Friday, October 26, 2012

Baptists on Twitter part 3

And a few other Baptist tweeters, including more from Scottish Baptists Assembly

Richard Littledale (Teddington BC, Middlesex) @richardlittleda
Martyn Link (Central BC, Dundee) @martynlink
Llanishen Baptist Church @LlanishenBC
Ashley Lovett (Socketts Heath BC, Grays, Essex) @AshleyJLovett
Michael Shaw (Devenport Community BC, Plymouth) @mikepcshaw
Joel Schofield (Purley BC, Surrey) @SchofieldJoel
Yvonne Faddes (Leslie BC, Fife) @vonnythemainman
James Faddes (Leslie BC, Fife) @JamesFaddes
John Burnsy (Scottish Baptist College grad, now?) @ScruffyBaptist
Ruth McCaig (Cornton BC, Stirling) @RuthBoA
Tom Vernon (LarkhallBC) @tvmovietom
James Tait (Shetland) @bigtonview
Kenny Roy (Central - formerly Morningside - BC, Edinburgh) @KAROY
Smoffi O'Leary (Tabernacle BC Wolverhampton) @_Smoffi_
Mike O'Leary (Tabernacle BC Wolverhampton) @SheepOfJesus
Jon Bruton (Tabernacle BC Wolverhampton) @jonbru
Jon Bishop (Croxley Green BC, Watford) @therevbishop

Baptists on Twitter, part 2

Thanks to those who've been adding their details either in the comments here or on twitter using #BaptistTweeters

Here's the next batch, with tweeting from the Scottish Baptist Assembly helping the search very much:

Rachel J Lewis (Amphill BC, Bedfordshire) @Rachel_J_Lewis
Barbara Carpenter (Stoke St Gregory BC, Taunton) @MrsCorny
Ami Martin (Green Lane BC, Walsall) @am1mart1n
Mark Thomas (Prison Chaplain, South Wales) @ReverendMark
Paul Lavender (Mount Pleasant BC, Northampton) @paul_the_organ
Shine Like Stars (Children's ministry, Stockport) @shinelikestars1
Chris Priddy (Youth Specialist, Swindon YFC) @chrispriddy
Geoff Cook (Faversham BC) @revgeoffcook
Judy White (Mission Development Co-ordinator, BUS) @wayfarersinc
Martin J Clarke (Hillview Community Church, Aberdeen) @martinjclarke
Steve Holmes (Lecturer, St Mary's College, St Andrew's) @SteveRHolmes
DanielSturgeon (Ayr BC) @prophetmargins
David Fraser (Alva BC) @RevRunD
Jon Magee (Lochgelly BC, Fife) @JonMageeauthor
Ian G Black (Dundee for Christ) @IanGBlack
Alan Donaldson (General Director, BUS) @AlanDBUS
Glenn Innes (Gerrard Street BC, Aberdeen) @glenninnes
Joanne Cowie (Ardberg BC, Rothesay, Isle of Bute) @jantieannie
Bob Baxter (Hawick BC) @bobbaxter85
Andrew Dubock (BMS World Mission) @andrew_dubock
Noel Slevin (SU, Glasgow) @Noelinho
Derrick Watson (Cathcart BC, Glasgow) @dlwespresso
Sarah (Biscuit) Skelton  (Neema Fairtrade, Ayrshire) @biscuitoria
Lynn Alexander (Author/speaker esp. Children's ministry &intergenerational worship) @lynnos
Alice McDermott (Minister in training at Scottish Baptist College, Glasgow) @alice_mcd
Graham Bell (St Ninian's Community Church & Prison Chaplain) @_grahambell
Gary Smith (Crown Terrace BC, Aberdeen) @busyscotsman
Ron Rye (Ardberg BC, Rothesay, Isle of Bute) @pastorrabbiron
Cara Wightman (Cathcart Youth Ministry Partnership) @radiatecathcart
Mark Morris (Calderwood BC, Glasgow) @demac18

Baptists on Twitter, part 1

Here's the first instalment of the list of Baptist Tweeters. We're starting with the UK, which should take some time, then we'll add some international Baptist tweeters too.

