The comments of a university student committed to God.

Can’t we just work together?

You may have heard me mention it before but something that matters to me a lot is unity in the Church. In 1 Corinthians Paul says:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

I think that it would be amazing if the church could be one body and there were no divisions at all. I believe, however, that the way the church has developed over time where I think it has gone in the wrong direction and had movements to bring it back and the smaller, less vital splits have meant that’s not possible. Fortunately I don’t think that’s what Paul was really thinking of either. What we need is churches looking for ways to understand each other, how their views are formed from the same book (i.e. the Bible) and that when someone is seeking to follow Christ in action, deed and word there should be unity with them. Some Christians I talk to find it strange that I defend the views of other Christians I (and usually they) don’t agree with. I then do my best to explain why that view is held with a kind of “so you can see where they’re coming from” conclusion. I think that it is vitally important that we understand the sources of each other’s convictions to enable us to see that they are very rarely incompatible with being a Jesus-loving Christian who believes the core values of our faith.

Last week I was talking to a couple of my fellow CU freshers and I don’t remember how it came up but one of them said that one of her flatmates had mentioned that she was a Catholic, something that she had no evidence of up until then. My friend didn’t know how to react as she knows that being christened doesn’t make you a Christian, and certainly just growing up in Catholic (or for that matter any Christian) family doesn’t either. Her reaction to hearing this wanted to be to challenge her and tell her she isn’t a Christian. I remember her saying that hearing someone saying that they’re a Christian through these means makes her angry. I talked about my Catholic family and how I feel they have been model Christians to me in my life even if I don’t agree with quite a few of their views. I suggest to anyone who feels similarly to her not to respond with irritation but to lovingly ask how their relationship with God is, what church they go to or what their faith means to them. Find out what they believe; understand why. At this point you can present your views and explain why you hold them. Do all of this lovingly and be interested! It’s okay to challenge their views in this way as long as you can back up your own, don’t expect to change their ideas and be ready for yours to be challenged. This doesn’t only apply Catholics but any other Christians who have differing views from you. How can we expect to interact with and challenge (and be challenged by) non-Christians’ views and values when we can’t do it with each other?

Once we can learn to understand and love each other despite our differences we can look towards unity. Like I said before I don’t mean a single church but I do mean Christians working across the divides to make Christ and his love known in this world. Since coming to university I have found that the Christian Union is incredible example to the church in this respect. I hope that other CUs are like mine and I’m lead to believe that many are but I’ve only got mine to draw examples from. There’s 200 of us from many different denominations. We go to different churches. We hold different views on the role of women, predestination, the best way to worship, how the Spirit moves, how communion should be taken and many, many more. And yet we are a united student mission team on campus.

We recently ran an events week where everyday we put on events which all included a talk, mostly on Christian apologetics. Our intention is to allow as many people on campus as possible to hear about Jesus. If we bring along our friends, we can follow-up with them ourselves and take them to our church. Some responded independently and were assigned people to follow-up with. We weren’t told which church to take them to – no one will say that we’re leading them the wrong way because new Christians should be in this denomination or the other.  Sometimes we will informally discuss the differences we have but it is always loving and with interest and not a way to pick holes in each others’ ideas. We are centred around the cross and the redemption it has given us. Centred around the belief that God so loved us He was willing to die so that we could enjoy life with Him. We think that that fact is so amazing it has to be told to as many as people as possible and our differences come second.

UCCF is an organisation which helps the CUs in the UK do this. A few ideas for this blog came from Dave Bish, the UCCF regional team leader for the South West, in his blog, although I had intentions to write this before I had read that. He talks about how CUs need to keep working in this way and how to do this. I’ve said a lot of this already so I won’t repeat myself, take a look at his blog for another angle. He draws attention to how the biggest point of contention in a CU is how the weekly meeting is run. This is hard because it does actually resemble a stripped down church service (it is not intended to be instead of a church service; a lot of emphasis is put on being part of a church as well as CU), which means there are a few points which could cause problems. At our CU I think we avoid at least some of these problems by not doing some things. There’s no opportunity for prophecy or for the Spirit to work and we don’t take communion. These things are left up to churches to “provide” if you like.

