Thursday, 18 December 2008

Gay rights activists in uproar over [Rick] Warren's role in Obama inauguration

Gay civil rights advocates and liberal activists were in an uproar today over news that evangelical pastor Rick Warren is to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration next month.

Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, was an outspoken proponent of a ballot measure to rescind the right of California same-sex couples to wed, and has compared homosexuality to incest and paedophilia.

"It is a slap in the face of the gay community, who are such strong supporters of Barack Obama," said Robin Tyler, a Los Angeles lesbian activist. Tyler was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that earlier this year led the California supreme court to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. Voters rescinded that right on election day, through a ballot question that Warren backed publicly, known as proposition 8.

"If you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support proposition 8," Warren said in an advertisement urging support for it.

John Aravosis, the editor of AmericaBlog, a liberal website, wondered why Obama chose Warren out of all the preachers in the country.

"When a Democrat wins the presidency, I would think we could find at least one preacher who isn't a raving homophobe to give the invocation," Aravosis said. "The Obama people know the loss on that prop 8 was a huge issue for the gay community. It is an incredibly raw issue, and then you go and pick one of the top guys behind it?" Read more
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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Bishop of Chichester faces rebellion over women clergy

A senior bishop is facing a rebellion from his clergy over his attempt to create a haven for opponents of female priests.

On one side of the row is the Rt Rev John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, who has a black belt in judo and a staunch opponent of the ordination of women.

In the opposing corner is a growing group of clergy and worshippers in his diocese, who are dismayed by the bishop's intransigence.

Bishop Hind has told his diocesan synod that when he appoints a new junior bishop, they will not be permitted to ordain women.

He has been bombarded with letters of protest against his stance, and faces a growing revolt. Behind closed doors, influential figures in the diocese are holding clandestine meetings to consider what action to take. Several of his priests have also already written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, believing that the bishop's attitude discriminates against women. Read more
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The Dean of Perth: Salvation is not about who is in and who is out

[...] In the New Testament Jesus announces the coming of God’s kingdom by forgiving sins and healing the sick. This is the work of salvation, which the Church would continue, instituting a new Heaven and a new Earth.

At least three things stand out. The first is that this salvation is experienced corporately, not individually. The Old Testament writers speak in terms of a community in which the presence of God could be experienced within a fellowship bound together by devotion to God. For the writers of the New Testament, Jesus was never to be thought of as a personal saviour, as though He were our personal toothbrush.

We are not saved individually, as though by some private act of divine indulgence. It is within the community that we can find forgiveness for the past, and hope for a way of beginning again.

Second, there is no evidence to suggest that what is required for salvation is an intellectual assent, a signing-off, which would effect a once-for-all change in us, whereby salvation is instantaneous, and we are passive recipients of its benefits.

It would be wrong to imagine that salvation occurs in a single act of religious fervour. The most usually quoted example of such an apparently swift transformation is Paul’s conversion. Yet, according to the account in Acts (ix, 1-19), it was not suddenly on the Damascus road, but only after the laying-on of hands by Ananias in the context of the care of the house of Judas, and after the scales had fallen from his eyes, and his sight was restored, that Paul was baptised, and his strength returned.

Salvation cannot be confined to one cataclysmic event; it requires engagement with a process in the context of a community — the Church. The transformation of human life that salvation suggests takes time, and needs to embrace many aspects of Christian insight and understanding.

Third, salvation is not about who is in or who is out — who are sheep or who are goats.

Can we really imagine the God of all creation, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, being fussed by the status of everyone’s individual belief? Salvation is concerned with the transformation of life. All life. Barriers to the flourishing of all human beings are to be overcome, whatever stage people are at in the awareness of this life-giving dynamic. What matters is that we have all been freed to be all there is in us to be. Otherwise Christ has died in vain. Read more
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The meaning of life by the Reverend Nicky Gumbel

From The Independent

[...] The course he has developed is clever, in that it helps you to accept, at the very least, that those who choose to believe in God can do so rationally, even if you choose yourself not to trust the evidence that they trust. If I've learned one really important thing from doing Alpha, it's that you don't have to be mad to be a Christian, and that in fact, madness doesn't even help.

From my experience, the course leaders – we have four – are adept at fielding questions and bringing matters back to the values that are viewed by Christians as essentials. Like Gumbel himself, they steer discussion away from controversy and back to the healing power of love. Again and again, despite my intellectual objections, I find myself feeling like a stubborn stick-in-the-mud, unwilling to go with the spiritual flow because I'm too mean-spirited to open my heart to Jesus. I've been surprised by how much power the course exerts.

Sometimes a leader will say something – that, say, human strife is always, at root, caused when people choose to love themselves and not others – and it strikes you quite profoundly as a simple, ineffable truth. When you ask why people can't just adopt that credo, without necessarily going for the personal relationship with God bit – they'll just say that you can, of course, and that Jesus admired such people and described them as men and women of peace – but that it's a lot easier to live that way when you've tuned in to God's message. Christianity then starts to look like a radical lifestyle choice, something that you refuse to join in with because you're blandly conventional, hampered by a failure of imagination, and scared of looking like a wuss.

In truth, the course has made me feel a little envious of Christians. They live in the strangest and most alien of worlds – a world where everything makes sense. Oddly, the lure is not that they have all the answers. Instead it is that they have dispensed with the need for questions. Their moral universe is stable. For them, it all works. Unsurprisingly, since he has personally shaped the course, this interpretation chimes with Gumbel's own brief description of his conversion.

"Jesus said: 'I came so that you might have life, and have it in all its fullness.' And that was my experience. I came from a background where I didn't have a faith. I wasn't unhappy. I wasn't desperately going round saying: 'I need to find meaning and purpose in my life.' But I did find it. There was a spiritual hunger that was satisfied in this relationship with God through Jesus and through the experience of the Holy Spirit and the love of God.

"The Christian faith is very simple at its heart. God loves you and the experience of God's love is a very profound thing. It's a life-changing thing to be loved and accepted and to experience forgiveness and the result is a love for God that changes your priorities in life so that that relationship becomes the number-one priority. So I want to read the Bible. I want to hear what God is saying to me today. I want to pray. I want to develop that relationship.

"Jesus said: 'The first command is love God, and the second is love your neighbour.' So the priority of your life is to love, starting with your wife and your children, then spreading out to the world. To be a Christian is to want to make a difference to your family, to your neighbourhood, to the society around, and ultimately to the world." Read more

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