Saturday, 28 April 2007

Presiding Bishop protests Akinola visit

[...] "I have only just become aware of the possible visit by the Primate of Nigeria. Unfortunately, my office has not been directly informed of his pending visit, but we will now pursue extending to him a personal invitation to see him while he is in the United States. I regret that he has apparently accepted an invitation to provide episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation. That is not the ancient practice followed in most of the church catholic, which since the fourth century has expected that bishops minister only within their own churches, except by explicit invitation from another bishop with jurisdiction." Read more

Do we need the death penalty?

(Ed: One of my 'news alerts' returned this story. I present it for thought and maybe a discussion starter.)

[...] Maryland has executed five convicted murderers since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. In 2005, the state recorded 522 murders. With a population of 5.6 million, that meant a homicide rate of 9.9 per 100,000 people.

Virginia has executed 98 convicted murderers since 1976. In 2005, it recorded 461 homicides in a population of 7.6 million, 6.1 per 100,000 -- nearly 40 percent lower than Maryland's.

The District of Columbia has no death penalty. Its last execution occurred in 1957. In 2005, the District endured 195 murders, 35.4 per 100,000, a rate more than five times higher than Virginia's. Read more

Gay bishop's election "a great blessing"

The head of the Anglican church in the United States has praised the ordination of an openly gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire.

While acknowledging that it may take many years to bring the worldwide Anglican communion to a common position on the issue of gay clergy, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori compared the struggle for gay acceptance to slavery and female ordination. Read more

Church History: America once an Episcopalian nation

[...] as American Episcopalians falter, the Anglican Church of Nigeria is taking up their mantle of influence. Paul Zimmerman, professor of History at New York University, describes this irony as “a sign that former missionaries did their job well.” In the March 3, 2007 edition of the “Cleveland Plain Dealer,” the professor wrote, “That's why African Christians stand so far to the right of their brethren in the West, on a host of religious and cultural questionsŠ And that's why they're starting to evangelize us, to the chagrin of many Americas. The battle inside the Anglican Communion is only the first of many struggles that Americans can expect in the next few years, pitting conservatives from the Third Word against liberals in the West.” For almost half a millennium, Christians from the West told the rest of the globe how to think, behave and believe. Now, for the first time, we're getting a taste of our own medicine. For liberals, especially, it might be a very bitter pill.” Read more

Blair: Next, the nanny state

[...] I now think that the proper answer is to add to the ASB laws measures that target failing and dysfunctional families early, and place those families within a proper, structured, disciplined framework of help and insistence on proper behaviour.

I know this is difficult and controversial, because it involves intervening before the child is committing criminal offences, at least serious ones, and when the families have not yet become a menace. But talk to any teacher in a primary school, social worker or local police officer and they can identify those families easily.

Instead of years with social services trying and failing to persuade them to change, those families, usually dependent on benefit and often in social housing, need to be made to change. Visit the Dundee Family Project for an idea about how it can be done.

It is very tough. It is intrusive. Naturally, people will complain about the "nanny state", but, for some of these families and their children, a nanny state is what they need - for their sake as much as for ours. Read more

Friday, 27 April 2007

A simple truth: prison works

(Ed: I especially like the quote at the end of this piece: "to base an argument on the desire to be seen as virtuous, is not itself virtuous. On the contrary, it is nothing but vanity." Priceless!)

[...] He [Charles Murray] pointed out that the vast majority of crimes of robbery and violence are carried out by young men in deprived areas against others in their local community. "In England," he declared, "your safety is contingent on your income." He's right. The least well-off can not afford to secure their persons by moving around only in private transport, or their homes by elaborate security systems. Dr Dalrymple added the observation that: "If my home is burgled and my visible possessions are stolen, then I have lost about 5 per cent of my wealth. If a poor family's home is ransacked in the same way, then they lose everything they have."

Juliet Lyon countered with the statement that, "This divide between victims and offenders is a false and unhelpful one." I am not sure if she meant by this that many victims may themselves also be offenders, or that those who commit crimes are in a general sense victims of society. Whatever she meant, it was a remark which underlines the way in which the philosophy of so-called "liberals" has become completely detached from ideas of right and wrong, which are still held by the great majority of the general public. Read more

Up to our eyes in debt, with our fingers stuffed in our ears

[...] Average interest paid by British households is £3,500 a year, according to Creditaction, a debt charity. Old Nick's calculator is in over-drive. Yet the experts still say, don't worry. Much of this debt is backed by property. House prices are going up; they always do. You know it makes sense.

