for a short time so sorry if you've read this after it has been deleted by the BBC.

Leaving Church - What's on the menu?

Ever tried to get a bunch of friends to come out for a meal using email? I suggest that you try this as an experiment. Send an email to six or eight friends and suggest that you get together for a meal. Once you'e managed to find a day and time you can all agree on (and this will be a major exercise in itself if you're like me) the discussion comes down to the question of what kind of food to consume. This is where the fun really start and is the place where the parallels with choosing a new church fellowship really begin as the various opinions come to the fore.

Very quickly the people form themselves into groups:
A wants want Chinese food,
B wants want Indian,
C only eats English stuff
D wants Italian
E doesn't really care, they are happy with whatever is in front of them.

This is where it gets to be fun as some will be willing to modify their taste and switch from Chinese to Indian or Indian to Pizza and so the real fun continues until some drop out or others sacrifice their choice and come along just to be part of the gathering without really caring or considering what's going to be dished up.

The same is true when we decide to move church and it isn't as easy as saying, "Well I'm an Anglican so I'll move to another Anglican church and all will be well." We have four churches in our parish and each is the same in terms of the label (C of E) and yet is as different as it would be were we to have a sign outside offering Indian, Chinese, Italian or English cuisines.

I know a pentecostal church where the pastor appears to be dispensationalist, not believing in things of the Spirit or God talking or acting through us today. I know another where the Word is subsidiary to the experience of the Spirit and yet another where the church has no problems with many of the issues of lifestyle, choice and attitude that trouble so many other Christians.

Anglican might mean high church and 'bells and smells', genuflecting and the like; it could mean robed choirs and BCP, perhaps guitars and worship groups and no robes at all. The theology could be orthodox in that the members believe the traditional Christian things and abhor all the liberal stuff, then again it could be liberal and have a wacky mad priest who's supportive of homosexuality and wants to rewrite the Bible for today's people. It could be middle of the road and extremely straight (in every sense) or perhaps more charismatic than any of the pentecostal or charismatic fellowship on offer in the area.

If you're going to choose a new venue for worship you need to decide upon the cuisine you fancy and this means deciding what you believe and what, in this collection of beliefs, is important to you.

I'll leave us all a bit of time to think and then perhaps we can decide what really matters to us and whether we've nailed it or missed a few elements.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Persistently Pathetically Proclaiming Protestant Papal Prejudice

Speaking of a the the BBC's  'The Big Question' programme where the Pope came under fire and the question of whether he should resign was broached. I find the manner in which 'America' (the national Catholic weekly) deals with it a little dismissive and plays the 'They're all out to get us card' just a little too obviously.

But don't take my word for it, let's read Austen Iverleigh's own words defending Benedict and Rome by pointing to the fact that they have become little more than scapegoats:

"Yesterday two colleagues, Jack Valero of Catholic Voices and Clifford Longley, columnist with The Tablet took part in a BBC TV debate on whether the Pope should resign. The very absurdity of the question and the way they were heckled and disbelieved as they coolly laid out the facts showed that the mechanism was in play. The crowd had made up its mind and anything - including the Protestant prejudice that the papacy was "unbiblical"- was uncritically accepted. Afterwards, a representative of the Protest the Pope coalition accosted Jack and told him he had no right to be defending Benedict XVI in public. Defend the scapegoat when the crowd is of one mind, and you'll pay the price."

Having seen the broadcast, I can understand the sense of indignation on both sides of the fence but the portrayal of the Times (a far more worthy and trustworthy news source) in the article and much of the spin within it leads me to despair that we will see anything good or positive come out of this very sad affair.

It would be good if someone reminded the world that although there most certainly was abuse, long-term covered up, supported by silence and turning of a blind eye and even perhaps supporting it by dint of both action and attitude of those in authority (locally and all the way to the vatican itself) there were, and still are a number of faithful, trustworthy and honourable Priests to be found in the Catholic church. Something we must not allow people to lose sight of. Mind you, Clifford Longley's attestation that before becoming Pope, Ratzinger had tried to deal with the abuse but been stopped by factions within the vatican setup only makes one feel that he might be a good man but the organisation could be institutional flawed and in need of some real zealous cleansing and backside kicking.

