Tuesday, 2 September 2014

WARM SPIRITUAL WATERS AFTER A COLD LATE AUGUST

For youth group clergy serving small churches, who may have been demoralised by the combination of glaring empty spaces and the chill in the dying days of August, the Apostle Paul's teaching about authentic gospel ministry in 2 Corinthians is sorely needed.

After what we have been through these past two Sundays, particularly over the Bank Holiday weekend, we need to be reminded that the authentic biblical gospel of our Lord Jesus is the only message that can bring the life of God to spiritually dead men and women in any society, including one as thoroughly obsessed with self-worship and self-indulgence as ours.

That is why cc is most grateful to the friend who has just sent our prayer network of old Oaks the audio link to the Revd Mike Cain's talks at July's Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London on 2 Corinthians 3 & 4. Entitled Removing the Veil, they are a great way of immersing oneself in warm spiritual waters before September kicks off. The three talks are available on the Proclamation Trust website here.

With great clarity, sincerity, and grounded ministerial realism, Mr Cain, senior pastor of the Emmanuel family of churches in Bristol, shows the glory of authentic gospel ministry, as Paul both teaches and exemplifies it.

In his first talk, Mr Cain is somewhat satirical about EMA-attending ministers who blog about the trendy films they have seen or culturally-cutting-edge books they have read. Your curate has occasionally gone for a little outing on that kind of pedalo though without the impressive visuals of some other evangelical blogs.

But God willing drawing attention to Mr Cain's talks on this little blogspot will help boost the morale of some beloved brothers in Christ who have been experiencing the personal and social cost of authentic gospel ministry. They may even have been told they need an image make-over to get the punters in. "If only you were as cool as that Vicky Beeching"...

Our hearts need Paul's encouragement:
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4v5&6 - RSV).

Thursday, 28 August 2014

SHINING CHRIST'S LIGHT WHETHER IN ROTHERHAM OR RICHMOND

In communities where girls are at risk from exploitation by criminal gangs of Muslim men and where they are not, churches and church schools must urgently and purposefully teach the young people in their care to 'live as children of light' (Ephesians 5v8 - NIV).

The Apostle Paul's teaching in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 is desperately needed in all human societies and cultures. Without it all of us, whatever age we are or social background we come from, are vulnerable to falling into sin or running into danger.

It is noteworthy that in these chapters Paul teaches the vital importance of:
  • sexual self-control. 'Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people' (5v3).
  • restraint over alcohol. 'Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit' (5v18).
  • the God-created institution of heterosexual marriage. 'Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband' (5v33).
  • the leadership role of fathers in the family. 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord' (6v4).
These emphases, especially in relation to the wrongness of sex outside of heterosexual marriage and the essential role of the father-led married family in the nurture of children, offend against political correctness. But that ideology, which has poisoned the UK public sector, has been thoroughly discredited by Professor Alexis Jay's devastating report into the appalling child protection failures in Rotherham.

Christians faithfully upholding biblical truth in the teeth of political correctness will not eliminate the terrible evils that are perpetrated in a dark world. But whether in Rotherham or in Richmond, the living God is calling local churches and Christian organisations to shine the light of the saving truth of the Lord Jesus Christ in the public square in obedience to His Word: 'Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them' (Ephesians 5v11).

This piece on Anglican Mainstream by Andrew Symes - Rotherham: A Call to Mission - is a must read.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

PERSON SPEC FOR A CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICAL BISHOP

With the Archbishops of Canterbury and York reportedly determined to see a conservative evangelical suffragan bishop appointed 'within a matter of months' (Anglican Update, September's Evangelicals Now), here is a suggested person specification for the Dioceses Commission:
  • He should be passionately committed to serving the local church, having been at least ten years in one post as a parochial incumbent.
  • He should already be a recognised Bible teaching leader within the UK conservative evangelical constituency.
  • He should be combat-fit for spiritual battle, having been threatened with the Clergy Discipline Measure at least once by a revisionist in a senior position in his current diocese for taking a stand for biblical truth and/or for the priority of evangelism.
  • He should have received at least one poisoned-pen letter from a member of his congregation or parish because of his biblical faithfulness in teaching and action.
  • He should have refused to take Holy Communion at least once at a central diocesan event because of his commitment to the Church of England's 39 Articles.
  • He should never have baptised the child of a couple not heterosexually married.
Such a ministerial track record provides solid evidence that he is not a careerist and that he is committed to the spiritual ethos of the Apostle Paul:
Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6v14 - RSV).
If Stonewall gets to the heart of government, why not Christian Concern? appeared on VirtueOnline.