Really? Am I alone in not understanding hocus-pocus economics? How can houses, some of which are being acquired on mortgages of six times the buyer's salary, keep increasing in price at a rate of more than twice income growth? The numbers add up only if you want them to - and plenty do. Which is why 34 per cent of mortgages taken out in January this year were "interest-only". More and more buyers are betting on house price inflation to rescue them.

Disbelief has been suspended. Whenever I mention rising interest rates, higher mortgage payments, creeping unemployment, the possibility of falling house prices, fingers are stuffed in ears, eyes are tightly shut and heads shake wildly. No, no, no. Go away. Read more

Bishop of Chelmsford speaks in Lord's debate on death penalty in Iraq

My Lords, I am sure that we all welcome the clarity of the Minister's response. Does he accept that, in a culture in which human life is treated with such contempt and there are such extraordinary levels of loss of life, this is deeply corrupting to the whole of Iraq's political culture? It is like a disease that spreads. Does he also accept that it is rather easier to dismantle human values than to reconstruct them? Read more

BBC to broadcast gay mass from San Francisco

The BBC is to relay a 'gay Mass' from San Francisco this Sunday, the first time such a service has been broadcast.

The 50-minute Mass at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the predominantly gay Castro district of the city will feature prayers and readings tailored for the gay community.

The church has been described as an "inspiration" to gay and lesbian Christians around the world because of its ministry to homosexuals. Read more

See here for listing:

Sunday Worship

Sunday 29th April 2007

Fr Donal Godfrey, Society of Jesus, leads a service from the Catholic Parish of Most Holy Redeemer, San Francisco, exploring how gay people can find a place in the Christian narrative and speak of the gift of faith. The preacher is the Catholic writer and theologian, Fr James Alison.

Vatican issues new green message for world's Catholics

The Vatican yesterday added its voice to a rising chorus of warnings from churches around the world that climate change and abuse of the environment is against God's will, and that the one billion-strong Catholic church must become far greener.

At a Vatican conference on climate change, Pope Benedict urged bishops, scientists and politicians - including UK environment secretary David Miliband - to "respect creation" while "focusing on the needs of sustainable development". Read more

Scottish Christians called to vote with integrity

Rev Dr John S Ross, Moderator Designate of the Free Church of Scotland, has appealed to Christians to vote with integrity at next week's Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Preaching in Inverness last Sunday, Dr Ross, said that Christians must not fail to exercise their right to vote, but added that many were unsure of which candidate to vote for because political parties failed to reflect moral values important to Christians.

"Never have I been asked so often, by so many people, for guidance concerning whom to vote for than I have in recent days."

Preaching from the book of Proverbs 14.34, 'Righteousness exalts a nation', Dr Ross said that righteousness could be summed up in the words of the prophet Micah telling Christians to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

"Righteousness is clearly the most exacting measure and searching test which we can apply to the candidates, polices and programmes of the parties standing for election. Christians must ask if those seeking their vote pass the righteousness test," he said.

Commenting on the Labour Party, he said, "I have to ask myself if I could vote for a party which refused to make any accommodation to the Christian conscience in the recent Sexual Orientation Regulations legislation, yet whose leader celebrated their passing into law by attending a fundraising dinner put on by Stonewall, at which £230,000 was raised to support gay activism?"

He also questioned the possibility of voting SNP after one of its married MPs admitted to indecent sexual behaviour with two teenagere girls. Read more

Anglican and Evangelical?

By Richard Turnbull, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and Chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council

An important new book on what it means to be both Anglican and Evangelical. Read more

Enemy of liberal Anglicans was poisoned

A British missionary was fatally poisoned after helping to prevent a London vicar from becoming a bishop in Central Africa, The Times has learnt.

Relatives of Canon Rodney Hunter, 73, believe that his food was contaminated by supporters of the Rev Nicholas Henderson in a battle between the liberal and conservative wings of the Anglican Church.

In November Canon Hunter was found dead at his home in Nkhotakota, Malawi, with a strange black substance around his mouth. The day before his death he had complained of severe stomach pains, and postmortem examination has now shown that he was killed by three poisons.

