T H E M AG A Z I N E O F T H E E VA N G E L I C A L A L L I A N C E
Equals? BIG INTERVIEW
RT Kendall on what happens when churches commit to both Word and spirit
IN YOUR WORDS
Can you live biblically with same-sex attraction?
HOPE AFTER PRISON
Why are so few UK churches supporting ex-offenders?
ON THE JOB
M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 4
NEWS COMMENT FEATURES
Chine Mbubaegbu: “Our vision as the Alliance is the same today as it was all those years ago.”
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” – LP Hartley Never have I felt more connected to the past than at the recent launch of 1846 – a new initiative, bringing together key Alliance supporters committed to the founding vision and aims of our organisation. We were privileged to be joined by Rev Piers Bickersteth – the great, great, great grandson of Rev Edward Bickersteth, who was there on that historic occasion when the Alliance was formed nearly 170 years ago in 1846. The classic quote above from LP Hartley’s novel The Go-Between is partly true and partly not when it comes to the Alliance. There are times in which my colleague Kim Walker – our senior information officer who sits next to me at Copenhagen Street – will regale me with the latest bizarre tales from our archives. Life was so different ‘back then’ in so many ways. But at the launch of 1846, I was reminded again that in so many ways our vision as the Evangelical Alliance is the same today as it was all those years ago. We are committed to the unity of the Church and passionate about its voice being heard for the transformation of all of society with the good news of Jesus Christ. When we shared that evening about our work with the 20s and 30s generation as part of threads; or how we’re finding parents and foster carers for thousands of children in the UK as part of Home for Good; or when we talked about our work supporting and facilitating unity movements – groups of churches from across denominations coming together for the sake of their towns and cities – as part of our Gather initiative; or about the amazing work of our advocacy team in the corridors of power, it seemed what we are working on today would have had the seal of approval from our Alliance forebears. The Evangelical Alliance’s past is not a foreign country, but a familiar terrain on which we continue to follow in the footsteps of those who marked out the paths before us. Chine Mbubaegbu, head of media and communications
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FEATURES 7 Gavin Peacock
60 seconds with this Premier League goalscorer-turnedpastor.
26 Big Interview
We speak to theologian and author RT Kendall on Holy Fire.
28 Living Out
22 Female genital mutilation is not the easiest topic to talk about – but it is a vitally important one. We meet Ann-Marie Wilson, founder of 28TooMany.
How should the Church respond to those who battle same-sex attraction?
36 First Person
How should we respond when God denies us our heart’s desires? Australian author Sheridan Voysey answers.
REGULARS 4-5 Connect
News from the Alliance.
8 On the job
Meet a Christian traffic warden…
Almost half of all offenders released commit another crime within 12 months. We explore why churches should work with them.
News from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
14 Good question
What does it mean for men and women to be equal?
37 In your words
idea readers respond…
38 Last word
General director Steve Clifford writes…
34 Belle: the little girl who changed history
Head Office Evangelical Alliance has moved: 176 Copenhagen Street, London N1 0ST tel 020 7520 3830 [Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm] fax 020 7520 3850 email@example.com www.eauk.org Evangelical Alliance leadership team Steve Clifford, Helen Calder, Fred Drummond, Elfed Godding, Krish Kandiah, Dave Landrum, Peter Lynas
Email address changes to firstname.lastname@example.org Northern Ireland Office First Floor Ravenhill House 105 Ravenhill Road, Belfast BT6 8DR tel: 028 9073 9079 email@example.com
Wales Office 20 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PT tel: 029 2022 9822 firstname.lastname@example.org Scotland Office International Christian College, 110 St James Road, Glasgow, G4 0PS tel 0141 548 1555 email@example.com
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News from the Alliance
21st century disciplemaking
Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), giving the global perspective on disciplemaking. Other speakers included Tracy Cotterell of the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, Paul Maconochie of 3DM UK in Sheffield, Lucy Peppiatt, dean of Westminster Theological Centre, John Stevens – national director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) and Jim Brown, director of Exodus Europe. Turn to page 16 to read our latest 21st Century Evangelicals report on discipleship.
How will your church celebrate Father’s Day?
In February, the Alliance’s Council – made of up key Christian leaders from across the UK – gathered to discuss how the Church should respond to the widespread recognition of a discipleship deficit in the Western Church. The Council, which has around 90 leaders, meets twice a year to discuss key issues about the state of the Church and society. Over the past two years, the Alliance has been exploring the challenges of the Church struggling to have confidence in the gospel, the exodus of 20somethings and the need for a new way to engage with children and families. Krish Kandiah, the Alliance’s executive director of churches in mission, said: “All of these concerns come together when we explore the issue of discipleship.” IDEA MAGAZINE / 4
Following a time of sung worship led by Noel Robinson, Paula Gooder – theologian in residence at the Bible Society – challenged the Church to do better at discipleship courses where people are taught how to be a Christian rather than how to be a disciple. “We are all called to be disciples,” she said. “How do we get to be people who ‘knock around in the presence of Jesus and therefore follow Jesus?” Other talks included Daniel Bourdanné, general secretary of the International
Sunday, 15 June, is Father’s Day – an opportunity to celebrate fatherhood. However, for many in our congregations it’s not a day for celebration – it’s a day where memories of an abusive father resurface, a day tinged with sadness of a dad who died too soon, or a painful day of reminders of their childlessness. This year, as part of our Home for Good campaign, we’re not asking churches to ignore any of these issues, but to use the opportunity Father’s Day gives us to focus our attention on the thousands of children in the care system who need a father. We’ve produced resources, including a short film, that churches can use during their Father’s Day service to challenge men to consider stepping up to become foster carers. There is currently a shortfall of almost 9,000 foster families in the UK and becoming a foster carer is an opportunity to provide a loving home for children who desperately need one. homeforgood.org.uk
Kerygma Fund The Kerygma Fund welcomes applications to fund innovative and effective evangelism at its next event on Thursday, 17 June. Five innovative and effective evangelism charities are selected to present to an audience of generoushearted Christians who are able to give. The Kerygma Fund has hosted four events in two years and raised more than £214,000. cinnamonnetwork.co.uk/ kerygma-fund
IN THE MEDIA
by Terry Ally: press officer, Evangelical Alliance
Hit or miss? For International Women’s Day, the Evangelical Alliance planned to announce its support for the No More Page 3 campaign against The Sun newspaper. Four days before our scheduled release The Sun copped a defiant PR move, forcing our hand. They placed a girl on the front page to announce a fundraising deal with a breast cancer charity. Our plans changed. Our general director wrote to every member church asking for them to support the campaign. At the time of writing another 50,000 signatures were added to the petition. The newspaper’s editors are skilled communicators. They understand how to compose a photo to send a message. However, their ‘awareness’ photo could not stand on its own and definitely will not win a Pulitzer for the best breast cancer awareness campaign image. By no stretch of the imagination did the photo convey a breast cancer awareness message of any
kind. The lads viewing it would not have had an epiphany to rush home to persuade their (female) partners, sisters, cousins, aunts and mother to check themselves. Maureen Corish, group comms director at Penguin Random House, UK, called it a “stunner of a campaign” which claimed back some ground from the No More Page 3 campaign.
The October 2012 YouGov survey revealed that 49 per cent of Britons disapproved of Page 3 against the 32 per cent who approved. Of the people who were The Sun readers, 61 per cent were in favour. Until this level of support drops, the reality is that Page 3 is here to stay. Success will only come when campaigners erode that support. nomorepage3.org
PRAY WITH US:
We are so grateful to all those who pray with us for the work we do to unify the Church and strengthen its voice. Please partner with us in prayer this month and next: •
Please pray for the Gather Global (30 April - 1 May) conference, that many in the Church would be inspired and equipped to bring transformation to their communities. wegather.co.uk
Congratulations to our Scottish team for their proactive approach to media coverage resulting in substantial brand-building of the Alliance in Scotland among the media, the public and policy makers.
Praise God for the fruit we are seeing from Home for Good, and pray for further chances to mobilise the Church to adopt and foster as Father’s Day approaches.
Give thanks for the generous gifts of supporters in the last financial year which have enabled us to do all that we do.
Please pray for a number of threads events that are being held this summer for young adults to explore how faith relates to all areas of life – pray for many to be strengthened in or brought to faith.
Pray with us for all those in power in our government, that God would bless them with wisdom and discernment, and pray for the Alliance advocacy team as they represent evangelical Christians in the world of politics.
I manage and look after print and online (easilyfound.it) advertising and print production for the Alliance. I live in East Sussex; love cycling, bell-ringing, building camps, windsurfing and pints of Assam tea. My favourite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31. Candy O’Donovan, business development manager, Evangelical Alliance IDEA MAGAZINE / 5
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Interview by Richard Woodall, assistant editor
From pitch to pulpit When your career as a Premiership footballer finishes around the age of 35, you are forced to look for another adventure. For some it’s the pundit’s chair, for others managing a bar or even becoming a football agent. But for former Chelsea, Newcastle and QPR midfielder Gavin Peacock, it’s training for church ministry. After a successful career in the media, he surprised many in the football world when he moved to Canada to become a church pastor. Peacock had successfully navigated the path of footballer to pundit, combining his eloquent punditry skills with a suave appearance complete with goatee beard, adding an extra dimension to Match of the Day 2 and Football Focus. After finishing his time at the Beeb after Euro 2008, he and his wife Amanda along with Jake, then 14, and Ava, then 11, uprooted to the oil-rich city of Calgary in Canada. Peacock then studied for a three-year Masters in divinity at Ambrose Seminary. Six years on and he’s now missions partner and elder at Calgary Grace Church, a reformed Baptist church in Calgary, Alberta, which attracts 200 people through its doors each week.
Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club.
Peacock also leads Canmore Mission, a smaller weekly gathering. Contrast this to the buzz and global audience of the Premier League and life couldn’t be more different. It represents a journey: from the football field to the pulpit; from sharing laughs in the dressing room to praying together; from peer pressure to the need to be above reproach as a church leader. Being mobbed by teammates after scoring to experiencing the joy of the holy spirit. A completely different trajectory and one which must have been hard to adapt to. Peacock, aged 46, said: “I find lots of people ask what aspect of being a footballer I miss the most. They are surprised when I don’t answer that it was playing the game. “I had a long and blessed career. I was a decent player. Although I wasn’t the best I played to the best of my ability. “The two things I do miss about it are being super-fit and also being with the guys in the dressing room. “There’s something about men being together, playing and fighting for a bigger cause – that concept of working together for a greater good.” It’s this he feels represents the strongest similarity between the pitch and the pulpit. “Now I do a lot of teaching about biblical manhood; it’s a need of the day. My background of being in a male environment helps.”