Prosecuting George Galloway for hate speech would be a threat to freedom in the UK appeared on ConservativeHome.

Biased BBC boosts media-savvy Vicky Beeching appeared on VirtueOnline.

Friday, 18 July 2014

QUEEN UNVEILS SCHOOL PLAQUE MINUS THE CHRISTIAN CREDIT

Cranmer's Curate's Latin is a bit scratchy. But yesterday, on receiving in the post a copy of his old school's magazine, he could just about decipher the inscription on a plaque for a new sports centre unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen.

Beside a dangling pink curtain,  Dat Deus incrementum is visible on the photograph of the official opening - 'God gives the increase'.

The youth group will know that in their original context these words have nothing to do with sport or sports centres. The motto derives from the Apostle Paul's teaching to a local church about the true spiritual dynamic of their growth in the Lord Jesus Christ:
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Corinthians 3v5-7 - King James Version).
Unfortunately, Paul is not credited on the inscription. With Christianity now a more distant dot on the English cultural horizon than when cc was at the school in the 1970s, the Deus in the inscription could be any god. Surely it would have been right educationally, but more importantly spiritually and morally, to have cited St Paul on the plaque so as to make it clear that it is the Christian God that is being referred to.

Cranmer's Curate is blogging off for the summer, back God willing in September. He leaves the youth group, most of whom are dedicated servants of local churches beloved by God, with the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity:
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen.

Monday, 14 July 2014

THE LOVE OF GOD CALLS FOR HIS CHURCH TO BE ORDERED HIS WAY

This sermon was preached at the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge on Sunday July 13th:

‘Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things' (1 Corinthians 13v4-7 - RSV)

Famous words of the Apostle Paul from his 1st letter to the Corinthians, probably the most famous words he ever wrote and some of the best-known words in the Bible. This was the passage the then Prime Minister read at Princess Diana’s funeral.

This very same Apostle Paul wrote those words in 1 Timothy chpt 2:  ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent’ (1 Timothy 2v11-12 - NIV).

You can hardly imagine those words being read out on a State occasion but it’s the same man writing both things and in fact Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians contains some similar statements about women being silent in church.

Now the command to silence in Paul’s letters is not about women never making any verbal contribution in church  – Paul actually permits women contributing verbally in church in 1 Corinthians. The command to silence is about respecting rightful authority. In relation to those who have rightful authority over me, I am silent in the sense that the argument is over and I do what I have to do. Policeman or women says road is closed. Follow the diversion. I do not argue or I should not argue with the person in rightful authority.

This is about women accepting the rightful authority under God of those men who have been ordained to teach God’s word to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not about what happens in the secular world. It’s about what happens within the Body of Christ. Women, Paul is saying, are not to take on that role but this does not mean that women are disbarred from praying in church, reading the Bible or talking about their Christian faith and so on.

One of the things I want to try to deal with this morning is the so-called cultural argument in relation to Paul’s teaching in this area. It runs like this. Paul’s teaching about women not having authority over men reflects 1st century male chauvinist attitudes. We’ve moved on from that – in the 21st century men and women are performing many of the same roles. We’ve even had a woman Prime Minister. We can safely say that Paul’s teaching reflects the culture then – it’s not for now, so we don’t have to run with it in the modern church. The so-called cultural argument.

There are several problems with it. First of all, Paul wrote those wonderful words about love in the 1st century AD and those words were certainly aimed at a specific situation, namely the appalling break-down of relationships in the Christian church at Corinth. Paul teaches them about love because they were doing just the opposite.

Are we going to say that just because Paul’s teaching dealt with specific situations in the 1st century AD it’s not relevant for today? Love is patient and kind, it is not boastful or resentful. Is that just for the 1st century? So why do some people want to say that Paul’s apostolic teaching about the complementary differences in role between men and women in the family and in the church is just for the 1st century?

Christians believe or should believe that God’s Word the Bible is for all generations of Christians in all kinds of cultural contexts. Of course, the Bible needs to be responsibly interpreted and applied but if you get an apostolic instruction about love in the congregation or about church leadership in the congregation, what grounds have we for saying that's just for Corinth or Ephesus in the 1st century and not for Oughtibridge in the 21st century? No grounds whatsoever.

