From the cutting edge

Below is a list and short reviews of resources from one of the medics in our fellowship.

Sexuality and Gender issues

Our society is challenging us to think about sexuality and gender in different ways and the church is under pressure to accommodate cultural views. As Christians we need to think through for ourselves what does the Bible say, what do I believe, how does that affect how I behave, how can I talk to people who think differently, how do I help and welcome people with different views into church. The recent decision by the Bishops of the Church of England to promote blessing of same sex relationships has caused concern and this summary from Lee Gatiss of the Church Society covers it well.
https://www.churchsociety.org/resource/responding-to-the-bishops-proposals-for-same-sex-blessings/

This is a list of potential resources you might find useful. Support organisations are listed where people struggling with these issues can find help.

The Plausibility Problem: The Church And Same-Sex Attraction by Ed Shaw
Can you be gay and Christian? Does the Bible really require celibacy outside of heterosexual marriage? Isn’t it unrealistic and unfair, imposing loneliness and the loss of basic human satisfactions like sex and marriage? Is what the church teaches about homosexuality a plausible way of life?
In this honest book, Ed Shaw shares his pain in dealing with same-sex attraction – and yet he is committed to what the Bible says and what the church has always taught about marriage and sex. He shows us that obedience to Jesus is ultimately the only way to experience life to the full whether we are married, not yet married, widowed, single or same sex attracted.
He challenges the way our thinking in the church has been shaped by society around us and how we need to return to the reality of gospel discipleship.

https://www.10ofthose.com/uk/products/18437/the-plausibility-problem#review For more info about Anglican vicar Ed Shaw see
https://www.livingout.org/resources/stories/17/ed

Protecting Therapy Webinar by Laura Haynes ICMDA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZSd1fmcvZk
Everyone should have the right to walk away from sexual or gender practices and experiences that don’t work for them and have support to do so. She argues that a ban on conversion therapy counselling would infringe the rights of those who chose not to continue in those behaviours. 2.9.21

A Better Story: Sex, God and Human Flourishing Book by Glyn Harrison
A great book that covers many aspects of sexuality and gender and gives an excellent cultural / historical background.  Points to a positive engaging way of responding Biblically to current challenges in the area of sexuality and gender. https://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/a-better-story

Transgender by Vaughan Roberts is a short book. There are also discussion notes and video and free download on the website. Transgender – Vaughan Roberts | The Good Book Company

Transgender is a good starter guide. Roberts shows how gender identity has been separated from biological sex, assuming that we should seek to alter a person’s body to conform to their sense of gender identity, and examines transgender through the biblical lenses of creation, fall, redemption and ‘new’ creation. He suggests that true authenticity is found only through living as we were intended to live – in relationship with our ‘Maker’. Those who experience gender dysphoria need compassionate care, including encouragement to identify with their birth sex.
This is a tender-hearted but uncompromising introduction to transgender for Christians who find themselves wrestling with cultural trends or seeking to support friends wrestling with gender identity issues.

See also https://www.livingout.org/resources/articles/83/5-things-every-christian-should-know-about-the-transgender-conversation

Living out website ‘We help people, churches and society talk about faith and sexuality and
want to see Christians living out their sexuality and identity in ways that enable all to flourish in Christ-like faithfulness’
https://www.livingout.org/
A very extensive and helpful source of information on LBGTQ+ and all aspects of sexuality and gender.  A lot of podcasts discussing the issues frankly but pointing to God as source of strength.

The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) is an organisation which seeks to offer people high-quality, professional and discreet support to enable them follow their life-choices. The IFTCC exists to help anyone experiencing unwanted relational and sexual behaviours, attractions and patterns. It seeks to promote a caring, non-judgemental environment where people who choose to move away from their unwanted feelings and behaviours can find the support they’re seeking. We are also concerned to offer collegial support to those who support these clients. Some people choose not to live a gay life, and don’t want to transition out of their birth genders. Whether it is for religious, family or sexual health reasons, or simply due to a disaffection with these lifestyles, people have the right to choose how they live their life. https://iftcc.org/ The website hosts videos, personal stories and a lot of information about conversion therapy ban discussion. It can also signpost to counselling. It is headed by Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust.