Malawi police have charged his cook with murder and are investigating rumours that the poisoning was organised by supporters of Mr Henderson, who had no knowledge of the alleged plot. Read more

'Welfarism is destroying Britain' (discuss)

Earlier this week, the Tory leader David Cameron said a number of very sensible things about civility. Our culture was becoming progressively de-civilised, he declared.

Whether expressed through public rudeness or neglecting the elderly, there was an alarming general decline in social responsibility.

To combat this, he repeated his commitment to encourage marriage, and strong and stable families.

He also argued that governments alone could not be responsible for people's behaviour or the delivery of public services, and that Labour's addiction to 'state interventionism' was stopping people taking responsibility for themselves. Admirable sentiments indeed.

Yet as he spoke, a very large elephant was lumbering unremarked around the room. That elephant is called the welfare state.

It is the welfare state which, more than anything else, has created the culture of incivility, irresponsibility, family breakdown and disorder of which Mr Cameron spoke.

The direct link between welfarism and the 'me-society', between welfare rights and the erosion of the ties of duty that should bind us together, is unmistakable. Read more

No going back on gay 'inclusion' for TEC

[...] Reinforcing the present direction of The Episcopal Church this past week, Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori journeyed to Boston, Massachusetts, where she told enraptured audiences that she plans to hold firm on homosexual approval and said that the election of an openly homosexual bishop in New Hampshire has been "a great blessing" [to the church]. Then she said this: "I don't believe that there is any will in this church to move backward, [on homosexuality]." She compared the gay rights struggle to battles over slavery and women's rights. She believes that it is a vocation for the Episcopal Church "to keep questions of human sexuality in conversation, and before not just the rest of our own church, but the rest of the world."

Then she took a swipe at African Evangelical Anglicans saying this: "Where the protesters are, in some parts of Africa or in other parts of the Anglican Communion today, is where this church and this society we live in was 50 years ago, and for us to assume that people can move that distance in a year or in a relatively instantaneous manner is perhaps faithless. That kind of movement and development has taken us a good deal of pain and energy over 40 or 50 years, and I think we have to make some space so that others can make that journey as well." Read more

Lambeth Conference plans move forward

The Lambeth Conference Design Group, appointed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, met April 16-20 to continue planning for the Lambeth Conference 2008, including conference structures, purposes, issues and program.

"We feel excited as we prepare through prayer and meditation on the time the bishops will spend together in July 2008," said Sir Ellison Pogo, Archbishop of Melanesia and chair of the Design Group. "Perhaps most important will be the many opportunities for encounter, fellowship and conversation that the gathering provides." Read more

Primates 'dictatorial' says LGCM address

THE Revd Professor Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, has severely criticised the Windsor report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the communiqué from the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam (News, 23 February).

In an address to the annual conference of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in London on Saturday, she questioned the legitimacy of the Windsor report on a future structure for the Anglican Communion, and accused the Primates of seeking to exercise “dictatorial powers”. She also called for a General Synod debate on the proposal for an Anglican Covenant. Read more

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Williams 'failed to knock sense into Zimbabwean bishops'

British Anglicans are almost as stunned as their counterparts in Zimbabwe that the Archbishop of Canterbury's attempts to knock sense into their heads of church leaders in Harare's much-troubled province have come to naught.

Following a meeting of the Central African Episcopal Synod during the week of 'celebrations' marking Zimbabwe's 27th anniversary of Independence, 14 Anglican bishops issued a messagethat was broadly supportive of the Mugabe government, sharply contrasting with an earlier call by Roman Catholic leaders for the disgraced 83- year old head of state to step down. Read more

Netiquette: Avoiding the perils of e-mail

[...] with emails, everyone needs to be a little harder on themselves and cut everyone else a little more slack."

The pair argue that email is the "hardest written medium of all" and it's difficult not to disagree. Some people send an email instead of a letter, others substitute it for a phone call. For recipients to know which was intended - and so the tone of their response - can be crucial.

Tone is something that needs to be injected into an email, otherwise the reader might misinterpret it. Emails encourage the "lesser angels of our nature", making us angrier, less sympathetic and more easily wounded than usual because we are unable to monitor the reactions of the person with whom we are communicating.

Some of Send's remedies to the absence of tone - namely liberal use of exclamation marks and abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud) - seem unsophisticated, especially from a book that also advises people to err on the side of formality when deciding whether to address people by their first names.