Something that I know is not consistent among CUs is that we don’t have women come in to do talks. Every week a guest speaker gives a talk which is either equipping us for evangelism or strengthening us. Every week a man gives this talk. When I first realised this was a rule (rather than coincidence with the speakers I had seen so far) there was a short time I was really disappointed. I am very supportive of women becoming preachers and being leaders in the church and that comes from a biblically based belief. Last week I talked about this in relation to the women bishops vote. I also talk about how I’ve come to recognise that other Christians completely value women’s contribution to the church and believe it is vital but their role is different from men and doesn’t include preaching. This view is also biblically based and isn’t sexist or misogynistic (check out this article on Threads). So if we accept that some Christians hold a valid view opposing women preachers, in a group of united Christians, not allowing women to preach makes sense. These people will feel that their view is respected and those in favour of them can’t actually have a problem seeing as their view isn’t that women have to preach. Of course the CU mustn’t actually make this policy a part of their stated beliefs; they must be broad and really only define core beliefs and values. (For all UCCF-affiliated CUs this is their Doctrinal Basis.)

This is one example of a possible problem and how it was avoided; out of love and respect for each other. Funnily enough churches working together generally wouldn’t come into nearly as many problems as they don’t need a weekly meeting where problems could arise, and yet we can still be terrible at interacting. There are great examples of times we do, however. Street pastors, foodbanks, Hope, inter-denominational conferences (Soul Survivor, Spring Harvest, etc), Alpha and many more. And yet we still like to argue and let our differences get in the way of personal relationships.

So if you’re a Christian and often find yourself wanting to argue with one of your brother or sisters in Christ, change it into a loving conversation and discuss. Challenge their ideas and allow them to challenge yours; if nothing else it’s good practice for when talking to non-Christians!

As usual this is much longer than originally intended – sorry about that! Please don’t let it stop you challenging me, asking questions and giving me your comments!

Advertisements

Women Bishops and unity in the Church of England

Primates of the Anglican Communion

Primates of the Anglican Communion (Photo credit: scottgunn)

Yes, I am entering the discussion on women bishops, and I bet this will be far from the first blog you will read about it but I hope that you get something new out of it.

For a long time I haven’t been all that interested in the way the Church of England governs and works. Back home, my father is a Catholic and I went with my mother to a Baptist church so I guess I thought it didn’t affect me. I heard the Archbishop of Canterbury get quoted every so often and understood there was a certain importance the C of E had in this country as the national church. But I guess I thought that essentially they were a more liberal and slightly more in touch version of the Catholic church (except they didn’t believe in transubstantiation). I do want to point out this is mainly because of my lack of interest in finding anything out, rather than that being the image all C of E churches give.

This started to change when I went to my college Christian Union friend’s baptism at her (C of E) church and realised that it was a lot more engaging and relaxed in structure than I expected. I also found out that that church did a “café church” service about once a month and went along and really enjoyed it. The perception was broken. I also understood that Holy Trinity Brompton (the birthplace of the Alpha Course and various other initiatives) was an Anglican church and was really on the edge of engaging with people and making the gospel relevant to them. I began realising that quite a few churches that I’d heard of as being centres of Christian youth and sometimes famously charismatic churches were in fact Anglican. When I was at New Wine this year I discovered that was a C of E movement and that Soul Survivor was born out of that. I think that was when my perceptions were completely smashed. Well, almost. The image I had of the Anglican church does exist, it’s just on the other end of the spectrum from churches like HTB and actually I was happy to know that i wasn’t completely wrong. You see, I think the Church of England’s best unique aspect is that it ranges from traditional and conservative to modern, liberal and charismatic. If you are at church to meet with God and you engage with Him through it, the style really doesn’t matter so I appreciate this variety and love it. Since coming to university I have started attending a New Wine Anglican church because it was where it felt God was leading me and because it felt like the congregation was all there to meet with Him. That’s a church I want to be at.

