Monthly Archives: August 2007

Holy Communion contrasts

Two posts which relate to communion and attitudes to it.

First from Adrian something written by Sam Storms as a new instalment in his debate on Baptism, the whole post is worth reading: Sam Storms, John Piper, and John Bunyan vs. Wayne Grudem, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever.

In
fact, let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the Lord’s
Table is celebrated every Sunday at Capitol Hill Baptist Church
(although I don’t think it is). This would mean that Dever’s Anglican
or Presbyterian friend might conceivably preach a profoundly biblical
message on the gospel of the dying and rising Christ and salvation
through him alone, only to be told (if not in words then surely by the
actions then taken) that he must sit to the side and refrain from
receiving the elements that symbolize and embody the very dying and
rising Christ whom he only moments before so faithfully and biblically
proclaimed.

In this not unlikely scenario, the visiting paedo-baptist might
even reinforce the truth of the gospel message by pointing to the
elements on the table before him, articulating with passion and
humility how the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood, here symbolized
by the bread and wine, have secured for all Christians forgiveness of
sins and eternal life. He would then, I suppose, be led away from the
elements and told that although he is no less trusting in what they
represent than are his credo-baptist brothers and sisters, he cannot
partake with them in the supper.

and from earlier in the post

For
some brethren to look at Ligon Duncan (or others in his camp) and say,
"We believe the same gospel, we preach the same gospel, but we refuse
to express that belief and proclaim that gospel with you by means of
the ordinance that Jesus commissioned as an expression of our unity and
our confident hope in its capacity to save," calls into serious
question the significance of the word "together".

Now for a contrast see this quote that Ruby Beech includes in her post: Book Review and  looking forward to Greenbelt.

At a moment when right wing American Christianity is ascendant, when religion worldwide is rife with fundamentalism and exclusionary ideological crusades, I stumbled into a radically inclusive faith centered on sacraments and action. What I found wasn’t about angels or going to church or trying to be "good" in a pious, idealised way. It wasn’t about arguing a doctrine – the Virgin birth, predestination, the sinfulness of homosexuality and divorce – or pledging blind allegiance to a denomination. I was, as the prophet said, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subsersive practice; a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcasts are honoured. And so I became a Christian, claiming a faith that many of my fellow believers want to exclude me from; following a God my unbelieving friends see as archaic superstition.

So this lady, Sara Miles, met Christ at Holy Communion (which, as I have said before, in the Methodist tradition is considered a saving ordinance).

Two challenges:

First how do we connect the dots? I know we will not agree on this but I think it is important to discuss. Sam makes a strong argument on the divisions within the Together for the Gospel team. The other case takes it further, in that we have someone who discovered a thirst for righteousness and route into faith through receiving the very communion that many churches would deny her. How do we respond to the challenge that in our desire to be righteous we may keep others from salvation?

Secondly, I think this gets to the heart of many of arguments I have with supporters of Together for the Gospel. Take for example the issue of gender. Suppose we consider two other scenarios similar to Sam’s.

Scenario 1

A member/supporter of Together for the Gospel, maybe Adrian himself, is invited to preach in Raunds. This is important to us, so we have a joint service with Methodists and Anglicans to make it a big occasion. As part of our progress to sharing in mission together we decide to celebrate communion during that service. The vicar presides. Our vicar is a woman. Having preached to this congregation will you receive communion from a woman?

Scenario 2

I, with some colleagues, come to one of the services at a church where the minister is a member/supporter of Together for the Gospel. Suppose you have decided that we can receive communion despite having been baptised as infants. Will it matter that there are ordained women in our group?

There are many many more scenarios that need to be considered. As we do so I guess that there will be fears about slippery slopes. To me these are signs of the costs of love and discipleship, kingdom values and living are always going to challenge and stretch us (that is one of the things I love about being a disciple). The alternative is a simplistic approach that appears to make life simple but has dangers. Sam has started to address what I consider to be the edges of this, that is a good start but only a start.

What do you think?