If you're in the UK, and a Baptist Tweeter, please comment on this to add your name and twitter handle. It's be helpful to know where you're from too. My hope is that folks will use these lists to connect more with fellow Baptists, to hear together and from each other what's happening across the union and the nation.

Here's the first 50, the links have all been tested, more to come soon!

Keith Osmund-Smith (Madely BC, Telford) @TelfordChaplain
Ali Boulton (Whichelstowe, Swindon) @RevAliBoulton
Marcus Scotney (Dumfries BC) @marcusscotney
David Kerrigan (BMS World Mission) @DavidKerrigan3
Neil Roberts (Chelmsley Wood BC, Birmingham) @CeolmundW
Juliet Kilpin (Urban Expression) @JulietKilpin
Keith Tarring (Camrose BC, Edgeware) @KeithTarring
Steve Chalke (Oasis/Faithworks/Stop the Traffik) @SteveChalke
Jonathan Somerville (Tabernacle BC Wolverhampton) @baptistjon
Marcus Dickinson (Godalming BC ) @MDRev
Urban Expression @urbanshalom
Marg Hardcastle (Stoke Baptist Centre) @MargHardcastle
Rowena Wilding (Edgeside BC, Rossendale) @rowenawilding
Glen Marshall (Northern Baptist Learning Community) @theglenmarshall
Malcolm Duncan (Gold Hill BC) @MalcolmJDuncan
Pete James (St Thomas, Sheffield) @petejamesmusic
Ricky Rew (Spurgeon BC, Bletchley ) @RickyRew
Anthony Gill (Chase Cross BC, Romford) @RevAGill
Mark Jennings (Pershore BC, Worcestershire) @pershorepastor
Adrian Argile (Regional Minister in HEBA) @AdeArgile
David Lewis (Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Brentwood, Essex)) @deiknuo
Malcolm Patten (Walthamstow) @revdmally
Simon Jones (Bromley BC) @bromleyminister
Sam Griffiths (Wellington BC, Somerset ) @samthevicar
Phil Barnard (Mitcham Lane BC, Streatham) @SynthManiac
Andrew Openshaw (New Mill BC, Tring) @andrewjopenshaw
Robert Parkinson (Didsbury BC) @RobParkinsonDBC
Peter Spence (Warley BC) @Peterthepastor
Chris Duffett (The Light Project) @RevDuffett
Peter Dominey (Church from Scratch, Southend / Incarnate Network) @peterdominey
John Wood (Newport Baptist Church, Shropshire) @johnswood
Oliver Deeks (Tabernacle BC Wolverhampton) @SkeedR
David Judkins (Andover BC) @davidjudkins
Andy Scott (Hanbury Hill BC, Stourbridge) @AndyBaptist
BMS World Mission @BMSWorldMission
Nick Lear (Colechester BC) @nicklear
David Fleming (Abingdon BC, Oxfordshire) @DavidofAbingdon
Ian Bunce (BUGB Mission Dept) @ianbunce
Jon Stannard (viz-a-viz / West Leigh BC, Leigh on Sea) @JonStannard
Darren Pike (Eastwood BC, Leigh on Sea) @darrenpike
Adam Eakins (Broadmead BC, Northampton) @adameakins
Neil Brighton (Poynton BC) @NeilBrighton
David Hughes (Paignton BC) @BaptistPilgrim
Bob Almond (Kirby Muxloe Free Church) @revbobuk
Pete Leveson (South Norwood BC) @peteleve
Chris Hall (BU Communications Editor) @Chrishallnewb
Graham Doel (Woodley BC, Berkshire) @graham_doel
Jo Regan (New BC, Burton on Trent) @RevdJo
Nicola Bates (Emsworth BC) @summasolitus
Tim Presswood (Openshaw Baptist Tabernacle, Manchester)@wierdostomps

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Valuing life, and true dignity in death

What Value Life?

Last week I had the most unexpected but insightful exchange of viewpoints with Robin Ince (comedian, writer, columnist and broadcaster), the new patron of Dignity in Dying.

You can read that exchange in the post immediately before this one.