In his career, Peacock scored 135 goals in 635 games – an enviable record for a midfielder. Football was in the blood with dad Keith a former Charlton player and assistant manager. “Now and then I see John Terry leading the Chelsea boys out; you get a bit of a nostalgic twinge. We get Premiership football on the television over here and I watch it with my daughter. Even though football wasn’t my god, there’s still that football atmosphere you’re used to.” Peacock – who retired in 2002 – said: “The media work went well but I never felt it would be forever. ”The Lord called me to ministry quite powerfully when I was reading the Word and praying. “I was at the BBC at the time – in some respects my profile was higher as a pundit than it was as a player. We prayed through the idea as family. Two months after covering Euro 2008, we were in Canada.” Now he starts each day by driving into Calgary to learn Hebrew and Greek. Does he ever get moments where he wonders if he made the right decision? “This last six years have been the hardest six years of my life. I think it’s Charles Spurgeon who said: ‘If you can avoid going into the Christian ministry then do so. What he was trying to say is that it must be a divine call to go into it. “I was blessed to play football, and there’s nothing wrong with football; it’s a God-given sport which – played with the right intentions – can glorify God. But to be dealing with God’s people and shepherding them, there’s no comparison.”
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ON THE JOB
by Lucy Cooper
Through the eyes of the
traffic warden “I’m not there to deliberately make people’s lives a misery. My job is for the public good.” “You hear all sorts of colourful excuses for parking offences,” adds Alan. “’The hairdresser was late’, ‘I lost my purse’, ‘I didn’t understand the signs’, ‘the meter didn’t work’, ‘my child was sick or the dog escaped’. “I must have heard them all. Mostly I avoid going into whether I think they are genuine and calmly and politely explain how they can appeal if they would like to.
“Surely you can’t be a traffic warden and a Christian?!” said one friend, confirming some people’s stereotype of what a Christian ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ do for a job. Despite receiving verbal and sometimes physical abuse purely for doing his job, one particular civil enforcement officer aims to be a familiar and yet friendly fixture in Coalville, Leicestershire, as well as being dedicated to his community. When you look beyond the uniform, Alan Liggins is far from a killjoy or a modern-day tax collector. He greets people with a smile, sings hymns under his breath while on his rounds and strives to respond with peace and positivity in the face of confrontation. Having been a central part of the Coalville community since 1955 when his family began running a grocery and post office store, he has worked for the council for nearly 14 years. The warden particularly enjoys being a presence on the streets to help keep people safe or give directions or assistance as needed. “People think that parking in the wrong places will never harm anyone but the reality is often what they are doing does put others at risk,” he says. “I see the bigger picture and want to benefit the whole community and that involves respecting the rules. “Dropping children off in dangerous places or obstructing exits can cause accidents involving other children – or adults – and it’s IDEA MAGAZINE / 8
just because the parents can’t be bothered to walk five minutes down the street.” Alan began working with the council as a neighbourhood warden back in 2001 and enjoyed working for the community, liaising with tenants’ associations, litter-picking and helping the vulnerable. “I got to know everyone in the neighbourhood and I really miss some of that in my current role as a civil enforcement officer.” Alan gets used to dealing with angry reactions, verbal heckling and has even been kicked and punched at times but he learns not to be fearful. “We get a lot of abuse. It has calmed down but it used to be even worse. I’ve been hit three or four times in serious kafuffles. “People get very defensive and take their anger out on us. I have to remember that it is not personal. They are reacting to the uniform and the system rather than hating me per se.
“People see me coming in my uniform and it gets their back up but those who know me and give me a chance realise what a kind person I am. Most people think we are just money-grabbing individuals but there are also restrictions that protect public interest,” said Alan. In response to whether he was tempted to let people off their fines Alan expressed joy about the times when a person returns to their vehicle before he has started the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and the gratitude and happiness that this visibly brings.
“I’m not there to deliberately make people’s lives a misery. My job is for the public good.” So what’s Alan’s vision? “I don’t know what God has in my future but for now this is what I am called to do. God has put me in this job at this time, I do it to the best of my ability and I work all things as working for the Lord. I’m called to be available and obedient. I feel a bit like Joseph – who knows, God might have something even greater for me to go onto next. “I’ve been a Christian since 1988 and God helps me reflect and review my actions and reactions in my job as well as growing as a member of the community and the Church. I love my area.”
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Dreams beyond the 16-year-old peace process by Carla Prentice, Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland
It’s been said that Northern Ireland has a 16-year-old peace process and yet no 16-year-old voice. That was until #Haasshope, when a new generation had the opportunity to engage with the political process and share their hopes and dreams for the future of Northern Ireland. The #Haasshope youth conference – which took place on 23 March – was co-organised by the Evangelical Alliance, Summer Madness, Youth Link NI, YMCA, QUB chaplaincies, Living Youth, Corrymeela and ICPP. More than 130 young Christians from across the Protestant and Catholic divide gathered at Queen’s University Belfast to examine how their faith affected their politics. It was incredible to watch these young adults unite through their identity in Christ, instead of being divided by the labels of Protestant and Catholic that so often dominate the prevailing narrative. Political representatives from most parties and church leaders from all denominations and traditions were in attendance.
“The older generation needs to let a new generation ‘fly’.”
The final session was one of the most encouraging and inspiring parts of the day when young people, church leaders and politicians reconvened together for the final plenary session. Young men and women were given the freedom to share their hopes and dreams for their country and for the Church. These were by no means small. Dreams to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done in this nation. Dreams to see the dividing walls torn down in our hearts, lives and communities or a hope for a peace that is not just an absence of violence but one that is life-giving and fruitful. Each of these hope-filled dreams demonstrated the importance of not downplaying the voices and visions of young people.
The church leaders and political representatives, who essentially talk for a living, were instead invited to simply listen. Their listening presence and affirmation granted permission to those present to think and dream differently about the future of this country. Christian ‘expert witnesses’ spoke including Brett Lockhart QC, the leading barrister in the Omagh bombing case, on flags, former chief of the Community Relations Council, Duncan Morrow, on parades and former Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames, on the past. Mr Lockhart highlighted the contribution Christians can make to peacemaking and stressed that our national identity must not take precedence over our Christian faith. The complexities of parading and the need to go the extra mile in order to demonstrate forgiveness, reconciliation and love were explained by Duncan Morrow while Lord Eames acknowledged young people will be picking up the pieces from the past and called on politicians to listen to the next generation, who wanted the past resolved in order to forge a better future.
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Bishop Harold Miller, of the diocese of Down and Dronmore in the Church of Ireland, said: “The older generation needs to let a new generation ‘fly’, to pray new young leaders into existence who are godly, filled with hope and visionary, and to tell them that our God is the one whose task is to make the impossible possible.” Bishop Miller brought the day to a close by leading politicians and church leaders in commissioning young people to go into society and to bring hope, to “catch the vision, dream the dreams and then don’t dumb them down”. To have heard the hopes and dreams of the younger generation of Christians in Northern Ireland and see their hearts for the future of this place was a privilege. #Haasshope reminded all present of the importance of passing on the Christian peace-making imperative to the next generation. As the old American Indian proverb goes: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Amen.
Get set: the Games are coming by Matthew Oliver, CEO More Than Gold 2014
I’ve seen what happens when the Church responds to a major sporting event. In Canada the Salvation Army gave out 375,000 cups of hot chocolate to spectators. In London, for the 2012 Olympics, the Church invited one per cent of the UK – 600,000 people – to parties hosted by churches on the Opening Ceremony night. This is our moment for the Church in Scotland to make a difference. So come on, Church, let’s rise up in acts of service, hospitality and mission. Eleven major denominations and 35 ministries in Scotland are working together as part of More Than Gold 2014. From its conception at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, More Than Gold has been successfully used by host city churches at all major sporting events. This year the baton has passed to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. It is a fabulous opportunity for all Christians to work together and help build a legacy of Christian love that will last beyond 2014. Throughout the nation churches are engaging with the vision. Is your church in the running? I always begin with asking a church what they are already doing that they could give a Commonwealth theme to. For example a children’s holiday club, church fete or prayer meeting.
If you are up for the challenge why not try something new? You could hold a community event in your area and invite people who would not normally come to church to join you. Show some of the Games live or host a sports dinner or quiz night with an after-dinner speaker who is able to present the gospel? What about serving your community with an all-family sports day or community festival? More ideas, resources and training are available on the More Than Gold website.
“The Queen’s baton will be coming close to the door of every church in the next couple of months leading up to the Games.” Hospitality is at the heart of Christian life and of More Than Gold 2014. We are running a homestay programme for the official Games volunteers – ‘the Clydesiders’ – and for athletes’ families. We need homes close to all the major venues in Glasgow, The Lothians and in Angus. Hosting someone is an incredible way to be personally connected to and involved with the event. The Queen’s baton will be coming close to the door of every church in the next couple of months leading up to the Games. Make sure your church is open to offer hospitality to visitors and to your community as it passes and create the celebration and bring people in your community closer together. I hope you are able to be involved on one level or another this year for the sake of the Gospel and our King. Use the ideas and resources that More Than Gold 2014 has made available and help create a legacy of Christ’s love throughout the days of competition, for the future and ultimately eternity. Finally, please pray that together we turn a great Commonwealth and city event into a great Kingdom event and that Glasgow’s motto: “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of Your Word and the praising of Your Name”, is lived out gloriously this summer because that really would be worth More Than Gold. morethangold2014.org.uk
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The greatest story ever told The Church seems to be full of ideas for Christmas outreach, but what about Easter? Churches in Cardiff have shown how being creative can make a difference by Gethin Russell-Jones
Church leaders in Wales responded in emphatic fashion to the challenge of making the message of Easter heard more loudly outside the church doors. While churches are often keen to celebrate Advent and Christmas to great effect, and to communicate the story creatively and widely, Easter seems to often pass quietly and to be a case of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. Two Cardiff-based brothers helped stem the tide against this when they came up with a range of programmes from which churches could choose. Jonathan Harris, who works for Operation Mobilisation, and brother Steve, part of the pastoral team at City Temple, were the brains behind the idea. Jonathan said the time had come for churches to start retelling the greatest story ever told. “We all love Christmas and it’s great the way churches engage with their communities at that time of the year. But it should be no different at Easter time,” he said. “It seems to me that as Christians we have the best tunes and songs in praise of resurrection hope, but no one other than churchgoers know the words! This was our moment to spread the news that Jesus is alive.” And the call to share such joy spread all over the city. Eye-catching initiatives included IDEA MAGAZINE / 12
church leaders offering free shoe shining on Maundy Thursday and an exhibition to show ancient paintings in photography. There were interesting collaborations between local churches and some of the city’s evangelists. This was particularly seen in a presentation called 24, which went into five of Cardiff’s secondary schools and was an account of the last 24 hours in Jesus’ life. Playing on the popular and dramatic television series, 24, the presentation traced the timeline and key episodes building up to Jesus’ death. A dramatic version of Mark’s gospel was also performed in two of the city’s churches. Members of Rhiwbina Baptist Church and St Mark’s Church in Wales joined forces to stage a production over two nights. Produced by Andrew Page, the author of The Mark Drama, the audience was taken through the life, teaching, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And all in 90 minutes. After only three rehearsals the makeshift theatrical troupe enacted the good news on 5 and 6 April. Action took place before, behind and in the middle of the audiences, who became the crowd witnessing the birth, fall and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Steve was equally enthusiastic about the project. In addition to being on team at City Temple, he also edits The Net Cardiff, a news and information website for the city.
