Anglican update: Cry from Southern Sudan – you can help!


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

We recall the emergence of Southern Sudan as an independent state in July 2011. The Anglican Church played a significant role along with other churches in the forming and developing the new nation, the first in history to escape from Muslim domination.

Since December 2013, Southern Sudan’s viability has been gravely threatened by an internal civil war. The rebel forces are led by the former vice-president, Riek Machir, who established himself in the north east of South Sudan where many of the country’s oil fields, the source of its income, are situated.

Supporting small scale business

Anglican International Development, based in Newcastle, had partnered the Episcopal Church of Sudan in developing Manna Microfinance, a programme to enable the South Sudanese to develop their own family economies through small scale business activities. It was also allocated facilities in Bor in the north east to develop a medical training programme in conjunction with the International Christian Dental and Medical Association. However, Bor was overrun by rebel forces and the programme has been started in Mengo Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, training 50 participants to work as medical officers in South Sudan.

Following independence, many such international groups stretched out helping hands to partners in South Sudan. But the civil war disrupted these activities. Leaders of the major Protestant denominations concluded that such was the threat to the survival of the country itself that concerted action was needed against the major threats.

A cry for help

They issued Cry from South Sudan in August 2014 following a consultation in London and established a United Christian Emergency Committee for South Sudan.

The first threat they see is that the world will forget them, overwhelmed as it is with the development of Islamic State. However, their own parlous situation is of a piece with the development of IS. South Sudan is a front-line state facing the advance of Islam in Africa. They border on Sudan, a Muslim nation, which in turns borders on Egypt. Sudan has no interest in the survival of South Sudan and will therefore be actively involved in fanning the flames of the civil war.

Following the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Gadaffi in Libya, Islamist fighters dispersed south into western and eastern Africa.

Their effects have been felt in Chad and in the separatism in Kenya. Some observers claim that the bombing of Islamic State will only disperse the fighters in a similar way, and South Sudan is an obvious attraction for their destabilising activities.

Famine

second The threat is a creeping famine caused by the disruption of the civil war. This is likely to hit hard early in the new year.

The authors of Cry… continue: ‘Our future is being undermined as our children are being devastated. Over 7% die at birth. Few attend school. Those schools that do function have to meet under trees. Those people that do get educated have no jobs. This is a time bomb for vulnerability to radicalisation by extremist groups.

‘God calls the church to bring peace and stability to South Sudan. However, we acknowledge that we have not always been faithful to this calling. We as church leaders now want to respond unitedly. We are committed to act together as one body and have established the United Christian Emergency Committee for South Sudan. We will be acting trans-denominationally. We ask for your support in the following areas:

• To help us build a strong and healthy nation for the future

• To support our hands in prayer for God’s deliverance

• To continue your interest and concern for the long term. Millions have died in conflict in our nation and millions have been displaced. We are committed to ensuring a long-lasting peace.

• To keep our nation and its hopes and needs before your governments and for other institutions to bring their pressure to bear

• To assist us as you can in the following strategic projects:

Human Rights; Education; Relationship with Cultures; Health; Relief; Discipleship /Theological Training; Political / Peace-making; Leadership / Ethics; Publishing; Economic Development; Legal Systems; Prayer Committee/Intercession

Where to begin

In our emergency situation we will begin with the following:

1. Provide food, medical relief and shelter. As crops have failed, we are now experiencing a famine which could become unmanageable.

2. A process of political reconciliation with specialist advisers. Without peace there can be no stable future for our country

3. Establish teachers’ training programmes ensuring a supply of teachers to encourage the government to build many schools. Education of the young is key to the future of South Sudan.

4. Establish a leaders’ ‘staff college’ with courses for politicians, bishops and senior clergy, businessmen, people in the military and law enforcement and other leaders in civil society. We will provide responsible leaders for the nation.

The committee, based in Juba, South Sudan can be contacted through the Revd John Brand, Friends of South Sudan, john@thebrands.org.uk and on twitter through @fossuk

Chris Sugden 

This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates

Young people trashed by sex


Young People Trashed By Sex

You may well find this article unpleasant to read.

The following scenario is created from observing kids over the years, and illustrates the kinds of challenges which need to be addressed in the church.

Mid-teen Tessa tells her parents that her friend Clare is going off the rails. From an intact family and active in a lively evangelical youth programme, Clare starts to become sexually active. Neither Tessa nor her parents know what to say. They share their concern with me. I approach Clare’s youth leaders, not mentioning her by name but highlighting the fact that at least some youngsters in their care are being ‘got at’. They deny it — they know better! Clare slowly drifts away, yet one more evangelical casualty.

