Monday, 31 May 2010

They're not the people of God, they're . . .

Merely a nation who happen to be called Israel!

I despair at my friends and colleagues who adopt the Zionist stance and see in The nation state of Israel the people of God and a Biblical call to blind support of that body. Indeed the spiritual reality of Israel is, but the nation state of Israel isn't. It is a generally secular nation and is Jewish in the same way the England is 'Christian'.

Further evidence of this can be seen in the Jewish blockading of The Gaza strip, something that comes into focus through the boarding of boats bringing supplies and relief. The boarding and ensuing firefight saw fifteen (presumed Turkish) 'human rights'activists killed.

We continue to see a lack of proportionality in terms of the israeli response to Gaza. The nation continues to act exactly as God told His people not to act. I'm all for Israel, that spiritual body, but am concerned that we (Christians) stand by and support what is effectively the 'collective punishment' (which is illegal under all of the Geneva conventions) of the people of Gaza and remain largely silent over the financial and poitical support of Israel by the US (and others).

As a postscript, the 750,000 children living in rubble are not the combatants - this is a disgrace and denies that which the God of the Jews calls His people to be. Why, because Israelis a secular nation state rather than a spiritual reality.

Mercy - justice - humility. (Micah 6: 6-8)

Where is it?

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Can the newspapers sink any lower?

I have been persuaded that the David Laws affair was known of and kept on file until such time as the newspaper saw fit to publish it in the 'public interest'. This does of course move us on from concerns regarding entrapment because now we are seeing the newspapers as a mechanism of political assassination by design.

If it does transpire that the Telegraph has publish this piece with malice aforethought then we've gone past spin and have entered the realm of something more sinister and despicable.

If what Mr. Laws has done is potentially illegal, then the newspaper has surely become an accessory to this by keeping it quiet. I am not naive enough to assume that the press just publish stuff, innocently reporting what is before them and do understand that knives are drawn to scupper careers and political positions on a regular basis - it just isn't always this obvious!

So the man has been outed, humiliated, branded a cheat and may find himself on the back-benches very shortly. In all, a great day for the press and the freedoms it apparently regularly abuses. He will undoubtedly be dealt with by the internal parliamentary mechanisms, I just hope someone calls for a clean-up of the obviously flawed and scurrilous newspapers too!

Anyone got the number of the press Complaints Commission? Oh yeah, I have:

Telephone: 020 7831 0022


Saturday, 29 May 2010

What price confidentiality?

As I understand it the answer, if you're MP David Laws, appears to be about £40,000!

Now, if I was seeking to keep my sexuality out of the public gaze my first thought would be to make sure that I kept work and private life well separated. Sadly this hasn't been the case and as much as his friend and colleague (Jeremy Browne), wrongly in my opinion, protested in Mr. Laws defence on R4 this morning, the reality is that Mr. Laws broke the rules. In fact, as an aside, Browne brought up issues I hadn't previously considered and actually settled the matter for me!

Claims that 'although they were living together they didn't treat each other as spouses' is a little hollow as many married couples I encounter live exactly as they claim to have been living (for many years)and consider themselves to be a coupe, married or whatever.

That they didn't have joint bank accounts doesn't count for much because this it the situation for many of the couples I meet.

Having separate social lives and separate groups of friends is, once more, the reality for many couples and certainly doesn't negate the relationship or deny the nuances that might make Mr. Laws actions intellectually or morally acceptable. In fact, thus far David and his partner appear to tick all of the boxes!

In all, I'd have to say that morally and probably legally too (and I'm discounting reports of having put up money for the property) the bloke is in the wrong and that at best what we have before us is an exercise in semantics and the first bit of damage done early on to the new government.

Another black mark against what was being billed as a 'new order' for British politics and proof that the MPs do appear to inhabit a very different world from the rest of us.


Friday, 28 May 2010

Rowan's letter - in the right Spirit

As always, when Rowan speaks there is something worthwhile!

It's sad that we have been given the ability to communicate in all languages and yet so many do not know and have not heard! The Gospel, which Rowan rightly says "Is not the property of any one group, any one culture or history," is denied so much in who we are and the choices (and attitudes) we make our own.

As it is, and ever has been, the Church has division and conflict as part of it. Living outside of that which God desires for us and seeking to support our actions by corruption of the word is, and always has been with us. Division continues, and even grows, and those who have been asked to show restraint have merely shown contempt and continued in their own ways. To make one's own choices is to live with the results of this. TEC, in consecrating Mary Glasspool, have made their choices.Not only that but they have taken brothers to court and time continually being the Church's good name into disrepute and ridicule. And whilst this conflict continues, across the world many fail to hear the Gospel or regard the Church as irrelevant and in disarray and ignore its call.

"The sobering truth is that often our attempts to share the Gospel effectively in our own setting can create problems for those in other settings."

I see no trust, only suspicion and vitriol, without our communion. I think it would be unfair to label sexual issues as the primary cause but the effect generated has destabilised and effectively broken our church and damaged the Church (universal), perhaps irreparably (for people are flawed and incalcitrant beings). There is no unity and we don't even share a common Bible any more. We have effectively split into tow different voices of Christian thinking and theology and they are as oil and water! Perhaps this should be recognised and the separation made such that where we might fellowship we do and where we differ we merely live separately. Anglican and Episcopalian. Orthodox and Revisionist church. In this way there may be a way forward and some semblance of God honouring unity.

I am sympathetic to Rowan's predicament, for appearances of unity when none exists is flawed and weakens the Church and it's message to the wider world (and thus places at risk those Christian in minority settings). It is obvious that we need to have the ability to 'rescue' those in the US from the excesses of revisionism and permit them to continue in their 'orthodoxy'. Tine to change the primary church group from TEC to others then it seems. Rowan is right when he says that decisions should not be made in haste, for as the old adage says, repentance comes afterwards. 
Yet we have surely reached that time and place where some decisions have to be made and the results of actions and attitudes which make one member of the family stand out as being at variance with the rest of the family need to be addressed and order within that family restored. I guess this is the time to use the words, "You've made your bed and now must lie in it!'
And Rowan appears to be at that place, for those who have failed to show restraint are to see the effect of their actions in no longer have a voice within the running of the whole and in dialogue with others as part of that whole.
I am sure that some will scream at this apparent victory of hatred over love just as I am sure that some will claim that it doesn't go far enough (quickly enough). But the steps taken must be well thought through and steady and I thank Rowan for his measured approach (just wish it had come a lot sooner). The reality is that we do need some public marks of distance and these are the first steps to achieving that in a way that will hopefully restore unity and redeem our denomination.

Rowan's Pentecost Letter

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion

1.‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak’ (Acts 2.4). At Pentecost, we celebrate the gift God gives us of being able to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various languages of the whole human world. The Gospel is not the property of any one group, any one culture or history, but is what God intends for the salvation of all who will listen and respond.

St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is also what God gives us so that we can call God ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8.15, Gal. 4.6). The Spirit is given not only so that we can speak to the world about God but so that we can speak to God in the words of his own beloved Son. The Good News we share is not just a story about Jesus but the possibility of living in and through the life of Jesus and praying his prayer to the Father.

