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!