“These simple ideas and events were available to anyone with internet access. By visiting the site people found out what was happening and where. We hope they will be inspired to carry on reaching out to their communities.” One of the more ambitious projects involved the production of a ‘cardboard testimonies’ video. Twelve people drawn from a range of churches were selected to share their faith stories silently. Using one side of a piece of cardboard to describe the nature of their problem and the other to show how Jesus met them, they become powerful and mute witnesses to the Easter miracle. The video was posted to YouTube and used by numerous churches as part of their Easter celebrations. Steve added: “You can find lots of these cardboard testimonies on YouTube but we wanted to produce something that local churches in Cardiff could use. It was posted online and went viral across the city.” There were many surprising and dramatic events, none more so that a flash mob choir performed in Cardiff’s busy shopping centre on Easter Saturday. It is hoped that this collaborative project will be repeated again next year.
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What does it mean for men and women to be equal? Equal doesn’t mean the same.
Rev Clare Hendry: is a former lecturer at Oak Hill Theological College. She is now on the staff of Grace Church, an Anglican church in Muswell Hill, London, and occasionally lectures in pastoral theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. She co-authored Gender Agenda with Lis Goddard and has contributed to Awesome Voices: God Working through Ordained Women Today. She is married and has two children.
I just asked my 21-year-old daughter this question. That led not to a crisp, quotable sentence, but a long discussion on what is meant by equality, which ranged from her saying men and women aren’t equal because they are different to strongly advocating that they should have equal rights. I guess there are as many different answers as the number of people asked. What do we mean by equal? Google ‘equality’ and you are overwhelmed with different terms and different aspects of equality – social equality, gender equality, equality before law. There’s even a village in Illinois named Equality. Ok, well let’s look up a definition: “The state of being equal, correspondence in quantity, degree value, rank or ability” and finally “uniform character” – not too helpful. Synonyms didn’t help either. Your worldview will affect how you answer this question. Writing from a Christian perspective my reference point must always start with God. It is clear that before God,
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men and women are equal in worth and significance. Come back with me to Genesis chapters 1-3, to creation, where we see Adam and Eve created in the image of God. God created both men and women in His image and so together they represent God. In Genesis 1:27–28 man and woman together make up the human species – there is a sense of equality and worth. In Genesis 2:18–25 that equality is again reflected. Now so far I guess most people are with me but I want to argue that equality does not mean ‘sameness’. Men and women are equal in worth and significance but they are different in other ways. Few would argue that men and women are exactly the same but might still argue that everything else is equal and they should be able to, for instance, do the same jobs, including being a bishop. But, there is a sense in which it could be said that women and men are not ‘equal’ – if that means same in every way – but different. We can see that in different names being used for them and the different ways they were created. Furthermore I think there is a distinction right from creation that is reflected in the different roles that men and women are called to.
There is a sense of being complementary to each other, which is why I am all in favour of mixed gender teams in ministry. Adam’s headship was established before the Fall not as a result of the Fall. The order of the creation of Adam and Eve has significance. These distinctions are reflected in later passages in scripture which I discuss with Lis Goddard in the book Gender Agenda. This debate on equality and roles is not just confined to the Christian world. I happened to catch, two weeks running, the One to One programme on Radio 4 featuring Emma Barnett, women’s editor of the Daily Telegraph. Emma struggles, as an orthodox
Jenny Baker: is development manager for Church Urban Fund. Her book Equals – enjoying gender equality in all areas of life – is published by SPCK. jennybaker.org.uk
Equality is about everyone being able to flourish. Equality is the belief that all people have the same value, regardless of any other defining characteristics. A community that values equality will work to eliminate discrimination and barriers to opportunities so that everyone can reach their full potential. Equality is about treating people fairly without prejudice or assumptions. It’s about everyone being able to flourish. Our beliefs about equality matter because they impact our behaviour. The Victorians believed that women were intellectually inferior to men, and so they banned them from studying at university and voting in elections. They had a point. There’s no point educating someone if they can’t learn or trusting them with important decisions if they can’t make good judgements. The trouble is the Victorians were wrong. They MAY/JUNE 2014
Jew but ardent feminist, with the idea of women rabbis. It was fascinating to hear her explore these two aspects of her life as she talked with a Jewish woman barrister and woman rabbi. At one point in the programme she said: “Women aren’t treated unequally in Judaism, they just have different roles to men.” It’s interesting to hear some of the debates that we are having within Christianity also taking place within Judaism. After spending time studying the Bible I chose to be a permanent deacon in the Church of England because of my
had a strong belief in essential differences between men and women and so from the 1890s onwards there was sustained empirical research to discover what those differences were and where they came from. Early studies showed that actually the mental capacities of men and women were more or less equal – a fact that has been consistently upheld in subsequent studies. Very quickly at the time and ever since, everyone accepted that men and women are equally intelligent. To stop women learning or voting is therefore a huge injustice. But clearly men and women are not identical in every way, and so it’s important, if we want to know how men and women should be equal in the Church, to explore exactly how we can be said to be equal to each other. The Bible talks about us being equally made in the image of God and therefore being of equal value (Genesis 1:27). Our experience in the world shows us that men and women are equal in potential and in the functions or roles they fulfil. Women are competent and effective politicians, artists, businesswomen and entrepreneurs, achieving, innovating and leading in every area of life. However when it comes to the Church, there are a few who would argue that they shouldn’t be. Some people read some of Paul and think he banned women from teaching and leading. In fact he called women his co-workers (Romans 16) and acknowledged Junia as an outstanding female apostle (Romans 16:7). He encouraged women to learn (1 Timothy 2:11) and to pray and prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5). He taught that authority within marriage is mutual and reciprocal (1 Corinthians 7:4), and that husbands and wives should love and submit to each other
understanding of the different roles men and women have been called to in the Church. I have loved the variety that my calling to ministry has given me. I have never felt less valued or somehow inferior because I have a different role from some of my male colleagues, but rejoice in bringing, as a woman, something distinctive and valuable to ministry. So what makes men and women equal? It is not about what they can or can’t do, it is not about rights, but it is about image – men and women being created in the image of God to reflect His glory.
(Ephesians 5:2, 21). When you marry Paul’s words with his practice, you can see that he regarded women and men as having equal roles to play within the Church. To stop women using their gifts in any sphere of life is therefore a huge injustice. So when men and women are treated as fully equal in the Church, opportunities and responsibilities are shared out according to people’s gifts and abilities, not their sex. God’s declaration in Genesis that “it is not good for the man to be alone” is taken seriously and where women are missing, for example as leaders and preachers, steps are taken to ensure they have opportunities to grow and learn so they can take their rightful place as partners with men in the kingdom. Similarly where men are in the minority, for example as children’s workers and in the pews, creative efforts are made to remove the barriers that keep them away and to welcome them in. When women and men are treated as fully equal, relationships are based on mutuality and respect, not power and control. People serve each other in love and prefer each other to themselves, forgoing entitlement and privilege. When men and women are treated as fully equal, the Church is enriched by contributions from a vast array of different people rather than being a narrow space where only a few gifts are celebrated. And ultimately it becomes a life-giving place that more authentically reflects the true nature of God who made both men and women in His image.
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21ST CENTURY EVANGELICALS REPORT
“A busy rush-hour bus or train may not be the first place you think of for a quiet time, but it is increasingly a place used to connect with God.”
Getting technologicallysavvy with God by Lucy Olofinjana
Time for Discipleship? is the latest report in the Alliance’s 21st Century Evangelicals series, providing the most up-to-date statistics on the practices of evangelical Christians in the UK today. It has found that while Christians face busyness, struggles and distractions, they are continuing to put their faith in God and His Word, and are seeing Him at work in their lives. CHRISTIANS ON THE MOVE Growing numbers of evangelicals are using Bible apps to connect with God on the move, according to the latest report from the Evangelical Alliance. More than a third say they regularly use Bible apps and many are praying on the move. A busy rush-hour bus or train may not be the first place you think of for a quiet time, but it is increasingly a place used to connect with God. The Church of England are realising the need to make it easier for people to read the
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Word on the move and recently launched texts from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer onto an app to help worshippers with this. With increasing numbers using Bible apps, the Alliance’s research backs up the importance for Christians of meditating on the Word regularly, with 90 per cent reading it at least several times a week and virtually all accepting the Bible as reliable and true. Allowing busyness to distract us from spending time with God is nothing new – we see this in Martha’s story in Luke 10. And
our research has found today’s disciples also struggle to set aside crucial time to be with God. Martha was the biblical follower of Jesus that the highest number of people in the survey said they identified with.
FAITH THROUGH HARD TIMES Our research has also shown that evangelicals face challenges and disappointments in their faith. But people’s faith is growing through the bad times as well as the good, with just three per cent saying the crisis had damaged their faith in the long-term. One person said: “I did not know how I was going to react when I became disabled and house-bound. I cannot shout it out loud enough of how the Lord is taking me through this period in my life.” And another expressed: “God has never let me go, through mental health issues, physical ill health, bowel cancer and bereavements.”
TIME TO BE WITH OTHERS As disciples of Jesus we are, thankfully, not alone. Chair of Keswick Ministries and Alliance council member John Risbridger said of the findings: “Almost all the people
21ST CENTURY EVANGELICALS REPORT
that we surveyed, (90 per cent) said that being involved in church, whether in its large gathering or its small groups, was very important in their Christian lives and discipleship. Following Jesus isn’t meant to be a kind of lonely hobby for individuals, it’s something we’re meant to do together.” Our Alliance council meeting in February reminded us that disciples are first of all learners and that this life-long process of learning and growth is done with the help of others. The research has shown that the support of other Christians, through the Church, is vital. As one respondent said: “I couldn’t be a disciple without the help, love and encouragement of others”, with another adding: “Without a house group, I’d be a quivering wreck”. Six in 10 said their church leader had inspired and influenced them, making church leaders by far the most frequently mentioned influence. Lucy Peppiatt, principal of Westminster Theological Centre, said: “People like to have someone to look to, to emulate. Someone who pushes you to go further than where you are at the time, who inspires you to be a bit like them.”
