27 May 2007

Stephen Sykes 'The Story of Atonement' - Ch 1 What is Atonement?

I'm starting to blog through the chapters of Stephen Sykes' The Story of Atonement over on my book blog.

I've just posted on
Chapter 1.

Grace 2

One of the reasons that we worship and fellowship together with other Christians is to be reminded of the basics of our faith. I had such an experience today.

Wonderful Husband and I were having lunch with Real Life friends M, J and R. I credit this thought to my friend M, who will be reading this blog eventually (but who doesn't make a habit of leaving comments). Nonetheless, it's important to give credit where credit is due. Perhaps ultimately the credit goes to CS Lewis, who also said a similar thing.

M noted that he reckons there is one common theme that runs through 'offshoots' of Christianity. I don't know what word to use and probably some will be offended at being called 'offshoots' of Christianity. Movements like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons or even the Masons. That one common thing, M reckoned, is that they jettison grace.

M reckons that grace is jettisoned because it is an offensive concept and I agree. I think that there are two ways that we can be offended by grace. Even though these two ways of being offended by grace are mutually exclusive in concept, I suspect that if we're honest with ourselves, in practice we all manage to be offended in both of these ways from time to time.

The first way of being offended by grace is to be happy when the grace is applied to us, but unhappy when it's applied to other people. So we're happy to get a full day's wages for 4 hours' work, but we're unhappy that someone else has got a full day's wages for 1 hour's work. We are sometimes guilty of wanting grace for ourselves and justice for others.

The second way of being offended by grace is being offended that we are in need of grace at all. Superficially, this can appear to be the more straight-foward of the two scenarios, but I suspect that it's the most devious. Because it's not just about us accepting that we are imperfect sinners who need God's forgiveness. It's about accepting that there isn't actually anything we can do to 'pay God back' for his grace.

Sermon - Baptismal Sermon for Pentecost

I have posted today's sermon, A Baptismal Sermon for Pentecost on my sermon blog.

24 May 2007

Infant Baptism

I'll be doing my first baptism on Sunday. E (who crawls but doesn't yet walk) has already made her mark on the otherwise mostly elderly congregation. We've had to install a baby-gate on the steps leading up to our Georgian pulpit because E has decided that she really rather likes crawling up those steps. We've told her that she will have to be able to stand and talk before she is allowed to preach.

I'm really looking forward to the baptism. The baptismal party of friends and family will increae our numbers by about 200% on Sunday and it will be a wonderful celebration as we welcome E into the Christian Community on the feast of Pentecost.

Partly because of this baptism, Lorna's post on
Infant Baptism gave me a chuckle.


Catching up on my sermon blogging, I have posted the 'sermons' for the last two weeks:

May 13, 2007

This was the beginning of Christian Aid Week, and rather than having a sermon, we discussed the life and witness of Oscar Romero. It's the first time I've tried a discussion and I think it worked well. I've only given my discussion-starters here (
Inspired by Oscar Romero). I've not attempted to reproduce the discussion.

May 20 2007

Slavery and Freedom. You'll gather from this sermon that my idea of what it means to be a counter-cultural Christian is not primarily about how we conduct our private lives.

20 May 2007

A Question

A Question:

When God sends people to hell for all eternity, will He spend eternity weeping over those who have been lost?

Will I be allowed to weep for them too?

Or are we all - the saved and the Trinity - going say 'Those were the rules' and spend eternity in happiness and delight?

09 May 2007

Thinking about Penal Substitutionary Atonement

I've not blogged about all the controversies that have been happening recently around the subject of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). I have, however, been having some rather lengthy conversations on the 'Ship of Fools' Christian discussion board with individuals who support PSA.

As a result of these conversations, I have developed a theory about one central point of disagreement between supportors of PSA and non-supporters of PSA. I throw it open here for any comment anyone might want to make. (And I speak as a non-supporter of PSA.)

I think that one of the central points of controversy is whether forgiving a wrongdoing actually names the wrongdoing as wrong. I say that it does; PSA supporters seem to say that it does not. A related point of controvery from the other direction is whether a wrongdoing needs to receive a punishment in order to be ontologically 'wrong'. PSA supporters seem to think that 'without punishment, wrongdoing has not been named.' I disagree.

Egalitarianism and Ecumenism

About a week ago, I blogged about an internationally known Christian mission which wrote to me as a Methodist minister asking to recommend to them local business men who might potentially want to join in their work. It's since been confirmed to me by a female clergy colleague that this group does not admit women to membership although member's wives are allowed and encouraged to participate in the society's work.

Since becoming a minister this past September, I've become aware that there are a number of Christian groups that are eager to be in contact with "Revd P G*****" provided that the "P" stands for something like Paul or Philip and not Pam or Paula. One group sent me an invitation to hear an American Christian speaker who I love; but it became clear that the offer to support clergy in the challenges of doing God's work didn't apply to female clergy.

Yes, it hurts. But I honestly believe that complimentarianism and male-headship are wrong; I honestly believe that it is as wrong as saying that God doesn't want non-white people to be ministers.

So how does an egalitarian, female minister engage with these sorts of Christians in terms of ecumenism? I know that many of my egaliatarian colleagues would say to ignore them but I do not believe this is right either. The question is rather like 'How do you work with a group of people who would prefer to ignore you?'

Bums on Pews

Call it what you like: bums on pews, Fresh Expressions, the crisis of Christianity/religion.

Why don't people come to church any more?

My own theory is simple and probably not very helpful. I think that people don't come to church any more because people don't want to join groups. Still less do they want to join institutions. Ask the Scouts, the Toastmasters or the Rotary. It's not like people are flocking to join these groups whilst studiously avoiding the church. I think that this is a sea-change in our culture and it's a change that is very difficult for the church in general even if individual congregations are able to attract numbers.

I'm not of the view that people don't come to church any more because they are more hostile to religion or to Christianity than they were in the past. In this, I disagree with a lot of my friends in 'real life'.

My disagreement comes from my past when I had an 'office job' and people were constantly askimg me about God and constantly wanted to talk about God. People are, I think, quite interested and eager to talk about God as long as they don't have to come to church.

Let's be honest. In the days of the 'church as a bulwark of general society' church was about individual congregations being essentially local clubs. What is church in this new cultural context where few want to join a club but many want to talk about God?

As usual, I have no easy answers. I wish I did!

06 May 2007

Sermon - Spirit Values

I've posted this morning's sermon, Spirit Values, over on my Sermon blog. This sermon is intentionally thematic rather than exegetical. It takes this morning's lectionary reading from Acts as an inspiration for this particular church's forthcoming Church Anniversary.

The sermon probably qualifies as a 'peace post' as well.

02 May 2007

On Being a Minister

Over on Faith and Theology, Kim Fabricius has posted a helpful list: Ten Propositions on Being a Minister.

I'm still trying to figure out how to be a minister myself but I thought this was a helpful and useful list. I'm certainly not advocating that anyone accept all these points uncritically, but I think it's a very good launching point for reflection on one's own ministry. I'm printing out the list for on-going reflection.