Saturday 31 July 2010

Marketing Christ - the US Model?

I have been troubled by Anne Rice's positional prayer and the assumptions made because of local 'noise':

"In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Taking a closer look I have come to the conclusion that she is speaking about Christianity of the American kind, which makes sense as she's a septic! I have also realised that she returned to the Catholic church. This means that what she is saying relates to (generally) being American and Catholic and it is here that the problems lie, not in Christ!

But as she's portraying Christianity as 'anti' so much, I thought I'd try and see if my brain could address those areas she highlights for us:

'Anti-Gay' I don't think this is true and I find (thankfully) few as wicked or vehement as the Westboro Baptist church Asylum, who appear to be the reason that she's struggling with this. I have a few homosexual friends and acquaintances who consider themselves both Christian and well-treated by the Church and see this a pretty much the norm. It's about sin and choices (and that is the truth regardless of how some will seek to portray it) and hopefully, for most Christians, Galatians six applies here.

'Anti-Feminist' Generally an easy issue to deal with in the fact that before Christianity women were 'non persona' and thanks to it they, and other 'non persona' types, found the ability to be people and therefore free to be themselves as women. Then again, I read recently Bennie's words from the vatican about the sin of ordaining women and the threat of excommunication for supporting same and can understand the place she's at from her own affiliations and journey.

'Anti-Artificial birth control' An obvious biggy from the halls of the Vatican this one. I can only suggest that the lovely Ms. Rice looks outside and sees that for everyone else this is a non-issue. I, having worked and lived in Uganda could see how good teaching on sex, fidelity, monogamy and condoms could have seen many of those I saw die from AIDS spared.

'Anti Democrat' I can only assume that Democrats are the more liberal bunch and therefore the 'Moral Right' and wally beans like Westboro attack them for it. I can see a problem here because I think it's right to assume that when it comes to abortions, Eugenics, libertarian whatevers, it's the Democrats what support it. So I can see that some Christians would attack them - but again I assume it's the raving nutters that have made her feel like this is the case.

'Anti Secular Humanism' Bit of a no brainer this one. The label says 'Christian' and so things that deny God, His love, provision and desires for us and the way we live - putting humanity on the throne and self before all would attract a degree of antagonism and criticism. Just, once again, depends upon the way it's done. Dialogue, reason and the hallmarks of orthodoxy can be used in this area - but again Westboro and others would deny this as a Christian truth.

'Anti Science' Well apart for pseudo science and some of the weird creationist vs science stuff I'd have to say that since some of my heros were excommunicated, burned and whatever by the Vatican's head shed, not really something we tend to do here. Then again, I'd hazard a bet that either the Vatican or Westboro could come to the podium and collect a prize for this area!

'Anti life' This is the best being saved until last as the one thing that Christians can be accused of is being 'anti life'. John 10:10 speaks of jesus coming to give us life in abundance (was sure that was barn dance in one version I had!). God is all about life - life here, life after here and it celebrates life, supports living life to the full and is life in all its fullness!

I can only assume that some prune with a 'God hates . . . ." placard has convinced her that we spend more time fighting life than living and loving it - not so!

Although not in her prayer I see that another reason she's given up being a 'Christian' is because of the excommunication of a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, who as a hospital administrator approved an abortion for a woman who might otherwise have lost her life (and the life of the child too). She took what she saw was the right choice and paid the price for it (organisationally) - this was a Catholic issue and not a Christian one at the end of the day.

As one who has been chair of pro-life groups, worked as an information officer for pro-life groups and more beside I have to say that when these situation come up (and they do come up) the hallmark is love, gentleness and support, even when we don't perhaps agree with the actions taken. (Consider the woman caught in adultery and assume the same attitude for us - seems a good place to begin)

I'm more convinced that Anne Rice is still a Christian, she's just no longer a Catholic.

Of course she's still American and that's a different problem politically and morally with some of the weird people who claim to be Christian (hard core like Westboro and rampantly, almost Christ denyingly liberal too!).

Keep on looking to Christ Anne - He's the way, the truth and the life - no one comes to the Father except through Him! Don't let denominations, wallies and well meaning people (Christian and other) stop your journey of faith.

Friday 30 July 2010


We've just had a family games evening and have come up with one of the most challenging and intellectually demanding version of Hedbanz ever.

The first person wears a band with a card on it and they have to guess, by means of questions, what the item on the card is. They have sixty seconds to guess and if they don't the next person puts the card on their head and they have to try guessing.

This process is repeated until the item on the card is successfully identified.

I'm sure that some will find this more challenging than others :)

Christianity without Rice!

I was a bit taken aback when I was asked what I thought about, "Rice no longer being Christian!"

Wondering whether this was some culinary comment and beginning to panic what I'd have to have with my favourite Indian meals in future I pressed my inquisitor further only to find that apparently Anne Rice was no longer Christian. I have to admit, my response was, "Who?"

Seems that a few years back this self-proclaimed atheist and author has banged out of being a Christian because of the religion's attitudes to homosexuality, science and birth control! Wondering where she'd been to have problems and what on earth this was all about I find that, according to her Facebook presence, she's leaving because:

"In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

So there you have it her loss, is her loss I guess and she's welcome to add it to her collection of whatever it is that she stands for, against or doesn't understand. A bit of a shame but I didn't know she was a Christian and so won't really miss her. But what's it all about?

I read around a bit more and see that she appears to have mistaken the weird and totally despicable types who populate the Westboro Baptist church for real Christians and then the pieces start fo fall into place and her odd comments about commitment and Christ and the like make more sense. I understand the reason that she claims Christ is central to her life and yet can't be christian.

Confused, she certainly is (I hope her books are easier to read and understand!!).

First and foremost, Christians hate no one! Well they shouldn't, I can point to fascists of the orthodox, central and liberal wings whose attitudes and utterances make this appear a lie, but they shouldn't!

Secondly, it is wrong to confuse Christ with Christians and the quote from Ghandi she uses "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ," makes for a great sound bite but the same is true of humanity - I like being humane but humanity ain't humane either!

We SHOULD look like Christ, but many of those 'Christians' I encounter look more like people who should look like Christ rather than those who do. We're all flawed, fallible and struggling to bang the rocks together in harmony with the conductor - but this is no caveat, only the reason we should work harder on our faith issues.

Rice poses this question:
"When does a word (Christian) become unusable? "When does it become so burdened with history and horror that it cannot be evoked without destructive controversy?"

My answer is that it (Christianity) never becomes unusable (unless people choose to portray it as such) and that it can be 'evoked' always without destructive controversy (unless people choose to use it, or receive it, that way). Christianity is counter-cultural (well, apart from those who seek to revise the Bible and make Church and world synonymous that is!) and needs to remain so - if we lose the difference there's nothing different about it.

Rice says that, "My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me but following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."

