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Open Doors Gary Streeter MP Biblefresh: Burkina Faso

eauk.org/idea • march/april 2011


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Help your church to be inspired afresh by the Bible The E100 Bible Reading Challenge is an initiative to encourage more individuals and churches to become inspired to meet God every day through the Bible – not just for the period of the challenge but beyond. The challenge is based around 100 carefully selected Bible readings (50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament) designed to give participants a good understanding of the overall Bible story from Genesis to Revelation. The ‘E’ stands for Essential and each of the Essential 100 readings ranges from a few verses to a few chapters.

To find out more visit:

www.e100challenge.org.uk The E100 challenge is an initiative of The Bible Societies and Scripture Union movements of Britain and Ireland, along with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

• Buy locally at your Christian book shop • Buy direct 0845 07 06 006 • Buy online www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop


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contents

march/april 2011 eauk.org/idea

Editor’s Note

I

n a few weeks, the most anticipated wedding of all time will have taken place. Wills and Kate’s nuptials will be over. The media will find a new obsession and we’ll be back in the office, having enjoyed our Right Royal Day Off. But post-confetti, their life together will just be beginning. Far from the glitz and glamour of the celebration, they will have to learn to work together as a married couple, they’ll need to deal with temptation, irritation and frustration and cope with their marriage being played out in a goldfish bowl. Our church leaders – also placed under the spotlight – are facing their own marital struggles, as the Marriage Week NI survey finds. Our cover story (page 18) reveals they are more likely to have had an affair than members of their congregation. In his Last Word (page 36), General Director Steve Clifford encourages leaders to talk about the problems they face before they come to a head, and cause pain both to their families and to their congregations. We’ve tried to cover this important topic sensitively and hope it will help those facing the issues highlighted. Now I’ve settled into Whitefield House, I thought I’d let you know a bit about the person behind the byline. I joined the Alliance in November last year from my previous role as editor at the Crown Prosecution Service. Prior to that I worked as a reporter on the Reading Evening Post covering general stories, as well as Education and Faith, where I was able to put my Cambridge theology degree to some use. I feel really blessed to bring my faith, academic interests and passion for journalism together every day – and get paid for it! I’m excited about what God’s got planned for this magazine and hope you’ll get in touch and tell me what you think.

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Women in the Easter story

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Gods and Heroes

Features 14 How-to: Be a Christian in Parliament Interview with Gary Streeter MP

16 Essay: Women at the cross Courageous acts of love by Jesus’s female followers

18 Cover story: Holy Matrimony? Shocking results from Marriage Week survey

21 In our own language Burkina Faso Bible translation project Open Doors produces World Watch List

186 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BT tel 020 7207 2100 fax 020 7207 2150 info@eauk.org www.eauk.org

Burkina Faso Bible translation

They will have to learn to work together

24 The persecuted global Church

Head Office Registered Charity No.212325

21

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Holy matrimony?

Life with Rob Lacey

Regulars 4 Your voice idea readers talk back

27 Q&A: James Cary and Paul Kerensa 28 Talking points Pop culture that sparks discussion

32 Hot topics Grappling with the issues

34 Last word General Director Steve Clifford writes...

Evangelical Alliance leadership team Steve Clifford, Helen Calder, Krish Kandiah, Stephen Cave, Fred Drummond, Elfed Godding

Northern Ireland Office 440 Shore Road, Newtownabbey BT37 9RU tel: 028 9029 2266 • nireland@eauk.org

Conference room bookings conference@eauk.org

Scotland Office 29 Canal Street, Glasgow G4 0AD tel 0141 332 8700 • scotland@eauk.org

Email address changes to members@eauk.org Cover photos: Malcolm Currie, indigoninja.co.uk

Wales Office 20 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PT tel: 029 2022 9822 • wales@eauk.org

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write to us at idea@eauk.org

your voice Reading the small print Thank you for making our voice heard and for your excellent magazine which is always read from cover to cover. But maybe not for much longer. I’m wondering whether other readers are finding the print size difficult to read – the In Brief items are beyond my ability to read at all without a magnifying glass. Yes, I am 84, use reading glasses and have been pronounced safe to drive my car. Upon examining other journals, Christian and otherwise, it would seem idea takes the prize for economy of print size. Derek Fishleigh, Salisbury EDITOR'S REPLY: We’re currently reviewing all the Alliance’s communication products. If you have any comments, email us at idea@eauk.org

of people taking aid onto the street, cafes, shops and the like which is all good, but we prefer not to care for those inside the Church. Now, if people noticed that care was on offer, they might come along to a service and become a problem we could do without, but at least they would hear the gospel rather than just accepting handouts. I have a shop and 75 per cent of the town would rather shop elsewhere because I am a Christian, yet there are some who bring their troubles to me to get help and advice when they need it, yet it is not building the Church at all. The solution has to be to address the churches to ensure the 11th commandment is not only preached but practiced and then those outside will want to join us. Marina Relf, Herefordshire

More than prayer It was with a mixture of sadness and indignation that I read Lucy Benes’ letter A Positive Spin (Jan/Feb) which states the “local church can’t really help beyond prayers”. The church I attend is, and I know many other churches are, extremely community-focused and practical in contact with people in the area and beyond. The initiatives we have set up involve far more than prayer although that is an important part. One of the ways in which people are prompted to move beyond church walls is through getting immersed in the Bible. One cannot get to know it without realising that faith is far more than something within ourselves but is acted out in relationship with others in our community. Janice Gunnell, Birmingham

Care on offer I have read with interest all the articles on the Micah Challenge and the Make Poverty History campaign, but have doubts to their lasting effect on evangelism. Today, much is being made

idea Editors Chine Mbubaegbu • idea@eauk.org Contributing Writers Lucy Cooper, Adeola Idowu, Sophie Lister, Lizzy Millar, Anna Moyle, Daniel Webster Head of Media Charis Gibson Advertising Manager Jack Merrifield • j.merrifield@eauk.org Design Domain London Printer Halcyon Print & Design

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Christianity is less than fair. Let us obey Jesus' command to love one another even when we don't always agree. Robin Carmichael, Leeds

Monopoly of truth John Brand’s letter (Jan/Feb) has for me re-opened a hornet’s nest. He is saying there are two classes of Christian: evangelicals (first class, because they have a monopoly of truth), and the rest (second class). The letter raises the whole issue of labels: how they can be used positively to identify a group of like-minded people, but also negatively to exclude others who do not think or believe the same as they do. I’m encouraged that your detailed survey of the beliefs and practices of evangelical Christians (Jan/Feb) has shown what a heterogeneous bunch they are. Unfortunately, this moment of joy was immediately tempered by Derek Tidball’s comment which began: “Evangelicals are like any other Christians, but different. They are Christians with attitude…” Here we are back at the beginning again. This arrogance saddens me greatly, and shows how destructive the use of labels can be. Alan Cram, Swansea

In response Diametrically opposed? John Brand’s letter (Jan/Feb) does not take into account what the Holy Spirit has been doing, encouraging and enabling Christians to draw together and not dwell on our differences. Of course evangelicals don't agree with all Roman Catholic doctrine, but actually we agree with the vast majority of it just as they agree with the vast majority of ours. We all agree that Christians should model their lives according to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ as recorded in Holy Scripture. He is the divine expression of God - three in one and one in three - who loved us enough to live with us and die for us. To call Roman Catholic doctrine "diametrically opposed" to evangelical

As co-founder of York Courses which placed the advertisement so strongly objected to by John Brand (Jan/Feb), I would like to set the record straight. Rich Inheritance-Jesus legacy of love is not an ecumenical training product but ecumenical course discussion material. Many eminent evangelicals including Joel Edwards and Elaine Storkey have contributed to our course CDs as have leading Christian thinkers such as Archbishop Rowan Williams. Those who use the courses often disagree vociferously, but even where there can be no meeting of minds, there can be warming of hearts through fellowship. We would happily send Mr Brand a complimentary set of our course materials, which we hope would reassure him. Simon Stanley, York Courses

idea is published bimonthly and sent free of charge to members of the Evangelical Alliance. Formed in 1846, the Alliance’s mission is to unite evangelicals to present Christ credibly as good news for spiritual and social transformation. There are around two million evangelical Christians in the UK, according to a 2007 Tearfund survey. idea is published in accordance with the Alliance’s Basis of Faith, although it is impossible in every article to articulate each detail and nuance of belief held by Alliance members. Articles in idea may therefore express views on which there is a divergence of opinion or understanding among evangelicals. Letters and story ideas from members are welcome, and will be considered by the editorial board, which reserves the right to edit letters and stories for length and style. We regret that we are unable to engage in personal correspondence. Unsolicited material will only be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. idea accepts advertisements and inserts to offset printing costs. Advertising in idea does not imply editorial endorsement. The Alliance reserves the right to accept or refuse advertisements at its discretion. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from the editor.


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Alliance general director Steve Clifford launches the survey at LICC

21st Century Evangelicals survey findings launched in London The Evangelical Alliance launched the results of groundbreaking research into the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of evangelical Christians in the UK in January. Dubbed 21st Century Evangelicals, the survey is made up of responses from more than 17,000 people who completed questionnaires at Christian festivals throughout 2010. The questionnaire was also completed at 35 randomly-selected Evangelical Alliance member churches. It throws up some interesting results, reflecting the diverse views evangelical Christians have on a range of topics, including the environment, volunteering, miracles, prayer, giving, women in leadership and evolution. Representatives from evangelical organisations around the country attended a special event at the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity on Tuesday, 11 January, for the unveiling of the report, which was compiled by the Evangelical Alliance together with Christian Research. “It reveals that while there are many

beliefs and practices that connect evangelicals, there is considerable diversity,” said the Alliance’s research manager Phil Green, presenting the information. “There is much in this report that will encourage, but there are also challenges. We will be conducting further research, looking at some of the issues in more depth, throughout 2011.” The survey aims to provide churches and Christian organisations with the type of data that will help them better understand and work with the communities they serve. “This research helps us speak with greater confidence about our evangelical community, the things that are important to us and the significant contribution that we are making to the community around us,” said Steve Clifford, the Alliance’s general director. “By presenting an accurate picture of evangelicals today, we can be much better equipped to make effective plans for tomorrow.” Visit eauk.org/snapshot to view the results and watch a video of the event.

UK Christian radio team to receive international media award HCJB Global-UK’s radio production team Whistling Frog were awarded for their creative efforts by the National Religious Broadcasters of America (NRB) in February. The award, which is for international innovation, was presented to the team in Nashville, Tennessee. Whistling Frog Productions is best known for creating innovative and inventive audio productions aimed at and broadcasted specifically on UK commercial radio. Since 1997 the team has been commissioning radio programmes and a batch of successful commercials to stations such as LBC.97, Heart FM, Classic FM and other local commercial and community radio stations. It has been recognised by the NRB which annually presents this particular media award to international organisations outside the US which have excelled in using the media innovatively to spread the gospel. “To be singled out as innovators is a wonderful confirmation of our vision. I'm delighted NRB have recognised our work by presenting us with this award,” said Colin Lowther, director of HCJB Global-UK. “Jesus used His voice in different ways to different audiences, and we like to think of our radio material as reaching the 'crowds' in a similar way - using stories, humour and topical references to capture their attention." hcjbglobal.org.uk audiopot.org AI

BEST OF THE WEB www.eauk.org

Our pick of the top stories published recently on the Evangelical Alliance’s website: B&B owners lose case The rights of religious believers should not be undermined by human rights law, the Alliance said, after Christian couple Peter and Hazelmary Bull lost a discrimination case for refusing a double room to a gay couple.

