Prayer fuel: News from around the world

Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the March 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.

China: persecution up
ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian nonprofit organisation that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report in early February that the Chinese government continues its increase of persecution against Christians for the seventh consecutive year. The report examined 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people and found that persecution incidences rose 41.9% from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125% from 2011.
Religion Today

Cuba: at last!
Former prisoner of conscience, Pastor Omar Gude Perez, his wife Kenia Denis and their two children arrived in the US as refugees on January 31. They were finally granted permission by Cuban emigration authorities to leave the island, following an 18-month wait for the appropriate paperwork.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Iraq: two killed
On January 8, a car bomb killed Ayyoub Fauzi Auyyoub Al Sheikh, a Christian medical student, near the university in Mosul, while the explosion also injured dozens of others. In another incident, the body of Shdha Elias, a 54-year-old Christian teacher, was found on January 7 in an area of Mosul where attacks on Christians had taken place in the past.
Barnabas Fund

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

Anglican update: Freedom is the issue

Michael Nazir AliMaria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill provides for overseas marriages in consulates or on armed forces bases. One can imagine expatriates coming to ‘marry’ nationals in consulates in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, against their laws and on their turf with significant consequences for their churches and governments.

This Bill, with such international implications, is put forward to expand equality, diversity and freedom. But Matthew Franck writes: ‘A future in which same-sex marriage is enshrined in the law is a future without meaningful religious liberty, freedom of speech, or economic freedom for millions. Yes, they can “privatise” their view, and go about their business incognito, as it were. But that is a surrender of their freedom, not a preservation of it’.*

Emotions and law

The claim is that feelings of being discriminated against for homosexual behaviour must determine societal norms. The law and the power of culture must suppress the established understanding of marriage which makes homosexual people feel ‘excluded’. Any alternative views are prejudiced, stigmatise others, and are the source of unhappiness and searches for ‘change’. Such stigmatisation has to be banished from society by the state. Even holding such an opinion causes offence and must be eliminated.

Equality of outcome

This position is based on a view of the common good of equality defined as equality of outcome (no one must be given any reason for feeling ‘unequal’ to anyone else). The common good is determined here by majority opinion (which is why opinion polls and ‘the changing culture’ feature so strongly). Such a notion of equality trumps everything. There is no place for a ‘bill of rights’, ‘rights of conscience’ or ‘freedom of belief ’. The state then uses the law to enforce the common good.
Peter Tatchell in a Commons Committee Room on January 30 argued that same-sex attraction is innate as a matter of science. Religion, morals and conscience have no place. Unwanted same-sex attraction is due to the stigma and prejudice in society. Any attempt to provide counselling to be free from it is unacceptable. Education is needed for homosexuality to be as acceptable as heterosexuality.

No accommodation
State employed or regulated doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, marriage counsellors, marriage registrars and youth workers will be denied ‘reasonable accommodation’ to opt out. Teachers will have to explain, though not endorse, same-sex marriage to children. The last government allowed no ‘reasonable accommodation’ to Roman Catholic adoption agencies. They therefore closed down. Any protections for ‘dissenting’ religious institutions, including schools, and caring institutions, not just to preach but also to have charitable status and accreditation from the government would imply that acceptance of same-sex unions is not as obligatory as heterosexual unions.

Where persecution begins

Speaking on the Freedom of Belief and the Persecution of Christians in the Houses of Parliament on February 5, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said: ‘Persecution begins with exclusion and marginalisation from community and public life. It begins with loss of employment’.
The alternative view is that equality is equality of opportunity. Liberty encourages the ‘little republics’ of the family, community organisations, civic organisations and civil society, among which are the churches to promote the common good. It limits the state’s role of enforcement.
Dr. Nazir-Ali noted that, in the ‘Arab Spring’, democracy was being shown not to be enough. Without a bill of rights, it can become the tyranny of the majority. Article 18 of the UN Declaration enshrines a right to believe, and to manifest that belief in behaviour and action. Behind that lies the statement of Magna Carta that the English church shall be free — that is to teach, promote and practise biblical values and morality without government interference.

Chris Sugden,

Anglican Mainstream


This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Prayer fuel: News in the UK

Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the March issue of EN. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.