Anyway the point I’m getting at that’s relevant is that a church with so much variety, and yet a rigid top-down leadership system, has a huge problem when it wants to agree on changing something. This is different from, for example, the Baptist church (at least how it is in the UK) where each church pretty much governs itself while being associated with the Baptist Union and its doctrine. So when you have to decide whether to allow women bishops I can see where the difficulty is in getting everyone united.

Although I feel it should have no bearing on the issue (having been at a C of E church for less than two months) I will explain my position. I believe that women should be allowed to preach in church and serve in leadership. I believe that is the correct interpretation of what is in the Bible (or rather I agree with much cleverer and wiser people who hold to that interpretation). I also believe that although there can only be one true interpretation there is more than one valid one that could be true. Let me be clear, this can’t be anything that you can twist scripture into, but I won’t arrogantly say that the interpretation that I believe fits best with what I know about God and the Bible is definitely true. Other well-reasoned arguments from scripture could also be correct. I think that this is one of the matters that this issue applies to.

I am passionate about Christian unity. I don’t mean belief in the exact same details of doctrine or a single church. I mean different Christians working together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and showing His love to as many people as possible. Each of these groups may have different valid views on various issues and many parts of doctrine but are united in their love for Jesus. This is why one of the Church of England’s greatest strengths (a single church with great variety) becomes a weakness. Because of their wide spectrum, views will differ and changing the “official” goalposts can alienate some groups; both ways. Clearly a larger group wanted this change to go through and the fact that it failed by only 6 votes in the House of Laity (unordained members of the church) highlights this.

I’ll be honest, I was hoping it was going to be a yes. Part of this is that after allowing women priests quite a while ago, it makes very little sense not to allow women bishops; it’s inconsistent. If you believe women cannot preach or hold positions of leadership in church then either can certainly not be allowed. Meanwhile if you believe that they can it doesn’t make sense to only allow one level of leadership to women. I don’t see an interpretation that can allow this “in between” position. I also think that the C of E needs to continue to show it is moving with the times – not copying the world view, but re-examining  issues without older cultural ideas clouding judgement as they may have done in the past.

But the overriding message I have heard from the traditional camp that support the no verdict is not “we’re right and you’re wrong and we don’t want it to change”, rather that they weren’t happy with the form the measure was in because they didn’t want to alienate part of the church. They were (and still are) looking to come to a compromise where women bishops will be allowed, but those churchgoers with whom this didn’t fit with their biblically-based ideas, would have provision. It sounds complicated but they are looking to hold the fantastic unity of the church together, not damage it or the image of the church to the outside world. I realise this isn’t the view of everyone on this side of the fence but it is certainly what has actually been coming through. I think this motivation is most certainly noble and think that those who were looking for a yes may not fully understand this. Despite this I do share in their disappointment when the vote was so close.

For a simpler outlook I would point you to fellow student Joel’s blog who has emphasised the need for not squabbling over each other’s doctrine, especially when those not part of the C of E have been expressing their opinions on the matter and getting into arguments, a sentiment I second very strongly!

I feel like I should come to a conclusion at this point but I honestly haven’t personally come to one so I will just say that I hope I’ve raised some different ideas in your mind over this issue, please post your comments about it below!

 

EDIT: Check out Krish Kandiah’s blog for explanation of the different beliefs on women in leadership and how we can respect those with views different from our own.

Why I’m glad Obama won the election

#romney & #obama big @BalboaTheatreSF #debate ...

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

I think that the overall feeling over here in the UK was that we’d like Obama to stick around in the White House for another four years. Many that for a while wanted change joined the Obama camp after Romney decided to insult us all over the Olympics. If we think about only Christians, though, the opinion is more divided. This is very interesting considering Obama is a Christian and Romney is a Mormon. But, of course, it isn’t that simple and it’s great that many people are looking further than how the two candidates would fill out a census.