TIME FOR INTENTIONAL DISCIPLESHIP But whilst the vast majority find church helpful, almost one in 10 said their church had not helped them grow as a Christian. And only 40 per cent felt their church did very well at discipling new Christians. Respondents were more likely to agree that their church encourages them to use their gifts and talents within the church than in work, public life and the wider community. Churches have great opportunities to equip their busy congregations to live out their faith beyond church walls. Why don’t you encourage your church to do this creatively and intentionally, led by the holy spirit?
Time to consider Reflecting on our findings, here are some questions churches may want to consider:
Time to consider:
Only four in 10 feel their church does very well at discipling new Christians
…is your church focusing on discipling people, helping them grow in their faith, continue to learn and apply what they’ve learnt to their everyday lives?
Just a quarter feel they have been equipped to share their faith with others
…is your church intentionally preparing and encouraging people to share their faith with others?
Only a third set aside a substantial period each day to pray, and almost two thirds admit they are easily distracted when spending time with God
…how can your church encourage people to overcome distractions and set aside time daily to be God?
Vide o Resources We’ve filmed some key leaders and Alliance council members reflecting on the Time for discipleship? findings. The short film clips are available online and perfect to show in your small group, leadership meeting or church service to stimulate discussion. Visit eauk.org/discipleship to access the clips, as well as longer talks on discipleship from our council meeting.
Every church can benefit from an intentional focus on discipleship, making sure that everyone is continually learning and growing in their faith, and sharing what they’ve learnt with others. We hope this research helps you and your church to reflect on your discipleship and spark ideas of how you can equip Christians to be lifelong learners.
The clips include:
Visit eauk.org/snapshot to access the full report and accompanying discussion questions, perfect for sparking conversations and ideas in small groups. Online you can also order paper copies of the report and join the research panel.
Roger Forster (Ichthus Christian Fellowship): “To be alone or with others listening to God is a terrific discipline that we need to re-understand in the 21st century.”
Jonathan Oloyede (National Day of Prayer): “Having a disciplined prayer life is so important because it helps you as an individual to have that proximity, closeness and connection with Jesus.”
Ann Holt (Bible Society): “The Bible… represents a completely different story of the way the world is from the story that’s told around us.”
John Risbridger (Keswick Ministries): “If we’re passionate about discipleship we’ve got to be passionate about church, and learn to love it just like Jesus did.”
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Danny Webster: is the Alliance’s advocacy programme manager
Why not engaging in politics is not an option “We are not going to find a perfect party, or a party where we agree with everything in their manifesto.”
films on offer that has an impact on the cinema and the film industry and they will endeavour to produce films in the future more likely to get viewers interested. In politics, however, exiting is not a good option. When we walk away from politics we leave it to those who decide to remain. Politics doesn’t work like a market economy where choosing not to participate is a valid and important option. Instead, it is survival of the fittest, with those willing to stick around despite the difficulties, and potential dead ends getting to decide on behalf of everyone else. That is why for Christians, not engaging is not an option. Political parties are imperfect, they stand for things we would rather they didn’t and they fail in ways we hope they would not. But we are not going to find a perfect party, or a party where we agree with everything in their manifesto.
The local and European elections in May take place against a backdrop of apathy and even anger toward the political process. In 2009, the last time seats for the European parliament were contested, the Conservative Party managed to secure victory but against a backdrop of increased support for minority parties. On that occasion Labour, then the party of government, fared particularly badly, coming in sixth in some parts of the south-west. UKIP made significant gains, winning more than 16 per cent of the vote, and the BNP gained two seats with six per cent of the overall vote. This year’s elections are expected to bring further gains for UKIP at the expense of the major parties. Other traditionally minor parties such as the Greens are also expected to fair relatively well, however, there is little expectation the BNP will hold onto their seats. IDEA MAGAZINE / 18
As well as voting for members of the European Parliament, many parts of the UK will also be electing local councillors at the vote in May. Both European and local elections usually see very low turnouts. At the last elections for the European parliament only fractionally more than a third voted, and at local elections that aren’t combined with general elections a similar proportion usually cast a vote. There is a challenge for Christians to engage positively in the political process, while also accepting its deficiencies. To vote is not to say that everything is okay the way it is. But not to vote is to say that it doesn’t matter. In many parts of life choosing not to participate is a useful option: it expresses our preference and it can make a difference. If, for example, we decide not to go to the cinema because we don’t like any of the
When we come to vote at the elections in May, we must take the ability and freedom to vote seriously. Our 21st Century Evangelicals research shows that evangelical Christians are very politically-engaged: over 86 per cent voted in the 2010 general election. If when you look at the parties you find it difficult to support any of them, let that be a prompt to consider how you and other Christians can work to improve them. Christians should not be afraid of things not being how we want them to be. In fact, we should not be surprised that politics, society, and people have an inbuilt capacity to disappoint. But Christians should also be the ones most motivated to make a difference. And the ones most focused on seeing the disappointment, the apathy and the anger towards politics replaced with hope. Voting is an act in deciding how we want our local area, our country, and in this case (to some degree) our continent, run. However, voting is a limited action, there is only so much casting a vote on a ballot paper can achieve. If we are frustrated then we should do more than vote and not less. We should join political parties if we want them changed for the better, and we should look for opportunities to serve our communities and be voices for good.
How legacies can shape the future A GIFT FOR THE FUTURE When Eleanor Collins* passed away in 2012, what she didn’t know was just how significant her legacy gift to the Alliance would turn out to be. Her generous gift of £10,000 went towards our Clearing the Ground report – an inquiry into religious liberty in the UK. Because of Eleanor’s kind gift, we were able to partner with more than 50 Christian organisations to investigate the problems Christians face in living out their faith. As a result, we have been able to take action to break down the barriers between the Church and many areas of society. Following Clearing the Ground, our Faith in the Community report gathered and analysed the responses of around 160 local authorities across the UK about their work with, and perspective on, faith groups. More and more we are now building positive links between churches and their local authorities and communities. We are paving the way for future generations of Christians to be united in mission and confident and effective in voice.
Eleanor’s legacy lives on. Ordinary people like Eleanor show extraordinary generosity by leaving a legacy gift to the Alliance. They reveal how deeply they care about the work we are doing to unify and represent the Church in the UK. They remind us that, no matter the size of the gift, each of us can make a difference even after we are gone.
THE LEGACY OF THE ALLIANCE The Evangelical Alliance has been serving the UK’s evangelical Christians since 1846 when a great assembly of believers gathered in London. They were passionate about uniting the Church so that together they could transform England with the good news of Jesus Christ. Nearly 170 years later and the Evangelical Alliance – established at that meeting – remains committed to restoring Christian values to the UK through a united Church MAY/JUNE 2014
“Legacies are some of the most generous gifts we receive and they make a huge difference to the work that we can do.” movement. Though so much has changed in our nations, the need is as great as it ever was. Maybe it is even greater; we are speaking to a UK that no longer has the reference points of the Christian faith. Thanks to the continued support of people like Eleanor Collins, there have been many milestones and success stories in Alliance history, but our work is far from over. We are passionate about bringing Christians together and representing the voice of the two million evangelicals in the UK to the government, media and society. We also believe that the Church is the key to long-lasting change in the UK, and that by working closely with you, our members and supporters, we can transform our communities with the good news of Jesus. We are working for the future of the UK Church. By leaving a legacy gift to the Alliance, you too can help to pave the way
for future generations of Christians to be united in mission and confident in voice. Steve Clifford, general director, said: “People often don’t hear about the importance of legacy gifts, perhaps because they can be a sensitive topic. Yet these are some of the most generous gifts we receive and they make a huge difference to the work that we can do. I think we need to tell these stories and remember with gratitude those who have helped pave the way for future generations of Christians.” Those who kindly remember the Alliance in their wills enable us to do so much more to impact the Church and society. Our vision and theirs is for a united Church that brings transformation to the whole of the UK. We love to tell their stories; stories of faith and hope, stories that reveal a love of that which God loves: His Church. * Name changed to protect identity
To find out more about leaving a legacy gift to the Evangelical Alliance, please contact our fundraising project manager, Nicky Waters, on 0207 520 3858 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit eauk.org/connect/give/legacies
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Who will speak for FGM victims? Once a successful HR professional in the city Ann-Marie Wilson suddenly found herself becoming a global advocate, talking with African tribal leaders, lobbying national governments and liaising with the UN. Lucy Cooper finds out how her life took a dramatic turn when she met a little girl in Sudan and how this led to a worldwide campaign to end female genital mutilation. “It started with a particular encounter in Sudan in 2005 – and literally changed my life,” she said. “I remember going back to my church afterwards and telling them what I felt called to do. ‘It’s far too dangerous, you can’t possibly do that,’ they told me. “We negotiated and I started my journey,” Ann-Marie recollects. Now the face behind 28 Too Many, she is at the forefront of a massive global issue – one which has increasingly gained publicity following the announcement of the first prosecutions against FGM in the UK in March. At the time of her first trip, it was no surprise there were concerns for her safety. Advocates against female genital mutilation (FGM) were being reportedly kidnapped, cut or even killed in some countries around the world. So what caused Ann-Marie to risk it all, give up a successful psychology and counselling business and completely retrain for an entirely different challenge? IDEA MAGAZINE / 22
“While working with Medair in Sudan, West Darfur, I met an 11-year-old girl with her baby,” said Ann-Marie. “She had been cut at five years old as part of normal tradition in her community. A year before meeting me, armed Janjaweed militia rampaged through her community raping and killing most of the village. She had survived and was left raped, pregnant with all of her family burned and killed. “That moment changed everything for me. She was an orphan, a child and an unmarried mother and had no elders to defend her. ‘Who will speak up for her?’ I asked myself. ‘Maybe I could in some way?’ This was my Esther moment. ‘What if you have brought me to this place for such a time as this, Lord?’” Ann-Marie realises the practice is influenced by strong yet ludicrous myths which exist in communities. One example is that women are oversexed so their clitoris needs to be removed, or that if not cut, the woman’s parts would grow to the ground.