Core Issues is a non-profit Christian UK based ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues. It offers one-to-one support for individuals voluntarily seeking to leave homosexual behaviours and feelings. https://www.core-issues.org/

https://www.xoutloud.com/unashamed/ a website celebrating the stories of people who have moved away from a homosexual or gender confused lifestyle and found Christian faith.

Christian Marriage

Family Life website. Christian focus with a wide range of helpful resources for those wanting to invest in their relationship no matter how long they have been married. https://familylifeuk.org/

https://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/
A Christian organisation offering support courses to support all aspects of married and family life.

Where do I look?

The current debate about LGBTI+ issues is confusing for many. There are so many voices saying contradictory things. Is it possible to be an authentic Christian living in a same sex relationship? What about same sex marriage? What are we to make of transgender issues and the multitude of ‘genders’ that are on offer today? Does the Bible really teach that marriage is one man and one woman for life?

These, and others, are all good questions. So, here is a list of available resources to help you. Some are simple, others are fairly weighty so I have listed them in order in each section, simpler first. Clicking on the book name should take you to Amazon should you wish to buy it. This is in no way to promote Amazon, it’s simply the easiest way. This list is far from exhaustive, and I will endeavour to add further resources as and when they come to my attention.

Websites

livingOut.org – A place where same sex attracted individuals who want to live godly, celibate lives offer resources, blogs and podcasts

trueFreedomTrust.org – A site offering support and resources for same sex attracted people

ceec.info – The site of the Church of England Evangelical Council. Some very useful information in response to LLF

SexChangeRegret.com – Support site for those who have ‘transitioned’ and regret it

Are same sex sexual relationships biblical?

Experience of same-sex relationships

Trans issues

An Oxymoron

Earlier this month the House of Bishops issued a statement. It represented the conclusion of the ‘Living in Love and Faith‘ consultation that has been going on for the last six years. The statement had been eagerly awaited especially by the orthodox, who wanted the bishops to affirm the Anglican doctrine of marriage, and the revisionists, who wanted the bishops to introduce support for same-sex marriages. It must be said that the house of bishops value corporate unity above anything else, Bible and tradition come a very poor second. This being their focus it was clear that they would attempt to produce some via media that would please everyone. The difficulty is that when the opposing views are so far apart, they leave a cavern, rather than common ground, between them. The statement from the bishops is in that cavern! It pleases no one, it is contradictory and disingenuous. It rides roughshod over synodical process and may even break canon law! Lest you think I am overreacting, let me explain.

You can find the response from the bishops here: GS 2289 Living in Love and Faith.pdf (churchofengland.org)

Is this a viable via media?

  1. It is not all bad. That we should apologise to people living with same-sex attraction for the way they have been treated by the church is self-evident.
  2. In the report itself, outside the example prayers for same sex unions, there is no reference to Scripture except 1 John 4v16 (p8) which is quoted without context or explanation.
  3. The bishops say that they have not changed the church’s doctrine of ‘holy matrimony’ (Canon B30). This would be good news, where it true. However, in practice it is fallacious.
  4. The bishops provide some suggested liturgies for the blessing of same sex unions. How can they provide liturgy to bless what God says is sin? This is very serious indeed.
  5. And here is the contradiction. How can blessing same sex unions be compatible with the church’s doctrine of marriage?
  6. The Archbishop of York has stated quite clearly that this is a ‘first step’ in change.

But the issues don’t stop here. The process the bishops are attempting to follow is disingenuous. Let me explain:

  1. A change in church of England Doctrine must be passed by the General Synod, and it’s a fairly high bar, it needs a 2/3 majority in each house (laity, clergy and bishops). With the current makeup of synod a change of this nature would certainly not get through.
  2. Response? Pretend it’s not a change of doctrine.
  3. New services in the church would also need to be passed through General Synod (Canon B2).
  4. Response? Use the ‘experimental liturgy provision’ (Canon B5a) which bypasses synod.
  5. The hope is that damaging, contentious debate on the floor of synod will be avoided and unity maintained.
  6. The reality is that there will be contentious, heated debate in synod resulting in clear division. There is clear anger and animosity towards the house of bishops producing further division in synod.

