Monthly Archives: September 2008

More Hope in Thrapston

Christians in Thrapston have engaged with Hope 08 more than anywhere else I know of. Tonight (Tuesday) we had another open meeting to worship together, share what has happened and look to the future.

This was the 4th meeting of this type in 12 months and the numbers were up a bit on the last meeting in the summer (over 40 and some entirely new faces which was great). Wonderful to see that people are getting more enthusiastic as time goes on. Given the large number of projects completed so far (over a dozen) I was a little worried we would see fatique setting in, but instead people are signing up earlier for projects and tonight people were sharing dreams for 2010!

Tonight we had a talk from Camille, the Northamptonshire rep for Hope UK. That got a very positive response and I know quite a few people have expressed interest in getting involved in drug awareness and promoting drug (includes smoking and alcohol) free lifestyles.

We then had a time of thanksgiving focusing on 4 events from this summer with different people praying while we had a slide show of pictures from the events. Tonight we thanked God for:

  • The Hope 08 involvement with the Thrapston Charter Fair. We have had an amazing amount of positive feedback from the public as well as the organisers and stall holders.
  • Thrapston Praise in the Park this was a first and was considered a great success, it will be back in 2009 (and we are told in 2010). A great way to recover from the Charter Fair by praising God in the Peace Park.
  • Holiday Kids Club, over 100 kids for a week. A huge success with new people involved. Apparently the kids are still talking about it at school.
  • Holiday at home, another new venture. Four days for the more elderly in the community with many different activities (from gentle exercise to visiting choirs, to crafts, visits from the community police, films, …). So popular that people wanted to book again for next year before this year’s event had finished.

We then looked forward with a variety of people talking about projects coming up in the near future. One of the exciting things is how quickly projects move from dream to reality with relatively independant teans just getting on with things. So even though I have been invloved in several projects there is always stuff to learn about what is about to happen.

This is what is planned for the rest of 2008 by Hope 08 in Thrapston

  • Light Party at Halloween (31 Oct). A fun packed party for kids to give an alternative to "trick or treating", guaranteed ghost and gould free.
  • CAP Money Course. Our first course will be November 12th, 19th and 26th in the lounge at Thrapston Baptist Church, from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. I think we already have about 14 signed up, but have space for a few more and we will run more courses in the new year. We will be looking for a non-church venue for future courses. See 42: Helping during the Credit Crunch & 42: Money Management.
  • Operation Christmas Child is well under way with a target of well over 300 shoeboxes full of presents for children who would otherwise not receive anything this Christmas.
  • Tough Talk are coming to Thrapston on November 22nd, tickets are available.
  • 24×7 Prayer week. Starting 3pm Saturday 29th November and running until 3pm Saturday 6th December at St James. Another first for Thrapston and something I am very excited about as the 24×7 prayers we have had in Raunds have been amazing. I have blogged about them a fair bit 42: 24×7 prayer – Google Search. We already have volunteers for 4am and 5am each day and lots of groups wanting to provide a wide variety of prayer opportunities besides individual prayer.
  • Outdoor nativity play. To provide a proper end to the 24×7 prayer week at 2:30pm on Saturday 6th December there will be a nativity around St James (some inside and some outside) which will end with a procession to sing carols around the towen Christmas Tree when the lights will be switched on (and may even work this year). The Town Council are then putting on refreshments in the Plaza.
  • There will be a Senior Alpha Cousre being run at Home Court Flats starting Monday November 3rd. From 5pm til 7pm.
  • Holiday at Home Christmas Party, for the impatient among the older members of the community who can’t wait til next summer’s Holiday at Home there will be a Christmas Party (date to be confirmed)

Of course that is in addition to the on-going projects, such as:

  • Space2B now at St James every Saturday from 12 til 2 – an opportunity for quiet, a chat & prayer
  • Town Prayers 12.30-1.30pm every Tuesday at Thrapston baptist Church

Wow there is so much happening it takes ages just to type a list of it all.

I have deliberately not included contact details as I don’t have permission to plaster them over the internet but if you leave a comment I will respond by email.

Making Christianity irrelevant

Sadly it seems to me that the results of the recent UK Bloggers meeting do a good job of making Christianity appear relevant.