“In a Somali refugee camp they believed this and there I was in my full length skirt saying: ‘I promise I haven’t got one of those, I think I would have noticed by now. The girls giggle, but standing up to these myths is vital.’” FGM can cause mild to life-threatening health problems interfering with natural bodily functions and often causing severe pain, bleeding, septic shock, infertility, fistula, infections, childbirth complications and sometimes, death. Gaining an understanding of the background, causes and issues when beginning to tackle it is crucial. For her it involved studying basic midwifery in Pakistan, fistula surgery in Nigeria and then Islamic, gender and anthropology studies at All Nations College. Her ongoing work is under the umbrella of the Church Mission Society (CMS) and she is on Tearfund’s Inspiring Individuals scheme.
“I wanted passionately to get to the root of the problem, change the beliefs of the people and eradicate this abuse globally.” “To begin with I thought that there must be loads of people addressing FGM and all I needed to do was join them – but then I realised this wasn’t the case. I wanted passionately to get to the root of the problem, change the beliefs of the people and eradicate this abuse globally. Quite a big dream!” Due to the size of such an undertaking, Ann-Marie decided when setting up her organisation in 2010 to focus on the 28 countries in Africa where they practise FGM – hence the name 28 Too Many. The practice is not specific to certain religions. In Kenya, groups involved are Somali Muslims, Kisi Christians and the Masai. The principle task now for 28 Too Many is to continue with community-based research on the ground in African countries. With extensive surveys complete in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, 28 Too Many presents its findings to governments and the Church to help beat and end such a horrific problem. “We offer the research which often, due to fragmentation, they are grateful for. Then we support. After all, they come from the culture and they speak the language and it is important to be culturally relevant.”
In this advocacy work Ann-Marie has supported House of Lords debates and worked alongside Department for International Development, the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK African diaspora to tackle FGM where it happens here. “It’s a problem here too. Around 20,000 girls are at risk in the UK each year with 70,000 already affected and living with the often very damaging consequences and needing specialist NHS services. “We’ve had a law against it here since 1985 but it’s hard to prosecute because you can’t really get young girls prosecuting their own parents. If social workers, teachers, police, court system and faith bodies don’t call it child abuse then people won’t take it seriously. If they call it a cultural practice there is a danger of bending over backwards in order to be culturally sensitive.”
Ann-Marie has to overcome the significant embarrassment factor regardless of the audience, believing a taboo is no excuse for not addressing abuse. “It is a notoriously secretive practice with sufferers having little opportunity to discuss it. Only through education and dialogue can many people see that it is really harmful.” She added: “When I have crazy times in Africa sleeping alongside chickens and girls I sometimes wonder what I let myself in for. This journey is costly and harder than I could have ever imagined but God is calling me to be a change.” 28toomany.org
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Is the Church failing ex-offenders? by Richard Woodall
What do a former speechwriter for David Cameron, an ex-cabinet minister and a criminal-turned-vicar have in common? When it comes to showing God’s kingdom to ex-offenders and prisoners, they are united in their belief in the importance and scope of such work. What do a former speechwriter for David Cameron, an ex-cabinet minister and a criminal-turned-vicar have in common? When it comes to showing God’s kingdom to ex-offenders and prisoners, they are united in their belief in the importance and scope of such work. It’s a great illustration of God’s Church working together to implement the Great Commission. After all, Paul himself was a prisoner. And we don’t need to look too far to find a biblical reference to prisons ministry. A quick glance at Matthew 25:34-36 refers to Jesus’s return spelling the rewarding of those who had time for the hungry and thirsty, the outcast, the sick and… those in prison. But it appears not enough is being done. Figures show less than 10 per cent of churches involved with Alpha courses find the time to work with some of society’s most vulnerable. And that’s just Alpha-related churches. Estimates say there are just short of 40,000 churches in the UK. At least if the Church is not noticing the need then the government seems to be. Last year the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, unveiled his Transforming Rehabilitation policy to tackle reoffending. Ministry of Justice figures show almost half of all prisonleavers reoffended within 12 months – for those serving less than a year that figure rose to almost 58 per cent.
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Grayling’s idea sees private and voluntary groups working together to tackle reoffending.
Each year they have contact with 300 prisoners and ex-offenders as well as 1,000 school pupils.
There is never a better time for the Church to get involved.
Danny said: “We think the systems that are supposed to serve society don’t work very well - particularly the rehabilitation work managed by the criminal justice system.
Rewind six years and Danny Kruger was writing speeches for David Cameron. As chief speechwriter to the then prime minister-in-waiting, he used what sparse free time he had available to help offenders through his charity Only Connect, founded in 2006.
“The re-offending rate is still very high and an increasing proportion of crime is committed by repeat offenders. “If we can tackle re-offending we can make a real dent in crime figures.
The crime prevention charity provides training, support and creative opportunities for young people at risk, as well as prisoners and ex-offenders.
“The probation system is not equipped to provide love, compassion, or moral direction, neither is it equipped to be patient and flexible.”
Danny now works full-time for Only Connect as its chief executive.
A recent report from New Philanthropy Capital showed Only Connect had more than
“The response of the Church to the call of Matthew 25 is at best patchy, at worst feeble and inadequate.” – Jonathan Aitken theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. He was equally surprised about the lack of priority the Church gave to meeting the needs of ex-offenders.
Ex-Offenders. This re-integrates offenders back into society through the local Church; providing the necessary training for church leaders to help them do this.
“On the whole the response of the Church to the call of Matthew 25 is at best patchy, at worst feeble and inadequate.
He is also executive director of the William Wilberforce Trust which has an anti-human trafficking unit, a homeless drop-in, debt counselling and provides courses on money, debt, and depression.
“There are some excellent individual church ministries including Caring For Ex-Offenders, Stepping Stones Trust and the Catholic Society of St Vincent de Paul. “I think church leaders believe it’s better to leave it up to the experts. “If you consider prison chaplains, then they do an excellent job, but if you look at the Church, you have to say this a failure to carry out Christ’s commands.” Aitken admitted there are certain “difficulties” to churches getting involved but that they were not “insurmountable”. “My own Church – St Matthew’s in Westminster – has a very effective ministry for prisoners and ex-offenders. You need some spiritual discipline and determination to do this work though. halved expected rates of re-offending with those with whom it works – saving billions of pounds too for the taxpayer. Danny said there were a number of factors preventing a larger number of churches getting involved with such work. “Asking people in church to accommodate people who live quite chaotic lives is going to be a handful for anyone. “Some might think ‘I don’t want this person volunteering on the crèche rota – I don’t know what he/she might have done’. We have a responsibility to overcome all these questions. Former cabinet minister and Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken was jailed for 18 months in 1999 for perjury and perverting the course of justice. He has since recommitted to his Christian faith and studied MAY/JUNE 2014
“The tide is slowly turning but it isn’t turning fast enough. The response of the Church frequently disappoints me, but despite that, I am also enthused by the areas of excellence I find. “If there was ever a time the Church needed to reach out with a loving hand it’s at the point of release from prison.” Aitken – who regularly visits prisoners as well as mentoring some - hopes his background allows him to relate to offenders in a way some others maybe cannot. “When I address any prison audience, I begin by telling them I have been where they are, in prison, and that despite my posh accent I understand what it’s like. At that moment I get double the attention I might otherwise get.” The Rev Paul Cowley is on the staff at Holy Trinity Brompton and founded Caring for
At the age of 15 he was expelled from school, and ended up living on the street before turning to crime. He spent a year in prison after being caught by police in a stolen vehicle. The Rev Cowley – who also spent 15 years in the Armed Forces – said: “The hardest part of working with ex-offenders is they are often dysfunctional and broken. A lot of them have lost hope in themselves. “Statistics show 70 per cent of prisoners have some form of mental illness, whether that is self-harm, depression, or addiction. You’ve got people who want to change but find it hard to. Trying to find churches that will engage with them is difficult.” He recalls an experience where he told an ex-offender to connect with a church upon release from prison – but the offender wrote back saying he did attend but wasn’t made to feel welcome. It was an experience which motivated him to start the ministry he did – including Alpha for Prisons. The Rev Cowley said such work forces him to ask why more of the 7,500 Alpha-running churches in the UK do not feel they have time for this ministry. Just 600 are involved. “Most of it is fear which stops churches getting involved; or they don’t see it as a priority. “The more churches we get on board, the more impact we can make to help those coming out of prison; and start to reduce re-offending,” he said. “Once people are involved, they see it’s not as scary and all-consuming as they thought it was.” IDEA MAGAZINE / 25
RT Kendall: writer, speaker and teacher
Holy spirit, holy fire Richard Woodall meets writer, speaker and teacher RT Kendall – author of more than 50 books – about the holy spirit at work today… The prominence and role given to the holy spirit have long been debated. But what does it really mean to be spirit-led? At his Strange Fire conference in California last October, the American pastor John MacArthur caused a stir when he denounced charismatic expressions of Church, claiming they “dishonoured God” and offered nothing to “enrich true worship”. MacArthur, a cessationist, is a strong advocate for balancing aspects of the charismatic movement with what scripture says. And so his conference pre-empted the release of his new book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. Such debates force us to look again at the question of the role and weight given to both Word and spirit in a church. Are church leaders too afraid of the idea of being open to the full range of gifts of the holy spirit? Or are they so focused on expressing the spirit that they are in danger of not preaching the Word enough? It was into this context that the influential author, theologian and former Westminster Chapel pastor RT Kendall was speaking about his recent release: Holy Fire, A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in our Lives. Originally from Kentucky, RT Kendall moved to England to study for a doctorate at Oxford University. His best known books include Total Forgiveness, The Thorn in the Flesh and Grace. Holy Fire has already been dubbed a book which “ignites fresh passion in evangelicals for the spirit and fresh desire in charismatics for the scriptures”, and it is a book that ‘RT’, as he is known, is enthusiastically and genuinely excited about. Back in 1992, at Wembley Conference Centre, RT, then pastor at Westminster Chapel, told the crowd his theology about the effect that IDEA MAGAZINE / 26
a biblical and faithful combination of Word and spirit would bring; – believing it would be the biggest movement of the holy spirit the world would ever see. He admits there are many books available on the holy spirit, but believes the “third person of the Trinity is the least understood”. His book aims to be accessible for the “new Christian, the scholar, the layman, and church leader”. RT told me that when he uttered those words at Wembley some 20 years ago, he was not aware that he was walking on familiar ground: ground that the British Pentecostal evangelist Smith Wigglesworth had walked in 1947, when he talked about
exactly the same transformation happening when Word and spirit are combined. “When I gave that talk I was not aware Smith Wigglesworth had said the same thing in 1947”. The only difference is that I call it ‘Isaac’. “I think charismatics have got the first bite at it – there’s more to come. “Before the second coming, there will be the greatest outpouring of the Spirit since Pentecost. Every day I ask the Lord whether it could be today.” He recounts the last chapter in Holy Fire which builds on his Wembley address.
