Monthly Archives: June 2010

BBC News – ‘Most dangerous’ UK roads named by safety group

From BBC News – 'Most dangerous' UK roads named by safety group we have a very sensible suggestion. Target money at the roads where the most accidents happen. It seems simple changes would be cheap and immediately save lives.

Surely it seems obvious to allocate an amount of money each year to be spent on the most dangerous roads from the previous year – duh! Why has this not been done every year for the past n years? It is so obvious. I guess most people think this would be common sense and be standard practice.

Of course exactly the same should be done to look at the dangers for cyclists and pedestrians. We already know a hugely disproportionate amount of the cyclists killed in London are killed by HGV's during the morning rush hour. We know that these often happen when the HGV is turning left and squashes the cyclist against fixed railings.

Somebody should have a pot of money with the simple task of working from road death and injury records to systematically target the most common causes. They need the power for solutions such as to extend the time restrictions on HGV's, demolish railings, put in proper segregated Dutch style cycle facilities. All so that the worst causes have serious resources allocated every year.

Note that blame the victim activities (helmet enforcement, luminous jackets, cycle training) do NOT count. This resources must be used on engineering solutions on the ground (and is restricted to ones that encourage cycling and walking by tackling the ones that do the killing & injuring).

Young Methodist hopeful and encouraged contrasts with …

This Listening to God from Jarel is very encouraging.

I can't help but feel that the next year will be a good one for Methodism

I particularly loved this bit:

Sitting down and listening to Rev Alison Tomlin's Presidential address to Methodist Conference was more inspiring than I had expected. I was waiting for the usual. You know, those speeches about caring for creation, or revitalising mission or something to that effect but this year the President's speech went to a whole new level! Clearly, she is a woman of extreme experience and her anointing is definately the kind of anointing that reaches through your PC screen and slaps you in the face! lol

:-) I do hope Alison reads that, she will love it.

I have read many really encouraging reports from people at the Methodist Conference about the worship, our President and Vice President. Plus of course there is already a lot of good business that has been done. All very encouraging indeed, especially to find that the conference feeds are being watched by young Methodists like Jarel who are getting so excited about what God is doing in the Methodist Church even as they work out their own calling.

I have said it many times before, but this is a wonderful time to be in the Methodist Church as we see God shaping a new future for us.

Contrast Jarel's view (remember from a committed young man in a Church with women as President and Vice President) with the sad position of the men wanting to do anything to avoid God's blessing through all the people called to be ministers, deacons, elders, leaders, bishops, archbishops, equals, preachers, prophets, teaches, apostles, …

As an example look at Adrian Warnock's recent post New John Piper sermon: The Gospel and Racial Harmony. Fantastic, I do celebrate that the gospel is about equal opportunities for all people, from all ethnicities, cultures, nations, … But oh how sad that in the celebration both Adrian Warnock and John Piper go and carefully and deliberately ignore approximately 50% of the world's population. The gospel is for all, includes all – only not if you are a woman. Aaaaggghhhhh!!!!! 

It puzzles me how you can work out all that stuff about God breaking down prejudice and barriers to get the Church to welcome those it previously excluded while at exactly the same time you are building ever stronger barriers to exclude other people. 

I still can't make up my mind whether this is deliberate and conscious (in which case it is clearly evil), or if they are just stupid, unaware and incapable of reflection about what they are doing.

To add to the dilemma I received another book to review today. "Woman this is war: Gender, Slavery & the Evangelical Caste System" by Jocelyn Andersen. Even as I start the first introductory pages (engaging, funny, powerful) I am thinking: Gulp, this is not Christianity as I have ever known it, this is not Evangelicalism as I know it. 

Then I go back and think about Adrian Warnock, New Frontiers and it scares me. These are British Christians trying to introduce these hateful American views of women into Britain.

I have at times been accused of being aggressive and of picking on certain Churches and Individuals over gender issues, but it looks like this book might well take me a lot further. Heads down if you want a quiet life while we ignore those marketing hatred, exclusion & slavery under fancy names (Complementarianism, Male Headship)and pretending it is scriptural/Christian.

Oh and friends in the Church of England, don't think we won't notice if you give in to a noisy minority and don't implement full and equal women Bishops. We are watching and waiting, I for one will not be willing to compromise on this. 

I for one am tempted to say Methodists should not consider any more steps implementing the Covenant with the Church of England (such as Bishops ourselves) until a women is installed as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Alison Tomlin: President of the Methodist Conference

In my earlier post Eunice, Methodist Vice President on God's transforming love I got all excited about British Methodisms new Vice President. Now it is time for the President.

image from www.flickr.com Alison Tomlin, now our President, is another special person.  For my first four years as a Methodist Minister she was Chair of the Northampton District – my Chair (or as I liked to tease her: the boss).

