Saturday, 25 September 2010

Just enough and no more!

So here's a thought for the day:

A wonderful teacher of the old school once told me that more often than not a response would yield more information than the initiating comment and that it would, more often than not, speak of things that had never been mentioned. What he meant was, "You've just mentioned something that only the culprit would know, ergo you must be he - detention!"

I was often busted because I gave away far too much information - the key is to offer enough to dialogue and nothing that might incriminate.

Regarding my ONS post yesterday, I received the following comments:

"Just because someone is attracted to both sexes does not mean that they are more promiscuous."
I don't think I even mentioned the word 'promiscuous' so any concept of a bisexual person being so is something that has been added to the discussion I guess. Is this smoke that indicates a fire I hadn't considered? My observation concerning bisexuality is that being either heterosexual or homosexual is often portrayed as something which is 'hard coded' into our being and that people don't have a choice, they are born homosexual or heterosexual. Personally I don't agree with this and pray that they never find a 'gay gene' because if they did, some worthy group would seek to find a 'cure'for this aberration - shades of Mengele and of acts against people that would be too awful to contemplate.

Bisexuality has to be a choice. You can take a 'no choice - hetero / homo' approach but 'bi' has to be a choice, and a moral choice to boot! So, if you lump 'no choice' and 'choice' in the same bag you have devalued and defeated the 'no choice' argument because the whole population (1.5% of the UK's population) is now regarded as choice, nurture not nature, groomed or whatever position that removing 'no choice' allows.

My commentator and I totally agree that being heterosexual doesn't preclude sexual sin, I know a fair number of heterosexual sinners, just nice to see homosexual sexual sin included in this equation. Seem that thus far we are in agreement (and I've learnt stuff too!).

Just for the record - I've never done bell-ringing (discriminate or otherwise) but it's a good hobby I hear.

Another comment (from the same source) leaves me a little bemused:

"A straight man has only straight women available.
A bisexual man has straight women and gay men as his 'options'. This adds, by the numbers you quote, an extra 0.5% of the population. Why should they be more promiscuous?
There is no reason a bisexual person cannot have a stable monogamous relationship. Heterosexuals are able to do so even if there are millions of other heterosexuals to tempt them?"

I haven't said they were more promiscuous (covered that above). As I see it, choosing to be bisexual is a choice. Some argue that they have no choice in being heterosexual or homosexual because it's the way they are wired, bisexual people are making an obvious choice aren't they? (see above)

I would have thought that being bisexual means that a stable, monogamous, relationship is a little difficult because if the relationship was stable and monogamous then the person in question would then be heterosexual or homosexual, wouldn't they? I don't see how one could be bisexual and in a stable monogamous relationship, well not unless the stable monogamous relationship is with two people (one of each sex) and then of course it wouldn't be monogamous!

I guess we could speak of a person having a stable heterosexual relationship for a time and then have them leave that and enter into a new 'stable' relationship of the homosexual kind. A bit later they could have a new stable (stretching 'stable' here aren't we?) and enter into a new heterosexual relationship and and so on . . . (you get the picture) but then of course this would be being promiscuous and apparently bisexuals are not promiscuous!

Think this is where we came in - Happy Saturday :)

Friday, 24 September 2010

A minority sport?

A while back I got into a discussion with a member of one of the groups who support 'alternative' lifestyles and although we got on well it was obvious that we were in very different places at a number of levels. I spoke of choice and he spoke of numbers. I spoke of obedience and he spoke of happiness. I spoke of discipline and he spoke of freedom. I pointed this out and rather than fight we laughed and I bought him a pint.

If only we could dialogue like this with every person who holds contrary views on lifestyle, theology, politics or even football teams. The reality was that this man was, and is, someone I consider to be a brother in Christian terms. Our lifestyles differ and our choices diverge on a number of issues but on the main tenets of faith we found some areas of mutuality.

One of the interesting areas that came up was the number of people who were homosexual. The reason for this was that in the discussion, this was spoken of as if it were every other person yet the most supportive report I'd ever read placed the global number at less than five percent (in fact it was a little over three percent to be accurate). This was an interesting part because the wording and tone suggested what obviously wasn't the reality and this challenged us both - but also yielded some positive stuff on both sides.

Following on from that discussion, I read yesterday that the Office for National Statistics (ONS), having released the results of its national household survey, place the number of adults who consider themselves to be homosexual to be about one percent of the adult population, which equates in numbers to 480,000.

Interestingly another half a percent of the population indicated that they were bisexual (the numbers being 245,000).

The overall scores on the doors were:

Heterosexual - 95%

Don't know (or no answer) - 3%

Homosexual - 1%

Bisexual - 0.5%

(looks like 0.5% lost in the wash somewhere!)

A couple of things struck me.

The first was that people often talk about having no choice, they are either programmed as homosexual or heterosexual (a discussion for another day perhaps) and if this is the case, then the reality is that this is a pretty small group and perhaps indicates that the tail is wagging the dog (as is so often the case in this world of ours).

The second is that being bisexual is surely all about choice. I can claim that I have chosen to be heterosexual or to have been programmed by my genes such that I am heterosexual (or any other reason for the fact that I am attracted to women - notice I didn't say attractive to women, I am a realist :)). The same would probably be said, putting it in to a different focus, by someone who is homosexual.

Surely bisexual people just enjoy ringing their bell with anything and anyone that happens to come along and therefore to lump bisexuals into the grouping such that we have GLB actually damages any claims that it's not about choice? I have a fair few homosexual friends and know their struggles and their pain and have realised that associating them with bisexuals only diminishes and devalues their struggles and their realities.

And then there's the theological debate . . . . (again for another day and another place because it's been done to death)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Israel - Not just my opinion!

A while back I was asked to provide evidence of breaches of international law committed by Israel. This was a fairly simple task and now, thanks to the United nations Human Rights Councils (UNHCR), I can add even more grist to the mill.

The UNHCR yesterday published a report which finds that Israel's military broke international laws during the raid on a raid on Gaza-bound ships which were bringing aid.

The action was 'disproportionate' (proportionality being an essential consideration when it comes to the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC)) and 'Betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality' *which is another breach of LOAC). The UNHCR panel is so convinced of their findings that they consider the material before them to be sufficient to support prosecutions against Israel for "wilful killing".

Now, obviously this is merely another episode of anti-semitism which means that Israel has rejected this 'biased' and 'one-sided' report on the grounds that it was merely self-defence and their right in the battle for self-preservation (tell that to the families of the nine dead and the many injured!).

So, before we go further, let's see who was on the panel:

Professor Christian Tomuschat - Professor Emeritus at Humboldt University Berlin. Prior to taking the chair of international law in Berlin, he worked for 22 years at the Law Faculty of the University of Bonn as the director of the Institute of international law. A renowned international jurist and an expert on international human rights and international humanitarian law, Professor Tomuschat has also served as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, president of the International Law Commission, Chairperson of the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission, member of the International Commission of Jurists, and judge of the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank. He is the author of numerous books and articles on human rights and humanitarian law.

Judge Mary McGowan Davis - Former Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York and as a federal prosecutor during the course of a 24-year career in the criminal justice sector in New York City. She also has extensive experience in the fields of international human rights law and transitional justice. Justice Davis has been involved in mentoring and training of lawyers and judges in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mongolia, and Rwanda. She visited Cambodia and Sierra Leone on missions relating to the establishment of war crimes tribunals in those countries. She has also served as a consultant to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association for the International Commission of Jurists and the International Judicial Academy, and serves on the Managerial Board of the International Association of Women Judges.

Mr. Param Cumaraswamy - renowned jurist and human rights expert, served from 1994 to 2003 as the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers. He is a Barrister at Law from the United Kingdom and practices law in Malaysia, and is a former President of the Bar Association of Malaysia. He is an active member of several organizations including the Law Association of Asia and the Pacific, the International Commission of Jurists and the Advisory Council of the American Bar Association Centre of Human Rights. Mr Cumaraswamy is the author of numerous articles on human rights, humanitarian law, the rule of law and judicial independence. are: Professor Christian Tomuschat (Chair), Justice Mary McGowan Davis and Mr. Param Cumaraswamy.

All obvious anti-semites or Palestinians, aren't they?

The fifty-six pages report states that, "There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health". The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.”


The report also found that the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory was "unlawful" because of the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.


It has already been found that the building of the wall, the continued settlement beyond the green line and a number of other acts by Israel were illegal.


Time to put in a government which obeys the letter of man's law and the spirit of God's law I'd say.

A final word from the Israelis, who condemning the UNHCR (before the report was even published) as, "Biased, politicised and extremist backed it up after the publication by denouncing the report as being, "As biased and as one-sided as the body that has produced it".

A law unto themselves it seems, sadly not God's laws though!

Want to read it for yourself?
Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict:

Conclusions and recommendations – Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict:

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Abraca - you know!

Looks like I have to be dusting off some of my props and tricks and get down to some heavy duty practice with the magic again as I'm booked to do an instructional session this weekend!

Quite a number of people get quite uptight about the idea of doing magic in a Church setting and over the years I have had some real stick regarding it. The problem being that the word 'magic' as proscribed in the Bible is actually divination, necromancy, sorcery and the like and is basically all about dealing with the supernaturally unnatural stuff associated with the devil (AKA satan, beelzebub, or whatever you'd like to use!).

Not only do I do magic in a Church setting but am part of a group of Christians who do 'Gospel magic'. The sort of magic I do is more accurately referred to as ledgermain (meaning quick-fingered or lightness of hand) and is all about illusion.

Interestingly, some of those who are antagonistic are the same people who gave me a hard time because our kids read the Harry Potter books (after we'd read them to check on their content, something we still do with books they want to read that we're not sure of). These people claim that exposure to anything supernatural, magical or the like is against that which God demands of us. Strangely though they have no problems with C S Lewis, Tolkien or other books!

So, here we go again - off to teach people to use some skills that will ensure that the kids don't take their eyes off them for the whole of their assembly - magic!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Isn't Nature Wonderful?

Just about to creep up the stairs to bed when I hear a review of Prof' Stephen Hawking's new book, 'The Grand Design' which declares that, "Physics has no need for God as (apparently) natural physics created the universe unaided. Big Bang was a self-starting, self-sustaining and controlling event and it, and the rest, is down to science obeying nature!"

I just love the people who see 'nature' as some sentient power which controls flowers blooming, fruit growing and even little fluffy bunnies and gambolling lambs turning up at the right time. But of course nature is not a sentient being, it is merely the following of a programme which fits in with the seasons of the year.

So who programmed this wonderful nature then?

Bed :)

It was seventeen years ago today . . .

That Arsenal were playing Huddersfield in the Carling (known then as the League) Cup). It was one of those great games which not only saw Ian Wright score a hat-trick (his fifth to be precise), but saw the Arsenal win 5-0.

Tonight the Arsenal were playing in the Carling Cup and like the game seventeen years ago five goals were scored. No hat-tricks and no Ian Wright, but the win was still sweet as it was over the Arsenal's closest neighbours and greatest rivals - Tottenham Hotspur!

Having made my first communion at Highbury (Clock End, right of goal( at the age of five, I have to say that I go off to bed convinced that God truly does answer prayer :)


(apologies to non-footballing types (and spuds fans)

Monday, 20 September 2010

Evangelical and Anglican? The journey in sharper focus.

Having become aware that I needed to actually make some decisions and answer some tough questions before I considered myself to be a Christian, I found that starting off in a Baptist Church was a bit of a shock to the system. You see, I had just assumed that being English (or perhaps even 'British') was enough to confer the tile 'Christian' upon me. Christian was what I was as a birthright and there was nothing else required outside that.

So in a Baptist Church in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, I found myself struggling with the issues of personal sin and salvation. I have to be honest and admit that what brought me in to church was actually a great friend, James Osbourne, and a host of really gorgeous women. These all coalesced into a young people's weekend and it was there, having failed to pull any of the women, that God (with the help of a bloke called Gordon Bailey) effectively pulled me instead.

My time as a Bapper was happy and I learned much. I learned about personal sin, believer's baptism (which rendered infant baptism invalid and without any merit of efficacy) and the importance of reading my Bible and having 'Quiet times'.

I moved away and ended up incollege and there, Navigators (who read their Bibles and memorised verses all day) and reformed evangelical types taught me that if I couldn't learn the Bible I was doomed and then, more confusingly, taught me that even if I could learn the Bible I might still be doomed anyway because it was all about predestination and selection anyway. Confused - you'd better believe it!

Sex outside of marriage was a total 'no no'. The homosexuality issue was never discussed, alcohol and drugs were a non-issue and housegroups, church and discipline were in abundance everywhere (even in the C of E). Halcyon days indeed!

A move into the Pentecostal wing confirmed that extra-marital relations were verboten, along with these went pre-marital sex, homosexuality, alcohol, drugs and anything that could be construed as having the 'appearance of evil'. I was taught that Anglicans were the heathen mentioned in the Bible and that their services consisted of the vain repetitions and babblings of the unsaved. Again I was convinced that infant baptism was invalid and presented a futile, inclusive, practice which (in the light of believer's baptism) had nothing to commend it. The sneers that any mention of 'sprinkling' brought only confirmed that the C of E was a sad and unsaved bunch.

So there I was.

I was convinced that there was a need for a personal faith and a personal Saviour. John 3:16 meant accepting the ticket to heaven from Jesus' hand - faith alone in the God made man, Jesus - man who was God!

The Bible (reading and learning it), prayer and searching out sinful acts in our own lives were the norm', not merely the acts of some sort of spiritual lunatic or zealot.

I knew that there were three sorts of sexual activity: Marriage, fornication and adultery. I also knew that only one was permitted if I was to be a Christian.

I knew that divorce was one of the 'unforgivable sins' and that to engage in one and dare to remarry made one an adulterer.

Christians needed to adhere to what had been taught within the ranks of an orthodox faith, anything outside of this was to render oneself apostate (we didn't use this word of course!0.

I had been taught that we should listen to the Holy Spirit and this was where all the piles of things I held as 'right' started to shift a bit. What was going on when what the Spirit led us to contradict what the Word instructed and even went against what might be considered to be the orthodox position?

At that time, having completed theological studies in an extremely sound establishment, I began to ask the question 'why'? In fact, I asked the question perhaps a little too often and it was during this time I felt God lead me into the Anglican heresy and came under the instructions of a man by the name of John Barter. This man showed me how sacramental, charismatic, orthodox and even reformed all came together in an Anglican setting. How Word and sacrament, Spirit and theology, charismatic and Spirit-filled all passed through the same point - and this point was Anglican!

And then came the word that shook me out of my tree . . . . .

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Bomber Command - BBMF

Having been privileged to have visited the BBMF (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) at RAF Conningsby, I have once more felt the need to comment upon Bomber Command and the wrongful lack of recognition of the courage and commitment of those who were members of it.

I know Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are fast approaching and very shortly we will (again) be subjected to the bleatings of some about 'telling the truth' and the (yawn) annual vilification of Bomber Command. That recognised I also need to recognise that anyone who climbs into an aircraft knowing that the average number of missions flown before death, injury or capture is seven had hutzpah and a fair degree of selfless commitment and courage and this needs to be recognised.

Using today's standards and conventions I would also question proportionality and the other hallmarks that LOAC (Laws of Armed Conflict) and the various Genevas require. But (always a 'but' isn't there?) that was then and if we want to condemn our side then we should share the love and regard those who bombed London, Coventry and a good many other major cities too.

