Monday, December 29, 2008

Changeling


Su and I had some Odeon vouchers to be used up by the end of the year, so last night we took advantage of the ready made babysitting facility at Granny's house and went to see Changeling.
This Clint Eastwood directed film tells the true story of a single mother, Christine Collins, whose son goes missing one day. Several months later the LAPD produce a boy who claims to be her son, but she knows that it is not him. What ensues is stranger than fiction, and all the more disturbing because you know that it's true. A gripping tale of police corruption, the disempowerment of women, serial killing, and a mother's detemination. The film is like a cross between L.A. Confidential, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Silence of the Lambs. Angelina Jolie's performace is amazing, and she must surely be in line for the Best Actress oscar. John Malkovich also puts in an excellent supporting role as a Presbyterian minister who campaigns on behalf of Collins. Eastwood's direction is understated and allows the story to speak for itself, I was captivated right through to the end. Well worth a watch. See a trailer here

5/5

Saturday, December 27, 2008

ping

attempting to update my blog from phone through ping fm

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ouch!

As someone who has already made at least 2 trips to Cribs Causeway and still has lots of presents to buy, and also as someone who is quite partial to receiving nice new toys at Christmas, this video makes uncomfortable and challenging viewing, but it's right. On one side of my family we have got into the habit of only buying each other gifts such as Oxfam Unwrapped but on the other side, who are not believers, it would be hard to do this without appearing stingy and joyless. They always buy us nice presents and it would seem a bit tight not to reciprocate. How can we get the balance right?



ht: Bishop Alan

Friday, November 21, 2008

Magritte

In honour of René Magritte, born 110 years ago today.



and


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Historic Moment



Can’t help but be excited by the election result. Congratulations Barack Obama, and congratulations America.
The world breathes a sigh of relief. I stayed up until about 3am to watch, when Ohio was announced for Obama and it was clear that he was going to win. Although I believe this is a hopeful development, of course Obama is not the messiah. He cannot possibly live up to the expectations and the huge desire for change. He will make mistakes, and compromises and much will remain the same. Their will be backlashes, and ‘I told you so’s and disappointments. But for now let's celebrate the historic moment that this is, and let's pray for Obama, and his incoming administration, and for the great nation of the USA.

Here is a list of some of the policies that I believe offer hope for the world - (from avaaz) ht: Peter Kirk

  • Reduce the US’s carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol

  • Withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and keep no permanent bases in the country

  • Establish a clear goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons across the globe

  • Close the Guantanamo Bay detention center

  • Double US aid to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 and accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculoses and Malaria

  • Open diplomatic talks with countries like Iran and Syria, to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions

  • De-politicize military intelligence to avoid ever repeating the kind of manipulation that led the US into Iraq

  • Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur

  • Only negotiate new trade agreements that contain labor and environmental protections

  • Invest $150 billion over ten years to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015


  • Let’s pray for wisdom and perseverance for Obama as he pursues these goals.

    Writing

    I wish I could write. I don’t mean I wish I could write well, I mean I wish I could write. I go for long periods, as a glance at my blog would prove, when I don’t feel able to put any words out that might be worth reading. To say that I get ‘writer’s block’ would make it sound a bit grand because I am not in any sense a writer. The fact is though, that I find writing incredibly difficult. Or I should say, most of the time I find writing difficult. Now this is particularly a problem, given the path that I have chosen to follow (or been chosen to follow): training to be a vicar, and as part of that training, and with a view to teaching at some point in time, a particular academic route which involves not a small amount of writing. (I am currently pursuing an MPhil in New Testament studies, with aspirations to take it further and upgrade to a PhD).

    I do have a passion for study. I love reading, and I could read and read and read until the cows come home. I take copious amounts of notes, and stroke my chin, and ponder, and think, but when it comes to putting my fingers on the keyboard and opening up that blank document and actually beginning to put down my own thoughts, I almost invariably struggle. I say almost invariably because there are moments, all too rare, and usually last minute, driven by deadlines, when I can knuckle down and knock out a few thousand words. Come to think of it, I must have knocked out getting on for 100,000 words or so over the last 5 years or so. And, if I’m honest, for most of those words I have had pretty good feedback, reasonable grades etc. So why do I still find it so difficult?

    I think there are two main contributing factors. The first, and by far the biggest, is confidence. Or lack of. In the same way I often find it difficult to articulate myself in speaking, if I’m in a group I’m quite often likely to be one of the quieter members, I tend to have to think quite carefully about what I want to say, or write, rather than just ‘let it flow’. I still struggle with preaching, although I’ve done it many times, I always get incredibly nervous. I sweat over the preparation, struggle to focus on anything else for about a week before, and generally cack it until it’s delivered. I think there is something psychological which goes on where I become more concerned with the fact that I am supposed to come up with the words, than with focussing on just getting on with speaking or writing.

    The second main factor is lack of focus. Whether it’s blogs, email, websites, other books that I’m reading or whatever, there are always a million and one things which clamour for my attention. I know this is the same for everyone these days. We have a short attention span, or rather, we have a broad attention span. Writing takes focus, and it takes discipline, both of which I have in short supply. What can be done about this?

    One practice that has been recommended to me is ‘freewriting’. That is, just practising writing, for set amounts of time, not worrying too much about the content. The idea is that you can always go back and edit the content later, but that it is important to just get used to getting the words down. Like any discipline, a habit needs to be formed by regular, repetition of achievable tasks. It is apparently a well known problem for research students to do too much reading before they begin to write, and I have already fallen well into this trap. By practising ‘freewriting’ it is claimed that you can quite quickly develop your writing to the point where you can write 1000 words in an hour. They may not be the best 1000 words you can write, but that is not the point. Blogging would seem to be the ideal format to practice, if I wasn’t so concerned about what other people thought.

    The other thing that I clearly need to improve on is just blocking out periods of time dedicated to research and writing. I need to turn the phone off, turn off internet access, shut the study door, ensure peace and quiet, and get on with it. I need to train my brain to switch off about other responsibilities, like worship leading or sermon writing, and crack on with the main thing that I want to be giving my time to. Any thoughts on how I can improve on this?

    Anyway, that was a bit of a bash at ‘freewriting’, on the subject of writing. Maybe I’ll post it on my blog. Maybe I won’t. Now back to the election, or should I go to bed?

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    My prayer too



    Please, please, please my US friends, don't let the world down for the third time in a row. We're very afraid.


    ht:ASBO Jesus

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    By Request

    As a follow up to the post with the Apache break - a request has come in for the following-




    There you go Rob. I aim to please.

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Frisbee

    I blogged about this fascinating film here.










    I've only just come across this interview with the director David Di Sabatino, from the Mars Hill website.




    worth a listen. (I recommend skipping the pastor's waffling for the first 10 minutes)

    ht: jon swales

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Breaking News

    William is going to have a little brother or sister. Went today for a 12 week scan at Southmead, and everything looks ok so far.
    Due date is 25th March.




    This calls for a celebration. How about the greatest breakbeat ever -



    The break from apache by The Incredible Bongo Band.