General Synod have been given the time to debate the bishops’ paper. But there can be no vote, there is nothing to vote on, synod has been bypassed! Synod meets next week (6-9 February).

I am not the only person who feels so strongly about this issue. It must be said, the revisionists are just as annoyed by it as we are. It pleases no one.

You can find other responses here:

Amazing Grace on New Year’s Day

250 years ago, in 1772-73, Britain was in the grip of the worst economic crisis in its history to that point. In economic history it is known as the 1772-3 Credit Crisis. There was not a business in the land that was not affected. The Scottish ‘Ayr Bank’ failed, and the entire British economy teetered on the edge of collapse. There could hardly have been a single person in the country not effected to some extent by the crisis, either directly or indirectly by rising food prices and cost of living. The sense of uncertainty and bleakness would have been widespread as the nation celebrated the new year of 1773.

Along with this there were the first rumblings in the movement that would bring about the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. The trade in slaves was a, probably the, mainstay of the British economy at the time. The so-called ‘triangular trade’ saw merchant ships leaving the UK (mainly from Bristol and Liverpool) carrying European goods to trade for slaves in Northwest Africa. Slaves were then taken, packed into the merchant ships in terrible, cramped an insanitary conditions, to the plantations in the West Indies and Southern parts of what is now the USA. Cheap labour was essential for the economic viability of the plantations and the continuous supply of human chattel met the need. Those slaves who survived the journey were traded for sugar, cotton and tobacco which was then shipped back to the UK to be sold for profit. The triangle then repeated. The trade was so embedded in the British economy that it could not be abolished without very serious consequences. Abolition would mean bankruptcy for many of the most wealthy aristocrats, landowners and businessmen in the nation who held large financial investments in the plantations, and therefore in slavery. Banks and financial institutions were heavily invested in the trade making this lucrative business a way of comfortable living. Yet in 1772, in the so called ‘Somersett Case,’ the courts awarded freedom to a fugitive slave with the judgement that ‘slavery does not exist under English common law’. Here was the beginning of the end for this major foundation of the British economy. 35 years later, after a long fight, slavery was eventually abolished across the British Empire on 25th March 1807. Abolition occurred nine months before the death of John Newton who had become a, somewhat reluctant, prime mover in the fight. He had known the slave trade from the inside for more than a decade and later became a right-hand man to William Wilberforce, the public leader, spokesman and negotiator in the abolitionist movement.

John Newton was ordained into the Church of England in 1764 at the age of 39, leaving his career at sea behind him. He was appointed minister at St Peter and St Paul’s church, Olney in Buckinghamshire where he served for 16 years until, in 1780 he moved to East London where he spent the rest of his life.

In Olney Newton was a hardworking and popular pastor. His care for people was foremost in his ministry. He was a Christian first and an Anglican second. When he was initially rejected for ordination in the Church of England he had applied to the Methodists and the Presbyterians to see if they would have him! Church polity was, it seems, of minimal importance to him. He threw himself wholeheartedly into his parish, giving himself to spiritual, pastoral care, sometimes at cost to himself and his reputation. His care for the great hymnwriter William Cowper raised more than one eyebrow. Due to severe depression Cowper lived as a virtual recluse, hardly, if ever, attending church. Newton cared for him like a brother, visiting him regularly, reading the Scriptures and praying with him. Together Newton and Cowper collaborated in the production of ‘OIney Hymns’.

Newton was a great diarist, hymn writer, preacher, and wise counsellor. He was only a very reluctant activist in the abolitionist cause. But above all he loved the Bible, he had taught himself Greek and Hebrew before his ordination so that he could read it in its original languages. It was the Bible, more than anything else, that had led him to Christ and now shaped his life and ministry. He sought to live by it, and he encouraged others to do the same. It was the Scriptures that informed his whole life, his personal walk with God, and his pastoral ministry. It is, after all, God’s written word so must be taken seriously.