And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies’.
When the Church is living by the Spirit, what the world will see is a community of people who joyfully and gratefully hear the prayer of Jesus being offered in each other’s words and lives, and are able to recognise the one Christ working through human diversity. And if the world sees this, the Church is a true sign of hope in a world of bitter conflict and rivalry.
2. From the very first, as the New Testament makes plain, the Church has experienced division and internal hostilities. From the very first, the Church has had to repent of its failure to live fully in the light and truth of the Spirit. Jesus tells us in St John’s gospel that the Spirit of truth will ‘prove the world wrong’ in respect of sin and righteousness and judgement (Jn 16.8). But if the Spirit is leading us all further into the truth, the Spirit will convict the Church too of its wrongness and lead it into repentance. And if the Church is a community where we serve each other in the name of Christ, it is a community where we can and should call each other to repentance in the name of Christ and his Spirit – not to make the other feel inferior (because we all need to be called to repentance) but to remind them of the glory of Christ’s gift and the promise that we lose sight of when we fail in our common life as a Church.
Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.
All are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church. The recent Global South encounter in Singapore articulated a strong and welcome plea for the priority of mission in the Communion; and in my own message to that meeting I prayed for a ‘new Pentecost’ for all of us. This is a good season of the year to pray earnestly for renewal in the Spirit, so that we may indeed do what God asks of us and let all people know that new and forgiven life in Christ is possible and that created men and women may by the Spirit’s power be given the amazing liberty to call God ‘Abba, Father!’     
It is my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority; the Covenant is nothing if not a tool for mission. I want to stress yet again that the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control. And this is perhaps a good place to clarify that the place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty: the Committee is identical to the former Joint Standing Committee, fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates; nor is there any intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately. The reference to the Standing Committee reflected widespread unease about leaving certain processes only to the ACC or only to the Primates.
But we are constantly reminded that the priorities of mission are experienced differently in different places, and that trying to communicate the Gospel in the diverse tongues of human beings can itself lead to misunderstandings and failures of communication between Christians. The sobering truth is that often our attempts to share the Gospel effectively in our own setting can create problems for those in other settings.
3. We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.
It may be said – quite understandably, in one way – that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth.
Yet at the moment we face a dilemma. To maintain outward unity at a formal level while we are convinced that the divisions are not only deep but damaging to our local mission is not a good thing. Neither is it a good thing to break away from each other so dramatically that we no longer see Christ in each other and risk trying to create a church of the ‘perfect’ – people like us. It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. And, as has often been pointed out, there are things that Anglicans across the world need and want to do together for the care of God’s poor and vulnerable that can and do go on even when division over doctrine or discipline is sharp.
4. More and more, Anglicans are aware of living through a time of substantial transition, a time when the structures that have served us need reviewing and refreshing, perhaps radical changing, when the voice and witness in the Communion of Christians from the developing world is more articulate and creative than ever, and when the rapidity of social change in ‘developed’ nations leaves even some of the most faithful and traditional Christian communities uncertain where to draw the boundaries in controversial matters – not only sexuality but issues of bioethics, for example, or the complexities of morality in the financial world.
A time of transition, by definition, does not allow quick solutions to such questions, and it is a time when, ideally, we need more than ever to stay in conversation. As I have said many times before, whatever happens to our structures, we still need to preserve both working relationships and places for exchange and discussion. New vehicles for conversations across these boundaries are being developed with much energy.
But some decisions cannot be avoided. We began by thinking about Pentecost and the diverse peoples of the earth finding a common voice, recognising that each was speaking a truth recognised by all. However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.
And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.
I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged.  I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.
I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.
5. In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican.            
Yet no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions and everyone should be reflecting on how to rebuild relations and to move towards a more coherent Anglican identity (which does not mean an Anglican identity with no diversity, a point once again well made by the statement from the Singapore meeting). Some complain that we are condemned to endless meetings that achieve nothing. I believe that in fact we have too few meetings that allow proper mutual exploration. It may well be that such encounters need to take place in a completely different atmosphere from the official meetings of the Communion’s representative bodies, and this needs some imaginative thought and planning. Much work is already going into making this more possible.
But if we do conclude that some public marks of ‘distance’, as the Windsor Continuation Group put it, are unavoidable if our Communion bodies are not to be stripped of credibility and effectiveness, the leastChristian thing we can do is to think that this absolves us from prayer and care for each other, or continuing efforts to make sense of each other. 
We are praying for a new Pentecost for our Communion. That means above all a vast deepening of our capacity to receive the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It means a deepened capacity to speak of Jesus Christ in the language of our context so that we are heard and the Gospel is made compelling and credible. And it also means a deepened capacity to love and nourish each other within Christ’s Body – especially to love and nourish, as well as to challenge, those whom Christ has given us as neighbours with whom we are in deep and painful dispute.
One remarkable symbol of promise for our Communion is the generous gift received by the Diocese of Jerusalem from His Majesty the King of Jordan, who has provided a site on the banks of the Jordan River, at the traditional site of Our Lord’s Baptism, for the construction of an Anglican church. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of blessing the foundation stone of this church and viewing the plans for its design. It will be a worthy witness at this historic site to the Anglican tradition, a sign of real hope for the long-suffering Christians of the region, and something around which the Communion should gather as a focus of common commitment in Christ and his Spirit. I hope that many in the Communion will give generous support to the project.
‘We have the mind of Christ’ says St Paul (I Cor. 2.16); and, as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has recently written, this means that we must have a ‘kenotic’, a self-emptying approach to each other in the Church. May the Spirit create this in us daily and lead us into that wholeness of truth which is only to be found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.
I wish you all God’s richest blessing at this season.
+Rowan Cantuar:
Lambeth PalacePentecost 2010

Comment Later - work beckons

Newspapers - a Comparative

I wonder how many of us have ever tried putting the newspapers side-by-side and comparing the 'big news'?

I do this from every now and then as part of my praying for our country, nation, world and beyond and an always amazed at what constitutes news. Today is no exception to this. Here's the top three items from a few of them:

Daily Mail
  1. 'Bizarre double life of 'Ripper' suspect: Privately-educated loner studying PhD is charged with murder of three prostitutes'
  2. Migrants to swell Southern towns by 20% in eight years
  3. Benefits Britain: 700,000 families pocket at least £15,000 a year
The Times
  1. President Obama attacks BP over ‘worst oil disaster’
  2. Crime student charged with prostitutes murder
  3. Syria accused of arming Hezbollah
The Guardian
  1. BP's 'top kill' mission tentatively halts oil gush
  2. Defence heads gag critical Iraq report
  3. Tories take final seat in parliament
The Independent
  1. Green Party arrives at Westminster
  2. The unseen power behind Alexander McQueen's throne inherits his empire
  3. Al-Qa'ida 'running out of suicide bombers in Iraq'
The Daily Mirror
  1. University student charged with murder of three missing prostitutes
  2. Former Bradford vice girl pays tribute to three missing friends and says: It could have been me
  3. iPad launches in UK today - but is it worth buying?
The Sun
  1. I watched 'Crossbow Killer' eat live rat
  2. 417,000 migrants win right to settle here - in one year
  3. Moment Cops held sunburn Mum
Just a bit of grist for the mill!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Sin is a binary entity!

From time to time we encounter people whose minds are so open that almost everything is permissible, everything except disagreeing with them that is! When encountering disagreement they complain about hateful attitudes, closed minds and the like. Ironically, it is these people who exhibit the very traits they so despise in others.