Furthermore Paul’s teaching about men and women in the congregation is very much rooted not in the culture but in the foundational spiritual realities of Creation and the Fall, the fact that God created men and women in his image and the fact that men and women rebelled against him. Creation and the Fall are facts of universal significance for all cultures 1st century and 21st century.

Kicking Paul’s teaching off into the long grass of the cultural argument creates a lot of problems for us as Christians.

Far better actually to recognise that it does apply to all churches in all generations and that church leadership needs to reflect Paul’s Apostolic teaching about the God-given differences between men and women.

Before I come on to talk about the ordination of women and about women bishops, I’d like first to deal with the way in which authority ought to be perceived in God’s church. Those who exercise authority in the church are servants of Christ and his people. In chapter 4 of 1 Timothy Paul says to Timothy, his younger friend and fellow worker in gospel:‘if you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good miinster - servant - of Christ Jesus’ (v6) . Those whom God appoints as leaders in his church are not to go on an ego-trip or to seek status for themselves but are to use their God-given authority to serve God’s people. It’s not about status-seeking, it’s about service but unfortunately both men & women are capable of going on an ego-trip when it comes to positions of power, whether in the church or in the world.

If I may apply this to the issue of the ordination of women: those of us who are opposed to women taking on roles as vicars or bishops are not or should not be opposed on the grounds of status or  position, so-called preferment. We are opposed on the grounds that it goes against God’s good ordering of his church, the fact that God has created men and women equal but different with God-given differences of role in the family and in the church. Men are to exercise servant leadership in the family and in the church – that’s why so-called traditionalists like myself are opposed to the muddling up of those God-given roles in the General Synod’s decision over women vicars in 1992 and then this year over bishops.

We consider that this ordination of women legislation is actually being driven by the culture rather than by the Word of God. We think that it’s a bit of a co-incidence that there’s been all this pressure for change in this area since the 1960s and we don’t buy the argument that you’ve got to go with the flow of modern feminism in order to get people to go to church. We point out that since 1992 when the legislation was passed, the number of people regularly attending Church of England churches has fallen significantly. The spiralling decline of our denomination is not being reversed by the ordination of women.

Now, in relation to the appointment of women bishops, the Church of England’s General Synod is almost certainly going to approve the legislation this week in York. It narrowly failed in November 2012. There was a huge political and media storm over that. The Prime Minister virtually instructed the Church to ‘get up with the programme’.  It would be likely that if the Synod turned it down again this time the House of Bishops in collaboration with secular politicians would find a way of by-passing the Synod and getting the legislation approved by Parliament anyway.

Where does that leave people like me? What is our place in the Church of England? We remain full members of the Church of England because our 39 Articles of Religion, the official biblical doctrine of the Church of England makes it clear that decisions of church councils such as Synods should be subject to the Word of God and when they are not those councils are in error. Article 21 – about the Authority of General Councils – is very clear on that. Because such councils are an assembly of human beings in which not all are governed by the Spirit and the Word of God, ‘they may err and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God’. It is not essential to being an Anglican to believe that the General Synod has made the right decision over women’s ordination.

Let me end by putting those two statements of Paul side by side - 1 Corinthians: ‘Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’

And then his words in 1 Timothy 2: ‘A woman should learn in quietness & full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.’   

Actually those two statements are perfectly compatible because the way to love God’s church is to order it in the way that God ordains. It’s the opposite of love to go against God’s will for the ordering of his church because God is love. God’s commands are for our good and therefore it’s good for the church if we go with God’s will for the way in which we are to be led. It’s good for us to do things God’s way; it’s actually bad for us to do things our way.

If we love the church, we’ll want to go with God’s word rather than with culture in this controversial and difficult area of the leadership of God’s church. The church of  the living God, that’s you and me, is called to be as Paul says in chapter 3 of 1 Timothy ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (v15). May we be given grace to be that as we follow the Word and not the world.

Time for Chris Grayling to act for freedom of conscience appeared on Anglican Mainstream.

No church for old ladies appeared on VirtueOnline.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

ANGLO-CATHOLICS IN DANGER OF DOING A BRAZIL

Sometimes it can be right to alienate one's own supporters if an important issue of Christ's truth is at stake, but Forward in Faith appears to be increasingly alienating its supporters for the wrong reason.