But Schwalbe and Shipley are email conservatives. Their starting point is that we send far too many emails and their Holy Grail is to encourage email "that is so effective that it cuts down on email".

Littered throughout the book are repeated suggestions that, sometimes, a phone call or even - deep breath - a letter might be more appropriate. In an age of email over-use and abuse, much of their advice seems sound, if not sometimes slightly obvious.

Their two top tips are "Think before you send" and "Send email you would like to receive". Their "eight deadly sins" include emails that are "unbelievably vague", "cowardly", "too casual", "inappropriate" and insult you "so badly you have to get up from your desk". Read more

Why not mark Pluralism Sunday?

[...] Pluralism Sunday event organizers are encouraging committed Christians to visit congregations other than their own. The idea here is that faith is not threatened, but indeed can be deepened, by exposure to other expressions of the same core beliefs. Among students of religious studies this practice is sometimes referred to as “cross training,” pun intended.

Pluralism Sunday is also being promoted, in part, as an invitation to the unchurched, or to those who have rejected Christianity’s long standing and often “wild” theological claims, to feel welcomed into worship communities and give the faith another go. Fair enough.
But then come the assertions which make traditionalists and evangelicals uneasy.

One press release from TCPC states: “one does not need to believe that Jesus is the only way to God in order to be a Christian.” This statement is used as part of the progressive inducement to visit a modern (or is that post-modern?) Christian church. Read more

CofE 'covered up abuse by choirmaster'

The Church of England has been accused of covering up child sex abuse carried out by a former choirmaster.

Peter Halliday will be sentenced after pleading guilty to sexually abusing boys in Hampshire in the late 1980s.

BBC News has learned he admitted to the offences 17 years ago but left the Church quietly on condition he had no more contact with children. Read more Also here in the Telegraph.

Evangelicals in meltdown: a time to keep silence

[...] It is time for evangelicals to heed the warning of Galatians 5:15: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” This is neither a joke nor a matter of simplistic pietism. Evangelicalism in England is dangerously close to melt-down. Read more

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Church of Scotland decides not to decide on gay issue

A LONG-awaited Church of Scotland report on the Kirk's attitude towards gay relationships has been criticised for lacking any clear moral stance or guidance on the issue.

The report on human sexuality, entitled A Challenge to Unity, which addresses the various viewpoints on homosexuality within the Church, has been awaited for ten years - and has been two years in the writing.

Published yesterday by the Mission and Discipleship Council, it has already split opinion, with conservative evangelicals describing it as "anodyne", while the liberal wing of the Kirk welcomed it as making a positive contribution to the debate. Read more

Peers, not parents, matter most to children's development

[...] what influences behaviour is not so much the home or the family, or even the genetic make-up of a child, but the peer group in which they grow up. The survival instinct, which teaches the young either to conform with their contemporaries or to become their leader, kicks in early on and can result in huge variations in behaviour. One child may turn into a model conformist, while another, brought up in the same household, becomes a tearaway. To explain why, you have to look outside the family not inside it. Read more

Rowan Williams' Hull Lecture on Wilberforce and Western Society

[...] The issue is this. Apart from Christianity, what were or what could have been the factors that could drive any critique of slavery in the eighteenth century? We think of the Age of Enlightenment as an intellectual climate in which the assumptions of modern liberal and democratic thought were first formed; and that is not wholly wrong. But you will look in vain to the secularising writers of the period for systematic criticisms of slavery, let alone campaigns for its ending. The liberal and egalitarian principles of the French Enlightenment made not the slightest dent upon the slave system (and the post-Revolution French administrations made no move towards emancipation of their own accord). The egalitarianism of the age was like that of the Stoics in ancient Rome – a theory for the elite, unrelated to actual human relationships in the present, where, sadly, primitive justice had been rendered unattainable. And we must not forget the ways in which some aspects of enlightened thinking could end up reinforcing attitudes of racial superiority by appeal to the normative status of European thinking and the assumption that non-Europeans were incapable of ‘standard’ reasoning. There is an uncomfortable history to be written of what might be called progressive or scientific racism as well as of religiously motivated varieties; Colin Kidd’s recent monograph, The Forging of Races. Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000, is a very distinguished beginning to this study. [...]