Ministry for younger Methodists

Our President has been asking about training for younger Methodists. I (inevitably having an opinion) commented. Overnight I was thinking some more about this and have a modified suggestion.

Goals.

Encourage more and younger people to consider a ministry within the Methodist Church. Some basic parameters for this

  • Do not take them out of the context/culture where God is calling them to serve
  • Avoid training them for a ministry of maintenance in traditional church (unless that is what they are called to).
  • Avoid hoops that are controlled entirely by people who are out of touch with mission, fresh expressions etc
  • Avoid irrelevant hoops
  • Excite and challenge them
  • Do provide them with Theology that will equip, develop & excite them
  • Provide for exploring vocation and calling by being and doing rather than studying and being interviewed (ie focus on active rather than passive)
  • Flexibility and agility are important as are teamwork & collaboration.
  • Mentoring has been under utilized in the present system

Therefore I think it may be worth developing something along these lines:

  • Offer two year appointments for Mission Pioneers.
  • The appointment is to ‘change the world’ type roles. Some will be sent to places where there is a need (from Martyns post "among poorer contexts
    like housing estates, and church planting in pretty unchurched areas") others will be kept within the context where they are already serving (eg within a Fresh Expression).
  • Each two year appointment includes part-time  theological/ministerial training that is equivalent to a 1 year degree course (ie over 3 appointments you get a certificate, then a diploma and then a degree), for those who already have a degree then appropriate training to a higher level would be offered (MA, PHD)
  • Where possible Mission Pioneers to live in community together (eg a team of 4 Mission Pioneers sharing a house), to model Christian community and to provide a base for their mission.
  • Towards the end of each appointment there is a review/appraisal to decide whether to continue.
  • After 4 or more years Mission Pioneers should be able to candidate directly for ordination as a Deacon or Presbyter. If accepted they would move directly into being a probationer.
  • Ministers (Deacons and Presbyters) who have come from being Mission Pioneers should not be forced into a traditional circuit ministry, instead further opportunities should be found for them to exercise their ministry.
  • If a mission pioneer is called to preach then their training should be such that after 2 years they can be accredited as a Local Preacher (ie it should be a substitute for Faith and Worship).

Some of the challenges to overcome

  • The present system attempts to be appropriate to candidates with very different levels of theological education with varying degrees of success (very little in the case of Faith and Worship, quite a lot better in the case of foundation and ministerial training). A successful Mission Pioneer system must from the outset be appropriate and helpful to candidates whose education ended at 16 and who have no formal theology training as well as those with A’Levels or degrees (including degrees in theology).
  • What do we pay? I propose not a lot. Financially this could be offered as a way to work your way through a degree without getting into debt. So you get to serve God for 6 years in return for training, accommodation, no student loans, pension contributions and a small income.
  • A bureaucracy that could take 10 years to decide this. But we already have stuff sorted for Lay Workers. Could Mission Pioneers be considered a form of Lay Worker with special conditions? We have 3 years after the first MP’s start to get the move onto Ordained ministry sorted.

What do you think?

More on Facebook

Since writing 42: Exploring Facebook I have spent a fair bit of time doing just that. This is a collection of my thoughts and experience, plus some of the things others have said.

Good things about Facebook

  • It is good for finding, getting in touch with and maintaining contact with friends.
  • It is fun. Lots of little fun bits (why you are friends with people, sending fish to their aquariums, doing Harry Potter magic on people). Joining wacky groups ("sad" Methodists can go and join CPD is fun!, I have managed to resist temptation so far).
  • My old (yes you are old Terry) minister Terry Hudson and I have enjoyed teasing each other (sending spells and fish to and fro) in a way that we have done for a few years since we both left Crawley. When your friends are scattered geographically (as is often the case for Methodist Ministers) that is a really good thing.