If you get the chance, go visit the BBMF and if you want to see another reminder of the courage of others, have a look at East Kirkby and the Lancaster they taxi at their Bomber Command station.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Evangelical and Anglican? Setting the scene.

In response to a question regarding being Evangelical and Anglican, I thought I'd try and discover what this means for me and why I am. In doing so I will probably upset some, confuse others and demonstrate my own confusion in the process. It's fun though.

As a I understand it, the Church of England is a 'reformed AND catholic church'. Now this in itself causes a fair amount of debate because people usually respond by telling me that we're a 'protestant' church and not catholic at all.

So a brief foray into our history as I recall the lectures. The church, under henry VIII, broke away from the Papal authority and control of the church in our land. The issues of divorce, annulment and the price being raised each time Henry wanted one led to Henry being so niggled with Rome that those who wished to see autonomy from Rome (and the introduction of reformation theology which appeared closer to Biblical warrant than Rome's self-serving political practices) caught him at the right time and Rome was gone!

We draw upon our common roots with the RC bods (which manifest in much of liturgical and church structures) and we also rejoice in the reformed theology too (two sacraments 'bath and bread'). Thus we are truly a catholic and reformed church.

I would have to use the much vaunted term 'via media' (Middle way) for the C of E for it is what we laughingly refer to as a 'broad church' and when we examine it, we see this is almost an understatement. Within the C of E four 'traditions'can be found: Evangelical, Catholic, Charismatic and Liberal. There are many flavours and degrees of activity and outworking but they appear to leave us with high, low, charismatic, reformed, syncretic, middle of the road (often gloriously Anglican by habit) and more beside I'm sure as the flavours on the shelf.

I, having come to faith in a baptist church (9th April 1972) I have been brought up in my theology as an evangelical. The emphasis on the evangel (Good News = Bible) and of having a personal faith (which is not earned but comes by faith) and which is sharpened by the hearing and reading of God's Word and by relationship daily with His living Word (Jesus) and the enabling of His Holy Spirit, all seem to have left me an evangelical.

During my journeying thus far I have seem myself come to faith and grow as a baptist. The move to a Christian Union at Uni' saw me engaged first with Anglican churches and then later with an independent charismatic church. Later, after a return to a (boring) baptist church I once more found myself in an Anglican church. Things moved on and after my wife moved to it first, I became a member, and later a pastor, in a pentecostal church. From there I moved into an Anglican church and this is where I have remained, not just an evangelical but also someone who has taken on board, discussed, dialogued and studied the various elements that make on 'Anglican' and am an Anglican by conviction and belief.

I have said this because so many people have no real idea what being Anglican is all about, this is obvious because they can switch from paedobaptism to believer's baptism and not bat and eyelid regarding the great theological leap they have taken in this one area alone. There are many things that make us 'distinctively Anglican' and I am often saddened that people just see 'the best church' as the place to go without considering the underlying theological implications of the place and the statements they make by moving from one to another.

So here's the basis from which I will be trying to answer the question, "Why (or perhaps how?) an evangelical and an Anglican."

My studies have taken me to various theological colleges and I have studied Bible theology, Applied theology, Pastoral theology and have a passion for all things theological (with apologetics and counselling/pastoral/practical theology generally being at the top of the pile).

Colleges were reformed and evangelical, extremely liberal, Anglican (open-evangelical) and now I'm in an ecumenical establishment where there are no strong party or theological lines for the organisation (but lots of differing styles in the people).

Got to go, new lay ministers being licensed today and have to get stuff ready for the cathedral.

Bye for now. . .

Friday, 3 September 2010

Israel - Men of violence

Peace talks have begun and, as was to be expected, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have voiced their intentions to step up their murderous activities in a bid to scupper anything that looks like peace. Mind you they aren't alone in this as the right-wing of israeli political thinking posture and push settlements and other issues forward as 'non-negotiable' in the hope that this will drive talks onto the rocks as well.