I come back to the point made earlier: Wilberforce’s legacy is about the question of whether we believe in a moral state. If we accept that public morality is inseparably connected with the moral health and well-being of persons in a society and that human moral agents can be damaged by being implicated in public and corporate immorality, we are in effect saying that the state’s organs of action cannot be immune from challenge on moral grounds. In the absence (irreversible and not really to be regretted) of a universally shared and assumed moral and religious system, this challenging will be a matter of mobilising and motivating the public at large to bring pressure to bear on public authority because that general public has caught a vision (Jubilee 2000 – but also the beginnings of consumer pressure around ecological matters as it begins to spill over into political pressure). For that to happen, what I have called communities of moral tradition need to go on developing their self-awareness and self-confidence in areas of collective moral issues (and not to confuse this with ill-fated and ill-focused campaigns on questions of personal morality, which are not sensibly addressed through legislative processes). Read more

Church Army Looks to Instil ‘Pioneering Mission’ with New Appointment

Church Army, a society of evangelists within the Anglican Communion, has appointed a new Director of Training to revitalise its development and implement new strategies for its mission.

The Rev Canon Sue Hope, author of Mission-shaped Spirituality and currently Sheffield Diocesan Missioner, has excitedly taken up the new post.

She has been handed the responsibility for leading an experienced team to meet the challenge of transforming Church Army's evangelism training to a mission-based learning model in a move away from residential training. She will also join the senior management team of the 125 year old society of evangelists. Read more

Iran reports Williams' call for moral vision

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Tuesday defended the right of the citizen to call the state to account for its actions and called for a moral vision to be at the heart of politics.

If people still believe in the notion of a 'moral state,' the state cannot be left to decide for itself what is moral, the spiritual head of the Church of England warned.

"The modern state needs a robust independent tradition of moral perception with which to engage. Left to itself, it cannot generate the self-critical energy that brings about change -- change, that is, for the sake of some positive human ideal," he said. Read more

RC UK vocations rise for 4th year

The Catholic Church of England and Wales released statistics showing that the number of those entering seminary has increased for the fourth straight year.

In 2003 the figure stood at 28; last year this had risen to 44, bringing the total number of men studying for the priesthood for the dioceses of England and Wales to 150.

Father Paul Embery, director of the National Office for Vocations, welcomed the rise, but remained only cautiously optimistic. Read more

Jefferts-Schori 'holds firm on gay rights'

Saying "I don't believe that there is any will in this church to move backward," the top official of the Episcopal Church USA said yesterday that the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has been "a great blessing" despite triggering intense controversy and talk of possible schism. Read more

Bishops call for religion on BBC Radio 1

Bishops are calling on the BBC to include religion on Radio 1, describing the omission as the 'most striking exclusion of religion from the BBC 's output'.

A Church of England and a Roman Catholic bishop say that the BBC Trust, which now governs the BBC, sometimes includes religion under its duty to 'Reflect the nations, regions and communities of the UK’ and sometimes does not. Read more

A response to the Day of Truth - a Post-Gay testimony

[...] On the way back from a wedding on Saturday evening I was listening with my wife to Judge Jules on Radio One and a fantastic remix of a Jimmy Somerville / Bronski Beat track was played - You and Me by Blue Ray. Absolutely loved it and the words are still as powerful as they were over 20 years ago. “You and me together, fighting for our love”. While that might in the past have been a call for gay pride, now for me it’s a rallying cry for my post-gay journey and the journey of others. We want to love in the way, reading Scripture and listening to Him, we understand God made us to. Read more

UCCF 'teaching false gospel'

Ed: I'm blogging this to demonstrate what dire straits evangelicalism seems to be heading into. The Bishop of Willesden says UCCF has 'fabricated' the reason for the break with Spring Harvest. This blogger below says UCCF is preaching a false doctrine. The Bishop of Durham says that the new principal of Oak Hill evangelical theological college, has contributed to a book on the atonement that is "sub-biblical".

Whoa, guys, gals! Lies, damned lies and evangelical blogging, or what?

[...] [Direct of UCCF, Richard] Cunningham’s teaching seems to imply that even the shedding of Jesus’ blood does not bring forgiveness, but is simply the execution of deserved punishment.

For more on this, see my post in preparation on Maltese theology.