In brief...

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Support for Coptic Christians The Alliance spoke to members of the Church of Saints Mark and Peter in Alexandria, Egypt, following a suicide bomb in which scores of its members were killed and injured on New Year’s Day.

Politics The Alliance’s new Politics page, featuring news, views and interviews on public affairs is now live. Visit eauk.org/politics

eauk.org

CHRISTIANITY WEBSITE A new website which aims to be a onestop-shop explaining the Christian faith has been launched. Created by the Christian Enquiry Agency (CEA), the website provides answers on questions such as what do Christians believe, why does life exist and what did Jesus teach and provides a forum in which people can ask for prayer on particular topics. The CEA is an agency of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and works on behalf of all the major UK churches and many Christian organisations. christianity.org.uk

TRAIDCRAFT TRUSTEE Stephen Timms, the shadow minister for employment, has become a trustee of Traidcraft, the Christian fair trade organisation and development charity. He will join the Traidcraft Foundation, which is responsible for guarding the vision, mission and principles of Traidcraft. “The Foundation is essential in helping Traidcraft’s trading company and charity to remain focused on their goals,” said Mr Timms. traidcraft.co.uk

Triumphant: the Whistling Frog team


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(L-R) Pastor Agu Irukwu, Jose Henriqez and Alf Cooper at Jesus House

Chilean miner visits UK churches in ‘34th Man’ tour Five months after being rescued from “out of the depths” of the mine, Jose Henriquez tells his remarkable story of faith and hope in the midst of despair. Jose Henriquez – one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days last year – has visited UK churches to tell his story and inspire British Christians to trust God even in the most difficult situations. A billion people around the world watched the nail-biting rescue of the miners in August and “the 33” became a symbol of hope and the triumph of the human spirit. But for Mr Henriquez, all the glory belonged to God. Dubbed the spiritual leader of the group and affectionately known as “the pastor”, he led daily prayer meetings in the mine and saw 22 of his fellow miners become Christians. In January, Mr Henriquez, accompanied by his wife Blanca and Alf Cooper, chaplain to the President of Chile,

visited the UK as part of the 34th Man tour organised by the Church Mission Society (CMS). His first stop on the tour was Alliance member church Jesus House in Brent Cross, where he was also joined by representatives of the Chilean Embassy, CMS and the South American Missionary Society. Mr Henriquez told the congregation that although most of the miners started their spell trapped underground as either atheists or lapsed Christians, by the end

Uniting to change society The Alliance is working to build unity among its half a million members across 79 denominations, 3,300 churches and 700 organisations. Members are linked through a UK and worldwide network of evangelical Christians who share in ministry and expertise. Benefits for churches are especially valuable, including access to resources, programmes and campaigns, as well as media training. Visit CARBON FAST Eat chocolate - give up Carbon. The Carbon Fast challenge is back. Lent is traditionally marked by fasting from food, but The Carbon Fast provides daily actions that will help people reduce their carbon emissions, with a how-to guide designed by Tearfund to help them along the way. Now in its fourth year, the Carbon Fast, designed by The Bishop of Liverpool, is going from strength to strength with people from all across the UK taking part in ever increasing numbers. tearfund.org

eauk.org/getinvolved for more information. Meanwhile, the Alliance welcomes six new churches… Bethel City Church, Stoke-On-Trent Church of God World Wide Mission International, High Wycombe Eritrean Bethel Church, Purley Grace Church, Scotter, Lancashire Solid Rock Ministries, Croydon Tree of Life Parish, Southampton

PENTECOST CELEBRATION Thousands of Christians will gather at the O2 Arena in London on 11 June to celebrate Pentecost 2011. Following the success of last year’s event, where more than 5,000 people filled the HMV Hammersmith Apollo for a night of worship, prayer and praise, 2011’s celebration is set to be bigger than ever. It is being organised by Holy Trinity Brompton, Jesus House and Hillsong. htb.org.uk/pentecost

they testified to Jesus being with them as the “34th man” and feeling “a constant sense of his presence and guidance”. Speaking to the congregation, Mr Henriquez said: “I had the job of praying with them and encouraging them. I told them that as Christians we pray to a living God and not a dead God and that if they wanted prayer we were going to have to pray to the living God. I had the joy of leading them to put their trust in the living God and see an answer to their prayers.” Mrs Henriquez also spoke of life on the surface while her husband was trapped in the mine. “I never gave up hope because my faith in God was so big. In my heart, God was telling me that he was alive,” she said. Pastor Agu Irukwu of Jesus House said he was “privileged” to welcome Mr Henriquez to his church, which was the “landing point” of the tour. The tour also included stops at Holy Trinity Brompton, St Paul’s Onslow Square, Durham Cathedral and Kirkby-in-Ashfield Miners Welfare in Nottinghamshire. cms-uk.org jesushouse.org.uk ULTIMATE CHRISTIAN BOOK The nation’s favourite Christian book will be awarded during a special ceremony taking place in May. Five great titles have made it to the shortlist of the 2011 Ultimate Christian Library Book Award: Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef with Ron Brackin, Children of God by Desmond Tutu, One Dad by Brad Lincoln, The Sixty Minute Family by Rob Parsons and An Illustrated History of Gospel published by Lion. Members of the public can vote until 31 March for their favourite. Five voters will be randomly selected to receive £100 worth of books for a library of their choice. christianbookawards.org

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The big picture

Author Philip Yancey holds up his sign as part of the Biblefresh campaign.

World-renowned author Philip Yancey explains how his love of the Bible has influenced his writing. Over the past three decades, he has written more than 20 insightful and inspirational books, including What’s So Amazing About Grace?, The Jesus I Never Knew and Finding God in Unexpected Places. He has sold more than eight million copies worldwide. idea: What is your earliest memory of reading the Bible? My earliest memory is when I memorised a number of verses so I could go free to camp. I remember I was so small my mother picked me up and stood me on a counter and I recited my verses and that way I got to go to camp free. How do you stay fresh in your reading of the Bible? Unlike some people, I don’t go for the newest paraphrase or the newest translation. I tend to stick with one that seems accurate and that I trust. I don’t really follow a structured programme of going through the Bible in a year, or two years, or whatever. I intersperse the gospels, the letters and the Old Testament. I think that evangelicals in general tend to focus too much on the epistles. They’re great, they’re rich - but as a writer I appreciate the fact that only about 10 per cent of the Bible is written in that orderly, organised, left-brained fashion. The rest of it includes poetry, and history, and song, and prayers, and I like jumping around. I also think it’s important for us to keep going back to the life of Jesus because He stands up to scrutiny. With Jesus, you always walk away scratching your head, saying: “Let’s see, what does that parable really mean?” And I think that’s an important part of who we are as Christians, to keep asking those questions. How does the Bible influence your writing? I had an enormous privilege fairly early in

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Wisdom of the Ages: Ancient Paths of Prayer for today 5 March, St Pauls Onslow Square, London Join Graham Tomlin, Pete Greig and Roy Searle for an exploration of some of the ancient paths of prayer and liturgy. The event will explore new monasticism as a way of bringing this tradition to the today’s world. This is a day to deepen your prayer life and inspire fresh vision. sptc.htb.org.uk

Everything Conference 26 March, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London

“[It’s] an important part of who we are as Christians, to keep asking those questions.” my career because I was paid for three years to study the Bible. We did an edition of the NIV Bible in the US called The Student Bible. And so for three years I went through it meticulously point by point and tried to come up with bridges, especially for young people – people who needed a bridge to get into the Bible, they just couldn’t understand it on their own. Not a study Bible for scholars, but an introductory study Bible for somebody who’s never had a study Bible. And that really formed the platform out of which much of my writing grew. Can you share one of your most memorable writing experiences? One of the things that most influenced me was an experience I had where I was going to write a book, so a friend a let me use a place in Colorado (beautiful state) for two weeks. I took a whole suitcase full of books. But a blizzard came and I was snowed in. I couldn’t go out for food, I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t go skiing, as much as I was tempted. As it turned out, during those two weeks, I didn’t read any of the other books – I only read the Bible. And in two weeks I went all the way through it. Out of that experience came a book I wrote called Disappointment with God. It gave me the big picture, it gave me the broad sweep of the

Join Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, as he stirs up a call for Christians to be involved in shaping culture. He will lead teaching sessions, complementing a varied and dynamic programme of interviews, short film, worship and networking. everythingconference.org

New Word Alive 10-15 April, Haven Holiday Site, North Wales New Word Alive is a Bible holiday week based in North Wales for all Christians. Uniting around the central truths of the Gospel we join together for a week of great Bible teaching, fellowship and worship. newwordalive.org

Spring Harvest 9-24 April, Minehead; 9-14 April, Skegness Spring Harvest exists to “equip the Church for action”. Through a range of events, conferences, books and resources, Spring Harvest seeks to enable Christians to impact their local communities and the wider world. springharvest.org

Internet Evangelism Day 15 May Internet Evangelism Day encourages churches, Bible colleges, mission agencies and other Christian organisations to consider ways to focus on digital evangelism, either on IE Day Sunday, or throughout the month of May. internetevangelismday.com

National Family Week 30 May – 5 June National Family Week is the biggest annual celebration of families and family life in the UK. The week creates a wealth of opportunity for families to spend time together and works with brand partners and a network of not-for-profit organisations to provide fun activities and useful resources that actively combat the biggest barriers to positive family life. nationalfamilyweek.co.uk

Bible like nothing else. The two-week period of immersion was very important. In a sense I got the plot of the Bible all at once. I got the big story, the ‘meta-narrative’ as the scholars would say. That experience stands out deeply and I think that’s affected my writing ever since. biblefresh.com Visit eauk.org/slipstream to watch a video interview with the author. AM


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11,000 promises taken to Parliament Thousands of pledges made by Christians across the country were handed to MPs in Parliament in January. More than 11,000 individual written pledges were made to help halve extreme poverty as part of the What’s Your Promise? campaign. The campaign, run by Micah Challenge – a coalition of churches and Christian organisations united in an aim to fight global poverty – called on Christians to give their promises on 10 October last year – “10.10.10”. On this date, an estimated 60 million Christians around the world stood together in prayer to remember the poor. The promises were handed over to MPs on 25 January at the House of Commons to mark the year-long campaign that seeks to remind countries of their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In 2000 the UK signed up to the MDGs and, in doing so, joined 188 other nations in promising to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Micah Challenge encourages Christians around the world to hold their

Micah Challenge supporters celebrate after the event.

leaders accountable to these goals. The focus during the What’s Your Promise? campaign was on personal promises to act on poverty, including pledges to lobby Parliament, buy Fair Trade products or give more to charity. “The fact that 60 million Christians made promises shows that the global Church is one of the most powerful and readied agents for change on poverty the world has ever seen,” said Joel Edwards, international director of Micah Challenge. Among the MPs who received the promises during the campaign was Andrew George, representing St Ives, who said: “These promises have given me a clearer picture of the work that needs to

be done if the Government is to meet the MDGs in the next four years.” Undersecretary of State for International Development Stephen O’Brien, who received the promises on behalf of the Government, added: “It’s heartening to see the Church working with MPs to see the Millennium Development Goals met by 2015.” David Butler of Micah Challenge UK said: “The grandeur of Committee Room 8 in the Palace of Westminster may feel like an odd place to combat poverty, but armed with the knowledge of changed lives, Micah’s timeless challenge and the concern of the worldwide Church, we fought for justice there.”