But over in America some Evangelical pastors who in the past would’ve condemned aligning with a Mormon, endorse him over the Christian candidate (even if not explicitly). Some are even trying to convince their congregations that the end of the world will be brought about by Obama (HuffPost blog here) – of course we know that only the Father knows the day and all the predictions up until now have been incorrect (correct me if I missed the apocalypse).  And so many of the listeners probably took them at their word, which saddens me. Politics is a delicate subject to bring to the pulpit – especially endorsing a specific party or candidate – and can be dangerous.

This is because I should not have even said “Christian candidate” above. It simply isn’t true. He is a candidate who is a Christian. His decisions and actions will be influenced by his faith but to expect it to mean that his governing will bring about a truly Christian country is foolish. In the same way Romney would not make America Mormon, although understandably his religious views make many Christians uncomfortable. It is extremely difficult to hold high office and not compromise any Christian principles and I agree with Kurt Willems on redletterchristians.org in this respect. Perhaps there are nations in this world where you could but the United States is not one of them. It is far too secularised and embroiled in wars (both the full-scale ones and the covert ones). Any incoming president couldn’t feasibly be a truly Christian president because he (or she!) would inherit one of the largest and arguably best, militaries in the world and probably within the first 24-48 hours would have to decide on something related to their actions or movements – and the option for them to do nothing wouldn’t be in the mix. I personally believe Obama’s military decisions have been a lot closer to Christian principles than George W. Bush’s (sorry, my youth means I don’t remember a time before him). He hasn’t dawdled on pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, going faster than some generals say is advisable, he was hesitant on military action in Libya and is still holding out on this in Syria. You can debate with me whether  he’s doing enough by other methods, but I’m concentrating on military here. I’m also uncomfortable with the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the use of his death to bolster Obama’s campaign. He’s a lot closer, but has way further to go.

You can also point to the election campaigns for evidence of absence of Christian fervour. $2.5 billion has been spent this election between the two candidates. I mean, wow. Surely that’s at least near the amount we need to solve world poverty? (Before you jump on me for that, I know throwing lots of money at poverty won’t solve anything, nonetheless across all the hardworking organisations, money is vital and to be honest I’d rather not all $2.5bn was effective in trying than it going to personal attacks on presidential candidates.) This money went towards a heck of a lot of TV adverts and other forms of advertising that generally said how bad the other candidate was not what the advertiser was going to do. I think Obama came out of this slightly better but there’s not much in it.

Anyway, to the actual subject of this post; why I’m glad Obama did, in fact, win. Well, from what I’ve already said either candidate would only be a lesser of two evils – neither will truly instigate a Christian presidency. The argument for Romney (from a Christian standpoint) is that he is pro-life and anti-gay marriage. So he will ban abortions and gay marriage? Sounds like his intention, but the first point is how likely is it he will be able to? The second and I would say more important point is that banning abortion outright won’t solve problems and will simply lead to a huge rise in backstreet abortions. This is not what we want as Christians as it simply puts women in danger (and certainly doesn’t see a close to elimination of abortions overall). We need to see a bigger picture. Obama isn’t fighting abortion directly but his attempts to drastically change the welfare system may be really fighting the root causes of it which is what is needed to see a real change in the abortion rate (see my opinions on this issue specifically here). Meanwhile gay marriage is on a different scale (it is not a matter of life and death), it isn’t preferable for Christians but the US is a secular country (see First Amendment) and although I’d rather Obama didn’t endorse it, I don’t think he will be active in pushing it. Don’t forget there’s very little that can be done at federal level on this issue.

I mentioned welfare reforms already. Obama’s plans are the very (very very) small first step towards something like the NHS. He wants the poorest to have access to the very basic level of healthcare – not being turned away because they don’t have enough money. It means the rich pay slightly more into their insurance so that all can have the basic level. So what happens? Americans shout “Communist”. This astounds me; that helping poorer people get access to healthcare causes people to believe they’ve become the enemy is crazy. But then I have my suspicions that many didn’t like the idea of paying some more for the benefit of others. Either way, Obama is genuinely working for the good of the people. Danny Webster, parliamentary officer of the Evangelical Alliance (UK-based) talks about looking about looking at the bigger picture instead of a couple of “highly politicised” issues in a recording on Premier Christian Media here.