    Oh, ok, here's a bit more -




    or how about the Amen break, from Amen Brother by The Winstons-



    the basis of all Drum and Bass, here it is looped and speeded up to 160 BPM -



    Recorded from vinyl into Garageband, trimmed, looped, sped up, then converted to mp3.

    Do I know how to waste time or what? But hey, it's a good day.

    sad news

    I was shocked and saddened to read this news. I can't claim to have known Bigbulkyanglican, Tom Allen, but I have been reading his blog for years. I always enjoyed his passion for music, his thoughts on mission in a traditional setting and his wisdom. My sympathy and prayers are with his family.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    macjournal

    Just testing out this new piece of software called macjournal
    It lets me edit a blog entry offline then publish it straight to my blog.
    Need to play around with it a bit to see if it actually gives me anything worthwhile.

    Related Tags:

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Open Source Theology

    A couple of entries on open source theology which I found interesting. The first is Andrew Perriman's review of a chapter by Mark Driscoll in a book called The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. A very fair review which highlights some of the points of conflict between Reformed and Emergent theologies.
    The second is a review of Rob Bell's latest tour film the gods aren't angry which sounds like another fascinating presentation in the mould of everything is spiritual

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Dispatch 2 from the Emergent Frontier

    Dispatch no. 2 from The New Christians by Tony Jones

    "Emergents reject the politics and theologies of left versus right. Seeing both sides as a remnant of modernity, they look forward to a more complex reality."

    This dispatch is more concerned with the US situation, where I believe both the theological and political spectrum are much more polarised than they are in the UK. We don't have 'the culture wars' in anything like the same mode.

    In theological terms it is true that both fundamentalism and liberalism were responses to modernity, and both rely on a foundationalist epistemology. The fundamentalist or conservative evangelical builds on a foundation of the inerrant word of God, the bible, or a particular interpretation thereof. For the liberal, the foundation is the "feeling of utter dependence" that Schleiermacher spoke of. If any of the postmodern critique of the enlightenment project is valid then both of these traditions are in trouble and begin to look naive.

    It terms of politics I take this dispatch to be an expression of the frustration which is exemplified in Jim Wallis' book God's Politics, subtitle - 'Why the American Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It'. (The fact that Gordon Brown endorsed this book so strongly shows we in the UK are in a different situation), or in bumpers stickers that say 'God is not a Republican (or a Democrat)'. The ethics of the kingdom simply do not line up straightforwardly with the left or right in this polarity.
    One may be pro-life and against the war in Iraq for example. Or one may take a conservative line on sexuality, but not believe that it should be the single issue which decides an election, and that matters of social justice and concerns about poverty may be more important. I sympathise with the annoyance of Christians in the US who are sick of the so called 'religious right', but who are also nervous about the emergence of a new Christian left. I do not think the answer is an anabaptist disengagement from politics, leaving a secular vacuum into which may be sucked all kinds of forces opposed to the Lordship of Christ. So yes, a more nuanced approach for a more complex reality is needed in terms of Christian political engagement.

    I understand the sentiment of this dispatch, but like I say, I don't think it applies in anything like the same way in the UK context.

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Dispatch 1 from the Emergent Frontier

    Dispatch no. 1 from The New Christians by Tony Jones

    "Emergents find little importance in the discrete differences between the various flavors of Christianity. Instead, they practice a generous orthodoxy that appreciates the contributions of all Christian movements."

    I think I broadly agree with this, although I expect that sometimes it is the discrete differences between the Christians traditions which represent the contributions that they make, if that makes sense.

    If this dispatch means recognising that the various different Christian traditions all have strengths and choosing to see the best in the other traditions, then I'm on board. I don't think this means we should try and iron out the differences between us or that it means we can't critique one another.

    'Generous Orthodoxy' is a phrase I like, obviously the title of Brian McLaren's book which had the fantastic subtitle of 'Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, ... Emergent, Unfinished Christian'. To some people this might read as 'why I am confused', but personally I think it's healthy.

    It also reminds me of the approach taken by Richard Foster, and the other folk at Renovaré. In particular it is the approach taken in Foster's book Streams of Living Water. This arranges the Christian traditions into 6 streams:
    Contemplative - the prayer filled life,
    Holiness - the virtuous life,
    Charismatic - the Spirit-empowered life,
    Social Justice - the compassionate life,
    Evangelical - the Word-centred life and
    Incarnational the sacramental life


    It is apparently also what Phyllis Tickle describes in her upcoming book The Great Emergence which sees the coming together of 4 quadrants - the Social Justice, the Liturgical, the Evangelical, and the Pentecostal. At least I think they were the four that Andrew Jones mentioned in his talk at Greenbelt.

    I actually think I learned something of this approach in the Vineyard. Wimber used to stress that Jesus loves the whole church, from the Roman Catholics to the snake-handling Pentecostals. It is also part of my journey into the Anglican church, which I see as deep enough to explore some historical roots and broad enough to embrace the strengths of other traditions.

    So yes, a tick for dispatch no. 1

    Saturday, August 30, 2008

    Don't it always seem to go...

    that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

    Watching this video celebrating 25 years of Vineyard USA warmed the cockles of my heart and brought a tear to my eye. Although I believe (hope) God has moved me on into a different stream of Christ's church I will always have a soft spot for the Vineyard movement of churches. They are part of me. I still hold to the values mentioned in this clip and I believe they are so important for the church. I am praying that I will be able to 'take the best and go' (to use WImber's phrase) as I move into ministry in the good 'ole c of e.


    Vineyard USA 25th Anniversary from Vineyard USA on Vimeo.

    How gracious and humble is Ken Guliksen in this clip?

    ht: Steve Gee

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Emergent and Mark Driscoll



    One of the fascinating parts of The New Christians by Tony Jones has been the portrayal of the journey of Mark Driscoll from being one of the founding members of the Emergent group to being D.A. Carson in a hoodie and jeans.
    Now I guess there is no love lost between Tony Jones and Mark Driscoll, and I wonder if Jones could have been a little more gracious in what he writes about Driscoll, but what do I know.

    Driscoll was, Jones writes, one of a dozen young leaders who gathered near Colorado Springs in1997 to discuss ministry to Generation Xers. Part way through the weekend, Brad Cecil gave an impromptu presentation about the postmodern turn (This presentation has now been turned into a powerpoint presentation). Driscoll was apparently one of the ones who "got it", and began to establish who else in the gathered group "got it". They began to search the country for other young leaders who "got it".

    Tony Jones apparently joined the group about a year later. He describes his initial meeting with them, and here is where things seem to start to sour with Mark Driscoll. At one point in the conversation, Jones came out with the statement "The Bible is propaganda!". The way he describes it, it just popped out of his mouth, much to his own surprise. Now what he meant was that the propaganda "has a point and a purpose", that "It doesn't claim to be objective. It's trying to convince someone of something. It's trying to get people to join a cause, to join a movement." and that's what the Bible is. This is pretty obvious really but 'propaganda' is of course a provocative way of putting it as it is usually associated with deceitful methods used by nasty regimes. Jones records the response -

    'Particularly torqued at my insouciance was Mark Driscoll, the fireplug sitting to Brad's left. The guy has an uncommonly sharp mind - and a tongue to match. (The story of his conversion, the rapid growth in membership at his church, and his subsequent disavowal of all things emergent is well documented in his own books.) Mark definitely did not appreciate my take on the sacred text of Christianity, and he let that be known.' (p45)

    Jones describes the development of the group and Driscoll pops up again a few pages later -

    'Meanwhile, things with Mark Driscoll had become uncomfortable. Sitting on a panel at a Seattle event in 1999, he vehemently stated that women should not be pastors. Everyone else in the room was dumbfounded, since he was breaking an assumed consensus in the group. He was also becoming known as the "foul-mouthed preacher" (he was apparently the "Cussing pastor" in Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz) When Brad Cecil invited Mark to guest preach at Axxes Church in Arlington, he explained to Mark that unlike Seattle, swearing from the pulpit in Texas just wouldn't fly, and he asked Mark to please keep his language clean. Mark used the F-word in the first sentance.

    The young emergents were gaining a reputation as arrogant, foul-mouthed, and angry young preachers, very much as a result of Driscoll's outbursts. This resulted in a couple of meetings and conference calls, an attempt to quell his vituperations. But nothing worked. Driscoll's increasingly conservative theology and his unrepentant attitude led to an eventual distancing from the rest of the group. By 2003, he was publicly denouncing his former fellows.' (p48)

    So here it sounds like Driscoll was ousted from the group for his increasingly conservative views (especially on women) and because of his potty mouth. I haven't read Driscoll's version of events, but I hear it is more like he distanced himself from Emergent for their increasingly "unorthodox" views. Which version is true? Both of course. Let's not be so naive to think we can have one version of The Truth :)

    The last mention of Driscoll in 'The New Christians' is connected to the story of The Church of the Apostles in Seattle. Wondering how long COTA can be sustained, Jones writes -

    'These are people who have obviously witnessed the tearing apart of many churches. And what's more, they live in the shadow of an eight-hundred-pound gorilla: Mars Hill Fellowship, an emerging church pastored by the self-described "Bible-thumping fundamentalist" Mark Driscoll. Mark and Mars Hill come up in almost every conversation I have at COTA. Driscoll himself has distanced himself from "emergent" and claimed the title "emerging" for Mars Hill. He gets a lot of press, has a column in the Seattle newspaper, and has a rising profile nationwide. But the very attributes of emergent Christianity - humility regarding interpretation, nonpropositional appreciation for truth - Driscoll rejects outright. He's not-so-subtedly criticized Karen (Ward) for replacing the proclamation of doctrine with finger painting. With Driscoll's three-thousand-member megachurch claiming "emerging" status, the Cotans understandable wonder about the future of the emergent tribe.' (p207)

    I'm not sure what to make of this. I can understand Jones standing up for a small emergent community in the shadow of a megachurch. This is a common problem. But does it not sound a little bit like sour grapes and well, a bit personal. Should Jones rise above this in grace and humility? (Easy for me to say, I haven't been publicly denounced by Driscoll) (yet :) )

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    The New Christians - Tony Jones





    I picked this up at Greenbelt and have been really enjoying it. It's a highly personal account (there is no other kind, he would say) of the development of the Emergent section of the emerging church. It is fairly US-centric, although it does acknowledge that there are emerging churches in other parts of the world. It's a very readable mix of personal story, sociological analysis, theology and stories of other emergent people. My only complaint so far is that it does that annoying thing of putting text that is already in the text in a box, for marketing purposes I guess. I'm sure postmodern people can cope with a book that doesn't have gimmicky text boxes and other pictures littered throughout the text.

    I haven't read much that I have disagreed with so far. Jones paints a picture of the american church and political scene in terms of left and right and suggests that emergent hovers somewhere above the middle. He is clearly a post if not anti-foundationalist, but I have not yet gathered just how thoroughly postmodern his epistemology is and how he avoids the charge of relativism. In other words, what aspects of postmodernity does he critique and on what basis.

    Every now and then there is a 'dispatch', which is a (dare I say) proposition of what emergent folk represent. I thought I might blog through some of these, along with some other highlights/reflections. Read Tall Skinny Kiwi's review.


    Glory Boy



    As William was praising the Lord at Greenbelt, the anointing on him was visible. Move over Bentley, there's a new kid in town.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    iRun

    A few weeks ago I started running. I was inspired by my sister who intends to run the Duchy marathon in Cornwall next year. I went out with her while I was down there and did a couple of miles and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give it a bash as a way of keeping fit and shifting a bit of weight. The first couple of times I went out in Bristol, I did about 20 minutes. I had stitch, I was out of breath, and I pulled a calf muscle (largely due to the crappy old trainers I was wearing). Undeterred, I invested in some new running shoes, and these made a lot of difference.

    I've now been out about a dozen times, gradually increasing my time and distance, and I've joined a club on Tuesday nights. The calf was a bit tight for a while but seems to be better now. Last night felt really good. At the beginner's club at upandrunning we did 8 lots of 4 minutes with 1 minute walking in between. At the end of this I still had some energy so I ran home - another 8 minutes, making a total of about 40 minutes running, and a distance of just under 5 miles.

    Being a nerd, I plot out my routes on walkjogrun and keep scrupulous records in a spreadsheet. So far I've been out 12 times, ran 35.32 miles, in 5.18 hours, with an average speed of 6.67 miles per hour (approx.). And having an addictive personality, I really miss the run on my rest days, which is bizzare, but it's good to have a healthy addiction for a change.

    I'm not sure whether I'll end up doing a marathon, but I'll at least aim for a half, maybe in Bath or somewhere. In the meantime I may do a 5K or two. Let's see how long the craze lasts.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Greenbelt





    Back from a cracking weekend at Greenbelt, with the Barnes, the Swales, and the Johns.
    Check out some of the photos on flickr.
    It was fantastic to hang out with friends, and meet new people, and I loved the eclectic mix of music, arts and challenging talks. Some of the highlights for me include seeing Michael Franti and Spearhead on Friday night, singing the Lord's prayer with Brian McClaren, (He blogs about his Greenbelt experience here) hearing Tall Skinny Kiwi speak about emerging church and about mission (blogging) in the 1024 window, beer and hymns in the 'Jesus Arms', meeting Jon Birch, and only later realising that he is ASBO Jesus (There is an interview with him here), and discovering the amazing Shlomo. All in all, an inspiring (and knackering) weekend.
    .

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Mark Driscoll Kicks His Own Ass




    'Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, took a dramatic stand against girly men at a Pastor’s Conference in Houston last week.

    The conference, called “re:tool and re:load,” previously billed as “jesus 2.0,” featured speakers from around the country with the stated focus of “Making the Gospel and Missiology Relevant to Post Modern Culture.” Speaking at the last session of the conference, Driscoll focused his three-and-a-half-hour talk on the need for pastors to be more alpha.