Have a look at these 10 commandments for bloggers: Ruth Gledhill: ‘Thou shalt…. blog!’. What do you think?

I think the following:

1. What a naff process, the 10 commandments got changed dramatically from what the bloggers saw in advance (see Olive’s comment and Richard’s post). That seems poor and caused by a desire to fit a newspaper news cycle rather than to actually get something right and agreed.

2. What naff language! Interesting that they came out at about the same time as Wayne Leman wrote Better Bibles Blog: how to pray in contemporary English. What a pity that, at least as a starting point, they did not get someone to review the language to make it at least slightly relevant.

3. Then there is the attitude this demonstrates to scripture. The Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith includes:

3. The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God—fully
trustworthy for faith and conduct.

Now according to scripture the original 10 commandments were given to Moses by God. How does a bunch of bloggers using a flawed process to create 10 blogging commandments and get them out to the media compare? All it does is undermine the real scriptures, the original 10 commandments. As such this is not just irrelevant but damaging to the Christian faith. I can just imagine comments like:

Hey Guys, you know those commandments that Christians used to tell us were so important, well obviously they did not mean it because they have just created a new completely different set, I wonder if the other commandments were created by a bunch of people chatting together for a few hours.

4. What bad commandments. I mean even if you had a good process, used relevant language and managed to avoid damaging the authority of Scripture – these are just bad commandments in all kinds of ways. Lets look at some of them.

7.  You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind. Well excuse me but a) this is not specific to blogging and b) since when was it decided that it was ok to commit or permit adultery anywhere. We don’t need a new commandment about adultery as the proper 10 commandments and the teaching of Jesus are absolutely chrystal clear that adultery is wrong.

8.  You shall not steal another person’s content.
9.  You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe that the original 10 commandments are pretty clear that theft and false testimony are wrong. Are those original 10 commandments an old unsupported version that has been replaced?

4.  Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog.
Why? Should I also take a day off from other forms of reflection about my discipleship?

5. So if any 10 commandments, and these in particular, do nothing to make Christian faith relevant then what should be done. I suggest that a thought through code of practice would be a much better idea. This would properly address the issues of concern and could appear relevant and appropriate to the world. The process of creation could bring bloggers together and by appropriately referencing guiding scripture would introduce people to the Bible and show why it is relevant and has authority today.

As a rough idea I am thinking of something like this. Suppose you wish to address a concern that people are being led/encouraged into adultery through their blogging, you might create a guideline such as:

We commit ourselves to appropriate and healthy relationships in our blogging. We believe that God has created us so that we are only fully human when in relationship to others. Scripture teaches us that the quality of these relationships is of vital importance. Sadly the freedom and anonymity of the internet can lead us into bad relationships and damage existing ones. We therefore seek to find appropriate ways of being accountable for our online relationships for the good of our families and communities. The 10 commandments make it clear adultery is always wrong and Jesus makes it clear that this extends to the way we look at and treat other people. We therefore seek to keep our online relationships in accordance with his teaching …

Yeah I know, far too wordy. But hopefully you get the idea and can see how it could be applied to the other issues.

I hope that over time some good can come of this and that together we can do much better in the future.

[update] thinking a little more. Is blogging really a significant cause of adultery? I must be living a different kind of life because I just don’t see that. Are we just being evangelical Christians, who by definition seem to be screwed up on and obsessed by sex issues?

[update 2] A great post Faith and Theology: The (new) ten commandments for bloggers this beautifully illustrates the problem in a humorous way.

Moving beyond a failed banking system

So the Bradford and Bingley has failed and is going to be nationalised (at least in part) see BBC NEWS | Business | Treasury to nationalise B&B bank.

Note this:

Our business editor says the nationalisation and break-up of B&B
represents a momentous event in the history of British banking.

He said: "It will mean that every building society that floated on the
stock market in the wave of demutualisations of the past two decades
will either have collapsed or been sold to a conventional bank."

I think it is about time we abandoned these banks that have failed to behave responsibly. Why don’t we return to mutual societies, co-operatives and credit-unions.