This illustrates at least three crucial points which keep getting overlooked.

What is missing?

Teenagers in our church youth groups are capitulating to the lure of sex and abandoning their faith. ‘The world, the flesh and the devil’, plus inadequate input or traumatic personal or family problems, leave them vulnerable. Of course, it is never too late, but kids like Clare have been hardened and now react against the teaching they received in the past. The situation has been aggravated by the fact that she believes she ‘tried God’ but that ‘it didn’t work’.

Tessa, her parents and the church youth leaders may have used the wrong methods to engage most effectively with Clare. They may have played the ‘God’, the ‘Morality’ and the ‘You May Regret It’ cards, but to no avail. These arguments on their own do not penetrate her defences. It’s all very well to say ‘no sex before marriage’, but young people need help in understanding how and why. And where are Clare’s parents? Did they have any inkling that she was being defeated on the moral/sexual battleground? Probably not.

Most seriously, many churches are simply not addressing the sex issue at all — often because of naivetŽ, ignorance, embarrassment and denial, demonstrated by Clare’s youth leaders. Some youth leaders’ understanding of youth culture was formed years ago, so their mentality and awareness levels (both of what was going on and how best to respond) is a good decade out of date. Of course, there is no magic bullet, but certain approaches are far more effective than others and address the pressing issues (for some) of youth sex culture in 2013.

In my view, too many good evangelical youngsters are being damaged, body, mind and soul, by either being given unhelpful guidance or no guidance. There are excellent non-religious as well as faith-based reasons for kids to steer clear of all kinds of sexual activity, which takes their virginity but more importantly sabotages their moral compass and destroys their faith. But because they stop coming and, because youth leaders tend not to follow-up ‘the dropouts’, they remain clueless as to what went wrong.

Because the culture has changed so perniciously, because adults often see their youngsters’ present through their own past (and kids do not disabuse them), they fail to realise the current state of play. A little bit of ‘naughty fun’ or ‘Oh well, kids will be kids…’ can prove to be a serious, or even life-shattering, business. While the church continues to think that ‘prayer and preaching the gospel’ will sort things while ducking these issues, the truth is that they won’t. It is time to engage with 2013’s challenges.

Subtle routes into bad sex

There are various routes into sex being sold to youngsters these days. One of them is the sexual ‘health’ sites which the NHS and other mainstream organisations endorse; some groups are present in schools now.1 Do you even know what kind of ‘advice’ your youngsters or those in your church’s youth group are being given by the so-called sexual ‘health’ authorities or in school SRE lessons? If kids attend to the tacit encouragement to ‘when you’re ready, explore your sexuality!’ such advice drives a coach and horses through a traditional Christian sexual ethic. Has anyone even noticed? And, if so, why is there no outcry?

I appreciate that some aspects of this ‘advice’ are accurate, wise and thoroughly commendable; however, in my view, this actually compounds the problem. It gives a false impression of reliability and soundness across the board, for youngsters think: ‘Any group which nags me about Eating 5 A Day and not smoking would surely warn me against behaviours which are potentially even more risky’. But such is not the case.

The pornography gateway

Here again we find that many of us have an outdated understanding of pornography, conjuring up a Page Three image with the word. Sadly, Page Three is benign by comparison.

A recent Daily Mail article2 is a must-read for those who think: ‘But our kids would never do such things!’ Three aspects to note:

First, youngsters from solid stable families, and both sexes, are involved, and at a young age (13-14 years old). Secondly, their parents were oblivious of their involvement. Thirdly, interest in more ‘alternative’ kinds of sex was on the rise through this modelling, tutoring and permission-giving; so, anal sex, violence, Sado Masochism, horror and even bestiality, are now on the increase.

Because of the immaturity of the teen brain, youngsters are even more disadvantaged than adults. As the Daily Mail article notes: ‘The brain’s reward centre is fully developed by the time we’re teenagers, but the part of the brain that regulates our urges — the pre-frontal cortex — isn’t fully developed until our mid-20s. The brains of teenagers are not wired to say “stop”, they are wired to want more’. This helps to explain how porn can become so addictive.

Porn’s virtual reality is being acted out in real life and in real relationships, and girls especially are paying for it. ‘When you interview young women about their experiences of sex, you see an increased level of rough, violent sex. That is directly because of porn, as young boys are getting their sexual cues from men in porn films who are acting as if they’re sexual psychopaths.’ It is touching the youngsters in your life and mine. And even if they are able to remain immune, can they explain to their mates why they do not do ‘that kind of stuff’?

What can we do?

* Update yourself on what is happening in your kids’ lives. A useful way of getting them to open up is to ask them what ‘their friends’ are up to; and when they tell you, keep calm. If you blow up, they will shut down.