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news Grant watches his mother Lucy prepare food to sell

Compassion for Mothers this Mothers Day Compassion, an international Christian child development charity, wants to empower mothers around the world on Mothers Day (3 April) by teaming up with churches across the country. According to Compassion, women in particular account for more than 70 per cent of people living in extreme poverty despite making up under half of the world’s population. Women also work two thirds of the world’s working hours, but only earn one tenth of the world’s income, according to the charity. Compassion believes there is a strong need to support so many mothers and aid them in taking control of their lives,

as well as their children’s future. Through its Child Survival and Child Sponsorship Programme, Compassion hopes to make empowered mothers - especially in the developing world - a reality. The programme has already assisted mothers in Ghana such as Lucy, a mother of six who struggled to make ends meet after the death of her husband. With the help of Compassion and her local church, she was able to make a living by starting a small business and has been given back her freedom and independence. Compassion has resources available for churches, small groups and individuals this Mothers Day. compassionuk.org AI

media matters

by Lizzy Millar, press officer

M

y boss has likened my move from newspaper journalist to Advocacy Press Officer as “poacher turned game keeper”. Instead of pheasants and partridges, the ‘game’ here counts as my God-fearing colleagues and the Alliance’s member organisations who have had various experiences with Poacher Press over the years. The common perception is that journalists are blood-thirsty hounds out to tear you apart. It’s assumed they have no sympathy for Christians and only care about sensational headlines. While that may be true in part, as long as you have nothing to hide and have a point to make that you can back up with stats or compelling case studies, then you have a right to be heard.

In brief...

EASTER TWEETS Blogging bishops will encourage people to pray this Easter as part of a social media campaign being launched by Christian Aid. Count Your Blessings will be launched on Twitter on 9 March. It will encourage people to use the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter to pray, act and give. Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, said: “We should all Count Our Blessings for what God has given us and I hope that everyone will consider taking action to help those in need this Easter, no matter where they live.” christianaid.org.uk/lent

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Practical guide for churches Distinctives, a handbook aimed primarily at churches that employ a number of staff members, as well as small to medium-sized Christian organisations, has been re-launched. This guide helps Christian organisations through practical issues arising in people management and provides advice on new legislation from a biblical perspective. Launched by Christian Distinctives (CD), part of a community of like-minded people passionate to see excellence within Christian organisations, the updated handbook includes advice on the Equality Act 2010. CD, in collaboration with the Evangelical Alliance, carried out a significant amount of work on this Act to help ensure it was fair to Christian organisations. The cost of the downloadable PDF is just £15. christiandistinctives.org

Take for example my colleague Dr Don Horrocks’ response to the Bulls v Stonewall case in which Christian B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull were fined for refusing a double room to a gay couple. He criticises the tax-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission for supporting the case and questions why the rights of one couple should overrule the rights of another. His comments featured in Andrew Brown’s blog on The Guardian website, the BBC News Magazine as well as Edge, a self-described NYC-based portal of gay, bisexual and transgender news. Similarly Steve Clifford’s efforts to dissuade controversial US Pastor Terry Jones from visiting Britain were later included in his letter in The Daily Telegraph. Meanwhile, as Britain continues to work out its national identity in the year we celebrate the Bible , an increased number of media requests are coming in for people of faith to have their say. Yes, God is back on the news agenda. PR is not rocket science. It’s just a case of having something worthwhile to say, to the right audience, at the right moment.

CLIMATE WEEK Christians wanting to do their bit for the environment are encouraged to get behind Climate Week taking place from 21 to 27 March. The national awarenessraising event shines a spotlight on the many positive steps already being taken in workplaces and communities across Britain to tackle climate change. The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and A Rocha are among the Christian organisations pledging support. climateweek.com

KJB FILM Lord of the Rings actor John Rhys-Davies stars in a new film which tells the story of the King James Bible. The Book That Changed the World is directed by Bafta and Emmy-award winner Norman Stone. The story tells how the Scottish King James VI held sway to produce the translation. It has been created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the book being celebrated this year. kjbthefilm.com


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Christianity Explored to relaunch both sides of the Atlantic Christianity Explored – a popular course for people wanting to discover the real Jesus – is being relaunched in May. Taken entirely from Mark’s gospel, the course explores who Jesus was, what He achieved and what it means to follow Him today. Each session is based around a Bible study and a short talk or DVD followed by questions. It celebrates its tenth year this May with a new-look feel, which includes the course being shortened from 10 sessions to seven. Since it began, it has expanded so much that more than 5,000 courses a year are now taking place in 54 countries around the world and in settings as diverse as church youth groups and prisons. The course has proved extremely popular both in the UK and the US, where sales increased 50 per cent last year. To celebrate its success at both sides of the Atlantic, the new course will be launched simultaneously in the UK and in the US. Training director Craig Dyer will speak at the National Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) at Sandown Park on 10 May, while course author and evangelist Rico Tice will launch it on the same day at Alistair Begg’s Basics preaching conference in Cleveland, Ohio. christianityexplored.org

18-30s: Missing generation The Alliance’s Alistair Stevenson reports on reaching the missing generation. Among the 18-30s, just three per cent of the UK population attend church, less than half the UK average of seven per cent. From 1985 to 2005, the number attending church from this age group dropped by Mike Pilavachi around 62 per cent. In September 2009, the Evangelical Alliance Council gathered to respond to these worrying statistics and ask why there is a ‘missing generation’ of young adults in our churches. In the autumn of 2010 the Alliance, alongside our Local Evangelical Fellowships (LEFs), hosted events in Brighton, Liverpool and Bristol and more events are planned. What unified each gathering was a common desire to respond to the ‘missing generation’ in our churches by hearing and learning from others, and hearing from God. Leaders had the opportunity to hear from practitioners working on a national level, including Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi, Gavin Calver, national director of Youth For Christ, and Evangelical Alliance directors Steve Clifford and Krish Kandiah. The conversations from each gathering are being fed directly into a long-term strategy which is currently being developed by the Evangelical Alliance. WISE WOMEN Christian women from the black community who have made an impact will be awarded during an event taking place in London in April. The Wise Women Awards promise to provide a platform where some of the major achievements of black Christian women in Britain will be highlighted. The awards – now in their seventh year - have been organised by Wisdom for Women International and Keep The Faith magazine. The prize winners will have been nominated by members of the community in categories including business, missions, media, Christian leadership and music. wisewomenawards.org  For updated news from Alliance members, click on Your Stories at eauk.org/idea

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Families need supporting. Leaving a legacy is the perfect way to do that.

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Jenny’s dad died when she was very young, leaving her mother Anne to raise two girls alone. “Mum held it together and made hard decisions.” Jenny says, fondly holding her mother’s home-made sewing bag. “If she had known about Care for the Family when we were bereaved, things would have been different.” Jenny has another reason to be proud of her mum _ Anne has left a legacy to Care for the Family in her will. “All she’s ever wanted is to keep the family together,” says Jenny. “Leaving a legacy is such an important thing.” If that’s the kind of giving you could be proud of, visit www.christianlegacy.org.uk

Jenny Steele

Christian Legacy Christian Legacy members are:

Bible Society O Care for the Family O CMS The Leprosy Mission O Livability O Tearfund


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To the polls: Electoral reform In May we once again get to vote, and depending how we vote, it might change the way we vote, writes Daniel Webster...

T

his is not a normal election; we are not choosing who we want to represent us in Parliament, or on our local council. Instead, this vote is about whether we change the voting system. It’s an opportunity for every voter in the country to have their direct say on a specific issue: the way that elections take place. Only once before has a referendum taken place across the whole UK - in 1975 when Britain voted to remain in the European Economic Community, while in Scotland and Wales more recent votes paved the way for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Voting system reform was a key topic discussed during the formation of the coalition Government. The Conservative offer to the Liberal Democrats of a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote (AV) system was a crucial step in cementing the deal, and a vote will now take place on 5 May. At the moment, under the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system, when you vote for an MP you choose the candidate you want to be elected and whoever gets the most votes wins. The referendum will ask whether you want to change from this system to AV. Instead of choosing one candidate, the voter can rank as many candidates as they want in order of preference. When it comes to the count, the first choices are all added up and if one candidate has more than 50 per cent, then they have won. If not, then the bottom-ranked candidate is eliminated and the second preferences of their supporters are reallocated among the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate has at least 50 per cent of the vote. It matters how our country is run, and it makes a difference who runs it. Christians will no doubt disagree about who that should be and what they should do, but that must not stop us from bringing our beliefs into the heart of the political process. This referendum should be no different, and as with many political issues there will be a range of opinions, from passionate advocates for change, to those who see

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nothing wrong with the current system. It is essential that Christians engage in the political process, and this referendum provides the opportunity to discuss, debate, disagree, and then vote on how we will vote in the future. Here, two Christian MPs on opposite sides of the fence share their views:

YES AV system means every vote counts, says Tim Farron, MP for Westmoreland and Lonsdale Making our voting system fairer ought to be something all fair-minded people can support. We currently have an electoral system that is medieval. It allows the majority of MPs to win their seats despite the fact that most of their constituents voted against them. It also means that a party can win a majority of seats in Parliament and have total control of the government despite getting only a third of the votes. Both of these things are unjust and wrong. Having an unjust system means that most people know their votes simply don’t count. That’s why so many people, especially younger folk just don’t vote at all – they don’t see the point. Having an unjust system means governments do extreme things against the will of the majority. That’s why Tony Blair was able to take us to war in Iraq and why Margaret Thatcher was able to sell off our gas, water and electricity – despite overwhelming public opposition. Having an unjust system has meant that many MPs become complacent and, sadly, some have been corrupt. Without doubt the culture of corruption within the MPs’ expenses scheme was created by the fact that two-thirds of them are ‘safe’. So many become arrogant, taking their voters for granted. The arguments used against voting ‘yes’ to a just and fairer system

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centre largely on the line that they would create hung parliaments and lead to coalition government – and that would lead to chaos and unspeakable disarray. Well, we have a hung parliament and a coalition government now – and whatever you think of its policies, it’s clearly stable and delivering good government. It’s the first peacetime government since the early 1930s to command the support of the majority of British people. This form of government has forced politicians who disagree with each other to compromise, to behave in a grown-up and decent manner to one another. It has stopped much of the childish Punch and Judy behaviour that has dogged our politics. Fairer votes will be a simple step. AV is currently used by Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties when electing their party leaders, as well as the London Mayoral elections. AV means if your favourite candidate doesn’t win, your second preference candidate would then get your support meaning that your vote isn’t wasted. Every vote will count and the overall balance of the House of Commons will better reflect the actual will of the British people.