Some resources:

I am beginning to think we should be exploring starting credit-unions. They seem a much better way of supporting people by encouraging saving, through local loans and through no silly, unsustainable, dodgy attempts to make lots of money in ways that are not based on reality.

Either that or really go back to small local mutual building societies, something of a scale where every member will know people who have mortgages with them, where re-possessions will be of friends and neighbours and so far more will be done to avoid them. Where defaulters on repayments meet the people whose savings are affected. Where there are no credit-cards, no overdraft facilities, no incentives for people to get into debt.

Small local scale would seem to be a much better option for us all.

We also need a way to invest in local business, keep it separate from people’s basic savings and make it about long term sustainable development of a community through local business. A credit union or mutual society for business rather than domestic loans and facilities.

One thing is for sure we need to build on better foundations than the current banking system, something that puts ordinary people back in charge and where their money is not used for crazy risk taking or huge bonuses.

I have done a quick search and have not found any local credit-unions for people in East Northants (update many parts of Northamptonshire are covered by what looks like a council sponsored Credit Union: Northamptonshire: How do I join a Credit Union?), but I see many churches across the country supporting their local credit unions. Maybe we should be doing the same.

 

Don’t wake me up before you go go.

Nearly a first for the last 16 years, a lie in beckons for Saturday.

  • Youngest son is away on a sleepover and won’t need collecting til lunchtime tomorrow.
  • Middle son will go out at 9:30am without waking us! He won’t be back til after tea time.
  • Oldest son is getting a lift to orchestra in the morning and won’t need collecting until 12:30pm

Whooo hooo, we going to get a lie in and a morning of peace and quiet. Don’t expect to see any open curtains till midday, answerphone will be on, the lights will be out and the doorbell rarely works anyway.

We do love our kids, especially when they are out on a Saturday morning without needing lifts from us.

Progress out of Male Headship

In CBMW » Editorial (CBMW = Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. A headline organisation for Male Headship in the USA) we see a former Male Headship Church making huge steps away from male headship. Points 1 to 4 are excellent, point 5 needs work (IMHO), but the article recognises how significant this is and how challenging to male headship supporters, it also recognises that keeping point 5 (male elders) is probably not sustainable (hallelujah).

After extensive research and discussion Irving Bible Church concluded:

  1. The accounts of creation and the fall (Genesis 1-3) reveal a fundamental equality between men and women.
  2. Women exercised significant ministry roles of teaching and leading with God’s blessing in both Old and New Testaments.
  3. Though the role of women was historically limited, the progress of revelation indicates an ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church.
  4. Key New Testament passages restricting women’s roles were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all time and places.
  5. Though women are free to use all of their giftedness in teaching and leading in the church, the role of elder seems to be biblically relegated to men.

Hat tip: Complegalitarian: A High-Profile Conversion to Egalitarianism.

Missing out on theology

Adrian Warnock is amazed: Theology Is For Women, Too.

Oh wow, thanks Adrian for so kindly pointing out that the other 50% of people created in God’s image are able to think about God – I would never have guessed without you pointing it out.

Of course what Adrian means is not that women can do theology, but they can do it in a way acceptable to him as a devotee and practitioner of male headship (oh yes, and of course their books are not for him to read but for his wife).

In fact there are many examples of women theologians, here are a few that have influenced me:

  • As bloggers:  Pam and Sally are two favourite Methodist theologians in my blogroll. With Maggie a favourite non-Methodist (Pam and Maggie being ordained ministers and Sally on the way)
  • As authors I have been particularly blessed by Margaret Silf and Sandra Schneiders
  • As a Biblical scholar Dr Ann Nyland continually blesses me with her translation "The Source"
  • As teachers of theology: Rev Judith Maizel-Long, Rev Angela Shier-Jones, Rev Jane Leach
  • As mentors: Rev Sam Funnell
  • As pastors: Rev Pat Creamer, Rev Jane Ashplant, Rev Shiela Purdey
  • As my bosses boss (ie Northamton District Chair): Rev Alison Tomlin
  • As colleagues: Pastor Rosemary Eaton, Pastor Sandra Willet, Rev Shena Bell
  • As partners in training (& friends and colleagues): Rev Barbara Fairburn, Rev Glayne Worgan, Deacon Jan Sutton, Rev Jen Smith, Rev Nutan Suray, Deacon Ruth Shepherd, Rev Mindy Bell

What Adrian means is here is a woman that can do theology that is acceptable to a male complementarian. A woman doing theology who does not question mens role as leaders, as head of the family, as the only people able to be ordained, or be an elder. A woman doing theology who does not touch on justice, because that would open a whole can of worms.