“God has used the charismatic Church all over the world up until now – even though the greatest outpouring has yet to happen.” He added: “What I said at Wembley offended many. But many have come back to me now and said: ‘RT I hope you’re right.’” Admitting that he thinks such an event of transformation and change will happen in his lifetime – he is 78 – he adds: “What is coming will be 100 times greater than anything we’ve seen.” RT Kendall is a man I immediately admire. He combines his deep knowledge of scripture with a desire to see the ‘acts of God’ seen in the Bible played out in the world today through the work of the holy spirit. He is also honest enough to admit that not everything done in the name of the charismatic Church is sound (he has spoken in the past of Christians needing to be careful about proclaiming how ‘God told them this’), and readily admits that Holy Fire stemmed from the need to respond to MacArthur’s then – forthcoming publication. The book also addresses MacArthur’s cessationist beliefs as much as his attacks on
the charismatic Church. Citing cessationsim as having “no biblical support,” RT added: “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Bible is the Word of God and He is real and eternal today.
While studying in England, he was invited to preach at Westminster Chapel, by Martin Lloyd-Jones, the pastor at that time, a man he says he “was not worthy to tie the shoelaces of”.
“Cessationists are not bad people. They have maintained a robust belief in the infallibility of scripture.”
“I didn’t think anything of it at the time, and nor did they, but they asked me to stay. And I stayed on for 25 years.”
RT – who retired 12 years ago from pastoral ministry after 25 years at Westminster Chapel – now lives in Tennessee. He’s in the UK for a few months having been invited by Kensington Temple to preach a range of sermons.
Holy Fire, RT said, was written in four months and was the easiest book he had penned, he added.
He recounts how his ministry builds on his own ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’. “One morning I was driving and had what I call a ‘Damascus Road experience’. It wasn’t my conversion – I was a Christian already – but Jesus was so real at that point and my theology changed in 24 hours.” It was from there that he took the path to becoming a Southern Baptist – something that informed his teaching as he was at Oxford.
“It is easy for any author to think that their latest book is the best and most important yet. I have this temptation with almost every book I write. But if I am completely honest, this book may truly be my most important.” If there’s one thing he would want Holy Fire to achieve, what would it be? “It would be to make people hungry for the Spirit.” RT Kendall will be speaking at the 30th anniversary of the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park in Esher, 13-16 May.
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Living biblically with same-sex attraction by Richard Woodall
It’s quite rare for one particular topic to dominate both parliament and the Church. But in the debate over the government’s introduction of same-sex marriage, which came into law in March, it’s important the Church doesn’t become a place where those battling feelings of same sex attraction feel isolated; but instead a place where leaders can provide committed pastoral support.
Evangelical churches are starting to do better at dealing with this issue. In September 2012, there was an interview with Vaughan Roberts – vicar of St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford in Evangelicals Now in which he talked about his struggle with same-sex attraction. That was followed in November last year by the launch of the Living Out website. The idea behind Living Out was to share stories and answer complicated questions about same-sex attraction, as well as help church leaders understand the topic more so they could help those in their congregations battling the issue. Such a website also gives a voice to the very public debate – in and outside of the Church – that there is a credible and biblically faithful way to live for those with same-sex attraction. Two of the faces behind Living Out are Sam
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Allberry, a church leader in Maidenhead, and Bristol church leader Ed Shaw. For Sam and Ed, experiencing same-sex attraction has led to a decision to remain celibate.
what we are trying to do is get our stories out there and present this alternative script.”
Speaking five months after the launch, Ed Shaw, associate pastor at Emmanuel Church, Bristol, said he felt the need to launch Living Out as part of a response to how the homosexuality debate in the Church was developing.
Emails to the website, Ed added, have been frequent with feedback including comments about “how great it was hearing that it was possible to live life and flourish in a way which doesn’t reject what the Bible teaches about sex and marriage”.
“People who are same-sex attracted were not being given a plausible, alternative script to follow and were just hearing from the world outside.
“Some of these are from people experiencing same-sex attraction who haven’t spoken to anybody else about it,” Ed said.
“Increasingly for some evangelicals, the alternative script to follow is one of going with your sexuality and expressing yourself in a same-sex relationship.
While admitting that “cultural trends are going against the Church”, Ed added that for some struggling with the issue, “all they seem to hear is a negative view of how the Church interacts with people who are
“We’re not a pastoral support group but
There have been 5,000 visits to the Living Out website a week.
helpful way and gets people to think a little bit more. “I’m reluctant to attach my sexuality to my identity because I think my identity is as a child of God and united in Christ, rather than my sexuality.” Allberry agreed and said website feedback had shown it was a good idea. “When we first came up with the idea of Living Out we wanted Christians experiencing same-sex attraction to have some worked-out examples of what living with that faithfully might look like. “We also wanted to be a resource to the wider Church on how to understand issues of sexuality and to present something of a Christian perspective on homosexuality that those outside the Church might find helpful and compelling. “I think it’s increasingly important for us to be able to hear the voices of Christians who experience same-sex attraction and yet who hold to the Bible’s teaching that such feelings are not to be acted on. “The idea that two people loving each other is all that matters is the oxygen we breathe living in the West. “To have received so many messages of support from fellow evangelicals around the world indicates the site is encouraging them to keep holding to the Bible’s teaching.”
same-sex attracted and we ought to show that there is a positive experience and it is possible to do what the Bible says and flourish. “That’s a challenge for the Church because we haven’t been very good at it, but Living Out is all about trying to get people to see it is possible.” How would he describe his struggles? ”The most accurate way for me to talk about myself is to say I experience same-sex attraction; that helps people to understand my sexuality but also doesn’t create a misunderstanding either. “If I say I’m gay most people in the world around would think I’m on the lookout for a guy to settle down with; it’s not a particularly helpful term and so defining it as experiencing ‘same-sex attraction’ is a more
In Vaughan Roberts’ interview with Evangelicals Now, he admitted there were a growing number of Christians he knew struggling with same-sex attraction who had been tempted to move away from the conservative understanding of marriage between a man and woman. The reason why people do that, Ed says, is because of how difficult the struggle can be. “People change their mind because they think it’s too tough a call to follow rather than because they’ve changed their mind on what the Bible says. There are now enough people to go to who make it easier to change their mind on what the Bible says.” There were two other important issues to consider, Ed added.. “The whole big picture story of the Bible is really clear that sex is for marriage between a man and woman – that is a massively clear statement it makes in lots of different cultures and contexts.
“There’s not any ambiguity, it’s really clear all the way through. In no other culture has the Church had a different view, which suggests this is not just a case of ‘getting with the culture of the day’. “On other issues like baptism or church governance, for example, churches might disagree on and there might be ambiguity. But when it comes to same-sex attraction, Christians have always agreed, and it is just a few people over the last 50 years who have disagreed.” He added: “One of the massive lies of society is that you can only be intimate if you’re having sex. But the Bible teaches intimacy is to be found in all sorts of friendships including in the church family.” Jonathan Berry, aged 46, is director of True Freedom Trust (TfT), a confidential Christian support and teaching ministry. It believes any sexual relationship outside of heterosexual marriage is incompatible with biblical teaching and offers support to those who experience same-sex attraction but hold a traditional and conservative view on the issue. Jonathan was in a long-term gay relationship before coming to faith in Christ aged 24, at which point he felt convicted to leave his partner. After training at Bible college, Jonathan was pastor of a church in east London for 10 years before joining the TfT. Brought up in a church-going family and yet someone who started to experience same-sex attractions from the age of 11, he described how crucial it is to have support from the Church. “There was no one I felt I could turn to – not my parents, not my friends and certainly no one at church. The only times that I’d ever heard Christians talking about homosexuality were always in very condemning, harsh, judgemental ways.” Jonathan – who believes attitudes among Christians are slowly changing – is passionate about his belief that the gospel is good news for gay people and good news for Christians who may not feel comfortable with the label ‘gay’ but struggle with samesex attraction. Living Out has also received endorsements from across the church spectrum, including Mike Pilavachi, Terry Virgo and New York pastor Tim Keller. livingout.org
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SOUTH ASIAN FORUM
Discovering Jesus “It became clear to me that I didn’t have to change who I was – my Asian culture, my relationships, clothing or food – to be a follower of Christ.” These are the words of Sahodra (not her real name), who took part in a pilot course of Discovering Jesus Through Asian Eyes. The eight-week course explores some of the key questions that the main religions of the South Asian and East Asian diaspora have about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. It is created by the Alliance’s South Asian Forum and based on the second edition of its booklet Jesus Through Asian Eyes. Since its launch in 2011, more than 14,000 copies have been distributed. The revised edition and the course were field-tested in three churches with a number of Asians and received great feedback. “The course answered a lot of questions that Asian non-Christians ask in the simplest ways,” said Sahodra.
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In the UK there are a huge number of people who are either first or second generation immigrants, or whose family roots are firmly within an Asian culture. According to the census data for the UK in 2011, almost seven per cent of the population identifies itself as Asian or Asian British: nearly 4.5 million people. It is hoped that through the new course, many more people who might have come from Asian backgrounds and would like to know more about Christianity will come to faith in Jesus Christ. The new course is supported by more than 30 partners from across the Christian spectrum including Christianity Explored, the London Baptist Association, the Church of England (Diocese of London), Interserve, South Asian Concern, UCCF, the Assemblies of God and the Leprosy Mission England and Wales.
Manoj Raithatha, national co-ordinator of SAF, said: “We are providing training from experienced practitioners to help churches and organisations get the most out of these new resources and to develop their relationships and contacts with the Asian community.” saf.eauk.org
by Rt Rev Paul Butler bishop of Durham
Partnering for peace Peace and reconciliation feature highly in the speeches and writings of church, as well as social and political leaders. They should do so. The wellbeing of all people and creation requires nations and communities to be at peace. This involves real healing for past hurt that comes through deep reconciliation. Those who were torn apart need to be carefully, painstakingly, mercifully, brought together again wherever possible.
a nation as well as how much people feel free to speak of their own convictions. For example how openly one can talk about Hutu, Tutsi and Twa ethnic identities is very different in the two nations. Politicians can drive forward policies that enable peace and reconciliation to flourish, or they can make such progress very difficult.
allies in this process who do not share our commitment to Jesus Christ. Christian Aid demonstrated being partners and enablers for peace both on the ground in Rwanda and Burundi and here in the UK. They advised, guided, educated, supported and challenged.