iStock

NO AV will lead to more hung parliaments, says Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South All electoral systems are rubbish. As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the alternatives. First-past-the-post (FPTP) is a rubbish electoral system, but it’s better than all the alternatives, including the one that will be on offer on 5 May: the Alternative Vote (AV). Both government parties have historically opposed AV; Nick Clegg, as recently as April 2010, dismissed AV as a “miserable little compromise – and he was right. Is it really wise for such a profound change to our constitution to be implemented simply for the convenience of a coalition agreement? And most of those in the “Yes” campaign have similarly opposed AV, but they now see it as a stepping stone towards far more radical reform – full-blown proportional representation (PR). I doubt if the prospect of spending yet another £100 million on a second referendum further down the line would endear the notion to voters who are already unconvinced by the case for spending that amount on May’s referendum in the first place. So the “Yes” campaign will keep quiet about its longer term ambitions, pretending instead that AV will represent a massive improvement to the current system. But it won’t. Its supporters claim it will mean an end to tactical voting; in fact the reverse is the case. We will all be encouraged to vote tactically with our second, third or even fourth preference votes. And in most constituencies, if you’re a Labour or Tory voter, the second preferences of Green, UKIP or BNP supporters will count for more than yours and they – not you – will be courted appropriately. As for the notion that MPs would be elected with 50 per cent of their constituents’ votes, this is nonsense. Second, third and fourth preferences cannot and would not have the same value as first preferences. Neither will AV get rid of so-called “safe seats”; MPs consistently elected on more than 50 per cent of the vote under the existing system would continue to be so elected under AV on the first ballot. AV simply means that the least unpopular candidate is elected. And because centre parties are more likely to receive Labour and Conservative voters’ second preferences, AV will lead to more hung parliaments – and therefore more coalitions. So if you believe that parties’ manifestos should be bargained away behind closed doors after the voters have had their say, then maybe AV is for you after all.

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My brother has gone, but his legacy gifts are still helping people.

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“These wooden animals remind me of my time in Kenya with my brother Geoffrey,” says Bryan. “He lived frugally all his life, but he was always generous.” As Tearfund supports vital health, relief and education projects in Kenya, Bryan was delighted that Geoffrey left a legacy gift to Tearfund in his will. “It gives me a sense of connection with him,” Bryan says. And because Geoffrey gave a gift through his will, Bryan feels that his brother’s work of blessing others can continue. Find out how legacy gifts bless beyond a lifetime. Visit www.christianlegacy.org.uk

Bryan Platt

Christian Legacy Christian Legacy members are:

Bible Society O Care for the Family O CMS The Leprosy Mission O Livability O Tearfund


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how-to

Be a Voice in Parliament God is up to something in Westminster’s corridors of power. That’s according to Gary Streeter MP who says that more than ever believers have a duty to be salt and light in society, both within Parliament and in public life as a whole...

G

ary, who is chairman of Christians in Parliament, swapped the legal profession for politics 25 years ago after hearing a clear call from God, six years after becoming a Christian. On returning home from a day of prayer in early December 1985, he told his wife Jan: “I think God is calling us into politics.” This was not an obvious career path for Gary, who knew nothing about politics at the time. “It was a complete journey into the unknown and quite scary for the family. Jan was fantastically supportive because it's not what either of us wanted or would have chosen.” He joined the Social Democratic Party and was elected to Plymouth City Council in 1986. Upon realising he was a “natural Tory”, he joined the party and in 1992 was elected MP for Plymouth Sutton. Since then he has held a variety of prominent posts including Shadow Secretary of State for International Development and Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party. Last year, he was re-elected MP for South West Devon with a majority of 15,874 and appointed chairman of All Party Parliamentary Group Christians in Parliament. But should Christians be in Parliament? When former Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked about his faith during an interview with Vanity Fair in 2003, his spin doctor Alistair Campbell stopped the line of questioning, with the now famous words: “We don't do God.” Gary feels the view has changed in recent years and that God very much does do politics. “I won't pretend there aren't particular tensions and pressures,” he says. “But I feel very strongly now that God wants us to be involved in every sector of society as salt and light, including politics.”

Cross-party Christianity Last year's intake of Conservatives turned up a significant number of Christians, but Gary stresses God is not a member of one particular party. He says: “My approach is completely cross-party.

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Gary Streeter MP

I encourage young people who come to me wanting to get into politics to join the party that most suits their outlook on life. “I think God is up to something. The Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) has been focussing more strategically on encouraging centre-right minded Christians into the public arena. We're beginning to see some of the fruits of that and there are also new and wonderful Christians in the Labour Party and the Lib Dems. We celebrate all of that and are working together very carefully and closely.” As excited as Gary is to see the Christian contingent in Westminster increasing, he believes it is up to all Christians to engage with politics to influence society. “Jesus distilled the whole gospel as loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbour as ourselves,” says Gary. “One of the ways to love our neighbour is to make sure we live in a country where people are looked after and valued and cared for both at local level and at national level. “There are lots of ways we can do that. We can knock on our neighbour's door to make sure they're ok; or we can get ourselves elected to Parliament and make sure that the laws in relation to cold weather payments, safer roads, child protection or whatever it might be, are written in accordance with the principles we distil from the Bible.”

Participation or protest? Gary feels there are right and wrong methods of engaging in politics, however. For him, it's about surgery visits in local constituencies, not mass-mailings cluttering email inboxes. It's about building relationship, not carrying out unnecessary and unhelpful protests. He says: “We respect protest but in terms of changing our minds and impacting policy-making, I'm afraid it's a relatively minor part of our democratic processes. A lot of protest is ill-informed. There are often demonstrations in Parliament Square, but - perhaps simply as an accident of architecture we are not really even aware they are going on.” Gary adds: “Mass-mailings are also ineffective. Our lines


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Alves Gaspar

My friend didn’t want to be remembered. She just wanted the work to carry on.

Sally Shand’s life-long friend Pat Nickson was a remarkable lady. “CMS was her life,” Sally says, holding the manuscript of Pat’s biography. “She dedicated herself to education and health training all across Africa, especially in Congo.” Though Pat has passed away, her support for CMS lives on through her will. Her legacy gift to CMS will ensure that people in Africa’s poorest places continue to be served. Knowing that Pat’s work is carrying on has inspired Sally to settle her own arrangements. “A will carries on what you did in life” Sally says.

Christians must engage with society to change the world, says Gary Streeter MP

If you have a passion to build a better future, discover what can be achieved at

www.christianlegacy.org.uk are now being submerged by emails generated by a third party group. These just do not change our behaviour or our thoughts at all,” he says. “Individually written letters or visits to the constituency surgery are so much more powerful.” He added: “I'm embarrassed by some of the attitudes expressed in emails, letters and phone calls I've received over the years from Christians which really portray hatred and bigotry. You have to look at the attitudes expressed sometimes and say these are ungodly attitudes. They are also often ignorant and sometimes very scathing. However, this has improved in recent years.” The time has never been better for Christians to influence policy. The focus on the Big Society agenda is rendering the coalition government more open to listening to faith communities. “If organisations actually want to impact policy then they should follow the example of groups like the Evangelical Alliance or Care who are very skilful at developing relationships with MPs from all parties so we can work together and try to change laws. “The old way is shouting from the sidelines. It doesn't work. The new way is about working together in relationship, influencing government behind the scenes through conversations with ministers and senior civil servants. That's already much more effective but will be even more effective looking ahead.” CM  What’s the best way to engage in politics? Visit eauk.org/idea to have your say on this article.

Sally Shand

Christian Legacy Christian Legacy members are:

Bible Society O Care for the Family O CMS The Leprosy Mission O Livability O Tearfund


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essay

Exploring the role of women in the resurrection story As we prepare for Easter, Ruth Valerio reflects on the role women played in the resurrection story.

L

ast night I sat next to my youngest daughter for a while and watched her as she slept. I looked at her face and pictured that face as a little baby, remembering what she looked like sleeping in her cot. I tried imagining her as a grown up woman, picturing in my mind what her face would look like as she grew up and matured. And then, with this article in my mind, I started thinking about what it would be like for her to be killed at the age of 33, younger than I am now. I am sure I am not alone in looking at my child and asking God, please, to keep her safe and not take her away from me at an early age. Could I bear it? I can scarcely imagine the awful grief I would feel and am only too aware that some of you reading this will have experienced this yourselves. Throughout the crucifixion scenes Mary is there, watching and following. We know that she is someone who thought and felt deeply. At the birth of her gorgeous little baby boy she sat in the middle of all the strange goings on, storing everything up in her heart; treasuring them and pondering on them (Luke 2:19). And now here she is, at the other end of her boy’s life, watching Him being humiliated and mutilated. Did she look at His face on the cross and picture Him as a baby, lying in that dirty manger? Did she remember the times He’d fallen over and cut His knee and she had picked Him up and comforted Him? Having, presumably, suffered the grief of losing her husband, what pain was in her heart now? At least she is not on her own. As has been the experience of women through the ages, in her moment of deepest need she is surrounded by her girlfriends.

Courageous love But Mary is not the only woman in the Easter story. In fact the entire narrative starts with a woman who begins the preparation for burial of Jesus’ body that the other women are never able to finish (Matthew 26: 6 – 13/Mark 14: 3 – 9/John 12:1 – 9). This woman comes to Jesus as He is eating at ‘Simon the Leper’s’ house in Bethany and pours expensive perfume over His head. She must have had nerves of steel to walk into such a predominantly male environment and do something so outrageous. Do we love Jesus like this woman did? I wonder if I would have the courage today to show my love for Jesus in a way that attracted that amount of ridicule. Despite Jesus’ words to His disciples that the thing she had done was so beautiful that, “wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13/Mark 14:9), we do not even know her name. Indeed this story became one of the foundational narratives for feminist theology,

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Women and men equally need God’s grace and His saving power. highlighting the way so much of the Bible is written from a male perspective. When I agreed to write this article, I secretly hoped (with a little twinkle in my eye) I would be able to show how the women got it right when the men got it wrong. After all, didn’t the women from Galilee watch and follow Jesus while the disciples (in particular that great hero Peter beloved of preachers) ran away in fear? And was it not Pilate who finally handed Jesus over to be crucified when his wife tried to persuade him not to? When I looked a bit deeper though I realised, of course, that things are not so simple. The crowds who turned on Jesus and called for Barabbas to be released were no doubt made up of women as well as men. And even the women only watched and followed ‘at a distance’ (Luke 23:49) and were presumably too scared to come any closer. When we do see them nearer the cross, we realise the men (or at least a man) are with them too (John 19:25 – 27). And then surely ‘the beloved disciple’ does an act as beautiful as our nameless woman does when he takes Mary into his house and looks after her?