What we need when there is disagreement is dialogue, not insult. What we need is rational debate, not weird and wonderful extrapolations and misinformation which portray things that are not as if they are fact, using generalisations and speaking as if they are specifics.

Adopting a policy of "Agreeing to differ," is great when it comes to matters of cuisine and the like, but where the 'truths' are so very opposite this is flawed logic and poor theology. If, for instance, we have a black cube which another observer sees as white then agreeing to differ is folly. For it can only be one or the other, but not both. It's a binary quantity in that it's either a '1' or a '0' - 'on' or 'off', 'right' or 'wrong'. (I hope I have made this clear).

In almost all things before me, the question of choices and sin always comes down to whether they are '1' or '0' state events. I seek to do those things that are right and to stop doing things that are wrong. I don't always get it right, but I persevere. I seek not to sin, but sometimes I do - this is part of my fallen human nature - by bit by bit Jesus is healing me. And unlike the NHS, there's not waiting list or queues, the doctor will see you now!


Hallmarks of orthodoxy

Last night whilst teaching a session on Church History we came to a discussion on the 'Wesleyan Quadrilateral' of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. The students were asked to pick their primary source of reference and all came up with exactly the same order for all four, with Scripture being the primary source.

The whole group ranked them thus:
1. Scripture
2. Experience
3. Tradition
4. Reason

I was surprised that Tradition and Reason occupied the place they did and more surprised when I was told how tradition merely brings about a non-responsive and 'closed' church. Experience being more important than reason rather surprised me too. I was taught that these four elements exist in a tension whereby Scripture reveals and defines our faith which is seen by our traditions, lived out in our experience and shaped, and supported, by our reason. These are the means by which we define our faith and develop our theology (always asking the question, "What difference does this make?").

I had to explain that I thought that Tradition was more than what we did and also point out that tradition affects our experience and understanding. More than that, tradition is also a theological statement, an outworking of what we believe, and is therefore a most important aspet of Christian being. This is why, when people seek to re-invent or revise theological or ecclesiastic structures they often hit out at it I guess, for it a pillar on which the whole church stands - it is now what 'used to be done' but a reflection of theological understanding, belief and our values and standards. We use the twin pillars of Reason and Experience to assess and refine our tradition and whatever we arrive at must support, and be supported by, Scripture.

Scripture is the main pillar and the others merely have a supporting role. I'd like to add a fifth pillar, that of 'Love' for this is the embodiment of Scripture and should be present in all the pillars.

And, as I rush off, desk (metaphorically) cleared and rushing to get sorted for the work outside these doors, I leave you with a couple of thoughts.

Tradition is what we do today, not hundreds of years ago.

Love and grace are never easy or cheap options.

Pray for the Church that it might be Church and the world that it might be healed. Bless those who stand against you and love those who you would wish not to love - we might just make a difference today by doing this.


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

So what is 'Christian'all about?

I probably shouldn't admit that I struggle with this question at times, but to be honest I do! After all, Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of Christ and 'The Way' as the body of Christ, that physically existing (and thereby bringing the essential incarnacy to the equation) and spiritually (which in my book also means practically) active reality that we should be.

Christian means not condemning others regarding their sin or bringing into being those religious standards of 'in' and 'out' (or perhaps 'up' and 'down' might be a better association here) and all the other baggage that is 'religion'. Not on your nelly! Christian means to be (engaged) in this world that God has created by living in it the way that He (God) intended. There is more than just 'getting it right', there is also 'being right'.

What Tom had to say rang a bell and reminded me of a story I'd witnessed.

Many years ago I recall a nice little Oxfordshire village, you know the sort - retired Colonels, village fetes (complete with cake baking and the like) and nothing but blue posters in every window come election time. This was the refuge of the twee, middle-class, money no object sort of people. They read their newspapers, tutted at the young black people and their hooded compatriots and longed for the day when the punishment would fit the crime (and birching would return, along with national Service).

A strange and shocking thing happened to this place in that an academic and his family moved into this cloistered and comfortable existence, for they were black! Slowly they got to know the family and almost a year after they'd arrived, one of the children, having missed the bus decided to thumb a lift. He was almost sixteen and thought that he was old enough to sort his own affairs and also knew better than letting Mum know he'd left his mates late!) and so, thumbing wasn't a problem, after he'd done it before when he'd spent the money on other things.

He managed to get himself a lift to the junction on the main road and was just entering the lane that took him to his home when a police car went by. Noticing a young black man turning off the main road they decided they'd investigate, after all, this wasn't the sort of area that had many fitting that bill. It just wasn't an area where you'd expect to find 'blacks'!

They soon caught the young man up and after asking him for identification, of which there was none, they decided that they'd take him to the local nick and verify his story there. About an hour and a half after he should have been home the family, a little worried, contacted the police and after a few minutes conversation found their son was in an interview room! It was not long before they were at the police station and collecting their son, his lateness and bus-missing escapades now lost in the mists of anger and indignation. This was the response of the locals, the same people who wanted flogging and National Service a few years before went on the rampage and issued 'concerned of . . . . " and 'Angry of . . . . " letters to the press and the Chief Constable demanding an apology over this outrage against one of 'theirs'.

They might have had their fears about young black men and were fearful for their safety at the hands of such people, but once they'd got to know one and made him their own, their attitudes changed and they became protective of the very same people they'd once stood against. Their ignorance had been dealt with by relationship and their antagonism had changed into something supportive.

I think this is what Tom was aiming for with his description of 'obviously loving and responsible people'. The problem that is ignorance and the attitudes that ignorance fosters always need to be dealt with. In the same way though, so to does disobedience need to be dealt with and whilst there is no need to seek an excuse for having a different coloured skin (but there is for having attitudes against it) there is also no excuse for living other than the way that God would have us live.

And so we seek to 'gently' restore those who are sinning and we must refrain from condemning others to hell whilst standing against those who promote doing that which denies God or acts against His desires for us. We're not the judges, after all we have enough to be judged in ourselves, but neither are we the world, a group of people who are (sometimes) swayed by encounter or personalising a people group. (wasn't this how they got Gene in his position - they had people meet him and though opposed to homosexuality didn't want to stand against the person?)

I hope this helps the debate,


I wish people would read what I write!

Regarding Tom Butler's R4 broadcast yesterday, I will re-iterate what I said yesterday on this blog. "Whilst he has apparently changed his mind, he obviously hasn't changed his position."

I am aware that some are saying it takes a big man to say he's changed his mind, but the position he occupies is static and the rhetoric regarding minority Christians, when taken in the light of his extrapolations are hollow and, as I see them, worthless. To point to an effect as being wrong and to continue to condone, defend and and even misrepresent positively the cause is something that words cannot describe (well, polite words anyway!).

I will repeat again from yesterday's blog (for those who missed the nuance or the post themselves):

"Tom claims to have changed position regarding liberality and minority Christians, for which I am grateful (if this is the case). I am just a little concerned by his words:

"The price of holding the communion together can't all be paid by stifling the lives of gay people in the West and cruelly punishing them in Africa.""

My thought yesterday was: "The price of holding the communion together can't all be paid by denying two thousand years of traditional and orthodox faith or cruelly punishing those in the West and putting at risk those in Africa."

But let me clarify a little further.