I also believe that Obama is a lot more thoughtful, considers the consequences of his actions across the board and is invested in changing the image of America being the intrusive military power it has been in the past (eg taking a backseat in Libya). In our current economic climate I think this is what we’re more in need of, while not forgetting the importance of consistency in it as well.

So all in all I would choose Obama, not explicitly for his faith (admittedly it plays a small part), but because looking at the wider picture, he will serve the American people best (I’m sure Americans will say I don’t have to right to say that – maybe they’re right, but it’s still what I believe), his social reforms being central in my opinion. Being a second term president he won’t need to worry about re-election anymore and maybe won’t be as worried about upsetting some people for the sake of everyone. I expect great things. But I don’t expect a perfect Christian presidency. He is still the lesser of two evils – but then this will be the situation in any election.

Meanwhile when Vicky Beeching, a Christian Social Media consultant (among other things) tweeted she was pleased that Obama was re-elected she was met with abuse. I can’t understand why, she was simply giving her opinion on the matter, for her to lose followers and fans makes no sense and makes me wonder what Romney supporters are like. Last night I saw Obama congratulating Romney and his volunteers on their campaign and he seemed truly genuine with a smile on his face. Romney seemed to be speaking through gritted teeth in his speech after hearing the result, congratulating the President. That isn’t all that surprising but are these attitudes reflected directly in their supporters? I feel Obama inspires hope, even now while Romney just inspires… I’m not even sure – and that’s not a good sign.

If you think this is all too complicated a much easier (and in many ways more biblical) answer  is what my fellow Christian student Joel Le Poidevin posted earlier today – God is in control and that is all that matters. I like to delve deeper but ultimately this is certainly true.

Please feel free to disagree with me on anything I have said but please do it respectfully in the way I have tried to write this. God bless.

Night out?

So about a week ago, for the first time since freshers’ week I agreed to go out. Our flat had won a competition on Facebook by getting the most “likes” on our guestlist and we would get £250 VIP package at a particular club’s student night. Most people were going so I felt it was the time to make an appearance to show I’m interested in socialising with my flatmates. I also knew people would be getting pretty drunk (the package involved free vodka and other discounted drinks) and I thought I could do my best to keep an eye on people so that they get back in one piece.

I got reminded about what clubbing seems to be about. Lots of people in a relatively small space with incredibly loud music with the alcohol flowing. Then the girls are wearing very little and the guys aren’t complaining. I saw one couple whose mouths were stuck together for at least 40 minutes and let’s just say the guy wasn’t keeping his hands to himself. I’m avoiding making assumptions on how well they knew each other but it was just one example of what I could see all around; people going too far just because its acceptable (and to some degree expected) in that setting and the fact they were drunk to varying degrees prevented them from thinking through the consequences.

I realise that’s not what everyone is there for. I mean, I wasn’t and I full well know other Christians go out clubbing with their friends. And of course many non-Christians just want to have a fun night out. Contrary to many (generally older) Christians belief I don’t think the setting is incompatible with having clean fun without alcohol and sexual undertones. Altogether I enjoyed myself for about 10/15 minutes during my three hours at the club, but I think if I hadn’t dedicated myself to regularly checking on the people who were a little worse for wear I may have a little more. On the other hand it’s not really my scene so who knows? But I can certainly understand why it can be enjoyed, and cleanly.

I find it sad that so many people pin their hopes of finding intimacy (and unfortunately, romance) on a situation where most people will do things they wouldn’t usually do and go further than they maybe would sober. I realise that’s exactly what certain people are looking but that’s a different issue. Still I’m not saying it’s a place you can’t find romance. But wouldn’t it work so much better if it was somewhere to meet someone, get chatting, exchange numbers, dance a bit and meet again, minus the alcohol? And perhaps plus full clothing? Thereby building a normal relationship without rushing it before it’s even started. But now I’m getting into relationships and that wasn’t really the idea.

