Church job prospects


Church Job ProspectsSo many voices are crying out about the ordination of women bishops.

Many are expressing their pain at discrimination, their outrage at the sexism inherent in blocking progress, blocking their vocation. Into this fray I want to speak too, but my voice feels weak among all this outrage.
I am a natural candidate for ordination. I am a committed Christian who longs to serve Christ with all my energy. I love to teach the Bible, in fact I ache to teach the Bible, to introduce others to the wonders of Christ in the Gospels, to build others up in their knowledge and love of the Lord, to proclaim Christ so that he may be known, and I grieve at the ignorance in this generation of God’s Word.
Not only so, but I am available to begin a new career, my family are growing and, before I know it, will have left the nest. Surely now is my moment to fulfil my heart’s concern — I could go forward for ordination. It would satisfy my longing to teach God’s word and give me a ready platform from which to do it. It would provide me with a clear identity, a defined role and, most likely, a very helpful salary. When I sit in yet another service where the gospel message is fudged and muddled, I scream inside, I could do this better. It is tempting. Perhaps I should, and perhaps I could…

Equal but different
But I should not and will not go down that path, despite its attractions, because it would undermine everything I know to be true of Scripture. I have grappled with the ‘difficult’ passages about the role of women in the Bible over the last 25 years and how I have longed for them to say something other than they do. I have fought and wrestled with them and never been able to find wriggle room to escape two basic principles: that teaching authority in the church is given to a man, and wives should submit to their husbands. I have studied the debates about the controversial Greek in 1 Timothy 2, but cannot escape the clear instructions about male leadership in 1 Timothy 3. I have read the arguments about the changing face of culture, but cannot escape the fact that Paul argues not from culture, but from Genesis. I know Tom Wright points to Mary Magdalene as revealing transformed gender roles, but I also know better than to develop a whole theology from narrative; besides, Jesus did not appoint women as his apostles, although they were witnesses to his resurrection. As I studied, I discovered the joy of knowing that in Christ we are equal, women are included, women are to be taught and to study Scripture seriously, but, despite trying very hard, I cannot escape from the truth established at creation, that men and women have different responsibilities.

God’s voice
I attend a church where many feel differently about this issue and I have been asked to preach. When I hear a poor sermon, how I wish at times that I could take that offer up. Even my daughter said: ‘Why don’t you Mum — you could do much better!’ But, of course, as soon as I opened my mouth, I would be undermining all that I believe about Scripture. I am convinced that it is poor exegesis that argues for women to have the same role as men in church, so how could I exegete any other passage using all the exegetical tools at my disposal without eventually exposing that I was ignoring God’s voice by my very action? I confess I find the situation I am in very frustrating, but the solution is to keep praying for the male leaders of our churches to faithfully proclaim and teach God’s word and not to take over their job myself!

Affirm women’s ministry
There is another need too. In the middle of all this fury about what women cannot do, I hear little about what women should be doing. Those of us who are passionate about a biblical model of ministry need to affirm women’s ministry. We need to raise up an army of women who can teach God’s word to women. It is a huge task, a valuable task, and to think otherwise is a form of discrimination. I know my calling: it is not second rate or second best — I am an older woman who needs to teach younger women. It is difficult, because, as I seek to do this, I get no formal position, no salary, no job prospects and no career development. This is an issue conservative evangelicals need to address: how can we enable women like me to serve more, and free up many others for the task? As for me, I will serve Christ, despite all the muddle. It is lonely and hard at times, but I know that serving Christ in this world was never about my personal development, and always about taking up the cross.

Karen Soole is Chair of the Northern Women’s Convention. Readers may also like to read the article, ‘Justice, equality and truth’ in the January issue of EN.

This article was first published in the January 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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Anglican update: ‘An outbreak of honesty’


On the morning of November 20, I woke up with a sense of foreboding.
This was the day, I thought to myself, on which those of my persuasion, along with many Anglo-Catholics, would be pushed to the margins of the Church of England by the passage of a measure to introduce women bishops which gave almost no statutory provision for our point of view.
On the other hand, there were doubtless far more people, most women clergy included, who woke up with a sense of anticipation. Today they would finally achieve a full integration of women into the Church’s orders of ministry.
As is now well known, however, we were both wrong and the measure was lost in the House of Laity by a handful of votes. So where has this left the Church of England?
This question is particularly acute given the reaction, which in many quarters was an outbreak of sheer rage. And, in the light of this, it is hard not to conclude that the assurances of ‘respect’ and ‘gracious generosity’ on offer before the vote were, if not actually insincere, certainly an example of self-delusion.
As I said to a couple of people in the days following, the one good thing to come out of the whole affair was an outbreak of honesty. Unfortunately, what it honestly showed is that there are many in the church who hate traditionalist theology and believe those who hold to it are betraying the gospel.
Indeed, one of the things I realised was that, whereas I think those who accept the ordination of women as incumbents and bishops are mistaken, they think I am morally wrong. And, of course whereas you can tolerate mistakes in the church, you cannot tolerate immorality.