Once again we see the homosexuals as the victims as the naughty orthodox (and there are many of those in reality) 'stifle' the lives of gay people in the West. I hear so many people telling me that homosexuality is about the focus of one person's love for another of the same sex. I am continually being told that this is not about sex but the ability (and permission) to love. If this is the case then where on earth is there a problem with celibacy as a lifestyle within such a relationship? If the relationship is celibate then there is no issue and the Homosexual lobby have silenced, at a stroke, those who stand opposed to them.

Secondly, I don't see what 'holding the communion together' and the cruel punishment of homosexuals in Africa have to do together! This is a non sequitor for one speaks of Church and the other the legal system, and perhaps societal views, of a nation - and neither are part of the Anglican communion nor anything to do with holding it together . Gosh, Rowan's struggling with the Anglicans so what chance does he have with African nations and their political systems and pressures?

I hope this helps clarify my position and helps those who might like to interpret what I have written as they have (which is erroneously).

A question . . . If the majority decided that paedophilia was now acceptable, would this change of mindset render the act right or would it merely be a wrong act that had become acceptable? We are looking at cultural relativism. The posturing and misrepresentation and extrapolations did Tom no favours yesterday. If he had stuck to the focus of his mind change (which again I applaud) and refrained from the rest I would have been much happier.

He can still buy me a pint any time he likes by the way!


A postscript (26/5/10 15:15 BST)

Can I point out to those who have mailed seeking to drag up Tom's past episodes that he is no less vulnerable to errors of judgment and mistakes than anyone else. let's please deal with what is before us and not behind, eh?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tom Butler has changed his mind

But not his position going by this morning's Radio Four 'Thought for the Day'. We had Tom Butler speaking of Theresa May in the light of her revelation that she has changed her mind. Tom extrapolated May's change of mind into the observation that she wasn't alone and that, "It was remarkable to observe how, in spite of tradition religious teaching, public opinion in Britain over a decade or so in a clear shift of thinking has mostly changed its mind over homosexuality." Seems mind-changing is catching on - pity expanding it isn't!)

Whilst the world might have changed its position, seems to me that a large part of the Church hasn't. Then again, this would explain the moving away from orthodox or traditional Christian teaching as they were under it anyway! (Perhaps Tom needs to stay in more!).

Apparently (Tom continues), "The reason is simple in that it is difficult to hold dogmatic views about what is good or desirable behaviour when some of the obviously loving and responsible people you actually encounter are behaving in an alternative way. And, after all, love is a Gospel imperative."

Love is indeed an imperative, agape (perfect love) - all the way. Then again so is obedience and this obedience urges us to stay away from eros (sexual love)in a wrong setting. Filial love is cool, but that's not sexual love either and in fact, abstaining from wrong forms of eros is part of fulfilling agape in our lives! Seems, we might have a bit of a disagreement over what is good and desirable and, nice as they are, 'being happy', 'being faithful' and 'loving' are only part of the equation.

Tom moves to parallel divorce and homosexuality. He reasons that just as people were once prejudiced against divorce and remarriage and that thirty years ago people weren't remarried in church (this of course changed because people changed their minds as their kids and grand kids were the divorced people) and how, in the past, people remained in loveless marriages with the pressure this put on the family. As a result, the church, seeking to be pastoral, took the step of marrying divorcees (and of course, still wanting to be pastoral should now, I would assume, do the same for homosexuality).

Now there are many differences here and comparing divorce and homosexuality is a pretty big step of inclusion as it compares chalk and cheese and focusses on fudge. That some will change their position when someone they know becomes involved in some previously held taboo must be taken as a 'given'. It's called accommodation. Many of the people (Christian and secular) I have met are unable to drop their standards and bin their values and in so doing cause Tom's assertions to fall (yet again).

Extrapolating as Tom does, on what was taboo in the fifties and is now acceptable leads me to assume that so too will other sexual stuff that we now consider taboo be in fifty years or so! Let's hope not for the sake of the children!

Continuing Tom's 'thought', we moved on to Malawi and the case of two homosexual men who are serving 'hefty prison sentences' for 'loving one another'. Fourteen years hard labour is an extremely OTT response by any standards as I see it and should have all of us concerned and making a stand, regardless of our views. That the penalty is wrong does not, of course, confer rightness on the act that promulgated that penalty/

From here we have a quick trip to illustrate the fact that we (Anglicans) live within extremely diverse cultures. Of course, citing Maryland and the consecration of Mary Glasspool as evidence is just a little too weird and he might have done better if he'd used Malawi. Glasspool's relationship she has with another woman, is (according to Tom) legitimised by twenty odd years together and the fact that she was a lesbian was 'simply a non-issue' to the people who gathered for the service where she was made a bishop! Of course it was a non-issue, everyone there was a liberal. If he'd been to a cannibal lunch club would he expect the people present to be vegetarian? It is facile to say that because the liberals supported a liberal consecration that this is evidence of universal acceptance.

Tom of course was spot on when he spoke of the fact that the people at Glasspool's consecration couldn't grasp the fact that their liberal attitudes had severe consequences for people who lived in minority situations in Africa and Egypt (although U thought Egypt was in Africa!). It's called 'self first, self always, self on the throne' and is at the root of much liberal theological thinking and practice. Loving God above self is what being a Christian is all about - denying sin, not denying Him. Obedience and seeking what is right - just not popular is it?

Tom claims to have changed position regarding liberality and minority Christians, for which I am grateful (if this is the case). I am just a little concerned by the words:

"The price of holding the communion together can't all be paid by stifling the lives of gay people in the West and cruelly punishing them in Africa."

Here's a thought:
"The price of holding the communion together can't all be paid by denying two thousand years of traditional and orthodox faith or cruelly punishing those in the West and putting at risk those in Africa."

Pentecost in the Park

Pentecost Sunday sees the Tamworth Covenanting Churches come together for 'Picnic in the Park'. This is a great opportunity to have a picnic in the local park (AKA Castle grounds) so basically this event is exactly what it says it is on the tin (as photo will confirm).

We usually combine this with the GDOP and I think that this, if done in a non-threatening way for those who pass through the park, is a fantastic opportunity for fellowship and witness. This year we had sound and music in place and power too (which always helps) so the event had a bit of music (thank you to Nick's Mum, Nick, Paul and Sues) and some gentle prayer.

Now here's a couple of musings regarding this:

1. Why do we always sit in our church groups rather than mingle?
Interesting that some people sat with other church group members UNTIL others from their church/fellowship arrived!

2. Why does everyone leave the minute the grace is said?
Amazingly, one group got up the minute the 'Amen' was said, and with a , "Well, we've done our bit!" left for home. The sun was out (28 deg C) and the park is always open. There were ice creams to be had yet only a few stayed. (and not many were going to a service that would start three and a bit hours later!!!).

Let's hope eternity doesn't last too long - there will be a queue to leave early!

Monday, 24 May 2010

After Entrapment - The Daily Mail Song

Following my earlier post, I have to thank UKViewer for the link to this excellent piece of musical satire. After all, satire is what we English do best:

Entrapment - who is more dodgy?

Following on the heels of the flawed friend who, in concert with the Mail on Sunday, set up and publish the foolish words of Lord (I can see the wood for the) Triesman we no find ourselves with another 'scoop' thanks to a setting up of Sarah Ferguson (AKA Duchess of York) by the News of the World.