And yet despite the sachrine sweet theology of a woman teaching about submission in many guises there is actually stuff for all people (perhapes especially men) to learn from a narrowly focused blog about attempting to live out the gospel in an environment many of us would consider unjust. We can all learn more about grace and humility etc (yours truely maybe especially) – so you may find Practical Theology for Women interesting, as long as you don’t imagine that this is all the theology women can do. [update] See another post responding to Adrian: Do Female Theology Bloggers Prove Egalitarianism is Right? | :: in.a.mirror.dimly ::.

I will just end with one last comment, if feminism is a dirty word for you then you really do not know what you are missing. Feminist theology is (among other things) a fantasticly helpful way of blending multiple ways of examining scripture & the world. Applying multiple disciplines to a text is so illuminating. My first exposure to feminst theology was so liberating and exciting and challenging and life-giving that I would encourage everyone to get some, even if you do not accept the equality of the writers.

MLK on Discipleship

Interesting that just as we are having a discussion on the importance of discipleship (and why the incarnation is so critical to it) Boing Boing ran with this post: Rare MLK speech on civil disobedience – Boing Boing.

I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

The incarnation matters because the life/teaching/humanity of Jesus teaches to live before we stop breathing.

On Incarnation

In Incarnation vs. the Cross Will picked followed on from my thought "The Christocentrism has been redefined (no incarnation, just the cross)" in 42: Unattractive Restoration Confusion. He kindly said "This isn’t about his post, really.  I agree with most everything he says in it."

However, Will does "start wondering about how much emphasis can we put on the incarnation, especially with regard to the cross."

Some preliminary thoughts:

  • Obviously and simplistically the Resurrection depends on the Cross and the Cross depends on the Incarnation.
  • The fact of Incarnation is not just necessary for the Cross and Resurrection. It is vital to them having any meaning. Unless Jesus is fully human (fully incarnate) both the cross and the resurrection are meaningless (clearly understood at the time of the creeds which emphasise the humanity of Jesus).

Again simplistically:

  • If hope for eternal life and our own resurrection comes from Resurrection.
  • If reconciliation with God (salvation) comes through the Cross.

Then the importance of the Incarnation relates to our discipleship. Neither the resurrection, nor the cross give us a model for how we live (well apart from the obvious – sacrifice for others and an eternal perspective).

The incarnation is what leads to the life and teaching of Jesus. It is the life and teaching of Jesus that is the model for our own discipleship. We would not have that without the incarnation.

From bits and pieces from a variety of sources (taught, read, discussed and reflected) I understand that many believe or suspect that Paul did not have access to or knowledge of much of the life of Jesus. That was not so critical with his (especially initial) expectation of an imminent return of Jesus.

I also believe Paul’s teaching evolved towards a more extended wait for the return of Jesus, however, I do not believe he expected it to be anything like 2,000 years.

So me that length of time does imply that while still believing that Jesus will return we should give discipleship during this life a greater emphasis.

It seems that the early church certainly found the incarnation and its implication for discipleship very important, hence the central value of sharing the teaching/stories/life of Jesus and then the gospels. Plus through the process to catechise (teach) new converts with the ongoing expectation of lifestyle transformation before becoming part of the Church.

My belief is that during Christendom discipleship was downplayed. That was a result of a model that understood membership of the Church to be defined by the boundaries of the state, with that inevitably came a large percentage of nominal Christians and nominal discipleship. There was also a loss/downplay of the teaching of Jesus as that challenged the political power structures (eg use of violence).

In a post-christendom world we are free to restore discipleship and therefore the incarnation to where they should be. In no way does this mean losing the value of the Cross or the Resurrection, but it does mean that we should see a return to more disciplined discipleship.