I am sad that UCCF, for which I used to have great respect, has been led astray into teaching what looks like an anti-Christian false gospel. I am glad that Spring Harvest has at last been able to break its partnership with people who are propagating false teaching which can only do more harm than good. Read more

Atonement: Been there, done that, wrecked the organization

I have blogged on the significance of current debates about the atonement here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Bp of Willesden says UCCF 'fabricating' dispute over Steve Chalke

[...] It’s terribly sad that UCCF are now coming out with an official statement that simply isn’t true to what actually took place. I don’t want to get into a public row with UCCF, whose ministry among students I support. But this is just simply to say that I dispute most of what is contained in the statement as being either misunderstanding (willful or otherwise) or total fabrication. I could hope that they would withdraw their statement and hold their peace. They seem to want to define themselves over against Spring Harvest, which I regret. We stand for the same faith and the same gospel. Read more

US 'becoming fascist in 10 easy steps'

(Ed: I think I'm just blogging this to show that 'mad as a fish' anti-Americanism isn't just a phenomenon for non-Americans. This also, I think, devalues the word 'fascist', see this essay by George Orwell on 'What is Fascism?')

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all
. Read more

Authors of 'Pierced for our Transgressions' respond to Wright

N. T. Wright does not like Pierced for our Transgressions, as he explains HERE. Some have already responded to him HERE, HERE and HERE. While we are grateful for constructive criticism, Wright is mistaken at several important points. We offer a brief response.

First, N. T. Wright takes exception to our criticism of Steve Chalke and Alan Mann’s The Lost Message of Jesus, a book which he continues to endorse. He tries to argue that the now-notorious reference to ‘cosmic child abuse – a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed’ (Lost Message, p. 182) was never intended as a description of penal substitution itself (which Wright assures us that Chalke believes), but was rather an attack on a caricature of the doctrine.

We would be pleased if that were the case, but this reading of Chalke is simply impossible. Read more

Spring Harvest breaks with Word Alive/UCCF over Chalke's views on atonement

[...] In September 2006 the Word Alive Committee were called to a meeting by Spring Harvest and told that as they would not include the Revd Steve Chalke, the 14-year partnership was at an end. Spring Harvest said they regretted they were putting a personality ahead of partnership. Spring Harvest announced it would be promoting its own student-based week at Minehead in ‘week one’, resourced by Fusion, of which the Revd Steve Chalke is on the Council of Reference.

Our decision to allow only orthodox Christian teaching from Word Alive platforms, and Spring Harvest’s subsequent decision has caused enormous pain and regret. However, UCCF believes it can no longer work with those whose understanding of the nature of the gospel and the distinctive of the atonement is so different to theirs, and mainstream evangelicals in the UK and across the world. Read more

Monday, 23 April 2007

St George's Day greeting from Baghdad

(Ed: Something to put it all in perspective.)

Because he lives we can face tomorrow...

Happy St George’s Day!

Dear Friends,

Today is St George’s Day. The Patron Saint of England and the Patronal Festival of our church in Baghdad. St George was a man of great faith and character, who rebelled against Diocletian, the cruelest persecutor of Christians at that time. When he appeared before Diocletian, he bravely denounced the Emperor for his unnecessary cruelty and injustice, stirred the populace with his powerful rhetoric against the Imperial Decree to persecute Christians. As a result the Emperor consigned St George to prison with instructions that he be tortured until he denied his faith in Christ. St George, having defended his faith, was beheaded at Nicomedia near Lyddia in Palestine on the 23rd of April in the year 303 AD.

I have said it many times before but St George’s Baghdad is a truly exceptional Church like I have never

Children at St. George's
experienced before, and it truly lives up to the character of its patron saint. The relationship I have with our many members is indeed one of love. Our lay leaders are wonderful as are our members, and our children are quite exceptional. We have a little routine when I arrive with my body guards; I enter the church to cheering and clapping and I say I can't start the service until my children are there. They then bring them in from Sunday school and we start with the children leading worship.

The worship is always exceptional. Here the only release from the pain of life in Baghdad is to worship the living G-d. We hear stories that Christians are too scared to go to church any more but our people still come and yes, for them it is still dangerous but they come in their masses. Often hungry, always frightened, often despairing but still with hope in Jesus.

St. George's Church
I attach a picture of our church surrounded by concrete barricades and razor wire. It is undoubtedly the most protected church in the world. Known as the English Church it is the only coalition-linked church in Iraq. G-d is there; in his power we know that they are there for a purpose and that will be fulfilled in G-d’s own time.