I do agree with Iverleigh regardxing those who will seek to make hay whilst the sun shines on their anti-Christian antics and that for some of those who madly rant and hide behind pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-scientific smokescreens are having a field day. Mind you, perhaps Iverleigh, living in his safe and closeted democracy wonderland doesn't realise that here in the UK we have a fine tradition of making citizen's arrests of despots, tyrants and dictators - Benedict will be in quite a large group to have been so recognised and honoured should it occur.

It's sad that James O'Brien demonstrated all the traits that probably make for a fiery radio show but don't do much for clear debate and a shame that Cristina Odone, whom I quite like (especially after the Commonwealth Christmas debacle a while back) but find many Catholics don't, mistook 'reforming' for 'reformation'  so it ended on a bit of a damp note.

As for the Pope resigning, I thought this had some precedence in history  (the Great Schism of 1378 -1415 when Gregory the twelfth resigned for the good of the Church and even further back when Celestine the fifth issued some bull about Popes being able to resign and then having done it run off to a cave for the remainder of his life. So of course, this is not an unheard of thing but is something that would indicate that Benedict had been the wrong choice and therefore not God's man for the job, which would be a bit worrying.

Now is the time to say goodbye - Part the third

It's just like choosing a restaurant!

When people decide it's time to move on, if they come and tell the leadership that they are going, one of the best things to do (if you're telling me anyway) is to tell them, "God is telling me to move!" Now, doing this invokes the biggest player in the Christian lifestyle and unless the leader has a direct word from the Boss themselves, trumps any argument that might be brought up.

Personally, if someone comes to me with the ,"God says . . .," unless I have a word to the contrary I have to accept their discernment and send them with a blessing. There have been times where the reason is tenuous in the extreme but I've sent them with a blessing. Now I don't mean. "A blessing they've gone somewhere else, a blessing that they're someone else's problem," and stuff like that (although to be honest it  could have been said!) but a blessing that asks God to be with them and uphold their choice and bless it.

The reason for this is that I believe that this is Biblical and practical even though at times it is extremely difficult to do (I have never rejoiced at people leaving) but it has to be done. Why?

Firstly, it is what we Christians are called to do. Blessing others and not cursing.

Secondly, it let's those going say goodbye in a proper and balanced manner and allows those left behind to see how we deal with beginnings and endings and those little life-happenings the way God would have us do. We're open, transparent and loving.

Lastly, it leaves the door open. If someone goes and life is great in the new place they are free to come and tell others as there's still a relationship. Should there be a service (like a baptism) that they'd like to come to, they can without embarrassment or recrimination. Better still, should the move turn out to be a tragedy, having left in good standing with the church and its members there's no problem in them returning home, where a loving welcome awaits them.

Leaving under a cloud or having made a stand and done the pointy toes bit makes it a lot more difficult to return as it acknowledges that leaving was not only done the wrong way but was the wrong move too! Rarely does a person return to a church they've left in a fit of pique. Another reason for time spent in prayer, discernment and discussion.

A while back I was stopped in a garage. The person asked me about service times and basically quizzed me for about ten minutes on the services and stuff we do. At the end of the chat they told me that they were members of a local Christian group and that they had decided they were going to join us. I asked what the person at the front had thought about their leaving and was told that they hadn't told them, they were just leaving.

I explained that I would of course have to contact the leader if they wanted to come and suggested that they did the same before leaving so that they could come with a blessing and in 'good standing' with the fellowship. The face fell and the tone changed. "Don't you want me to come to your church?" I replied with a smile, "Of course, but you need to come the right way. If you don't you take the blessing away from us, you and those you're leaving and you make me look like I'm sheep stealing!"

The enquiring sheep walked away and I didn't see them again until Good friday when they pointedly told me that they'd become a member of another fellowship in town and that they didn't mind them 'just leaving and coming'. Mind you knowing where the person's gone this didn't surprise me, seems to me that sheep-stealing is their middle name anyway.