Oh and after getting back to my flat, my flatmate and myself ordered in pizza at 2:30 in the morning, I mean, why not? Now that part was fun!

So clubbing could be great way to socialise with people, if only it was a little less… alcohol fuelled and sexualised? Well it’s definitely possible to go without submitting to that and maybe if more people did we could make an impact. It’s very normal for Christians (me included) to avoid going out because we don’t want to be around what happens. But if we are confident we can stick to our beliefs and principles (and limits), I think it we need to be there. To show our friends there’s another way to enjoy ourselves; and if there’s enough of us doing it, perhaps shift the standard? It’s a high target but just saying there’s no chance isn’t going to get us anywhere.

What do you think? If you’re a Christian do you go out with your non-Christian friends? Do you feel the atmosphere pressures you into acting in a certain way? Do you enjoy it because/in spite of it? If you don’t are you worried of being led astray? Or just not your cup of tea?

New place, new church

You’re a Christian and you’re in a new place, whether that be because you moved because of work, you’ve started university or simply moved far enough across town its impractical to go to your old church. How do you decide where to go?

English: Baptist Church, Westcliff-on-Sea The ...

Baptist Church, Westcliff-on-Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay so when I say those others don’t matter, I don’t mean you need to go to the first church that loves Jesus and stay there without taking any personal preference into account, especially if the specific doctrine is important to you. But what I mean is all those questions really are just personal preference and I think it’s really easy to get caught up in it. You can so easily slip into thinking how a church isn’t like your old church in this way or the other. And of course if this is doctrinal or a serious style clash then it probably isn’t the church for you. What I ask is; please don’t go around trying to find a copy of your old church just because it’s safe, and then go on to complain (however silently or inwardly) about how it isn’t quite there.

Long before I arrived in my university city I decided I needed to find church that I could serve God in. After my experience at Soul Survivor (details second half of this post), I also decided that if I could find a church that was dedicated to reaching out to the community it would be a lot easier for me to serve God in the way he had called me to. I had made no decisions about the style or denomination of church. I come from a Baptist church back home but have never considered myself a Baptist; only a Christian and, if pressed, one with mainly Baptist leanings in terms of doctrine. I made no decisions about the size or the amount of students.

Chellaston Methodist Church

Chellaston Methodist Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll be honest that when I got here and had to make decisions about where to try I took a couple of those decisions simply to cut the options a little. I realised a church with an especially large student presence with a lot of specific provision for them would probably lead to little to no opportunity to get involved in the church itself or mission so they got “crossed off”.

Just to add in a note here from hindsight: sorry about all the numbers from here on in but it’s the easiest way to identify different churches without telling you their names.

The CU at my university (and many others) do a “Church Search” for the first four weeks of term where student reps from each church talk about their church and then freshers follow who they want. I decided that after those four weeks I wanted to have finished trying out churches so that’s… four churches right? Well, yes, any sane person would just do four, but I was especially keen to try out lots of different churches so I did three out of four evenings too so have visited seven different churches in this fine city. They ranged from those of a congregation of less than 100 to over 300, traditional and conservative to contemporary, artsy and charismatic, a large student presence to a small one. After two weeks I had visited three and felt that even though one did suit me well it wasn’t the place for me. I thought I was being too picky and just not being happy with any of them because I was being awkward. I prayed and considered and visited two more the following sunday #4 and #5. #4 was a lovely little Baptist church in the centre of the city that reminded me of my home church in terms of style and direction. I liked it and was top so far.

A Different Church Building

(Photo credit: justshootingmemories)

But #5 changed everything. #5 is a New Wine C of E church on the other side of the city, where there are no current students. I was invited by email via Fusion (www.fusion.org.uk), inviting me to a steak dinner and evening service. Throwing a few emails back and forth it sounded like a church I could really get involved in and they are really short of sound technicians (the best way I can serve in the church after 4/5 years experience at my home church), so I went along. The steak dinner was extremely tasty and the people I met were lovely. At the service there was a 7 piece youth band who really won my over with a great rendition of Rend Collective’s You are my vision and a couple of other Soul Survivor favourites which actually sounded right! (The recreation of a festival-style worship song is usually very difficult in a normal church.) And during the service I just felt the people were there to encounter God and He was who their hearts were seeking. It struck me as a place where faith grows and is nurtured.