Universal grace No, when it comes to our sinfulness and to our feeble attempts to follow Jesus whatever the cost, women and men equally need God’s grace and His saving power. It is often highlighted that it was to the women Jesus first appeared in His resurrection body and that they were the first to testify about this incredible occurrence when a woman’s word was not considered reliable in a court of law. A good point, but to focus on that misses the heart of the resurrection story, and no-one expresses that heart better than GK Chesterton: “On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in the semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening, but the dawn.” (Quoted in Colin Gunton, Christ and Creation (Paternoster: London, 1992))  Ruth Valerio co-ordinates A Rocha's Living Lightly project and is part of the leadership of Spring Harvest. She is a doctoral candidate at King’s College London.


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Empower Mums living in poverty this Mother’s Day 1 MOTHER’S DAY 201

the magine waking your child in re’s the her g morning and tellin ne nothing to eat today. Imagi putting her to bed at night ngry. crying because she is so hu by This is the daily heartbreak felt re the mothers around the globe. But is something you can do.

I

struggles Will you help a mother who y by to raise her family in povert sponsoring her child today? can It’s amazing what 70p a day ure a achieve. Your support will ens cation, child in poverty receives edu and healthcare, food, clothing the the opportunity to hear about ist. Chr transforming love of giving Most importantly, you’ll be . ure fut a family hope for the

Registered Charity No. 1077216 Registered in England No. 03719092

To sponsor a child and change a life, call Compass ion on 01932 836490 or visit www.compassionuk.or g. Can you think of a more fitting way to honour mums this Mother’s Day?

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• If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit by Compassion UK or your bank or building society you are entitled to a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society. • If you receive a refund you are not entitled to, you must pay it back when Compassion UK asks you to. • You can cancel a Direct Debit at any time by simply contacting your bank or building society. Written confirmation may be required. Please also notify us.

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cover story

Christian leaders are more likely to have had an affair than members of their congregation, and many face struggles with online pornography which threaten to harm their marriages. Chine Mbubaegbu explores the implications of a shocking new survey‌

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W

e expect our leaders to be whiter than white, to exemplify purity by shunning the sexual temptations which pervade our society. We assume that they are able to do so because, if not, what hope is there for those of us in the pews? But a new survey suggests that church leaders could in fact be more vulnerable than the average churchgoer. Around one in 10 leaders has been unfaithful to their spouse, compared to three per cent of Christians in general. Meanwhile, half of leaders aged between 25 and 55 say they have deliberately accessed the internet to look at pornography. This is according to a survey carried out in 2010 by Marriage Week Northern Ireland, a group of organisations including the Evangelical Alliance in NI. More than 1,000 respondents from a variety of denominations, including 157 church leaders, responded to the survey – one of the largest pieces of research of its kind in the UK. Of particular concern was that female leaders were more likely to have admitted to an affair. Dave Percival, co-ordinator of Marriage Week UK and founder of 2-in2-1, said he was not surprised by the result. “Church leaders come under a huge amount of pressure and spiritual attack and we, the congregation, don’t help. We expect our leaders to be available 24/7 and we don’t encourage them to take time off to be with their families,” he says. “Yes, God has called them into ministry, but He’s also called them to be a husband or a wife, and marriage is a vocation too. Most people whose leadership has been through a marital break-up or affair say that it’s hugely disruptive for the whole congregation and can have a knockon negative effect on members.” According to Maggie Ellis, a Christian psychosexual therapist who says she gets many requests for support from believers facing these issues, leaders’ lifestyles and personalities may make them more vulnerable to being unfaithful. She says, “They often battle with loneliness created by the feeling that they can’t talk to anyone in the Christian community. They may have several really close friends but they feel they can’t talk to them because of the possible repercussions. “So they turn to someone else, very often someone who is outside the Church. That’s the appeal for them - it gives an escape from the pressure cooker of church life. Beyond that is the pressure of leadership itself: the pressure of always setting a good example and constantly being in the public eye. Affairs are ways for them to have ‘me-time’.”

Internet temptations While the survey showed infidelity was an issue, it also showed that addiction to pornography is not just a problem for the secular world,

In numbers… 11% -

Christian leaders who had been unfaithful to their spouses

50% -

Christian leaders aged 25-55 who had deliberately accessed online porn

65% -

Christian men under 35 who had deliberately accessed online porn

3–

average number of pre-marital sexual partners of those Christians who had been sexually active before marriage

95% 1,000 –

found a marriage course helpful respondents to the Marriage Week NI survey

Sex without intimacy becomes more and more addictive and less and less satisfying but for believers as well. On average 22 per cent of respondents said they had intentionally accessed the internet to look at porn. But when broken down, this rose to 65 per cent among men under the age of 35 and 50 per cent among male church leaders aged between 25 and 55. Around 12 per cent of women under the age of 35 admitted having done so. While the results showed women were less likely to access porn online, it suggested it was a growing problem, with younger women more likely to do so. “Porn is heavily used in our society,” says Maggie. “I don’t think Christians are much different to non-Christians in that respect. We are sexual beings the same as non-Christians and are under the same pressures at work, university, college or school. “It’s particularly an issue for men because it involves the kick of sex without the perceived complexities of relationship. It gives the chemical rush without having to think about the female partner needing TLC and sensitivity. “But all the studies show that sex without intimacy becomes more and more addictive and less and less satisfying. You need a higher and higher kick, which quickly becomes destructive. Complicate that with the fact that as Christians we feel more guilt than non-Christians. Laying on more guilt can push us into more addictive behaviour.” Maggie puts the addiction to pornography ultimately down to an ‘inner malaise’, a deep emptiness which people attempt to fill. “Some people fill that inner malaise with healthy things while others go after destructive things. While it’s good to take practical and helpful steps such as putting software on your computer to prevent you accessing certain sites or being accountable to people within your church, these things do not go to the root and can still leave room for the cycle of addiction to perpetuate. “The danger is when Christians try to bury and deny the inner malaise they carry. Denial leads to unhealthy ways of trying to soothe the inner drives. What we need to do is create communities full of grace and acceptance where we can get into the light our struggles, rather than pretending.”

Place of grace God loves marriage and He calls husbands to love their wives in the same way as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25). When marriages break down, or couples suffer pain and heartache, it is the whole

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Marriage is part of God’s plan community that suffers. Dave Percival, who leads Marriage Week UK which has been running since 1997, says good marriages are symbols of God’s unconditional love for us. The mainland initiative is run by organisations including Care for the Family, Premier Christian Radio, Mothers’ Union, 2-in-2-1 and The Marriage Course at Holy Trinity Brompton. It celebrates the diversity and vibrancy of marriage as the basis for family life in the UK and took place over Valentine’s Day week. “Marriage is part of God’s plan and God doesn’t do anything without cause. One of the reasons He created marriage is to reveal something of His nature. He’s a God who makes promises and then keeps them. We as human beings can do the same.” Churches must do more to support, encourage and equip married couples to exemplify the love of God through their own relationships. The survey showed that while marriage preparation courses are run in 70 per cent of churches, just 30 per cent offer marriage enrichment courses or events. Reasons cited by leaders for not running such courses included being too busy, never having heard of such courses and not having enough volunteers to lead or help run them. “Churches seem to have a fear of actually saying something positive about marriage for fear of disenfranchising the unmarried and I think that’s sad,” Dave says. “We would encourage leaders to start to build a culture where doing something positive for your marriage is desirable. It’s like going to the gym; instead of waiting till you’re ill and then going to the doctor. It builds a healthy culture around the issue.” Maggie agrees, encouraging churches to be places “full of grace and reality about what it is to be human”. She also says Christian couples are often inclined to suffer a “poverty of romance” in their relationships as they often feel it is “wasteful” to spoil each other by buying gifts or spending money on having quality time together. The HTB Marriage Course has become renowned for supporting, nurturing and sometimes saving marriages. The seven-session course is for any couple that wants to invest in their relationship – whether it is already strong or whether their marriage is on the rocks. “These types of courses can cover issues such as love languages, forgiveness, conflict and how we experience love in a deep relationship,” Dave says. “Ultimately, as married people we need to think about why God has put us together and what the greater purpose is. We are called to be a sign of God’s love in the world. How do we do this with the strangers we meet and the way in which we conduct our relationships?” Lindsey Holley, the Alliance’s public policy officer in NI and chair of the Marriage Week NI committee, says: ”The Marriage Week NI survey highlights a number of serious issues, but we were encouraged to also

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see how churches were beginning to respond in very practical ways. “We have already started taking the results of the survey back to the churches, denominations and training colleges, so that together we can work towards a wider response. With the wealth of resources now out there, churches are ideally placed to help encourage and equip marriages in their congregations and local communities but we need to also make sure that support for church leaders is not overlooked.”  Visit nationalmarriageweekni.co.uk to view the full survey results  Visit www.eauk.org/idea to see Christian psychosexual therapist Maggie Ellis’s view on why female leaders are more likely to have affairs

Breaking free Sources of help for those struggling and churches that want to take action. The Marriage Course relationshipcentral.org CARE care.org.uk/anon Care For the Family careforthefamily.org.uk Marriage Week UK marriage-week.org.uk Marriage Week NI nationalmarriageweekni.co.uk 2-in-2-1 – supporting marriages 2-in-2-1.co.uk Association of Christian Counsellors acc-uk.org Visit your GP to ask for a referral to see a psychosexual therapist. If one isn’t provided in your area, visit The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists cosrt.org.uk


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feature

Biblefresh/Clare Kendall

Suddenly God is speaking to people in their own language…

Hazel Southam reports on an initiative to make the Bible more accessible to Christians in Burkina Faso...

T

his is the tale of two congregations. The first, in the village of Niaogho in the rural heartland of Burkina Faso, is celebrating its Sunday service. People arrive carrying copies of the New Testament, and follow along when the scriptures are read. An hour’s drive away, in Garango, the scene is very different. The church is full, and for an hour before the service, three Bible studies were held. But none of them used a Bible in the local language of Bissa Birka, because no such Bible exists. Yet, thanks to an initiative from Biblefresh – a group of 100 Christian organisations here in the UK – this situation may soon change. As part of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible this year [2011], Christians across the UK are being encouraged to get back into the Bible. But there’s more to it than that. Under the scheme, launched in January, there’s also the chance to help bring the Bible to Burkina Faso, in West Africa. Why? According to the United Nations, Burkina Faso is the world’s third poorest nation. But it is also Bible poor. Out of the astonishing 66 languages spoken in Burkina Faso, just seven have even a New Testament. The rest have nothing. In a largely Muslim

and animist nation, this has made spreading the gospel difficult. So how can this situation change? Alliance members Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society are working with local people to translate the New Testament into the Bissa Barka language and the Old Testament into the neighbouring Bissa Lebir language that already has a New Testament. This will ultimately bring the life-changing message of God’s love to more than 580,000 people. It’s a life’s work. In the village of Niaogho, local people worked for 36 years to help make the translation a reality. For 26 years, one man taught local people to read and write, so that when the translation was complete, they’d actually be able to read it. Josias Amidou Djenie, 44, was one of the main translators of the Bissa Lebir New Testament. His family’s home is in the shadow of the local mosque, and only two per cent of the local population is Christian. ”It’s been my life’s work, a really big achievement,” he says. “I was born into a Muslim family, but after I became a Christian at the age of 16, I had a vision for the Bible for the Bissa people. “Now I feel as if my vision is being fulfilled, but we still have more to do. “I wanted my people to know about Jesus in their own language. And it’s making a difference. After the New Testament was launched, churches began to preach, study and sing in the Bissa Lebir language. This is making a revival in the Bissa Lebir people.” In the nine years since the Bissa Lebir New Testament was launched, the number of churches in the region has grown by 50 per cent. Josias is clear as to why this is. “Suddenly, God is speaking to people in their own language,” he says. Sixty-two-year-old Philomene Ouedraogo Compaore is one of the

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feature villagers whose lives have been changed by Josias’s hard work. She’s a subsistence farmer in Niaogho. She’s been taught to read and write, and now has her own copy of the New Testament. It has, she says, been a revelation. ”What I’ve learned from the Bible has been incredible,” she says, as we sit watching goats graze under the trees. “There’s everything in the Bible concerning taking care of others and even about your own thoughts. The Bible is concerned with every aspect of life. “If you haven’t got a Bible, you don’t know what’s wrong and what’s not. You just live in darkness. Without the Bible, life is dark. “Before, there were things in my life that I shouldn’t have been doing, but I didn’t know that they were wrong. But the Bible has shown me the right way to go. It’s changed my life,” she says smiling. “It’s made me really happy.”