Thinking of leaving? Then do it the right way so that you are sent with a blessing and don't become a curse for those you leave or those to whom you come.


Now is the time to say goodbye - Part the second

A reason for the season.

Not long after we were married we found ourselves in a church which was looking to send a missionary congregation into an Anglican church building which was in danger of being made redundant. The then bishop was keen to hand the building over to another faith group and this brought forward the suggestion that we send in a team to refurbish the building and build a Church within it.

My other half went off and spent time in prayer over whether or not this was where God was calling us to be. During one of her prayer sessions she came up with some verses from Joshua concerning the entry of God's people into the promised land and how the Reubenites went with them and saw them into the land but did not settle. This was God's word for us. We were to go and battle over the building and the establishment of a congregation but we knew we were not going to be settling in that place.

As things transpired we didn't need to decide to move on, this decision was made for us by the death of my father and our subsequent move away to be nearer my mother Other times, this is not so clear cut and we need to be looking and listening with spiritual eyes and  ears. We need to be aware of the season (kairos) that is for us the right time to flower and blossom where we are and to be ready, when this ends to step back or move away. We also need to realise that the inbetween time (chronos) is a time when we might merely 'be' and whilst not doing anything major, we do a major thing by remaining.

There are times when we have been greatly used and need to realise that there is a new (or just different) group of people coming through and that they are called to take the baton from us. Sometimes we can do this and continue to be present and others our presence becomes a hindrance or stumbling block for the church and for God's progress. When this happens the need to discuss (and pray) this over with friends you trust (spiritually as well as confidentially) and to take this to the leaders. If you are the leader, then you take it to friends and colleagues or mentors and seek their advice. Many a good work has been damaged by staying just that moment too long or by being a stifling presence.

There is validity in seeking a move that will bring you good teaching and solid fellowship but a general principle I was given by a very wise Welshman is that you can never go back. Often when this position in our life is reached we look for the security of the familiar, meaning the church from which a plant came or the previous church to the one you're considering leaving, but this is rarely right. We need to look for the security of God's presence and the assurance that we are moving to the right place.

There is a dignity in dreaming dreams and withdrawing from the battle's heat but there is a need for maturity to make that move. This might not be instantaenous and it might not be easy, after all jeremiah 29:11 says:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

And these came in the middle of a seventy year captivity in Babylon!

Did i mention that patience is a key element in moving. Taking time and prayerfully considering the what and the what might be is the only way we can avoid the repentance and the isolation that hastily decided moves regarding Church (and just about everything else) can bring.


Monday, 12 April 2010

Now is the time to say goodbye - Part the first

No, not the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore version:

But the version that starts to make you wonder whether or not it's time to leave for pastures new. No, not me (before anyone starts cheering) but a general muse over the subject of moving on, moving up, moving out.

Having left Elim for the CofE I know many of my former friends and colleagues had the idea that I had lost my faith by so doing. I had joined the ranks of the infant baptism sploshing, vain repetition uttering heretics that were the Church of England and had left behind the things of the Spirit and the opportunity to 'name and claim it'.

So, how can you work out whether God is calling you to leave your present spiritual home for pastors new? Here's a few thoughts (feel free to add to them or detract from me as you might feel fit!):

1. A sense that where you are is not enough any more. Within Church there are times and seasons and we need to realise that where God has called us to be might merely be for a season and for a reason. There are places which entertain and attract us and cause us to become members but, like a chinese meal, leave us feeling that we're still hungry for something more. We might have cut our spiritual teeth in that place but there is never quite enough to keep us feeling that we're being nourished.

Cautions: If this is what we start to feel then we need to examine this feeling carefully. I meet a number of people who seek 'better worship' or 'more powerful teaching' and leave the right place for the wonderful world of Christutainment. The thrills and spills of an exciting church which doesn't do any solid teaching and which does the 'name it claim it, prosperity and triumphalistic' tosh!