Last summer I visited Rwanda and Burundi with two other church leaders from my then diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, three MPs and Andy Clasper of Christian Aid. Together as a joint church and parliamentary group we set out to see reconciliation at work in these two fascinating nations. The nature of our group meant that we gained access to church and other nongovernmental based projects and political leaders. Rwanda is well-known for the genocide of 1994 and its extraordinary story of recovery since then; heavily helped by large amounts of foreign aid. Burundi is far less well-known but during its 15-year civil war saw as many people killed as Rwanda did in 1994. Peace came much more recently. The rebuilding is much slower, largely due to far less international help being offered. In the depths of rural Burundi we were fantastically entertained by the dramatic presentation of the Mothers Union (with lots of men too) explaining how their literacy, numeracy and micro credit groups are transforming lives; including bringing local people and returnees from Tanzania together when they feared each other before. In Rwanda we heard of village communities where former enemies had been brought together through a ‘simple’ storytelling group and how they had then built on this with a cooperative agricultural and animal husbandry project. These were made possible by the local Church and Christian Aid rooting their support in the community, not telling them how it should be done. We were able to talk to political leaders and gain knowledge about their different approaches and hopes. This work is vital as it is here national policies are framed; and international support and co-operation won or lost. National policies evidently make a huge difference to the infrastructure of
“The gospel of God in Jesus Christ is all about reconciliation.” Bishop Paul Butler visited Rwanda and Burundi with Christian Aid
The gospel of God in Jesus Christ is all about reconciliation. In Christ, through the cross, God reconciles us to Himself and as He does so we find ourselves inwardly restored and reconciled to who we have been made to be (2 Corinthians 5 and Colossians 1). The outflow of this is reconciliation between God and humanity, between people, and between humans and creation. We saw this graphically worked out in some of the projects we observed. The order was not always the same; some found their Godward reconciliation because they had first found it with creation, other people or both. Some found God’s reconciliation inspiring them then to work at relationships with their neighbours and their land. While this is the fullness of peace we seek, this visit highlighted again for me that wherever we are seeking peace and reconciliation, whether overseas or in our own communities, we have many
The challenge with which I returned was both to continue to stand with my friends in these nations and learn from them, and to pursue real community-based peace and reconciliation here in the UK. This year’s Christian Aid Week, which takes place from 11-17 May focuses on this kind of vital peace and reconciliation work around the world. It also provides the Church in this nation with an opportunity to reach out – with a bold expression of love – into our own communities that stand so much in need of being brought together. We need it just as much as our sisters and brothers in these nations do, even if expressed in very different ways. Peace and reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel message and, from governments to charities, communities to individuals – we all have a part to play.
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How do we address the male deficit in the Church? Carl Beech, director, Christian Vision for Men “Either the gospel isn’t true, God loves women more than men, or something has gone wrong with the way we do discipleship and mission. At CVM we see no shortage of men coming to Christ but then we’ve developed a male approach. You won’t find me talking about feminisation though. It’s a red herring and tends to polarise rather than unite and engender some effective critical thinking. I do talk about the Romanticisation of the gospel and church culture.”
Krish Kandiah, executive director: churches in mission, Evangelical Alliance Figures from the last English Church Census in 2005 seem to indicate there is an inbalance with 57 per cent of churchgoers being female and 43 per cent male but more recent research published last year looking at churchgoing in London presents a much more even spread. If there is a problem; that isn’t based on birth and death rates or including midweek church attendance, this happened while churches are run predominantly by men. Despite this I have heard arguments for gearing the Church more towards men. Personally I think we need a greater involvement in decisionmaking for women as I believe the Church should model to our culture both the equality and complementary nature of female and male relationships. I believe that a Church confident in the gospel will call men and women to the kind of discipleship that challenges the consumerist attitudes that make participation in church life dependent on whether services are provided in a way that I want. The answer is not to be more macho.
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John Richards, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Mold Jesus didn’t have a problem attracting men to his kingdom work, and turning them into leaders; so what was his strategy? First, He invested time in men, discipled them in small groups and one-to-one. Second, he called them to invest time, give up the playstation, even their jobs. Too often church gets the leftovers from all-consuming jobs and lifestyles. Third, Jesus deliberately trained them for leadership; he pushed them into responsibility, persevered with them when they failed. Fourth, Jesus modelled true manhood; with convictions, yet compassionate; full of grace, and full of truth.
Dan Steel, leader of Magdalen Road Church, Oxford What does seem clear is that both men and women are leaving the Church, but men at a faster rate. Why is this? The argument seems to be (in broad straw-man type brush strokes), that there’s a conflict between a common church culture (which often feels quite feminine) and what it means to be ‘a man’. Think of the way we talk about feelings and concepts, rather than practicalities, or how we set up the church with flowers, banners and pastel shades, or even how we sing... How do we change this? Changing culture is difficult, but we need to, and helping men to witness to other men is also difficult, but vital. And anyway, don’t we follow a man who gathered around him a group of men, who changed the world?
HIDDEN IN CHRIST: LIVING AS GOD’S BELOVED
THE CONFIDENT MOM by Joyce Meyer (Faithwords)
I was unfairly dubious about this book. I didn’t know how well advice from an American author would translate to life in the UK. But The Confident Mom is marvellous. Meyer doesn’t promise a perfect child, but she does give us Bible passages to build the confidence and soul. She reminds us that as mothers, by making time with God (however small a window that may be) and letting Him lead you, life with your child will be God inspired. ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’ she quotes. And remember: Nelson Mandela’s mother set up the first chapel in her village. Food for thought. Reviewed by Rebecca Taylor
by James Bryan Smith (IVP)
The author of this very easy to read book has two simple messages for his readers – Jesus is with you and in you always, and you live in the unshakeable kingdom of God. This is a radical message for today’s world where it ‘s so easy to get one’s identity from the stuff that modern culture tempts us with; but then we are basing our lives on things that just aren’t true. The simple truths, as explained in the words of Colossians, are presented very clearly and at the end of each short chapter, there are affirmations, prayers and reflection points challenging us to re-examine how we are living our lives. The book also includes an extensive set of group discussion points for each of the chapters. Reviewed by Kim Walker
THE ARK BEFORE NOAH: DECODING THE STORY OF THE FLOOD by Irving Finkel (Hodder and Stoughton)
Russell Crowe’s forthcoming Noah film, alongside recent bad weather experiences, gave this book by the British Museum’s Irving Finkel a certain topicality. The author describes the discovery of a Babylonian clay tablet from 1850 BC which tells the story of a coming flood and gives instructions on the building of an ark. The author compares this account with Genesis and other literature from ancient Mesopotomia written before Genesis. Some readers will struggle with the chapters on ancient cuneiform writing, but there is much of interest, not least the sections on the location of Mount Ararat and the revelation that some early accounts describe a round ark, a giant coracle.
BILLY FIDGET’S FAMILY FORTUNES by Nick Battle and Eric Delve (Hodder and Stoughton)
When I first started to read this, I initially found the opening rather odd, with a letter to God from the main character Billy Fidget which was about relations with his wife. But through the replies that God ‘sends’ Billy, you really feel that much of it is speaking to you. ‘Don’t be frightened’, ‘Be at peace’. All this alongside gritty language perfect for the audience. A great read and honest look at the trials of life. Reviewed by Rebecca Taylor
Reviewed by Graham Hedges
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Holly Price is a writer with Damaris, which provides free resources for Damaris Film Clubs as well as the Damaris Film Blog. See damaris.org/filmclubs and damaris.org/filmblog
The little girl who changed history “You break every rule when it matters enough,” Belle replies. “I am the evidence.” As Davinier’s influence on Belle grows, she must persuade Mansfield to face his own prejudices and refine his integrity. This process comes to a climax when Lord Mansfield presides over the case of the Zong Massacre. The crew of the ship Zong drowned 142 African slaves, and claimed £30 a head for ‘damaged goods’ from their insurer when they docked. The insurer is on trial for refusing to pay. Mansfield must decide whether these slaves were merely property. But can Britain’s economy afford to rule against its slave owners? He must confront the discrepancy between his head and his heart, the law and justice.
Belle rights a great wrong: it tells the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, which has gone unsung for centuries. On the regal walls of Scone Palace, hangs an extraordinary 18th-century painting, depicting two women in the gardens of Kenwood House, in Hampstead, London. Both are wearing lavish dresses and ornate jewellery; both are holding the instruments of genteel hobbies; both are occupying the foreground. These ladies are evidently companions, but their individualities shine through as well. Elizabeth Murray is pale, intelligent and demure; her half-cousin, Belle, is striking, vivacious and black. A black society woman is indeed a first for this era, but why did this painting appear in a 2007 exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain? Why have historical papers often named Belle “the little girl who changed history”?1 Answers to these questions can be found in the delightful film Belle which releases in UK cinemas from 13 June. In the film, Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the daughter of a British navy admiral (Matthew Goode) and an enslaved African woman. Having been born into slavery Belle is then raised among the nobility when her father entrusts her to the care of his uncle, the Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) who is the Lord Chief Justice – the most powerful judge in England. Belle’s position in society is precarious. Even at home, her status is called into question by restrictions that apply to her but not to Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon). She confronts Lord IDEA MAGAZINE / 34
“What is right can never be impossible.” Mansfield about one such inconsistency: “How may I be too high in rank to dine with the servants, but too low to dine with my family?” When Kenwood is privy to guests, Belle is received as some exotic spectacle, after the rest of the company have dined together. Nevertheless, in director Amma Asante’s own words: “This is the story of a woman who is loved.”2 Elizabeth looks upon Belle as a sister, and Lord Mansfield is deeply fond of her. He demonstrates his respect and affection for Belle by attempting to treat these girls equally as far as he believes is possible – and in some cases bending convention in favour of Belle. Asante was astonished by this treatment: “I’m in awe of the level of courage that must have taken.”3 In spite of the boundaries curtailing her social life, Belle is courted by Lord Mansfield’s apprentice, an abolitionist named John Davinier (Sam Reid). Here the film exposes other forms of discrimination, since despite the social taboo of Belle’s skin colour, Lord Mansfield considers Davinier beneath her because he was born into a lower class. “There are rules in place which dictate how we live,” Lord Mansfield insists.