Last year I reported on the celebrations of the Northampton Conference delegation when Alison was elected to be President Designate in her last conference as our District Chair.

Alison is going to be a very different Methodist President, I think that is going to be a great thing – something that will at times shock the world and challenge us. She will not be an easy or comfortable president and most certainly not a conventional one. As one illustration the Methodist Media team must have done a careful search of all photos in existence to find one of Alison in a dog collar (I don't remember ever seeing her in one myself). 
image from www.flickr.comAnyway here it is, Alison with Dawn French at the Make Poverty History launch in January 2005.

Another way in which Alison will not be conventional (and one which will be frustrating to traditional journalists) is that her sermons, addresses and speeches are not going to be scripted. She will normally speak without written notes as she did today in her address to the Methodist Conference, oh and she will often use music, images, actions, … instead of words – powerful but not so easy for journalists.

Anyway you can find bits from her address to conference from the news release: If we pay attention to God we won't stay inside the Church – says new Methodist President: The Methodist Church of Great Britain | 26 June 2010.

Also from the Conference official blogger Gareth Hill: Blogging Conference: God on Twitter … and getting out of the box.

Some bits that caught my eye:

To pay attention, said Alison, was not just understanding about God at the centre but recognising that “God is usually at the edge, on the periphery – out there with those who have been discarded and neglected, who are distressed and distraught”. It’s about “paying attention to those with whom we profoundly disagree – even our enemy” she said.
Alison, who spoke without notes, reminded us how easy it is to be so busy in the Church doing good things for God.
“But it’s more than inside the Church,” she said. “If we pay attention to God we won’t stay inside the church. If we pay attention to God we will have to do the things God challenges us to do: to go out among the people that need to hear the message that God loves them; who have no voice; who have had doors shut in their faces; that others reject and despise. Isn’t that an echo of what they did to Jesus?”

“I pray that we will indeed become a Church paying attention to God in such a way that the passion of God for people, for God’s creation, for our world enlivens us, enthrals us and energises us to be all that God created us to be before the world was made,” she said. “I pray that in paying attention to God and each other we may be all that God desires.” 

This is a good message, it is an uncomfortable one for many Christians and Churches. Alison has a wonderful gift of forcing us to pay attention, to look, to listen. She does not leave us there but then challenges us after reflection to also act.

All I can say is Fandabbydozy.

Eunice, Methodist Vice President on God’s transforming love

Oh wow!!!!!

Methodism is in for a great year. This news story from the Methodist Church is a must read. I mean it, go and read: Methodist Vice-President speaks of God's transforming love: The Methodist Church of Great Britain | 26 June 2010.

image from www.flickr.com  I have met Eunice through Methodist Council (the designate President and Vice-President are both on Council), in the address you have just read is the authentic voice of our Vice-President. That is cause for great celebration cos she is going to love us and push us and encourage us and inspire us to be the Church that God has called us to be and tell the world all about it:

Tonight I want to remind you all here of a very simple message, aware that there is nothing new about this wisdom; the message is old and it is ancient; it has been there from the very beginning. God loves you, he thinks you’re absolutely amazing. The awesome God who created and sustains this universe thinks you’re fantastic. God loves you.

If the Church is to be a sign of God’s kingdom, it must participate in the world that God loves. For the Church does not have the monopoly on God. God is already at work in people’s lives, in the world he created and sustains. In being sent into the world we get to join in with what God is doing. In the doing and engaging we meet God.

I want to be part of a church that throws parties for prostitutes – a church that welcomes those who seek asylum, a church that longs and yearns for justice, a church that listens to those no-one else wants to listen to.

Great isn't it. Inspiring, exciting. Makes me want to sing "Oh I do like to be a Methodist", but out of consideration for the environment I won't :-)

Not only is Eunice a great Vice-President for the person she is but what a great reminder of two wonderful things of Methodism:

Thank you Jesus for our Vice President for 2010/2011!

Methodist Ministers and Powerlessness

There are two areas of life and work where I guess most British Methodist Ministers will say they feel at least somewhat powerless.

Firstly, the stationing process. 

The sense of powerlessness is most keenly felt when you are first stationed as a probationer. You have no choice in where you go. The Church simply sends you somewhere, you go to view it but at that point neither you nor the local Churches have any say. 

However, the "normal" stationing process (see 42: Methodist Stationing 1 and 42: Methodist Stationing 2) while less dramatic still leads to this feeling of powerlessness for many ministers (I am of course writing as a presbyter, but for Deacons I believe it to be even more so). While both ministers and circuits get to express preferences a minister can end up being matched with a Circuit that they had not short-listed (obviously the same is true for the circuits). They can turn down the match but then the choice of alternatives will be more limited.