Questions to ask:
i. Why isn't it enough? If it's because other places do 'more exciting' church, then it's probably not God. This is the stuff 'sheep stealing' is all about, you build something, get a big worship band, get some 'names'; to come and preach and watch as the unsettled, 'I want something more' wallies bleat their way over to your establishment.

ii. Is this about people, vision, mission, teaching or worship? Often, the people coming to me for advice over this are unsettled in their current church because they perceive a new order, that they've fallen out of the leadership or simply don't share the vision any more. If it's about not being part of a new order, then perhaps this is an indicator that the time is coming to move home. We are sometimes called to a place for a season and when that season ends, we move to a new field and graze there. Is the thing lacking perceptible? If so is it relationship, teaching, worship, challenge, vision, mission, prayer or something else you can name?

I have come a cross so many places where few seem to come to Christ and yet many roam from fellowship to fellowship seeking the latest 'in' church. The are like children in a fairground, attracted from ride to ride seeking greater excitement and bigger thrills. They are limited in their Christian outlook, Biblical knowledge and theological understanding. Mind you, they can sing all of the twenty top worship songs and can name all the big hair, teeth and gold on the God channel.

Don't be like them - examine yourself and challenge any feelings that church 'is not enough' and realise that if you decide to leave, you first have to discuss this with the pastor, minister, leadership team and leave with a good relationship and with a blessing. And if you don't, please don't be offended when I (or someone like me) tells you that the church they're part of probably isn't the place for you.

iii. Is this merely about me? Will a good night's sleep, a stirring sermon or a service where we sing all my favourite songs change my mind? A bit like 'hello mother, hello father' many of those who come to me are merely 'out of salts' and just need to chill a bit and stop the navel gazing or self-indulgent stuff for a bit. Always let the sun go down on this topic - tomorrow is another day and many a bridge has been burned by hasty decisions over church membership.

More soon - are you in the right place, or are you merely the wrong person at the moment?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Wish I were part of the FCA

I have a meeting this week and, unlike the FCA members, it will be in Birmingham. Now don't get me wrong but I'd rather be in Bermuda, not because I don't like Birmingham (and what is there not to like?) but because Bermuda sounds much, err, warmer, sexier, distant?

Venues apart, I am still struggling with some aspects of this FCA thing. I totally and absolutely endorse anything that seeks to maintain, uphold or in certain areas re-introduce Biblical principles and standards into the life of the Church (universal) and the church (Anglican).

Their latest missile starts of brilliantly in that they (FCA top table chappies) affirm the reason for the FCA as being "To give witness to the life transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and the trustworthiness of the Bible." Hallelujah!

I am all in favour of any movement that, "Delivers spiritual and practical outcomes to faithful Anglican Christians around the world," and am also concerned / dismayed / saddened / [insert word here] over the election of mary Glasspool (whom I am sure is a nice enough lady, but that of course is not the issue is it?).

I also recognise that restraint is merely a word used by Rowan, maintained by the orthodox and totally ignored by the liberal elements amongst us. Thus it appears, once more, that the FCA and I are in total agreement.

So why am I confused?

I am confused because certain people continue to tell me that I need to sign up for this and that 'my church' (it's 'mine' because I belong to it, not because I 'own' it) also need to subscribe and 'be ready to make a stand' (by which they mean 'leave'). I keep pointing out that by leaving this becomes the Fellowship of Confessing Ex-Anglicans and the point is surely lost. Isn't the key to stand and remain within the body committed to the traditional Biblical truths, values and standards rather than start a new denomination?

Told you - I'm confused.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Who are we called to be like?
Like our Dad?
Like our sporting heroes?
Or like Jesus?

How are we supposed to be changed?
Bit by bit?
Stumble by stumble?
Or in the twinkling of an eye?

Are we called to be more like Christ,
Or less like others?
Are we called to live in unity,
Or self-righteous isolation?

Do we remember the Cross,
The reality of two nights in the grave?
Or do we just celebrate Easter,
Ignoring the cost and living for ourselves?

My Jesus dies on a Friday - Rises on a Sunday.
Walking ahead of me on the path to the Cross,
Slowly and patiently to give me time to catch Him up.
To walk in His footsteps.

He lives for eternity and takes me with Him.

What about yours?