“Without the Bible, life is dark.” Back in the village of Garango, they long to have the New Testament as their neighbours in Niaogho do. At the Assemblies of God church in the village centre, they’re already building for the growth that they expect to happen when their New Testament arrives. And the translation hasn’t even begun. Nonetheless, the villagers of Garango have laid the foundations to the extension of their church, expecting people to come to faith. “People will be very happy to have the Bible written in their language,” says Pastor Matio Tindano, 52. “So there will be more interest in Christianity. Understanding will grow, so churches will grow.” Yabre Damata, 43, is a mother of six and a market trader, selling herbs and spices in a back alley of Garango. She’s been a Christian for nearly 20 years, but never been able to read the Bible in her own language. ”I read the New Testament in the Bissa Lebir translation,” she says, “but I can’t understand everything. It will be much easier to read a Bissa Barka Bible. I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait.” But she and Matio will have to wait. A translation of the New Testament takes many years to complete, and if local people like Yabre are to be taught to read first, it will take longer.” But time isn’t the crucial thing, says the head of the Bible Society in Burkina Faso, Pastor Dramane Yankine, himself a Bissa Barka speaker. What’s vital is bringing the gospel to people in a language that they can understand.


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“My family background is animist, but my mother was converted when I was 11 years old,� he says. “Since this time, I used to go to church with my mother but she didn’t know how to read. “The church that we attended was in French. She always asked me, ’What did the pastor say?’ as she couldn’t speak French. So from the age of 11 I translated for her. “At night, before she said her prayers, she would ask me to read her some verses from our French Bible and translate them and then she would pray about them in Bissa Barka. �When I remember this, I think that if she knew how to read it would have been much better. Many of the citizens in this country are in her position. So you can see it is very important to give them an opportunity to be in touch with the Bible in their language.

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“We are fighting to give a big place to the language in the church so that the Bissa speakers may be converted. When the Bible comes to a place it is like turning a light on in a dark place.�

How you can help ÂŁ30

could translate a short passage, such as the parable of the sower

ÂŁ70 ÂŁ200

could pay for an account of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 could see the creation account of Genesis re-told

 For further details of how you can get involved, visit biblefresh.com


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Sharing our faith, but not our freedoms As the Alliance partners with Open Doors on its World Watch List, we look at life for believers facing persecution around the world...

O

n 31 October, three-year-old Adam left home with his parents to attend Our Lady of Salvation Church in central Baghdad, as usual. But they were never to return, as the place of worship – a refuge for members of the congregation – became a place of massacre. Al-qaeda gunmen stormed the church, with explosives strapped to their chests. Following a stand-off and a siege in which Iraqi security services attempted to free the 100 hostages within the church, Adam watched his parents murdered before himself being killed. The family was among the 58 Christians slaughtered that day. The massacre was seen as one of the worst attacks on Christian Iraqis in recent years, but was symbolic of an atmosphere of increasing hostility towards believers over the past 20 years. There are now fewer than 350,000 Christians in Iraq – just a third of the number that were living there at the start of the first Gulf War in 1991. The exodus is down to the rise in organised violence by an

extremist militia, particularly in the capital Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. In total, some 90 Christians were martyred in Iraq in 2010. It’s this rise in acts of violence and a sense that extremists are trying to rid Iraq of Christians that has led to the country jumping nine places to number eight in Open Doors’ World Watch List. The Evangelical Alliance has this year partnered with Open Doors, promoting the List and the organisation’s Handbook of Prayer which is included in this issue. The World Watch List tracks the shifting conditions under which Christians live in societies around the world that are hostile to the faith.

Perilous situations This year it shows that in many Islamic countries persecution is increasing. Islam is the dominant religion in eight of the top 10 countries listed. Iran’s growing house church movement is coming

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24 • idea mar/apr 2011

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feature


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increasingly under threat, while Christians in Afghanistan may only worship in secret; and in Saudi Arabia, converting to Christianity is illegal. North Korea is however unrivalled, taking top spot as the country in which Christians undergo the most persecution. Believers risk being killed if they are found in possession of Christian materials. In May last year, a group of 23 Christians were discovered. Three of them were then publicly executed, while the others disappeared within the infamous Yodok Prison camp. “The fact that in the previous year more than 2,200 Christians were killed on account of their faith and millions more are routinely persecuted in defiance of international law, should stop us in our tracks,” says Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK. It’s the rapid deterioration of religious freedom and the violent manner of threats on Christians within Iraq that has this year been of deep concern to Open Doors. Here, in this country of violence and conflict, believers fear for their lives on a daily basis and many are opting to flee the country.

Steadfast faith But it’s the steadfast faith of the believers themselves which provides encouragement. One eight-year-old Christian girl told the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) when praying in the New Year: “I lift 2011 to the Lord. I pray that people will not kill us. I hope they will love us, because Jesus taught us to ‘Love each other as I first loved you’.” FRRME’s President Canon Andrew White (pictured, left), who leads St George’s Church in Baghdad, is also hopeful and chaired a crisis summit of religious leaders in Iraq in Copenhagen in January in a bid to put an end to the sectarian violence gripping the country. “The international community is awakening to the fact that all is not entirely well in Iraq. As I stand at the front of the church each week, I think of those we have lost. I remember them when I see their families,” he says. “I try to think how to protect them but I cannot; bombs can hit us from below and rockets from above. There is no total protection. But I will stand firm here, because I am sure my Lord has called me to this place.” Instead of despairing about the situation, Open Doors’ Eddie Lyle has challenged British believers to get involved and make a difference. “As Christians in the UK and Ireland we need to renew our efforts to pray and pledge our unconditional support to those who share our faith but not our freedoms.” Open Doors is one of a number of Christian organisations, including Release International and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which serve the persecuted church around the world. The Alliance is an enthusiastic partner of the World Watch List. “Promoting international religious liberty and wider human rights has

Looking

for a new

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Christians in northern Nigeria worshipping inside the ruins of a building.

Open Doors

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been foundational to our mission as the Evangelical Alliance. The persecution of Christians in various parts of the world is of grave concern and world leaders must be continually challenged to raise the importance and urgency of protecting religious liberties everywhere,” says General Director Steve Clifford. “Open Doors has a tremendous record in doing this and in providing accurate and up-to-date information so that we can pray for the persecuted church in an informed way. The Evangelical Alliance is an enthusiastic partner with them in these crucial tasks.” See the Open Doors Handbook of Prayer included in this edition of idea. opendoorsuk.org/worldwatch CM

WWL 2011: Top 50 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

North Korea Iran Afganistan Saudi Arabia Somalia Maldives Yemen Iraq Uzbekistan Laos Pakistan Eritrea Mauritania Bhutan Turkmenistan China Qatar Vietnam

19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

Egypt Chechnya Comoros Algeria North Nigeria Azerbaijan Libya Oman Burma/Myanmar Kuwait Brunei Turkey Morocco India Tajikistan United Arab Emirates 35. North Sudan

36. Zanzibar Islands (Tanzania) 37. Tunisia 38. Syria 39. Djibouti 40. Jordan 41. Cuba 42. Belarus 43. Ethiopia 44. Palestinian Territory 45. Bahrain 46. Kyrgyzstan 47. Bangladesh 48. Indonesia 49. Sri Lanka 50. Russia

job,

training or planning your activities for 2011? For these and a wide range of other services, to meet both your spiritual and more practical needs, please check out:

www.eauk.org/anb idea mar/apr 2011 • 25


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The Vicar of Baghdad reflects on how suffering has informed his faith – he receives death threats, his church is bombed, people he loves are killed and he goes for weeks on end without seeing his family. In addition, he has to live with the physical pain of his illness, which is terminal.

A truly inspiring book. 9781854249623 £8.99

‘Larger than life in every respect ... a combination of ex-RAF, ex-British Intelligence and Assemblies of God pastor’ – Baroness Cox

The remarkable story of a Barnardos boy who changed the world. Stuart Windsor has been involved in extraordinary adventures from delivering aid under shell fire in Nagorno Karabakh to redeeming slaves in Sudan. He has helped many of the heroes of today’s persecuted church. This is a whiteknuckle biography laced with examples of God’s provision and protection.

Angus Buchan shot to international attention in the wake of the book and film Faith Like Potatoes –he now brings the story up-to-date. Angus speaks to tens of thousands and God has used him miraculously but behind the scenes he is a straight-talking, tough South African farmer seeking to remain obedient to God’s voice. He encourages us to truly come of age.

In 1999 Simon Guillebaud went to Burundi where he pulled an evangelistic team together to reach the youths of the streets. He survived, others didn’t. God honoured their efforts: hundreds found faith and miracles became a daily occurrence. The book covers witchcraft, miracles, evangelism, Islam, orphans, street kids, aids, and stories of triumphant faith in the midst of hideous suffering. This is unputdownable.

