25 April 2009

Elections for the European Parliament

On 4 June 2009, every voter in the UK will have the opportunity to vote in the European Parliament Elections. The Methodist Church, The United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union are calling on Christians to turn out at the polls and use your vote.

Why is it important to turn out and vote? Because the proportional representation system of these elections allows a political party with a relatively small number of votes to win a seat on the Parliament. A seat won means additional funds given to that party.

The churches' concern is the British National Party which promotes a racist agenda. (My own Southern European ethnic background makes me an undesirable person according to their membership criteria). The BNP only need about 9% of the vote to win a seat on the European Parliament and they are campaigning to get their supporters out in force. During the last European elections in the West Midlands, the party won just over 8% of the vote. If voters who would normally vote for other parties don't turn out to vote, it is conceivable that the BNP could win a seat in the West Midlands.

Usually, I don't believe in a minister of religion telling people how to vote. And my first message here is 'Vote for any political party of your choice with a platform that promotes justice and freedom for all people.' I.e. vote for any 'mainstream' party or for any independent party with a track record of serving the community well. (Our own fine MP in the Wyre Forest is an Independent.)

My second message is don't be fooled by the BNP's campaign in which it seeks to link itself with the Christian Church ('Britain is a Christian Country. Vote BNP' and 'What would Jesus Do? Vote BNP') As The Methodist Church so succinctly put it: Jesus is one of history's most famous Jews. It's hardly likely that he would support the BNP. The BNP no longer publishes its Constitution on its website and I wouldn't want to send you there anyway. Here is a copy of the constitution that the BNP don't want you to see.

I call on all Christians in Britain to get out and use your vote on the 4th of June.

21 April 2009

An evangelical's plea: Love the sinner

I've been hanging around Northeast Ohio this last week.  Watching the news in the US and reading US newspapers. I really appreciated this article in today's issue of USA Today: An evangelical's plea: 'Love the sinner'

Here are some home truths from the article, in my opinion:
Evangelicals often speak of lesbians and gay men as if they have some sort of medical disease that we experts have diagnosed and can easily cure with a simple, biblical prescription.
(Disclaimer: I do know people who would be far more sympathetic and far less crass than this whilst still maintaining that homosexual sex is wrong. However - especially as a minister - I frequently hear people dismiss homosexual orientation as being a 'lack of discipline' as if the monogamy that is considered an honourable discipline for heterosexual people is a wanton lack of impulse-control when it is 'committed' by gay people.)

And here is an important insight that applies not just to the issue of homosexuality but also to any other issue where Christians disagree with the prevailing culture (bolding mine):
Unfortunately, some evangelical groups, such as the Family Research Council and Vision America, oppose even minor concessions, claiming we should not "normalize" homosexuality in our culture. But, these groups seemingly fail to realize that our role as Christians is not to delegitimize the existence of those who do not share our beliefs. Our job is to mirror Christ by loving people in spite of our differences and advocating for our culture's disenfranchised groups. Only then can we effectively share with them the reasons that we believe our beliefs are most compelling.
It seems to me that much popular Christian rhetoric is devoted to trying to delegitimize the thoughts of those who don't agree with us. Even though Jesus told us that his way would always go against that of the world, we often act as if our own beliefs can't possibly be legitimate unless and until 'the world' agrees with us.  Newsflash: That ain't gonna happen.

And, a final important insight that also applies to issues beyond homosexuality:
Scripture says the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law, gives life. A spirit of love in public policy is one that all Christians can support.
If the 26-year-old self-identified evangelical author of this article is anything to go by, it would seem that there is hope for Christianity in the US after all.  Thank God for the younger generation.

10 April 2009

Flash Mob Worship Liverpool

This is too cool. And, by the way, it's liturgy. More information at Guerrilla Worship

04 April 2009

Is Liturgy Really a Bad Thing?

I found this post on Discovering and Escaping Liturgy interesting. Partly, I admit, because I have a love for (non-fussy) liturgical worship and I often feel that the British Methodist Church thinks that a minister or a congregant who likes liturgy does so simply because he or she doesn't want to let go of the past. In other words, that there isn't really any positive or compelling reason for the existence or use of liturgical worship beyond palliative spiritual care for the elderly.

Here's some interesting material from the post that rings true to me:
I spoke at a conference about our rediscovery of liturgy and tradition. The room was packed—by that time liturgy had become a very hot topic. During my presentation, a leader raised his hand and commented in a very disappointed tone.

"I don't understand," he said. "You're telling us that young adults are drawn to liturgy and ancient worship forms, but I serve at a liturgical church and our young people want to get away from liturgy and traditions. They think it's boring. I came to this conference to learn new ideas from contemporary churches. I want to move forward, not back."
The author concludes with a thought that seems fairly obvious to me:
We have found that the goal shouldn't be to maintain the past or to always be on the cutting edge. Our goal is to worship in a way that represents our community to God and God to our community. That means contextualizing worship for today, but not forgetting the family of God throughout history to which we belong.
I think that there is an element of 'different strokes for different folks' here and that these 'different strokes' may not necessarily be connected in every instance to one's age. I know that, in the church that I came from, the younger folk (school leavers) wanted the traditional services and the traditional hymns and it was us 'Baby Boomers' who were lobbying for The Latest From Spring Harvest. Or maybe I should have been born a generation earlier or a generation later?

If a congregation is truly worshiping God and truly has Christ at its centre, then I'm not sure that 'worship style' is the Big Deal we seem to make it out to be.

Now, having knowingly and publically uttered heresy, I put on my tin hat and wait for the flack!