Christianity is, for the most part exactly what it always has been - it's just those who seek to weaken it by accommodation or aggression that are the problem. It's still created and sustained by a living God and His love is there for all, regardless. Just a shame that our obedience isn't as constant and present I guess.

So she's still a Christian - end of story.

Pray for her and those who cause her to stumble that she might grow and they might repent.


Words are cheap . . .

Unless they're in a blog which is part of The Times newspaper that is!

Sadly I've found that Ruth Gledhill's 'Articles of Faith' has, after a quick teaser, gone behind the wire and now requires that one pays for the privilege.

Here's the note she left me:

"This will be the last post at the blog at Typepad. Articles of Faith is the first of The Times blogs to go permanently behind the paywall and onto a different platform."

Having been a fan of the Thunderer for many years I now find myself having to make some (hard) choices in that electronically, and with regard to paper and ink, I have to announce our divorce.

A reality that ends over forty years of relationship.

As the retiring archivist said at her leaving do in the early eighties, "Bye and thanks for all the fiche!"

Thursday 29 July 2010

A Very Different 'Wedding Project'

I see that a Dog Collar has been found guilty of conducting almost four hundred 'sham' marriages. Unlike many of those that we conduct in good faith and which we hope will last, these were apparently performed to help illegal immigrants become British residents. It appears that our bent Vicar, Father Alex Brown, performed almost four hundred fake weddings in a four year period.

Now, not being funny but I would have thought that anyone who was doing around one hundred weddings a year was seriously mistaken had they thought that the acts were going to go unnoticed for too long. Mind you, I have to assume that, fees apart (which would have been £27,600 a year on 2009 rates - mmm, nice), anyone who sees the number of weddings rise from thirteen to two hundred and eighty three over consecutive four year periods should expect a visit, even if it was just to see how he'd managed the rise.

And of course, he'd also have received an invite to the diocesan 'Wedding project' training day (which I think he might have to forfeit now unless it's passed).

So, working on the assumption that the going rate was around three k a pop, that's a fair amount of dosh for those organising and performing the services (sic!). In fact that makes it a business with a million quid turnover and yet rather than get the Queen's Award for seriously large endeavour our DC is certain to be heading off to start a cell group in a government institution (not of his choice though sadly) after the Summer hols are past.

Apart from doctoring electoral rolls and having bride and groom living in the same street almost every time (obviously no one claimed he was a bright DC!) and perhaps the only bright moment comes in the reality that he chose to remain silent. After all, on the evidence so far, the brightest thing he might have done was say nothing if he wasn't going to put his hands up (in guilt, don't think he was charismatic ;) ).

What is odd is the fact that the Revd Brown is 'openly gay' and attention to this is added by the press as something material to the happenings under investigation. Perhaps some are trying to link homosexuality and being bent (i.e. 'dodgy, corrupt, whatever) but I think this is an extrapolation too far. But hey ho, good on them for trying and well done to those who seek media inches for homosexual clergy (regardless) - all might be happy with this case for their own reasons tonight!

Philip Jones, the Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings, told reporters that Father Brown had committed a "betrayal of trust towards his congregation and the wider community and that they (the Church) was particularly sorry for those who have been deceived and hurt by the actions of Father Alex Brown.

The church and the community of St Leonards-on-Sea are faced with a betrayal of trust on the part of Father Alex Brown.

The Diocese of Chichester sets high standards and expects its clergy not only to comply with the law but also to honour the trust placed in them at their ordination and the promises made on becoming a vicar.

We are saddened that a priest in Chichester Diocese has found himself in this position and we are conscious of the effect on the Church of St Peter and St Paul, St Leonards-on-Sea, and the concern caused to those who have in the past been properly married at that church."

Father Brown, who is currently suspended also faces the possibility of 'disciplinary action from the Church'.

What a prune and what a sadness for the Church of England at a time when we are working so hard to regain the place that Weddings once had within our buildings. Mind you, assuming that there was someone rubbing their hands at the blokes diocesan board of finance - how on earth did they miss a sum getting on for £30k a year and not ask questions. I would have assumed that even if it was just to have others emulate him, that someone would have raised the phenomenal growth in weddings and income to the diocese!

Making a monkey out of Church Weddings!

Just Communion going to the dogs then!

Following on from the Toronto story I had a lovely comment passed by someone about it.

"I used to worry that ordaining women would see the Church going to the dogs, but in fact it appears it's just the communion we need worry about!"

Pity really as it's one of the those well meaning acts that brings about problems of its own because theology  came longer after the need to be something or other :)

Been there - got the Tee shirt and starred in the video (Just relieved I'm not in this re-make!!).

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Communion Going to the Dogs!

The Reverend Marguerite Rea of St Peter's Anglican Church, Toronto, appears to have set a new trend in communion by feeding a dog, Trapper, communion bread!

Her Area Bishop, Patrick Yu, called her actions "strange and shocking" and said she had broken rules regarding communion.

The reverend lady herself sees her actions as nothing less than a "simple church act of reaching out to a new congregation member and his pet".  She continues, "If I have hurt, upset or embarrassed anyone, I apologise."

The new member, Donald Keith, attending for the first time recounts the happening thus:

"The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion, and Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well. I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church. I thought it was acceptable. There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this."

It seems to me that it's not just Trapper who's barking in this story!

What fun we have across the globe as Anglicans - who needs people to work against us when we do so well ourselves?

(A demonstration of the proper way to receive communion)

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Well - what words did you use?

I asked yesterday about the words that we use and left us (all of us) with a challenge as to how many time we broke rules, told a lie or misrepresented a situation for our own ends.

How did I do? Well, I found myself speeding a couple of times and, on more than one occasion, uttered things I wished I hadn't (I just hope that 'Muppet', "Prune' or 'Plonker' doesn't equate to 'raha' - which I understand is to be avoided for fear of divine retribution) but don't appear to have misrepresented any situation for my own ends. Mind you, that was probably a good day :)

Personally I struggle to keep my yes and no meaning exactly what they sound like regardless of how some who are obviously weaker in integrity, brain and morality might like me not to. Integrity and being who I am (and am called to be) is a tough piece of wire to walk, but many of us (Christian and otherwise) struggle to do so.

I hope those who read this have taken the challenge and will (like me) continue in the 'greater Jihad' with ourselves and God, for this is a common area for all who have beliefs and/or a moral code.

Integrity is not the sole property of the Christian but neither is it something which the Christian is permitted to leave behind for if we have no integrity then we cannot be Christian.

I've got the book - so must be me!

I wonder how many of us encounter the sad clergy type who, having purchased (but not necessarily read a book), feels at liberty to proclaim themselves whatever the book is? As I write this I have before me a piece of paper from such a cleric whose paperwork proudly proclaims, "A Purpose Driven Church"

What they mean is that they have a copy of the book on their shelf!

Actually it is on their shelf but it's unread and in fact actually unopened (for having examined it when in their study there was a cellophane wrapper on it!). I asked about the book in passing and was told, They hadn't gotten around to reading it yet but understood it was really good at building Churches!

Obviously the strap-line is all! If we use the label they will come (hopefully as numbers are declining and after all we do have that Parish Share to pay and the Archdemon is surely looking at us because we're not as successful as St Blogfeatures down the road) and all will be well - or at least we'll look like we're trying.

How many of us are going through our lives with that certain book on our shelves? You know, the one which we understand will change our lives and the one which brings results and yet, 'just haven't gotten around to reading?'

Better to memorise and live but one page, making that our reality rather than to posture that we've read and mastered the book. This is merely revision and there is a final examination before us ;)

Monday 26 July 2010

Formula One - it's not a real sport, is it?

Here's one for all those who brandish 'God hates Misogynist Pig' placards.


And there's always:

Words mean what we want them to!

I was stunned and appalled in equal measure yesterday as once again the corruption of Formula One reared the legs on the prancing horse of Ferrari and rules were broken regarding making team decisions which obviously affect the outcome of a race.

I'm not sure what was worse, that they did instruct Massa to let Alonso through, that they made Massa's race engineer, Rob Smedley, pass the message, "Alonso is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?" rather than have the hutzpah do have the principal do that, or the taking of just about every motor racing fan to be idiots when they denied that the words meant anything.

Of course, later Ferrari were fined $100,000 for 'appearing' to breach the rules and the result stood (would that have been the case had it been McLaren I wonder) and of course, that great sportsman (and totally unbiased spectator) Michael Schumacher supports what Ferrari did (surprise!!).

We live in a world where words mean whatever they want and rules are bent with alacrity. We live in a Church where rules are bent and excesses and breaches are excused, covered up or just ignored.

As we go through today, let's play a game and see just how many people (including us) break rules, tell porkies and misrepresent situations for our own ends.

See you tonight with your checklist ;)

"Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you!"

James 5:12

Sunday 25 July 2010

So what are the 'real' issues?

Sunday morning is with us once again and as we dog-collars wend our happy way into the 'Quires and places where they sing' to celebrate the Apostle James (or perhaps Trinity 8) what are the real issues before us?

That we find ourselves in a world where people live without realising God's hand upon their lives and His love surrounding them.

That many of those who will come to churches across our nation (and further still) are not being discipled.

That many of those who occupy the pulpits of their churches today will preach from the shallow end and thus condemn their hearers to limited Christian lives and a weakened and largely impotent and irrelevant God.

That all are sinners and yet restoration and renewal is available to those who come to Jesus, the Christ, and acknowledge this.

The real issues have nothing to do with 'one defining issue' unless of course that issue is sin - let's take a look at Hebrews chapter three:.

"So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honour. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house.

Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says,
Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,” that time of wilderness testing!
Even though they watched me at work for forty years, your ancestors refused to let me do it my way; over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked, oh, so provoked! I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God; they refuse to walk down my road.”
Exasperated, I vowed, “They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.”
So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.
These words keep ringing in our ears: Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.

For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren’t they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn’t it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness? And when he swore that they’d never get where they were going, wasn’t he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there because they never listened, never believed.

Being on the journey doesn't always make us a follower, just a passenger, a sightseer, someone going along for the ride because we don't know any better.

Today, as we hear His voice and see His hand at work in our life and the lives of those we love, will we harden our hearts or respond joyfully and obediently?

Friday 23 July 2010

Caption Contest - 14

So the Pope will shortly be hitting our shores and coming to a mass near you.

As everything is on a tight budget perhaps the new 'Popemobile' will enthuse you and get those creative juices flowing:

Appearing 'evil'

I fear some will dislike these words, but the reality is that most people look at the appearance of things and from that decide that it does not suit them. The same is true for some Christians when it comes to Church, especially in the 'appearance of evil' department. To act without finding out is sinful and folly!

Where I find myself, this issue has been discussed and the overarching hope was that people would see the minister or pastor of the church, the congregation and their views as the basis for fellowship rather than engaging or removing themselves from fellowship because of the denominational labels and the actions of a few.

I suppose it's a bit like the issues and prejudices surrounding blacks that existed where I grew up in North London. The reality was that the majority of those with different skin colours were gentle, generous, kind and exceptionally nice people. The prejudice of some (whites) and the (re)actions of others (blacks) caused confrontation and a throwing out of bathwater and baby. Had time and trouble be taken to engage with each other the reality that there were good and bad in each community would have aided a place of peace being found sooner.

Hopefully there will be a generosity between Christians and people will take the time to assess each of the churches on their fruit and attitudes. Because some ripples are caused by people who seek to portray their apparently sinful action as right and their selfish choices as something different means that some out there will see the label on the box as 'appearance of evil'. But just like the black issue when I was a kid - hopefully there will be dialogue and a coming together to understand what each of the churches actually is. Perhaps some will find themselves ostracised (I hope not) but hopefully we will dialogue and come to an understanding and a continued relationship.

We should never exclude or pillory people because of who they are, but we must never back away from challenging people about who they have decided to be - especially when it is sin.

We must never take the opportunity to claim we are believers, loving God, and yet engage in hating our brothers and sisters - I guess we should just leave that to the liberals  and the fascists (a sad, but very true observation in my experience of those who twist words and act disgracefully against those with whom they disagree).


Wednesday 21 July 2010

It's being out there, being available

With those words, someone looking to be engaged in a new church plant summed up what they thought the role required. Being in the local cafés and the places people are found and becoming someone the locals feel comfortable, and have relationship, with. A long period of eating, drinking and being amongst the people until, relationships developed, they can be brought into dialogue and perhaps a housegroup like reality of 'church'.

Now to some this sounds like a bit of a doss. After all if it was really as simple as just putting a few people out there and funding their Costa bills for five years until they can bring a few lost sheep 'back' it would indeed combine an enjoyable (funded) lifestyle with (some degree of) church growth.

The reality is nothing like as enticing. Church Planting is a time and life consuming, slow fix. It needs people to be working with the pioneer minister and these people need to be committed and mature. It needs the prayer and support of the local churches, especially if the fledgling church will be one that crosses traditional parish boundaries, and it needs understanding.

Understanding that such a work will take time to bring people in and see them becoming believers. For regardless of how long it takes, there needs to be a realisation that it most likely will not result in the 'sending church' adding to its numbers, but it will see believers elsewhere. (Missionary congregations is a costly reality - you give time, money, people and have to expect that you'll never see any of them back with you!).

We need to be sending people out rather than trying to 'bring them back' to a place they have never been.

A hard concept, but one which we need to catch if we're going to see growth and find more people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with.

Now, how do we do this where we are? Might not be popular. 

