Thursday 26 January 2012 at 1:22 pm
Anita Mathias is one of my favourite bloggers, blending theology, faith and personal reflection together. Anita was raised (Roman) Catholic where in her own experience she found very little sustenance. Anita has blogged about her experience here.
Personal journeys are always difficult to debate. They are emotional and intimate and inevitably can go both ways – I know pentecostals who grew up catholic and catholics who grew up pentecostal. My own journey to a more catholic faith can be summed up best as:
- An assurance of the supernatural action of God, through faith filled participation in the sacraments.
- A liturgical expression of worship that teaches the faith.
- Continuity with the Spirit’s work in the church over 2000 years and especially with the earliest Christians.
- Solidarity with the church on earth and in heaven.
I cannot defend every action and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. If I did I would be Roman Catholic. But I can defend a broader family of faith that includes sacramental Christians from East and West.
Wednesday 25 January 2012 at 11:37 pm
Mars Hill has been in the news again or at least in the blogs, following revelations about how they handle Church discipline. I have blogged about how confession of sin should be handled before, even in reference to Mark Driscoll in Breaking the Seal of Love. It could even be argued that the potential for discipline outlined in the Book of Common Prayer is not that far from the model Mars Hill seems to follow - not that it get used very often.
However the most disturbing aspect of the whole story is not the process but some the culture that seems to underlie it:
Andrew says that many of Mars Hill’s men feel beaten down. “Because that’s what happens there, especially when you question a pastor. You get beaten down. Until you submit.”
Sadly I recognise this. I have seen it happen to others, and it has happened to me too. Not just in independent fellowships, but in seemingly cosy denominational churches. It is not always straightforward, ministry team members beat down each other down and sometimes powerful lay elements beat down ministers.
Thursday 19 January 2012 at 6:37 pm
Three churches in a local town pooled their efforts to sponsor an evangelistic mission. After the evangelists had left members from the three churches gathered to compare notes.
"Our church did very well from the mission," the Methodists noted. "We gained four new members!"
"We did even better," said the Baptists. "Our church gained six new members."
"We were very pleased too," said the Anglicans. "We lost our ten most difficult members."
This is the week of prayer for Christian unity. For some communities this is a week of praying and eating together and sharing services with sister churches. For rural communities this may seem less pressing. We do share events and services with the two Wesleyan chapels in the area, but in the other 5 communities the only chapels that exist are long since converted into private housing. But take a closer look at our congregations and we might be surprised. Because in some of the villages we are the only congregation we find that our own congregations witness to the breadth of the Christian faith. Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Methodists, Quakers, even the occasional Anglican have all found a home in the benefice. We may not have many opportunities for structural ecumenism outside the walls of our church buildings but we have plenty within our own church and village communities.
But what is ecumenism? The group of Anglicans who founded the week of prayer for Christian unity had one goal in mind: Visible union between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. The week has changed focus over the years, and now the focus is far more about encouraging different Christians to dialogue, pray and work closely together.
When we do however we quickly come up against our differences. Christians can confess the same creeds and yet believe different things and practice in different ways. Sometimes this can be challenging. Ask an diverse group, who the greatest Christian who ever lived was, what happens when we die, the nature of our worship, the role of the sacraments, the place of tradition and reason, or what Christian behaviour looks like and you will receive a range of very different answers.
There are a number of pictures you might have heard to help us work through these differences. Are we like blindfolded men trying to describe an elephant – one finds the trunk, another the leg, another the tail, seemingly disagreeing but actually together forming the image of something far greater than themselves? Or perhaps it is like mountaineers climbing a mountain, each taking a different route, but ultimately seeking the same summit?
Monday 16 January 2012 at 1:13 pm
I am not (strictly) a protestant, we are no longer protesting, I am happy to pray with Roman Catholics
So said my NFI lead elder 20 years ago. This will probably not surprise anyone in the UK. I spent my teens in an environment that was evangelical and reformed but also ecumenical. Yes there were tensions and disagreements, among evangelicals and with others outside that tradition, but at heart there was recognition of togetherness for the sake of the Gospel.
Within denominational Christianity in the UK there is a great diversity, liberal, evangelical, charismatic, Wesleyan, sacramental can often be found rubbing shoulders in the same congregation and working together in communities. The Church of England itself is based on an admittedly sometimes uneasy settlement between different ‘parties’.
Perhaps this lies at the heart of Pastor Mark’s comments about the UK church as reported in a recent interview. The quote that has sparked so much anger on the internet goes something like this:
Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.
Firstly I am not sure I buy the idea of a more (reformed) Christian America that runs through the interview subtext.
Sunday 15 January 2012 at 7:31 pm
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
John 1.43-46 NRSV
Nazareth - Small town rural Galilee - Hardly a social, intellectual or religious – let alone rabbinical centre. No wonder Nathanael says:
‘Can Anything Good Come out of Nazareth’
It sums up the Kneejerk reaction we can so easily have to people that are different from us. Unfortunately in our society there is still racism, sexism and ageism. A huge range of reality television shows could be understood to be laughing at minorities as much as laughing with them. Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and The Only Way is Essex come to mind – we tread a fine line between entertainment and ridicule.
But however hard we try - we all make judgements of people based on the way they talk look and dress. Having been involved in the alternative music scene and in vintage fashion it is something I have seen and experienced first-hand.
I don’t believe we should pretend that we don’t make these judgements. But we should seek to overcome them. That first emotional response that someone is not quite like us should be overcome by a second voice that says like Philip ‘Come and See’. Overcome the prejudice and see what a person is really like.
But what when the circumstances are reversed?
Monday 09 January 2012 at 8:26 pm
There is no Sleepy Hollow on the internet, no peaceful spot where contemplativeness can work its restorative magic. There is only the endless, mesmerizing buzz of the urban street. The stimulations of the web, like those of the city, can be invigorating and inspiring. We wouldn’t want to give them up. But they are, as well, exhausting and distracting. They can easily ... overwhelm all quieter modes of thought.
Consuming blog posts is part of my daily routine, they inspire and challenge me. When preparing sermons after an Internet holiday I always find it harder to find my flow. Blogs, combined with books, Twitter and conversations make up the spiritual and intellectual atmosphere in which my own thoughts can hopefully flourish.
There are spaces on the Internet where you can go for reflection and peace. But I wonder if we could all make space on our blogs and sites for a ‘peaceful spot where contemplativeness can work its restorative magic.’
Over 10 years ago some of us worked together on a spiritual ‘colour cube’, each producing a page. I was hacking about with Flash at the time. So I suppose this is still my contribution: