ISSUE 24 / OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2014
Excluded? Special Feature
EXPLORING SEXUALITY, GAY MARRIAGE AND MORALITY FROM HORROR TO HOPE Rwanda, 20 years on
FROM THE WRITERS OF
GOD OF THIS CITY
and your Local Christian Bookshop
Everybody welcome? t is the overweight teenager on the sports field. The black face in a sea of white. The token woman on the board. The stranger in a village bar. The homeless man outside a five-star hotel. The disabled person staring up at the staircase… At one time or another, most of us have experienced that sinking sensation of “otherness”. You are on the outside looking in and you know you will never be welcome. They are “us” and you are “them” and the club is not accepting new members. For some people, it can be a permanent state. Their difference is an indelible mark that sets them apart, leading inevitably to rejection, discrimination and even abuse. Christians in the West often feel they are the odd ones out: swimming against the tide of popular opinion. While this might be true to a small extent, we need to be careful of comparing our minor inconveniences with the extremes of humiliation, oppression and violence others experience - whether because of their faith (such as our brothers and sisters in the Middle East - see page 8) or because they are different in other ways.
Calling writers, creatives, thinkers…
I DON’T BELONG HERE. I’M EXCLUDED. MY FACE DOES NOT FIT. Faith communities can also create their own cliques, their own brand of the “in crowd” based on doctrine, tradition or morality. They can be as guilty of the closed door and the pointing finger as their “secular” counterparts. In Bible times, the Pharisees were the classic example. Determined to fulfil the minute letter of the law, they were quick to exclude anyone who did not measure up to their impossibly high standards. Then onto the scene burst an upstart Rabbi from a backwater town in Galilee. Jesus refused to conform to their nitpicking legalism. Instead, He hung out with the outcasts and the “sinners”, touched the lepers, praised foreigners and talked theology with women. He didn’t fear guilt-by-association. He treated every person with dignity and value: welcoming where others excluded and accepting where others rejected. This was radical, confusing and, ultimately, unacceptable! In this edition of VOX, we take a deeper look at sexuality and gay marriage (Special Feature page 22) and hear stories from people who have experienced “life on the outside” (Another Perspective page 18 and Living with Asperger’s page 35). All this makes me wonder… if Jesus were here right now… whose home would He be visiting tonight?
Ruth Garvey-Williams Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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JOBCARE CELEBRATES 20 YEARS!
OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2014, ISSUE 24 ISSN: 2009-2253 P UBLI SHE R The VOX Team EDITOR Ruth Garvey-Williams firstname.lastname@example.org OP ERATI ON S , A DV E RT I S I N G & LAY O U T Jonny Lindsay email@example.com P h otog ra phy Krista Burns P ROJEC T A DV I S OR Tom Slattery SUBSC RI P T I ON S Ireland & UK: Min. €7 for four issues Overseas: Min. €15 for four issues All cheques should be made payable to 'VOX Magazine'. V OX Mag a z ine Ulysses House 22 - 24 Foley Street Dublin 1 Tel: 01 443 4789 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.vox.ie DI SC LA IME R
The views expressed in letters and articles are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the VOX Team or our partners. The acceptance of advertising does not indicate endorsement.
P RI NT Castle Print, Galway VOX magazine is a quarterly publication, brought to you by a passionate team of volunteers.
COMING OUT: A PASTORAL RESPONSE
COULD CHURCHES LEAD THE WAY?
CONTENTS 22 36 12 15 17 18 20 28 30 35 39 32 06 08 10 16
COVER STORIES VOX Special Feature: Exploring sexuality, gay marriage and morality From horror to hope - Rwanda, 20 years on!
FEATURES AND INTERVIEWS Creating hope and dignity - Jobcare celebrates 20 years! With love from Ireland - preparing for the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal On the other side of disappointment - finding God at university Another perspective: Who is your neighbour? My Story: Face to face with Cormac Shaw Could Churches lead the way…? In response to bullying in the church Gossip Column: Can we learn to shut up? Living with Asperger’s Trust, surrender, believe, receive - a taste of Rónán Johnston’s new book on worship
VOX VIEWS What is God saying to Ireland? - Rev. Craig Cooney explores Joshua chapter one
REGULAR FEATURES VOX: Shorts
17 VOX: World News 41 Your VOX: Letters to the editor 44 Profit from the Prophets 46
Confessions of a Feint Saint Reviews Event Listing VOX: PS with Seán Mullan
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VOX OCT - DEC 2014
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DISTURBING RISE IN SEXUAL VIOLENCE
With more than 12,000 calls to its 24-hour national helpline (the highest number for five years), Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has expressed concern about a “disturbing increase” in sexual violence. This comes in the face of year-on-year funding cuts to the service that helps men, women and children who have been victims of rape and sexual assault. “It is not fair or ethical, nor does it make economic sense to cut services to some of the most vulnerable in our society,” said Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, CEO
of DRCC. Callers receive counselling and practical help, including support through the often-traumatic process of reporting crimes. Of 106 cases known to be reported to the Gardai, only five have gone to trial in the last 12 months. Find out more at www.drcc.ie.
Developing healthy churches
ACET (AIDS Care Education & Training) Ireland recently launched its “Healthy Church” training for church leaders. The training aims to address health issues within faith communities with a particular focus on the challenges faced by immigrants. In line with ACET’s ethos, the training explores the potential for raising a culture of empathetic listening in our churches rather than just passing on information or skills. By focusing on areas such as HIV and mental health, the experienced ACET team equips leaders with all they need to bring about change within church communities. The training is delivered in partnership with a range of funders including the MAC AIDS Fund, Dublin City Council, Community Foundation Ireland and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine New York. At the first training event in July, participants praised the training as both practical and helpful. One commented, “The emphasis on building a culture of empathetic listening was the best part. I really benefited from [learning] listening skills.” The “Healthy Church” training forms part of Project Hope, a broader ACET Ireland initiative addressing HIV within church settings. For details of upcoming training in your area, please contact the ACET team through the website: www.acet.ie.
Global Leadership Summit - “Lead where you are” Friday 10 and Saturday 11 October at Thriving Life Church, 80 Ballyreagh Road, Newtownards, Co Down
Friday 24 and Saturday 25 October 2014 at the Jesus Centre, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Unit 119A, JFK Industrial Estate, Bluebell Avenue, Dublin 12 Authors, CEOs, pastors, filmmakers, government officials and more share their insight and leadership expertise in this unique two-day leadership training event. Using videocast messages with opportunities for interaction and reflection with other leaders, the GLS is an excellent resource for Christians in leadership, whether in church or in business. To register, visit www.willowcreek.org.uk/gls. What Irish leaders said about GLS… “I come to GLS to learn more about leadership, to keep up to date and to be motivated and challenged. The nuggets and gems I learn here can save me days, weeks and months, even years.” Rector Trevor Stevenson, St James’ Church, Crinken “The principles I am learning are as applicable now I’m in business as when I was in church leadership. The GLS recognises the reality of God at work in all of life.” Sean Mullan, entrepreneur / businessman “The Global Leadership Summit has changed my perception of leadership. You begin to recognise leadership as a gift and a responsibility that God has given to us.” Pastor Dare Adetuberu, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Tyrrelstown “Being a leader of any kind is a race against the clock. You never seem to have enough time! But it is essential to invest in yourself in order to be able to invest in others.” Nathan Reilly, MD of Tiny Ark video production company, Dublin
VOX OCT - DEC 2014
Changing n communicatio study,
According to a new nes Ireland has more mobile pho by ch ear Res ! than people ComReg communications watchdog of ber show that the total num is ons ipti scr mobile phone sub tion). ula pop the of 2% 5,626,484 (12 of %) (59 irds -th two Almost for phone subscriptions are now we way the r, eve smartphones. How . nge cha to es tinu con communicate by sed Text messaging has decrea the rise 24.5%. This is attributed to vices of web-based messaging ser er. Vib and App ats such as Wh
15 years of 24/7 prayer
In September, 24/7 Prayer International celebrated 15 years of non-stop prayer around the globe. In churches, in prayer rooms, in schools and on the streets, over a million people have been engaged with the movement that has captured the hearts and the imaginations of both young and old. In Ireland, the vision of 24/7 prayer is growing and spreading across the island, with around 150 prayer rooms taking place this year alone. Find out more at www.24-7prayerireland.com.
Mary Hayes from Tipperary retired from Agapé this summer. Having worked at the Irish office in Dublin in the 1970s, she went on to run the Middle East office in Cyprus, supported Agapé across Russia and more recently to serve with UK Agapé headquarters. Irish team leader David Wilson said, “Few people in Christian service have had such an influence – much of it unseen.”
Attacked while helping the homeless
Police in England launched a murder inquiry after an Irish man was battered to death while helping the homeless. Philip Steels, 51, from Sligo, suffered severe head injuries in an unprovoked attack in Enfield, North London. The father of three, who became a Christian seven years ago, was a member of the Jubilee Christian Church. Mr. Steels was attacked in the early hours of the morning while he was out distributing food to the homeless.
A taste of New Wine - Sligo Summer Conference 2014 Over 1000 people from across Ireland and Northern Ireland attended the New Wine summer conference in Sligo this year. With Bible teaching, inspiring testimonies, thought-provoking seminars and lots of family fun, for many, the conference was one of the highlights of the summer. Here are a few quotes that give a flavour of the week: “Changing a nation is a cross-shaped process. It will take courage, compassion, vision, heartbreak and prayer.” - Bishop Ken Clarke “Church is not an event I attend but a community I belong to” - Steve Morris “Goliath was the best thing that ever happened to David. Opposition is a sign that you are moving forward.” - Rev. Craig Cooney “The cost of missing out can be worse than the cost of messing up! We have to realise that there are worse things in life than failure.” - Mark Bailey Read summaries of the main sessions from New Wine at www.vox.ie/sligo-summerconference-2014. Dates for your diary: New Wine Ireland summer conference, Sligo ’15 (12 - 17 July 2015).
Walking ancient paths
Readers wrote to tell us they enjoyed Patrick Mitchell’s account of St Finbarr’s Way in the last edition of VOX. The walk in West Cork is one of 12 Irish “Pilgrim Paths” around the country (find out more at www.pilgrimpath.ie). We’re looking for individuals or groups who would love to walk one or more of these routes and write a review for VOX. Contact us at editor@ vox.ie.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
EBOLA VIRUS SPREADS (WEST AFRICA) MIDDLE EAST EMERGENCY
The Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon has issued an urgent appeal announcing a state of emergency in large parts of the Middle East for minorities, including Christians and moderate Muslims. The letter states that the killings by Islamic State militants “verge on being a bona fide genocide” and that displacement and killings along with the conflict in Syria constitute an “existential threat” to minorities. The summer advance of Islamic State (formerly ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) brought terror across northern Iraq. Most of the large Christian community in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, fled in advance of the ISIS takeover in June; the rest left in July following an ultimatum that they convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face death. Christian homes were spray-painted with the letter Nun ()ن, the first letter of Nasara – Nazarenes – used in the Quran to describe Christians. In early August, thousands of Christians fled for their lives from the town of Qaraqosh – referred to as Iraq's Christian capital – just before Islamic State militants took control of the town. During July and August, Ireland’s Church in Chains sent €7,860 to Iraq through the Barnabas Fund to provide food parcels, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, water containers and portable cookers. Most of the Iraqi Christians forced to leave their homes fled to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, which has struggled to cope with the huge influx of refugees – more than 400,000 by late August. Many Christian agencies are providing aid, and youth centres and schools have been opened for refugees to sleep in. Church in Chains has also sent €12,542 to help Christians caught up in the civil war in Syria. This money has provided aid for over 10,850 families, trauma counselling and financial support for orphans. Displaced Christians receive food parcels, blankets, medicines, clothes, hygiene packs and funding for surgery if needed. Find out more at www.churchinchains.ie. 08
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The world's largest-ever outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus continues to rage in West Africa, so far killing over 2,200 people in five countries. The virus has a 50% mortality rate. According to charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), the international response is “inadequate” and the outbreak is not under control. Speaking on RTE Radio 1 after returning from Sierra Leone, Dr Gabriel Fitzpatrick, chairperson of MSF Ireland, said, “The situation in Sierra Leone is deteriorating. Almost on a daily basis, I was discovering new clusters of Ebola virus in remote villages. The international community’s response is not adequate and that is having knock-on effects for individuals in that part of West Africa.” “In western countries, a lot of effort has been put into preventing Ebola cases from turning up on their own shores. What MSF is trying to say is that we won’t have that problem if we can deal with the outbreak at its source. We need more isolation centres, more mobile laboratories so that testing can be done on site and more trained personnel. What we are asking for is an immediate deployment of outbreak control capacity in West Africa.” Find out more at www.msf.ie/ebola-outbreak.
ARRESTS IN SAUDI ARABIA
In September, Saudi Arabia's religious police — the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — arrested almost 30 Christians worshiping at a private home, according to US news reports. The police were tipped off that Christians were holding a prayer meeting in a clandestine house church, and the Saudi Gazette reports that children were also detained. "Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy," said Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. "It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced, even though there are over two million Christian foreign workers in that country."
MORE THAN 200 ASYLUM SEEKERS FEARED DEAD (NORTH AFRICA)
A boat carrying up to 250 African migrants seeking asylum in Europe sank off the Libyan coast on 14 September. Only 26 passengers were rescued. The boat capsized 15 km east of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. Libya has become a major port for migrants trying to reach Europe. Human traffickers are thought to be taking advantage of the situation. Those who do arrive safely end up in Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta. An Italian government official said in August that almost 100,000 migrants had arrived on Italian shores so far this year. More than 100 people died in a similar incident in August, when a boat of mostly Eritreans and Somalis sank off the Libyan coast.
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Letters to the editor
of VOX we In each issue all of a €25 One4 ize pr a d ar aw r. tte le ite ur r favo voucher for ou u! It could be yo
A great idea I think the drive-through prayer, written about in VOX ( July-Sept 2014), is a great idea. How wonderfully innovative to use a disused bank drive-through for prayer opportunities! This sort of prayer is not an end in itself but is a good connection point with people. It is meeting people where they are comfortable and connecting with them. My husband and I thought it sounded very creative and positive. When I told him about it, he smiled, laughed and with a twinkle in his eye, said "instead of a drive-through car wash, how about a drive-through baptism as well?" We had a good laugh (but please be assured neither of us would really want that!!). Like many free giveaways, this idea demonstrates
As we continue to pray and lobby our governments on behalf of Iraqi believers fleeing violent persecution at the hands of the terrorist group ISIS, I exhort those of us in the West to remember these words from the Book of Proverbs: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." Not much is known about King Lemuel, who wrote those words. One thing that is apparent is his fondness for wine. His mother, whose advice inspired his written sayings, cautioned him that it was not the place of a king to either guzzle or crave alcohol. Those words clearly demonstrate that, although all believers should maintain a certain standard, the highest standard of
our desire to share the good news, Jesus' love and Jesus' heart for people. It shows that prayer can be and is part of everyday activities. Jesus doesn't care where we pray or for how long. He rejoices in our talking to him and listening to him and connecting with him, whether it is in church for half and hour or for two minutes at a drive-through or anywhere. Praise God for their innovative idea. May it reach and bless many people and draw them to a group of Christians, and get to know Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit more. JANET LANE WATERFALL, CO. CORK
conduct exists for those who rule over others. As active citizens of a democracy, we need to maintain that standard for our political leaders. Firstly, we should not shy away from publicly identifying ourselves with Christ. Secondly, it is imperative that we share that good news with our representatives in government. The only righteous rule is that of Jesus Christ, whose reign endures forever. DAN OOSTHUIZEN MIDLETON, CO. CORK
I just wanted to say thank you for taking us all on this great tour of faith in Ireland in this last issue. I think some believers in more rural areas might sometimes get discouraged or feel isolated, especially if their community of believers is smaller.
At least, I know I’ve felt that way at times. By literally exploring the whole of the countryside, you’ve made readers like me feel closer to my brothers and sisters in Christ in further places. The words of testimony from each person mentioned were inspiring and faith building. It revealed such a joyous truth about the body of Christ in Ireland – that we are alive and growing and pressing forward! I hope the courage of each individual who shared so openly and bravely, people like Lyn from Westport, will inspire all of us to give voice to God’s work in us wherever we are, to help bring healing and transformation to our own communities. Thanks for the faith jolt. HOLLY KREBS, DUNGARVAN, CO WATERFORD
SEND YOUR LETTERS TO EDITOR@VOX.IE OR YOUR VOX, ULYSSES HOUSE, 22-24 FOLEY STREET, DUBLIN 1
CREATING HOPE AND DIGNITY JOBCARE CELEBRATES 20 YEARS!
reland’s unemployment rate is declining, resulting in the lowest rate in nearly five years. But while the country is showing signs of exiting the recession, for many, the benefit has yet to be felt. The experience of unemployment remains devastating for individuals, families, businesses, communities, government agencies and society at large. Set up in 1994 by Paul Mooney and Robin Boles, Jobcare works in Dublin’s inner city, assisting those struggling with the effects of long-term unemployment to overcome the barriers to finding work. “2014 is a year for Jobcare to celebrate 20 years of good news stories – of individuals finding work, becoming independent, supporting their families, achieving their goals, and having self-esteem and hope restored,” said Paul Mooney, Jobcare’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive. “The unemployment landscape has changed over the years, so it’s important that we keep evaluating our clients’ needs, ensuring our service is relevant and effective.” This is reflected in Jobcare’s breadth of services, from the transitional work programme for ex-offenders to the networking programme for unemployed professionals and graduates. “We work with people overcoming addiction or crime for whom working has never been a regular
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component of their lives. And we work with experienced professionals who have worked all their lives and never expected to deal with the harsh reality of unemployment. We work with each person as an individual with their own story, but each sharing the common experience of unemployment,” Paul explained. Targeted, practical interventions are important, but they only go part of the way to meeting the needs of the whole person, which is why Jobcare believes that the way services are delivered - the heart behind them - is equally important. As part of Jobcare’s 20th anniversary celebrations, the team calculated that over 20 years, the Jobcare kitchen has served 298,098 cups of tea and 160,571 coffees! “It has always been a high value that people are shown God’s love at every point of connection, whether when invited to attend a course, preparing to go for an interview, or through the cup of tea offered when they walk through the door,” Paul said. “Practically speaking, we show people that there is a safe place where they can be open to community. We see them relax, open-up and allow others to minister healing and break down their barriers to wholeness.” This approach has proven effective. Even in the current climate, 61% of Jobcare’s Community Employment participants have successfully progressed on to employment or further education. Each of these statistics are, “individuals who find work, achieve their goals and have self-esteem restored.”
Nuala O’Connell is now a company receptionist with Hyundai Ireland, a job she secured while participating in Jobcare’s transitional work programme. “I hadn’t worked since June 2012 and my confidence was low. I wondered where I would fit in and how I would navigate the corporate world.” After successfully completing Jobcare’s FETAC level 4 Computer Course as well as the Jobseekers Course, Nuala secured a role as receptionist on Jobcare’s Community
WE WORK WITH EACH PERSON AS AN INDIVIDUAL WITH THEIR OWN STORY, BUT EACH SHARING THE COMMON EXPERIENCE OF UNEMPLOYMENT, Employment scheme in October 2013. “During my time as receptionist and later as PA, I learnt essential networking skills, sat a mock interview and developed my professional online presence. Then, out of the blue, I received a LinkedIn invitation from a recruiter with a job spec attached. He told me he was so impressed by my online profile and asked if he could send me for an interview with Hyundai Cars Ireland. A few days later, I learned I was the new company receptionist! Working in Jobcare has been integral in finding myself, and I can’t recommend it enough.”
Deirdre Keller is now working as a Care Assistant with Irish Homecare Services. “Before Jobcare, I was a full-time mum and carer to two special needs children for over ten years. When my eldest son was taken into care, I started looking for work. I hadn’t done an interview for years and I had lost my
confidence dealing with people. A friend recommended Jobcare, but, at the start, I had no confidence that I would even finish the course, let alone find a job. Now, I am ready to conquer the world! “I felt for the first time ever that I could do whatever I want to do, that I’m as good as everybody else. I love helping people, so I decided I would go down the road of caring because it’s so important to me and I’m so passionate about it. “Now I have a full-time job as a care assistant. I work with elderly people in their homes in my own area providing companionship, a listening ear and practical assistance. On the last day of the Jobseekers course, I was able to stand up and make a speech in front of 30 people. I could never have done that before.”
Brian Cleere is a project manager and trainer. He was out of work for about a year when he joined Jobcare’s Jobnet programme, having worked for many years in engineering and construction.
His initial target was to find work in finance. “I sought out every opportunity that Jobnet gave me to network with business leaders in that sector.” Brian targeted a mock interview with Ulster Bank and was recalled for a real one! That landed him a contract as a Senior Business Analyst with the bank. “That’s the uniqueness of Jobnet - the networking opportunities you get with fellow participants and the chances you get to meet potential employers.” His contract with Ulster Bank concluded, Brian is currently developing his own project management and training business.
TRANSFORMATION IS POSSIBLE - ONE PERSON AT A TIME
Paul Mooney shared, “The words of Isaiah 61 were relevant when I co-founded Jobcare in 1994, and they remain so today. This is how Jesus worked and still works through His body, helping to change the brokenness in society into the kind of community He spoke about where personal transformation is possible by meeting people where they are at. I still believe that there is opportunity and scope to see this kind of transformation as the impact of unemployment is turned around.” To find out more about Jobcare, visit the website at www.jobcare.ie.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
d n o c e s a n o d l o h , o “S
” ? e e r f w o n e r ’ u o y f i s l l i b s t i y
VOX is a volunteer-run initiative, cheered on by a number of organisations, but solely funded by donations and income from advertising. Until recently we had some income from sales, but this ended up being a small proportion. So we decided to try something new for 2014.
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Subscribe to VOX. For just €7 per year, each issue of VOX will land on your doormat (you’ll be first to get it). When subscribing at www.vox.ie/subscribe you have the option to top-up your subscription fee with a gift.
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WITH LOVE FROM
Team Hope’s Niall Barry travelled to Malawi to see for himself how one small town will benefit from this year’s Christmas Shoebox Appeal. He shares his experiences with VOX readers.
wins Lucia and Sephora shuffled past. Dust catches in your throat as the ‘taxi- women wash the week’s dust off the family’s towards us across the dirt bikes’ pass, ladies sitting on the back carrier clothes. And children just play. behind Phalombe’s busy market. rattling along the bumpy roads as they travel Children are everywhere, singing, They were wearing the only up to 30 kilometres to visit family or get dancing and shouting their one English clothes they own, and the market was their water. word, “hello”, every time we pass. Children “playground”. When their inquisitive eyes Locals sit chatting in Grace’s Zikomo with only one shoe or with no shoes. met ours – our hearts melted. shop (Zikomo means ‘thank-you’ in Children with AIDS. Hungry children Escaping from domestic abuse, their but happy children. We wonder how mum found a new home for herself, the children with nothing seem happier than twins and their older sisters in a room those who have lots. that used to be the storage shed for the Despite the difficulties, the local WE WONDER HOW CHILDREN WITH NOTHING market. The tiny room holds all that churches are coming together, determined SEEM HAPPIER THAN THOSE WHO HAVE LOTS. they own - just a sleeping mat, a few rags to make a difference in Phalombe. Team and a cooking pot. No bed, no toilet, no Hope’s partners are feeding and educating washing facilities. orphans who otherwise have no food In Phalombe, this sleepy backwater or education. Older children are being town in the southeast of Malawi, poverty Chichewa – the local language). In her shop, trained with vocational skills. People living hits you right in the face. It is the poorest Grace exudes joy and thankfulness: “You with AIDS are cared for. part of one of the world’s poorest countries. come specially to Phalombe ? – seeriyus ?”, And this year, for the first time, Team The temperature is high, the humidity is “You come from Ireland? – seeriyus?” Hope will be sending shoebox gifts from practically unbearable and there’s been no Entertainment is a roadside shack Ireland to Phalombe. For the twins, Lucia rain for months. There’s little food, and no showing pirated 1980s action DVDs to and Sephora, and their friends, it will make a money to buy it anyway. anyone who will pay the equivalent of 5 huge difference. Standing at the dirt track crossroads cents. To find out how you can support this which is Phalombe town, the peace is only The river is the busiest place in town. year’s Christmas Shoebox Appeal with Team disturbed by a few goats or cows meandering Men wash the day’s dust off their bikes, Hope, contact www.teamhope.ie.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
Have you taken our website for a test drive? www.vox.ie
PROFIT THE PROPHETS FROM
THE HOPE OF GLORY! BY WARREN NELSON
or anyone over… shall we say… 30, technology is bewildering. Each new smartphone or pad is bigger, brighter, faster and can do multiples of what last month’s model could do. But a nagging question remains. If we are now so ‘smart,’ how is it that at this time there is so much wrong with the world? Internationally, hunger, poverty and injustice are as bad as ever. There are six or seven civil wars going on. In our own country, problems seem to multiply with the loss of moral direction, and the hope of anything better is scarce. In fact, we are not unlike the people to whom the Old Testament prophets spoke. They looked into dark and dangerous times when there seemed no escape . . . indeed, Amos paints a memorable picture of man facing catastrophe and ruin: ‘as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, enters his house steadies his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him’ (Amos 5:19). Forced exile and captivity stared the people in the face and eventually happened. But the message of the Prophets was not just of a warning of coming disaster; they gave the people a vision of better times. They could see that God would not desert His people nor
cease His loving kindness towards them. Most of what they saw was, at the immediate level, fulfilled in the return from exile in Babylon but woven into the fabric was a more distant and final return of God’s people to Him. For Hosea, it was like reconciliation with his wife; for Micah, it was like gathering sheep into a fold. Dramatically for Malachi, it would be the Lord suddenly coming to his Temple. The Prophets were realists; they knew the wrongs and sins of the people, and they didn’t see a fairy-tale ending with everybody ‘living happily ever after’. But they knew that God had plans to restore those who would seek Him (Jeremiah 29:11), even if they didn’t know exactly how this would be worked out. We have been given the advantage of seeing more of the plan in action through the atoning death of Christ, His resurrection and the coming of God’s Spirit to dwell in His people. It would be wrong to live just for future glory and ignore the need around us. But it would be even worse to live without the hope of glory. “For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” (Romans 8:18).
THANK YOU! After six years, Warren Nelson is laying down his pen as a columnist for VOX magazine. From the very start, Warren has been a staunch supporter and wise counsellor for the VOX team. We have always relied on him for an honest opinion - sometimes critical, sometimes thought-provoking, but 16
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always encouraging - as we sought to grow and improve. Warren tells us he feels the “generation gap” more keenly these days, yet I’m sure our readers will agree that his contributions have always combined a deep love of the Bible with a profound insight into the modern
world - faith, life and reality in action! We’re so glad that Warren will continue to give us feedback and may even be tempted to write a word or two from time to time! We simply want to express our heartfelt thanks for his partnership in the VOX vision! Go raibh maith agat!
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF DISAPPOINTMENT FINDING GOD AT UNIVERSITY hen Claire headed off to study at Edinburgh University, she was filled with dread and a huge sense of disappointment and failure. She had hoped to study in Northern Ireland, but when her A-level results were not what she hoped for, she ended up heading for Scotland instead. “I was not on speaking terms with God,” she said. “I was angry and I resented being in Edinburgh.” When her sister urged her to attend the Christian Union, Claire went along reluctantly. “I knew the right things to say, but my heart was not in it. I had no desire to live for God. After all – He had let me down!” During her second year, Claire attended a Christian Union leadership training weekend, which proved to be the turning point of her life. “I was deeply challenged about my relationship with God. He brought me to my knees and began putting me back together. On graduating in 1995, I wanted to pass on to others the incredible, life-changing things He had taught me during my time at college, through the work of the Christian Union.”
Today, Claire serves on the board of IFES Ireland, which supports the work of Christian Unions in universities and colleges in Ireland and Northern Ireland. If you are a student and would like to know more about a CU at your campus, or if you would like to start a CU at your campus please contact Hannah in the IFES Ireland office for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.ifesirland.org or write to IFES Ireland: The Christian Unions, Ulysses House, 22-24 Foley Street, Dublin 1. Watch out for these special events open to all university students and packed full of Bible teaching and fun activities: Leinster Big Weekend, Castle Daly Manor: 31 October2 November. Contact email@example.com Munster Big Weekend, Carhue Centre Bandon: 17-19 October. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOUR? BY DR SOO LING HOWARD
have been living in Ireland for everything else that we find it hard to make tea and as the minutes trickled on, she was four years now, and the term time for people. But if we want to have good anxious that she was taking too much of ‘blow-in’ amuses me. Basically it friends, we need to be a friend first. We may my time. When I told her that she was my refers to a stranger or a foreigner. have hundreds of Facebook friends but do priority for the day, the glow on her face But then again, is a person who is born in we have people who can trust us with their made it all worthwhile. Ireland and then lives overseas for a period hearts? Not everyone will like you or accept of time and subsequently returns a blow-in? I believe that God has given us a home you. What is more important is that God Was St Patrick, who was not born in Ireland so that we can open the doors and welcome loves you and accepts you as who you are. but revered by many, considered a blowothers. I once invited someone over for When you are secure in God’s love, man’s in? I have met people who have been perception of you doesn’t matter. offended by this term and others who I do not see myself as a blow-in. I proudly proclaim it. see myself as a swallow that came to IT IS CERTAINLY EASIER TO MINGLE WITH LIKE MINDS Ireland and stayed beyond the summer. It boils down to the concept of acceptance. Christ was born a Jew BUT TO KEEP COMPANY ONLY WITH YOUR CHURCH And when I touch the lives of some, but most of His countrymen did not count it a privilege that I have been CROWD IS NO WAY TO GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURS. Igiven accept Him. So the problem of being the opportunity to be a friend. ‘accepted’ is an age-old one. It is certainly easier to mingle with like minds, but to keep company only with your church crowd is no way to get to know your neighbours. If we are not careful, we can become too comfortable with church lingo and church practices, and we convince ourselves that certain mindsets and traditions are set in stone. We become exclusive, judgemental and cliquish. I try to be part of my local community by joining common interest groups. It is a commitment to be part of the coffee morning, the community garden, the crafting, the reading and the sewing circles. It is never easy to be new person in any group but I praise God that I have made very good friends in all the activities that I have been involved in. It takes effort to set aside time to be a friend to someone. We can be so busy doing
Dr. Soo Ling Howard from Malaysia now lives in Co. Clare and worships at Abundant Life Church in Limerick. The miracles in her life are her husband Michael, her children, Ireland, Malaysia and having a personal relationship with God. Read her blog at www.soo-livinglifeasitis.blogspot.ie. 18
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CONFESSIONS OF A FEINT SAINT
Terra firma! By Annmarie Miles o we were sitting at a lake and neither of us said it, but we were both eyeing the pedalos. We watched a group of girls, all waving madly. What could we do but smile and wave back? For some unknown reason, I felt compelled to take a few photos of these total strangers: photos that will, no doubt, confuse generations to come. No one will be able to solve the mystery of the five unknown aunts in the pedalo. Then there was a family: mum and child in the front. Dad was in the back, pedaling away like a mad thing. Mum and Dad were on the same side, so the craft was a bit lean-to for everyone’s liking. In my expert opinion, I commented that mum should swap with the child so as to even the distribution of weight. And lo, as if my wisdom descended upon them, mum and child did a precarious swapsie, as myself, himself (and I’m betting the dad) closed our eyes and held our breaths. More smiling and waving as they passed, less a greeting, more an acknowledgement that we were all happy no one was in the water. I looked on thinking, “Not on your life, mate”. I could see himself was eager to give it a go, but I'd no idea why. He told me that, for him, pedalos evoke strong memories of childhood holidays on the Isle of Wight. Him and his sister out on the boating-lake. Great fun, great memories. They don't suggest the unknown, or cause any fear. They represent happiness. All I could see was the potential for danger and/or embarrassment. I don't share his memories or his feelings on the subject. So there we sat, looking at the same thing, feeling totally different about it. Thankfully it’s not a deal-breaker in our relationship and we can happily continue our life together. Some issues are deal-breakers, though. There are certain subjects that, to many, are non-negotiable. There we are, looking at the same thing, feeling totally different about it. There are some difficult discussions ahead. Some uncomfortable conversations to be had. And I’ll be honest, I struggle with these subjects and with some of the people who hold the opposite opinion to mine. But my plan is to keep smiling and keep waving. If ever someone’s in need of a life raft, I don’t want them to be unwilling to take it from me.
So there we sat, looking at the same thing, feeling totally different about it.
Annmarie Miles is originally from Tallaght, now living in Kilcullen, Co. Kildare. She is married to Richard from Wales. She spends her days writing, teaching and talking. Her first collection of short stories, The Long & The Short of It, is available in all formats at www.emuink.ie (Fiction Section) and also in Footprints in Dun Laoghaire. OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
MY STORY “My Story” is an opportunity for ordinary people living in Ireland to talk about their journey to faith or the impact God has in their daily lives.
As an accountant, Cormac Shaw was used to neatly balanced books. But when faced with a business gone wrong, broken relationships and personal tragedy, he found that his life did not add up. He spoke to VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams about his journey to faith and the challenges of living with pain and disappointment.
believer and we began regularly attending CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR the church’s service on Sundays. I’m from Ravensdale, JOURNEY TO FAITH? I was enthralled by the preaching. I north of Dundalk, just on Karen wasn’t Catholic, so that created could not believe how someone could the border with Northern some concerns among my family when preach for so long on a short passage, and Ireland. I’m the oldest of three boys we got married. We’d go along to mass I found it incredible to see how much they and my parents are devout Catholics, but neither of us were really believers and could get out of a few verses of scripture. so I had a strict Catholic upbringing. I we didn’t take it seriously. It was more But I wasn’t totally convinced. studied commerce at UCD and then went out of duty than faith. It took eight more years and a number on to study accountancy and became a But when we had our first child, we of crises in our lives, our marriage and my Chartered Accountant. talked about wanting to bring him up business for me to come to faith. By then During that time, I met my wife with some religious understanding. But we had four children (Conor, Lauren, Karen, who is originally from Ohio. She we had to work out where we stood Robert and Michael). I reached a very came to live in Ireland because I was ourselves first. Karen started going along low point after Michael still under contract with died at the age of two. my firm. The plan was JESUS HAS GIVEN ME SUCH A SENSE OF CALM AND PEACE. He had been born with a then to travel back to the congenital heart defect. States when I finished my Around the same time, qualification, but one thing the company I was working with went led to another and we ended up staying in to a church-based mother and toddler into examinership. And to cap it all, our Dublin. group and eventually attended a Bible marriage was also in serious trouble. study there. Eventually, Karen became a
ELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.
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At that stage, I had ‘hit rock bottom’ and eventually took time out at a Christian retreat centre in Co Carlow. While there, I did some fairly intense Bible study and had counselling. For the first time, all the teaching I had received came together and it all became clear to me. That is when I came to faith. I kept wondering why I had not grasped it before, because it was so simple. Suddenly, I could understand grace and forgiveness, and the fact that Jesus had paid the price for me. Karen came down to the centre for a couple of days and we reconciled. We decided that we’d give our marriage another go. Two years later, our fifth child, Daniel, was born.
WHAT DIFFERENCE DID KNOWING JESUS MAKE?
It is such a relief! The pressure is off me to perform. Rather than trying to work to please God, I felt that the way I live became a response - saying “thank you” for His amazing grace. Before I became a believer, I would have been quite fearful of death and the unknown, but now I don’t have to worry about that. I genuinely want to stay around and be with my family but I don’t have that total fear of dying. Jesus has given me such a sense of calm and peace. The more you dwell on it, the more you realise how incredible it is. You can almost take it for granted at times. But having that total peace about the future and His plan for your life is amazing!
meaningful employment, training or other supports. In my work, I pray daily for wisdom about my decisions and for a sense of calm when we are facing tough or contentious issues. I try to bring peace, wisdom and encouragement to the company. I would describe my way of working as servant leadership. I believe it is quite different to what people are used to, but it’s effective. I’m on the board of a number of organisations such as Agape, Third Space and Serve the City, and I volunteer with CASA, an organisation that works with people who have disabilities. I also do the accounts for the Irish Society of the Friends of St James, which promotes the Camino de Santiago. All this is my way of using my gifts and talents for God’s Kingdom. I’m very open about my faith and people know where I stand, even though I’ve never been one for using a megaphone. I pray for colleagues who are having difficulties in their families and seek to use opportunities in a way that is sensitive to the work environment.
IN 2009, YOUR FAMILY FACED ANOTHER TERRIBLE TRAGEDY. TELL US ABOUT THAT.
Our 12-year-old son, Robert, died in his sleep. They put it down to “sudden death syndrome”. On top of everything else, it was a massive blow. I wasn’t angry with God and I didn’t blame Him, but I did feel abandoned by Him. That morning, the phrase that came into my mind was, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It was devastating. I knew that God hadn’t caused this but I wondered why He hadn’t prevented it. There was a huge sense of loss perhaps even more so with Robert than with Michael because Robert was so
Cormac, advocating for the unemployed, with Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton
the grief. Somehow we were sustained through it with the help of others, and we held onto our faith even though there are still so many questions. At his Thanksgiving Service, we celebrated Robert’s life and hundreds of people heard the gospel as a result. God often gives us opportunities to share our faith when we are asked about the boys.
FINALLY, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE VERSES IN THE BIBLE?
There are three verses that come to mind immediately: HOW DOES YOUR FAITH AFFECT YOUR DAILY Do not conform to the pattern of LIFE? this world, but be transformed by the I have a great Bible app on my iPhone, renewing of your mind. Then you will be so I listen to the Bible most mornings able to test and approve what God’s will when I am shaving and while I walk to is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. work. Romans 12:2 (NIV) I am the vine; you are the branches. If you I KNEW THAT GOD HADN’T CAUSED THIS BUT I WONDERED WHY HE HADN’T PREVENTED IT. remain in me and I in you, you will bear much I’m currently working as CEO of much older and we had shared so much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Southside Partnership, a company that life together. And there was a sense of John 15:5 (NIV) supports the people and communities disappointment. Shortly after this, I came And what does the Lord require of that are most marginalised in Dun across a book called Disappointment with you? To act justly and to love mercy and Laoghaire - Rathdown County. It seems God, and when I saw the cover, I knew I to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 such an appropriate place to be working. had to read it because that was how I felt. (NIV) I get paid to help those most in need Time does heal but Karen and I to improve their life chances through each have a different way of dealing with OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
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SETTING THE SCENE ccording to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Marriage Equality Referendum will take place in Ireland in Spring 2015. The government will recommend a change to the constitutional definition of marriage, which will allow for same-sex marriage in Ireland. Already the pages of national newspapers feature letters and opinion pieces arguing both sides of the debate. More often than not, these descend into vitriol and name-calling characterised by black-and-white assertions, leaving no room for respectful weighing of other opinions. There seems little appetite for walking in each other’s shoes or considering the needs and rights of others above our own. Here at VOX, we know our readers include Christians from all kinds of different church backgrounds and traditions who hold a wide range of different opinions and deeply held convictions on both marriage equality legislation and the wider questions surrounding sex and sexuality. Some are convinced that theirs is the only possible position for a Christian to take. Others are frustrated at an apparent overemphasis of one moral standard over many others. Some are worried that new legal freedoms may result in erosion of their freedom of conscience. Others are concerned that a Christian response to gay marriage is articulated and shaped by heterosexuals whose position is one of power and privilege. Many are concerned about the impact of this debate on Christian witness, although not always for the same reasons. And while the majority desire to honour God and follow Jesus, they differ on how to apply Scripture to the complexities of modern life. There are Christians who will vote “Yes” in the referendum. And there are Christians who will vote “No”. There are those for whom the referendum is a side issue and those who consider it all-important. In the midst of all this, there is a human cost. Many have found the church to be an unsafe place. Some have experienced verbal, physical or spiritual abuse from Christians that is equal to or even greater than that which they have experienced in the wider society. Here, we publish three thought-provoking articles from three significantly different viewpoints. Our hope is that these can contribute to the ongoing discussion of how we respond to sex and sexuality individually, in our churches and in our wider society. Our plea is for each of us to listen to the different perspectives respectfully and humbly and where inevitably we disagree, to do so in a Christlike manner.
VOX Editor, Ruth Garvey-Williams 22
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ecently, I attended the screening of a film called “God Loves Uganda” as part of Dublin’s Gay Pride Festival. To my knowledge, I was one of only two or three evangelicals in the audience that day. The film explored the influence of evangelical Christians from the United States in passing legislation in Uganda that could see homosexuals sentenced to life imprisonment (an earlier version of the bill called for the death penalty). It also featured the funeral of a gay activist beaten to death for opposing the legislation. I listened to American missionaries to Africa who either supported the Ugandan legislation or who carefully chose their words to avoid criticism, and I tried to hear what those words said about Jesus to the people around me. Let me be clear: I am a believer who holds to a high view of Scripture as God’s word, and I hold a conservative view on God’s purpose and will for our sexuality. I believe God created sexual intimacy as a wonderful gift that He intended to be practiced only within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. For this reason, I see other expressions of sexuality, including all pre-marital, extra-marital or homosexual behaviour, as distortions of that original purpose. But at the film screening, it was a different distortion that troubled me - the distortion of the Gospel on display in that film. I felt immensely saddened that we could ever get distracted from the glorious privilege of telling people about Jesus who can save us and instead become complicit in passing laws that threaten grave sanctions against anyone who doesn’t live by our standards of morality. New Testament Christians lived lives of courageous faith and holiness in the corrupt and decadent Roman
I BELIEVE MARRIAGE WAS CREATED BY GOD.
Empire. They were a persecuted minority who turned the world upside down with their integrity and passion for Christ. I believe Peter, Paul and the other apostles would weep with frustration if they could see how history turned the Church into a persecuting majority that, at times, has matched the intolerance of the Taliban in using the instruments of Empire (imprisonment and death) to impose our morality on those who do not share our faith. Thankfully, here in Ireland, no sane Christian would advocate persecution or imprisonment of homosexuals.
BY NICK PARK
But the current debate on same-sex marriage would Yet, over the intervening 170 years, that “marriage” conducted by the still, in the eyes of our critics, paint evangelical the concept of marriage has changed State is the same as the biblical union believers as intolerant bigots. to something vastly different from the we preach about. At the heart of the issue, for many Christians, biblical understanding. Many marriages If, as seems likely, the Irish is a basic dilemma. We see marriage as something are conducted with no reference to God people vote next year to legalise incredibly important and we believe it is being and they are not necessarily lifelong same-sex marriages, some may feel radically redefined in front of our eyes. How should commitments. Some couples even sign uncomfortable. But perhaps this is we respond without forcing our views and beliefs onto prenuptial agreements, stipulating how an opportunity for us to think more others? they will divide their assets once the deeply about what marriage is all I believe marriage was created by God. From inevitable divorce happens. about. Once the referendum furore Genesis to Revelation, it is used as a living parable of If we were really honest, we’d agree dies down, we will be left with some God’s love for His people. Marriage is more than a that most heterosexual marriages today serious questions: cultural add-on to our faith. It aids our understanding fall far short of the biblical covenant of Are we really interested in of God. It is so much more than a defending biblical legal contract or social convention. It marriage, or is the is a covenant by which one man and current debate just about one woman become one flesh in the THE CONCEPT OF MARRIAGE HAS CHANGED TO SOMETHING VASTLY homosexuality? presence of God. Are we prepared Those who are not Christians may DIFFERENT FROM THE BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING. to make a distinction respond, quite justifiably, by saying, between marriage as a “It’s great that you have this notion of dissolvable legal contract marriage but that doesn’t give you the (which I believe should be right to force it onto the rest of us. You called “Civil Partnership”) don’t own marriage!” marriage. We have ignored how we use and marriage as a lifelong covenant And that brings us to the core issue. Who owns the same word to refer to two totally before God? marriage? I can sympathise with those who insist that different concepts. Perhaps the current If the word “marriage” no longer the Church doesn’t own marriage. But I would dare to debate over same sex marriage makes means what it once did, then should ask another question. Does the State own marriage? us uncomfortable because it highlights we find alternative terms to refer to By what right do those in political power presume to how we have been complicit in a cosy yet Christian matrimony? dictate who can and can’t get married? dubious arrangement between Church What happens when a man and a In history classes, most of us learned about Henry and State. woman who are legally married by the VIII and his six wives. Henry wanted to divorce The State claims that marriage is State start coming to church? Should Catherine of Aragon. Even though he was king, a legal contract between consenting we just accept them as “married”? Or he understood that he had no authority to regulate parties. But if that were so, the State should we give them the opportunity marriage. Eventually, to get his divorce, Henry broke would hold weddings with no more to make vows of lifelong love and with Rome and established a new national Church. than the legal signing and stamping of commitment before God? For most of western history, the State has steered documents. Instead, a registrar conducts clear of regulating and registering marriages. It a quasi-religious ceremony, sometimes The views expressed in this article are was only in 1845, when Britain’s Marriage Act was accompanied by poetry readings, Nick's own and do not reflect an official extended to Ireland, that the government started to declarations of love and the lighting position by EAI or his church. tell us whom we could marry and how we should go of candles. Why? The State knows about it. that most people, even if they are not Christians accepted this governmental power grab “religious”, still instinctively see marriage Nick Park is Executive with little protest. After all, the marriages the State as much more than a legal contract. Director of the administered seemed no different from the Church’s But are Christians any more honest? Evangelical Alliance view of marriage. True, marriage was viewed as a legal We talk about “defending marriage,” but Ireland and pastor of contract rather than a divine covenant. But a wedding we have happily acted as agents for the Solid Rock Church in was still an event where one man and one woman State in conducting marriages even where Drogheda, Co. Louth. were joined in a lifelong commitment. Ceremonies God is not acknowledged and divorce still occurred in church buildings and were conducted is considered normal. And we have “in the sight of God”. cooperated without protest in a pretence OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
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THE MORALS OF MORALITY BY PÁDRAIG Ó TUAMA
knew they weren’t. I learnt quickly - in remember when I first began to hang I know that we are all flawed, but order to avoid humiliation - how to keep around with people who had a strong when somebody says “I don't embrace secrets. Then, as my teenage years moved my selfishness, so you shouldn’t and articulate faith. Various topics would on, I fell more and more in love with the be discussed: clapping your hands embrace your sexual orientation,” it gospels. during songs, which denominations were “proper” comes across as naive. I love the gospels more now than Christians, whether women should preach, whether I swallowed strong doctrines ever. I’m on my third theology degree, tongues or dancing should be permitted in prayer for years and have seen the truth: and in each one, I’ve focused on the meetings. What mattered in these questions, I learnt, My sexuality is a gift from God. was whether I agreed or not. I felt new to this language texts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I As such, I - like all Christians - am find them endlessly beautiful, and I find of faith and did my best to keep quiet. responsible for living well with the myself more and more moved by the life, gift of my sexuality; I am responsible Unless we were talking about poetry, of course. words, actions, death and resurrection of for living truthfully, with love, and Then I had a lot of opinions. But poetry did not come Jesus of Nazareth. up much in teenage discussions. with honesty. My relationship with However, my Christianity is often Here’s my point: Morality is often influenced by my beloved partner is guided by the doubted because I am gay. I am used to tribe. If I disagree with one topic and I hear that you integrity that I have always tried - and also disagree with that same often failed - to keep. This topic, then we are, for now at integrity is guided, honed least, in each other’s camp. In this and nurtured by my faith. FOR ME, THIS IS NOT AN “ARGUMENT” OR A “CONTROVERSY” OR A kind of belonging, it is helpful I started to tell the for us to know who is with us but “TOPIC”. IT IS A STORY. AND IMPORTANTLY FOR ME, IT IS MY STORY. truth about my sexuality also to know who is against us. - quietly - when I was 17. This is crude, I know. But For years, I had a few close unfortunately, I know it is often friends to whom I came hearing people say they disagree with true. out. For those years, I wished I could the idea that LGBT people can have In both jurisdictions of Ireland, there are share the privilege and entitlement moral lives, lives that incorporate a loving that I saw my heterosexual friends Christians who disagree vibrantly with each other relationship. However, I am also used to about the morality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and enjoy - they could acknowledge their the truth that LGBT people are used as transgender people. For me, this is not an “argument” romances, and, in the company of the scapegoats, derided in faith language, and church, guide their affections in a way or a “controversy” or a “topic”. It is a story. And spoken of as if we are broken, corrupt or importantly for me, it is my story. I have known that that made space for their love and flawed. I was gay since the age that other boys in my class their faith to each nurture the other.
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I KNOW TOO THAT THERE IS SOME ANXIETY ABOUT HOW PEOPLE OF FAITH WHO DO NOT WELCOME LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ARE SPOKEN OF IN PUBLIC.
hurt and violence, then the truths that we claim will probably be fruitless. I recently returned from Uganda where, in February 2014, legislation was passed that further criminalises LGBT people with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Initially, the proposed law had mandated the death penalty, but this was removed. The law was largely written and funded by Christians from different denominations. There were some Christians who objected to it, but the absolute majority of church leaders - Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal and Orthodox - backed the bill when it included the death penalty. LGBT people were already criminalised in Uganda. That law made it worse. It was overturned in August 2014 and it remains to be seen whether it will be reintroduced. I’ll repeat my point: Our morals need to be upheld in a moral way. I describe myself as a gay man who is
Every person who has ever acknowledged their romantic inclinations has “come out of the closet”. It’s just that people like me, when we tell the truth of our lives and loves, may well face insult, unemployment, injury, exclusion, marginalisation and ridicule. Just recently, I met a young person who was called “a thing” by her teachers and pastors when she told them she was lesbian. I’ve met people who, when they challenged the words used about them, were branded as heretics and barred from congregational participation. History shows that TRUTH DOES NOT SUFFER WHEN PRIVILEGE IS NAMED. when we create sharp boundaries based on one topic or another, those boundaries will eventually rip us a Christian. Some of my friends disagree apart - whatever side we’re on. We see - either entirely or partially - with what this in the Bible - can you be a Christian if they might define as my ‘lifestyle,’ but my you’re a Gentile? Can you speak if you’re friendships are not based fundamentally a woman? Can you own slaves? These on whether we agree with each other. My divisions rocked the early church and, we friendships are based on the quality of know, the texts speak to those divisions in our disagreement. terms of both content and tone. The Ugandan law - as well as public Our morals need to be held in a discussions in Ireland about LGBT moral way. Or, to put this differently, if people - are regularly found lacking in we are claiming to speak the truth but our morality. Truth does not suffer when truth-speaking causes exclusion, harm,
privilege is named. Public discussion about LGBT people impacts LGBT people more than it does anyone else. It is not untrue to say this. Those who have never had to reckon with the public questioning of their capacity to love defend - by law and by religion - their right to question the capacity of people like me to love. Once, a woman asked me if I was a “practicing homosexual”. I said that when my relationship is active: it means going to the cinema, listening, making up after an argument, coping with public comment about our capacity to be moral, being worried about holding hands in public because we might be beaten up or spat upon, checking at a hotel if they will give us a place to stay. If this is what it means to be ‘practicing,’ then I practice a lot. I returned the question to the woman - I asked her to talk about when she “practices” her sexuality in her marriage. She answered, “I would hate to have to speak about my life in the way I demanded of you to speak about yours.” I appreciated her honesty. I know too that there is some anxiety about how people of faith who do not welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are spoken of in public. I’ve never been a fan of returning insult for insult. But I’ve never been a fan of being insulted in the first place either. I’ve cut my teeth as a Christian in trying - and sometimes managing - to speak graciously to those who call me an abomination. The impact of people’s words on my life has been significant. But I know this: we do not have to wait to agree with each other before we are civil with each other. Dignity needs to go both ways. So here’s a small manifesto. But it’s a good manifesto. In the name of all that is good ultimately in the name of God, who is the source of all things good - let us have a discussion the substance of which is matched by its tone. Let our moral discussions be morally discussed.
Pádraig Ó Tuama is from Cork and now lives in Belfast where he works as the Corrymeela Community Leader. His poetry is published by Canterbury Press, with a publication coming from Hodder in early 2015.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
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WHY A PASTORAL RESPONSE TO HOMOSEXUALITY MUST START WITH A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOSPEL BY BRIAN SYNNOTT
eorge* sat there, white knuckled, grasping was the relief of disclosing a longand, in my opinion, far broader than the arms of the chair as if it were the seat protected secret, but an abiding sense of questions around homosexuality. If of a rollercoaster. I needed to reassure hopelessness that this disclosure would our response is less than the Gospel him that I would not rush him or dig for not change who he is and his attraction and in line with God’s agenda, we will any more information than he was willing to disclose. towards others of the same sex. lose a whole generation of Millennials Thus far, George had had some mountaintop experiences, the highest being the Everest of THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL IS THAT WE ARE ALL WRONG! ALL OUR “ORIENTATIONS” ARE OUT OF WHACK. meeting Christ and surrendering to the great Shepherd. He also knew what it was to be led through the deepest valleys. Life This was a pivotal moment. He had (those born from early 1980s to early was far more complex now. come to me for help and my reaction 2000s). Through sobs that resembled a panic attack and would determine the nature of our What will it take for God to countless hesitations, George finally whispered, “I’m relationship. The air was filled with entrust us with this often broken, gay”. He then looked intently out the window. tension. This is descriptive of many dysfunctional and highly educated As we sat in silence, it was as if he exited the moments I have had with friends, generation? They will no longer sit room, staring at the cars passing by. He looked as if congregants and those who come to me like the nodding donkeys of previous he wanted to jump into any one of them, rather than in my role as a Christian counsellor. generations and accept being told face the reality of his “coming out” to me. There Our response is of vital importance what to believe, how to feel and how
to behave. They react with solidarity is of little help to anyone. According truth of forgiveness and acceptance that only against those of the modernist era whom to Paul, the law faces us with the reality Jesus can bring. The sanctifying work of the Holy they see as giving shallow answers to that all of our perceived rightness Spirit has dealt with a lot, although not all, of the deep questions. (righteousness) is a billion miles short of loneliness and alienation he felt. They are seeking authentic answers. God’s original design. George considers himself hugely free in Their postmodern minds can deal Going back to George: Although comparison to where he was before. He explains, with grey as opposed “I don't have to hide who I am to the black-andanymore and I have lost the need to white certainties of the approval of those who may I DON'T HAVE TO HIDE WHO I AM ANYMORE AND I HAVE LOST THE NEED seek modernism. They are never understand me. I have God. the product of a society TO SEEK THE APPROVAL OF THOSE WHO MAY NEVER UNDERSTAND ME. I have resolved my relationship that has justifiably with myself and I have significant repelled the legalistic relationships that love me for 'me' hypocrisy of superficial and not what they believe I should religion. Our response must be real, that day he thought that homosexuality be, but am not.” down to earth, workable and true. They was his major issue, it was not. It was His gratitude to his Saviour is immense, and his are not interested in religious moralising. the guilt, shame, fear and sense of love for God’s Word seemingly addictive. He seeks We are faced with examining the hopelessness, rejection and anxiety that to live a life worthy of his calling as a Christian. He Scriptures in light of the issues that are tormented and even tortured him. If we frequently needs to sit at the feet of his Saviour presented to us on a daily basis. We need say we love our neighbour, we cannot knowing that this is a familiar place for everyone to exit our ecclesiastical towers and ignore the greatly increased risk of who loves Jesus. become truly incarnational. Having one suicide among lesbian and gay people, foot lodged in the living and powerful especially teenagers, in shame-based *Name changed. Word of God and the other buried in the communities such as Ireland. mess of this muddy world, we need to This is why I love the Gospel so become capable of delivering genuinely much. When we truly understand the valid answers from the true God. great news of Jesus Christ, we can be Personally, I see Scripture portraying released from such destructive internal the homosexual act as beyond the conflicts and their resulting emotions. bounds of what is beneficial or good. It is my belief that one of the tools However, to simply say this sexual of the Gospel we need to dig out of activity is wrong is not good enough. our pastoral bag is the understanding The truth of the Gospel is that we are all that the Gospel doesn’t finish with man being reconciled to God, but that it also encompasses a transformation of the heart and WE NEED TO EXIT OUR ECCLESIASTICAL mind that enables us to love our neighbour and, in George’s case, Brian Synnott is the founding TOWERS AND BECOME TRULY INCARNATIONAL. more importantly, himself. pastor of West Cork Sometimes, I am asked, “Is Community Church in Bandon, there more change possible?” Co. Cork. He is a Christian My answer is, “With God there counsellor, supervisor and wrong! All our “orientations” are out of is always more! That is the void we are all trainer who also lectures at the whack. Relational breakdown, addiction, longing to have filled.” Teen Challenge Leadership debt, pornography, loneliness and the I haven't seen George for some time. Academy. myriad of each of our daily struggles are I get the odd text message or Christmas the living proof. greeting or update on some development Solely calling something “wrong” in his life. George discovered the amazing OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
COULD CHURCHES LEAD THE WAY? BY DAVID HAMILTON
fter reading Maria Dowling’s article in In the 1980s: After the horrific statutory legislation. Post 1989, 100% VOX (Church Bullying, July - September Stardust disaster in Dublin, there was of the workforce was covered - from 2014), I was left wondering whether our a concentrated focus on the quality of the greengrocer to the multinational churches should carry a government health building construction. This included a employee. During this time, the term warning. Indeed, the bullying and whistle blowing higher emphasis on fire escapes, non‘risk assessment’ was enshrined in issues at the forefront of current media coverage make flammable partitions, ceilings and wall Irish law. her piece very relevant. linings and the installation of automatic I am sure that like me, your heart goes out to fire and smoke alarms. From 1997 to 2014: Health and people who have been impacted in such ways, and it safety began to blend with human is particularly frightening for abuse to be happening In the 1990s: Health and safety of resources management. Following within Christian environments. My question is, employees came of age. Hard hats, the growth of insurance claims for “What can Christian leaders do to stress, bullying and sexual ensure that employees, volunteers harassment, businesses and followers are looked after and became more focused on SHOULD OUR CHURCHES CARRY A GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING? protecting employees’ respected?” Over the past 30 years, my wellbeing. Inappropriate consulting career has become behaviour by dominant increasingly involved in the bosses, tolerated in the past, ‘softer’ issues of employee welfare. In the ever-moreear protection and safety boots were was now actively challenged in the demanding world of giving advice for a living, I the ‘must have’ personal protective Irish courts. In the early noughties, have had to upskill continually to stay abreast of the equipment. Prior to 1989, only 20% a Lloyds insurance underwriter told evolution of how organisations manage risk. of the Irish workforce was covered by me he was putting aside 33% of his
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annual reserves for these “softer” claims as compared with the traditional physical accidents of back injuries, trips and falls. Considering the changing awareness of how bullying, harassment and stress can seriously impact our wellbeing, the debate I would like to raise for VOX readers is: “How can we ensure our churches are emotionally healthy and stable environments that provide an oasis for people in a hurting world?” Compared to continental Europe, I have always found that in Ireland, we tend to be more curative that preventative. We want to fix a problem rather than asking the more penetrating question of how it occurred in the first place. In her article, Maria Dowling addressed head-on the very complex questions surrounding bullying in churches. I am sure many have opinions, but even if you don’t agree with everything she has said, at least let’s discuss it! To kick off such a debate, there are two precautionary steps that I believe churches could deploy:
1. AVOID THE OSTRICH SYNDROME
It is interesting to note that consultation (employer actually talking to employees and considering their views) is such an alien thing within Irish society that it had to be included as part of statutory legislation in 1989! With so many challenges facing Christian leaders, keeping in touch with reality and seeking out the real opinions of employees can easily be put on the back burner. The most effective methods I have deployed over the years have been through structured questionnaires and
workshops. I’m impressed by Willow Creek in Chicago. Check out a talk from senior pastor Bill Hybels titled The Courage Leadership Requires (opening session from the 2013 Global Leadership Summit). I recommend you set aside 40 minutes and listen online (available on YouTube). I have participated in the type of insightful review Bill Hybels refers to in large charities and government organisations but never within Christian churches. Usually, churches have a veneer of consultation through Annual General Meetings, staff or committee meetings. However, the process of carefully drawing out people’s views, respecting their opinions, and considering how to address revealed deficiencies simply does not happen.
report was diplomatically worded, it went down like a lead balloon. They only wanted a root-andbranch review as long as the roots and the branches were to be praised and applauded! To avoid autocratic leadership styles in our churches, we need to face another possible reality. In a secular charity, trusts and boards typically consist of members from different business and financial disciplines. In church circles, trusts or board members are usually appointed from within the membership and are generally hesitant to challenge the status quo or look for an external review. Unless the ‘sin’ of a senior leader is of a sexual nature, accountability is negligible compared to the secular world. Of course, I fully accept that secular charities are not perfect. But let’s give credit where credit is due. In recent months, we are seeing a genuine growth and awareness towards equality and fairness. I wonder if my dream of Irish Christian IF WE AS CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, WE NEED TO BE churches leading AT LEAST AS EQUALLY OPEN AND TRANSPARENT AS THE SECULAR actually the way in such CHARITIES AND GROUPS. fairness and transparency could become a reality in our lifetime. If there were enough faith 2. LEAD INTO THE FUTURE groups ready to create robust management systems I believe one main challenge to protect and value people’s views, I for one would churches face is of a systemic nature. If be delighted to use my time to help build such there is no system to gather and review foundations. accurate data, it is very difficult to plan for the future. I am not saying that no systems or For further reading: processes exist – just that I have never www.transparency.ie come across them in Irish Christian www.hsa.ie groups. In modern Ireland, secular fields www.healthandsafetyreview.ie are now well ahead in openness and transparency. If we as Christians are to be taken seriously, we need to be at least as equally open and transparent as the secular charities and groups. I am always apprehensive when an organisation asks for a root-andbranch audit of how they are doing. My concern probably goes back to when I was mandated with such a task for very David Hamilton (david@ prestigious company. “Leave no stone hamiltonrisk.ie) helps organisations unturned” – their boss said. “We want to manage governance, risk and hear it as it is…” compliance. In 2014, his work has I still have an original copy of varied from hosting high-level disaster the resultant report – 94 pages with scenarios for the Isle of Man government to developing explanatory graphs and diagrams. It was safety statements for Christian charities. He is a so good, I even had it professionally conference speaker on risk management topics and bound. However, that great Jack recently participated in Ireland’s first cyber security Nicholson quote, “You can’t handle the webinar. truth,” springs to mind. Even though the OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
think we need to hear In James’ day, there were men “If anyone maintain otherwise from the book of James and women who went about than this, let them be accursed.” a little more! James dropping the poison of idle And so the Catholic rails stood for integrity. gossip. You couldn’t pick up on it against the Protestant and vice He was nicknamed “the Just”. He or detect it – like poison, it was versa, the Calvinist scarcely was honest, earnest, real… And invisible and spread quickly. recognises the Arminian as a very often, those qualities form Gossip is seldom outright Christian. Huge fences are erected the missing ingredient in modern lying. It’s more often a half-truth between Charismatic and nonChristian life. or a wrong emphasis. Sometimes, Charismatic. Heresy hunters point When you read through it’s not even a word. It’s just the finger. Facebook champions his letter, there is sustained the suggestion of a something: with weird names hide behind vindication of morality set against a raised eyebrow, a significant anonymity to snipe at those they the make-believe “smoke and look… and the job is done. The consider wrong… And that’s only mirrors” of phoney Christianity. poison is left behind to work and within the fold of “Christianity”. His main point seems to be, rankle, to inflame your mind and There are consequences to “All this talk about religion and rob you of sleep. mud-slinging. The harm goes spirituality - words, words, words Gossip is a truly terrible thing. inwards. As James noted: “So is the - let us have reality. How can tongue among the members, we speak of the Gospel when that it defiles the whole we excuse ourselves and body.” It affects the whole slander one another? Love OH, GOD GIVE US THE GRACE TO SHUT UP AND body of Christ! and faith are to be expressed It is hard to discern TO RECOGNISE THE FOLLY AND THE GUILT OF THE how you harm yourself in justice, mercy and truth.” In chapter three, by gossiping. The clearest THINGS WE SAY! James homes in on the marker is that you lose main obstacle to authentic spiritual drive. The one Christian living: the words who can control his tongue that we speak. Oh, God, is laying up a reservoir of give us the grace to shut up and Like an invisible bush fire, it spiritual vitality. recognise the folly and guilt of the creates unimaginable destruction. James said, “If any man does not things we say! It divides churches and damages offend in word, the same is a perfect James compares gossip to individuals. Think about the man, able also to bridle the whole poison. I understand that there way that different sections of body.” We talk far too much. I are poisons so destructive that a the Church cheerfully slag each need to learn the power of silence. single drop in the bloodstream other… Jesus stood before his enemies and can produce death in three Back in the early history of didn’t utter a word. And he was seconds flat. Some poisons are Christianity, there were general the very symbol and incarnation virtually undetectable. They church councils to decide on of spiritual strength. spread so quickly that they points of doctrine. All kinds of One of the characteristics of cannot be identified, even under a issues were carefully considered. gossip is its uncontrollability: it microscope. So deadly. So fast. So Right at the end of the official simply runs unchecked. “No one invisible. document of the council, there can tame the tongue.” You might …Like gossip. was a customary codicil that read, rebuke a person who gossips into
CAN WE LEARN TO 30
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a kind of repentant silence but you cannot stop the gossip itself! Even if you refute a slanderer, tomorrow the rumour mill begins to grind all over again. Even if you publicly prove its falsehood, years later, the mention of a name wakes up associations
because it contradicts this. Gossip contravenes God’s normal way of blessing. Ultimately, gossip is diabolical. The tongue is ignited by the fire of hell. The word "devil" means “slanderer.” There is but one sin that is called
GOSSIP IS A TRULY TERRIBLE THING. LIKE AN INVISIBLE BUSH FIRE, IT CREATES UNIMAGINABLE DESTRUCTION.
in the mind of someone who heard the gossip and he asks the question doubtfully, “But were there not some suspicious circumstances connected with him? No smoke without fire.” The poison of gossip has done its deadening work. It’s a bit like weeds which, when you uproot them in one place, sprout up somewhere else. Or like a bushfire, to use James’ own metaphor. You cannot stop the progress of one cruel word uttered carelessly. It will go on hurting, poisoning, burning beyond your control.
BLESSINGS AND CURSING ARE VOICE-ACTIVATED
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” We are intended to have fellowship with God and with each other. And our tongues are intended to bless. Slander is guilty
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“unpardonable”. The Pharisees saw the works of Jesus. They could not deny that they were miracles but they said they were done by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. It was then that Jesus said, “For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment.” And He added, “For a word spoken against the Holy Ghost there is no forgiveness in this world, or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:36). This is scary territory. Jesus is underlining something of crucial importance: when you call evil good, you no longer know which is which. When you tear down boundary stones, you lose your sense of geography and you no longer know where you stand. There’s a significant point here about the popular media - they are not retelling information; they are selling copy. People are abused and slandered every day. The
guiding spirit prevents one side from seeing any good in the other. Every decent action is sullied and motives are held suspect. Let us get at the root of the matter. “Man,” says the Apostle James, “was made in the image of God:” So to slander man is to slander God: to love what is good in man is to love it in God.
LOVE IS THE ONLY REMEDY FOR SLANDER
Love learns to recognise with delight every generous and beautiful action. It can find joy even in seeing the good qualities of one’s bitterest opponents. This is the only spirit that can heal our bent towards slander and gossip. If we would bless God, we must first learn to bless humanity, who is made in His image.
Ken and Val direct several missional communities across the midlands of Ireland. Ken’s books Evangelism in Acts and Evangelism as Encounter are available on Amazon Kindle.
BY KEN BAKER
What is God doing in Ireland? LESSONS FROM JOSHUA CHAPTER ONE By Craig Cooney
or the past 18 months, I’ve heard many Christians and church leaders throughout Ireland express similar things: “Something is stirring; something is happening; God is up to something.” It can be difficult to articulate, but from Cork to Coleraine, Dublin to Galway, there is a strong sense that the spiritual temperature is rising. As someone from the North who currently ministers in Dublin, I was asked to share at the New Wine Summer Conference in Sligo what I believe God is doing in our land. Here is a summary of what I shared:
MOSES IS DEAD: LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: “Moses my servant is dead.” ( Joshua 1: 1). The people had just spent 30 days mourning Moses’ death. Then God says: “Moses is dead.” Why does God tell Joshua something he already knows? I believe God was communicating: “I am doing something new. But to experience the new, you’re going to have to accept that Moses is dead and he’s not coming back.” In the same way, for the Church in Ireland, I believe God is telling us to stop living in the past. He is doing a new thing. But to grasp hold of that new thing, we will have to let go of some old things. I don’t believe God wants to revive something that is dying but rather to allow the old ways to die in order to give birth to something new. It may honour and build on the past, but it won’t look like the past.
THE RIVER IS RIGHT HERE: STEP INTO IT
In verse three, God tells Joshua: “I will give you every place where you set your foot…” The first place they had to walk was right into the river. There’s a difference between standing beside the river and stepping into it. For 40 years, God’s people talked about crossing the river. Now, God says: “Don’t just look; get in!” For decades in Ireland, we have talked and prayed and preached about revival. I believe God is saying: “Revival is here! Stop waiting for it. Put your foot in the river. This is your time, a kairos moment of divine opportunity.” Part of the problem is that God doesn’t do what we expect! When we read about past revivals, they often came like a flash
flood. But at other times, God did things more gradually. In recent years, the water level has been rising slowly. Churches are growing. New churches are being planted. People are coming to faith in Jesus. There is an openness to the Gospel rarely seen before.
BE BOLD: IN ACTION AND IN PRAYER
Three times God says the same thing: “Be strong and courageous…” (verses 6, 7, 9) To walk into the Promised Land, God’s people needed courage and boldness. For too long, the church in Ireland has settled for small visions and small thinking. We have prayed small prayers to a small God of our own making. When I arrived at St. Catherine’s in 2012, the church was in a bad place financially. One Sunday, two men from the States visited our worship service. Afterwards, as we chatted, they asked what they could do. My normal spiritual response is: “Please pray?” Instead, I answered, “Please give us a grand every month.” I couldn’t believe what I had said! They simply smiled and left. Ten days later an envelope arrived with a cheque for $15,000! Boldness got me what timidity couldn’t. God is saying: “Be bold. Expect big things. Pray big prayers. I’m a big God.”
EXPECT OPPOSITION: IT IS A SIGN THAT YOU ARE ADVANCING
“Three days from now you will… take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (v. 10) God had given His people the land and yet they still had to take possession of it. When they crossed the river, they had to fight! Many Christians have told me that this has been one of the most difficult seasons but it’s also been one of the most fruitful. God is moving and there is a backlash! The opposition is a good sign. You are advancing, moving forward and taking ground, and God is working through you. Goliath was the best thing that ever happened to David. If there was no giant to fight, David would have stayed a shepherd boy. These are great days to be a Christian in this land but it doesn’t mean they will be easy days. God is moving, but the enemy will not give up without a fight. It will be hard. But we fight from victory, not for victory.
DIFFERENT TRIBES ARE COMING TOGETHER: CENTRED ON MISSION
But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “…all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them…” (verses 12-15) There were 12 tribes. Joshua reminds them that the only way they can enter the land is to do it together. In recent years in Ireland, God has brought together different “tribes” based on relationship rather than denominational allegiances. A new unity is developing among groups who previously didn’t work together. We’re putting our differences aside and uniting around the Gospel, mission and the things that really matter. Unity is key to revival.
GET READY FOR AN ACCELERATION
“Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan…’” (v. 11) For 40 years, the Israelites wandered in the desert. Then overnight, everything changed. I believe that things are going to speed up. Before I shared this message in July, most weeks in our church we were seeing one or two people come to faith. The week I returned, we saw nine people respond to the Gospel. In John 4:35, Jesus says: “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” We need to open our eyes. The harvest is ripe. We simply need labourers – people like you and me - to go into the field and gather it.
Rev. Craig Cooney leads St. Catherine's (Church of Ireland) in inner-city Dublin. Originally from Co. Armagh, he is married to Becky and they have a two-year-old son, Elijah. In his spare time he enjoys running, reading and eating high calorie-food.
“Most of us can barely rustle up a prayer for a parking space at church. Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still! What appears to be impossible for us is not remotely difficult for God.” - Mark Bailey speaking at New Wine Ireland’s summer conference in Sligo.
Painting by Andrew Garvey-Williams OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
“Remembering the Seventies” ! Six Part Music and Chat Series ! begins 9 pm Sun 5th Oct !
on Spirit Radio!
After The Fire Graham Kendrick
Steve ! Turner
H T I W G N I V I L obert Fullarton is a writer and thinker who works for Jobcare and attends Trinity Church in Dublin city centre. He is the author of a book called, “Our Lives as Fiction” available on Amazon. You can visit his blog at www. wordsandrymes.blogspot.com Robert told VOX magazine about living with Asperger's Syndrome, his journey to faith and the need for churches to be places of welcome and inclusion.
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and when I would ask why we went to the clinic, I was told, it was to meet the doctor so she could talk to me about my behaviour. I never dwelt on it and still thought I was like everybody else, even though deep down I knew I wasn’t. It is true that in childhood I had no true friends my own age and, at times, during my teenage years, my existence was filled with an unbearable loneliness. As an adult, I suffer from social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder from years of nervousness, bullying and insecurity. It’s like the amp volume was turned up to full blast and it deafened me. I am an emotional man, and that
I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when I was about ten years old. This is a relatively young age, as many with the disorder aren’t fully diagnosed until their early adulthood. I think that I caught the concern of my parents rather early on in life due to my poor I KNOW THAT I AM DIFFERENT TO MOST PEOPLE attention span, poor concentration and poor social skills. I believe my mother once thought I was going deaf when I repeatedly refused to answer her calls. I seemed to be miles behind the other children means those who do not know me can academically. I think from an early age my classmates misunderstand me, but my sensitivities perceived me as weird, but nothing sinister happened have given me an acute ability to home during those days. In some ways, they were the in on certain areas of information such as happiest days of my life. literature, music and the natural world. With my diagnosis came regular appointments I know that I am different to most with Dr. Melanie Gallagher- a very polite and goodpeople, so I have to live with my natured woman who took an interest in children who personality, my desires and dreams. I were so often dismissed for being dim-witted, peculiar struggle to hold down employment at and dysfunctional. times due to stress but I manage through She would explain things to me and to my parents. prayer, support and understanding. She would constantly remind me that I needed to I like to do my own thing - I enjoy mitigate certain aspects of my behaviour and set goals my own company immensely - and that to coax and coach me to perform well in school. I is why I read, write, play music and too was informed that when people call you, you should often spend time within the confines of respond and not walk away. my own imagination. My parents kept the diagnosis from me for a while, After many years of isolation - not
knowing what I wanted to do in life and after some pretty nasty incidents involving bullying and ostracising, I gradually became aware of my need and love for God. It came about slowly after watching the TV series “Jesus of Nazareth”. I was moved to tears when I watched the crucifixion scene, and I realised that Jesus is exactly who and what you would look for in a loving and benevolent God. His life, His sacrifice and the resurrection are just poetry in motion to me; they are truly beautiful. I struggle with chronic anxiety, which can be really debilitating, but I have to pray through each storm that comes and look outside my pain and not into it. I hope to use my passion for writing in a way that speaks to people and shows them that “Christ is for all” and that the Gospel is an open door to hope and a new beginning. I guess I was an orphan in the aftermath of a loveless period, and He spoke to me in stronger and greater love through His Holy Spirit. Churches need to be friendly, welcoming places; places for healing, without judgment, not about status or wealth or appearance but about real deep spiritual connection and experience with God. At times, I have found myself to be quite alone among new faces - particularly with young Christians - but this difficulty has followed my right through my life. People are people, and those with Asperger's Syndrome are on different levels of the autistic scale, with some being more severe than others. OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
FROM HORROR Forgiveness and reconciliation in Rwanda - 20 years after the genocide
t is 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda when an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. Born in a refugee camp in Burundi, Emmanuel Murangira went on to become a successful businessman. But the genocide in Rwanda changed the course of his life. Today, he serves the church in Rwanda as the Tearfund representative in the region. At the New Horizon conference in Northern Ireland, Emmanuel shared his journey from horror to hope.
she told me, “I think I need to forgive that man who killed my mother because if I don’t forgive, I will think about him forever and I don’t want that.” I was angry and confused but she was adamant and I couldn’t stop her. It wasn’t a crime for her to forgive! The next morning in my devotions, I was reading Matthew 6: 14 - 15 and it says, “Forgive one another because if you don’t forgive one another your Father in heaven won’t forgive you.” I began to debate with myself. This was The problems in Rwanda did not begin in not something I wanted to do. All along I 1994. The conflict goes back many years - a had believed that God could condone my long history of separation and inequality. When unforgiveness because He knew what I had violence first erupted in 1959, my parents left suffered. I felt I had a right to be angry and Rwanda and I was born in a refugee camp in He knew why. But the Bible was telling me Burundi. Immediately afterwards, my father was something different. arrested as a political activist. My mother ran In my heart I realised, if Rachel who is 12 away to Tanzania when I was just years old can forgive, who am I a week old. She strapped me on not to forgive? Until that point, I her back and travelled 80km on had been thinking about revenge. IT WAS A SCENE FROM HELL. I would be lying if I told you that foot. The people who live around killing did not cross my mind. Lake Victoria experience the The encounter I had with same Hutu and Tutsi conflict Christ as I read those verses in as Rwanda, so my parents sent me to school in Matthew 6 was the defining moment in my life. Kenya to avoid discrimination. But in Kenya, I Forgiveness brings healing. As I forgave, I was was labelled a refugee. It felt humiliating; as if I completely healed of my hatred. had a contagious disease. This was when I finally began to belong to my I came to hate all Hutus, believing that they country. As a refugee, I wanted a country, but were responsible for everything that had gone when I arrived in Rwanda, I didn’t have that sense wrong in my life. I felt angry and bitter. of belonging. After I forgave, I discovered the In 1994, my extended family was in Rwanda value of having a country that I could call my own. (uncles, aunties, cousins and grandparents). God transformed my life. While the genocide was happening, people This was just beginning. I started thinking, telephoned us with news. But it is impossible to “How do I work with others to reconcile our imagine what it was like. The human mind is not communities?” I work with the church to help made to conjure such horrific images. In total, 102 people engage in dialogue. of my relatives were killed. Forgiving is not an easy thing. But who Kigali was liberated on July 4 and I arrived said God wants us to do the easy things? The there four days later. It was a scene from hell. Bible tells us that what is impossible with men is Bodies were strewn everywhere - lying in the possible with God. I have seen it. I have lived it. I street being devoured by dogs. If the militia did have experienced it. not kill you, you could be mauled by dogs that had For the last six years, I have worked with become accustomed to eating human flesh. Tearfund, investing in reconciliation in Rwanda. I knew my relatives were dead, so my hatred Forgiveness does not mean doing away with increased. Searching for survivors, eventually I justice. But we understand that unless we are heard about a three-year-old girl - the only one to actively working for reconciliation, it won’t survive from a family of eight. happen. We don’t do this because it is easy I found Rachel, adopted her and took her back but because it is the essence of our being as to Nairobi. She Christians. did not speak until Some she was six years church leaders old. The horror AS I FORGAVE, I WAS COMPLETELY HEALED OF MY HATRED. participated in had frozen her the genocide but mind. Eventually, others lost their we returned to lives defending Rwanda and I began to learn the truth of what had members of their congregation. Later on, the happened to her. She still carried those images in church had to reconcile people, otherwise church her head. lost its meaning. When she was 12, they began to try the I don’t have a magic bullet. God starts with perpetrators of genocide. Rachel had to attend reconciling us to Himself. But the church needs court. The man who was giving evidence was the to fulfil its biblical mandate to reconcile people man who had rescued her. He had picked her out - whether it is in Rwanda or Northern Ireland or of the bodies and taken her to an orphanage. But Southern Sudan. If the church fails to do that, it she also recognised him as one of those who had has failed in its mission. participated in killing her parents. Christians in Northern Ireland can support When Rachel came back from the trial, she Tearfund UK’s ongoing work in Rwanda through was totally shaken. After church on the Sunday www.tearfund.co.uk.
Photos: Laton Thompson, Tearfund / David Gibson
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF CONFLICT IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
South Sudan has been devastated by decades of civil war. Despite gaining independence in 2011, interethnic warfare continues. The latest conflict erupted in 2013 between forces loyal to President Silva Kirr, from the Dinka ethnic group and former Deputy President Riek Machar from the Lou Nuer. As a result, 1.5 million people fled their homes, 386,000 sought refuge in neighbouring countries and many lost their lives. The UN has declared the situation a level three humanitarian crisis (the highest level), with seven million facing hunger or even starvation. As famine looms, Tearfund Ireland is providing emergency latrines and sanitation facilities and running six feeding centres to address the urgent needs of malnourished mothers, pregnant women and young children. One mother and her five children arrived at the feeding centre in Motot, having walked more than 100km to escape fierce fighting. Children in South Sudan not only face hunger and uncertainty but grow up in a continual cycle of violence and hatred between tribes. Tearfund seeks to implement peace-building initiatives that focus on breaking the cycle of inter-ethnic violence, giving the next generation of South Sudanese a chance at a peaceful and hopeful future. To support Tearfund’s work in South Sudan, people can donate to our emergency appeal at www.tearfund.ie/donate or to find out more or receive prayer updates and resources, please contact the office on 01 8783200 or email email@example.com.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
A unique opportunity from OM Ireland!
What is God doinG on
men’s bible conference
MEN OF COURAGE What does it take to be men of courage, where does that courage come from and where does it lead us? How do we relate to the men we work and live with and how can we encourage them to live as God intended?
We’ll discuss all these questions and more at this year’s men’s conference
where men from all over the country join for one day of meaningful worship, inspiring teaching, practical seminars and invaluable fellowship. Speakers include Spud Murphy, Mark Forsyth, & Roy Walker. Worship by Dave Millen & Band.
SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER 2014 10AM to 5.30PM CARLOW BIBLE CHURCH, BARROWSIDE BUSINESS PARK, GRAIGUECULLEN, CARLOW INFO AND BOOKING AT: WWW.INSIDEOUTCONFERENCE.ORG
TRUST, SURRENDER, BELIEVE, RECEIVE
AN ADVENTURE IN PRAISE AND WORSHIP BY RÓNÁN JOHNSTON
usician, composer, TV presenter, Spirit Radio presenter, vocal coach and worship leader, Rónán Johnston’s varied career has spanned more than two decades. In his new book Trust, Surrender, Believe, Receive, Rónán explores the essential place of worship in the life of individual Christians and churches. This extract from chapter one, Worship and not a guitar in sight! (published in VOX magazine with permission from the author) gives you a taste of a practical, inspiring and insightful book, which will be a valuable addition to your bookshelf, whether you are a worship leader or a worshipper!
the time, and I couldn’t get 20 people to sing in tune. This was, to my young and inexperienced ear, the first miracle of my charismatic experience. The first of many, may I add. I play the guitar. I play the piano. As a child, nothing would have made me happier than to be a famous musician, a pop star, a singer songwriter, or best of all… a Beatle. Unfortunately, that post had long been filled by John, I’m a musician. I love music, and to Paul, George and be truthful, my entire experience of God Ringo, and the and His love is littered with experiences of situation was no wonderful music. When I was a child and I longer vacant. What a heard a beautiful hymn, it would move me. disappointment. So music and God have been inseparable for However, as me over many years. a member of the But I have news for you! Worship is fledgling Johnstown not music. In fact, while we may be helped folk group in my local greatly by singing a hymn or listening to parish, I was delighted sacred music in order to get ourselves in a to be playing to 800 place to worship, worship itself can have people every Sunday little or nothing to do with music. And here’s morning at Mass. It why. was the biggest gig I was 14 years of age when I was invited I’d had to date, and to my first Charismatic meeting by a family before you ask, yes, my motives really were friend. As I entered the room, and people that mercenary. I simply had to become a were already on their feet singing (there famous musician, somehow, and this was must have been 300 of them, hands aloft, surely the first step to world domination. singing with God had other gusto), I was plans. We were immediately all 14-15 years of BUT I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU! WORSHIP IS NOT MUSIC. age, and we knew struck by the beauty about six songs of the sound between us. I they were immediately came making. under pressure to find new material for the Harmonies flew, the words had passion group to sing, hence my arrival at the local and meaning, and when the music dissolved Charismatic meeting in Sallynoggin, a mile into singing in tongues (luckily I’d had or so up the road. And one of the first things some forewarning of this, or I might have I learned as I observed those people with been a little taken aback) I was struck their hands in the air, singing passionate immediately that hundreds of people were songs of love to Jesus, and worshipping singing together, in harmony, and wonder of in tongues, was that this was way beyond wonders, in tune! music. Way beyond guitar chords, beautiful I was leading a church folk group at singing and well-constructed harmonies.
Something else was going on here. These people were reaching out to something, or someone. And they were being answered. And I knew I wanted it.
Like Peter, I felt inadequate. I felt like saying to God “depart from me Lord, because I’m a sinful person”. Yet, the love I was feeling all around me invited me in, invited me deeper into relationship. So I said, “yes”. And that, my friends, is worship in a word. Yes. Say yes to God, and you’re already worshipping… (to read more, please buy Rónán’s book!)
Trust, Surrender, Believe, Receive is available to buy online at www.rojomusic.com/ book/ priced €12 (including postage and packing) for Ireland and €13 for the rest of the world. It is also available from the two Dublin Footprints stores. OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
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EQUAL TO RULE BY TREVOR MORROW REVIEWED BY KEVIN HARGADEN
I don't think I have ever read something quite like Equal to Rule. It arrived in a peculiar format: a small, hard-backed book that could fit easily in the inside of your coat pocket. But the odd shape isn't what marks this out so much as the clear commitment by the author to write a book about the role of men and women in church leadership that maintains a laser-like focus on the questions people actually ask. Morrow has achieved a rare feat. Behind the scenes, one can discern deep engagement with the academic argument and the tone throughout reveals an evangelical comfort with the Scriptures. But the argument of the book never gets bogged down in parsing scholarly disputes or debating the conjugation of Greek phrases.
