Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Blogging, Twitter and Ello

When I first began writing a blog, I had many good intentions of creating a space where conversations could be started and continued on various topics. The advent of social media has meant that most of that happens in a different space now, and this space has been updated far less frequently.

It's my intention to still post here occasionally, but most of my online conversation happens on twitter and facebook these days, and I'm exploring Ello as an alternative space that doesn't share my details to marketing firms quite so easily..

You can find me on social media here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

'Islamic State cannot be defeated by military action alone'

Leaders of two of Britain’s major Churches say that the UK Government must not give into the rhetoric that Islamic State can simply be bombed out of existence.

In a statement released today, leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Methodist Church in Britain say that the case for military intervention can only be supported as one part of a broader political and economic strategy to tackle the ideology of IS.

The Churches have issued a briefing on the issues and are urging their members to pray and to write to their MPs asking the Government to offer greater support to refugees from Syria and Iraq as part of such a strategy.

The full statement follows:

The UK Government must treat with caution suggestions that Islamic State could be defeated primarily through military action. An ideology – even one as dangerous and perverse as that of IS – cannot be defeated by the use of weapons. Military action could help to protect persecuted minorities and prevent IS from expanding its control in Iraq. But countering extremist violence in Iraq requires that Iraqis effectively address the underlying grievances that provided support for the rise of IS. The situation in Syria is more chaotic and the effectiveness of external military intervention less certain. Both nations face difficult challenges for which there are no easy solutions.

Military intervention carries huge risks. Any intervention must be legally justified and can only be supported as one part of a broad political and economic strategy which must have the support of countries in the region. It is not certain that the most crucial elements of such a strategy are in place. We recognise the Government’s attempts to involve Iran, but would like to see this on a much broader front, and there are a number of unanswered questions that must urgently be addressed. For example, what is the level of commitment among countries in the region to take steps to prevent the funding of violent extremism - not only in Iraq and Syria but more broadly?

The international community also has a key role to play in documenting human rights abuses and challenging the culture of impunity that allows such atrocities to occur.

We are grateful that the Government has agreed to provide resettlement for some Syrian refugees, but to date only a handful have been resettled in the UK. This does not even begin to scratch the surface of the level of need and further support must be extended to displaced people from both nations, in the UK and elsewhere. Meanwhile we welcome the contribution of the UK Government to the support of millions of displaced persons and refugees who remain in the region.

As Christians we stand with those who are abused, persecuted and marginalised, whatever their faith or ethnicity. We pray that leaders in government who grapple with seemingly impossible situations will be guided by God’s wisdom and peace. We will continue to pray for peace, to work towards greater understanding between peoples of all faiths and none, and to advocate for the needs of those most marginalised.

The Revd Lynn Green
General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain

The Revd Ken Howcroft
President of the Methodist Conference

Ms Gill Dascombe
Vice-President of the Methodist Conference 

Friday, August 01, 2014

A great quote

A member of our music group used this verse from the Message translation in part of the devotions he led last night. I was struck by the wonderful language, and so share it with you here. With thanks to Alan Clark for drawing my eye to the text!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's Happening at Tab?

A few people have heard some things have been happening at Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton, and wanted to hear more. So I have written a brief summary of the exciting things that are happening.

Over recent years the church has been in a season of growth. This has meant we’ve needed to rethink the way we do some of our leadership, decision making and structuring life together so that we can still be making sure people receive our well-known warm welcome and hospitality, and also find a way into the life of the church in such a way that they are enabled to grow as disciples of Jesus.

A number of years ago we began supporting a local evangelical church that had been struggling, and in 2012 we merged the two churches into one church that meets in two locations.

This year, God has been generous to us, and through a significant gift we have been enabled to make some serious headway on mission, vision, and strategy.

When the leadership team went away on retreat, we felt God spoke very clearly about the way forward, and the church meeting endorsed a number of things.

Firstly, the big picture. We believe that Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton is called to transform the city, through one changed life at a time.

Secondly, In order to achieve this, we are embracing a multi-site future instead of growing a very large church in one location. We are now working towards merging with a third church to create another mission centre in the city.

Thirdly, We want to equip the whole church to be engaged with the mission of God, and, where appropriate, commission people in specific areas of service, and provide them support and training. The first of these are our new Community Outreach Workers, Phil and Christine Core, who are introducing themselves to people right now, and getting a good picture of the situation before they begin ministry formally on 13th July, based in Broad Street, our city centre location. They are undertaking training through the Crucible Course, and linking up with Urban Expression. It’s great to finally see a presence for UE in the city at last!

Fourthly, alongside releasing the whole church membership, we want to call a second full-time minister to the church, to work alongside me, to both share the load, and break open new ground. We’ve begun preparations and hope to start looking formally by late summer / early autumn.

Finally, for now, the gift enables us to reshape our buildings so that they are more focussed on  seven day a week mission, rather than being  mainly Sunday preaching centres. For Broad Street this means significantly improving access to the whole building, as well as bringing back into use an underused space that has the potential to be a multi-functional cafe / meeting / performance space. For the Dunstall building, we are completely reviewing our buildings with a view to reshaping / rebuilding in such a way that community-focussed mission is at their heart. We’re not assuming we know precisely what we want right now, but we’re expecting some time spent in prayer, conversations, and in looking at other new builds might help us see more clearly what might be achieved.