Caption Contest - 7

Here's a politically flavoured caption contest for you to mark the change of government on May the sixth!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Not doing what the others do!

I have been challenged by the fact that some people appear to be rather limited in wit!

The obvious demonstration of this lies in that although we (Christians) have the Bible in our own language, thank you Mr. Tyndale, and books that allow us to focus onto the minutiae of theological understanding, we (Christians) apparently act from the motive of not wanting be 'Catholics'. Although I can see some attraction in this as a response to some of the patristic errors and the legacy of Papal excesses and ignorance, this is not an intelligent course to take.

By the same token I find that some of those who wish to be 'Calvinists' and even 'Reformed Evangelicals' seek to do so such that they are happy to have a vicarage and stipend and yet don't really wish to be Anglicans at all. Some wish to be Baptists (or even anabaptists) whilst others wish to be pastors of Vineyards churches and others still members of some weird kind of polytheistic liberal heresy which denies Christianity and sees universalism and 'all gods leading to God' as the norm.

I have to point out that I am an Anglican priest and that this means that I have thirty-nine articles of faith to contend with. I am in a denomination where infant baptism is the norm (just as it has been for some two thousand years) despite the anabaptist revision during the 1500's. I am in a church which continues to practice what Christians have practised for c. 2,000 years and although the church has remained consistent we do have to consider that the customer base has not (see ethnic Christianity comments made a couple of weeks back).

I am all for theologically challenging errors but to have people who contact me to say that we must make our stand by doing the opposite of what Catholics do only confirms the paucity of theological understanding and personal integrity.

We do not act against others but against satan. We do not act to. Not be something," but to be more like Christ. I celebrate Ash Wednesday because it is something that appears as part of the Christian tradition not because it is 'Catholic'.

I remember Christ's death on Good Friday and keep the remembrance not because I am 'Being Catholic" but because He died for me and it does me good to remember that my sins took Him to that place.

I do not, "Have to have Christ dead for three days," but remember that He was and reflect on those early followers, without the befit of the hollow triumphalism and smug, self-satisfied 'Evo' contentment and the benefit of hindsight, who had no idea he was to rise on the Sunday. If I lose sight of the loss how can I retain sight of the gain?

To act out of anything other than faith is to act in unbelief and sin - can I suggest therefore that some who share the label 'evangelical' with me are perhaps guilty therefore of sin and ask that they examine themselves rather than condemn others by word and attitude?



Easy really!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Hustings - get one for yourself now!

Can I just encourage people to get together with the other Christians where you find yourself and organise a hustings ASAP?

How to do this:

1. Go to the Make the Cross Count Website and get their hustings guide.

2. Contact the churches in your area and get them involved.

3. Make sure that you get hold of the manifesto documents from each of the parties and read them, making sure that things which you think contradict your faith are highlighted, and

4. Ask your candidate questions about things that matter. We should not vote by party but by candidate. I would rather have a Lib Dem (AKA 'wasted vote) MP who is pro-life and supportive of what I consider to be 'Christian issues' than vote on party political lines and have someone who will act against my beliefs.

Remember - Tony Bliar got into power because he 'wasn't conservative'. His government were elected without any promises, policies or direction on the basis that they were not conservative. Let's not make the same mistake again, being 'not Labour' is not enough.

What a shame Lord Sutch has gone - he'd have made a great PM (as would John Smith also have done).


[please note, this is the only political or election-related post you'll see :-))

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Fair Trade and Supermarkets

I was stunned and dismayed to find myself enter a supermarket (Morrisons) and find they had no Fairly traded tea on their shelves. It hadn't sold out, there simply wasn't any!

Now there were a couple of brands of fairtrade coffee (ironic as I don't drink coffee!!) but nowhere was there any tea to be found. As I walked around I noticed that, unlike the local Co-op, there was a paucity of the products that I have become used to.

Now, no doubt this would be put down to the fact that people can't afford the extra cost of fair trade, something I have been told many times, but this is a hollow and untrue explanation. In one of the churches in which we found ourselves, the membership baulked at the prospect of buying fair trade stuff on the grounds that, "Only the rich people can afford to buy that stuff," and better still, "We should be helping the people here before we help people in other countries!"

