Showing posts from October, 2010

The evangelicals are already here

Alan Wilson (Bishop of Buckingham) had a piece in the Guardian's Comment is Free yesterday . I've never encountered Bishop Alan in the non-digital world, but I have a lot of respect for his online persona, especially what he says on his blog . But this time I have to say he's hit a wrong note. Alan's theme is the future of evangelicalism, inspired by last's week's Lausanne Conference in Cape Town (see the previous post). As we'd expect, there's good stuff there, and some useful critical questions to challenge any thinking evangelical. But the piece is still horribly generic, adopting a tone too familiar to anyone of my background who follows Anglican affairs in the media: "those funny evangelicals". In the space of a short article, Bishop Alan suggests that evangelicals are culturally uptight, they don't like gay people very much (although they could if they tried hard enough), and although he is careful to say that he doesn't re

Focus on the city

I was struck by this report of Tim Keller's address to last week's Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. Keller, to me, is the most compelling of the US mega-pastors. He is an intelligent leader in a constituency where that is not universal (notice the report's rather daft reference to his "deep thinking"; so do certain evangelicals characterise someone who has an original thought in his head). He also has a deep commitment to social justice, which is a factor in his church's commitment to the urban community. It was on the subject of "the city" that Keller addressed the congress: Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan told attendees of Lausanne III that if Christians want human life to be shaped by Jesus Christ then churches need to go into cities. Cities are where churches can reach the next generation (young adults want to live in the city); reach more unreachable people (people are far more open to the Gospel in th

True Anglicanism

This is from the Church Times , but I picked it up from Lesley's blog . It's a classic piece of Trumpet reporting. Geoffrey Kirk, an Anglo-Catholic priest who has announced he is leaving the Church of England, addressed the Forward in Faith 'national assembly' last week. In what was clearly an emotional and riveting speech, he revealed his deepest hopes and fears for the future of the church, and even touched on his own mortality. And his audience responded in a way that is so terribly Anglican: Fr Kirk, who has recently suffered ill-health, said that he would probably not see the outcome in the C of E; or, if he did, it would be from another communion and on another continent. The Assembly stood to applaud him, and he was presented with a coffee-maker. Fantastic. "That's enough pathos now, here's your coffee maker, oh and don't forget to hand the keys in on your way out." Some people have been suggesting that Forward in Faith are perhaps not ver

Morally bankrupt Christianity

Thanks to the eChurch Christian Blog for the heads-up on both these stories. First of all, one which has a whiff of the urban myth about it, but may just be true: What would Jesus steal? Yes, a Christian bookshop in Australia allegedly reports persistent shoplifting of their WWJD bracelets. Thus image-conscious Christians can wear their constant reminder to act like Christ, seemingly untroubled by the knowledge that they stole it from its rightful owner. This combined in my mind with the unfortunate case of Steelroots . US religious network goes after UK co-operative youth group A Sheffield-based Christian youth project, Steelroots , was unfortunate enough to pick the same name as a large US Christian set-up (presumably because both originated in communities with historic steel industries). Once they discovered this, the reaction of the American organisation was automatic: to send a legal "cease and desist" letter. Since US Steelroots is backed by the "Inspi

Love your neighbour as yourself

Today at Kea we're looking at Luke 10:25-37, that is, the Good Samaritan. This extraordinary story, one of the ones that would be lost to us if Luke had not recorded it, shows Jesus at his most radical. The man who asks Jesus "who is my neighbour?" is supposed to be an expert in the Torah, the law of God. But he needs a bit of help in understanding one of the two greatest commandments. In reply, Jesus tells a story of a man lying in the gutter who is ignored by two men who should have known better. If the priest and Levite were serious about their religion, they would have obeyed God's law, and crossed the road. It is left to the Samaritan, the one who by rights should have nothing to do with the law of Israel's God, to do what the law requires and help his neighbour. But who is the neighbour in the end? It's not a Jew who helps a Samaritan here, but the other way round. The Good Samaritan shows us that Jesus calls us to reach out way beyond our boundaries t

More thoughts on the Synod controversy (and no more)

The recent post about the failings of synodical process has generated an unprecedented amount of traffic to these pages, even to a rare mention from the Church Mouse , and spun off all kinds of surprising conversations elsewhere in the online universe. Pleasant as it is to have the attention, it has made me re-examine what I said in the light of the knowledge that people are actually reading it, and I feel a few more thoughts are in order: Always Hope has never pretended to be offering fully thought through opinions. It's more in the line of "thinking aloud", and I do welcome people's feedback, because the conversation is interesting, and it helps me form the thoughts more carefully. It may even be that I sometmes deliberately overstate the point. This is not because I court controversy - it's just what I call humour. Regular readers may get used to this and perhaps forgive me for it. You might be interested to know that though I personally am in favour of women i