The cost of running the church is immense not just because of security but because we have to meet the humanitarian needs of the people. Yet at a recent church council meeting the church was adamant that it wanted to tithe it's money to the Diocese. The Diocese has asked nothing of the Church and only gives to it, yet in Arab culture when somebody offers you something you have to take it. So our church with nothing will be giving back to the Diocese it's monthly tithe. It is a real story of the widow’s mite.

The other day at Church I told them about a little girl called Megan from Dorchester Abbey. She wanted to help our Church in Iraq so she organised a sale at her Church and raised over £1200. The people cheered and clapped and were so excited to hear that a little girl in England cared about them.

If any of you would like to give to St George’s this St George’s day your help would be so appreciated.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Andrew [White]

View here

Can the Union be saved?


How has it come to this? Fifty years ago, the question would never have arisen. Not until the late 1960s, around the time the first barrels of North Sea oil came ashore, did the SNP make any breakthrough. Devolution was a bid to arrest what was seen as a slide to independence.

Instead, it probably hastened it. Is anyone surprised when we made so little attempt to defend the integrity of the Union which, with all its flaws, was one of the most successful and enduring political systems in the world, the foundation of an empire, the crucible of democracy and enlightenment?

For goodness sake, which other nation would celebrate its 300th birthday in such a mealy-mouthed way, with the minting of a £2 coin, and that's it? Do you remember the spectacular bicentenary parties thrown by the Americans in 1976, or the French in 1989?

Where is the pomp and circumstance we do so well? Where is the leadership? It was all well and good for Messrs Blair and Brown rushing to man the barricades with panicky articles in this newspaper a few weeks back; but the fort had been overrun while they slept.

Even though some polls suggest a joint referendum held tomorrow might result in separation, a campaign in which the arguments were fully debated would probably pull the peoples of both countries back from the brink, though it would be a close- run thing. Read more

So what's wrong with Englishness?

(Ed: Surely, still, an important issue for the Church of England to address. Incidentally, the italicization is what is found in the Book of Common Prayer.)

[...] British luminaries who applaud expressions of Celtic, African or Catalan nationalism treat its English equivalent with disdain. According to them, England is not really a nation at all. They consider any of their fellow citizens who embrace English identity to be Morris-dancing nincompoops. The Tories oppose the creation of an English parliament even though they would be likely to dominate such an institution.

So, what is it about the idea of England that is somehow so unthinkable? If you ask, you are usually told it is something to do with race. Allow the English to become themselves, it is suggested, and their inner xenophobia would be unleashed. One argument put forward against St George's Day celebrations has been that the British National Party would hijack them. Read more

Reponse to Tom Wright on the Cross

I have now blogged a 'rapid response' to Tom Wright's critique of Robert Jenson, Jeffrey John, and Pierced for Our Transgressions. Read here.

Bishop of Durham attacks Conservative Evangelical defence of penal substitution

(Ed: this is a long and technical article by Tom Wright on the Fulcrum, 'Open Evangelical', website. I hope to blog about it later.)

[...] I hope it is now clear what I meant by saying that my main problem with Pierced for Our Transgressions is that it is hopelessly sub-biblical. My heart sinks when I read what the great contemporary heroes of conservative Christianity have said inside the front cover. Peter Adam from Melbourne says that the book shows how the cross integrates into the big themes of the Bible, whereas, if I am right, it is precisely the big themes of the Bible that have been ignored. Don Carson says that the book successfully refutes some people who ‘are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says’, whereas it seems to me that it is the authors of this book who are not paying proper attention to Scripture itself. I was going to quote more – ‘its great strength lies in its comprehensive exegesis of the biblical text itself’, says one dear and good man; ‘they have a firm grasp of the biblical material’, says another; and so on, and so on. It becomes embarrassing. I have this unhappy sense that a large swathe of contemporary evangelicalism has (accidentally and unintentionally, of course) stopped its ears to the Bible, and hence to the God of the Bible, and is determinedly pursuing a course dictated by evangelical tradition rather than by scripture itself. And then they are surprised that those who do not fall within that tradition cannot hear what they are saying – and sometimes denounce them as unbelievers. Read more

Evangelicals gain strength in England

(Ed: Associated Press article in

It's Sunday in England, and across the country many traditional stone churches are struggling to fill their pews.