* Update yourself on reasons why youngsters and sex of all types is toxic. Some good websites are:
http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com
http://www.cblpi.org/senseandsexuality/activism/SNSbooklet.pdf (download)http://www.medinstitute.org

* Update yourself on why porn is pernicious. See, for example:http://www.yourbrainonporn.com
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org /Resources/

* Bring groups in to speak to your youth group, such as Lovewise, Evaluate or Challenge Team. I also do a ‘Sex-Proofing your Kids’ seminar, which covers mainstream sexual matters.

Something I once read stuck with me and points to where I believe the church has got things wrongs: ‘Everything interesting in life is illegal, immoral or fattening’. Though we know this is not true, there are strands within our culture, and especially youth culture, which affirm and live by it. Indeed, who wants to be seen as boringly good? Not many, and not our youngsters! So we must show them a better way.

You can contact Dr. Lisa Nolland on Ls.n@talktalk.net

1. http://www.rainbowbournemouth.co.uk/pdf/sexy_stuff_guys.pdf andhttp://www.respectyourself.info & http://www.4ypbristol.co.uk/
2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432591/ Experiment-convinced-online-porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

The right to decide (book review)


 

THE RIGHT TO DECIDE The right to decide
Seeking justice for choices around unwanted same-sex attractions
By Michael R. Davidson
Core Issues Trust. 52 pages. £5.00
ISBN 978 0 957 373 907

This booklet is a collection of testimonies from those who have sought help with their unwanted same-sex attractions.

For most of the 13 stories, this preference comes from their Christian faith. Interestingly, though, the first account is from a non-Christian, which perhaps reflects the author’s desire to emphasise the case that the demand for therapy goes beyond the faith community.

The Preface and Introduction emphasise the agenda, along with the booklet’s title and cover (illustrating scales of justice), to fight back for the right of individuals to make their own choices and receive whatever form of therapy they want. This comes amid the current climate of professional counselling bodies (such as the UKCP and BACP) trying to label such therapies as unethical.

Some readers may agree with these introductory sections, but also find themselves uncomfortable with the emphasis on individual ‘rights’ (arguably not a biblical concept). I found myself wishing that the booklet had let the stories speak for themselves. The playing-down of the moral issues in the Preface (e.g. ‘some find homosexual practice morally wrong. In a sense, none of the reasons matters’) also suggests a secular target audience.

Testimonies have an astonishing power to persuade and even disarm those holding contrary views. In a way, no one can really argue against another person’s experiences, particularly in this postmodern age. Overall, then, these stories are powerful and persuasive. I would recommend this booklet to anyone with an interest in the subject.

Stuart Parker,
Associate Director of True Freedom Trust, a charity supporting those struggling with same-sex attractions (see http://www.truefreedomtrust.co.uk)

 

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

www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

 

Remember the poor – Local church responsibility towards financially needy believers


Remember the poorWe are living in days in which many Christians have been plunged into great financial difficulties.

This is often through no fault of their own. Our country is in the throes of significant economic recession, and it seems likely that far greater financial heartaches are just around the corner for our stagnating economy.

Christians are not immune from the effects of the near collapse of Western capitalism. Unemployment can suddenly strike, or be the unwanted lot of students even years after graduation. Sickness within the family can bring less opportunity to earn, coupled with greater living costs. State benefits have been squeezed and the criteria for receiving them toughened, often rather arbitrarily.

I want to bring out five key principles from the New Testament to show that local churches have a responsibility for those in financial difficulty in their midst and beyond. And then I want to show how one very ordinary local church, with fewer than 100 members, has sought to help those going through such times. My aim is to spur churches to think about their God-given duties in this area.

1. Supporting others is normal

The organised support of the poor in the fellowship is part of normal church life. This was part of the everyday life of the church in Jerusalem, seemingly from its inception (Acts 4.34-35, and 6.1ff).

Doubtless there were exceptional circumstances there, as many converted at Pentecost remained in the city to learn more of their newfound faith. Yet, surely, the principle of organised help for the needy jumps out to us from the text. Sadly, a combination of right suspicion against a ‘social gospel’ and the rampant individualism of our culture have deadened us to the need for organised care for those in dire financial straits in our midst.

2. Consequence of love

Organised care is a natural extension of individual Christian love. The joy of new life in Christ and of truly belonging to God’s people inevitably brought a spontaneous sharing and hospitality in the days after Pentecost (Acts 2.44-45). Indeed, such practical love is the natural and essential fruit of true conversion (Matthew 25.34ff). And, as time passed and the needs increased, it was very appropriate that the ministry of care was formalised, so that needs were not missed (Acts 4.32-35, compare 6.1ff).