Both sides are fuelled by people who want it all. As one israeli put it, "To have a nation state of Palestine would be to deny Israel, we must have it all!" Sadly, the Palestinian interviewed felt that unless Israel stopped encroaching on 'their' land then it would end in all out war.

Both sides have many who want it all and this is not the path to peace. Both sides have their aggressors, political and physical. Both sides are breaking international laws and both sides have their supporters, Israel of course leaning on their US connections to add weight to them - but how long will this continue I wonder and what of the support of Iran and other Islamic oriented unsettling influences?

Obama is a man who appears to be playing a great game of international poker, but he isn't all that he's billed to be and unless he has some hutzpah in this situation is looking set to bring off another failed attempt at being 'the man'.

The only thing that looks certain is that nothing will change in the Israel/Palestine situation and that more blood will be spilled despite the Netanyahu/Abbas efforts.

A comment from the Guardian:

"In Kiryat Arba there is another reason for regarding the negotiating effort now underway with deep disdain. Deep inside the West Bank, Kiryat Arba is one of the settlements – illegal in international law – that would have to be uprooted if the talks were to produce an end of the 43-year-old occupation."

Sad reading when you realise that some people will never learn and only want peace on their terms, isn't it?

Pray for the peace (and sanity) of jerusalem and the stilling of violent men on both sides of the debate.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Israel - some observations

Having tried to put this as a response to a comment I found it was too large so here it is as a post:

Let's start with the ruling regarding the blockade of shipping in international waters of certified as 'safe' shipments to Palestine or the building of settlements - both of which have been cited in the press and elsewhere.

Or there's the shelling of the UNHCR establishment during the last 'conflict' - which received notice and placed Israel's allies in a bit of an embarrassing position as a result.

Like you, I don't expect Israel to be whiter than white or squeaky clean but as someone who has a military background, I do expect LOAC (Laws of Armed Conflict) and the various conventions (Geneva and others) to be complied with. Sadly, this is not always so (note that I'm being kind, some I know would have said 'never'!).

So breaches of international law. We deal only with Israel here, but Palestinian are also guilty - but it's not tennis is it? You asked about Israel:

There's the ICJ (International Court of Justice ruling over Occupied Palestinian Territory (2004/28);

There's the breaking of the Oslo Declaration, of which in 1993 Israel was a signatory. Explicitly, Article 31, Clause 7, states: "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."

This has obviously been broken and is therefore a breach of law which renders the actions illegal.

It has been upheld that the acts of 'settlement' is, and should be considered to be a breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention.

There's the fun reading of the shelling on the UN HQ in Gaza (Jan 2010).

And of course, a favourite of mine is the saga of Modecai Vanunu and if there's time, why not peruse and read the report there too!

All grist to the mill - and remember I'm not defending Palestine, just pointing to the many areas that add together to make me concerned at the acts and worried at the way so many Christians will gloss over facts for a 'greater' cause (please note that I am not accusing you of this Mark - it's not a personal attack and isn't meant to be taken as such - just checking :) ).

I hope this helps others to understand my thinking a little more,


Israel - Assumptions and Expectations

I constantly find myself engaged with people who assume that being a Christian I have to be 'pro-Israel' to the point that I will excuse anything the nation state of israel does because it is Israel! The fact that I do not and will not only seeks to cause them to complain that I am therefore 'anti-Israel', an assumption that is equally incorrect.

My shelf contains a healthy section of Israel-related material ranging from Lance Lambert through to Martin Gilbert. from Zionism through to the Shoah and into the political realities, I am read and consider the middle east and the Palestine/Israel (and other) conflicts).

God has not, and will not desert his people, Isareal, but I have to say that the nation state of Israel has apparently deserted him. A Radio Four broadcast a few months back had an Israeli proudly proclaiming the fact that Israel was a progressive, secular, nation. This of course is nothing new for the 1948 declaration is a secular, not religious or spiritual determination.