What is so amazingly hypocritical is that the Fascist, in typical style, publish and bemoan the damage that the ennobled gentleman's entrapment, thanks to the efforts of both the Mail and Melissa Jacobs,has done to the World Cup bid. The same hypocrisy appeared on the radio this morning when we were treated to some editorial wisdom as he said that he didn't think it would be fair to tarnish either the Royal Family or York himself. What both represent is the greatest display in hypocrisy or a sorry display of the paucity on intellectual wit (you can choose).

I am becoming just a little tired of all these exposures being made on my behalf and in my best interests. A chance sentence being picked up and reported is one thing, but the wearing of a wire (as Jacobs did) or the use of secret cameras (NOW) speaks of entrapment and, regardless of my personal views, makes me a part of something which surely breaches civil liberties.

I recall film footage of soldiers beating some youths being released [in the public interest'. Of course the fact that it sold newspapers had nothing to do with the fact they published, did it? These hacks must assume that we are as stupid as they are duplicitous - the bottom line is that they pay large sums of money to create news that sells newspapers. If this were not the case then Ferguson would have merely received a call from the editor of the News of the World and told that she was in danger of damaging her ex and of damaging her own situation too! The same for the footage which was released - had they been concerned then it would have been a simple task to ensure the right people were handed the film so that they could act accordingly.

What price integrity? Well if you're Melissa Jacobs, it's apparently £75,000!

What is 'public interest'? It seems to me that all things are interesting but not all things are helpful and are, in fact, harmful. Harmful to the focus of the 'news', harmful to the reader and harmful to the organisation and/or nation to which they belong. News? Nah, it's tantamount to treason as I see it (at times).

The Triesman affair certainly has no profit for the English FA as it attempts to recover from the damage done to its bid to host the World Cup. It won't have done Triesman any good as his loose words and the revelation that he'd had a relationship with Jacobs as well (but at least this implies consistent lapses of morality I suppose) and the losing of his post was also (I assume) financially damaging too! In short, this wasn't a really popular story. So many people have asked me why they had to publish it (as if I know) - my response is purely and simply that, like the oldest profession, there's money in it even if there's no morality.

And this is where I think the whole issue grates for me. These hypocrites push themselves and their tawdry little rags to the fore claiming to be working in the 'public interest' - well it most obviously isn't and those who have any integrity perhaps should consider make=ing a stand by hitting the newspapers where it hurts - on the newsstands. If we don't buy their newspapers then we send a stark message to the press:

I have not commissioned you to infringe civil liberties and destro lives for the sake of a front page 'exclusive' exposé.

You are not publishing this stuff for me, or any member of the public, and this is a 'not in my name' moment.

If you sleep with dogs you get fleas.

If you read the wrong papers then you are part of the mechanism that fuels these abuses.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

This issue has not gone away

Just in case anyone of any influence or perceived merit (for I am, at best, an average dog-collar) reads this, I have a message for them.

The issues surrounding the ordination (let alone consecration) of practising homosexuals has most certainly not gone away. It seems that there are some who would have us believe that this is no longer the issue that it was and that the rapids have calmed into relatively smooth water with the odd ripple.

Can I most respectfully point out that this is most certainly not the case from where I find myself. Here I find members of some denominations challenging me and sadly finding themselves increasingly distanced from the Anglicans. I find others who are more liberal and don't think we've gone far enough, but to be honest, I have to assume that some of these would qualify for the 'barely Christian' label from the majority of other Christians in the area. Still, at least they make us look sound!

The reality is that another week has gone and I have seen nothing in print and I have heard nothing either. I read of a man who had been in a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex, the result of this was that his bishop removed his licence and ejected him from the priesthood. Right action in the face of obvious sin, but is the tide now turning such that heterosexual sin is acted against and all else is largely ignored?

Restraint is the word of the moment it seems. I always assumed it meant to withdraw from an action or activity on the grounds of being self-disciplined but now it bears little relation to that and doesn't even exist when the discipline is applied externally. As I see it, there is little or no visible restraint (and if this is restraint, what on earth would we have had instead?) and yet there are no voices warning of the impending doom.

Perhaps proverbs twenty-nine has some warrant for us here:
"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." (ESV)

Perhaps this is a call from our leaders to seek the Lord's face and to fore-tell and forth-tell?

The NLT doesn't help much here:
"When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful."

Again, the KJV, yields a valuable passage for many sermons. Sadly, it doesn offer much help to those who would lead our Church:
"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."

I leave you with a thought from Ezekiel chapter thirty-four:

"The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.
You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice."

Looks like being a good shepherd is the only right, proper and safe choice - so where are the words of wisdom? Where are those who should be the flocks of the LORD? The wolf is in the pen and yet the shepherds are nowhere to be seen.

God help us!

Global Day of Prayer

Today is the Global Day of Prayer Day. Now for those of you who might have heard the snippet on this morning's news regarding the RC faithful being asked to put an extra £1m into the offerings today to fund Bennie's visit to the UK, this has nothing to do with the prayer we're looking at.

The Global Day of Prayer has been on the calendar for nine years and is a day of repentance and prayer based on 2 Chronicles chapter seven, verse fourteen. Let me remind you (in case you've forgotten it):

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Being honest, I have struggled with some aspects of this in that this is Pentecost, something considered to be the birthday of the Church and I have seen people turning this into a sackcloth and ashes, mea culpa ridden, breast-beating session. Now, while I appreciate their attitude I don't think this is perhaps the most positive manner to introduce the Church to the world. If we look weird then people will rush by rather than stop and engage.

So I guess it's the balance and the fact that being in a public place and enjoying time with other Christians;(we do Pentecost in the Park) means that many will walk by, and if they see or hear something that is appealing or challenging they will stop for a bit, and even engage.

The minute we start binding demons and denouncing powers and principalities we are part of the wacky and the opportunity to show people who are are is lost. Repentance is an important part of our walk with God, that moment when we know we have done something wrong and come to Him and say 'Sorry' knowing that He hears, forgives and most importantly 'forgets'. So, whoever we are, wherever we are,perhaps we can take a moment to recognise our own shortcomings and the things that are good in our life and come to God;

"Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Together with believers all over the world,
We gather today to glorify your name.
You are Creator of heaven and earth,
There is no one like You, holy and righteous in all Your ways.
We submit to Your authority as the King of the universe.
We pray with one voice to enthrone You in our hearts
And to honour You before the world.
Lord God, You are worthy of our praise and glory. Amen."

Breakaway RC Group ordain first woman!

A church in Italy, the 'Old Catholic Church' (OCC) has ordained a thirty-five year old married teacher as their first woman priest  thus making her the legitimate holder of the title 'first woman to be ordained in Italy'. Of course whether or not the denomination is legitimate is another thing to be seen - I'm sure some will say not whilst others will murmur their approval! Still, Mother Maria Vittoria Longhitano, is now, by some at least, to be considered to be a clerk in holy orders.

I find this all a bit fascinating as odd breakaway RC congregations keep popping up. This one, of whom I probably rightly know nothing, apparently took its thiruble and left during the nineteenth century.

Much as to be expected Mother Longhitano hopes that her ordination will break down prejudice in the Roman Catholic church. "We are talking about an extremely hierarchical system; a male caste with a strong instinct of self-preservation and this is why there is this general attitude against ordaining women in the Church." The RC plc head office, not surprisingly, deny this and say it's all about keeping things as jesus established them and it is therefore theology and not sex that is the issue here.