So, note to self - if I can afford to stick some extra (high priced) goodies in my bag and yet can't afford to do what is right, what does this say of my Christian viewpoint? If I don't live what I preach what does this make me?

Second note - If a store can't do fair trade then it can obviously afford to do without my custom.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Good Friday, Ash Wednesday? Excuse me but I'm an Evo!

Having already tired of the election I thought I'd focus on something much more interesting (to me) in that I have come across an interesting phenomenon in that some people have their faith defined more by not doing what the Catholics do than by Biblical and orthodox Christian practice.

I have been discussing the fact that some people, "Just don't do Ash Wednesday because it's not Biblical, it's just a 'Catholic' thing." The same it seems is true of Good friday which these 'pick and mix' Christians abhor because, "Every day is Easter Sunday!" and of course, there's nothing in the Bible about Good Friday. The fact that we recall this day every time we celebrate the Eucharist and the reality that without the Cross, Good Friday and death there can be no resurrection seems to have slipped by our heroic (brogue, open-necked shirt and trendy) Evos.

I don't 'have to have Jesus dead' for three days, but I do need to remember that this was the case and reflect upon the realities for His followers as part of the anamnesis that my faith requires (or do I?).

Actually, I suspect that these people are probably also the sort to deny infant baptism too and appear, from discussions thus far, to be more Baptist (happy three hundred and fiftieth birthday) than Anglicans. which of course is a shame as they miss so much in terms of orthodoxy, Church tradition and history and theologically too.

So where are you on these issues and why?

Monday, 5 April 2010

Media mischief or institutional blindness?

I see that the Vatican's spokesman/friend/supporter on BBC R4 this morning again turned to the defence that there an anti-Cathiolic stance is very much in vogue and that many of the issues facing catholicism stem from this 'ant-semitic' styled abhorrence and undermining.

I got lost by his maths but he seemed at one stage to say that there was only 958 paedophile priests and then suddenly it was only 1:4,000 which then transmuted into the more acceptable, "One in the whole corpus of priests would of course be too many!"

I heard a broadcast in which one of those phoning in claimed the 'faithful Catholics' would not be swayed by media reports or incidents of abuse in their communities - they would be loyal regardless of what people tell them because Catholics don't sway from their allegiance to the Pope and the church just because of what's going on.

This is something to applaud and be concerned at in equal measure. Loyalty is excellent, blind loyalty less so and I think the damage some seeking to help might be worse than the initial concerns.

This is a crisis and it seems that only some of those involved are helping better the situation.

What lessons does this have for the CofE I wonder, for I'm sure that they (and other denominations too) are not exempt?

Specks and motes, judging and being judged, rejoicing in the situations facing others - all seem to be applicable here.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Speak first, apologise later

Once again Rowan has spoken out and then, very much like Benedict, apologised later.

Now he's apologising for saying something that many obviously think and feel and to be honest, stitch-up by clever editing by the BBC apart, I don't think he was actually being that controversial or damaging for the Catholics. He's certainly not done any more damage to the RC church than he has to many Anglicans, who are well used to having him and the result of his intelligence cause them to appear in such a light that other faiths (Islam being an example ) regard them as failing, fallen and apostate.

I hope that the words of Cardinal Sean Brady, uttered in Armagh today are true for the whole of the catholic church (and beyond) when he says that, "There is now no hiding place for abusers in the church." Of course the sadness is that there was and many carried out the abuse because those in authority practised 'turning a blind eye' and ignoring what was before them for a very long time.

I personally see nothing in what Rowan said that needs to be apologised for. I know his words will wound some, but they are neither malicious nor wrong and therefore merely need to be acknowledged and to be honest, some just seem to like being wounded and see the RC church as being persecuted. Get a life, persecution is what is happening to Christians in in Iraq at the moment - best wake up and smell the incense.

