Showing posts from May, 2015

Future Church of England: Evangelical Conversations and Same-Sex Marriage Part II

Some time ago, I wrote about a day conference of evangelicals on the question of same-sex relationships and the Church of England. A number of thoughts have been percolating on that one over the past few months, especially a the Diocese of Manchester and my own deanery seem intent on celebrating same-sex relationships.

The recent vote in Ireland has been seen as a significant marker post in moving the discussion along and in particular in the collapse of the influence of the church.

In a perceptive piece from Matthew Parris, asking for a more coherent case from the church for traditional marriage, he writes of the repeated process of revision:

"In which case, when we run out of male celibates we shall adjust a previously absolute doctrine to a more relaxed view of priestly duty. When we run short of male priests altogether (celibate or not) we shall review the teaching on women priests. When we run short of parishioners on their first marriage, we’ll think again about divorce. A…

Too much about your experience?

This may be something of a rant.  In fact, I think there are some ways in which I'm wrong about this (see below).  But I really want to read and hear less about people's personal experience.  The thing is, I've read quite a lot of Christian books and listened to talks on controversial topics over the last few years and frankly I'm getting tired of the huge amounts of autobiography I have to wade through.

It usually goes something like this.  I'm writing about controversial topic X.  I've had a real battle with X over the years.  I had so many difficult and thought-provoking experiences with X that I've had to reflect deeply, which means you should really listen to me about X, because of my deep and challenging experience.

Can I say to anyone writing one of those books, I'm not that interested in your experience!  I'm interested in your arguments, your reasons and particularly in your explanation of how Scripture relates to it.  I take 2 Timothy 3:16…

Acts 15 and Shared Conversations

I'm reading David Jackman's Understanding the Church at the moment and finding it very stimulating.  One of his chapters is on the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, which he entitles "Solving Problems and Moving Forward." In it he applies the situation in Acts 15 to conflict in churches. He has 5 good principles at the end of the chapter, which in summary are:

Open, frank discussion is necessary (vv.2, 4, 6, 12).Remove personal prejudices (James' Jewish background) and instead look for guidance it what God has done in people's lives (vv.7-11).Test everything against Scripture (vv.14-18).Refuse to compromise the gospel (vv.2, 11, 19).Respect other's scruples on non-primary areas. It struck me as interesting in the light of the conversations on sexuality in the Church of England. They would appear to be fairly strong on principles 1 and 2, but very weak on principles 3-5.
The discussions appear to be fairly open and frank - although I suppose you could argue the…

The Evangelism Conundrum

How exactly do we reach people with the gospel in 21st Century Britain?  It's a key question, as all our church statistics seem to plummet.

I went to a conference a little while ago looking at reaching out to Muslim communities in Britain with the good news of Jesus.  I suppose I went hoping to find the answers and it was a useful conference.  However, the main take-home was that no-one really knows how to do it, they're just trying stuff and it hasn't been very fruitful - at least not yet.

Then I was talking to a friend about the evangelism strategy of his church - I guess a lot of people would think of it as dated.  It wasn't bearing much fruit, but then I thought about all the other strategies, some of which are much trendier, and I don't see them bearing much fruit.

It seems to me that you can track something of a shift.  Some time up to the mid-eighties university missions and Billy Graham Crusades, were the big thing.  In many ways they were effective.  I th…

Book Review: A Christian's Pocket Guide to Islam

First, a couple of warnings.  The less significant one is that I read the Christian Focus reprint of the 2001 version.  There's now a revised edition.  Second, if you follow events in the Christian world you may know that the author, Patrick Sookhdeo, was found guilty of sexual assault recently.  Should we use his books in that light?  Well, we are all sinners saved by grace on the one hand, but on the other we are called to holiness, especially if we are leaders. Personally, my view is to proceed with caution, and to be very cautious in recommending the book to others (including you if you are reading this!).

Those warnings in place, let me say that this book is a short and simple introduction to Islam from a Christian perspective.  It covers beliefs, practices and different groupings within Islam clearly and helpfully, as well as occasionally making comments on how Christians can productively interact with Muslims.  It is very clearly written and very informative as a first boo…

Future Church of England: Thinking About the Thirty Nine - Part 1

What place, if any, should the 39 Articles of Religion, or for that matter any confession of faith, take in the future of the Church of England?

I mentioned in a previous post that we're preaching a few at a time through the 39 Articles, which is part of the formularies of the Church of England and I think is rightly seen as the historic confession of faith of the Church of England.  Reading them and about them, as well as thinking of their Scriptural foundation has caused me to reflect on their purpose and their value today.

Some of you may know of the Latimer Trust booklet by Packer and Beckwith on this topic, which was originally from 1984 I think and has been updated.  I have to admit to not having read that yet (it's on the list!), but I would imagine that it is considerably more reliable than these blog posts.  These are simply my reflections working as a pastor in the Church of England today.

I wanted to start by summarising what I see as the attitude to the Articles.

Christians, Politics and Social Media

There has been a little bit of a furore in general about political views and how social media is used in expressing them recently.  I've also noticed a few Christians get a bit frustrated about what's been appearing on Facebook from other believers and some fairly interesting if occasionally heated debates.

So four thoughts from me about how I want to engage with these kinds of things (something I concede I've not done perfectly):

1. Passion is Good

First, I'm quite encouraged to see people passionately trying to apply their faith to politics.  It's not the only area and not the most important area, but it's good to see people grapple with it and take it seriously.  If we're to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then that applies in the area of politics too.

2. Overstatement is Bad

Second, both among Christians and non-Christians I've seen some surprising overstatement.  At its extreme its where someone implies that if you're a…

A Spiritual Battle