Giving thanks for ‘Chappo’
A Memorial Service for the much-loved Australian evangelist, John Chapman, will be held at St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate.
The service will take place at 3.00 pm on March 1. Anyone wishing to find out more should phone 020 7283 2231.
Gareth Lewis

23-week twins survive
The mother of twins who survived after being born at just 23 weeks — a week earlier than the current legal abortion limit — has criticised the law, it was reported at the end of January.
Pam Glover, their mother, said: ‘For us now, the idea that it’s possible to abort a child up to 24 weeks — older than our twins — just doesn’t bear thinking about. The abortion limit should be lower’.
The Christian Institute

Removing God
The Air Cadet Organisation has announced its intention to provide an alternative ‘non-religious’ oath for new members, it was reported in January.
Girlguiding UK and the Scout Association are also considering similar changes to their respective promises, following pressure from secularist campaign groups. The former has an online survey considering the change, with a deadline of March 3.
Christian Concern

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

Editors commentary: Death-bed conversion

As a pastor, sometimes there are meetings with people which you dread. Not long ago I was contemplating such a meeting. Years previously a couple had left the church as their marriage was on the brink of breaking up.
We had never really known where Jason stood spiritually. His wife Naomi was a good solid Christian, who had stuck with Jason through sporadic infidelities but had understandably come to the end of her tether with a new affair. There were some pretty tense, not to say bruising, counselling sessions. We elders, who don’t always manage to get everything right, had done our best to remonstrate with Jason but to no avail. We saw no option but for church discipline for him and, in the aftermath, the family had left us.

Phone call
But that was not the end of the story. Just as we were about to go away for some holiday, Jason phoned. Could he come and talk to us? ‘Oh no’, we thought. We had not had contact with him for years. Were we going to be reproached for some kind of pastoral failure from the past? What was this all about? We arranged for him to come and see us after our time away. In the interim the whole thing played on our minds.
Eventually the night of the meeting came. We had prayed much, but my stomach churned as the door-bell rang.
There was Jason. But there was no frown. He seemed relaxed and calm. He came in and sat down and over a pot of tea his story came tumbling out to the glory of God.
His marriage had broken up and his wife had moved to another town. In a backslidden state Jason had drifted right away from the Lord and from church. There had been a divorce. But he and Naomi had stayed in touch. After all the years, and the ups and downs of their marriage, somehow they were still friends and would seek to help and look out for each other when they could.

The peace of God
Then Naomi’s mother, a wonderful old Christian lady, was ill and it became clear that it would not be too long before she died. Jason felt it would be right to visit his ex-mother-in-law. This visit turned out to be quietly momentous. He entered the room where she was. She smiled and her obvious peace in the face of death through her trust in the Lord Jesus Christ was simply overwhelming. Jason did not tell us what was said, but the palpable sense of this Christian lady’s joy in God as she lay on her deathbed impacted him deeply. He could not get it out of his mind. ‘As I left I knew that this was real’, he said, ‘and all these years I had simply been running away from God.’
So it was that later he was led to get down on his knees and with all his heart repent and turn back to Christ. And he had certainly changed. It was not the old Jason we had before us in our sitting room, but a new man. The peace of Christ which he had encountered at his mother-in-law’s deathbed was now clearly in him too. He was now committed to fellowship at another church and he just felt it was right to come and see us and apologise for all the difficulty he had caused us in the past.
Sometimes the Lord surprises us in glorious ways. What I had imagined would be a most difficult evening turned out to be one of the most joyous and spiritually uplifting times we could imagine.

John Benton

This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

10 ways to support the unemployed… and some other great links.

Enjoy the following links!

A Faith to live by – Has facebook reached it’s peak? (An excerpt from Tim Chester’s book ‘Will you be my Facebook Friend’ features in the March issue of EN. You can also read a summary of the blog post series here).

The Good Book Company – 10 ways your church can support the unemployed

Gospel Coalition – The life of a devotional mother

Reformation 21 – Any place for the God of Job?

Bible Mesh – Have you heard of Bible Mesh? How could you use this on-line learning tool?

What’s coming up in the March issue of EN

March2013 highlightsA few highlights to look forward to in the March issue of EN! It’s scheduled to arrive from the printers on Friday (February 22). Of course you can always e-mail as well if you’d like a complimentary copy or if you’d like to subscribe!

The preacher’s payday (book review)

How faithfulness echoes in eternity
By Clint Archer
Day One. 140 pages. £7.00
ISBN 978 1 846 253 102

This book reminds you that the Bible’s teaching on eternal rewards should affect how you conduct your ministry, especially with regard to preaching.

Archer believes that Christians will be subject to a judgment in which they can gain or lose eternal rewards (but not salvation), and that future judgment affects the type of service the saint does in heaven. The application for preachers/teachers/elders is that they are held to account for the souls over which they are called to keep watch. This is a stern warning to all who teach with pastoral responsibility. The second half of the book describes expository preaching, sermon preparation and plural eldership in independent churches.

The Preacher’s Payday is an apologia for a kind of independent Baptist ministry. John MacArthur writes a foreword and has apparently been influential in Dr. Archer’s outlook This book will encourage those who want to follow the same path. While many readers may be unfamiliar with the bema judgment seat and with the idea that expository preaching proves its points from cross-references, there are plenty of useful reminders. Archer has a vivid turn of phrase: my favourite was, ‘Expository preaching helps a jellyfish preacher grow a spine’ (p.90). May it also help us minister with an eye on the judgment seat of Christ.