Mind you, I notice (reading around) that some Catholics are billing this as an attempt to win over some of the high church types who might be thinking of Tiber swimming excursions. Not so, because the words will do nothing for them and neither will they appease those who are troubled by the homosexuality issues so kindly brought to the fore by our American cousins. Sorry people, can't write Rowan's words off. You can't go round them, you can't go under them, you can't go over them - so you'd best suck it in and go through them and take stock and strive to make Sean Brady's words true.

No church, denomination or grouping is above honesty and integrity, Christ demands it and congregations and church members have the right to expect it. So best get it sorted and seek to restore the place of the church in Ireland and the rest of the world and whilst the RC's sort their situation perhaps Rowan might care to make some sort of comment over homosexuality too - there's enough to be done closer to home.

Happy Easter to one and all


Saturday, 3 April 2010

Caption Contest - 6

Now here's an interesting one to play with:

And the Jews rush in to play too!

Not surprisingly a spokesman for American Judaism has denounced Raniero Cantalamessa's likening of child abuse related anti-Catholicism to the "collective violence" against Jews.

Coming on a Good Friday where Benedict would once again be publicly praying for the conversion of Jews, a prayer he re-introduced in 2007 causing anger and offence to many Jews and their leaders, it was a little lacking in tact, discretion and timing. Coming on the back of an increasing feeling that the Roman Catholic Church could have done more to have brought an earlier end to the holocaust (shoah) and perhaps might even have been able to prevent it had it desired, this is throwing petrol on a smouldering wick!

Words might sting but gas chambers, ghettos, death marches and starvation really hurt. Perspective here is perhaps a little lacking.

Of course the Vatican has tried to distance itself from the comments but they demonstrate the same unthinking, 'above it all', attitudes that have promulgated, promoted and (by error and design) supported the abuse of many under its care.

It's obvious that the Roman Catholic Church is under attack and people are obviously feeling the pressure. A speaker on the radio last night pointed to the fact that in some parts of Ireland, the wearing of a dog-collar was an invitation to verbal (and even physical) abuse.

We need to be praying for the victims of these sad and awful acts.

We need to be praying for Benedict that he does the 'right thing' before God rather than assume that the Vatican and the RC plc are above reproach or question.

We need to pray about the damage this is doing and the fuel this is providing for some who seek their own selfish ways by self-justification and attack on the Church. Want an idea of what I mean:

"Thank GOD religion is in decline. Let this be the first big ol' nail in the coffin. Believe in YOURSELF and your OWN abilities and the world will be a much better place without all this religious garbage."

Not a happy day is it?

RC Church has "Lost All Credibility!"

Rowan Williams has said that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost "all credibility" over the way it had dealt with paedophile priests."

What an amazing statement from Rowan, especially given the timing (Easter) and the fact that Bennie will be visiting his (Rowan's) patch later this year. This Easter act of reconciliation and peace seems to me to be a great equaliser and perhaps even a winner in the dialogue over Rome's alternative Anglican provision.

Bennie's already under a great deal of pressure over his handling (at many levels) of the paedophile priest issue and this isn't going to help his case. Then again, having heard one of the Vatican spokesmen baldly state that Benedict and the RC church were facing the same collective violence that the Jews faced, anti-semitism now having become anti-catholicism. Mmmm, don't think so geezer!

I love the News the morning, especially the bit where Rowan is quoted as saying that Bennie would be welcome to the country as a 'valued partner' but that's 'about it!'.

Seems both of these two chaps might be at the helm of sinking ships, one through institutional errors and the other through his own lack of action and leadership. Seems to me that even though Rowan's got a good punch in (at last) and re-iterated the view that few would swim the Tiber, he hasn't managed to do anything for ecumenical relations (which don't really appear to exist in this context anyway).

But what great news for the press and media - back to the playground and that buzzing circle encolsing two combatants chanting the words, "fight, fight, fight . . . "

Rowan 2 Bennedict 1? Christianity ?

ps. listening to some of the broadcast, seems Rowan has, as ever, spoken extremely reasonably ;)

Friday, 2 April 2010

It was my sins that held Him there

Seven-thirty on A Good friday evening and we've managed to get through the Ante communion, the Churches together Good Friday witness (inside the church as wet - but more later), the three hour watch service and the prayer café outside in the main square.