    “The problem with our churches today is that the lead pastor is some sissy boy who wears cardigan sweaters, has The Carpenters dialed in on his iPod, gets his hair cut at a salon instead of a barber shop, hasn’t been to an Ultimate Fighting match, works out on an elliptical machine instead of going to isolated regions of Russia like in Rocky IV in order to harvest lumber with his teeth, and generally swishes around like Jack from Three’s Company whenever Mr. Roper was around.”'

    read the whole thing at The Wittenburg Door

    :)

    update: NB - Please note - this is a SATIRE. It is made up. It has come to my attention that some folk thought these quotes were real!

    the following excerpt should make this clear -
    In Houston, Driscoll was intent on making absolutely clear that he is in favor of masculinity. At the 2 hour, 15 minute mark, he invited five pastors from the audience to take the stage, put his hands behind his back, stuck out his chin, and said, “Hit me with your best shot. Go on. I won’t hit you back. I want to show everyone what this is all about.” When none of the five took a swing, Driscoll had them escorted from the building and proceeded to hit himself five times.

    “This is what being a pastor is about, guys. If you can’t handle it, go back to teaching yoga or playing My Little Pony with the other girls.”

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Learning Journal 16 - Experience of Journaling


    My experience of journaling has been a helpful one. Although I can’t claim to have been the most regular and consistent journal writer, when I have taken the time to reflect theologically on my experiences at college it has been a useful way of firming up my thinking in certain areas. It is sometimes easy for college life to go past in a blur, with so much happening and so many things to think about. It is helpful to slow down and separate things out in order to chew them over properly. At the same time I can recognise certain key areas and themes that crop up time and again which are clearly particular interests or passions of mine. This helps to clarify my calling and identify my priorities for future ministry.

    I know that some people use journaling as a kind of spiritual discipline to accompany prayer and I can see how this could be a profitable exercise. I could note prayer requests, and answers to prayer and reflect on what God has been doing in my life. I think discipline would be the key word for me, because journaling does not come naturally to me, which probably means it’s all the more important.

    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    Learning Journal 15 - Worship and Prayer


    At college I have found the discipline of daily morning prayer to both challenging and helpful. I come from a church background which didn’t use much liturgy and learning to appreciate it has been part of my journey into Anglicanism. I have also enjoyed engaging in worship in ways that are different from my own background such as the Taizé week, the BCP weeks and the international weeks. The weekly communion service has been invaluable and has facilitated some of the most powerful worship in the life of the college community. I have really benefited from the weekly period of silence that occurs on a Wednesday morning and I would like to explore this spiritual discipline more as I go into ministry.

    Most helpful of all has been being part of a prayer triplet with a couple of other guys who I’m good friends with. We are able to be frank and honest with each other, praying for and challenging each other to be the husbands, fathers and ministers that God is calling us to be. I would like to think that we can continue this habit, albeit less frequently, as we go into ministry.

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    Learning Journal 14 - 'The Church of England in the 20th Century'


    I have found this module to be interesting but at the same time somewhat depressing. Depressing because it would seem, that for most of the 20th century, with a few shining exceptions, the Church of England has been largely out of touch with the lives and concerns of ordinary, working people.
    I kept asking myself ‘where is the social conscience of this church?’
    It seems to have spent a large proportion of its time embroiled in debates and controversies which are completely irrelevant to the vast majority of people in this country. Of course there have been priests up and down the land who have faithfully preached the gospel, served the poor, and stood up for the oppressed, but the positions of power within the church seem to have been have been restricted to an elite, Oxbridge educated few clinging on to the vestiges of privilege.

    It was only towards the end of the course that my faith was restored as Bishop Roger Sainsbury gave a lecture on ‘The Church of England and Social Action’. He highlighted the important work of Charles Gore, William Temple, and David Sheppard amongst others in stressing the church’s responsibility in addressing the injustices in society. I am glad to see that the church has changed and is changing in that it has begun to rediscover its calling to ‘remember the poor’.

    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Learning Journal 13 - The Five Marks of Mission


    In Ministry Formation Groups we did a session on the Anglican view of mission. I found this session to be very helpful and it was encouraging to see how holistic the Anglican view of mission can be. We examined the ‘five marks of mission’ from the 1988 Lambeth Conference, which are

    1) To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
    2) To teach, baptize and nurture new believers.
    3) To respond to human need by loving service.
    4) To seek to transform unjust structures of society.
    5) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the earth.

    This list seems to be fairly comprehensive to me and I would be glad to be part of a church that was taking all five seriously. If our church is to be shaped by mission, which I believe it should be, then these five marks of mission ought to be heard, read, marked, learned and inwardly digested by every man, woman and child who belong to it.

    We looked at a case study from South America which was a wonderful example of this kind of holistic mission. If only we could fully take on board the fact that we are in a missionary situation in this country. I see part of my calling as encouraging, equipping and enabling the five marks of mission.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Learning Journal 12 - Personal Development


    Since being at college I have found myself being reminded that first and foremost, I am a child of God. My identity and security are to be found in Him, not in what I do, what role I have or what badge I wear and when I neglect this simple truth I begin to struggle. There is a verse in Galatians that David Wenham highlighted during his course which keeps coming back to me. It is Galatians 2:20 ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ A key challenge for me is holding on to the personal, whilst discovering the wider social and political dimensions of the gospel. In recent years I have had my eyes opened to the fact that the gospel is more than personal, but I must remember that it is not less. Here is Paul unashamedly talking in personal terms of Jesus who loved him and died for him. Miroslav Volf talks about this verse in terms of de-centering and re-centering. My old selfish centre needed to be and has been crucified with Christ. At the same time, however, it has also been re-centered so that it is now Christ who lives in me. This does not mean I have completely lost my own identity - ‘By the process of de-centering the self did not lose a center of its own, but received a new center that both transformed and reinforced the old one… re-centering establishes the most proper and unassailable center that allows the self to stand over against persons and institutions which may threaten to smother it.’ If I can learn to live in the light of this truth, that the self-giving love of Christ lies at the centre of my own self, it should radically affect not only my own view of myself but the way I relate to others. This must be the basis of all ministry.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Learning Journal 11 - Placement Church


    This summer I will be doing my Block Placement at Christchurch in Clevedon. This is a Local Ecumenical Partnership which represents the coming together of a Methodist church and an Anglican church. Students from Trinity have done placements there in the past, and a mission was held there over Easter. By all accounts it is an interesting church with lots going on and it should prove to be a great place to do a placement.

    On Pentecost Sunday we visited the church, and it just so happened that there were some Trinity students being confirmed there by Bishop Roger Sainsbury. The church seems reasonably lively with a mixture of contemporary and more traditional worship. The church seemed to be absolutely full and there was a good age range represented. The vicar, Clive Jennings seems to have a relaxed and friendly style which contributes to an informal and unpretentious atmosphere.

    The combination of the churches seems to have been successful, something which I’m sure they have had to work hard at. One thing that was fascinating was to see the way they did communion. They offered the wine both in the large single chalice’s and in the small individual glasses. Communion could be received at the rail, or in the body of the church. This presumably represents a coming together of both church’s communion traditions.

    We were made to feel very welcome and I look forward to joining them for a few weeks in the summer.

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Tom Wright on Colbert Report - Here it is!


