Sunday, February 28, 2010

It became clear to me the other day just how close I now am to my Ordination and all of the changes that that will bring. I am now in the last three months of my Ordination course and will be handing in my last piece of work on the 19th of May. My curacy is arranged and we plan to move in early June. I will be ordained on July 4th in Chester Cathedral at 10am.
The whole family will be very sad to leave our current church. It is a place where we have made many good friends and have grown as Christians. It is also the place where the possibility of Ordained ministry was first suggested to me by the Rector and encouraged by others. I have felt supported and cared for over the 6 years. I have had the privilege to work with some fantastic people, not least through the two pantomimes I have had the privilege to lead.
We are also excited about what the future holds. Whilst the huge learning curve I have been on for some time now seems set to continue, it is exciting, challenging and wonderful to see what God has planned....The theme of trust was a big part of the recent church production of Moses. Putting your trust in God can be a scary thing to do but he has taught me that it really is the very best that you can do, especially when things seem hard or confusing...I hold on to that thought as we prepare to move on to pastures new...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rod Thomas and the Reform statement on Women Bishops.

The recent Reform statement on the controversy over Women Bishops seems to have further fuelled the feelings of division between Evangelicals of differing viewpoints. An attempt to take the 'biblical high ground' (something that Reform appear increasingly keen to do) is the main thrust of his argument in which he tries to claim more faithful scriptural study than less extreme evangelical opinion.

"Our concern is derived from Scripture. It seems to us that the Apostolic teaching on male headship in church and family (as in 1 Corinthians 11-14, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3) is clear enough in its principles: overall leadership in the church is to be exercised by men. The fierce debates that have surrounded the gender issue over the last twenty years or so have stimulated much careful analysis of these texts, and have only served to show that mainstream translations such as NRSV, NIV, REB and ESV are correct in their translation and may (and should) be taken as they stand."

Rod Thomas then argues that to study a passage with close reference to the culture in which it is set (as many open evangelicals do), is to somehow imprison it, making it ineffectual and an attack on scripture's authority.

"It is, of course, right to say that these passages in Paul and Peter have a particular cultural setting; but to make them prisoners of that culture and thus unable to challenge our culture, seems to us implicitly to deny the authority of Scripture."

In response to this I would like to make a few points...
1. I have always found it perplexing how most Conservative Evangelical women, (who uphold complementarian teachings) are happy to dispense with Paul's instructions not to leave their heads uncovered during worship, who shamelessly wear pearls and braid their hear without guilt. Their reasoning is that Paul's instructions are to be interpreted against the culture within which they were written and only suggest broad ideals to be extrapolated in a culturally relevant way by us today.
2. Many cessationist Evangelicals frown upon the practice of raising ones hands in prayer, seeing it as 'charismatic' and yet Paul specifically tells men to do it. Why then aren't all faithful christian men doing so regularly?
3. I know of Anglican Conservative Evangelical clergy who have children who are exceptionally badly behaved; yet these men have not been demoted from a position of leadership, despite Paul's explicit instructions in Titus 1:6. Why are they allowed to continue as leaders if the Bible forbids it and is always to be read and obeyed without any interpretation or contextual study at all?

Rod Thomas continues:
"It is surely the genius of the New Testament that what was spoken in a particular context is at one and the same time also God’s word to us. Far from being a prisoner of his culture, Paul is not afraid to challenge it, warning his readers “not to live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Eph 4:17). Why, then, is it assumed he will uncritically reflect their values on this issue of gender?"

Rod Thomas is here arguing against himself. No-one except him has said that studying the bible with reference to context and culture is imprisoning the meaning, rather it is felt that studying context sheds greater light and insight on what was meant by the New Testament writers. No-one 'assumes' anything if they take the Bible's message seriously and God breathed. I have read some excellent egalitarian studies of the passages he speaks about which are some of the most serious and respectful biblical exegesis out there. The reason that many evangelicals believe wholeheartedly in women's ordination and women holding the office of a bishop is BECAUSE they have studied these passages in depth. In addition they also look at other passages which Reform seem to spend very little time explaining their less plain interpretation of: e.g. the story of Deborah leader of Israel, Huldah the Prophetess who advised the advisors or the King, Junia the apostle etc.) The reason we think Paul supports an egalitarian view is because of the scriptures and his acceptance of women within a culture which rejected their authority.

Lastly, Rod Thomas' appeal to reason seems odd against his 'sola scriptura' position above.

"If reasoned reflection of Christians down the ages (including the historic position of the Church of England) has been correct; we fear that the current pressure to overturn it comes not for biblical reasons but because we are losing our nerve in the face of pressure from society."

This reasoned reflection and the historic position of the C of E, was actually based upon a basic theology that women were inferior to men and somehow lacking mentally! I recognise that Reform are not making this point, but their forebears believed it. Therefore if it is possible to reinterpret one's theological position in one regard, why not in others? To assume that Open Evangelicals are somehow 'losing their nerve'in the face of cultural pressures; are lacking 'biblical reasons' and by inference, that they care less for the true will of God and more about what people think is at best severely misguided and at worst, insulting. A little more respect for Evangelicals who disagree with Reforms interpretation of scripture and their doctrine of headship would be welcome. In addition, an appreciation of open Evangelical integrity and faithful reference to scripture in coming to their position would also be welcome...and long overdue!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Moses: The Panto!

My home church, St. Michael’s and All Angels, Middlewich will be performing ‘Moses – The Panto’ in a few weeks. I have written it and it has a cast of 30+ with an age range from 7 to 70 including the Rector as Pharaoh. The whole church has got behind this event...with the cast taken from four very different worshipping congregations within the same church, it's a great example of a church community really working together.

Those involved have been busy rehearsing, set building, designing publicity and generally working together to pull this off in time. The sense of community which has been felt is palpable and it is without doubt that much fun and many good relationships have been built along the way.

All proceeds will go to the refurbishment of ‘Number 28’, our new parish centre which will be key resource for the church and the wider community in Middlewich.

Moses performs from Wed 24th February until Saturday 27th February at Byley Village Hall in Cheshire. Evening performances start at 7.30pm and there is a matinee at 1.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are £5 each (concessions £2.50). Family Ticket: £10. There are also special large group rates.

For Tickets please phone: 01606 834471.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I have felt for a long time that we have somehow lost the plot when it comes to how we are as a Church. This article really struck a chord with me; here are a few lines from it:

"Take the spiritual temperature of your church. Are your small groups well attended?Do your people eat together often?Do the men talk about sports and the women arrange to go out together?Do your people waste time together?If they don ’t your church is sick."
Read the rest here: Is Evangelicalism dying?