Some commentators are saying that having more women in the Church may have helped prevent the priest child-abuse scandal of recent years. A pretty naive observation unless of course they know something about the realities of life and men really are potential rapists and child abusers whilst women are merely the natural carers. A bit of misandry exhibited here perhaps?

The fun bit is that some are reporting that this is an RC associated happening but the reality is that RC and Old Catholic are not in communion with one another and therefore this is not in any way going to be a source of concern to the RC because, for them, the OCC simply don't exist!
The moment

Is she in my study?

Friday, 21 May 2010

Caption Contest - 11

Here's a bit of a topical caption contest for you to sharpen your wits on:

Marie Stopes - Not all of her is bad M'Lord!

I am saddened to see so many of my pro-life colleagues dismiss and vilify Marie Stopes. There is much good in that which she, and even the organisation that bears her name, is associated with. Some of the excellent pioneering work that she did in changing the lives of women and reducing the size of the poorer members of the community's families is a credit to her.

She took on the ruling classes and handed some control over the size of their families to women. This in turn reduced the number of women who died in childbirth and as a result of having had 'too many children' or being unable to sustain and feed such large families. It changed society for good and gave voice to women's issues and, despite opposition, continued to make a difference.

Controversially she also supported Hitler, wanted to sterilise those who were (in her opinion) unfit to be mothers and (if I recall correctly) disinherited her son for marrying a woman who had eyesight problems (after all, she didn't want her grandkids to wear glasses now, did she?). All in all, a flash of genius, a hint of courage and bucket full on flaws! We should celebrate her strengths, laugh at her weaknesses and flaws and prove the error of her logic and attitudes by factual and honest dialogue and example. There is surely no defence against this.

What is not so much a credit to her is the procurement of abortions for 'unwanted or unsafe' pregnancies and the actions that leave the organisation that bears her name up there with Brook and the BPAS.

We need to be active against the abortion industry and the cheapness that life now takes on because of their acts. After all, this is not, as I understand it, about care and concern but is (unless I have been misled) a big money earning industry.

We need to deal in facts and offer alternatives (and show people who have taken an alternative path and succeeded) offering support to single-parent families and young women who find themselves in the place where choices have to be made. After all, how can we claim to be pro-life and then vilify single-parents when they must surely be people who have chosen not to abort?

If we are pro-life then logically we must also be pro-single parent families.

Now, as for sex education, that's another issues . . . .

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Whose perspective?

A couple of days back I wrote: "We need to be engaging with the bigger issues. NOTE. This does not relegate the 'Christian concern' issues but it does perhaps put them into perspective. If Christians aren't relevant and engaged then neither is Christianity!" Arising from this, Revsimmy posted the comment/question:

"I'm not knocking relevant and engaged - we need to be both of those things. BUT "This does not relegate the 'Christian concern' issues but it does perhaps put them into perspective." Whose perspective?"

From where I recline my answer would have to be, "From a wider perspective than that which the world sees as being 'Christian'." My defence is based on the fact that at this moment we:
Are engaged in conflict in Afghanistan
Are living within the reality that we live with a real threat from terrorism
We have a large percentage of our nation threatened by debt and living in, or on the edge, of poverty
Have massive problems relating to employment and industry within our nation
Have people dying because adequate care or the right treatment is denied on fiscal grounds
And loads more issues besides

The writer of the Tamworth Alternative Blog, in saying: "Sadly, however, crucial key issues: education, health, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even climate change, went un-aired and at least two of the questions were essentially the same one- about the role of religion in society."
highlights what I am speaking of.

We need to be concerned with injustice, breaches of what is right in terms of moral, social and medical and to see wider than the 'Christian issues', which we seem to limit to:
  • Place of religion in politics, society, whatever - I don't want religion I want relationship!
  • Pro-life issues - I do not support abortion, euthanasia or stuff the denies life but I need to be engaged and to be relevant, not stuck up my tower!
  • Sex and relationships - This is not the defining issue, it's a biggie but we can't make it the be all and end all, That said, I don't see a place for an actively homosexual lifestyle in a Christian setting, but I can communicate it such that it doesn't consume my whole being (or relationship with God)
Religion is all about 'being right' and is about laws and condemning people becuase they've transgressed. Christianity is a relationship which help me (and others) live the way God calls us to live. It is about more than blindly applying stuff to others or merely continuing to bleat about the same old, same old, issues.

Hopefully Simon and I will find we agree. If not I'm open to correction or dialogue to widen my perspectives too!


Little people working for . . . . ?

Is it just me or are the number of people who assume that they must be important because the work for someone who is 'really important' on the increase?

I really tire of snotty little people who sneer down the telephone or respond to your telephone calls (even when you're actually helping the person you want to talk to) with the wonderful put down, "They're very busy you know and obviously don't have the time to be bothered with insignificant drones," (like what I am!). I have met so many of them within the church and have decided that when I respond to a call for help and get knocked back twice, then they've lost the opportunity and move on! Courtesy is not to be rationed but its pearls are not to be cast before swine either!

What is interesting is that where I find myself, the people who support two of the top table members are not only approachable, but they're fun, the treat you like a human being and they pass on messages and come back to you with answers.

How funny that church, of all institutions, is so chock a block with pathetic jobsworth 'do you know who I work for' types.

Perhaps they don't realise my brother happens to be the Saviour of the World!

Nah, won't tell them, I'll leave it to Him when they get to meet Him ;)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Telling Lies is the new honesty

Heard an interesting discussion on the radio - apparently it's O.K. to tell lies. Not only that but telling lies actually demonstrates the fact that you love the other person (or so those calling in would have us believe).

What was funny is that having asked 3,000 people about lying they actually believed the results!

It seems that men are supposed to lie three times a day (not sure whether this is an observation or instruction) and women lie about twice a day. Apparently 'white lies' are acceptable because they aren't lies at all, they just say what the other person wants to hear.

Interesting that men and women share five very common lies:

1, Nothing's wrong, I'm fine

2. It wasn't that expensive

3. I didn't have that much to drink

4. I'm on my way

5. It's just what I've always wanted

The bloke's special lie: No, your bum doesn't look big in that!

And the women's special lie: It was in the sale!

So now we know.

Everything I say is a lie, and that's the truth!

How odd we Christians must seem

I have found a very interesting comment regarding the Hustings we held for our town:

"It was a useful opportunity to question the local parliamentary contenders but, given time constraints and having four candidates on the platform, inevitably only a small number of questions could be raised. Sadly, however, crucial key issues- education, health, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even climate change, went un-aired and at least two of the questions were essentially the same one- about the role of religion in society. Perhaps relevant to some members of the church groups hosting the meeting but relatively trivial compared to the real issues we will face in the next parliament. Still, thanks to the Tamworth Churches for organising this meeting and to Vic the Vicar, Van Den Bergh for the invite."

I have a number of emails asking why Christians are so narrow-minded and so very taken up with trifling and, at the end of the day, unimportant issues. The above quote from Tamworth Alternative Blog highlights what I have said recently regarding Christians being engaged in the wider issues.