9781854249999 £9.99

9780857210210 £8.99

9780857210111 £8.99

Available from all good bookshops, from Marston Books direct on 0800 121 8830 or from www.lionhudson.com


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Q&A

Of Christ and comedy James Cary and Paul Kerensa, writers on BBC hit and three-time Comedy Award winner Miranda, talk to Anna Moyle about faith and being funny… idea: What is it you love most about comedy writing? JAMES: The freedom - both creatively and professionally. A blank sheet of paper terrifies most people, but I tend to find it exciting, writing characters, scenes and stories into some form of existence. Also, being one's own boss is generally very suited to my temperament… PAUL: What's not to love about comedy writing? Apart from the loneliness and the sheer fear of facing a blank page with absolutely no ideas. When it goes well though, it's great fun, cracking hours, and you have a job that involves making people laugh. Any day where your work involves making people happier can only be good. The only other downside is I used to love sitcoms. Now I don't so much laugh at them, as see them as work. Rather than “hahaha”, sitcoms illicit from me an “oh, that's a clever use of the pull-back-and-reveal”. Does your Christian faith influence your comedy writing? JAMES: Everyone's faith influences everything they do. We are our beliefs, and they affect every single choice we make. I try to create original, well-written, authentic and funny comedy, but Christians often think there's no way I should write jokes about sex or have bad language in my work. I tend not to gravitate to those areas, but equally, I must write characters as they should really be. My work is filled with characters that do and say foolish things. There are plenty of heroes in the Bible that do dreadful things they should have been ashamed of. This doesn’t give one licence to lazily use foul language or innuendo to shock or offend an audience into laughter but the canvas on which Christian writers can paint is sometimes much broader than many within the Church would imagine. PAUL: My faith informs who I am, the decisions I make (especially editorial decisions, what ideas I will and won't entertain), but I wouldn't say I approach every day thinking how I can evangelise with a script. I'm not in the habit of smuggling God into scenes so that every script has a message that we should all become Christians - mainly because that's impossible. Instead it's more about entertaining and informing, which I'll always do from my perspective, as a Christian, as a father, as a ginger Cornishman. Was Jesus a comedian? JAMES: We often perceive Jesus as being permanently serious and severe - when He was, and is, the most wonderful man who ever lived,

James Cary

Paul Kerensa

drawing huge crowds and often delighting them. He was viciously satirical of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, sometimes using sarcasm and impersonations as well as telling strange and subversive stories. It’s sad that most of us find it easier to picture Jesus cleansing the temple with a whip, than we can imagine Him and the disciples rolling around on the floor just laughing and laughing and laughing. PAUL: If He was a comedian - and absolutely no disrespect to my Lord and Saviour - He wasn't a very good one. But that's a good thing! I don't want my Messiah finishing parables with "But seriously...". That said, Jesus was a brilliant communicator, He could improvise, had great imagination with the stories He would relate, and was willing to adapt what He was saying to His audience. Jesus could certainly play whichever room or Mount he was in/on. What are your all-time favourite TV comedies? JAMES: Blackadder, and Yes, Prime Minister is pretty much perfect. I also have every episode of Seinfeld, which I adore. Arrested Development was a wonderful show - and currently my favourites are Modern Family and 30 Rock. PAUL: I can't choose between Blackadder and Fawlty Towers. Runners-up include Spaced, Coupling, and Cheers. And Arrested Development. And Friends, Frasier, Joking Apart, Black Books, Dad's Army and Alan Partridge. Oh well what do you know, I can laugh at TV sitcoms again after all...  Paul Kerensa’s radio and television CV includes Miranda, Not Going Out, and Taking the Flak. James Cary’s includes Miranda, Think the Unthinkable, My Family and My Hero. twitter.com/sitcomgeek sitcomgeek.blogspot.com/

> > > Looking at the world differently

TWR Today News and Comment - Live at noon on weekdays Trans World Radio - International Christian Broadcasting

Nationally on satellite channel 0138, Freesat 790 and online at www.twr.org.uk In the North West of England on DAB digital radio Trans World Radio, PO Box 606, Altrincham, WA14 2YS. info@twr.org.uk Registered Charity in England No 233363

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Gods and Heroes Looking for conversation starters, Sophie Lister finds relevant themes in popular culture...

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ur hunger for superhero stories seems to be insatiable. Recent years have seen the Spiderman, Batman, X-Men and Iron Man film franchises rake in millions. Comic book fans and cinemagoers are eagerly awaiting this year’s plethora of releases, including Green Lantern, Captain America, The Green Hornet, and an X-Men prequel. Thor, released on 29 April, has a twist to set it apart from the rest. Its huge hero (played by relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth) is no

Films

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WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (22 April) Brooding Twilight star Robert Pattinson ditches his vampire costume to wow us in this big screen adaptation of Sarah Gruen’s acclaimed novel, playing Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student put in charge of caring for the circus animals at the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Here, his life is changed forever as he forges beautiful bonds with equestrian star Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) and Rosie, the untrainable elephant. Indulge in beauty under the Big Top in this dazzling romance. CM

Books

mere human with superpowers – he’s a Norse god. Banished from the divine realms by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor is sent to earth, where his supernatural abilities get him noticed. ”How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person?” muses the character’s original creator, Stan Lee. “It finally came to me. Don’t make him human - make him a god.” But like Lee’s other comic book characters, what makes Thor interesting isn’t his strengths - it’s his flaws and weaknesses. At the beginning of the story he acts more

PRACTISING RESURRECTION by Cris Rogers (Authentic) Cris Rogers wants the Church to look like a movement of people following Jesus and his book is a clear and simple call for Christians to lay down their lives to this cause. He wants the Church to be less about meeting on Sundays and more about bringing life to those around them. Somewhat frustratingly, throughout the book ideas are dropped into the middle of a paragraph without any real explanation, and sometimes the rhetoric is not matched with theological depth. The highlight of the book is without doubt the stories that end each chapter, real life examples of people transformed by the power of the resurrection. DW

WEIRD by Craig Groeschel (Zondervan) Craig Groeschel is challenging his readers to be weird and his book is centred on helping people break free from the norm to lead a radical and ultimately more fulfilling life. Normal isn’t working, he says. Normal people are stressed and exhausted. Normal is having pre-marital sex and feeling guilt and shame. While we believe in God, His teachings rarely get a look in to our daily lives. A radical book, which will provide readers with many challenges. CM

Paramount Pictures

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like a villain than a hero, his reckless behaviour threatening the peace which his father has so carefully maintained. “You are a vain, greedy and cruel boy,” Odin tells him, casting him into the human world. There, he hopes, his son will learn some humility.

Flawed deities Thor is not the only flawed god to have descended onto cinema screens recently. Last year, Legion cast the god of the Bible as its villain, portraying him as a tyrant who unleashes his fury on undeserving humans. Myth-based Clash of the Titans and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief both had their share of ineffectual or scheming deities. These films speak of our tendency to envision divine beings in our own image: more powerful, yet no less susceptible to vice. Humans are often shown to emerge as the truly heroic party, demonstrating compassion and courage where the gods fail to. This holds true in Thor, where love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is the one who leads Thor out of selfishness to become earth’s defender. We tend to cast ourselves in the role of hero whenever we can – hence our love of the ‘everyman’ who rises from obscurity to achieve great things. If we can identify with shy Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), perhaps we can more easily imagine ourselves being as brave and honorable as Spiderman. There are shades of doubt, though, as Peter’s journey throughout the Spiderman films demonstrates. He misuses and neglects his powers, and in Spiderman 3 becomes something close to a villain himself. Murky protagonist Batman (Christian Bale), meanwhile, perhaps embodies our fear that being a force for good in a dark world requires moral compromise. Much as we long to see ourselves as champions, we cannot avoid acknowledging the weakness – and the darkness – within us.

Culture struggles It looks as though our culture struggles to have faith in both gods and heroes. But nevertheless, we’re unable to resist telling tales about a powerful, self-sacrificing figure who comes to our rescue. Doctor Who, back on our screens again this spring, is a case in point. Even last year’s satire Kick-Ass, which started out parodying the concept, morphed into such a story. Deep down we long to be defended, fearing that we are not strong enough to be our own saviours. If stories like Thor betray our human vanity, then they also, conversely, betray our frailty. Faced with the evidence of our own shortcomings, we struggle to imagine a god or a hero who is unfailing. Perhaps this accounts for many of our difficulties in truly seeing God for who He is. We are made in His image – but in many respects He is vastly unlike us, and unlike anything we would naturally conceive of. Jesus is like no hero we would have created, and as such, we’re likely to envisage a lesser version of Him. Thankfully, we can return to His words and actions, asking the

CODE RED by Andrew J Drain (CMF) Dr Andrew Drain, a successful young heart surgeon, had to become a patient when he was diagnosed with the worst form of acute leukaemia in 2007. Code Red tells of Andrew’s personal experiences and reflections, written as he stares death in the face. His series of sermons on the book of Job are woven in effectively, as he grew in an understanding of faith through suffering. Insightful and real teaching points to the hope of the Gospel in the midst of darkness. Andrew found that he could face death with confidence because 'I know that my Redeemer lives'. Published posthumously by the Christian Medical Fellowship in Oct 2010, this book is warm, faithful and inspiring. LC

Jesus is like no hero we would have created Holy Spirit to show us where we’ve been making ourselves too great and Christ too small. And we can speak this truth, too, into a culture that sometimes casts God as the villain and men as the ultimate heroes. The good news is that our rescuer has come – and that He’s greater than we ever could have hoped.  Thor opens in UK cinemas on 6 May.

ALL SHALL BE WELL edited by Gregory MacDonald (Cascade) This book includes a collection of essays from a team of scholars, including the Alliance’s head of public affairs Don Horrocks, who explore whether Universalism (the theological belief that all souls can attain salvation) actually has relevance in the Christian tradition. Readers are invited to widen their knowledge on the thoughts of key thinkers from the third century right through to today. The claims of Origen, Julian of Norwich, Jürgen Moltmann and many more are carefully explained and critically analysed in order to make sense of this elaborate and unending topic. AI

Sophie Lister writes for Culturewatch.org

CDs

COME AWAY by Jesus Culture (Elevation) No doubt this release by the Jesus Culture band boasts significant powerful instrumental and vocal skill. Thanks to the rich and heartfelt vocals of youth worship leaders Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Quilala this record is captivating and undeniably compelling. It highlights the level of passion flowing amongst the youth of our generation and is bound to touch the heartstrings of many listeners. This could possibly be one of those records most would not want to turn off. A clever idea was including the DVD; the CD is already atmospheric but the DVD puts everything into perspective. With songs like Come Away, Rooftops and Show me your Glory – this makes a great way to worship. AI

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People Like Us: Life with Rob Lacey Four years after Rob Lacey, author of The Word on the Street, died from cancer, his widow tells Chine Mbubaegbu about love and life with her husband and how writing a book helped her mourn...

S

It was September 2005. Just a few months before, life had been good for the Laceys. Sales of Rob’s book The Street Bible, which was reprinted The Word on the Street, had reached 50,000 and the book had won the UK Christian Booksellers’ Book of the Year Award. It had been two years since Rob was miraculously healed from cancer, having been diagnosed with it nine years before - just a few months after he had married Sandra. One day in July 2005, Sandra had just finished teaching a dance class in their home town of Cardiff when Rob came into the dressing room, shut the door behind him and sombrely told her: “They said the cancer might be back.” Cue a haze of déjà vu and the familiar routine of hospital tests and analyses, which ended in a bleak diagnosis. The cancer was back 100 per cent. The doctor then gave them a choice: chemotherapy to prolong Rob’s life by a few weeks, or no treatment. The decision was theirs. With memories of the previous bouts of chemotherapy, of tests, hospital appointments and the pain Rob had gone through the first time around, they both independently decided that enough was enough. “We felt really empowered. We felt we didn’t just want doctors to decide over our lives,” she says. “This was either going to be a year of having time together and good quality of life or we were going to be paralysed by doctor’s visits.” It’s the first time Sandra has done an interview since completing People Like Us: Life with Rob Lacey – a beautiful memoir of love, life, death, laughter and adventure with her “soul mate”.