The book begins with a preamble that sets the work in context. Morrow shares a little about the patriarchal cultural context in which he was raised before taking the reader on a brief journey through how he was prompted to see the world (and gender) differently because of reading the Scriptures. The bulk of the book is then taken up by five chapters that track the role of men and women throughout the biblical narrative. We consider the importance of the Genesis creation story before looking at the surprising prominence of women in the Old Testament. The central chapter of the book is entitled "Jesus and the difference He makes," and it clearly presents Jesus in His context as a teacher radically at odds with His prevailing culture. Morrow argues that the egalitarian approach of Jesus informs the rest of the New Testament, which is unpacked in chapter 4, and in chapter 5, he goes deeper again, showing how the pastoral complications of working out just what it means to follow Jesus are openly discussed by the writers of the New Testament. He does this by examining four test cases: marriage, leadership, discipleship and authority. In the final three chapters, Morrow offers practical steps for making local churches places where women can discern, develop and use their gifts. There are three things that stand out about this book: It is artfully compact. There is no elaboration or pretension. It is accessible, understandable and clear. It is gracious. This is one of those rare books on this topic that I would heartily recommend to people who strongly disagree with the claims it makes. They may not be convinced, but they will be grateful for the opportunity to read a noncontentious account of the position they oppose. If Morrow's tone and discipline were the norm in Christian literature, the church would be vastly enriched. It is written with the church in mind. The author is not writing for some abstract, imaginary, idealised Christian who sits alone as an individual. Morrow is trying to explain why his wider community (the Presbyterian Church) welcomes both men and women into leadership. This is not just a gracious way to discuss an important topic, but it is a quiet antidote to individualism, which besets both liberal and conservative Christians. There have been millions of words written about women in leadership in the church. There can often be more heat than light in these debates. But by rooting the book as a justification for the commitment of his denomination and writing for the actual person sitting in the sanctuary, Morrow goes over well-trod ground in a fresh and gracious way.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Sunday 16 November 2014
Christian Retreat Centre Greystones, Co. Wicklow
Join churches all over the world to pray for the Persecuted Church. The focus in Ireland will be on Nigeria, where Christians face ongoing attack from Boko Haram militants seeking to establish a caliphate (an Islamic state under Sharia law).
suitable for all ages and groups: Conference room, wi-fi access, Excellent catering team
Accommodation for up to 70 people 24 en-suite bedrooms
Order resources for your church now Bookmark with Prayer Points for every person in church Information Sheet for those who are leading prayers
ideal for: church groups, weekends away, workshops, kids camps, team building, seminars, leadership retreats, midweek breaks and much more.
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CHURCH IN CHAINS PO Box 10447, Glenageary, Co. Dublin T 01-282 5393 E email@example.com W www.churchinchains.ie
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The debut book from
Annmarie Miles (a.k.a. VOX’s Feint Saint)
‘The Long & The Short of it’ is now available to buy in paperback and e-book, or to rent digitally at www.emuink.ie. (fiction section).
Also available from Footprints Bookshops, Dublin & Dun Laoghaire
DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT
DEBATING CHRISTIAN THEISM
BY TIM KEESEE REVIEWED BY MARK WALSH
BY TIM KEESEE REVIEWED BY MARK WALSH
Travelogues are amongst the most popular genres of modern publishing. Here’s one with a difference. It provides insight into the geography and culture of many far flung lands from Azerbajian to Uzbekistan with stop offs in places such as Croatia, Russia, Iraq, China to name a few. However, it concentrates mainly on the advance of the Gospel and the growth of the Christian Church in some of the most difficult places in the world. Many characters you meet in Tim Keesee’s stories have suffered persecution, imprisonment and worse! But rather than despair, the reader gains hope from realising the power of the Gospel to change the hardest of hearts in the darkest of places.
With attacks on theism in general and Christianity in particular becoming more common, it has never been more important for Christians to understand the reasons for their faith. Unfortunately, many books pit the best arguments for Christian faith against the poorest ones opposing it. And let’s be honest, learning to attack a straw man is a pointless exercise. This meaty volume could not be accused of this. It contains detailed explanations by the world’s leading scholars both for and against theism and Christianity in particular. Contributors include Christian theologians of various persuasions along with leading Atheist scholars (and a Buddhist!). There are no simplistic tirades: the debates between the contributors are conducted in a respectful manner and explore topics such as God’s existence, the problem of evil, the resurrection and science. At over 500 pages, this is not “light” reading – but it is well worth the effort. Readers are rewarded with a deepening of their own faith and a better ability to respond to attacks upon it.
LAUGHTER AND GRACE BY DR KEN BAKER REVIEWED BY DAVID MCLAUGHLAN
A comedian who has done his homework can shake up the establishment, wearing a dead-pan face, and have the rest of us rolling in the aisles. In Laughter and Grace, Ken Baker suggests that Jesus, who surely knows mankind better than anyone, may have taken a similarly wry approach. Almost tongue-in-cheek this "prophet" pointed out where we were going wrong and where we might go right. Those who didn't want to hear it, crucified Him. But the author suggests that those who did want to hear - and who understood what He was saying - found delight, joy and even laughter in his words. Writing not as a learned theologian (although he is) but more like a friend discussing something wonderful, Ken Baker re-presents the words of Jesus as they might have been understood in their time and shows that their original context, while still one
of repentance, has far more wonder, delight, and even laughter than modern readers might realise. Jesus wasn’t a comedian but when you look at the people He had (and has) to deal with a senses of humour would be very necessary. In Laughter And Grace Ken Baker explores the wonder of grace and, through his understanding of the situations and the people involved, encourages us to have a few laughs with the Lord. Laughter and Grace is a refreshing treat for people of faith and may well be a gateway book for those who are interested ... but are put off by all the supposed sobriety.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
Events Calendar What’s happening where and when
OCTOBER Talking with Bereaved People Saturday, 4 October, 10am The Riasc centre, Swords, Co. Dublin www.iacc.ie The Leadership Exchange 7 - 8 October Ballymeena, Co. Antrim www.arcleadershipexchange.org Global Leadership Summit 10 - 11 October Newtownards, Co Down www.willowcreek.org.uk/gls
Responsible Church Governance Saturday, 11 October, 9:30am River of Life Church, Athlone www.evangelical.ie Soul Survivor Night Friday, 17 October, 7pm The Exchange, Dublin 1 facebook.com/soulsurvivornight Inside Out Men's Conference Saturday, 18 October, 10am Carlow Bible Church www.insideoutconference.org Global Leadership Summit 24 - 25 October Jesus Centre, Dublin 12 www.willowcreek.org.uk/gls
A poetic account of the unbaptised stillborn babies in unmarked graves scattered all around Ireland with history, local reﬂections and links by Louis Hemmings www.cillini.org
Keep your Marriage Healthy Would you like to have more joy, fun and laughter in your marriage? If your answer is ‘YES' a Marriage Encounter Weekend is the answer. Next weekend takes place in "The Lake Hotel” Killarney November 14th - 16th 2014 Book your weekend by phoning 064-6644319 / 086-8334382 For more information visit: www.marriageencounter.ie
NOVEMBER Dr. Marilyn Hickey in Dublin Tuesday, 4 November, 6pm Solid Rock Church, Dublin 8 www.solidrockdublin.org Responsible Church Governance Saturday, 15 November, 9:30am Limerick Baptist Church www.evangelical.ie Building Blocks Conference Belfast: Saturday, 15 November Dublin: Saturday, 22 November www.buildingblocks.ie Visit www.vox.ie/events for a more up-to-date event listing. (You can also inform us about your upcoming event there.)
Building Blocks Training Conference for those who work with children in church and parish contexts Keynote speaker: Lucy Moore from Messy Church
Belfast 15th November £25 Dublin 22nd November €35 Seminar details and booking form on www.buildingblocks.ie
A unique preaching ministry in scripture recitation, drama and song
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THE GOOD MAN
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY PHIL HARRISON REVIEWED BY RUTH GARVEY-WILLIAMS
“For every man does not live, neither is born, for himself, but mankind is knit together escaping to a better life and struggles with a holy knot.Therefore, we must not live against the injustice of evictions and land for ourselves, but for our neighbours.” John grabbing. Calvin, Commentary on Acts Volume 1 “We’re poor because we’re black,” How our lives connect, intersect announces one young African student. and intertwine (“a holy knot”) is one of “You can’t say that. Apartheid is over,” the powerful underlying themes of Phil she is told. “Really? Show me a white Harrison’s film The Good Man. township.” Her answer confronts the Set in Belfast and Cape Town, harsh realities of inequality in modern South Africa, the film follows two South Africa. seemingly disconnected stories, exploring guilt and responsibility, violence and I WAS CAUGHT BY SURPRISE BY AIDAN GILLAN’S death. POWERFUL AND EMOTIONAL PERFORMANCE. When a thoughtless, selfish act causes a man’s death, Belfast banker Michael (Aidan Gillan) is racked with guilt. Sinking into depression, his secret This was clearly a labour of love for threatens his marriage, his family and his writer/director Phil Harrison. Shot in career. just two weeks on location in Belfast and Sifiso (Thabang Sidloyi) is a teenager Cape Town, the low-budget feature film living in a corrugated iron shack in a was crowd funded. And yet in quality and South African township who dreams of depth, it punches way above its weight. Loving the juxtaposition of the
two storylines, which switch from grey Belfast city streets to the heat and dust of Cape Town, I was caught by surprise by Aidan Gillan’s powerful and emotional performance. The only real disappointment was the length (74 minutes), with some sequences and transitions feeling rather rushed towards the end. A few scenes will certainly raise a smile (the goat in the shopping trolley for one!) but The Good Man is not feel-good escapism. And while the strong language and stark themes will be off-putting for some, it is the overall message that is most disturbing. Here there is no pandering to western sensibilities but rather an unsettling look under the carpet that questions our naïve assumptions about global realities. An important and thought-provoking film! The Good Man is available to rent or download on iTunes or you can purchase the DVD on Amazon. Find out more at www.thegoodmanfilm.com.
OCT - DEC 2014 VOX
THEM AND US BY SEÁN MULLAN
'd like to write a word (ok, a few words) on behalf of “them”. Them? Yes, “them” who are not like us, the ones who are different. Their identity depends on your definition of “us”. Who is “in” your particular in crowd? The definition of “us” can vary. It can depend on skin colour, gender, musical taste, education, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, place of birth, political convictions, bank balance, place of residence, language, accent, appearance, clothing, weight, football club or any one of a thousand labels you care to choose. Only two things matter - who is in and who is out. As soon as that is established, we have created a place of safety for ourselves: we are “us” and they are “them” - the others, the ones not like us. This process of creating networks of “people like us” may seem a natural and harmless exercise. Even children in the playground do it. But it is also the basis of every war ever fought. Once we have decided that they are “them” and not like “us”, waging war against them becomes easier - a logical next step. And truth be told, religious people have developed a significant reputation for this
It’s far too easy to label someone an “unbeliever”. It assigns them a place in the company of the other side - “them” - those who don’t accept the truths we believe. Once labelled they can be talked about when they’re not around, spoken of with a certain degree of condescension, analysed and categorised. Though often this comes from a genuine concern for someone’s spiritual welfare, it can
just as easily become a reason for not taking someone seriously, not seeing them as an equal. It’s worth remembering that the Latin word for “unbeliever” is “infidel” - and if you follow events in the Middle East, you know how that word WHAT IF THE STANDARDS YOU USE FOR EXCLUDING OTHERS has been used to create religious, social BECOME THE STANDARDS THAT ARE USED TO EXCLUDE YOU? and political division across nations. The “infidel” is a lesser being. kind of segregation and discrimination. Since That reputation for looking down on “the it’s a safe guess that most people reading this ones who aren’t like us” seems to go back a have some religious inclination, then perhaps ways. Jesus of Nazareth, although not at all that’s the place to begin. averse to practising religion Himself, saw 46
VOX OCT - DEC 2014
the dangers in religious segregationalism. His solution was simple - remember that the measure you use to measure others could be used to measure you. Think about that before you speak out at someone else. What if the standards you use for excluding others become the standards that are used to exclude you? Look inside yourself before you look out at them. That is advice worth heeding by both sides in our contemporary moral and ethical debates. While people with sincere religious convictions always run the risk of being judgemental, they are not the only ones. These are days when the ultimate put-down - in this little segment of the planet - is to be labelled “judgemental”. We often protect ourselves from such accusations with a collection of blindingly obvious generalisations like “everyone’s entitled to their opinion.” But a brief scan of Twitter or Facebook shows that the Judgemental Club has a large and active membership. And they’re not confined to any one side of a debate. How do you label someone as judgemental without being judgemental? Being judgemental about judgementalism is still being judgmental. It’s not so much that you disagree but the way you express that disagreement. Instead of saying “with all due respect” why not just give respect? Instead of telling someone they are entitled to their opinion, how about letting them express that opinion and giving it due consideration? Who knows but you may be awarded the same respect in return? Seán Mullan has been working in church leadership for many years. He has developed a new project in Dublin City Centre called “Third Space”.
Serious Doctrinal Preaching: Serious about God Serious about Man Serious about Christ Serious about Salvation Serious about the Church Serious about the Return of the Lord Limerick Reformed Fellowship www.limerickreformed.com Live webcast Sundays 11am & 5.30pm: www.mixlr.com/limerickreformed
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