The nation state of Israel, "Will be based on the principles of liberty, justice and peace as conceived by the Prophets of Israel; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race, or sex; will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture; will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and will loyally uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter".

Granted there is a reference to the prophets, keeps it kosher (so to speak) and there's a guarantee that ALL the holy places will be safeguarded, which is nice too! BUT the reality is that Israel the nation state, and Israel the people of God are two very different entities (or so it would seem).

For some Israel is merely about territory and 'possessing the land'.

For others it is about a Jewish faith than has returned and sees the restoration of people.

For some Jews, it is about faith. For the majority though, faith has little or nothing to do with it. We see a nation with a secular majority and a smaller fragment who exist in an ultra-orthodox vacuum within it. We see a nation resentful of the orthodox and their funded seminaries, their escaping military service and their oppressive views.

Outside of Israel, some see Israel as a story about a people who were disposed because of some sort of post shoah blood-guilt on the part of the Western World. Now it is Arabs who bemoan the loss of their homes and mutter, Next year in Jerusalem!"

Regardless of the history and the Bible stories and the hopes of some to rebuild the temple and return Jerusalem to some sort of prophecy fulfilling reality, the bottom line is that we need to call upon ALL nations to behave in the right way. To excuse any nation because of religious, political or historical circumstance (or history) is to permit injustice. To permit the 'people of God' to engage in such injustice is to dishonour the name of Israel and YHWH Himself.

As I understand it, Christians should pray for Israel but should never condone wrong in their support for it. There are no excuses, no compelling reasons to overlook wrongdoing, for if we do then their blood is on our hands too and we have failed to be the watchmen God has called us to be.


Postscript - A parting thought. If we support Israel as the people of God, as they await their Messiah, should we be blessing them and that or should we be seeking to make them Messianic (Christian Jews)? My studies (in a Jewish setting) brought me into relationship with many Jews who say that to evangelise Jews is to destroy Israel. A tough question to answer.

Caption Contest - 17

Here's a man after my own heart.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Lay Presidency - An Evo heresy?

Today I was asked whether I thought lay presidency was a 'winner', after all, it was being promoted by the hyper evangelical Australia which must mean it was 'sound'.

In something of an Orwellian, "Four legs good, two legs bad," approach it was obvious that my inquisitor worked on the premise , "Australia good, TEC bad," and so even though they didn't understand the issue had assumed it must be right.

Sadly, in this case I do not think that this is so for a number of reasons (job security being the least of them).

The members of DACE (Diaconal Association of the Church of England) who are ordained as deacons and see themselves complete in this role (rather than deacon being merely being a transition on the way to priest). Some deacons, having a non-eucharistic ministry, have an understanding that upsidedown world is lacking here!

The reality that those denominations who practice lay presidency are (or so it appears) generally going down the tubes as they blur and diminish the presidential role of ministry speaks of the order and structures and the perils of removing them.

I'm an evangelical and I see nothing 'Catholic' in the ontological approach to priesthood and presidency. Being a priest should have the reality of difference and the orders within the Church of England are balanced, right and proper as I understand them.

One of the arguments 'For' as I understand it is that this would provide churches who would otherwise have none, with a Eucharistic minister. A rather hollow argument, for if we were to call out someone to be the lay president, then surely they could equally be called out to ordination too. This does come back to the OLM situation whereby what someone called 'Super Readers' are ordained. Surely this would maintain the orders within the C of E and satisfy this apparent need?

The logical implication of this situation, if we were to see deacons presiding, is that it would assume (or make reality) of the fact that word and sacrament are one. If a deacon is compelled to 'read the Gospel in the Church and preach the same' whilst the priest is compelled to "preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments'. Two very different acts and two very different roles - which should not be eroded for convenience, or flawed theological extrapolations, sake.

My considered view is that in looking as they do at lay ministry, the Australian church is in grave danger of weakening and undermining vocation in general and ordination in particular and of being very much less Anglican in the same way that TEC is often regarded as being.