Ed Moll, 
Senior Minister, St. George’s Church, Wembdon, Bridgwater, Somerset 

This article was first published in the October 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057


Scotland: stand and fight

Stand and fightNorry Maciver explains the position of those staying in the C of S

The Church of Scotland is a massively important institution in Scottish history, life and culture.

We are not like the Church of England, integral to the Parliamentary system. We are not like the church in the USA, totally separate from the political institutions. Historically, we have the most cordial, healthy relationship with our political systems, both central and devolved. When the Sovereign attends our annual denominational General Assembly, or is represented there by her appointed Lord High Commissioner, she or he is most welcome, but can take no official part in the deliberations of the General Assembly. In that sense, we have biblical autonomy free from state interference. That said, we are the state church with our ongoing commitment to provide the ordinances of the Christian religion to every part of the nation.

Our continued ability to fulfil that commitment is under threat from two different yet connected sources.

What authority?

First of all, there is a genuine theological debate going on about the authority of the word of God. It’s not that the church is formally denying its authority, but rather that some with influence, are encouraging a more liberal attitude to Scripture, not least on issues of morality. They prefer to concur with current cultural attitudes, thus causing genuine disquiet and great pain within the denomination.

Our General Assembly of 2011 set the church on a trajectory towards the ordination of ministers and elders in practising same-sex relationships, although it also placed a temporary moratorium on such ordinations. The issue is at present under discussion in the wider church through a Special Commission which will make its report to the General Assembly of 2013. At that point, the Assembly will send any decision that changes the present historic law and practice of the church down to our Presbyteries, whose collective decision will be brought back to the General Assembly of 2014.

To the outsider, it seems a laborious process, yet it enables the whole church to discuss the matter and make its decision. This has served as a wise safeguard in previous years.

Regrettably, already the decision of 2011 has thrown the church into a real measure of pain and confusion, not to mention some division. Some members have disjoined. A few ministers have demitted their charges and there is still some in ongoing, sometimes hostile debate with the denomination.

Church finances

The second problem that flows from all this is in the area of finance. Ministries are being contracted and buildings face closure.

However, that is not the whole story. In fact, the vast majority of ministers, elders and members of our Church, and that includes most Bible-believing evangelicals, are committed to seeing the renewal of our denomination and the spread of the gospel of Jesus in our nation and beyond. We believe that our divinely blessed history is precious, and, as we have seen our Lord increasingly bless evangelical ministries over recent years, now is not the time to leave. Of course, we respect those who have painfully chosen that road.

Forward together

In 1993, with others, I listened to reports at our General Assembly that began to cast doubt on the denomination’s continued commitment to our traditional biblical understanding on two matters. These were biblical morality and, for many of us, the theology of other religions. The latter began to call into question the uniqueness of our Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour of the world.

In response, we founded a movement called Forward Together. Our purpose was to draw together, in the face of the coming challenges at that time, many in the church who aligned themselves with orthodox biblical doctrine and morality. The original steering group had in its membership such significant people in Scotland as the late Dr. David Wright, Professor of Church History in Edinburgh University, the late Rev. James Torrance, Professor of Systematic Theology in Aberdeen University, and the Rev. David Searle, Warden of Rutherford House. In its early years, it achieved a great deal that embraced both evangelicals and orthodox moderate leaders of our church. For this we praise God. However, the cultural climate changed rapidly and, regrettably, the church began to taste compromise. The challenge has not lessened. Indeed the very opposite is true.

Seeking renewal

Forward Together is therefore being revitalised. I was its original Chairperson, and have recently been invited to be its Director, a new post. Our current steering group is chaired by Kenneth MacKenzie, a significant Christian businessman and elder, and embraces clergy and laity from throughout Scotland. We now want to work in close co-operation with other ministries with a similar goal. There are many of us who do not want to leave the denomination, nor do we feel called of God, at this point, to do so. Already, we believe that significant progress is being made. For example, this year’s General Assembly was, we believe, blessed by God with a decision to affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. A report has also been commissioned as to the unique place of the Christian faith as part of a multi-faith culture.

Gatherings are being held in which orthodox leaders of different ministries are genuinely networking towards a common goal. Indeed, relationships between leaders are being strengthened and affirmed. We are beginning to feel genuinely, mutually encouraged. Forward Together is playing a significant role in all this.