For most people choosing where you live and work is a key element of control they choose to have over their lives. It may not seem that there is a lot of choice for a lot of people who feel limited by the possibilities in their area. However, there are choices open to them that are not open to a Methodist Minister (yes I do recognise that a Minister can choose to not be a minister any more).

Secondly, the housing situation.

Methodist Ministers get a house provided with the "job", a manse. It is paid for and maintained by the Church. For those who have never lived in a house provided with a job these can seem an attractive thing. Especially as compared to many homes they can appear quite large (4 bedrooms plus a study is the expected specification).

We need to remember that the Church chooses to provide ministers with manses for two reasons. a) It is cheaper than paying ministers enough to buy their own home, b) It gives the Church more freedom to move ministers around (eg at short notice to a more expensive area in the middle of a recession).

I have seen a fair bit of mis-understanding about how it feels to live in a house provided with your job. When work is done you always get someone saying something like "Why are you replacing that boiler just because it is so inefficient? I have had my boiler for 30 years and can't afford to replace it" (let us nearly kip right over the logical rubbish of that statement – if a boiler is very old it is costing you a fortune in wasted heating bills and a new boiler would pay for itself very quickly). The key point is choice. If this is your home you can choose to replace the boiler or not, you can choose to make any manner of changes or not, you can sell and move or not.

Ah, what about people who rent their home I hear you say. They too have more choice than a Methodist Minister, after all if the Landlord does not keep the home to a satisfactory standard they can choose to leave and go elsewhere.

This sense of powerlessness is at it's most acute when things go wrong in a manse. You can't simply act but have to wait for others to decide what is going to be done, by whom and when.

So powerless?

Please do not make the mistake of believing that I think Methodist Ministers are completely powerless. There are many ways in which the role is a powerful one and it would be a mistake to interpret what I have written to mean that there is complete powerlessness for ministers in either stationing or housing. This is relative powerlessness.

There are few if any situations in the world where people choose to be powerless. There are many many situations though where people are made to feel powerless by situations and the behaviour of others. We see it all around us if we keep our eyes and sensibilities open.

That brings me to my conclusion about powerlessness and Methodist Ministers. I believe we need these areas in which we are powerless. I believe that they are a critically important element of oor discipleship and witness. I believe that it is essential that Methodist Ministers do feel powerless in some aspects of their lives and these two (where we live/work and the home in which we live) are vitally important. Let me give some reasons why:

  • We need to be constantly reminded to put our security in God, to trust the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Having significant areas of lives where we feel powerless helps us to do this. It counteracts our tendency to want to be in control which takes us away from God.
  • it helps us relate to ordinary people who struggle with powerlessness everyday. It especially helps us connect with those at the bottom of the economic system who are particularly vulnerable to powerlessness.
  • In a small way it guides us into better ways of modelling the teaching and example of Jesus (thinking here of Philippians 2:8 where Jesus humbled himself ie gave up power).

So whilst the areas of powerlessness that a Methodist minister lives with may seem minor compared to many, I do think that despite the frustrations (and sometimes fear) that this is appropriate, right and helpful.

In fact I think it is a helpful challenge to all who are called to ordained ministry in the Church, in what ways do you live with powerlessness? For that matter I challenge all Christians to examine how they experience powerlessness as part of your discipleship.

Tough but fair?

BBC News – Budget: Osborne rejects Labour 'carping from sideline'.

But Mr Osborne told the BBC Labour were "carping from the sidelines".

 He is putting the case for the coalition's "tough but fair" Budget – which will leave households on average £400 a year worse off – in a series of media interviews on Wednesday

I Just do not understand at all.

What is fair about this budget? As this tweet illustrates: Twitter / Liz Kendall: Richest 10% pay £1 in evry ….

Richest 10% pay £1 in evry £25 on VAT, poorest 10% £1 in £7. Budget raises £13bn frm VAT, £2bn frm bank levy, £1bn frm CGT – that's fair?

Do they believe that people do not understand the basics of taxation and fairness?

VAT is a highly regressive tax. That means if you earn less money you pay a higher proportion of that money in VAT. It is exactly the opposite of a fair taxation system.