On 1st January 1772, nine years into his ministry at Olney, and 250 years ago today, the Bible passage Newton was to preach on was 1 Chronicles 17. He would often produce a hymn arising from the Bible reading and his meditations upon it. This would embed the major theological points of his sermon in the minds of the congregation as they sang. The words of a hymn, especially when set to a well-known tune, are more easily remembered than simple narrative. Many of Newton’s hymns can be found in most hymn books as well as Newtn and Cowper’s own ‘Olney Hymns.’ The hymn he penned for this New Year’s Day began ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that save a wretch like me’. This hymn has since become one of the most familiar hymns ever written. It is one of the very few hymns to have made it into the pop charts. The words are familiar to many people, and it is frequently requested at weddings and funerals, often because it’s the only hymn people can recall. Yet very few indeed, know its origins.

1 Chronicles 17

1 Chronicles 17 is a key chapter in the God’s covenant history with His people. It is in the chapter that God reaffirms His covenant with king David. So, let’s consider the chapter and its context:

Background

Twenty years before the events of this chapter the Ark of Covenant, the symbol of God’s covenant presence with His people, had been lost in battle to the Philistines by King Saul (1 Samuel 5). Saul, in desperation for victory, had taken the Ark into battle as a kind of lucky talisman. The Philistines considered they had achieved a great victory and put the Ark in their temple next their god Dagon, perhaps believing that adding another god would bring them greater success. However, the following morning Dagon had fallen flat on his face! They stood him back up, but the next morning there he was again, flat on his face. Only this time his hands and head had broken off! So, they sent the Ark around the country trying to find a safe place to keep it. None could be found, it caused mayhem wherever it went. Eventually they decided it was best to return it to Israel. They managed to get the ark as far as Kireath-Jearim where it stayed in the house of Abinadab for 20 years.

The Ark of the Covenant represented God, yes, but specifically it represented God’s covenant with His people. It had been constructed in the wilderness to God’s very precise instructions, and then carried before the people of Israel as they journey towards the promised land. It represented God’s promise to lead and protect His people, to give them a land of their own. To be their God and they His people in His place under His protection. To look at the Ark of the Covenant was be reminded of God’s covenant promises.

Back to In 1 Chronicles 17. David, now king in Israel, having taken Jerusalem from the Jebusites, wanted to restore the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful place, at the heart of the nation, God’s chosen people. The new capital city of Jerusalem. Symbolically this would restore God, and His covenant promises, to their rightful place. So, with a small hiccough which cost another three months (you can find out about this in 1 Chronicles 13), David finally retrieved the Ark from Kireath-Jearim and brought it to Jerusalem. And so we arrive at our passage, 1 Chronicles 17.

David’s desire (1-2)

David, being the great king he was, lived in a palace. But the Ark of God was kept in a tent. David was concerned about this, it was not right. After all, we keep the Crown Jewells in a castle with the best security we can arrange. We allow visitors to view them but only with security guards present and careful crowd control. The USA keeps an original copy of their constitution (1789) in a similar way, heavily guarded. Yet, the Ark of God was in a tent in Jerusalem. Consequently David, in his desire to honour God, wanted to build a house (temple) to house the Ark of God. And, being a godly man, he consulted God on the matter before going ahead, via God’s prophet, Nathan (v1).

Nathan considers the request a ‘no brainer’ and immediately answer, yes, of course you must do this. Get on with it (v2). But God then stepped in.

God’s refusal (3-6)

The following night God tells Nathan he’s made a mistake. It’s not a glorious house that matters but following God and keeping His covenant. God then gives a message for Nathan to pass on to David. A message full of gracious, covenant hope.

God addresses David (7-15)

God’s message is full of covenant language of promise. You see, David had a concern to put God and His covenant promises back at the heart of the nation. God honours that concern by reaffirming His covenant with David.

