Showing posts from September, 2010


Sometimes we Christians need to draw on words that aren't much used in normal conversation. The experience of God needs to be articulated by the deeper vocabulary of past ages, of the great theologians, of the Bible itself. That's good, but it can become a problem if we forget to translate for the benefit of people who don't know what we're talking about. Then we end up saying one thing, but everybody else hears something different. Yesterday the Sun website entertained its readers with this story: Drawing this response from a well-meaning brother: At least it makes perfect sense, but probably not in the way he intended.

Servant leadership

Yesterday at Kea we had an excellent sermon from Charles Burgess of CPAS : a simple and effective explanation of servant leadership, based on Matthew 20:20-28. It's good to be reminded of what kind of ministry Jesus calls his disciples to: You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. I feel strongly that this is another of those parts of the Bible that is well known, but little understood. So many Christian groups seem to embody a style of leadership that is the opposite of what Jesus lays before us here: bombastic, self-promoting, controlling, abusive. And often it's not just the leaders who inflict this on others, but the people themselves who collude in embracing t

General Synod election fever

There's low-level excitement in the Church of England as it's time for the five-yearly elections to General Synod, the Church's "parliament". Those of us who get a vote have received the names of our candidates and their "election addresses": in my case, the six hopeful clergy who have put themselves forward in this Diocese. There's a lot of debate right now about what makes a good candidate or a good address (see Revd Lesley for her own take on this, also Alan Wilson for an irreverent take on the electoral system). But what I haven't seen much of is any discussion of whether Synod really works, as a governing instrument of the C of E. Synod is important because it has the power to make the rules (although major pieces of legislation still have to go before Parliament). So I suppose that if it didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent it. But would it look the same? I can think of some good things about synod: 1. Making decisions at n

9/11 a day of violence again

The 11 th September, when Christians all over the world will be praying for those still suffering the consequences of 2001, and that Christ's rule of peace will triumph over violence in the world. Except those few who think that it's a better idea to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Terry Jones has apparently called off his book burning , but the damage is already done, as Christians in Muslim countries are being threatened and attacked in retaliation for his cheap, publicity-seeking antics. There is no longer anything funny about this. No words can express the contemptibility of people who use the name of Christ to inflame a war of hatred, a war in which other Christians will die in while they sit in safety - but Canon Andrew White does a good job here , combining passion, dignity and integrity in a way that few of us are qualified to.

Sharing leadership

Last night here at Kea I ran an introductory evening for a group of people who I'm hoping will join me in a leadership course over the coming year ( CPAS Growing Leaders ). It looks really good and I'm hoping that they will take up the opportunity. I came to the evening with some concern about how it was going to go but ended up really enjoying it - and I think I know why (apart from the great company and good response, of course). The whole dynamic of a leadership programme in the church is something which breaks down the clergy/laity mentality in church. If I was asked to list the things that I find difficult about my work, that would be near the top of the list - the idea that once you get the round collar on, you somehow become a different species to the rest of humanity (and yes, I know some people really believe that, but I don't). I admit to being slightly in two minds about this. I'm actually all in favour of having professional clergy, who are not only g

This Thing of Darkness - Darwin and God revisited

I've just a finished a great book - This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson, his first and only novel, as he sadly died shortly after writing it. It's a fictional reconstruction of the famous voyage of the Beagle , and the relationship between Charles Darwin and the brilliant but flawed Captain of the Beagle , Robert FitzRoy. While Darwin has become a landmark in modern history, FitzRoy is hardly known, and is usually thought of as a footnote to Darwin. "Fictional" is hardly the word, though, as Thompson, drawing on meticulous research, sticks mostly to the facts of the account, proving once again that real life is often more gripping than anything an author can make up. This Thing of Darkness was well received when it was published, although not everybody liked it. Setting aside literary snobbery, the most telling criticism is that Thompson was a little ponderous in the moral messages he puts across. This is completely fair, but there is at least something refreshi

If I don't read your blog...

... it's not necessarily because I don't like it. I'm fast becoming a blog addict, enjoying other people's half-baked ramblings almost as much as I do my own. It's just that now it's so easy to set up and customise a blog, some of your sites look a bit like the online equivalent of a Heath Robinson contraption, with so many gadgets, widgets, and objects tacked on that I can barely find the posts. My four-year old laptop can't cope with the amount of junk code you've bodged on to your site in your DIY madness. The fan almost flies out of the box and the whole screen freezes solid for five minutes while the machine has a strop. You've got gratuitous Youtube clips all over the place, one of those sidebars that tells me your most recent visitor was from Ulan Bator (it doesn't work, by the way - it always tells me that I'm from Berkshire), a widget that tells me I can share your pictures, more pictures under every post with links to other random

Mixing God and politics (bit of a grumble)

Time for a bit of a winge (you were warned). Now that the labour leadership election is hotting up, I'm starting to hear quite a lot about it on Twitter, email, etc., probably reflecting the fact that a lot of the Anglican clergy are a bit left-leaning. Nothing wrong with that, I hasten to add, but I still want to renew my plea to Christian leaders to keep their political allegiances to themselves. Why? It's not because politics and religion don't mix - they do. Christians ought to speak out about the big social issues of the day, and stand up to politicians when policy is wrong. The Church of England has a long and glorious tradition of irritating the heck out of Government by making the point that God does have a lot to say about politics. This, by and large, is a healthy thing (as long as we get our facts right, otherwise it's a bit embarrassing). Nor is my problem with Christians in general getting involved in politics. Party politics is an integral part

Difficult grace

A couple of things that happened recently made me a bit sad about the apparent inability of some Christians to show acceptance and care to the people who most need it. For a bit of inspiration, I returned to Philip Yancey's great little book What's So Amazing About Grace? My favourite quote: "Fortune magazine annually lists the five hundred richest people; no one knows the names of the poorest". I also love the idea of forgiveness as an "unnatural act". So provocative. I like Yancey's book because his vision of grace resonates with my own understanding of it. Like him, I am drawn to the Gospels, which offer us a portrait of a Jesus who goes far beyond what is reasonable in his acceptance and inclusion of people that nobody would touch, literally and metaphorically. The grace of God is not only lavish, unlimited and all-embracing, but it is downright disturbing in its utter refusal to demand anything in payment or to declare anybody off-limits. This is t