What price democracy?
What the reaction also showed, however, was how tenuous is the commitment of our society in general and, sad to say, Parliament in particular, to the principles of democracy and freedom.
The Synodical structures of the Church of England are deeply flawed. Nevertheless, they include balances and safeguards, especially when it comes to doctrine, that are thought to be necessary. These include, of course, the now-notorious two-thirds majority required for the passage of the measure.
The reaction across the board by its supporters, however, has been that this self-imposed discipline, and the consequent vote, has produced a result ‘up with which we will not put’. Parliament has already waded in, and with Frank Field’s Private Member’s Motion on the table to remove the exemption of the Church of England from the equality laws, looks set to do so even further.
Meanwhile, many supporters of the measure are proposing a ‘clean sweep’ of the next Synod and a ‘single clause’ approach which will make no statutory provision for traditionalists. Once again, we must ask what this means about the future, because, hot on the heels of women bishops, we already have a mounting pressure for the ‘inclusion’ of ‘equal marriage’.
No one can regard the present state of the Church of England as representing a ‘victory’. Indeed, there are many who are treating it as a signal for total war. Personally, my sleepless night following the vote was at least in part because I was wondering to myself, as we all should, what the future holds for my church and this nation, and what God is doing in all this.

John Richardson,
associate minister of the churches at Henham, Elsenham & Ugley, near Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire

This article was first published in the January 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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Prayer fuel: News from around the world


As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, let’s take a moment to remember those who are suffering in His name, both in the UK and around the world. Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the January issue of EN. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.

Egypt: women watch out!
Coptic girls and women became wary about boarding Cairo subway cars — or too fearful to enter them at all — after a series of attacks on female Christians on the transit system during November.
In three separate incidents, women wearing the niqab (a full covering for the face and body worn by conservative Muslim women) harassed, assaulted and cut off hair of three Coptic Christians. Two of the victims were Christian girls, 13 and 16 years old. In the third attack, a 30-year-old Christian mother was pushed off a train and fell onto a platform, breaking her arm. Morning Star News

France: celebrations
Phare FM aux Portes du Dauphine (Radio Colombe) celebrated 30 years of Radio Ministry in France, and five years of Network Radio, on November 16.
They held a support concert with Christian singer Manu Richerd, from Lyon. Phare FM has been authorised by the French Government Authority (CSA) to broadcast the programme on digital radio across Paris. Fellowship of European Broadcasters

Sweden: no Jesus
Head teachers in Sweden were told that they could take pupils to Christmas services in church, but Jesus could not be mentioned, it was reported at the end of November.
Advent services for children are part of the curriculum, but religious content has been ruled out by education officials. The Christian Institute

For more news and prayer fuel from around the world, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

The 12 myths of Christmas


Norman Wells guides us through the tinsel to the truth

Cribs, carols, cards, nativity plays and films — they all have something to say about the birth of Christ just over 2,000 years ago.

But sometimes the message they present is quite different from what really happened. Here we look at some of the most common myths and compare them with what the Bible tells us about Jesus’s birth.

Myth 1: Jesus was born on December 25.

The Truth: No one knows the date on which Jesus was born and there is no record of any date being set apart to mark his birth during the first 300 years of the history of the church. It was not until the 4th century that Christians started to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 in an attempt to Christianise the pagan celebration of the birthday of the sun.

Myth 2: Jesus was born in a stable, surrounded by cattle.

The Truth: The fact that Jesus was laid in a manger — an animal’s feeding trough — has led many to assume that he must have been born in a stable in the midst of cattle. However, the Bible does not specifically mention a stable and it certainly doesn’t refer to the presence of animals. The precise setting in which Jesus was born and spent his earliest hours and days is not described. However, the fact that we are told ‘there was no room for them in the inn’ tells us that he was born in poverty and that his uniqueness was not recognised by those around him.

Myth 3: Three Eastern kings followed a star to Jesus’s birthplace.

The Truth: The visitors from the East are nowhere described as kings in the Bible and, although it is probably fair to assume that they were men of some standing, their precise social status is unknown. The tradition that there were three Magi or ‘wise men’ is based on the fact that they presented three gifts to Jesus — gold, frankincense and myrrh — but the Bible does not tell us how many men were in their party.