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Church - Are numbers helpful?

Engaged in discussion over the issue of mission I was saddened to hear of the rate at which some churches are emptying and encouraged to hear of growth in others. My experience is that although many speak of the current downward trend in terms of attendance, this is not the reality for many churches.

Seems to me that some of the formerly 'large' churches have lost (greatly in some cases) and many of the smaller churches are growing (and being small, statistically growing well) and that the talks of doom and gloom are not the reality.

Another part of the reason some churches are reporting dropping attendance figures is because Sunday is not the primary 'church' day for people these days. For instance, many people who can't make a Sunday but want to 'do church' find themselves in midweek services or perhaps at a lunchtime service outside of the traditional Sunday window. This means that an arbitrary Sunday snapshot is not the best benchmark and I have to say, that I am worried about the numbers game fixation that so many are developing.

Of course, if it's not about attendance then what numbers do we use? Some like to make it about Parish Share and the ability to pay it. But this, like ASA (Average Sunday Attendance) is merely an arbitrary measure of quantity.

We need to be looking at quality and looking towards long-term investments in church rather than the can't pay, won't stay mentality. True, some congregations might be put to the sword because they aren't viable, but the building as a centre for outreach, witness and change needs to be retained and used properly.

What's the church like where you are? What are the quality areas that need to be supported and developed and what needs to be changed. Numbers or mission, people or pound notes - we do have a choice.

Monday 19 July 2010

Parish Share - Getting it Across

I have been stunned to find people who tell me just how amazed they are that they are expected to pay for the church that they belong to. It makes me wonder whether or not this subject is ever addressed by some of my fellow dog-collars (DCs)!

A couple of years back, I recall an extremely lovely old lady informing me, after a presentation about giving,  that she was so upset at the thought of being 'expected to pay' that she had considered not paying her pound anymore as it was a 'freewill offering' (she even quoted the Vicar of the Parish (three Vicars back) and the sermon he preached on it. If she had to be chivvied up to pay then it wasn't the sort of church she wanted to be part of. Mind you, we buried her a while back and so she has found a way of getting out of paying anyway!

Considering this issue, I read that during the sixties and (less so) the seventies, it was considered acceptable to pay a token offering as the money was there with the Commissioners. The problem is that as the monies reduced the necessity to teach tithing and giving as a principle became more essential until we now find ourselves with the situation that those who can't (won't/don't) pay may find themselves without a stipendiary clerical type and might even find themselves in a redundant church (with a redundant DC ;) ).

Very provocative, very unpopular and perhaps a little myopic as well.

Watching some of the retailers, they try to change management first and then cut their really unproductive branches but put effort into making those who remained efficient (the amount of money some church buildings and the congregations waste is frightening) and attractive to those seekers out there.

Perhaps we need to start considering the same - perhaps we have, could be an 'exciting' reality that common tenure beckons in. Performance management and the culture of 'train - up or out'. Just like being back in the City of London and the financial sector I worked in.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Parish Share - Assistance available

Whilst looking at some information to encourage the giving and to raise the awareness of the Parish Share commitment our church has I found this!

At a recent meeting of clergy they mentioned that the arrears for paying Parish Share had risen quite markedly and that should parishes be struggling to pay, 'Assistance' was available.

One of the clerical wags asked whether this assistance was financial. Apparently not, it is merely an offer of a visit to encourage the members of the church to give more, or better, bigger or something.

The graphic above seems to support this (although I don't think it's an official Church of England version).

Thursday 15 July 2010

Out of Office: Looking for God

I received an automated 'Out of Office' reply this morning and it sums up the role of just about every minister I know:

Made me smile anyway!

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Wrong Perspectives

After hearing an account of one man's experience  with a most terrible disease, Necrotising Fasciitis (NF), last night I began thinking about the radical surgery techniques employed in the treatment of it and, for some weird reason perhaps, reflected on the words of Jesus in Matthew 18: 8 - 9:

“If your hand or your foot gets in the way of God, chop it off and throw it away. You’re better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owners of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.

The man speaking of his experience told of how he'd been feeling unwell and then collapsed. Having been diagnosed with the NF bug he was rushed to surgery and they amputated bits of him until they were ahead of the bug. Once there were no bits of it active in his body they could relax a bit and treat the fall out and the effects of the surgery.

An amazingly radical treatment which removed a fair bit of his body so that he could live. Apparently he was one of the 'lucky ones' because it was in the connective tissues and in places where amputation and antibiotic could do their stuff together. Others are not always that 'fortunate'.

I guess that sin is exactly the same as NF in that unless we remove the seat of the sinful act it will spread its disease throughout the body and bring it to death. Better to live a life that's bound for heaven with only one (whatever) than have a complete body fit for the morgue!

A graphic example of what Jesus meant when he spoke of us having members which would lead us to death and the treatment of them.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Stressed Clergy

Discussing this with colleagues yesterday, one (in his eighties) could only bring one into the discussion from his fifty-plus years of ordained life. Others could do no better until we came to the 21st century and then the stress phenomenon appeared and we found a fair few who had been hit by it.

Interestingly, I have been told (perhaps cynically) that the CofE is beginning to get its act together when it comes to dealing with clergy stress and burnout. The cynicism comes from the aside which said, "It helps them to not fall foul of employment law rather than real concern! Being 'church' I would hope that this is not true and would consider the view to have much to do with their desire to see all clergy taking union membership (something I struggle with)..

Mind you, considering the fact that many clergy are being asked to write a job description (whoops, I of course meant 'role' description) and the reality that those who run the show are looking at performance management, potential for redundancy (you get a year's stipend and are shown the door) and other secular practices I can understand that unions do fit into the secular model being embraced.

Perhaps the letter to the Church Times (May 2008)  from the Revd. Philip Clements, sheds some light in that he claimed to be, "One of the 22 per cent who were off sick owing to stress." His resulted in a heart attack and retirement. Was this a correct figure? Twenty-two percent is an incredibly high number and if almost a quarter of all those absent have their illness related to  stress, then we must surely be doing something very wrong with our workforce.

So why is this new phenomenon appearing (or is it an old one?) and what can we do to remedy it?

Monday 12 July 2010

Is our loss their gain?

I am saddened to see what appears to be a bit of a developing trend in that some clergy are leaving the parochial ministry for other areas, clerical and otherwise, to remove themselves from the pressures of parish life and the organisational structures.

I assume that this has always been so but still wonder, as three of them are bells and smells types, whether this is an emerging pattern? Being me, I have probed as much as I can to try and get an understanding of their thinking and the reasons for their leaving.

Seems the last synod didn't help the situation much when people voted to affirm that those who opposed women's ordination were not 'true or faithful' Anglicans. This stung a couple of those I've spoken to because they were pastoring growing churches and were paying healthy parish shares. They felt that the money was still acceptable even when they (apparently) were not and as both had a bishop who had supported the measure, felt that perhaps their bishop ought not to take their 'tainted' money! Still, they've both left parochial ministry now - so that's no longer an issue for them.