Cranmer's Curate had noticed some rather disturbing equivocations on the received biblical teaching of the Church on human sexuality in the FiF magazine New Directions in recent months, but a very incisive piece by a blogger with the priceless name of Balaam's Ass, posted by Anglican Mainstream - Gay Pride, Sex Discrimination and Anglo-Catholic Incoherence - has crystallised the issue.

Since losing some of its best and brightest leaders to the Ordinariate, the FiF high command has started openly flirting with the LGBT agenda, and this is causing consternation among Anglo-Catholic Christians in local churches.

The implications of this spiritual and moral drift in the FiF leadership are serious for conservative evangelical co-belligerency with Anglo-Catholics against the revisionist agenda in the Church of England. There has certainly been evidence of late that the Anglo-Catholics are proving unreliable allies.

At one diocesan synod motion on women bishops earlier this year, the Anglo-Catholics refused to vote, thus detaching themselves from their erstwhile conservative evangelical allies. The majority for would have been considerably smaller if the Anglo's had not chosen to do an ecclesiastical equivalent of last night's footballing performance by Brazil.

The Balaam's Ass piece concludes with this powerful analysis of the futility of Anglo-Catholic attempts to cosy up to the politically-correct neo-liberals now firmly in charge of the Church of England:
In the approach to the fateful meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod, beginning 11 July, all the signs indicate that, unlike the more numerous evangelical opponents to women bishops, ‘catholics’ will now only be offering a token resistance. Their hope appears to be a lasting, honoured place in the bosom of the liberal Establishment. But toleration will not be extended to them for long – not because of their glaring theological incoherence – today’s Church of England does not have a serious concern for theology – but because no amount of ‘gay pride’ will be able to absolve them of the unforgivable sin of ‘sex discrimination’. With no allies at home or abroad and with nowhere else to go, the forward march already begun can lead to only one destination: complete absorption.
This piece on Anglican Mainstream by Dr Martin Davie - Why disagreement is not good - is important at this juncture for the Church of England.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

TIME TO BRING PHILLIP JENSEN IN FROM THE COLD

Since the Dean of St Andrew's Sydney, the Very Revd Phillip Jensen, caused a media storm at the Reform national conference in 2004 when he accused the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, of 'theological prostitution', invitations to speak in the UK have somewhat dwindled.

But now is very arguably the time for Reformed Anglicans in England to bring him back in from the cold. There are three main reasons for this:

1). Whilst our constituency should never boast about its leaders - that is to be unspiritual and immature as the Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians - Mr Jensen is a very gifted Bible teacher, as demonstrated in his article in the summer edition of the Australian evangelical magazine,  The Briefing.

Using as a launchpad a politician's complaint that no preacher has ever explained to him why Jesus' sacrificial death was necessary, Mr Jensen issued a beautifully clear and biblically faithful exposition of how both the justice and the mercy of God were necessarily demonstrated in the Cross of Christ.

As can be the nature of those on the high ability end, sometimes his arguments can be over-involved and complicated and there was evidence of that in the Reform debacle. But this Christian brother has a great teaching gift, which we need in these very difficult and confusing times for Anglican evangelicals in the Church of England.

2). He is due to be retiring next year as Dean of Sydney as he reaches 70, according to this 2009  article in The Sydney Morning Herald.  He should in theory therefore have more time to prepare and be God willing more judicious in his addresses to UK evangelicals, whilst packing a punch and encouraging us to think and act imaginatively.

3). With his gifts and experience, he could be of real assistance in helping to raise the profile of the new Anglican Mission in England.  Because the Church of England is now being led into serious potential disorder and immorality, this body is poised to become crucially important for the provision of loving biblical ministry for Anglican evangelical churches, particularly small ones, both currently within the Church of England and without.

So, a concrete suggestion from a jobsworth curate in the north of England: for 2015 Mr Jensen is invited to take part in a national AMiE speaking tour with opportunity for local church members and pastors to seek practical advice about the evangelical future of their churches.

This is not an Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra come-back tour - to think of it like that would be worldly and personality cultish - but unleashing Phillip Jensen at this juncture could be of real service to the cause of the true biblical Lord Jesus Christ in these terrible times for the Church of England.