Reason to stay

I believe that historically there is no valid justification for choosing, at this point, to leave our denomination. Of course, there may come a time when, on theological grounds, our denomination may compel us to leave. That is a different matter. It happened to the early church, the Reformers, the Wesleys and, indeed, I would argue, to the Pentecostals of the early 20th century. Often, though not always, those who sought to be faithful to the gospel were persecuted. Tragically, the church in Scotland is replete with denominations, many of them Presbyterian, who chose to leave the parent denomination, and we are living today with the painful remnants of these decisions.

At this moment in our history we need another way to see blessing in our church, and, so, we will, without compromising our biblical orthodox convictions, stay. Therefore prayerfully, but humbly and openly, we will seek to influence for good our internal theological and moral debates. This is for the health of our nation and ultimately the glory of our Saviour.

Already we are encouraged by the prayers of many in Scotland beyond our own denomination and by many internationally. These are people who continue to value the ministry of Presbyterianism, which is one of God’s gifts to the world. We have also found real encouragement in new relationships being developed with similar ministries in other nations, not least in England and the Anglican Communion, where the church is facing exactly the same issues. We commit ourselves to your prayerful support.

The Rev. Norry Maciver is Director of the steering group of Forward Together.

(This article was first published in the November 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057)

Crossing the culture from Rachel Thorpe: Brontes’ ‘eternal powers’

Brontes’ ‘eternal powers’

The most recent strain of Brontemania, at large throughout 2011, included major film versions of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and the sale of a Charlotte Bront‘ manuscript for almost £700,000.

Enthusiasm for the Bronte sisters and their work is nothing new. Their novels have spawned numerous interpretations: Charlotte’s Jane Eyre alone has been adapted for the screen almost 2,000 times1. Each re-telling is selective, emphasising certain aspects and ignoring others in order to re-image the characters for a contemporary audience. The controversial casting of the 2011 Wuthering Heights, along with the decision to truncate the ending, is an example of the desire to both affirm and alter the message of the novels.

How is it possible?

When I first read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre I became fascinated by a single question: ‘How is it possible that three Victorian spinsters living in isolation on the Yorkshire moors could have written some of the most powerful and passionate fiction of all time?’2

There are no straightforward answers to such a question, but we may begin by looking to Patrick Bronte. The father of the famous trio, Patrick, was an evangelical minister, providing the Bronte sisters with a traditional Christian upbringing. Early critics, who were shocked by the supposed amorality of the books, struggled to accept that they had been written by the daughters of a clergyman. However, Patrick instilled in Anne, Emily and Charlotte an awareness of the spiritual aspect of life, something that became crucial to their thinking. Each of them grappled with religion — and, in particular, heaven and hell — in their souls and their writing.

Spiritual crises

Their faith was never a simple affair. The sisters struggled to relate the Christian doctrines which they knew to the world around them, which was full of suffering and pain. Charlotte and Anne both suffered serious spiritual crises during their teenage years, and Emily increasingly withdrew from conventional Christianity, eventually pledging allegiance to a fiercely personal ‘God within her breast’.3

For three sisters searching for emotional and spiritual fulfilment, the world of stories and dreams seemed to offer an alternative spiritual ideology. They frequently escaped from the harsh realities of their lives into the wild and free terrain of the imagination. In their novels they could dramatise their inner battles: duty meets freedom, temperance meets passion, restraint meets wildness.

Virginia Woolf described Emily’s ambition for Wuthering Heights as a desperate yearning to create coherence from the chaotic outer — and inner — world which she experienced. However, Emily is never able to move beyond the appealing but frustrating linguistic void: ‘[Wuthering Heights is] a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say […] “we, the whole human race” and “you, the eternal powers…”; the sentence remains unfinished’.4

Different approach

Emily’s approach is very different to the autobiographical and systematic analysis of religion that we find in Jane Eyre. Instead, Wuthering Heights is a subtle and shadowy exploration of the doctrine of salvation through suffering. By widening the net of her sympathy beyond the individual characters’ emotions, Emily succeeds in writing a universal novel which speaks directly to the heart of our culture. As Philip Hensher wrote in his recent film review: ‘Wuthering Heights […] seems exactly right for societies contemplating the abyss’.5

The novel hints that there may be something on the other side of the void: an eternal and unchanging force ‘underlying the apparitions of human nature’.6 Critics have struggled to identify the force implied by the ellipsis. Surely it stems from Patrick Bronte’s convictions about the reality that exists beyond the physical world. It is this Eternal Power, which he shared with his daughters, that gives the novels their life force and draws readers to return to them again and again.

No Coward Soul is Mine, Emily Bronte
4 Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, Chapter 14 ‘Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights
5 Philip Hensher, ‘The Bronte sisters are always our contemporaries’, Telegraph(November 12 2011)
6 Ibid

Rachel Thorpe writes the ‘Crossing the culture’ column for EN and works as an events planner and freelance writer in Cambridge. More of her articles can be found at

This article was first published in the February 2011 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057