I went back home not sure what to think. This church is on the other side of the city and has no students; really God? Is it where you want me to be?

I had plans for the following week (now last week) as I had connections with someone at a church in Bath so felt I had to visit it; it also had a large student presence so I felt it was worth a look (#6). I also had an idea for the evening service; a student church plant of another New Wine church (#7). #6 was too traditional and not lively enough for me. I think that sentence is pretty hypocritical of me but actually I didn’t feel like it was where I was meant to be and maybe I just put it down to the “preferences” mentioned. #7 was brilliant, extremely contemporary and quite charismatic. It reminded me very much of Soul Survivor, which generally is a good thing; however I feel like for that to be a weekly occurrence it would be too overwhelming for me. Again perhaps it was a “this isn’t where I want you” nudge which I gave reason to. I spoke to one of the CU leaders who was already at #7 as he arranged a ride for me. I told him I really liked #5 and he agreed it was a great church and it’s a pity there aren’t any students there. He had a friend who is actually doing an internship at #5 and would happen to be at #7 that night. After the service I was introduced to this guy and we talked for 10/15 minutes about #5 and why I liked it, asked him some questions and only got more and more sure that it was where I was meant to be.

Over this week I’ve prayed and thought it through and decided that it where I want to go. I’m going back this morning to be sure that the service I went to wasn’t a weird fluke that never happens usually and if it still feels right it’s probably where I’ll stick.

I really want to emphasise that decision came about from praying and listening to where God wanted me. I made excuses for not wanting to be at other churches but they were just excuses to cover God telling me it wasn’t where I was meant to be.

I’m sorry about how long this post has become but I really hope it will help you if you’re looking for a new church in a new place.

I guess it can all be summed up in: focus on where God wants you to be, not on where you feel most comfortable. If that’s the first church you see then great, but don’t be phased if it isn’t.

Anyone else gone through this? Any thoughts, comments, questions or disagreements?

Why Christianity isn’t about religion

This video talks about why religion isn’t what Christ came to start but what he came to abolish which is a central point in the Christian faith

I know many have seen this video before but I think it’s a clear way of showing how Jesus came to abolish the rules not reinforce them. No one can ever live up to rule after rule to get to God, we’re simply imperfect. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that that fact doesn’t matter; we can get to God through Him.

That’s also what sets Christianity apart from other religions; we don’t have to please a God or act in a certain way to be rewarded, we are given the reward despite how we act, through God sacrificing Himself for us!

Hope that if you’ve seen it before you thought it was worth watching again and if not that it spoke to you.

Please feel free to comment below!

Should we lower the limit?

Maria Miller at Conservative Party Conference

Maria Miller at Conservative Party Conference (Photo credit: conservativeparty)

Yes, I’m sorry, but it has come up (again) and it is an issue I really care about. Abortion.

Maria Miller is the new women’s minister and weirdly, there’s no news. She’s been criticised for voting for lowering the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks in 2008 and then defending and reinforcing that view now. She makes it clear this is because of advances in medical science that means a premature baby born before 20 weeks can survive and that she is a “very modern feminist.” Pro-choice supporters are angry with David Cameron for appointing her to her position, just as they were for appointing Jeremy Hunt to Health minister as he is also in favour of reducing the limit – although he would like to halve it to 12 weeks.

As a side note, although these appointments clearly aren’t preferable for pro-choice supporters, it doesn’t make sense to me for them to be angry. Two-thirds of the public and three-quarters of women in the UK would support a reduction in the limit and Marie Stopes International in 2007 found that two-thirds of GPs want the limit lowered (stats from Christian Medical Journal‘s blog via God and Politics UK). So actually these appointments are exactly as they should be; representative of the public’s views.