But not C3, the Cambridge Community Church, one of the country's many evangelical groups. Its mostly white, middle-class congregants crowd a rented school auditorium with their arms outstretched to the heavens and their hands fervently clapping to evangelical sermons. Read more

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Young Christians to Hit Essex with Message of Christ

(Ed: For those who don't know, the Diocese of Chelmsford covers Essex.)

Young Christians will descend on Essex this summer with the message of Jesus Christ as part of an outreach initiative from Viz-A-Viz Ministries.

The ministry, which works alongside churches and other Christian organisations in communicating the Gospel to the unchurched, is inviting young Christians between the ages of 15 and 21 to join its Summer Evangelism Teams in Essex for a week of outreach opportunities. Read more

When will Islam damn the chlorine bombers?

[...] Somewhere in Iraq, for example, there is an individual who allowed two young children to travel into Baghdad as passengers in the back seat of car that was loaded with explosives. Naturally enough, the children's presence lowered suspicion at the checkpoints. The car entered the city, the adults hopped out and detonated the bomb with the children still inside.

That is badness of a high order and you would expect it to have offended every loving parent across Islam. You would certainly expect to hear some stern religious voices in Middle East calling for the cessation of such barbarity in the name of one or other sect or tribe or, indeed, Allah. There are murmurs of disquiet, even horror, but in a way, the Americans and British have become everyone's alibi or at least plea of mitigation.

Our catastrophic blunder has removed the need for any moral calibration in Islam of what Muslims are doing to Muslims in Iraq. In the West, there are many, who, because they were passionately against the war, fail to see that they ought to refine their judgment on the men who thrill to the idea of perfecting a chlorine bomb that will maim, blow apart or asphyxiate the workman who has just got off shift, the housewife loaded down with groceries, the student waiting to meet a friend. The chlorine bombers are not freedom fighters. Read more

An Islamic state need not be undemocratic

(Ed: Just a very interesting article on the state from an Pakistani Islamic writer.)

[...} all “democratic” governments support and impose one particular view of the good life. They have faith-based initiatives; give money to Churches; give medals to heroes who die for values these governments admire; proclaim religious holidays; celebrate things they care about; and teach students in public schools what the governments mean to be acceptable and honest. The schools even teach homosexuality because the governments claim this amounts to teaching civility despite the fact that this kind of values differ from place to place and even family-to-family. These governments sponsor some art and not other art, and they use their resources to put some books in their public libraries but not others.

The secularists do not say that this kind of segregation is wrong because it causes some people to feel excluded. All these government activities in the West are considered neutral. However, Pakistan must not become truly Islamic because it will presumably impose certain values on people. Does it not mean that only Islamic values are not acceptable?

If it is argued that the secular democracies do not force anyone to adopt religious beliefs that he or she rejects, or perform religious actions that are anathema, so is this the basic rule of Islam that there should be no compulsion in Deen. Read more

A prayer for St George's day

Ed: This prayer is my own composition

Almighty God,
We have been taught by the legend of St George
to fight against dragons and to rescue the helpless.
Deliver us, by the truth of the gospel,
from that great dragon who leads the whole world astray.
Free us from our slavery to sin and death
And grant that your light may dawn again on this nation of England.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,


Another prayer that might be suitable for assemblies:

Heavenly Father, give us the bravery of St George to stand up for what we believe. Give us the strength to overcome the dragons in our lives and in the world. And where we see people in distress, give us the compassion to help them. Amen

The following prayer is from "THE ORDER OF SERVICE AT MATTINS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 80TH BIRTHDAY OF HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN AT ST GEORGE'S CHAPEL, 23 APRIL 2006". I do not know anything other than that about the source:

The collect for St George's Day

O God of hosts, who didst so kindle the flame of love in the heart of thy servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death: grant us the same faith and power of love that we, who rejoice in his triumphs, may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

There is also this, given as the Collect for St George's Day, in Franz Hildebrandt: Mr. Valiant-for-Truth:

O Lord God of hosts who didst give grace to Thy servant George to lay aside the fear of man and to confess Thee even unto death, grant, we pray Thee, that we and all our countrymen who bear office in the world, may think lightly of earthly place and honour and rather seek to please [Jesus] the Captain of our salvation who hath chosen us to be His soldiers, to whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be thanks and praise from all the armies of thy saints, now and for evermore. Amen.