Bad things about Facebook

  • The geographical networks don’t work well for the UK. They should have proper regions or counties setup, instead it is very random so that I am in the Leicester Network which is almost completely irrelevant to me.
  • The group discussions are pathetic. They lack so much of what we now expect in discussions. For example you cannot be notified of new topics, or messages (unless they are a reply to you), only 3 topics get displayed on the group page (so having multiple topics on the go at a time does not work well), it does not track what you have read, it does not support threading (where posts are shown nested within the post they are responding to). This is all very lame indeed and reduces the power of groups massively. There are 1,000′s of web based discussion group apps that are much better than this (and for those that have them blogs with comments are generally far more powerful).
  • The walled garden element. It does not give us safe privacy (although a lot of users behave as if it does) and it locks our data away.
  • Terms and Conditions & privacy. All these suck. Plenty has been written about these elsewhere. Too many greedy lawyers involved in setting these up and too little respect for people. These last 2 will keep me from making Facebook a full digital home.

Methodist things about Facebook

Many Methodists seem to have made quite a home on Facebook. It has been really good to see Ruby Beech our Vice President getting stuck in. See her blogging about it. There are now 362 members of UK Methodists where despite the limitations of the site there are good discussions happening. Lots of more specialised Methodist Groups as well. There are a growing number of people owning up to being employed by the Methodist Church of Great Britain (well 6 in my network). Clearly a good place to listen to and engage with younger Methodists.

It maybe that Methodists are more likely to engage at a Connexional (national) level than some other Christians. For example the Church of England group has only 130 members. Ekklesia have written about that in the past.

Where will this go? I will be watching with interest (and less intensively than this weekend!). With a few  tweaks (key to me sorting privacy, lowering the walls by allowing better access to data including export, improved discussions) Facebook could be transformational.

Baptism

Adrian has been collecting arguments on Baptism, the latest is Lig Duncan Speaks Up for Paedobaptists (which I accept and think it makes the key biblical points).

My own position on issues in this debate (baptism, membership, admission to Holy Communion) are essentially:

Baptism

  • I am delighted to baptise infants, adults and anyone in-between.
  • I will not baptise anyone who has already been baptised (as an adult or infant or anything in-between) in any Christian church. If they honestly do not know if they have been baptised then I will perform a conditional baptism.
  • I am delighted to baptise by either full-immersion or sprinkling (not very happy with options in-between these).

Membership

  • Baptism (as an adult, infant or in-between) is required for membership of the Methodist Church. I will accept any Christian baptism.
  • I will not withhold membership from anyone who has chosen to be re-baptised as an adult.
  • If a member wishes to be re-baptised then I will discuss the matter with them, I will offer alternatives such as a celebration of renewal or commitment and testimony. If they still choose to be re-baptised in another Church then I will support them in that decision. I will not reject anyone over such a decision.
  • I will work with other Churches to transfer membership as simply as possible, however, I will argue against Churches that demand re-baptism for membership transfer.

Holy Communion

  • All the Churches I serve have an open communion table. All who know or wish to know the Lord are welcome, they do not need to be Methodists or members of any specific Church.
  • I am delighted to serve the elements to children and aim to ensure that all in our Junior Churches have some teaching about Holy Communion
  • At least in theory the Methodism Church restricts communion to those who have been baptised. However, I have never heard the question be asked of anyone.
  • I follow John Wesley in that I see Holy Communion as a potentially saving sacrament. It is a sacrament where people can meet the Lord for the first time. As such I believe it should be open to all.

Ecumenical

  • I have presided at Communion in Methodist and Baptist Churches and soon in the local Church of England.
  • The local Baptist Church where I share in ministry has specifically agreed to allow me to conduct infant baptisms there if desired by parents. They have also accepted into membership Methodists and others without requiring adult baptism.