We need to be engaging with the bigger issues. NOTE. This does not relegate the 'Christian concern' issues but it does perhaps put them into perspective. If Christians aren't relevant and engaged then neither is Christianity!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Putting me (and others) right

Having got back from dropping children off at school I returned to a little message that begins:

"Vic, it's all well and good you writing what you have but there are times when those who are right must act forcefully against those who would engage in . . . . [yawn]"

I haven't continued because it's pretty boring and to be honest, the next bit of the message could have so easily continued with any one of the disparaging nouns we assign to those who take opposing views to us. Why don't you pick your word from the list below (or use one of your own favourites):

abortion, bigotry, capitalism, condemnation, euthanasia, feminism, fundamentalism, homosexuality, homophobia, liberalism, misogyny, racism, etc.

Now, I don't mind people having their views but have to ask how we express them. If it's by engaging in dialogue, praying about the situation and those who(in our eyes) are wrong, if it's by education and engaging people then it's O.K. in my book.

But if it's about slandering or engaging in ad hominem, if we seek to traduce, ridicule or disgrace people then we are doing it wrong!

If we send images to people to press our point or if we publish addresses and telephone number so others can be harried, then we are wrong.

If we put spin onto a topic so that what we say is untrue - this too is wrong.

We must act decisively rather than forcefully for the weapons of our warfare are not those of the world (i.e. not carnal).

A quick revision of 2 Corinthians 10:

"By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you - I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
You are looking only on the surface of things. If anyone is confident that he belongs to Christ, he should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as he. For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” Such people should realise that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory. But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends."

Following the letter of the law

The first mail I opened this morning told me that we needed to obey 'the letter of the law', anything else was to permit wrong attitudes in the world and we are told to make it 'pure'. Now while I agree with the sentiment (even if not perhaps the words) I am also extremely aware that the Church, let's not go as far as the world at the moment, is full of sinful and fallen beings. I know this because I saw one first thing this morning and recognised him even though he was hiding in a mirror! (Funny how he looks like my Dad these days too!)

When it comes to keeping the Christian race 'pure' I do struggle a bit because this is a wonderful intention (I have it every morning as a personal goal) and yet is something that isn't going to happen because we're all sinful and because, to be honest, lots of the sinful bits either let us do what we want to do, let us be who we want to be or are rather enjoyable (at the time anyway).

The problem is that we each appear to have the ability to sift the sins such that we have:

1. Big and important sins - these are usually what we're not and we decide that these are the especially defining sins. Depending which group you're with they vary greatly.

2. Ordinary sins - the normal day-to-day stuff that we do and try not to do.

3. 'You can ignore these' sins - these are things that we excuse away or totally ignore as unimportant.

Now here's today's shocker - if it's is a sin then it's wrong! We cannot excuse it away or assign it a greater or lesser importance, it's a sin! The problem here is that if we lived in a world where only those who were without sin threw the first stone we wouldn't be able to stand upon our (self-confirmed) righteousness and denounce others would we?

Perhaps we need to remember the words of Matthew seven which tells us that by the way we judge others we too will be judged. Or that we can't do eye surgery on others when we're blinded by our own sin. We need to ensure that we act with clarity of vision and purity of life. (Actually I prefer 'holiness' but perhaps this is just me). We are also told in Galatians six that when we come across those caught in a sin that we should restore them gently. Don't see much of these two passages being used, by any of the groups struggling in the Church, at the moment.

How's about trying to live each day seeking to be holy - thinking, saying, seeing and being the right thing - a holy and righteous person? How's about trying to be righteous rather than being 'right'?

Sadly, nothing makes a sin right or a person righteous, other than stopping sinning and choosing to do what is right and good in God's eyes. So regardless of where we stand theologically or in our life choices - we have but one choice today - living as God commands or living for ourselves.

Which path you taking?

Monday, 17 May 2010

Are you sitting uncomfortably?

Then I'll begin . . . (a story for C)

In a far off land there lived a primitive people unlike others around them. Where others had tattoos and piercings to please their gods these people had none. Where others engaged in sexual stuff with whoever and whatever they happened across, for it also pleased their gods and them too, this primitive group opted for monogamy and anything else was regarded as 'wrong'. The rest of the world worked hard at having possessions, status and things that 'made them happy' but the primitives just wanted to please their God. The others decided that they were themselves gods and that they owed nothing to any God character and sneered at the fulitle little lives of the primitives.

The primitives continued to believe that there was but one God who created everything (which of course included them) and wanted people to be kind, have relationships that mirrored the values and standards He, their God, considered to be desirable and be honest in their dealings. How the rest of the world laughed at such naivety!

Sadly, some of the primitives who were in charge felt that the world was passing them by and they began to wonder how they might engage with them. What kept the world from coming and spending time with the primitives? What was it they wanted?

It didn't take long to realise that what kept the two apart was the restrictive rules and requirements so treasured by the primitives. "If we keep the robes, buildings and other trappings but loosen up on the 'don't do this stuff', then we would be able to attract the world and we'd no longer be primitives," they reasoned. "Not only that, but if we persuade the primitives that this is merely a re-interpretation of the old ways, they too will be happy because they're still primitives and will think the world has joined them. Then everyone will be happy!"

So the world came and joined the primitives and many rejoiced because they were primitive no longer, yet as everyone could see, nothing had changed - there were just more of them. How the people in the counting houses cheered, this would bring them in in droves and, just as in the days gone by, there would be plenty of money and people to show how right the decisions to embrace the world had been.

Sadly, many of the primitives became hardened against the new ways and soon found themselves branded as obstructive. The revised primitive followers realised that they were the future and that the past had to be shed and so the unregenerate primitives were encouraged to leave 'for the sake of unity'. The primitives did as they were asked (some would say bitterly around the camp fire, 'forced') and this saw then (and their God) leaving the revised followers with the gods that the world had always had, merely re-branding them to keep up the appearance for those (obviously more enlightened) primitives who remained.

And those who left and those who stayed? That's a story for another day . . . hasn't been written yet!

Pondering over - now what?

Well I've been pondering and find myself confronted by a few choices (as others see it). Up there in the lead (apparently) is that of expelling the immoral from our ranks with the act of withdrawing from fellowship with 'naughtiness' on the basis that (according to Scotty the engineering officer/theologian from Star Trek) you cannae mix matter and anti-matter, neither can you mix darkness and light.

Following on from these we have the 'ignore it and hope the problem mends itself' choice, the 'tut loudly and look like you're thinking until people, amazed at your intellect, walk away and ask someone else' approach (which appears to be a very popular approach to the problems before us.

In addition to these we have the 'make all things acceptable' and then none transgress approach, an extremely good way forward for if there are no laws then no one can be condemned as a law-breaker and therefore holiness will be everyone's reality. No need to do evangelism or seek repentance and ask people to change - and everyone gets into heaven too - so another plus for this one (just joking honest!!).

Meanwhile . . . .

The foot soldiers gather in the trenches and wonder what to do. They've been trained for a conventional war with a line neatly drawn to separate good from evil. There's a 'no man's land' and we know where and how we play 'war'on this basis, we've always done it this way (more or less). Trouble is that we now have Asymmetric Warfare before us where there is no 'front line' and the enemy comes from wherever it wishes, even from within.

What we need is intelligence, that is information as to the risks, tactics, strategies of our likely enemies. We can identify them by their behaviour and we might even have a set of playing cards made (who would be the Joker?).