Myth 4: The shepherds and the wise men saw the infant Jesus at the same time.

The Truth: There is no basis in the Bible for the traditional nativity scene showing the shepherds and wise men visiting the newborn Christ at the same time. While the shepherds heard the news on the very night of Jesus’s birth and immediately made their way to the manger, it would appear that the wise men reached Bethlehem several months later.

Myth 5: Jesus never cried as a baby.

The Truth: As the sinless Son of God, the baby Jesus would never have been guilty of selfish or angry crying, but there is no reason to imagine that he would never have cried to communicate his need of food or comfort. The Bible tells us that Jesus was a real baby, who had a real childhood and grew up into a real man. He suffered hunger, thirst and exhaustion, and experienced joy and sorrow just like we all do, but in his case it was always without sin.

Myth 6: Christmas Day is the most holy day of the year for Christians.

The Truth: From the beginning, God has set apart one day each week as a ‘holy day’. However, apart from the requirement to treat Sunday as a special day for worship and rest from our usual activities, the Bible does not command Christians to regard any other day as a ‘holy day’.

Myth 7: It was by chance that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph just happened to be staying there at the time

The Truth: The location of Jesus’s birth was far from accidental. Some 700 years before his birth, the prophet Micah had declared that the promised Christ would be born in the insignificant town of Bethlehem.

Myth 8: Jesus was born at midnight.

The Truth: The Christmas carol, ‘It came upon a midnight clear’, and the custom of some churches to hold midnight services on Christmas Eve have prompted some people to imagine that Jesus was born on the stroke of midnight. However, the Bible does not tell us the precise hour at which Jesus was born.

Myth 9: Jesus was the only child Mary ever had.

The Truth: Although Jesus was the only child Mary had as a result of a direct work of the Holy Spirit without the involvement of a human father, there is no basis for suggesting that she and Joseph did not have further children by natural means. In fact, the Bible makes several references to Jesus’s brothers, indicating that he grew up surrounded by siblings in a family headed by a couple with a normal marriage.

Myth 10: Jesus’s birth marked the beginning of his impact on the world.

The Truth: Although Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem marked the beginning of the period in which God lived on earth in human flesh, it did not mark the beginning of his existence. The Bible tells us that the Son of God had no beginning — he has always existed. In fact, the entire universe was made through him, and nothing was made without him. He therefore had an immense impact on the world long before he was born as a human baby.

Myth 11: The main purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to set us a good example.

The Truth: Although Jesus certainly does present an example to us of obedience, love to God, love for others, mercy, compassion, suffering, sacrifice and much more, that was not the primary reason for which he came into the world. The main reason for which the Son of God became man was in order to die on the cross to save us from our sins. The Bible says: ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.

Myth 12: The biblical account of the birth of Jesus is a lovely story for children at this time of year, but it doesn’t make any difference to me.

The Truth: The birth of Jesus makes a profound difference to all of us, whether young or old. Without Jesus, we are cut off from God and none of us is good enough to make it to heaven on our own. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is only person who can bring us to God, because he is both God and man. He knows what it is like to be human, and he also has the divine power that is needed to bring us back to God. If Jesus had never been born as a baby in Bethlehem, there would be no hope for any of us. But as a result of his birth, and through his subsequent death and resurrection, he has opened up for us a way back to God. Jesus himself said: ‘I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness’ (John 12.46).

This article was first published in the December 2011 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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‘What the Bible means to me’ (book review)


 

WHAT THE BIBLE MEANS TO ME What the bible means to me
Testimonies of how God’s Word impacts our lives
Edited by Catherine Mackenzie
Christian Focus. 144 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 1 845 507 237

This book contains over 40 testimonies from a variety of people, some well known, some less so, about how the Bible has impacted their lives in different ways.

There is a passion here, a love for God’s Word, which is not simply academic, but comes from a heartfelt love for the Author. I love the way 40 different people from all walks of life have expressed that love. I love the excitement and expectancy of ordinary people that God will speak to them through the pages of his Word. I love the fact that it is full of little gems that encourage me to seek out the Saviour. When Richard Bewes, for example, tells me that he wakes every morning looking forward to ‘another day of adventure on Planet Earth with the Lord Jesus Christ’, which always begins with a cup of tea and a time alone with his Bible and the Lord, it can’t help but enthuse me about my own devotional time. And that is what comes across so often in this book. People are not talking about the great sermons they have listened to, important though they are, but they are talking about their own communion with the Lord as they personally seek him through his Word.

This is a great read for times when you may not feel like having a time alone with God for whatever reason, because it will surely inspire you to do so again.