Prayer for peace

This seems appropriate after all the heat of yesterday: O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life, to serve you is perfect freedom: defend us your servants from all assaults of our enemies, that we may trust in your defence and not fear the power of any adversaries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. This was this morning's collect, a prayer that dates from Cranmer's Prayer Book. Of course this prayer would have felt very different in the violent context of 16 th century England, but still the prayer for peace at a time of religious controversy seems apposite. Is God the lover of concord? That is an interesting question, because the peace of God is not "peace at any price". But I think this prayer captures what it is to be at rest under the sovereignty of God, understanding that it is better to leave the battles to him than to fight them ourselves. In the light of the previous post, it's good to be reminded that it isn&#

Another reason to reform the Synod system

Thanks to Lesley for drawing attention to this on Damian Thompson's blog. Opponents of the proposed scheme for women bishops are apparently rubbing their hands at the prospect of blocking any further progress once the legislation returns to Synod. They believe that the recent election to General Synod has delivered them enough votes to prevent the two-thirds majority needed (why two-thirds, by the way?) for final approval. I have no problem with this in principle. This is supposed to be a democratic process, and if we are silly enough to set up a situation where a one-third minority can block a motion, then so be it. But the way in which this is being touted is thoroughly distasteful. Incidentally, the source for this may not be entirely reliable. I have no idea what the provenance of the "Christian News Release Service" is, but apart from mistrusting any organisation that is capable of such egregious capitalisation, it seems hard to believe that everybody's voting

C of E has churches it can spare

The first Anglo-catholic clergy are breaking ranks and declaring that they will take up the Pope's offer of a free transfer, otherwise known as the Ordinariate. Last week the Bishop of Fulham picked up his ball and walked off the pitch, with a departing blast of extraordinary bile against the Church of England, drawing predictably rude responses from others, all of which is rather dispiriting. But the biggest stir has been created by Stephen Bould, of St Peter's, Folkestone, who has gone one better and announced that his whole parish is going to cross over to "the other side" (that's my quote, not his). Although there has been no official response from his Diocese, or the Church of England nationally, this has sparked a lively debate . The main question is whether it's actually possible for a whole parish to simply leave the Church. Is the Ordinariate just for priests? What would be the legal status of a parish that stepped outside the system? And, most pr

Growing leaders 1

I've mentioned a couple of times that we are running the CPAS Growing Leaders course here at Kea . As we run through it I'm going to blog my thoughts. This is not really about the course itself, although it's excellent and I can recommend it - with a bit of imagination it would be applicable to any church context. It's more about my reflections on the way, and what it reveals and teaches us about the church. Session 1 is demanding and takes participants quickly to the heart of the question - "what is leadership?" Then it asks them to start analysing their own preferred style of leadership. The aim here is simple: to get people to the point where they understand themselves a little better, and to help them see that, since there is not just one style of leadership, they can find a style that fits their own preferences. What still surprises me on these occasions is how many people still struggle to see themselves as leaders within the church. They are able, gi

Foodbank plugs gaps in the welfare state

It's good to see the work of the Trussell Trust get a mention in the news today . The Trust has set up F oodbanks all over the country, including the one here in Truro which was instigated by members of Kea Church. Even in a relatively small community such as ours, every week there are families who find themselves without enough food to get through the week, for whom Foodbank provides a safety net. This isn't really a political comment, more of an observation, that even in a country with a sophisticated benefits system like ours, it's impossible for the Welfare State to cover everybody, all of the time. Foodbank provides a local, small-scale solution that can respond quickly at points of need. As the pressure grows on the already creaking public finances, this kind of work can only become more important. This may not be exactly what the Government intends by the "Big Society", but work like that of the F oodbanks looks set to become part of the fabric fo

Blog Action Day 2010

It's a pleasure to support Blog Action Day 2010, even though Always Hope doesn't contribute many to the 30,000,000-plus readers covered by all the participating blogs. This year the theme is water, something which we should all care about, because it highlights something which simultaneously one of the great injustices of the modern world, and also one of its most "fix-able" problems. Put simply, millions of people are dying because the only water they have is killing them. By the time you have finished reading this, hundreds more people will have died because they have no access to clean drinking water, surely the most preventable of deaths. Water, that most basic of human needs, is denied to millions, unless they choose to drink from polluted and disease-ridden sources. At Kea we support Tear Fund , the international Christian charity, which has long campaigned on the issue of clean water. I can also recommend WaterAid , a non-religious charity w

There's always hope - 14th October 2010

Apparently the San Jose mine rescue has already become a sermon illustration banker for this Sunday. But so what? This is not a time for cynicism. Today, as well as a phenomenal success story, we had a demonstration that the one thing, more than any other, that lights the candle of the human imagination is hope. This blog wants to suggest that the reason for this is that the ability to hope is hard-wired into us by the Creator and the Object of hope, God who offers us a future when everything else is lost. There's always hope.