The act of witness usually takes place with a march which then assembles outside the Parish Church. Today, things got so wet that the decision was made to bring the bulk of the service inside with us going outside to sing 'When I Survey' around the cross.

It was amazing because I was so keen for us to be doing the service for those who wouldn't be doing church this Easter and we found ourselves preaching to the converted (so to speak), which was actually a great opportunity to address the fact that it was our sins that took Christ tho the Cross. Not only that but we were able to explore the reality that somewhere between forty to fifty million people knew little or nothing of Christ, Christmas or the Cross and that rather than bemoan this situation we needed to be 'out there' changing this.

Here's a couple of thoughts for us all to ponder.

Firstly, Jesus came as a babe to this world, the world that He had created, and brought peace. But where is this peace? Is it found in the many places throughout our world where death, conflict and oppression are to be found? Is it to be found in the lives of people within our own communities - of course not, so how can we make such a claim without a visit from the Trading Standards Office?

The answer is simple and obvious. Christ comes and brings peace to the world and His depot is piled high with the stuff, but unless we go collect and distribute it, in the depot it will remain. We cannot sit back and wait for Christ to do the door-to-door delivery, this is our job.

Secondly, we want to live within the promise of Romans eight whereby whatever we've been, seen or done is covered by the blood of Christ and yet we appear to be content to have this as our reality whilst those around continue to be dead in their sins. Can we claim to be Christians when we leave those around us to die unredeemed? Not only that but if Jesus could walk the via dolorosa to the cross for us, how can we struggle to do so little a thing as to share that forgiveness with others.

Now, let each of us say this to ourselves:

"It was MY sins that held Him there"

How will we respond?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Women, know your limits

I used to enjoy these clips from the Harry Enfield show and often they would lead to us discussing issues relating to women's equality and their role today. Mind you, it does seem to me that many of the women today have truly forgotten that they are women and are striving, and in some cases become, merely blokes in dresses!

I get so tired of hearing people tell me how Christianity has denied women a place and subjugated them for two thousand years. Obviously many of those who bleat on about discrimination and misogynistic tendencies don't realise that it wasn't that long ago that women, along with slaves and children, had no legal status. they were merely property to be assigned over to another bloke. When Christianity turned up on the scene, one of the things it did was to remove the 'non persona' status from women  (and slaves), not in the way that so many, unknowing, people tell me was part of Jesus' communistic tendencies, but because people were regarded as people.

I got engaged in a short dialogue regarding a piece on R4 today. I actually missed the piece because I was doing a cremation but I understand it was regarding women's lib' and women's rights. I was silly enough to point out that a body I was a member of some time back did a senior management survey and found that women on the top floor liked to keep two layers between them and any other woman who might be considered to be a 'threat'. Men on the other hand were more generous and supported up and coming types on the basis that, if they rose up the ladder, they would have a friend and ally and if the passed them in the career chain, would have a friend in a higher place.

Apparently there are a number of films out at the moment showing how women are taking the places of violent crime that were once the province of nasty chappies that the East-End gangland films love to portray. When away on a CofE course some six years back I was shocked to hear that women should be ordained into pastoral roles because they are 'naturally caring and sensitive'. The blokes should be given the jobs where there was paperwork, drain clearing and 'insensitive blokey stuff'.

I, of course, complained and we went down the, "All men are potential rapists," argument from some of the slower witted among us. "Ah yes, I replied (joyfully) but then let's be fair and admit that all women are potential prostitutes!" Strangely this did not go down well and I was apparently being sexist! Seems equality has to thrive by engaging in inequality and ad hominemns.

Well it appears to be the case that as the women become more like blokes (rather than merely enjoy the opportunities that were once the province of the males) they are seeing their life expectancy decrease, they're getting more illnesses and seeing even more negatives besides. I meet so many women who, "Don't do maternal!" and see this as one of the greatest shames of our Western culture - we have mad woman in our image :( .

How I wish women could enjoy being women and take opportunities without having to become blokes in skirts. They don't need to be harder, tougher, crueller or anything else - just being women is surely enough? Take the opportunities but celebrate the difference (please).