Perhaps we should all regularly share with each other our testimonies of what the Bible means to us. Few things can encourage the Christian more than to be reminded that our Saviour welcomes us into his presence to share a special time alone with him as we read the Bible and pray.

Wendy Mason, 
pastor’s wife, Park Church, Stoke on Trent

This article was first published in the May 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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Prayer fuel: News in the UK


As we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, let’s take a moment to remember those who are suffering in His name, both in the UK and around the world. Here are a handful of news-bites from the UK included in the January issue of EN. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.

Standing up
In October, Christian Research asked 2,173 panellists to share their opinions around discrimination and freedom of speech.
In response to the amateur video Innocence of Muslims, it was asked: ‘Should Christians defend believers of other faiths from anti-religious sentiment despite profoundly disagreeing with the basis of that faith?’ 84% of respondents answered ‘Yes’. Research Brief

Booted out, fighting back
A Christian councillor, who was kicked out of her local party group after she took a stand against gay marriage, said in late November that she will continue fighting, after her expulsion was upheld by national party officials.
Christina Summers was banned from sitting with her Green Party colleagues on Brighton and Hove City Council in September after she voted against a motion that backed same-sex marriage. The branch chairman claims she was not kicked out because of her views on gay marriage but because of other reasons. The Christian Institute

Scotland: sex ed fury
Parents in Scotland were shocked that an explicit sex education DVD was, in late November, still being shown in Scottish primary schools.
The Living and Growing DVD, produced by Channel 4 Learning, contains explicit footage of a naked cartoon couple having sex. In July 2012, Channel 4 Learning removed it from its catalogue after a long running campaign from MPs and parents. Hundreds of parents in Lanarkshire have signed a petition calling for the DVD to be withdrawn from classrooms. The Christian Institute

For more news and prayer fuel from around the UK, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Editors commentary: ‘Self-regulation’


When you bring up a child, what you are aiming at is self-regulation.

The parents want to bring good moral principles in a firm, reasonable and loving way such that the youngster eventually sees the basic sense of them, imbibes them for himself / herself and so begins to moderate / manage his / her own behaviour accordingly.
Self-regulation is also obviously the only way to maintain a free press in a civilised, democratic society. But it has all gone awry in Britain, as we have lost our moral moorings as a nation. The phone hacking scandal, in which some journalists and editors have behaved disgracefully and brought great hurt on a number of vulnerable people, has blown it. Lord Justice Leveson’s enquiry is recommending some kind of statutory regulation of the press.
A free press is meant to hold democratic governments to account, as indeed the newspapers have done over recent years with the exposure of such things as the MPs’ expenses scandal. Everyone is rightly very sensitive about the possibility of government regulated media. It smacks of the emergence of an Orwellian state. Some friends from China were telling me recently that the news there always follows the same pattern. The first item is about how busy their political leaders are. The second is some story of trouble or tragedy from overseas, implicitly indicating that the rest of the world is a mess. And the third gives news of something in China which is going well, invariable illustrated by a group of happy, smiling Chinese faces. We don’t want to go down that road. We want to be told the truth. That is why, though Lord Leveson is recommending a form of statutory regulation of the press, he keeps insisting that actually he is not.
Up until 1694, no publication was allowed in our country without a government-granted license. It was 50 years earlier that the writer of Paradise Lost, John Milton, in his Areopagita argued forcefully against government censorship. Milton’s central thesis was that the individual is capable of using reason and distinguishing right from wrong, good from bad. Thus developed the concept of the ‘marketplace of ideas’, the notion that, when people put different points of view, the best arguments will prevail.

J.S. Mill and the Australians
But here is where we have run into trouble. What is ‘best’? What does individual discernment mean in a postmodern world where we are told there are no such things as universal truth or absolute standards of right or wrong? How is a journalist or editor meant to self-regulate when he or she is given no moral compass by society? John Stuart Mill’s principle that all is allowed, so long as we do not do harm to others, evidently counted for nothing with the phone hackers driven by society’s actual ethic of making a fast buck however you can if you can get away with it. And Milton’s belief that the best arguments will prevail assumes a morally educated audience. But many in the audience these days have only been educated in the morals of pleasure and materialism (if it feels good, just do it) and have little idea of how to distinguish right from wrong.
Secular ‘freedom’, as Francis Schaeffer predicted years ago, is sending us towards totalitarianism. The Australian radio station behind the hoax which led to the shocking death of the nurse Jacintha Saldhana, following the Duchess of Cambridge’s stay in hospital in December, insisted it had not broken any laws. Facing such an attitude, understandably many people will think: ‘Well, we had better put some laws in place then’.

John Benton

This article was first published in the January 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057