God’s covenant document to His people leaving slavery in Egypt and heading for the promised land began with a reminder of His gracious, saving action: “I am the God who brought you out of Egypt”. We know this document as the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue. God’s covenant to David begins in the same way with a reminder of God’s gracious, saving action: “I took you from the pasture … to be a prince over my people” (v7). Then God makes a series of gracious covenant promises to David:

  • “I will make for you a name …” (v8)
  • You will live in my appointed place of safety (v9-10a)
  • The Lord will build you a house (v10b)
  • Your son will reign and know God’s blessing in his kingdom (v11)
  • Your son will build a house for God, and his throne will be eternal (v12)
  • God will be a father to him and establish his forever (v13-14)

Now we need to recognise the importance of this covenant promise. Yes, David’s son, Solomon, built God’s temple. But his kingdom was not eternal. He died. So, did God fail? Absolutely not! a son of David will reign eternally. God will build him a spiritual house and establish his kingdom forever. The true ‘son of David’ here is, of course, Jesus Christ. He was born a descendant (son) of David, in the town of David (Bethlehem). He was born within God’s covenant people (cf. Matt 1). God has established a kingdom that is eternal. A New covenant people in union with Christ our head, in God’s place, under God’s care forever. It is exactly this language that Peter picks up on in the second chapter of his first letter, ‘As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ (1 Peter 2v4-5)

David prays (16-27)

David’s response to God’s gracious promises is to pray:

  • To praise God (v17-20)
  • To thank God for His blessings (25-27)
  • for His grace (v16)
  • for His covenant love (v21-24)

Amazing Grace

So how does this fit with John Newton’s hymn? I am indebted to the work of Marylyn Rouse of the John Newton Project here who pointed me to the following. Let’s take each stanza of the original hymn in turn:

Amazing grace!  (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.          

v7

v16

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!   

           

 

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

v8

 

v16

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

v26

v23

v10

v17

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

 

 

v9

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

 

 

 

v12, 14, 22, 23, 24, 27

Care@StBot’s

We all struggle at times, perhaps being unable to get to church for a season, worrying about a family member, fear of the future, being unable to forgive a wrong, the list goes on. As God’s family here in Barton Seagrave and Warkton, we all have a responsibility to look out for one another, and to encourage one another to grow in faith, especially in times of difficulty. God’s grace does not make us self-sufficient but enables us to help one another.

This vital ministry is going on all the time behind the scenes, and we thank God for this evidence of His work among us.

In a larger church it is particularly important that everyone plays their part, the clergy cannot know everyone or their needs. The clergy rely on members of the congregation letting them know there is a need. Now we have also formed a Pastoral Care team to assist in this ministry.

If you are struggling for whatever reason, or would like to make a request on behalf of someone else for pastoral support, please do contact the Pastoral Team by email, care@StBots.church or via the church office on 01536 414052

A member of this team will make an initial visit and, if appropriate, arrange further visits.

 

The Pastoral Care Team

(Barbara Bashford, Phil Burch, Kate Curnock, Graham Farrier Claire Johnson, Carol Keach, Julie Lucas, Helen Tilney )


 

‘Plan B’

Did Boris Johnson’s announcement last week take you by surprise? Or were you organised, prepared, and ready to implement ‘Plan B’? We now go back to compulsory wearing of masks in public places and working from home if we can. Some of us have never stopped wearing masks, others have delighted in exercising their freedom not to. And the prime minister is now facing a backbench rebellion from his libertarian colleagues. If our elected leaders cannot agree what hope do the rest of us have? As Christ’s body here, I pray that we have a lot of hope in getting along. We have two laws to guide us:

  1. The law of the land. We have ample instruction in the New Testament to obey our secular leaders. Look up Romans 13v1-2, Titus 3v1, 1 Peter 2v13-17, and you will see clear instruction. And remember, when these instructions were given the secular authorities were not democratically elected, benevolent leaders. So, we are under obligation to wear face coverings in church, unless we are exempt. There simply is no room for discussion on this.
  2. We are called, as Christ’s body, to care for each other. This can be hard at times, because there are many things over which we might disagree. Especially CoV restrictions. At one extreme, there are those who believe the whole thing is overblown, and those who wish to exercise their right to personal freedom (like Boris’s backbenchers). At the other extreme there are those who are extremely anxious, and, of course, those who need to be especially careful because of existing health conditions. Most of us are somewhere in between. As God’s people we need to respect one another’s opinions and actions, unless God has specifically said otherwise. We must care for the weaker brothers and sisters (Romans 14), and we must also be mindful of one another (Philippians 2v1-3).