3. The issue of need

The issue of need is the key question (Acts 2.45 and 4.34-35), not how the people got into that need. These matters must be handled with grace and understanding, though it may well also be important to seek to provide help with handling money, if the financial support is to be truly effective.

The ministry of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) can be very useful here, though that doesn’t obviate the need to preach on such issues in the church life. Some question whether there is any need for churches to support their poor, living as we do in a wonderful welfare state. Yet, often, benefits do not arrive quickly enough, nor are they generous enough to meet all needs. Others point out that some financial needs are so great — for example, wealthy believers becoming bankrupt — that few, if any, churches could help meet those needs. Yet local churches can still provide help, which can be wonderfully reassuring and vital to the mental and spiritual strength of those fallen on hard times.

4. Practical wisdom

Support needs to be handled with wisdom, grace and efficiency. The apostles were made aware of flaws in the system of welfare distribution in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6.1). Whether those failings were due to prejudice or inefficiency is hard to say, but it brought dangerous tensions and conflicts to the church. Indeed, anyone who has been in church life for any length of time will have experienced church tensions over money, especially when it comes to being generous with it! That is why it was necessary to have such a group of wonderfully spiritual men to sort the apparently pretty straightforward practical problem out (Acts 6.3). Support always needs to be wisely and sensitively tackled.

5. Outsiders too

The church’s responsibility is not restricted to those in our own back yard. Preoccupation with our own fellowship can be selfish and unspiritual. The New Testament gives us a vision, not simply for the evangelism of the whole world, but for meeting the practical needs of the wider church community. Surely, no thoughtful Christian can remain unchallenged by Paul’s preoccupation with the collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem (Romans 15.23-28).

One church’s experience

Among the things that we at Dewsbury Evangelical Church have been able to do to help believers financially have been the following. We have helped asylum seekers with their living and legal costs, including, on occasions, making a commitment to pay them a weekly ‘subsistence allowance’ and making collections for solicitors’ fees. We have provided holidays for poor families, sometimes by arranging for them to stay in the homes of believers (living in rather nicer areas than Dewsbury!) while the owners themselves are away on holiday. We have paid for youngsters attending YP groups to go on our church camp.

We have sometimes sent money with our Asian worker on his visits to Pakistan to try to help the struggling church there. We have set up a small disasters committee in the church so that the church members can be encouraged to make collections to support famine or earthquake relief (often through Christian organisations) when the need is most urgent.

Help on a weekly basis

And we have established a scheme to provide poorer members among us with bags of groceries on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Since this is an effective, much appreciated, and easily replicated scheme, it is probably worth explaining how it works in some detail.

This scheme was the brainwave of one of our lady members. We provide bags of groceries for those most in need in the fellowship, serving perhaps six or seven families or individuals in an average week. More than 10% of our membership has received them. Recipients include the unemployed, the low paid, asylum seekers, the sick, the elderly, and those under sudden and unexpected financial strain.

The groceries, including hopefully some more luxury items, are collected from better off members in the congregation — most of us! Members are encouraged to buy a little extra when they visit, or order from, the supermarket and to bring it with them to church on a Sunday. That is then organised into bags for those in need by two thoughtful ladies in the fellowship who have gladly undertaken the responsibility. A letter has been issued by the deacons to all who belong to us explaining the working of the scheme, and giving advice about the range of stuff required in our somewhat multi-cultural congregation.

The bags are then either picked up by those for whom they are intended, often after the evening service or the prayer meeting, or delivered to their homes. The bags of groceries are not huge, but they make a real contribution to those in need and express the sympathy and love of the church to those who receive them. We encourage all members to be on the look-out for those in need among us, as many believers are very reluctant to ask for help, even if their needs are urgent.

Giving and receiving

The scheme is far from perfect, but works well and is relatively simple to operate. If needs exceed supply we try to inform members of that situation, but often that has brought the opposite problem! Sadly, we have very little facility to store groceries, and none to store furniture: more room would be a great asset to this work.

Some have found it difficult to receive from the scheme, but it is easier when they realise that others in the church also benefit. Many also respond to the thought that if and when they are in a better financial position they will be able to contribute to the scheme which is helping them now (2 Corinthians 8.14). Sometimes it throws up difficult questions about whether we can and should extend the service into the community, but on the whole it has been a really helpful development in church life. I have written about it not to trumpet what we are doing, but simply to show others one way in which our corporate responsibility to the poorer among us can begin to be met.

Graham Heaps is pastor of Dewsbury Evangelical Church, Yorkshire.

 
(This article was first published in the February 2013 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)