That’s a lot of change! So, if you’re the praying kind, please remember us. In the midst of all this we remain a very diverse church, with the joys and occasional tensions that brings, and with all the usual pressures of church life.

It’s fair to say that in the past, mistakes have been made, and the church has suffered, particularly following or during seasons of growth. Our hope would be that alongside the other churches in the city we would work together in such a way that we will leave a legacy for generations to come of hope, generosity, growth, and above all, the Father’s love.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baptist Assembly 2014, Communion Service

A number of people have asked to have a copy of the words we used for the Communion service on Sunday afternoon.

The team that write and design these sessions draw on a variety of influences, but this year our own Craig Gardiner wrote most of the significant portions. I include here the text of the Gathering Prayer, the prayer following In Memoriam, the words used to welcome all to the table, and then the invitation to come.

A Gathering prayer

Gather us in, Lord,
the lost and the lonely, the broken and breaking,
the tired and the aching
who long for the nourishment found at your feast.
All: Gather us in,

the done and the doubting, the wishing and wondering,
the puzzled and pondering
who long for the company found at your feast.
All: Gather us in,

the proud and pretentious, the sure and superior,
the never inferior,
who long for the levelling found at your feast.
All: Gather us in,

the bright and the bustling,
the stirrers, the shakers,
the kind laughter makers
who long for the deeper joys found at your feast.
All: Gather us in,

from corner or limelight, from mansion or campsite,
from fears and obsession, from tears and depression,
from untold excesses, from treasured successes,
to meet, to eat, be given a seat,
be joined to the vine, be offered new wine,
become like the least, be found at the feast.
All: Gather us in!

Congregational response of thanks and praise, following In Memoriam

There are many who have gone before us
Those who stretched to the heights of faith
For these men and women
For these saints of God
we give you thanks and praise O Lord

There are many who have gone before us
Those who sought out the depths of love
For these men and women
For these saints of God
we give you thanks and praise O Lord

There are many who have gone before us
Those who embraced the widest hope
For these men and women
For these saints of God
we give you thanks and praise O Lord

And like those who have gone before us
we give ourselves to follow you
in the name of Jesus Christ
in the power of the Holy Spirit
higher, deeper and wider than ever before

Words of welcome as we prepare for Communion

The old and the young
Even little children
There is a place prepared for you

Women and men
free and oppressed
there is a place prepared for you

Regardless of our colour or ethnicity
Impairment or ability
there is a place prepared for you

Singles or couples
Straight or gay
Friend or stranger
there is a place prepared for you

Rich and poor
Employed and jobless
Housed and homeless
there is a place prepared for us all

The invitation to share

This is the table not of the Church,
But of the Lord
It is made ready for those who love him
And who want to love him more

So come,
You who have much faith
And we who have little
You have been here often
We who have not been for a long time
All who have tried to follow
We who have failed

Come because it is not I who invite you
It is our Lord
It is his will that
Any and all who want him

Should meet him here

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Evangelical Alliance, Oasis Trust, and evangelical unity

Today has been a sad day for evangelicals in the UK. The largest umbrella organisation, the Evangelical Alliance (EA), has today discontinued the membership of Oasis Trust, an agency that has done more than almost any other to raise the profile of evangelism, youth ministry, gospel-inspired social action ministry and a distinctively Christian approach to matters of education, health and social welfare.

The reason the EA did this? Steve Chalke, the founder and director of Oasis, has called for a public conversation between evangelicals around the issues of human sexuality, same-sex marriage and faithful examination of approaches to scripture.

Let me be clear, what I feel is a tragedy is not that the wider evangelical constituency might differ with Steve and Oasis, but that the simple act of calling for a conversation has led to them being effectively defined as non-evangelical.

It was remarked to me recently that Jesus merely had to say one sentence for Lazarus to be raised from the dead, and he was, yet Jesus spends a whole chapter (John 17) calling for unity, and we’re still divided.
Whatever hope we have for unity within local fellowships, between churches and across the boundaries of our denominations, movements and streams, it must be rooted in the generosity to engage with a different viewpoint, and to at the very least be willing to participate in a conversation.

Our unity as evangelicals is found in who we understand Jesus to be, how we understand his life, teaching, death and resurrection, the central place of scripture in our life, and the importance of participation in the mission of God in the world.

By taking an issue like human sexuality and making it a defining point of evangelicalism we are declaring its importance to be on a par with those unifying topics. It’s not.

We simply have to find ways of agreeing to disagree on these secondary issues, or else there will be no alliance at all, merely the splintering of broken pieces of the pot that was being formed. “My way or the highway” can have no place in the company of those called to follow the one who considered equality with God not something to be grasped, but took on the nature of servant.

You can read the EA press release here

And Oasis Trust’s response here.

Please pray that this sad state of affairs might somehow lead to a renewed sense of urgency to find ways of unifying evangelicals of all stripes, and for the humility of Jesus to be seen in us all.

Latest News
On 6th May the EA released a members briefing from Steve Clifford. They are clear that the issue is broken relationship, and that a member organisation had made a complaint. What seems to be missing is any sense of this being a failure in terms of being unable to either resolve that complaint, or hold a creative tension.

Why Your Vote Matters

I very often hear people make comments about how their votes make no change, or not feeling there is any merit in getting to the polling station.

Today I came across this wonderful cartoon from Dave Walker, which he has given me permission to repost from his site CartoonChurch.com. I'm not sure there's any need for me to make further comment other than - get out and vote!