Unattractive Restoration Confusion

I have read: The Road to "Elder" ado: Restoration Confusion about "the good old days of evangelical churches" and I confess that

a) I don’t find it very attractive (in either a historical or current setting)

b) it seems to bear little resemblance to the "classic" view of what evangelicalism is. From the Evangelical Alliance: What is an Evangelical?.

Against
this historical and theological background, the following five points,
adapted from key studies of the movement by David Bebbington and
Alister McGrath, represent a workable summary of Evangelical
characteristics:

  • Biblicism – Through the Scriptures of the Old and
    New Testaments, the God who is objectively ‘there’ has revealed
    universal and eternal truth to humankind in such a way that all can
    grasp it.
  • Christocentrism – God’s eternal Word became human in the historical man Jesus of Nazareth, who definitively reveals God to humanity.
  • Crucicentrism – The good news of God’s revelation in Christ is seen supremely in the cross, where atonement was made for people of every race, tribe and tongue.
  • Conversionism – The truth of the eternal gospel must be appropriated in personal faith, which comes through repentance – that is, a discernible reorientation of the
    sinner’s mind and heart towards God.
  • Activism – Gospel truth must be demonstrated in evangelism and social service.

c) As seems to often be the case from New Frontiers it is a very narrow definition of evangelical (something we have seen often in the past from the likes of Adrian Warnock).

Adrian often refers to himself as a Reformed Charismatic, yet it seems that here (again) reformed charismatics are equating their position with evangelical. As an evangelical Methodist our evangelical history is compatible with (b) above (Bebbington’s 5 characteristics) yet seems quite different to the points that BWAHOA looks for in his experience of New Frontiers.

The points that BWAHOA has read are:

  • Priority of preaching the gospel of individual salvation at every opportunity
  • Absolute insistence on a born-again experience for salvation
  • Love of, and knowledge of, God’s Word
  • Desire for doctrinal purity
  • Abhorrence of liberal creeds and intimate knowledge of the errors of Rome
  • Spiritual unity of the Saints without compromise of doctrine.
  • Daily walk governed by scriptural principles.
  • Recognition of the condition of backsliders, correction in the Church
  • Infilling of the Spirit linked to sanctification, not gifts or manifestations
  • Traditional, scriptural worship without excesses
  • Pre-millennial eschatology, with expectation of apostasy before the Lord’s Return.
  • Heavenly goal; rewards sought in heaven rather than on earth.

Overall it seems to me that defining "the good old days" as this specific combination falls very short of the whole of what it is to be evangelical. Instead they end up with something that is inflexible and with very different priorities (the lock hold on "traditional" worship is typical of this).

It is a somewhat Thatcherite version of the gospel (all about me), the activism of historical evangelicalism has completely disappeared. The Christocentrism has been redefined (no incarnation, just the cross). The Conversionism now is not for all (limited to those who we consider doctrinally pure). The Biblicism has lost any idea of all understanding for all as it gets locked into rigid patterns and presentations. The Crucicentrism has become centred on the model of penal substitution (hence BWAHOA’s focus on "the blood").

My picture of evangelicalism today is far different, hearing Joel Edwards speaking at Greenbelt confirmed for me that I am not a wierdo on the extreme but instead this hard, tough, evangelicalism without compromise is in fact not the norm.

My dream for evangelicals today (certainly within the Methodist tradition but also in many others) is that we grasp with both hands our historical view that

  • has as a backbone love, respect, obedience for/to Scripture
  • lives out a deep hunger for Jesus that we see in commited discipleship
  • placees the cross so much at the centre that we want to explore it from every angle
  • we expect change and treansformation of self and society in response to God and in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • seeks to be active for Jesus in every aspect of their lives and communities.

But all this should be done in a Christlike way with love, compassion, mercy, respect and relevance. It will not lock people into patterns from the past but through conversion and discipleship free them from the chains of today (idols, materialism, poverty, debt, suffering, anger, hatred, war, hopelessness, stress, purposelessness, …).

Oh and I have not forgotten, unlike the list from BWAHOA this will be for all people, of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and denominations that means it is for all the people God loves ie all people.