I am a firm pro-life supporter. This may be down to my religious views in that I believe that all life is precious and should be protected. And certainly that is probably my motivation for my views but they’re not just blind religious following; they make moral sense. Why is the mother’s choice more important the baby’s life? Pro-choice supporters like to talk about situations where the mother’s life is in danger, rape and incest as the reason it should be allowed. Where the mother’s life is in danger we have a very different situation where abortion is justified that Catholics call the Doctrine of Double Effect. It is now the mother’s life we’re saving not the baby’s life we’re taking away. As for rape and incest I would still say abortion is not preferable but especially in the case of rape this is very fairly down to personal feeling. But I would say why should the baby be punished because the father has committed a terrible crime? But even if these were the reasons most abortions took place I would be much happier with the situation. While in actual fact these cases are the minority.

There are seven grounds for abortion, A, B, C, D, E, F and G. 98% of abortions are carried out on Ground C :

‘the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.’

And actually only about half a percent of these are because of the mother’s physical health; so the rest are for the mother’s mental health. The Abortion Review, published by BPAS, an organisation that provides abortion care admits that:

“the construction of the British abortion law still presents a problem for women and doctors. It is not the case that the majority of women seeking abortion are necessarily at risk of damaging their mental health if they continue their pregnancy. But it is significant that, because of the law, women and their doctors have to indicate that this is the case”

Now, of course, there will be many cases where the mental health would really be affected and even seriously but I would challenge, even then, is the baby’s life worth less than that? And what about the mothers who simply don’t have time for a child or for whom it would be inconvenient? How can we really, as a society, say that someone being a bit too careless with their sexual activity has the right to end a life?

Mothers-to-be need counselling, advice and a listening ear, especially single mothers. And I would say someone like me (ignoring the fact I’m male) would not be appropriate to do this. They would need to be impartial, listen to the mother’s feelings and be able to present all the options. But I think that abortion should be a last resort and that at every point of the process the mother should be asked if it is definitely what they want.

So I would support a reduction of the limit. But actually the amount of abortions over 20 weeks is relatively small and although I would like them to stop, I would rather Ground C was simply better used and not for “social abortions”. To do this we would need to change the image of abortion and what it is. Because it is the killing of what most would at least call a potential human life, and what many would call a human life. How we can see it so, so differently from killing a newborn is something I simply can’t fathom. I have watched footage of an abortion (the perks of a Catholic school education) and I feel like saying that all women who will potentially have an abortion should do the same but I think I could be seen as insensitive, however the detail should still be known. This article recounts a description from a doctor who has carried out many abortions and has since become pro-life.

Full statistics for 2011, including ones I have mentioned can be found at https://www.wp.dh.gov.uk/transparency/files/2012/05/Commentary1.pdf

There’s something else I want to make clear. I will never tell a women who has had an abortion that she is evil or judge her or anything like that for having done so. I would be interested as to her reasoning and possibly challenge it but for a variety of reasons I cannot pretend to understand individual women’s situation or what she went through. I’m for loving discussions, not hateful condemnation. My example is Jesus Christ. He was perfect God; he had the right to condemn the sinners he met and yet he didn’t. He treated them with love and respect and simply discussed their issues with them. I fight for the principle, not against the individuals who have been through it. Fighting to stop it happening in the first place rather than condemning those who believed they were doing the right thing.

I know there’s a lot in here but if you have any questions on what I’ve said or think I’m way out of line or in fact agree please comment below. Over to you.

EDIT (7/12/12): There’s whole point I’ve realised I’ve missed here, something I touched on in the Presidential election – tackling the causes is much more important and effective than reducing the limit (let alone banning altogether).  This will just push many women who feel they can’t bring a baby into the world to finding illegal means of terminating their pregnancy, putting the woman in danger too. If we can fight the causes; poverty, family instability, the lack of abstinence and use of contraception among young people and more; we  have a real chance of reducing the abortion rate.