Armed and equipped by such intelligence we need a strong and intelligent leadership that will enable us to complete the task we have been given such that we have success. This leadership will issues orders that mobilise those engaged in the battle to be in the right place and doing the right thing. The problem is that this doesn't seem to be forthcoming and the results are becoming obvious as the tide of apathy and turning of the blind eyes lead the orthodox to certain defeat.

Where, oh where are the leaders? Reminiscent of Roger McGough's wonerful poem 'The Leader':

I wanna be the leader, I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader? Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I'm the leader. I'm the leader.

O.K. what shall we do?

Sounds extremely familiar doesn't it?

Another interesting Monday in prospect

Starting, as usual, whilst Radio Four still thinks it's the World Service, this week begins by looking like another action-packed endeavour into what Church can be. I've answered the emails that ask me whether all the CofE types support homosexuality as a lifestyle, whether we're pro-life and a few other questions relating to issues which they see as key issues for Christians.

Not being Anglican (or even coming from what I'd call a mainstream Christian denomination) they don't have a clue as to the role of Rowan, simply assuming that he's just a non-Catholic version of the Pope. Neither do they understand what the Anglican Communion is but then again neither do many of those who consider themselves Anglican either!

I had to honestly say that I couldn't answer for anyone but myself and that my views would not be representative of some of those who called themselves Anglicans. The response to this has been that surely those who weren't 'sound' should be put out of the church, after all the Bible (1 Cor 5: 9 - 13) calls us to expel the immoral brethren (And sistren too!). They were of course correct (here's a recap for those who might have missed it!):

"When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you."

I guess that is pretty unequivocal - even for the more dense among us.

So with that before me - I'm off to a meeting (it'll give me something to ponder I guess).

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday's done and. . . .

Memo to God:

It's 22:55 and I can finally climb into bed for an early night (well, early for here anyway!).

Been another great day of being Church with a visit from Christians Against Poverty (CAP) at the morning Eucharistic service and a wonderfully still and sacred space Taize Service for the evening service. God is indeed good!

What is fun is that we're seeing growth in the church family, people are catching the vision and becoming the missionaries that Jesus calls us to be. The excitement over Kid's Club and other oportunities God is giving us is there for all and we really are making a difference.

Thank you for the challenges and the blessings - for the excitement of new life in Christ and the fact that being converts means they don't realise we're not 'grown-up church' :-)

For all the faithful believers out there, I want to thank you. For those who stumble and excuse themselves of sin, please judge them kindly in their frailties just as I ask you to also judge me.

Thanks for never sleeping, even when I do,

love you.

Sunday Morning and all is quiet at the coal face

Funny how Sundays begin here at around 06:00 with farming followed by the Radio Four religious equivalent of the 'Today' programme. Diversity rules here and as I listen each week I find stimulation, despair and (now and then) a bit of encouragement.

Seven years after the discovery of the gay Gene we now have the consecration of the another openly homosexual cleric and what will undoubtedly be additional fuel to the conflagration that rages within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide. Sadly, while other voices urging many things are heard above the din, it appears that the one voice who should be heard remains silent (well I've heard and read nothing).

Where are you Rowan? Does your silence indicate a frustration at the lack of 'restraint' from those whom you apparently support? IS it merely a silence that permits your friends to acts unimpeded by observation and comment? It is an attempt to say nothing in the hope that others will do the same?

In this act from the Americas do we see the final act of UDI and within the implicit two-fingered gesture to the rest of the Anglican Communion see the line now crossed and the letters of removal signed, with them i's dotted and the t's crossed at last?

I was amazed that this news item has featured so lightly today and wonder whether this is the calm before the storm or an indication that we have decided to concentrate on bigger issues.

Two months (almost) is a very long time to remain silent on this issue - we really do need guidance and leadership and . . . . oh yeah, hope!

Come out come out (can I say that in this context?) wherever you are - because those of us working at a Parish level have to answer the criticism from other churches about being 'apostate' and deal with the issues from real people who are frustrated, saddened and confused.

And we don't have the luxury of ivory towers and silence!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Politics - the real issues

I think it is naive to assume that Christians must be naturally aligned to any particular party, that said I also find it quite difficult that some can subscribe to some of the parties on offer!

There are many problems with party politics in that people assume that the stereotypes they rely on are either no longer valid (or perhaps never were) or are merely stereotypes and have no truth behind the image held. An excellent 'for instance' can be found in the views of the person who told me that I had to vote Labour as they were the party of the working man and looked after the poorer people. Another person told me that Conservatives were the party of the ruling classes and that a vote for them was a vote for public schools and chinless wonders.

The problem is that voting for a stereotype is, as I see it, a potentially unintelligent vote! Unless you've read the manifestos (which this time round I couldn't even get copies of), at the end of the day you vote for stereotypes or personalities rather than policies and thus deserve all you get!

People ask me about voting 'Christian' and what doing so does. Well it makes a statement that you are a certain type of Christian but apart from that, sadly, it doesn't seem to make any difference. To remedy this there needs to be a clear position on each of the 'tension-builder' topics. This means pro-life issues and all the other issues relating to sexuality, ecology, immigration, poverty (home and overseas), aid, health care, benefits and the welfare state (to name but a few areas of 'Christian' concern). Even when we've done this we are left with a problem in that we still have the issues of employment, taxation, commerce, industry, housing, Europe, global relations and more beside to contend with. Sadly, we don't often see these in the 'Christian' agenda or mindset.

Interestingly, some see Europe and the antichrist as inexplicably married together and thereby bring together even more wobbly bits to the table as well.

Looking at what Geneva was as a Christian state I have to agree with the chap who could not, "Think of a greater hell on earth than Geneva with Zwingli, Calvin and Co."

In the world, not of it. Interesting words, because we are called to be light and salt and this recipe must be part of the political and social realities of the place we find ourselves inhabiting (until He comes!).

Friday, 14 May 2010

Politics - A Good Atheist or Ineffective Christian?

Regarding Christians and politics, a really super question that has been posed is:

"Is it better to back an honest athiest, who has the integrity to admit he is not a man of faith, or a man who says he is a Christian, because he thinks he ought to, but doesn't back the words up with any action."

This is a question that really brings many of the political issues into close focus and highlights many issues for the Christian, especially when it comes to having a vote that support the right things and the right people.

There are a number of issues by which people seek to define 'Christian' and these bleed over from Church (universal) into the political scene. Some examples:

I meet many Christians who support abortion and meet others who would regard this as a non-Christian stance and would therefore deny the Christian status of the first group.

I meet many who support homosexuality as a lifestyle seeing Civil partnerships and 'gay marriage' and having the view that fidelity not sex is all that matters when it comes to relationships. Those holding the opposing views see the first group as liberal and effectively flawed or even non-Christians.

I meet many who support euthanasia and 'assisted dying' and yet, again, there are many who would doubt the Christian reality of these people.

The list is endless and the views are more diverse than the polarised extremes given above and, of course, the combinations of views mean that there are more combinations and permutations of view than there are people to hold them. To vote for a 'Christian' Party might be a salve and even a source of (self?) righteous political outworking but what if that vote is impotent and leads to the election of one who will do things that are contrary to God's commands?

In Isaiah chapter forty-five we find Cyrus, the King of Persia, being referred to as God's 'anointed'. Regarding this (and the other four Persian kings too I presume?) the comment has been made, "I think we have to say, better a wise atheist than a stupid Christian."

Now there's a challenge to me. Is it black and white or must we engage with the grey areas too?