Another felt that the pressure on them from the system with regard to Parish Share was making ministry so joyless that they've left their parish and the pressures of diocesan colleagues, and so the stories continue.

I would assume that there have always been clergy who have had enough and headed for chaplaincies, academia and the like - just seems odd how I keep bumping into people, many with a few years on the ministry clock but not retiring age, who are jumping ship.

The majority of those I have engaged with are a loss for the CofE (in my humble opinion) and a cause of concern and sadness in equal measure. Couple this with those who have folded their cassocks and taken early retirement and it is becoming obvious that something is not right with the wonderful world of clergy. Meeting with clergy who speak of living in the incumbents house and being paid whatever they wished to pass on to their curates (one did nine years as a curate!!), Rectors who did all the funerals (and lived like lords) and the like. They all speak of early retirement and leaving the ministry as a something rare in their ministry lives and how it was the norm to continue in ministry way past retirement age.

I need more than two hands to count those who have had stress or other mental/emotional problems which have seen them absent for long periods of time or caused them to leave the ministry.

What is happening and how do we offer more support to our clergy?

I hope people out there are praying for us!

Sunday 11 July 2010

Parish Share

After a conversation with a few church members (from various places) I realised that they viewed parish share as something which the diocese had no right to ask. "Why should we be expected to pay?" was the general question.

To attempt a remedy to this situation I tried an experiment and posted this on our church noticeboards to see what conversations it brought about:


The Parish
(That's us and the other three churches)
Pays almost £100,000 to the Diocese 


Every £1 you give is split up like this:

62p – Pays for the Clergy (Stipends and Pensions)

  8p – Pays for the Clergy Housing

12p – Pays to train new Clergy

   3p – Goes to the Church of England

   8p – Pays for Missioners and other specialist Clergy

   7p – Pays the legal and Administration costs



I'll keep you posted on the response to this :)

Friday 9 July 2010

Someone to watch over you

A great story about integrity and keeping the old nature in check visited me today.

A friend popped into a supermarket to buy some stuff and as they waited at the checkout they thought the person on the till had only rung up one of two items. They weren't sure, so when they got to the car they checked the receipt. They were correct, they'd been charged a fiver less than they should have.

Off they went to their appointment with someone who was buying something from them. When they arrived the person buying said that they were not prepared to pay the asking price but would pay five pounds less than the asking price. So the deal was done and my friend ended up with the same amount in his pocket as he would have done had he pointed out the error at the till and got the previously agreed asking price.

Having not told the buyer about the supermarket my friend came to the conclusion that there was a moral in the proceedings.

Lessons to be learned indeed :) .

If we build it . .

Will they come?

This is 'the' most intriguing and troubling of questions when considering engaging in a 'Fresh Expression', church plant or whatever you wish to call the founding of a new congregation.

Back in 1988/9, I was asked to support a couple who had voiced a desire to plant a new church in an estate not far from where I lived. They were keen and they had sourced a venue, signed up some visiting speakers and leafleted the area. Everything was in place for the big launch when suddenly they were offered the chance of pastoring in some exotic location abroad.

Next thing I knew I was the pastor a a new community church. Slowly I developed relationships with the people, which was embarrassing at times as I'd been a member of the Anglican church a few hundred yards from where the new church met, and bit by bit the numbers grew. What the people wanted was gentle, natural and common language church. They wanted something that they regarded as theirs and one by one they came. Some were returning to church whilst others were new converts and a few were people who came form other churches because what we were was 'new' or because they lived on the estate and had a burden for it.

In the beginning it was a totally one-man band. I arrived (after having been at at least three services that day) and put out the chairs, filled the urn and put the cups out, set up the audio and OHP (no LCD projectors then :) ) and after the service did the same in reverse! The good news was that the numbers rose to thirty-nine members and eventually I got some help.

The better news (or perhaps not) was that having decided to plant the church, the congregation started to spread the word and also started doing the teas and even helped with the chairs. The central church were happy to number the new congregation as theirs and that's where it ended. they were twelve miles away (and therefore in another land) but that's where it ended - nothing came from them and none from the new church ever went there.

This was church planting on the edge - no experience, no theology, just trying to be the church that the people wanted to be part of. There were many painful moments and more mistakes than you could shake a stick at, but also a number of fond memories and great success stories.

And today? Well, in 1991 the council sold the estate off to a private company and most of the people living there transfered to council houses (for some reason the majority went to margate!) and so, some three years of being later, the church was closed (the hall was knocked down and there was nowhere else to go) and the five remaining members moved on to local fellowships.

A great experience - a learning experience.

Happy daze!

Thursday 8 July 2010

Taking our time

At a recent training event I was engaged in conversation by someone who was doing a fresh expression (FE) of Church. We had all the usual buzz words in play and the picture painted was one of expectancy but the excitement levels were just appearing the be diminishing a bit. Upon probing a bit I discovered that six months in to the work there was an expectation that by now those who had been drawn in would have become 'church' and that this was putting pressure on those doing the stuff and those who endorsed and sent them.

I'm not sure I helped when I said that my understanding was that it took something like six to seven years rather than six to seven months! Trouble is, that's the (potentially unpopular) reality.

People ask me (they assume missioner means I know) about fresh expressions and I often have to ask people what 'mixed economy' means to them. The answers are, as you'd expect, often weird and wacky. Mind you, ask people what fresh expressions means and you'd be even more surprised at the breadth of definition and application. Apparently it's changing the day (or even time) the service happens to having church which eschews anything Christian and seeks merely to be a 'spiritual' place.

As I understand it:

Fresh expression is being church where we are for those who are not currently 'church'. It comes about because we have discovered an itch in the community in which we find ourselves and have resolved to scratch it.

It is costly and demanding because it means opening doors and welcoming in strange people and having listened met them where they are and blessing what God is doing in their lives (helping them to recognise it) rather than just doing 'evangelism'.

It is the body of Christ going out in servanthood and humility to do as Jesus did (and is therefore what we call 'incarnational' meaning 'in the flesh'), in pronouncing and making real 'basileia', the 'kingdom of God' is among them. I often come back to the image of the lamp stand of Luke 8:16:

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light."

The aim of the fresh expression should be to create disciples and yet so often it appears that what is really at the heart of such a venture is the need to build up a church's congregation or worse still, "Pay the parish share!". Not so, our reason for engaging in such a project is to see people come into relationship with God, recognise the freedom won by the Christ and live in the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever it looks like, it's more than likely won't look like the church who established it! That said, it should be able to be in relationship with it.