Horse goes to the dogs

Today sees a rare foray into the field of ancient religion for Always Hope. The mystical White Horse of Uffington, which allegedly represents the spiritual longings of our Bronze Age ancestors, has been subject to the scrutiny of the satisfyingly named Olaf Swarbrick. Mr Swarbrick's iconoclastic conclusion is that the horse thing has us all barking up the wrong tree: what we're seeing is actually a big white dog . Exhibit A: Mr Swarbrick is a retired vet, so unless his memory is suffering, we must assume he knows his horse from his dog. But with due respect to his anatomical expertise, his theory seems to rest on the observation that it doesn't look much like a horse.  Put like this, it starts to seem a bit less original. Most casual observers would have to have the animal identified if seeing it without prior warning because, let's be honest, it doesn't look much like a dog either, or any other recognisable creature of the Oxfordshire landscape. 

NSS gets in a tizzy again

The National Secular Society has published its latest outpouring of righteous indignation. The object of wrath this time is the BBC, who have altered their editorial policy , extending a list of controversial subjects that need to be handled with care, to include religion. In practice this seems to mean that editors will not broadcast items that are likely to cause offence to religious groups. Whether religion needs this sort of protection is an interesting question. But the NSS contributes nothing to this debate by putting out a press statement that can be accurately summarised as follows: "it's not FAAAIIIRRRRRR......" In fact this would accurately summarise most of their communiqu├ęs. When I first became aware of the NSS and similar organisations, I found them quite threatening, imagining them to be a real danger to the freedom of faith and conscience that we enjoy in this country. But the more I hear of them, the less I can take them seriously. There's a real pr

On the selection of bishops

Bishops are a perpetual source of fascination to Anglican blogs, and Always Hope is no exception. Yesterday the appointment of a new Diocesan Bishop was announced , that of Christopher Chessun to Southwark. See Nick Baines's blog for the insider view on this. This excited some comment, but not a great deal of heated debate, in fact the excitement level hardly twitched the needle of the blogs and mews media. The notice follows the standard pattern for these announcements - a potted biography of the new Bish, with some compliments from a reliable colleague. In Bishop Chessun's case, surely the most interesting thing this reveals is that he has an identical twin. For those outside the Diocese of Southwark, there was the temptation to think that he might be just a teeny bit dull. But how much of what a good minister does is really that exciting, after all? The new man at Southwark has been a curate, canon, rector, archdeacon and area bishop. He has simply got on with his ministry

Vicars who don't like Harvest

A little blog-spat has broken out among the clergy bloggers over Harvest Festivals. The Church Mouse (who may or may not be a Reverend Mouse) started it , and now Thurible has weighed in on his side. What I'm really interested in are the comments on these posts, revealing a split between vicars who think Harvest is A Good Thing, and those who think of it in the same league as having a tooth drilled. This blog is firmly pro-Harvest. And to be honest, I'm feeling a little unsympathetic to some of the points of view that my fellow clergy are putting forward. Vicars who don't get Harvest? Next they'll be saying they don't like funerals (hang on a minute...) Anyway, maybe I've just been following the Conservative Party Conference too closely, but Always Hope wants to dish out some no-nonsense advice to these Harvest refuseniks. There seem to be several possible reasons for not liking Harvest: 1. "I'm not into country things". Yes, well, since you

A serious theological contribution

Only joking. By way of a plug for the marvellous Dave Walker, click here , a link which, it just happens, contains an irreverent cartoon about Calvinism. Makes you think, though. Calvinism as understood by its modern advocates seems to imply that we are really predestined to go to that particular seminar, to choose that particular path in life, to wear that particular pair of socks today. I can't help feeling that's not really what Calvin had in mind (or Paul, for that matter).  It encourages a mindset of "what will be, will be", which doesn't seem very biblical at all to me. 

the starbucks church video

This isn't new, but it's been doing the rounds of the UK blogs. Always Hope makes no particular claim to originality, so I share it with you in case you haven't seen it yet: OK, it doesn't work at every point, and some of it doesn't cross the Atlantic very well, but it makes you think, especially about the general naffness of so much of the stuff we do in church. My favourite bit is the "greeter" who blatantly ignores the people coming in - one of my bugbears in church, and something which I had the opportunity to experience personally last year when I visited some of England's best known evangelical churches (tell you which ones? perish the thought.) I think it's quite subtle too. The bit that really makes me think is when he's going on about "we got 75 converts last year - 75!". Don't misunderstand me - I do believe there's "rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents" [Luke 15:7], but I don't think tha