Following the success of films such as Lincoln, The Butler and especially 12 Years a Slave, slavery has never been more of a hot topic in worldwide cinema. Belle is unique in looking at this universal issue from a specifically British perspective, and as well depicting a fascinating period of social change, shares the romance and lightness of touch of a Jane Austen novel. Belle also focuses on the theme of identity – and the anguish that ensues when it is withheld from a person. Mansfield is determined that Belle should not experience this: “I’ve enabled every rule of convention, so that you would know exactly where you belong.” And yet, she tells him: “I don’t know that I find myself anywhere.” These films are calling for a new community. A community characterised by love – the kind of love that could define Belle and inspire Mansfield to change history. A community that fights to uphold every individual’s humanity. Faced with the realities of human trafficking, child soldiers and debt bondage, perhaps we too can find courage in the parting words of Belle’s father: “What is right can never be impossible.” Belle is released in cinemas on 13 June 2014. For free official resources see damaris.org/ belle. 1 Amma Asante in Inkoo Kang, ‘Belle Director Amma Asante on Challenging Stereotypes About Black Directors,’ Indiewire (28 February 2014) 2 Amma Asante in Inkoo Kang, ‘Athena FF: Amma Asante’s Belle Revisits Jane Austen Through Black POV,’ Indiewire (10 February 2014) 3 Amma Asante in Susannah Butter, ‘The story behind Dido Belle – the bi-racial Londoner who helped end slavery in Britain, Standard (8 January 2014)
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Sheridan Voysey is an Australian, author, writer and radio producer
How God redeems broken dreams A cool afternoon in November. Beloved authors Adrian and Bridget Plass are showing my wife Merryn and me around the Yorkshire Dales. After a walk to Malham Cove we head back to the car, Merryn and Bridget striding ahead while Adrian and I trail behind. “I was sorry to hear what you’d been through when we last spoke,” Adrian says. “How are you both doing now?” “On the whole,” I say, “we’re a lot better. We still feel the loss at times, but I guess we’re trying to focus on the up-side of our situation, and the opportunities it brings.” Much has happened since Adrian and I last spoke a year ago. Back then Merryn and I had been enduring the darkest moment of our lives. After 10 years spent trying to start a family—through special diets, courses of fertility-boosting supplements, healing prayer, numerous rounds of IVF treatment, a two-year wait on the Australian adoption list, followed by more IVF—we had brought our dream of having a child to an end. Merryn had been devastated. When an opportunity at Oxford University opened for her, we’d relocated to the UK for her to start again. “I can understand that,” Adrian says, replying to my status update. “But focussing on the opportunities of being childless will only take you so far.” We walk a little further before Adrian explains what he means. “We ran a retreat at Scargill House once,” he says. “We called it Positively Single. The aim was to help single people feel better about their situation—to look at the up-side, as you put it—and how they have more time, freedom, opportunity to travel, and things like that. Well, as soon as the first participants arrived it was clear they weren’t feeling very positive about their singleness, no matter what opportunities it brought. “I was scheduled to preach that weekend and decided to speak about Jesus hanging on the cross. I called the talk Positively Crucified? You see, no matter how hard we try, we cannot put a positive spin on the crucifixion. It was a dark, barbaric event— there was no up-side. And Jesus didn’t try to find one. Instead, he did something else entirely.”
“Our broken dreams won’t be redeemed through finding silver-linings alone, but by following the way of Jesus.”
“You mean, putting her in John’s care?” I clarify.1 “That’s right. And he ministered to the thief crucified next to him...” “Who asked Jesus to remember him,” I say, tracking along.2 “He ministered to the people who crucified him...” ‘“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”’3 “He ministered to the Roman centurion...” “Who came to believe in him.”4 “And he ministered to us,” Adrian says, “forgiving our sins through his sacrifice. All of this was done in the middle of his suffering, before his resurrection. “My message to those singles was this: Yes, there may be some benefits in being single, but you will also find it difficult and lonely. But out of your suffering will come opportunities to minister to people in ways you otherwise never could.”
“Go on,” I say.
Later that evening Adrian and I sit in his lounge room talking about the publishing world—the subject of another broken dream. In relocating to the UK I had relinquished a national radio ministry in Australia, and a publishing history. Being unknown here, British publishers were showing little interest in my book projects.
“Have you ever noticed how many people Jesus ministered to as he hung on the cross?”
“Have you considered writing your story into a book?” Adrian says unexpectedly.
Adrian continues. “He ministered to his mother...”
“What do you mean?” I say. “Like a memoir? No, I...”
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“I think it could help a lot of people.” I didn’t know it then but in a few weeks’ time I would take his advice and begin writing our story into a book. A large American publisher would then release it, and my inbox full with readers’ emails. Our hoped-for baby never came. Perhaps for you it’s a hoped-for healing, career or spouse that hasn’t materialised. While there may be some ‘up-side’ to each, our broken dreams won’t be redeemed through finding silver-linings alone, but by following the way of Jesus. Who turns his crucifixion into a mission field. And recycles his suffering into service. This is the unique, paradoxical way our God redeems our broken dreams. Sheridan Voysey is a UK-based writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His latest book Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings chronicles his and his wife’s journey to start life afresh after ten years of infertility. sheridanvoysey.com
1 John 19:26,27 2 Luke 23:39–43 3 Luke 23:33,34 4 Luke 23:47; Matthew 27:54
LETTERS: HAVE YOUR SAY
In your words We love hearing from you, so have your say on any of the issues raised in idea or any comments about the Evangelical Alliance by emailing email@example.com WELFARE REFORMS
There is much comment in the press about state provision for the poor in the UK. It raises important questions for Christians who are concerned for the disadvantaged.
Having worked in Hull for 22 years, I was so heartened to read of the way Christians have had such an impact on the atmosphere of the city. One thing that was left out was the prayer movement, in particular the Angel Group convened by Andy Dorton, which prayed into all the factors holding Hull back, including the sense of rejection, caused by the failure nationally to acknowledge that Hull was the most severely bombed city proportionately in World War Two. This was largely lifted by the Songs of Praise featuring this at the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1995. Many accounts of God working these days seem to take prayer for granted, and at the grassroots I am increasingly finding church members expect early Church results without early Church methods! So may I flag up the vital necessity of prayer for a move of God in our land and add my voice to others in exhorting our members to copy others in this both from history and from around the world today?
As a nation, we continue to spend far more than we are earning and welfare costs have been rising for years. As Christians, we should not seek to leave our grandchildren with ever growing debt, nor ignore the poor. With 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit alone, at a cost of more than £150 billion, we have to challenge the notion that there is no suitable work for this 12 per cent of the workforce. A quarter of these have mental health issues, often stress and depression. We must be concerned about finding pathways to work, rather than merely focusing on the inevitably inadequate benefit system. Work helps bring dignity and purpose. We need to look for positive opportunities in these days of hard choices. Take, for example, the so called “bedroom tax”. We can focus on hardship cases alone, or we can look at the possibilities. If we could develop a culture where people take in lodgers or downsize to suitable properties, this could improve housing availability and reduce cost. This is difficult, but Christians could have a role in finding ways of making it happen, supporting house exchanges and matching lodgers to those with a spare room. We need to be concerned for the poor and the disadvantaged, but let’s not pretend that we have the national wealth to spend without limit. Every person we can help into work, or help to take in a lodger, makes a difference to people in need and helps make our welfare system affordable. Neil Davis, via email MAY/JUNE 2014
Richard Hill, rector, Church Stretton, Shropshire, and former vicar of St Barnabas, Swanland, East Yorks Are you reading this, but haven’t yet signed up to become a member of the Evangelical Alliance? What are you waiting for? Join us! eauk.org/join
heard in tweets @alixgriffiths @NoMorePage3 made it into @churchtimes this week! Well done @EAUKnews for supporting this campaign. @RachelGardnerRA @stevemclifford is writing to every church leader in the @EAUKnews membership to encourage them to sign the @ NoMorePage3 campaign. Awesome! @AbiFlavell Thrilled to see #Hull featured @EAUKnews yet more positive column inches. Keep up hard work @notdull and co http://www. eauk.org/idea/hull-out-of-the-shadows. cfm…
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Steve Clifford the general director, writes…
Who am I? referendum, asking the key questions ‘what distinctly makes us Scots?’ and ‘how do we see our place in the world?’. At the same time, what kind of society would Scottish Christians like to see? A society that is just, caring and compassionate and where religious freedom is respected for all, sounds like a good starting place. As we engage in this debate in the coming months and years and as we cast our vote, whether we are in or out of the United Kingdom or the European Union, let’s also recognise the radical nature of the gospel which sees our primary identity as far more significant than my ethnicity, my nation, my gender, my class, my social status or, dare I say it, the theological persuasion of any particular denomination or church network I might belong to.
My last trip to Scotland was just a few days after supermodel Kate Moss, speaking on behalf of David Bowie at the Brit awards, somewhat bizarrely made a passionate plea: “Stay with us Scotland!” I am not sure what impact the Bowie request had in the Alex Salmond household but it certainly highlighted the issue of Scottish independence to a wider UK audience.
Scotland goes to the polls on 18 September on a very simple yes/no vote as to Scottish independence. But May 2015 will see UKwide Westminster elections, at which the question of membership of the European Union will have a significant influence on the debate, not least because of the impact of the UK Independence Party and David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on our membership. All this debate on the whys and wherefores of membership, whether of the United Kingdom or of a European Union, has raised afresh the question in my own mind of where I find my own identity. Is it in my gender? Or my ethnicity? Perhaps it’s the fact I’m a husband and father? I’m not sure it’s being ‘English’ – perhaps more ‘Yorkshireborn – but now a citizen of London’. Mass movements of people over vast distances of the world together with the globalisation of key cultural influences – music, film, TV, sport and so many products – makes the question of identity even more complex. Fred Drummond, national director of the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland, and Kieran Turner, our public policy officer in Scotland, are helpfully leading a conversation among Scottish Christians in the build-up to the
IDEA MAGAZINE / 38
The Apostle Paul, writing to a highly divided, racist, sexist and status-orientated society makes the astonishing statement “so in Christ you are all children of God through faith… there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:26–28). It is difficult for us as 21st century Christians to realise just how radical such a statement is. Paul is speaking to the very core of the Christian believer’s identity. We are first and foremost, by His Grace, children of God, made in His image and encouraged to call out ‘Abba, Father, Dad’. This means as we meet up with fellow believers, regardless of background or culture, we recognise each other as family – brothers and sisters in Christ. Our togetherness – our unity – is not institutional in its make-up, it is relational. We might not express ourselves the same way, we might differ in our understanding and practice, but there is a wonderful unity in our diversity because we are family together. Whatever happens in the coming months and years in the determining of our national identity, the wonderful truth will remain – we are part of an amazing family, made up of people from every nation under the sun. We are a truly global phenomenon – the Church – the worldwide body of Christ.
IDEA MAGAZINE / 39
Published on Apr 11, 2014