    For those who may not know, Stephen Colbert is a comedian who does a spoof of a right-wing, republican presenter, a la Fox news. He used to appear on 'The Daily Show' with Jon Stewart, but now has his own show. He did a great job at the Whitehouse Correspondent's Dinner in 2006. Often his guests are sent up quite mercilessly, but I think Bishop Tom does quite well here to get across the important message of his book Surprised by Hope


    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Learning Journal 10 - Cranmer's Revision of the Medieval Mass


    As part of the ‘Christian Worship: Tradition and Practice’ module we have examined in some detail Cranmer’s revision of the Medieval mass which was at the heart of his prayer book and the English reformation. This has been a fascinating insight not only into the beginnings of Anglicanism but into a theological hot potato which still has implications today.

    Cranmer’s revision of the Mass happened in three stages. The first in 1548 was ‘The Order of the Communion’ which added an English section to the Latin Mass for the people’s reception of the communion in both kinds. The second was the 1549 prayer book, which provided a full service in the English vernacular and the third was in 1552 which represented a more thoroughgoing theologically Reformed revision. Colin Buchanan has made a convincing argument that the 1552 liturgy is what Cranmer had in mind all along and that he used a staged approach to gradually get there. His aims were to correct the medieval doctrines of transubstantiation, the ‘local presence’ of Christ in the bread and the wine, and the practices of the adoration and reservation of the sacrament that went along with this. He also wanted to remove all trace of Eucharistic sacrifice.

    In the 1552 prayer book there is no consecration of the bread and wine, there are no manual actions and a rubric says that the curate can take home any leftover bread and wine for his own consumption. The bread and wine remain bread and wine, and Christ is in heaven. The feeding is a spiritual feeding by the faithful in their hearts. The 1552 prayer book is therefore more Reformed than any other prayer book of the Church of England, before or since. The Elizabethan prayer book was slightly less Protestant, and in 1662 consecration is back in, along with manual acts.

    I find it fascinating that the hard won Eucharistic reforms that Cranmer fought for, and ultimately went to the stake for seem to have been too radical for the English church and have been largely forgotten.

    Tom Wright on the Colbert Report


    Apparently Bishop Tom will appear on The Colbert Report tonight. Should be worth a watch.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Learning Journal 9 - Community Placement


    Back at Lazarus house for what seems like the first time in ages. The last Thursday before the end of last term I visited an agency in Easton called Nilaari. Nilaari is a drug agency whose clients are primarily from the Black and Ethnic Minority communities. They mainly deal with crack cocaine addiction. As well as counselling they give awareness sessions at schools and youth groups.
    Last week I visited the Community Action on Alcohol and Drugs (CAAAD). This agency offer various services to people with addictions to drugs or alcohol. During the afternoon I visited there was a ‘drop-in’ where people can just come and hang out and drink coffee etc. I met a couple of the clients who were in quite a bad way. One was a lady who was a recovering alcoholic. She had been sober for about 8 months. She was very upset because something in her ‘stage 4’ counselling session had opened up some past hurts. She felt a bit embarrassed but was quite open with me. Another chap was clearly having some sort of withdrawal symptoms and was suffering quite badly. Managed to chat to him a little bit though. Turns out he goes to Woodlands church. One of the surprising things I found about CAAAD is that they are quite into ‘Alternative’ therapies – acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, even Reiki healing. Acupuncture is apparently especially helpful to addicts with cravings. I was offered the chance to have ‘ear acupuncture’ myself. Made me realise that I need to think some more about what is behind these therapies and whether it is possible to separate the spiritual aspect from the physical benefits. Also, what is the place of the church in offering real healing and recovery to those with addictions.
    Are people turning to these therapies because of a failure of the church to offer help in these areas or are they just the flavour of the month in the culture? Is there any scientifically documented evidence that these approaches work or is it just subjective and anecdotal?
    Is this area a ‘no-go’ for churches? What Christian programmes are there and what are their different approaches? I am aware of the 12 steps, Teen Challenge, Betel and the stories of Jackie Pullinger’s ministry where she basically seems to rely on praying in tongues and the filling of the Spirit. It would be interesting to do some more research in these areas.
    Why is it left to the Salvation Army and the Jesus Army to interact with people with these issues?

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    Justice Mail


    The latest justice mail request from John Hull -

    The Government has backtracked on making companies report their carbon emissions. It has signalled that it intends to drop the amendment won by our campaigners that makes it compulsory for UK businesses to report their annual carbon emissions. It's imperative that we act now to save this essential amendment as the Climate Change Bill goes through the House of Commons. So please email Environment Secretary Hillary Benn now:

    climate change action

    please take a moment to do this now if you can.

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Learning Journal 8 - Mission


    For my ‘mission’ week I was part of a team which led a ‘holiday week’ kids’ club at St Mary’s church, Shirehampton. I chose to do this mission because I had no experience of working with children and I thought I ought to get some. The prospect of a week with up to thirty 5-8 year olds both excited and scared me! As a team we had decided to use some material from Scripture Union called Champion’s Challenge which tied in the Easter story with a sporting theme. Jesus as trainer, physio, team-mate, substitute and victor.

    The team worked really well together in planning and everyone played their part in the running of the morning sessions. We had songs, games, drama, bible stories and lots of activities to keep the children interested and hopefully give them some memorable Christian input.

    One or two interesting theological issues raised their heads during the course of the week. For example, on day 2 the theme was Jesus the physio, which examined the healing ministry of Jesus. We were very aware that one of the children, a 5 year old boy, had just recently lost his father to cancer. We had to try and address the subject of healing in simple and sensitive way which allowed for the fact that God doesn’t always heal in the way we would like him to and teach that God is there with us when we are sick or suffering.

    On the fourth day, which dealt with the cross, the Scripture Union material used a fairly basic model of penal substitution in its explanation of the cross, hence the theme ‘Jesus the Substitute’. Some members of the team weren’t happy with this model of the atonement, much to the surprise of some other team members who didn’t realise that there were different models of the atonement. Much theological discussion ensued. In the end we decided perhaps going into the finer points of more nuanced understandings of the cross was going to be lost on the children and so we went with the material.

    The week was lots of fun but was quite hard work. I came away with a new found respect for primary school teachers. We only had the children for 2 hours each morning, they have them all day. It was a real privilege to work with these children, many of whom were from quite deprived backgrounds and single parent families. It was particularly touching to have kids who turned up half an hour early and who didn’t want to go home at the end. I realised that, with the right team, and some good material, holiday clubs are quite doable and can be an excellent service to offer the community.

    Saturday, June 14, 2008

    Learning Journal 7 - Galatians and 1 Corinthians


    This is the first biblical module that I have taken at Trinity, and it is the first module taught by David Wenham at Trinity, and it has been excellent. Of course, I am biased because New Testament studies is my field, and David is my supervisor, but I think this might be one of the most important modules I do at Trinity. Although I have studied both of these books before, it has been a real privilege to revisit them and have them opened up by an expert. What I have found especially helpful is how contemporary the issues facing these early churches are when you examine them, especially in 1 Corinthians. There are issues of unity, problems to do with sexuality and gender, problems of how to do mission in a new context, how to deal with inequalities between rich and poor and how to be faithful to Christ in a multi-faith society. A careful reading of the text gave us a springboard for discussion on all these subjects and more.