The goal is to establish a new church (meaning congregation or people, not a building) which can, over a long period of time (never a short-term project), stand and exist on it's own two feet. The aim has to be a standalone rather than a depend upon church, then again, autonomy is great in theory but ownership and control are hard for most of us to relinquish and the plant 'leaving home' is never easy.

Fresh expressions is doing 'church' on a Wednesday because it means that people who can only do a Wednesday can be part of a body of believers. Fresh expressions is about doing 'church' where the people are rather than expecting them to travel to what might have once been the centre of things but no longer is. It is doing Church when and where the people are there - simple isn't it? So why do so many still set the times to suit themselves?

The more I study, the more I find just how immensely big God is. I continue to find other facets on the gem that is Church and find through them aspects of God which have escaped my attention and require me to engage by means theological and dialectic. This is how we grow I guess, and it's how we grow Church too!

Oh yeah, mixed economy church is a world where Church consists of traditional parochial and fresh expressions of church existing in relationship and side by side. It could refer to a Parish situation or perhaps wider still (Deanery) and ultimately is what we have in the Church (universal) but an isolated congregation isn't mixed economy on its own.

Perhaps we might do better comparing it to a business who, in order to exist, has expanded it's product range to enter more than one market. In this setting we'd say they'd 'diversified' rather than keep within the core business model. If we only have one product on the shelf we will only reach one part of the customer base out there - diversification means we reach more potential customers with a product that suits their needs or aspirations.

Mmm, diversified Church, might work :)

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Not all of it is good My Lord.

Having just been told that Jeffrey John is not be the next Bishop of Southwark I assume that some (who don't know me) will be surprised to find that I am not overjoyed at the news.

As I said earlier this week, this whole episode was not about JJ! That said, it was obvious that for many it was all about him and, at the end of the day, it was him who was set to be vilified in election or triumphed over in defeat. Some will be crowing about the victory whilst others will merely see their resolve hardened. The result will be that battle lines and vitriolic endeavours are hardened and the the opportunity for restraint on both sides will be further diminished and remove any chance of real dialogue.

There are many issues here and I hope that these may still be discussed, but for my part I feel for the man. As I preach so often, we need to find the places where we can agree and find unity, and this is the Cross, before we struggle with our differences. There are many tensions regarding theological and other considerations and, just as 2003, many people who angered by the pain and rejection of the man will howl at the apparent duplicity and betrayal. I recall the pain liberal friends felt in 2003 and don't expect it to be any less this time as they reflect on the part Rowan Williams has played in 2010. Their claim to have a 'friend in high places' has once again appeared hollow and this will undoubtedly sting.

As much as I wanted Rowan to act rightly (as I understand it) in the current place the Anglican Communion finds itself I was also fearful that this might damage a human being (regardless of the outcome) and my prayers are with JJ tonight that he will know the love and peace of God in this, what I would imagine is a very personally painful, situation made all too public.

Tonight neither side have the victory because the Church has been further marred and damaged and the confusion (on both sides) continues. We (all of us) need clear and unequivocal leadership and a way forward that would allow us to co-exist without continuing this damaging of each other that is becoming a hallmark of Anglicanism.

Where will we find unity? Not in accepting or denying homosexuality, women's ordination or any other issue such that factions fight. Only by working our ways of being separate such that we can be united. I continue to return to John 17 and Christ's interceding for us before the Father:

"Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them."

tu autem Domine miserere nobis

London is closed!

That's what the sign on the M1 said anyway!

Driving South along the road, we wondered what on earth that meant, after all, London never closes! The next overhead gantry displayed the same

Turning on the radio we learned of the bombs that had exploded on underground trains just before nine O'clock (08:50 to be exact) and and shortly afterwards, at a quarter to ten, on a bus. The day's events resulted in killing fifty-two and injuring many more.

This is a day for remembrance and prayer for those involved in the '7/7' bombings and in all conflicts and acts of terror.

A day to think about those who are left behind to grieve the loss of loved ones and to remember those who still bear the scars in body or mind.

To pray for the blue light services.

To pray for those who daily task is to defuse and otherwise make safe IEDs and other explosive devices.

To pray for peace throughout the world.

"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

Martin Luther King Jr

Monday 5 July 2010

Lots of waiting and then . . . .

When Rowan wrote his Pentecost letter it was the end of a very long period of waiting for some leadership from the top. I was cheered when he wrote, "We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate." I saw in these words a recognition and an assumed desire to see relationships put on the road to restoration and some degree of trust placed on the menu. For credibility and integrity to be presented as a way forward for all.

The reiteration that 'restraint' was one of the hallmarks sought coupled with a plea for others to respect the moratoria now seems rather hollow in the light of the disclosures over Southwark and Rowan's support for Jeffrey John.

Rowan commented on our dealings with other Christian communions and the diversity which we so cherish and spoke of putting forward people who were so obviously, "At odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated." Rowan continued that, "This does not seem fair to them or to our partners." I agreed and yet where is the difference between them and us in the current happenings?

Unlike others at the time I was glad for the measured approach Rowan presented even though for many it was too little, too late! Judging by the people who have spoken to me there are a number of people who are obviously confused with the place we now find ourselves. They ask me, "Isn't Rowan supporting what he has acted against (well, spoke of acting against perhaps) in other places?' Does look like it on the surafce, doesn't it?

Using Rowan's words, are we not ourselves in danger of, "Moving away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion?"

Solid, consistent and unequivocal leadership is needed and yet we find, potentially, none of this in the current affair. Seeing past Jeffrey John into the finer detail it seems that we are to be the pariah amongst many other Christian denominations because doing what is right as the ABC and doing what personal preference or relationships demands are potentially in conflict here.

I was amazed that the schism never came whilst Carey steered the ship and am saddened that the rocks loom large whilst the band plays and the fools dance.

Better for Sodom and Gomorrah

Last Sunday's lectionary delivered an omission which removed a valuable and timely observation from the proceedings. For those of you who missed it, the Gospel set was Luke 10.1-11, 16-20. What was missing was the bit between verses eleven and sixteen, which is:

"I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths."

The passage speaks of the sending out of the seventy-two and their response to those who refuse to hear or welcome the 'Good News'. The reference to Sodom and other places is a shame because it brings forth an interesting highlight and a potential summation of where we (the CofE) find ourselves and a potential way forward.

In the OT, Jewish faith, we find blessing and curse as reward (and punishment) for doing (or not doing) 'what is right'. In the NT we find repentance and that alien concept for the Jewish believers, 'Forgiveness'. So different is this that the 'Good News' bringing this was rejected by many. As I understand it, this begat a new strand of Jewish theological and religious living, that sect which we call Christianity. The reference to Sodom illustrates that for them there was no opportunity for 'forgiveness' but those who come later and reject the Good News have brought judgement down on themselves rather than had it imposed as per the nations mentioned.