After a few days Robin posted a well written, longer reasoning behind his decision to become patron of that group (you can read it here). There are some things he’s written that I’d heartily agree with, some that because of our very different starting places we’d understandably come to different outcomes, and some things I just profoundly disagree with.

He very kindly pointed readers of his blog to the post that detailed our exchange, and there was at least the hint of an idea that we might converse again at some point.

I wish I had half his skill with pen, word and wit, and I fear my much longer response might be less exciting. Nevertheless, here it is.

So here I want to lay out some of my own reflections. I write in a personal capacity, these thoughts don’t come from any campaigning group, and I don’t claim to even represent all people in my own denomination (Baptist) let alone all Christians.

My thinking begins with the very idea of life itself. Something is either alive, or it’s not. And, as our heart-breaking experience tells us, when a thing that was alive dies, it’s a miraculous occurrence for it to return to life again. That makes life precious. More precious than anything else. Whilst something is alive there is potential, there is hope, there is the possibility of change, experience, growth, relationship.

Amongst all those living things, for us humans, capable of relationships, of knowingly experiencing emotion, of making decisions about the directions of our lives, of knowing we are alive, and understanding that we will die, life becomes even more precious. Once it is lost in this life (whether one believes in a life to come or not) it is lost. And that complex web of experiences, relationships, preferences, choices, hopes, desires and disappointments is gone. A link in the lives of others is broken. The agony that death causes results in an even greater respect and valuing of life.

I know that those who approach this discussion from all angles have similar feelings, albeit often better expressed then I am able.

So then, life is precious, and so any decisions made about giving it up, asking others to help end it, or asking the state to legislate positively in favour of an assisted suicide must make us pause and deeply reflect on the issues raised.

Yes, some will want to say “whilst you’re reflecting people are suffering, just let them end it” but the hurry to open up that possibility without thinking through the inevitable and obvious chain of consequences seems far too hasty, short-sighted and lacking in wisdom.

So what are the concerning consequences that might make us pause?

Firstly, there is the simple, straightforward matter of ending something that is of incredible value. Some might say “It’s my life, I can do what I like with it”, and of course, on one level that’s right. However, we belong to a family, a worldwide family. And this life we share is in part theirs too. Our existence as a species and the meaning we give to each of our lives derives in part from the value we give to every individual life. By legislating in favour of assisted suicide we’re asking society to say that some lives are less precious, less meaningful. That they no longer need the protection of the state.

I'm reminded of the West Wing storyline when President Bartlett’s daughter is kidnapped. He steps down from office because he knows he will give in to whatever the terrorists demand as his own flesh and blood is at stake, he realises he’s unable to make a clear decision. I want to suggest that in our pain, and even in the thought of pain, we ought not be allowed to decide that life has less worth now. Life remains precious, despite our pain.

Secondly, I think there are massive implications for those asked to assist that haven’t been thoroughly thought through.  What does it do to a person to be implicated in the death of a loved one, in fact of any one? There is a vast difference between the administration of a pain-relieving drug, given even with the knowledge that it may reduce the chance of a prolonged life, and the active participation in a positive decision to end life. 

What does that knowledge do once the heightened emotional state has passed? What does it do to someone 5, 10, 15,30,40 yrs later? Knowing they had taken the steps to kill another person? I’m sure there might be some who’d remain convinced of the rightness of their actions (some psychoanalysts might suggest most would need to regardless of the real evaluation in order to maintain mental health), but what of the others; those who after the fact would live the rest of their lives in the knowledge they took another’s life? I wonder if it is either enlightened or dignified to ask someone to shoulder that lifelong burden?

Thirdly, the potential for abuse here is just so big. By abuse I mean both the very overt kind, where an elderly, frail or ill family member is pressurised to end it all by the explicit request and suggestion of an unloving family (so then the act is nothing at all to do with care, in fact, quite the opposite) as well as the more subtle pressure that comes from the option being open. How quickly might some feel they have become a burden, and the decision to end life be taken because of a desire to lessen the impact of their need, or their suffering on others, rather than a desire to bring to an end their own existence? Now, there will be those who say that these will be rare, and perhaps that would be true, but I would say that the fact they become a possibility at all is enough of a reason not to legislate in favour.