In terms of raising money to reduce the national debt (a principal that has some merit) we see three simple things:

  • a tax that hits poorer people harder is set to raise 13x more money than one that raises money from those with more money (capital gains tax is not paid at all by most people, certainly not by anyone who could be considered poor). Not fair and bad for the economy and society. If you want to stimulate the economy then give more money to the poor, they are going to spend a much higher proportion of it so it will feed quickly into local economies having a multiplying effect. Give more money to the rich and it will be saved, "invested", spent abroad, spent of foreign luxuries all of which will have a minimal effect on our economy.
  • A tiny tax on the banking sector which caused the recession through entirely reckless behaviour (essentially lending money they didn't have to people/organisations who would never be able to pay them back, all while paying huge bonuses to the people who did this). Again the tax that hits the poor hardest is to raise more than 6x the tax on those who caused the mess and who are still paying silly salaries and bonuses.
  • By taking money from the poor and cutting both jobs and spending in the public sector there is going to be a huge multiplier effect (just as we saw with Maggie Thatcher's first budgets). The problem is that this is a negative multiplier. Tax incomes are going to go down as people are paid less and many lose their jobs. That gets multiplied as they don't just pay less tax, they don't spend money in the local economy on goods and services (everything from gardening services, builders, diy, eating out will get cut). That means others get less money, pay less tax and in many cases claim more benefit.

My summary of this budget

  • We will go into another recession, the cuts are going to remove enough money from local economies that recession is inevitable.
  • Due to the recession tax income will fall and benefit payments increase. As a result costs will rise faster than cost reductions (which are never as big as forecast and have a big time lag). Hence, national debt will not fall by the predicted amount and may even rise.
  • Britain will become an even less equal place. It will become less happy and crime will rise.
  • Through all this the rich will get richer and the poor poorer.

What a huge failure. Not "tough but fair" but "stupid and unfair".

The archbishops, evangelism and the status of women.

The archbishops, evangelism and the status of women. – Maggi Dawn concludes with:

It seems outrageous to me that we continue to believe that it’s OK to delay indefinitely the active acceptance of women at all levels in the Church. Its patently obvious that the world at large thinks so too, and this unacceptable injustice towards women is far more of a blight on evangelism than shyness.

Amen!

I confess there is much of the Church of England I do not understand and much I don't like – as well as lots of good things of course! :-) . However, there are many Anglicans that I love and it pains me to see the Church of England, a covenant partner with the Methodist Church, continue to self destruct over the injustices it continues to enforce on gender and sexuality issues.

Of course of more immediate pain to me as a Methodist Minister is that the Methodist Church is by no means perfect on these issues and itself has a long way to go with a great need of grace, mercy and forgiveness by all people within the Church.

Lord forgive us. Lord transform us. Lord fill us with grace. Lord heal us.

Methodist Church and Alcohol Licensing

Raunds Methodist Church received a very helpful letter from East Northamptonshire Council today.

It explains the new mandatory conditions set by the Government on 6th April 2010 put on our premises license:

"They put a duty on those who manage licensed premises and clubs to prohibit irresponsible promotions and the dispensing of alcohol directly into the mouth of another; they also require those who manage licensed premises and clubs to provide free tap water to customers on request"

I am reasonably confident that our complete ban of all alcohol on Methodist premises means we can comply fairly easily. I wonder if the free coffee and tea we usually offer count for anything.

I did ring the council, it seems their computer system does not distinguish between entertainment and alcohol licenses so everyone got the letter.

Seems a fairly typical assumption that entertainment always requires alcohol. What a crazy world.

Lucy is an accredited Local Preacher!

Just back from a great afternoon service, where we admitted Lucy as a Local Preacher at Raunds Methodist Chapel. We had 70 people for the service and for the tea afterwards. It was great to gave such a big turnout for this service with Rev Inderjit Bhogal preaching and presiding at Holy Communion (he even got a round of applause for his sermon).

Lucy is the first member of one of my congregations to start and complete Local Preacher training during my time as minister. So it was fandabbydozy to lead the worship and assist serving Holy Communion.

In her testimony Lucy said that Inderjit had first challenged her about a call to preach many years ago. She also remembered me sneaking into a service at Raunds in August before I "officially" arrived. She was the Worship Leader in that service and I remember the Divine Chocolate she gave everyone as part of her children's address also that it was not long after that I challenged her as to whether she was being called to be a Local Preacher.

In fact I have just found that email. It was dated 12th September 2005, so it was obvious right at the start of my ministry here that Lucy was being called to preach (wow, looking back that was fast. I had my welcome and then on the Monday after the 2nd Sundays I sent that email). Today was a big step in that journey and the experience we have in the Nene Valley Circuit and beyond is that God knows what he is doing in calling Lucy to this ministry.

It was good and right and proper that this service of celebration was with friends from all around the Circuit as so many have benefited from Lucy's preaching as well as her work with young people and music groups over many years.

A great reminder today that God is good!