Just as the revision that is Christianity saw a new strain of theological community, perhaps this is what we need now with those who seek to revise and rethink their own breed of Christianity. In the first stand the reason was forgiveness, in the new strand it is permission to do whatsoever one pleases as long as it pleases us.

Would that those who seek to revise and amend a couple of thousand years of orthodoxy would take the opportunity to move into their own brand of accepting Christianity. they could call it Episcopalian and the remainder could remain 'Anglican.

We could, with a blessing let those congregations who wished to divest themselves of the Anglican take their buildings and leave and permit the same kindness to those who wished to move into Episcopalianism. The end of law suits (which only bring the Church into further disrepute), the unloving ad hominem and bitter rancour as fellowships fragment and wicked words accumulate. The potential to meet in communion where we could and keep our distance where this was not possible.

How sad that in the attitudes and desires that drive us we forget to love one another. Better for Sodom than those who ignore the Lord's call to love one another I would reckon!

Gays and ecumenical stability

See how these Christians loathe one another!

See also how some posture and seek, by means of good old fashioned traducing, to take a moral high ground and, if possible, to make them and their cause the 'wounded party'. Now, this has been an effective tactic for many out there (on both sides) and has possibly been most effective in currying sympathy for the 'Gay' issue.

I have a friend is suffers from Arachnophobia. Whenever they see a spider they scream and run in the opposite direction screaming and in blind terror. So great is their fear that if they are confronted by a big enough member of the arachnid clan, they will actually pass out!

Now, I have been taught by culture and church that homosexual relationships are wrong and therefore do not choose to engage in one myself. I don't like Marmite either, but this is merely a personal choice, I find nothing in my social background or church history to support this. Does this make me marmiteophobic or homophobic? No I don't think so! I have made my choices as I am free to do so.

In response to my previous post I am told that, "I haven't said you are "for" or "against" Dr John's relationship. I don't need to - we know you believe homosexual relations are sinful."

This is an interesting assessment of Dr. John's situation because as I have said, oh so many times, I have no problems with the focus of one person's love being someone of the same sex, my problem comes when it becomes sexual. I have said this repeatedly (and consistently) and therefore, by stating as my correspondent does, he (or she - pseudonyms hide all things ;) ), apparently assumes that the relationship must be sexual. If this were not so, he would know that I don't disapprove. Always good to get clarification from someone who knows. Thanks!

I am accused of being disingenuous and of using the issue of "damaging relations" with other denominations as a cover. Actually, I am not at all. I am only too aware that members of a number of churches where I find myself are distressed, concerned and beginning to harden their view that the CofE is becoming an apostate body. the result of this is that the day will come when some will have to step back from the relationships they have with CofE churches in a bid to keep themselves untainted.

Harsh? It is when you struggle to engage with the pastoral and spiritual needs of a place. A cover - sadly not, for like the Christians in minority countries this issue is placing the work of Christ and His Church at risk. This is before we consider the response of many of the people where I live - they're not as sophisticated as some and know what they feel and and like and this is not a warm fuzzy area for them.

If people read my blog they will see that I abhor homophobia as much as I do the labelling of people as such in an attempt to make themselves right. 1 John tells us that 'we can't love God and hate our brother' - Amen to that! Galatians six tells us that when we see what we consider to be wrong, we 'restore them, gently'. Again, Amen!

The parting shot is cool for it brings in some really good 'light the touch-paper and run' issues: "There are other issues - like women priests, biblical inerrancy, and the headship of men - which damage ecumenism. Are you suggesting that Christian Unity will be achieved when everyone becomes a homophobic fundamentalist like yourself?"

See, there's the insult and the traduction in full flow as I am neither homophobic nor fundamentalist in the Phelpsian sense which our poor misguided writer appears to portray as fact. We will only find unity if we can find the areas were we can share first common areas of mutuality (shouldn't that be Christ? I hear so little mention of Him in this argument) and by discussion agree ways forward that make a path of peaceful existence. This isn't it and labelling, pointing fingers and the like do not win the day, but they do display the reasons that some are concerned.

As for me, I seek to bring the kingdom to those who are lost - and this means being obedient. It's not easy, but then again, whoever said 'denying oneself' was ever going to be.

Or you can merely label and hope others will assume that what you say is truthful. I'll continue to serve the Lord, write what I write and leave others to continue to misrepresent my views to fulfil their own desires.

Easy to miss the real issue?

Having answered (I hope) the questions put to me, I'd like to return to the real issues in hand. As I see them there are many of them!

The matter of relationships with other denominations has been addressed.

My next concern is that rather than make this about Dr. John we focus past the obvious and consider why now, of all times, has Rowan played this card? After all, of all the things he might be labelled, stupid isn't one of them.

Coming on the back of his 'sidelining' of the Episcopalian Church (TEC) for consecrating homosexual clergy, why this card at this time? I get the feeling that Dr. John is just too easy a target and that this is merely a strategy to get some to break cover. If so then JJ is being shamefully treated and our inter-church relations damaged by this hand of poker that's being played.

Whilst many are looking where Rowan might want them to look, what's happening where we aren't looking and where (and what) is it?

He who falls upon the rock will be broken. He upon whom the rock falls will be crushed. What's happening to the living stones?

Missing the point

As always, there are people who read what they read and make 'clever' comments, the like of which display that their pseudonyms are perhaps rather fitting! This is certainly true of the comment, "You are suggesting that if Dr John co-habited with a woman, he'd be "living in sin". For, as my previous post states, a fair number of people were shocked/amazed/stunned/[add your favourite here] at what appeared to be duplicity and double-standards over the situation reported. Mind you, I like the writer's deduction - sees a parallel and is not afraid to give it a name.

To help clear up the asinine correspondents confusion, let me spell out the nature of the flak I received in an easy to follow manner.

The situation as it was presented to me, by members of churches and those who were antagonistic towards church, was that having been in a relationship and having convinced people that this was no longer the case (I assume they meant a sexual relationship) the other person was moved into the house in a different role. Many people were of the opinion that had the relationship been heterosexual then there was no way the woman would have been allowed to become part of the household of their 'ex', even if they were merely 'friends'. Makes sense I guess - but this was not the case when the framework was homosexual. Double-standards? Many thought so (and told me so too!). Now, you will note that 'I' am not suggesting anything, merely reporting what was conveyed to me and voicing my concern at the potential for damage.

Now, this is obvious and pretty much an even-handed and logical approach to the affair from people who know what they know from papers and the media. Perhaps we need to berate the media for having a field day with this issue?

The point was made that JJ, "Is in a Civil Partnership which, if only for inheritance purposes, has been accepted by General Synod." This seems to be correct, it's about inheritance and nothing else! Signing consent forms as Next of Kin (NoK) and stuff like that. No confusion here at all - it's not 'Gay marriage' at all, is it? This should appease some :) and render others as wrong!