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Kathryn Sadler

ix years ago Sandra Harnisch-Lacey walked out of a hospital hand-in-hand with Rob, the husband she loved so dearly. They had just made the most radical decision of their lives: not to go ahead with treatment for his advanced bladder cancer.

She remembers the day they made the decision not to have treatment with a twinkle in her eye, recalling their radical move. But it’s clear she still mourns and she admits the days and months afterwards until Rob died in May 2006 were a rollercoaster of emotions, not helped by the fact that she was pregnant with their second child – their eldest, Lukas, was four at the time. “It was such an inner turmoil. It felt quite rebellious, but it felt so from God. It was very hard for me to believe that Rob was going to die. I had accepted it but hadn’t given up hope,” she says. “I also focused on the new life within me and thought that that just had to bring life for Rob as well. Rob always said, though, that it was a win-win situation for him. He would either live and be with me, Lukas and our new baby, or he would die and be with God.” Rob died three weeks after his daughter Magdalena was born. Sandra had been induced so Rob could meet his baby as he was becoming more frail each day. “In those few weeks, we created a little ‘hub of us’, with Rob cuddling Lena every day. She definitely bonded with him in that time and after he died, whenever she was crying and would then hear a male voice, she would stop. It was as if she was listening out for her daddy.” The months following Rob’s death were hard. Sandra describes being “numb”, unable to cry, angry at God and not able to pray for healing for other people. “I was so wrapped up in my own suffering and had no empathy for anyone else,” she says. But getting counselling from Cruse Bereavement Care and writing the new book helped her let out all the feelings she had been bottling up. “For a year after Rob’s death I didn’t really feel God anymore. But I


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know now that I have come to a place of really knowing Him. Ultimately, I knew God never left me. He is my lifeline.� Writing the book became a huge part of her healing process. “It was a very cathartic experience. I would sit in our loft with Steve Stickley, a dear friend of ours who wrote the book with me, and go over the memories I had of Rob and he would record it. Steve got me to belly laugh for the first time in a long time and it felt good and very therapeutic.� Laughter and love had formed an integral part of Sandra and Rob’s lives together, and amid the pain and suffering, the book gives insight into daily life with Rob – the man who was once sacked from a job in a bank when his boss caught him doing a headstand on a rotating chair in the office. The book is a stunning piece which is testament to their creativity: Rob was a writer and performer, Sandra is a dancer and the Artistic Director of the Harnisch-Lacey Dance Theatre Company.

She hopes People Like Us will help anyone going through a similar situation. “Loss is part of our lives in so many ways, whether it’s losing a loved-one or a job,� she says. “I hope the book will inspire people never to give up, to keep on hoping despite all the odds that life throws at you and to keep faith in God because He holds us in his hands and cares for us.�  People Like Us is published in March by Zondervan. We have five copies of the book to give away. How have you coped with suffering? Respond to this story by emailing idea@eauk.org

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talking points

hot topics

The Alliance's Forum for Change co-ordinator Marijke Hoek helps us examine theological questions in our daily lives...

Sharing our Master’s happiness through good stewardship While the reality of cuts makes for narrow horizons, we need a Christian imagination that gives an impulse to the alternative economics of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 feeds our imaginative capacity and has the potential to shape business, economy, community life and our households. For this parable does not merely concern the wise investment of money. It has a wider agenda. Reading the parable allegorically, Jesus’ teaching concerns faithful stewardship of all that is entrusted to us, the reward of which is the prospect of sharing in our Master’s happiness. When reflecting on faithful stewardship that is rooted in godly character, we do well to delve into the original calling to fulfill the creational mandate and live out a vision for the good of the community (Jeremiah 29:7). Genesis 1-2 is a foundational text for human flourishing. It concerns stewardship which causes us to live wisely within the world. God placed mankind in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. The role contains two elements - to realise its potential and to nurture it. Interestingly, both these aspects are about stewardship that embraces the production of an increase for the master (the owner) and a caring for the resources entrusted to us. The principle can also be seen at a community level in the Jubilee principles in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The land, once distributed among the tribes and families, is worked and some do economically better than others. The care and sustainability aspect is seen in the exercise of the forgiveness of debts and the freeing of slaves. This includes the provision to get them started on their own and the return of the land to the original families in the 50th year, the Jubilee year. The

good of the community is paramount. Economic gain cannot be allowed to trump the primacy of relationship and community. This is about essential health, being like our Father in heaven. The idea that it is more blessed to give than receive, as Jesus teaches (Acts 20:35), is perpetually true. The Bible contains a developing vision of a generous resourcing community. Generosity and creativity reflect God's character. Those who reflect His image into the world are those who are "rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share" (1Titus 6:18). Generosity is transformational both for the giver and the recipient. So the exhortation might be: “Be generous. It changes lives (yours first).” We all share in the grace of both giving and receiving, as Paul teaches the community in 2 Corinthians 8:14. In this beautiful equality, relationship and community are paramount: a community empowered by the demonstration of sincere love in the grace of giving. We are stewards not only of all we have but all we are. We are to give ourselves first (2 Corinthians 8:5). It is classic ‘whole life discipleship’ stuff.

A new landscape The recent BBC 2 series Age of the Do-Gooders featured 19th century Christians in the public square; entrepreneurs, politicians, medics and others whose faith was core to their vocation for the good of the community. We draw upon a rich tradition of fellow believers who envisioned a new landscape for society. Whether we are disciples in business, politics, arts, media, education, healthcare, sports, IT, or elsewhere, we are called to live wisely in the discernment of our vocation. Proverbs teaches us that the practice of wisdom generates

blessedness, riches, peace - in other words, shalom, happiness (Proverbs 3:13-14). Wisdom is needed to be genuinely human. Richard Hays writes in The Moral Vision of the New Testament that the aim of Jesus’ parables is to instil godly fear and motivate us to do God’s will while we have the opportunity: “The New Testament writers are not concerned merely with how individuals might seek eternal life; rather, they are concerned with how the Church as a whole might embody the economics of the Kingdom of God.” Contemporary examples in the Christian community are numerous: academics and practitioners who develop business models on the basis of rethinking capitalism; the media entrepreneur who includes a proportion of employees from marginalised sections of society; the community which enables the poor to express their artistic gifting and celebrate beauty. Matthew’s parable of the talents is part of a larger section which emphasises the need to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man (24:37- 25:46). Moral behaviour, including making imaginative use of the resources entrusted to us, is directly and repeatedly connected to the invitation to eternal life (25:46). Faithful stewardship entails work, risk, and imagination. As Peter Heslam writes in his excellent booklet Transforming Capitalism, the two trustworthy servants receive a commendation and an invitation into God’s shalom economy. They receive a greater responsibility and are invited to come and share their master’s happiness. Matthew places our faithful stewardship in an eternal light, the rays of which already illuminate our lives. We are challenged to live generously and take creative risks in an age of austerity. An age to aspire to a different kind of riches, to develop society with a greater compassion and to serve the common good with all the talents entrusted to us. As God’s people we, in this way, foreshadow God’s healing transformation of the world. Shalom.

Marijke Hoek writing in conjunction with David Jones, Ambassador and Consultant with Stewardship: stewardship.org.uk

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last word It’s good to talk General Director Steve Clifford says honest and open discussion about struggles with relationships and sexuality can bring about freedom from sin and save marriages...

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Ann Clifford

n more than one occasion over the years, a good friend has taken me aside to share something of their journey, particularly their struggle with pornography. Whenever this has happened there has been a variety of emotions. Along with sadness, disappointment, and pain for them in their difficulties, my most overwhelming sense was always one of thankfulness. I listened with a sense of privilege that my friends trusted me enough to want to share their struggles. They wanted to be free, to be accountable, and didn't want this secret sin to be hidden anymore. We all understood that the power is in the secret and freedom is to be found in transparency. I know this story can be retold so many times, individuals and couples seeking help, recognising their struggles and finding a safe place to talk, seek guidance and find a way forward. As I look back on more than 25 years of church leadership, I reflect on a whole mixture of memories and emotions - fun, laughter, great joy, but also very real pain. Some of the greatest areas of disappointment and anguish come as I reflect on close friends, fellow church leaders. We had prayed, planned and dreamed together, spent Christmas together, yet today they were no longer with their families. Wives had been left, their children having to come to terms with two new homes. They had walked away from leadership and showed little evidence of faith. These memories raise all kinds of issues for me. How did this happen? Why didn't I see this coming? What more could I have done? Faced with these questions I look at my own life, thankful to God for my marriage to Ann, our family life, but also recognising my own vulnerability to the temptations I face every day. In the sex-mad world I live in, how do I respond to the daily opportunities I face to undermine my relationship? I'm not going to walk out of my marriage tomorrow or next week, but I know, given a series of what might appear at the start small insignificant choices that I decide to make, I could fatally wound my marriage in the future.

For others pornography: this £60 billion industry so easily available has a vice-like grip on our society. I'm also aware of those readers living in marriages where those promises made with such sincerity and passion as a bride and groom seem almost a sad joke today. We can't ignore the enormous challenges we are facing as the family of God, let alone the challenges faced by society in general. I thank God for the amazing resources that are available: premarriages courses, marriage courses, marriage enrichment courses, books, videos, marriage counselling, psycho-sexual counselling, computer software designed to keep us off the pornographic sites. You name it, there are products and people available to help, yet many of us are still struggling. I still smile now when I remember it. A small group of friends stood in a circle. In the middle, a married couple prayed prayers and made fresh vows of commitment to each other. The same group had met almost a year previously, in devastating circumstances as the husband confessed his unfaithfulness. There had been anger, tears, frustration, but now 12 months on, after a great deal of patient work, a day of celebration. Sins had been forgiven, grace had been discovered, healing and restoration was taking place. A few years ago, a small group of us - all married couples - got together specifically to talk about our relationships. We agreed some rules. We were going to be honest. We could say anything and it was OK. Anything that was said was safe within the room. As we talked an amazing truth began to emerge. Most of us had, or were still facing, very similar issues. We also realised there were two big lies we were at times in danger of believing. Firstly: “It’s not all that important, it doesn't matter, it's not worth talking about.” Secondly: “There's no way out, I'm trapped.” Both of these lies were powerful because they stopped us from open, honest conversation. The very thing we needed to be doing was to acknowledge our struggles and sins, to share our vulnerabilities, to refuse to allow secrets to control our lives, that God is interested in every area of our lives, our relationships, our sexuality - everything is on His agenda. A friend of mine once said: “It is the unshared areas of our lives that Christ is not Lord of.” As we reflect on the marriage survey results, let's be thankful for all those marriages which, despite the challenges of the age we live in, have worked through difficulties and have held strong together. Let's make sure that in our church we are providing opportunities, whether one to one or in small groups, for honest, open conversations and for us to find God's grace available to us all.

A high percentage of my readers live with the daily reality of their own struggles, temptations and sin.

Wake-up call The marriage survey conducted by the Evangelical Alliance (pages 16-18) brings home the reality of what we are all facing. This was not just an academic piece of research to be filed away for future reference. This was to be a wake-up call, a challenge to us all, married or single. I'm aware as I write these words that a high percentage of my readers live with the daily reality of their own struggles, temptations and sin. Some will be living with the guilt of their own unfaithfulness.

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