As a result, and after much discussion, we have decided that, in order for everyone to feel comfortable we will implement the following:

  1. The old chancel ‘safe’ area will be retained for those who need to be careful. There will be more social distancing here than in the nave.
  2. With the exception of those leading, face coverings must be worn by everyone in church unless, you have a valid exemption. They may not be removed for singing.
  3. We encourage you all to take a Lateral Flow test before coming to a service.

Hopefully these measures will help us to be united. Please do respect them, whether you agree with them or not. The aim is to make St Botolph’s a comfortable and safe place for everyone.

I hope that these precautions enable you to enjoy a worry free and joyous Christmas. In a bleak world, Christmas brings real hope. After Christmas we will be running a short course (only three session) entitled ‘Hope Explored’ to consider what this hope really means. If you might be interested in joining in then send an email to hope@sbots.church and we’ll let you know when it’s starting.

God bless you this Christmas, and may you be filled with joy at the birth of the saviour.  Mark.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali

You will know that a week ago Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, an orthodox and very vocal critic of the direction the church of England is taking, transferred his allegiance to the church of Rome. Whilst the Roman church is to be greatly commended for it’s bold stand on moral and ethical issues, it is far from orthodox in its doctrine and ecclesiology. Bishop Michael’s move is therefore, to me at least, confusing. It seems he is prepared to sacrifice orthodoxy on the altar of ethics. Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

GAFCON is the leading group standing for Christian Orthodoxy in worldwide Anglicanism. GAFCON Ireland has issued the following statement:

(29 Oct 2021) The Trustees of Gafcon Ireland are deeply troubled by the recent transition of Bishop Michael Nazir Ali to the Roman Catholic Church. He has previously defended Christian orthodoxy around the world and courageously spoken on behalf of the persecuted church. However, Bishop Michael has now aligned himself with doctrines that are, in the words of the Thirty-nine Articles, “repugnant to the Word of God”. We cannot affirm Bishop Michael in his decision. We urge him to reconsider and return.

The first clause of the Jerusalem Declaration states that, “We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit”. As Trustees of Gafcon Ireland, and with our members and supporters, we continue to express our loyalty to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus, and rejoice in his gospel and its faithful proclamation to all nations.

Harvest For The Hungry Total

Dear St Botolph’s friends

I have today (13/10/21) totalled up your gifts for Harvest for the Hungry, so this year’s project is now closed.  If you still wish to contribute, could I ask you to do so direct to TEN.  If you do this, it would still be good to know about it, so we can belatedly add your gift to the total.  Thank you so very much to all of you who have made such generous gifts.  We even had a gift of £106.05 from St Edmund’s church – thank you St Edmund’s, that was a lovely surprise.

Last year’s total was £5280, as usual surpassing the previous year.  So what was it this year?

Was it £3000?  No it wasn’t.

Was it £4000?  No it wasn’t.

Was it £5000?  No it wasn’t.

Was it £6000?  No it wasn’t.

It was in fact £6471.05.  Was a stupendous total!  Once again, I can only say that you are an amazing group of people.  On behalf of all those who are going to be fed because of your generosity, thank you so much.

Derek

Harvest For The Hungry Update

Dear St Botolphs friends

Harvest for the Hungry is going well (7th Oct).  Thank you once again to all those who have contributed.  I will be sending our gift to TEN (Transform Europe Network) some time next week, so if you have not sent a contribution and wish to do so, please would you do so by this weekend at the latest.  I’ll let you know the final total next week.

Every blessing

Derek