My Experience and opinions

  • I know a number of people who have been re-baptised from choice and found it a very profound experience in their Christian journey
  • I know too many people who have been bullied into re-baptism, not because they were convinced it was the right thing for their Christian journey but in order to been accepted into a Church, for example so that their children could attend the Sunday School. I find this situation distasteful, unloving and believe that it represents poor pastoral practice.
  • I have met people with guilt that they should have dedicated their children and not baptised them. I have met just as many people who felt guild that they should have baptised their children and not dedicated them. If your children do not continue in the faith then blaming this decision (whichever you chose) seems to be common (and in my opinion unhelpful).
  • I was baptised as an infant, confirmed as a teenager and have had many significant (to me) points in my Christian life. I have not felt the need or call to be re-baptised. While they were alive this was at least in part as I felt such a decision would be hurtful to my parents as it would seem to reject the choice they had made in good faith (and worked to keep the promises they made).
  • Jane and I chose to baptise our 3 sons as infants. I am happy with that decision. If any of them ever want to be re-baptised then, while I will not do the baptism, I will support them in that choice.
  • Some of the statements you read about the essential nature of adult baptism for salvation are very problematical to me. They ignore so much Church history. Even ignoring the present generation (which you can’t) what about all the giants of the faith in the past who were baptised as infants? Are they suddenly not Christian anymore?

Hopefully that makes my own position clear. If not just ask away in the comments.

Exploring Facebook

After Adrian wrote about it FACEBOOK – Resistance is Futile I have been exploring Facebook a little. I have reservations mostly due to it’s balkanisation of the web, however, it does remind me somewhat of Compuserve in the early 1990′s.

Anyway I have a profile: Facebook | Dave Warnock come and make yourself a friend if you are on Facebook already (or sign up and then become a friend)..

I have created a group too Facebook | Northampton Methodist District so if you are a member of the Northampton District please join.

So far there are a whole two of us with "Methodist Church of Great Britain" as our employer so come and join John and I if you are a Minister (Deacon or Presbyter) or in any other employed by the Methodist Church.

Coincidently John and I are currently the only two people with "Presbyter" as our Job Title, again come and join us if it applies to you, the water is warm.

There are a few limitation when it comes to networks. Leicester was the nearest geographically which is pretty bad. Also UMIST was not in the list of colleges (nor SEITE but that is less surprising).

I have joined a number of other groups but am looking for more Methodist/Theological/Christian ones in particular.

No change

Well that is good I have not changed much (h.t.: The Simple Pastor: This was interesting).

 

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan, You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God’s grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

79%

Roman Catholic

71%

Neo orthodox

71%

Emergent/Postmodern

57%

Classical Liberal

50%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

43%

Modern Liberal

43%

Reformed Evangelical

36%

Fundamentalist

0%

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Methinks confusion abounds

So at Patterson vs. Parham on “Should Women Stay at Home?” « Levellers you can watch a video of two white men debating (in front of a female news presenter) whether women should stay at home.

You really can’t make this up.

I would have thought a short course in history, oh and actually reading the Bible might be a good idea. (Sorry for the over the top sarcasm but my tooth that is no longer there is hurting the the present making me even less patient with this rubbish).

Confused by Adrian

I know that we are all inconsistent and that our thinking develops over time. However, Adrian’s current agreement with me leaves me rather confused.

In THE GOSPEL – Do Nothing! Adrian is agreeing with my post 42: Something to do! which links to GospelDrivenLife: Living in the Gospel in an age of self-help.

My problem is that this view seems to be in conflict with so much of what Adrian normally writes. For example The simple gospel in 10 points is a detailed list of exactly what we need to DO to be saved. I argued with it at the time and it still seems to me to be a great example of a self help program which is exactly what the current posts are arguing against.

Or take everything that Adrian has written on atonement, in every case he attempts to tie down exactly what we must believe in order to be an Evangelical Christian. Yet now he highlights in red:

If people leave my preaching confident in the rules and principles I have given them, I have preached a false Gospel. If
they leave the room confident in the faithful grace and power of the
Savior to work in them as they seek to obey — I have preached the
Gospel.

As a simple and naive person I do not understand how these can be compatible. Adrian lays down clear rules and principles and tells us to be confident in them, now he is telling us that to do that is to preach a false gospel.

So Adrian, has your understanding and teaching moved on from laying down detailed processes and requirements on how we get saved? Has your understanding and teaching moved on from laying down the law about exactly what must be believed?

links for 2007-08-13