    I understand that there is a lot of ground to be covered in training for ministry, and there are constraints on the curriculum which mean that not everything can be covered in detail. There are important modules on pastoral theology, church history, liturgical theory and practice, missiology and much more, hopefully all informed and underpinned by good biblical theology.
    What is tragic is that people can train for ordained ministry in the Church of England, at an evangelical college like Trinity, and do as little as one biblical module in their time here.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Learning Journal 6 - Community Placement


    When I arrived at Lazarus house this week I met two of the other support workers, A and D. Neither of them were expecting me or knew anything about my placement. When they discovered I was a ‘trainee vicar’ they were keen to stress that volunteers were not supposed to talk about ‘spiritual’ matters with the residents unless they themselves bring them up. The ethos of the houses is that, although they are run by a Christian organisation, and most of the staff and volunteers are Christian, there is to be no expectation of the residents to follow a particular spiritual path. Indeed, one of the residents is a Muslim. If the resident asks questions or expresses an interest in Christianity then we may share our own beliefs with them but it must be initiated by them. I reassured them that I had no intention of giving my views where they were not requested. I will play things very low key, just chat to the residents and get to know them and help out around the house in any practical ways that I can.

    I spent a good part of the afternoon in the garden chatting to some of the residents. Of course, one of the first questions they asked me was why I was doing a placement here. I explained that it was part of my course. ‘What course are you doing?’ they asked. ‘er.. theology.’ I replied. ‘Oh, so you’re going to be a priest then?’, ‘er..yeah.’ So much for being low-key! One of them explained how he had been going to church, but he wasn’t quite sure about Jesus and all that stuff. He did, however believe in some kind of higher power, which had helped him through the 12-step programme. We had a very open conversation about church and reading the bible. They seemed quite happy to chat about such things. I am learning the importance of when it is and isn’t appropriate to speak about faith.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Learning Journal 5 - Taizé Worship


    Ordinands are organised into Worship teams which take it in turns to lead the morning prayer in chapel, a week at a time. For our first week we led a week of worship in the Taizé style. I found the combination of short, repetitive, scriptural songs, the use of silence, the use of candles and the wearing of white robes to be deeply profound in their simplicity. I find myself attracted to this more contemplative spirituality and would like to explore it more.

    Having said that it was simple, the Taizé worship did take more time in terms of preparation than the regular morning prayer. This was partly to do with the layout of the room, but also because we need to co-operate well as a team and work closely with the music group.

    On reflection, we perhaps should have taken a bit more time to introduce the style of worship to people and explain what was going to happen. As it was we just welcomed people in, began the service and expected people to join in. People got the hang of it in the end, but it is worth remembering that even ordinands take a while to get used to a different style of worship.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Learning Journal 4 - Infant Baptism


    In Ministry Formation Groups we have done a couple of sessions on baptism. The sessions weren’t necessarily about the theology of baptism, but about more practical issues of how to formulate a baptism policy, how to prepare candidates and families for baptism and how to make the most of the Common Worship Initiation services material. The theological and the practical belong together however, the one underpinning the other.

    As someone who grew up Baptist, infant baptism is one of the things I’ve had to get my head round as I’ve become Anglican. One of the strands of thinking that I have found helpful is the ‘covenantal’ approach, whereby baptism is seen as the sign of entry into the covenant family, roughly comparable to circumcision. This is fairly straightforward where a family are looking to bring up their child within the faith, but what of the numerous cases where a child is presented for baptism by parents who have no connection with church and who have little or no understanding of Christian discipleship?

    The sessions were helpful to think through the different options that can be offered to such families. There is the thanksgiving for the gift of a child service which may be more appropriate than baptism in some cases. There is the opportunity to offer baptismal preparation classes which may be in the from of a mini-Alpha course or something similar and there are a number of other resources which may help to unpack the meaning of what is going on in baptism. I agree with those who argue that requests for baptisms may be wonderful opportunities for mission, but I believe this must be held in tension with a view that upholds the importance of baptism for Christian beginnings and entry into the church.

    Learning Journal 3 - Personality Type


    All ordinands get the opportunity to assess themselves according to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator. This is a tool which is offered in order to help us with self-understanding and with how we relate to others. My results show that I am an INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). There are no great shocks here, although I was slightly surprised to see how high I was on the introvert scale. This does not mean that I am not a people person, but it does mean that I tend to get my energy, or recharge my batteries, by spending time away from the crowds. If I am not careful, people may burn me out.

    There are two possible approaches to this personality-type result. One is to accept that this is how God has made me, to recognise what is true of me in this personality type and to take this into account in the way I work with people. The other is to recognise that personality type is not set in stone, that it is not a straightjacket or an excuse. People change over time, and we have to allow for the grace of God to develop our personalities in ways which may surprise us.

    At college, my introversion seems to have been highlighted by the fact that most ordinands tend to be more on the extrovert side. It is a temptation for me to look around and compare myself to others and feel that I am too quiet or not dynamic enough to be a leader in the church. I need to remind myself that if God has called me to this ministry he can work with my personality type and equip me for what he has called me to do. Having said that, this will have obvious implications for my future ministry. I will need to build time into my schedule, not only for spending time with my family, but for retreat and reflection.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Learning Journal 2 - Community Placement


    For my community placement I am spending Thursday afternoons at a place called Lazarus House which is a residential drug and alcohol rehab centre run by a Roman Catholic organisation called Alaboré Christian Care Homes. There are actually three houses, Lazarus, Thomas and Shalom. Each can take up to 5 residents. Lazarus is the first house that residents enter. Each resident is referred by an agency, which is often the prison service but may be the probation service or a charity. Most residents are ex-offenders, and all are recovering addicts of some description. There is a ‘progression’ system between the houses from Lazarus to Thomas to Shalom depending on how stable the residents are, and how well they are doing according to an agreed set of criteria. The residents are tested at least once a week for drugs and alcohol and failure of these tests results (officially) in the residents being asked to leave.

    As this is the first time that Lazarus house has had students from Trinity on placement, there is no real prescribed structure of how I should spend my time and there are very few expectations at this stage. In discussion with P, my supervisor, we decided that I would initially spend my time chatting to the residents and getting to know them as well as helping out with any practical tasks that need doing around the house or office. We will keep things fairly ‘low-key’ as far as any ‘spiritual input’ goes on my part, but we will see how things go and if appropriate, as relationships develop and hopefully trust is established I can offer prayer as and when requested.

    I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the back yard of the house and meeting some of the residents. It was good to chat with the guys and hear some of their stories. I look forward to getting to know them and it will be interesting to see how things develop.

    Learning Journal 1 - On Coming to Trinity



    Coming to Trinity college to train for ordination has been both an exciting and a daunting experience. After what felt like quite a long, drawn out process of going through selection, all of a sudden everything seemed to happen very quickly. I found out I had been recommended for training at the start of June, and over the course of the summer we chose our college, found somewhere to live in Bristol, found tenants for our house in Coventry, sorted out our finances and moved house. In other words everything came together remarkably smoothly and in a timely manner. It has been a real exercise in trusting God. At the start of the summer we may have been tempted to worry that everything would work out, but we have really known God’s provision and his guidance in getting us here. It gives me confidence that I am in the right place.