We then encounter something odd in that it is suggested that, "Logically, I am suggesting Dr John should marry his partner to make their relationship licit. Or am I against that as well?" What a funny statement and question combination! I don't see that I have 'logically' suggested anything of the sort and applaud the skewed mind that extrapolates something so entertaining, but erroneous, in deductive and Biblical processes. Having not made the point nor engaged in whether I am 'for it' I return only to the comments and the damage previously done, and potentially waiting in the wings, with regard to consecrating this chap then and now!

Catch 22 is a novel (and a good one at that) and the logic in which the book is quoted is as sound as the Biblical knowledge displayed. There is indeed a choice - problem is the popular choice (taking views of many Christians and other denominations and non-church people) isn't popular with a small minority who continue to present their desires as the majority view. Coupled with Rowan's comments to TEC recently, isn't he now potentially guilty of doing what he has chastised the American Anglicans for?

Excellent dialogue - displays that those who wish to have what they will will also eschew logic, the appearance of things (to both Christian and secular people), Biblical tradition and practice.

I knew this was going to be a problem. Where are Ezra and Nehemiah when we need them?

That'll be all now Donkey :) Pax

Sunday 4 July 2010

Another brick out of the wall?

The much reported shortlisting of Dr. Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans for the role of Bishop of Southwark is an interesting and, coming on the back of Rowan Williams communication to the Anglicans in the US, controversial and confusing step for many of the UK's Christians (Anglican and otherwise).

On one hand there will be some who applaud such a move as enlightened and right, but for others I am sure that there will be confusion and hardening of the view that the CofE is becoming an apostate denomination. A quick 'for instance' can be found in that out of seven church 'brands' I can number five who would be strongly opposed, one which would generally be in favour and one that would be split over this area. 

So whilst this might see more liberally minded types cheering, any appointment, even to the liberal state of Southwark,  appears to make life difficult for many of us on the ground. Those residing in their ivory towers might be able to rise above things and ignore the response where they are, but we are not able to exercise the same privilege in the land of the mortals!

I was the butt of a good number of complaints during the 2003 debacle with the same chap and issue (then it was of course Reading). I was berated strongly by some when, having been appointed Dean at St Albans, the chap then moves Grant Holmes into his new home. So many people asked my what would have happened had his 'ex-lover' been a woman, would the church have been happy to see her move in on the same basis as Holmes? Most were concerned that this would not have been the case and therefore we were seeing dual-standards at play.

As I see it, the problem is, as four of the five church groups speak of 'appearance of evil', rather obvious and yet I have no confidence that those in authority have any concern for the relationships with other denominations and groupings or the problems they are creating by continually blurring lines and trying to appease a minority.

The tail wags the dog and another brick, finding the mortar loosened further, tumbles to the ground!

Never quite sure who is who, think Jeffrey is the one with the glasses!

Caption Contest - 13

So the football is playing and the kids are creating - who you gonna call?

Super Vicar

Friday 2 July 2010

Buzz Word Church - 1

One of the great things I really don't enjoy about being involved in the missioner role is the sound bite and buzz word world that it drags you into. No matter what the area under consideration, there they are. Seeker-sensitive is an excellent example of this.

As we look at welcoming the 'non-churched' into church we are mindful of the problems that they might have with elements of the service and words we might use. This is excellent and by means of an example this also needs to be a consideration for those who are 'churched' (which I thought was something we used to do after childbirth until I entered this world!). So what must we look at and modify to become a safe and welcoming place?

To be 'successful' (what a naff word this is in a Christian context) we need to fill our church and this means making the consumer happy. Especially the first-time consumer! So what we do is we try to remove the embarrassing things in the hope that they will return. Now I asked some people what they thought might cause embarrassment or discomfort amongst the unsaved visitor. The answers included:

1. Sin - don't mention sin, because this affirms the 'killjoy' and 'condemning' stereotypes. In a sort of, "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'good dog' until you can find a stick!'. There is a great difference between building a relationship which gives you the knowledge and (possible) permission to address issues and the putting off of the issue because it might cause the person to never return.

2.Cherry Picking the Bible Verses - We must keep away from anything that might make us look anything other than affirming and positive about the bumps in other people's roads. I was rather surprised by the 'Keep the Bible passages safe!' school of thought - not what jesus did now, was it?

3. Preaching in the shallow end - If we spend much of our time speaking about mercy, then what is it that God has to be merciful about and what does it have to do with the people listening if they are all O.K.? Christ deals with all the BIG ISSUES - so shouldn't we?

Hopping from foot to foot and trying hard to mention that big issue only leads us to either ignore it completely or to set ourselves up for a massive gaffe of church-rocking proportions.

We do need to be careful about using jargon and esoteric language. We need to look at our building and consider what it looks and feels like to those who come in for the first time. We need to look at the services we put on and consider how they might be regarded if you'd never been into a church before.

I was recently told of an exercise given to a leadership team. Each of the members was given ten pounds by the dog collar with an instruction that they had to return the following week having used the money to put a bet on at one of the local bettings shops! The response to this:

i. I've never been in one before,

ii. I wouldn't know what to do,

III. It's not the sort of place people like me go into.

Isn't this what being seeker-sensitive means? Perhaps we all need to try this one - think we will where I find myself.

Thursday 1 July 2010

The work is plenty and the . . .

Workers are so very often, it appears, nowhere to be seen!

It's fun when you talk to people about 'church' and 'making a difference' because it seems that when God shakes the sieve (or should that be a riddle?) there are three different sized holes the people in your church fall through. These are labelled:

"This is something that really needs to be done, someone needs to do it!",

"Sorry but it's just not my calling!", and

"I'm nowhere to be found!"

Those who haven't fallen through the holes are the people who actually remain and get down and do the jobs that come up. Now I struggle with this because I have recently been classified as 'one of those people who has to do things!'. It seems to me that I have a number of problems that come together into one large and extremely obvious problem. It works like this:

1. I see a need, problem or issue and immediately look at ways in which it can be resolved.

2. I (often foolishly) assume that others, also seeing the need, problem or issue will jump in and engage with me to work together to resolve the issue before us.

3. People tell me of their 'concerns' and point to needs that they have identified. (I foolishly assume that for them this is a '1.' and they will take a lead in resolving the issues and am so often disappointed).

These three points lead me to many questions, namely:

How do I help people to respond to the needs I, or they, identify?

Why are so many of the people who are hoping for growth also hoping that someone else will do it?

If we can satisfy these tow very basic questions we have the basis of the beginning of the start of becoming a missionary congregation. Prayer is always adequate and important but is always uncontrollable and edgy (in a sanctified sort of way) but there's more to it than just praying and 'leaving it to God!' Mind you, it's a great caveat.

"Oh, I'm praying about the issue (job done)

Over to you then God, I've done my bit ;-)