I'm being brief here because I want to move the conversation along, and not hog the floor - however one does that online - but I am aware that some would have expected more spiritual objections.

Yes there are some, and I’ll mention them even more briefly in a moment. But I wanted to place front and centre those first objections, 3 areas where more reflection and consideration is needed that could be helpful to those who have faith, and those who have none. I'm not here to argue that one person is better than another, and I'm not suggesting that the spiritual values that I hold and which underpin my thinking ought to be universalised and enforced. I think, first and foremost, on purely human terms this is a bad idea.

But of course, yes, I have objections that stem in a more focussed way from my faith. I'm sure many will disagree with them, and they could become the main focus of discussion. I’d rather that the first 3 were though...

So, I believe in a God, who created everything, who gives life to all that lives, and shared the divine capacity for creativity, emotion, awareness and relationship with humans.  I believe that which is given by God is not to be taken away freely by humans.

I believe too that God has revealed in timeless laws some values that society can be usefully shaped by, and that in Jesus specifically that can be applied to human relationships.

For me, I take a look at Jesus, and reflect on the idea that He is the visible image of the God we can’t see, and I wonder if he’d take a life? If we’re in this network of friendships and relationships within which we give and derive meaning, what does his example, teaching, his life inspire in us? For me, I think it is to show great compassion, through the whole of life’s experiences, even a bitter end.

I think that to know that you’re not alone, to know that you are loved, and that those around you share with you in your suffering is able to give strength, and makes it possible to re-frame and understand in a different way this part of each life’s story. To take away from someone the chance to show the kind of love that sustains to the end by short-cutting the dying process seems to me to rob meaning from the life of others. As I asked in the twitter exchange, does the enlightened life have to place “me” at the centre?

So at the end, I'm left with a statement I've been criticised for as being too naive. It's a statement that I think often leads to human progress; There has to be a better way.

That better way is undoubtedly to channel that campaigning energy into ensuring palliative care provision is freely available to all approaching the end of life. That better way is ensuring that every member of society feels loved and valued and not a burden. That better way is value every life equally, and not give up on hope. That better way is to take the precious gift, tarnished, bruised and blood-stained as it is, and nurture it until it's light goes out.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Conversation with Robin Ince on Assisted Dying

The following is a conversation I had yesterday with Robin Ince who has just become the patron of Dignity in Dying, a campaigning group that is seeking a change in the law in the UK to permit assisted suicide.

It happened on Twitter, and I was delightfully surprised when my response to his tweet announcing his patronage was met with a reply, and a long conversation.

Such is the nature of Twitter that these tweets could easily be lost in a few days, so I've attempted to repost them here as a record of that exchange. 

Because of the pace of the conversation, I've sought to arrange tweets in order of their response, rather than simply chronologically. I hope it makes sense. 

I'd love to hear your comments.

have just become a patron of this enlightened campaign Dignity in Dying. here is Patrick Stewart voicing the campaign …

@robinince it doesn't feel very enlighted to ask someone to kill you, or to opt out of all of life's experience, including the end.

@baptistjon oh and it is enlightened to be forced to lie in agony wishing for the choice to die

@baptistjon perhaps read up on how euthanasia is reduced when the option is there

@robinince Thanks for replying. I'm not seeking to deny either the pain of those suffering, or the difficulty of the issues here.

@baptistjon why are those who believe their life is unbearable not allowed to have a choice to leave it?

@robinince But I find myself thinking there simply has to be a better way that ending it. I wonder about the effects on those asked to help

@baptistjon what of those who die before they want to because they would be unable to make the journey to Dignitas when more unwell

@robinince I wonder what it says about how our enlightened society handles suffering if the best option is to simply end it forever.

@baptistjon i think it says very little about our society and more about the sometimes abysmal ways people go towards their death

@baptistjon my main argument would be that when people have the choice it appears they are less likely to decide to die

@robinince but implied within that is that there will be those who choose to use it, or ask others to administer it.

@robinince it seems desperate, rather than dignified.