    The first few weeks of college have rushed past. There was the initial excitement of getting to know people, finding out where everyone’s from etc. It has been comforting to know that everyone else is in the same boat, and reassuring to find that people are ‘normal’, from all walks of life, and don’t conform to any ‘Anglican vicar’ stereotype. Now we have settled in a bit we are starting to miss our friends and family from Coventry, which I guess is understandable. I am also starting to find out how busy I am. At first the academic timetable didn’t look too demanding, but I am discovering that once you add in all the other little bits of responsibility and expectations of college life, the week gets very full. I am learning about the tensions of balancing college and family life, something which I expect will be an ever present challenge as I go into ministry.

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    End of College Year


    Well, today I gave in my last essay, last week we had our end of year 'Wild West' party, and on Saturday was the valedictory service when we said goodbye to all the leavers who are going off to their curacies, which felt very wierd. I can't believe how quickly this year has gone. It's very strange to think that in a year's time it will be me saying goodbye to the good friends I've made at Trinity and moving off to who knows where.

    I now have a week of chilling (along with doing some research, of course) before I start my summer placement at Christchurch, Clevedon. I'm looking forward to it as they seem like a very friendly and encouraging church. It will be good to see what the day to day business of ministry looks like. Then we're off to Cornwall for a week's camping with friends which I'm really looking forward to.

    This year has been quite a challenge for me. Whilst on the whole I have enjoyed my time at college, and it has been a real privilege to meet so many amazing people and be part of a fantastic community, I found myself quite early on having a crisis of self-confidence which knocked me for six. It has taken me all year to get work through it, and I'm not quite there yet if I'm honest. It manifested itself in me becoming extremely introverted and shy at times. When this happens I find it really difficult to express myself in a group, or even in writing or blogging or whatever. I then start to think that I can't express myself, or that I have little to contribute, or that I'm too quiet or not dynamic enough or whatever. It is a vicious circle which I'm sure may have a spiritual dynamic to it. In a strange way, training at college can be quite deskilling. Thankfully I have made some great friends at Trinity who have prayed for me and encouraged me. At the valedictory service on Saturday we had a fantastic sermon from the Bishop of Barking who was basically saying that the basis of all ministry is to know that we are loved by the Father, and that he is well pleased with us, like Jesus heard after his baptism. So simple but so profound. I need to know this in my bones if I'm to survive in my future ministry.

    The other week I had to write a years worth of 'learning journal' in a day. 16 entries of reflection on various aspects of my training at Trinity. Never one to miss an opportunity to recycle stuff I've written (no matter how low the quality) I thought I might post some of the entries on here. Should take care of a couple of week's blogging.

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    more on Lakeland

    I've been watching more from the 'Lakeland outpouring'. I do find it strangely compulsive viewing for some reason, and probably not a good one.





    thanks to ASBO jesus for the excellent cartoons.

    Some other folks who have commented (and who are definitely not impressed) include Graham at Leaving Munster who is bored with outpourings and for some reason is somewhat skeptical about the angel of finance.

    Maggi Dawn is similarly unimpressed and so is a deconstructed christian.

    I do share many of their concerns and as I said before, I'm not convinced this type of revivalism is the way forward for the church. I don't want to be completely negative though. What I did like, from what I saw last night, was that they were training up hundreds of ordinary people to go out on the streets to pray for people and do evangelism and there were some quite amazing testimonies as a result of this. In other words, it's not all just about the guy at the front doing this stuff, regular people seemed to be being used in ways that they never had been before. Time will tell if lives, and churches and societies are genuinely being changed.

    Saturday, May 17, 2008

    Post-charismatic?


    We believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father,
    who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.

    I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the Holy Spirit and all things charismatic. This may because we have just celebrated Pentecost, or it may be because I have somehow found myself going to a church which is the least charismatic that I've been to in years. If I was being mean I would say it is virtually Binitarian in its theology, or possibly Trinitarian with the Bible as the third member. Suffice to say I don't think I'll be going there much longer.

    On the other hand, I can relate to a lot of what folk within emerging church circles who call themselves post-charismatic are saying. I understand these people to be saying, not that the Holy Spirit and His gifts aren't important and vital for the church, but that they want to distance themselves from some of the excesses, abuses and frankly bizarre behaviour of some of the charismatic movement. As Todd Hunter says -'Post-charismatic is not post-Holy Spirit, it is a call for post-weirdness.'

    For a prime example of this weirdness Steve Knight points to a group who may represent 'The New Charismatics'



    Pretty wacky stuff!

    Of course, lots of people are talking about Todd Bentley and the 'Florida Outpouring'. This guy is like Benny Hinn with tattoos. Good old fashioned Pentecostal revivalism, with a dose of self-parody - the guy actually shouts 'Bam!' when he pushes people over prays for people. It certainly makes for compelling viewing - last night they were claiming their 7th person being raised from the dead in connection with the revival.



    Again, I find Robby Mac's assessment spot on. I just had to nick this picture:



    Do I like this guy's style of ministry? no. Do I agree with his theology? no. Is God doing stuff in that place? Undoubtedly. Are people being healed? I'm sure some are. A friend of my parents did the old 'touching the TV screen' thing and got healed of a knee injury. The fact that God may be using this guy and people being healed does not mean he is beyond critique. I don't like the way, for example, he (and God TV) keep talking about 'seeding the revival' or 'sowing into the revival', in other words 'give us your money! And what's with all the gold teeth stuff?


    Perhaps I just prefer the softer, gentler approach to these things, I'm still Vineyard at heart. Some classic Wimber:




    I'm not trying to put God in a box and make him conform to what I'm comfortable with, or feel is palatable, acceptable or cool. I'm sure we can always expect a dose of weirdness when people respond in their brokenness to the Spirit of God. Any spiritual experience can probably critiqued and deconstructed. Perhaps only time will tell if there have been genuine healings and lives transformed. Do I have to choose between conservative evangelicalism and wacky extremism? Am I post-charismatic? I guess I'm still on the quest for the radical middle.

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    On Dropping the Debt


    Important words from Tom Wright on the continued importance of Dropping the Debt.

    There. I broke my blog fast.

    Next time I might even put down some of my own thoughts. I have some brewing about being post-charismatic, Todd Bentley, the new charismatics and general pneumatological mutterings.

    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    It's a JibJab Life

    A friend of mine sent me this for Christmas last year. I watched it again with friends last night and I'd forgotten how funny it is. They encouraged me to share it here, so here it is - It's a Wonderful Life as you've never seen it, starring yours truly, Su, Napoleon Dynamite and the Bishop of Durham. Thanks, Michael.



    Don't send a lame Holiday eCard.
    Try JibJab Sendables!



    p.s. I've noticed that this embedded shockwave thing seems to crash my browser on occasion, so if that happens to you, then follow this link and watch it, which seems to work better.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    Fulcrum

    Of the various groups and networks that exist in this weird and wonderful entity that I have joined called the Church of England, the one that I feel closest to theologically is Fulcrum. This new postcard they have produced sums them up pretty well I think.


    Friday, April 04, 2008

    Drop the Debt Fast

    It is 10 years since the momentous human chain in Birmingham city centre in support of debt cancellation. I thought I'd post the email I received today from the Jubilee Debt Campaign. Do follow the links and take the pledge to keep up the campaign.








    Dear friend,

    Next Saturday 12 April is the start of the Drop the Debt Fast, our
    36-day rolling fast demanding FASTER debt cancellation for MORE of
    the world's poorest countries. Every day for 36 days we will focus on
    one of the countries which still desperately need debt cancellation,
    nearly ten years after world leaders promised to tackle the crisis.
    Please join us - pledge to take part in the Fast for a day or more
    right now:

    http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/fast

    As the Fast begins next weekend the World Bank and International
    Monetary Fund will hold their Spring meetings in Washington DC. On 12
    April we will focus on LIBERIA, which has just this month been told
    that after two years of waiting, it can finally begin the process of
    'qualifying' for debt cancellation. For other countries, this has
    taken as long as six years and involved complying with harmful and
    undemocratic economic policies dictated by the IMF. But the people of
    Liberia shouldn't have to wait.

    On 14 April, as the IMF and World Bank conclude their meetings by
    discussing ways for poor countries to adapt to climate change, we
    will focus on BANGLADESH, a country which is already on the front
    line of our changing climate. The proportion of those living in
    extreme poverty is actually increasing in Bangladesh, while climate
    change is causing more and more devastating cyclones and floods. Yet
    despite debts of $18.9 billion, Bangladesh is told it does not
    'qualify' for debt cancellation.

    All the countries we are focusing on in the Fast have been left out
    of debt cancellation so far, either because the process is too slow -
    as with Liberia - or because it is too limited - as with Bangladesh.
    This must change if the debt crisis, which is keeping millions of
    people in poverty, is to be resolved. Please pledge now to join the
    Drop the Debt Fast:

    http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/fast

    When you sign up to take part in the Fast, we will send you an email
    once a week with information about the countries that are the focus
    of the Fast for the week ahead. We will also direct you towards the
    chain links we are collecting during the Fast for use in a mass
    action in Birmingham on Sunday 18 May.

    The Fast is part of our programme of events marking the tenth
    anniversary of the human chain in Birmingham - a key moment in the
    debt campaign - and we hope you'll get involved. We have made great
    strides in the last ten years, and debt cancellation is working to
    tackle poverty in many countries. But the crisis isn't over. Please
    help finish the job:

    http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/fast

    Best wishes,
    Jubilee Debt Campaign

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    There Will Be Blood

    Last night Su and I went to the cinema for the first time in ages,thanks to the babysitting services of my sister and Karl. There wasn't a lot on that we wanted to see, but in the end we decided on There Will Be Blood. (Perhaps not the most romantic of choices!) Well, what a strange and powerful film. It tells the story of Daniel Plainview, an oil prospector at the beginning of the 20th century and the start of the American oil business. It is a dark and bleak epic of how this man is overcome by greed, competition and misanthropy. Plainview's loss of relationship with his adopted son and his descent into alcoholism and murder is accompanied by an ongoing battle of the wills with a preacher who belongs to a very bizarre fundamentalist, pseudo-Christian sect. Fairly slow moving, there is very little dialogue in the film, but the drama is moved along by an incredible soundtrack, some stunning images and the wonderful, oscar-winning performance of Daniel Day-Lewis. There is no redemption in the film and the brutal and chilling climax is given away in the title. There is some kind of sub-text about the iraq war, oil, greed and errant religion going on there, although this is never explicit. Did I enjoy it? Well, enjoy would be a strange word to use for such a dark piece, but it did hold me for nearly 3 hours and I'd say it's worth watching just for Daniel Day-Lewis. Like 'Citizen Kane', I would say this is a 'film-buffs' film, not really a populist choice and definitely not a chick-flick. Su was not a big fan of the film, not that she only likes chick-flicks, but she definitely doesn't do dark, and she thought it was boring (it wasn't).

    Billy Boy at the Beach

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Everything is Spiritual and er.. Everything Must Change

    Last night I watched the Rob Bell DVD 'Everything is Spiritual' with some friends. He is basically expanding on the creation story of Genesis 1 and arguing for a more Hebraic understanding of God, creation and our place in the world. I have to say I found it pretty awe inspiring. Partly because he is such a gifted communicator and partly because he is speaking about the wonder of creation which is mind-blowingly awesome. One of the problems with any theological preaching or teaching is that people sometimes expect you to say everything that can be said whenever you speak - 'but what about...?', and this is clearly impossible. Having said that, here's what I think -

    A doctrine of creation needs to be held together with a doctrine of redemption. If you only emphasize creation then what you end up with is pantheism, everything is God, or panentheism, God is in everything. Rob Bell sometimes seems to come close to this idea, although I don't think he is actually saying this. On the other hand, if you only emphasise redemption, then you end up with dualism - creation is ruined and is going to be thrown in the dustbin and we need to escape to a 'spiritual' realm. I guess Bell is addressing a context which has often fallen into this second category and so is providing a welcome corrective. I look forward to the follow ups 'Everything is Broken', based on Genesis 3, and 'Everything is Being Renewed', based on, well, the New Testament. Everything is spiritual, but not everything is God. Everything is spiritual, but not everything is good.

    I have also been reading Brian McLaren's latest book Everything Must Change
    Now this is one of those book titles where you go, ok Brian, whatever - a tad over the top? What he is arguing is that if the message that Jesus brought, the message of the kingdom is true, then this challenges all the other prevailing stories and therefore everything must change, not least our understanding of the gospel. He is essentially examining how Jesus' message would address some of the global crises of our time. There is a lot in this book that I like and agree with but it has the frustration for me that whereas he has a very nuanced understanding of lots of huge subjects, and there are the usual McLaren footnotes, he does also seem to accept uncritically some recent scholarship where I think the jury may still be out, and sometimes comes across as somewhat naive and idealistic. Nevertheless he does, for me, capture the revolutionary nature of Christ's message and how the church in the West has tamed and commodified this.

    As a taster, here is his reworking of the Magnificat, if Mary had the conventional understanding of the gospel that he received in his religious upbringing. Yeah, it's polemic and charicatured, but it makes an important point.

    "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my personal Saviour, for he has been mindful of the correct saving faith of his servant. My spirit will go to heaven when my body dies, for the Mighty One has provided forgiveness, assurance, and eternal security for me - holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who have correct saving faith and orthodox articulations of belief, from generation to generation. He will overcome the damning effects of original sin with his mighty arm; he will damn to hell those who believe they can be saved through their own efforts or through any religion other than the new one he is about to form. He will condemn followers of other religions to hell but bring to heaven those with correct belief. He has filled correct believers with spiritual blessings but will send those who are not elect to hell forever. He has helped those with correct doctrinal understanding, remembering to be merciful to those who believe in the correct theories of atonement, just as our preferred theologians through history have articulated."

    Ouch!

    For a full review of the book see Alan Mann part 1, part 2, part 3

    So there we are - Everything is Spiritual and Everything Must Change.