@baptistjon one can hope that medical science will find new ways of reducing agony and improving life

@robinince Suffering is horrible, but the implications of asking people to help kill each other are huge

@baptistjon yes it is desperate, and some people are in desperate situations. did you see the tears of Tony Nicklinson?

@robinince yes, I did, and found it humbling, moving, but more than anything sad, sad because he'd fixed on death as his only option

@baptistjon what were his other options? I wonder how much easier his existence would have been if he knew that the option to die was there?
@robinince perhaps that would've been a sustaining thought. But having it is no placebo.

@robinince there's no way of getting that benefit without opening up the certainty that people would want to use it

@baptistjon i think many against imagine this sort if nonchalant "ooh I feel poorly, can someone kill me"

@robininceI'm not coming at this provocatively, really, I'm aware of desperate situations, from time to time I'm drawn into them.

@robinince my fear is that we open this option before fully questioning, probing, reflecting on all the implications.

@baptistjon i believe our desire to live is so great that the will to die is something of such immensity it takes a huge leap

@robinince Does the enlightened life have to place self in the centre, regardless of implications for others?

@robinince doesn't it deny others the chance to show real love, not by killing, but by sustaining, supporting, bringing grace and peace?

@baptistjon some people find it heard to gain grace and peace trapped in their own mind, unable to communicate or function

@robinince I'm certain that's true. But an enlightened society seeks to help the person experience that, surely? not merely switch life off?

@baptistjon this would never be a throwaway decision, to switch of our consciousness, to end our existence...

@robinince again, I'm grateful for the time you've taken to respond. I wonder where the place is we get to deal with these questions 1/2

@robinince 2/2 in a spirit of openness and enquiry, rather than entrenched position-defending, so thanks for this.

@baptistjon i imagine being a human unable to move so much as a finger.I can understand that for some it is unbearable - a living hell

@robinince I agree with you, It would seem that way. And we both know the usual arguments. But there must be a better way

@baptistjon well the only better way must be forcing someone who wishes to die to live

@baptistjon i think you see a greater power in a god, that is your choice, why do I not have my choice

@robinince You introduce faith, and of course that informs my own thinking and decisions. But even without God, my questions stand, no?

@baptistjon but i think the belief in a life beyond our earthly life will always change a view on the right to die

@robinince Of course, and I'm not trying to convert you (I mean, if greenbelt couldn't...) but even on simply human terms

@baptistjon we are given freedom of choice for so many things, our own life must surely be one of them

@robinince to have as only option to end it all is not dignified. It says we failed to find the way to cope with all of life.

@baptistjon it is not the only option, we are talking about when all other options have failed, it is the final option

@robinince If only it was final. The decision to involve someone else lives on in them.

@baptistjon it is our duty to find as many ways to make a life worth living, if life is unbearable to someone how cruel to make them live it

@baptistjon we are our minds, some find their minds in agony, we try solace, solace fails, what then?

@robinince Aren't we more than just minds? Aren't we our complex set of relationships too? Don't we find and give meaning to each other?

@baptistjon I have to stop this now. (mind is where all our experience lies, our love, our experience of others etc. it is where we live)

@robinince I've appreciated the conversation, thanks

@baptistjon i think you do not understand what I am saying, so best left now before we waste time on semantics

@robinince I think the issue probably isn't not understanding, but rather not agreeing. And that's how we find a path to truth, I hope.

@robinince There's an old saying "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another", thanks again for this exchange.

@baptistjon my point was once we get to the definition of mind and experience it will go on forever

@robinince quite possibly. A discussion for another time, and perhaps a side issue here.

@baptistjon yes, probably better discussed with more than 140 characters a time (but less than 10,000)

@robinince If you're ever passing through Wolverhampton, coffees (or pints) are on me.

one hour in to being a patron for @dignityindying and I'm already arguing with a pastor

@robinince @dignityindying Why doesn't this surprise me. :-\

@LittleJen62 @robinince @dignityindying Hardly arguing. Some light, not too much heat generated I'd say, surely?

@baptistjon @LittleJen62 @dignityindying I'd say a good mini discussion to be continued

@robinince @baptistjon @dignityindying Ooh good! :-) don't like things getting too hot under the dog collar ;-) xx