Thursday, 28 April 2011

What does a Christian need to be for lesbians and gays?

I am becoming convinced that the language and intent we use to talk to people (especially in existing gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, swinging, polyandrous or liberal communities) needs to change to be consistently crystal clear on:

  • God's love and OUR love for PEOPLE,
  • the redemption Jesus offers through the cross to everyone who believes ,
  • the acceptance and support provided by a church community towards anyone wanting to follow or find God,
  • what sin is and it's effects on our ability to be right with God, (why we all need to change)
  • sexual orientation/preference is not the sin, it’s what you do that matters
  • and our personal assurance, integrity and openness that we have no room to judge what others struggle with

… because

  • we all struggle in different ways and seasons to eradicate sin and live up to who God made us to be.
  • it is next to impossible to say to someone in a supportive like-minded community to switch to an unsupportive, judgmental church community
  • it is up to God to change people’s hearts, it’s our delight to celebrate and encourage the changes
  • conviction is a work of the holy spirit, not the judgements of our own intolerant hearts
  • if we have been unconditionally accepted by God, wouldn’t we want to extend that same acceptance to each other?
  • we cannot compromise on what the bible calls actions that are sin, but neither must we compromise on continually loving each other and extending mercy, forgiveness and grace

Friday, 22 April 2011

Why I‘m voting YES to AV on May 5th


There are several reasons why I’m voting Yes to the Alternative Vote (AV) on May 5th 2011 that I’d like to share with you.

I’m REALLY tired of politicians being elected by less than a third of the people who turned out to vote.    This major factor means that nearly everyone can complain they haven’t got who or what they voted for, and gives cause for them to disengage with the political process and opt out of responsibility.

    Here’s the results table for Cannock Chase 2010

    Name Party Votes % +/- 2005
    Aidan Burley Conservative 18,271 40% 10.1%
    Susan Woodward Labour 15,076 33% -17.9%
    Jon Hunt Liberal Democrat 7,732 17% 3%
    Various Other Parties 4,480 10% 5%

In Cannock Chase District, in 2005 Labour won with 51% of the vote. Under AV that result would stand without a second round. In 2010 Conservatives were elected with 40.1% of the vote, leaving 33% voting for Labour and 17% voting for Liberal (on a 61% turnout).  The voting majority of Cannock Chase (nearly 60%) did not appear to want a Tory MP as their first choice but that is what they got which to my mind is clearly unfair.  First past the post (the current electoral system) works really well in a 2 horse race, but with the vote as fragmented as it is between more political parties it just doesn’t make sense to use a system that can elect a person/party without a true majority of support.

AV is all about MAJORITY PREFERENCE. Under AV, If there is a clear winner (50% of any vote) that person is elected straight away with no second round count.  This means that it is as easy as ever to remove a dodgy MP, but it’s also as easy as ever to ELECT a person we think might do our county good. But because a prospective MP (or returning MP) has to get 50% of the vote to avoid second round counting, they have to work hard for us for more than the 6 weeks before an election.  They cannot just rely on their party affiliated supporters to see them through, they must win over floating voters and those from other parties by their actions.   That to me seems a jolly good.

If you only want ONE vote to be counted against your candidate, then you can choose to ONLY mark ONE box on the form. There is no compulsion for you to vote for more people than you want.  So if you can determine that the values and policies of only one politician are ones that you can support then you can continue to exercise your vote in the way you do now.  In the last election, I found that I was most in agreement with one party, somewhat in agreement with another, and definitely opposed to the policies of another.  It would have been likely under AV that I would have exercised my first and second choice only.    In the 2010 result, if I had voted for either Conservative OR liberal, then given the coalition government that was formed I should feel that my vote really made a difference in who is running the country.

However, I think one of the greatest benefits of AV is that for the first time in a long while you can actually vote for who/what you want, not for what you don’t want.  Your first choice will count towards the first round just like now. If you however have also indicated that you would be happy if another parties candidates policies were successful  then if there was not 50% of the vote, your primary vote can be reallocated to a second round candidate.

We have no way of truly knowing what might have happened In Cannock Chase but given that 60% didn’t want a conservative candidate where could the remaining votes have gone? Would there have been enough residual support for Labour to elect them in the second round once they had a bloody nose from the first?  Would Liberals have captured a popularist surge from people who would normally vote Conservative or Labour (because they had more chance of winning) but feel more comfortable with Liberal policies? Or would the Conservatives have won over those who were making protest votes with minority parties in the first round but would feel comfortable that Conservatives had a workable plan to put us on a path to recovery?    We can debate that forever and a day, and we will never really know.. but I would have liked to have found out.

Certainly AV is a change in how we vote now.  How we approach change in our lives is really important.  Often we approach it with a mixture of fear, nervousness and sometimes excitement. There may be many questions you have about what AV is and what it isn’t, and you may think that there are some things you don’t want to have happen that will force you to vote against AV.  One of those thoughts is that AV could allow the BNP to be elected, but let me ask you, just how likely is that? Remember, they would have to get 50% of the population believing that their policies are helpful sufficient to get 1st, 2nd or third round votes allocated to them.  In the last election only 2,168 people in Cannock Chase voted for the BNP, so how likely is it that another 20,612 people would be convinced enough to add them as a second or third choice sufficient for 50% of the vote from those who turned out?  I don’t think very likely at all, even as a protest vote.

I have given you some reasons for voting for AV you can find out more from the Yes2AV campaign. The No2AV campaign will provide several reasons for you to fear the Alternative Vote system, what I would ask you to think about is, what is it you want, rather than what you don’t want.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Easter Live?

Anyone planning on getting involved with #EasterLive this week?

The idea is that you tweet or facebook the easter story ‘ as it happens’  throughout Easter week..   Those with a bit of time on their hands or enjoy telling stories might well enjoy contributing..

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

What is death?

I find some scriptures really confusing.

The bible uses the word death or dying in a number of places and it is not always clear whether it’s talking about physical death, spiritual death, eternal separation, decay, what happens to our old man when we accept Christ.

I’m not a studier of Greek or Hebrew, so I have no idea what word is being used and in what context other than from the translation provided by hopefully learned folk who have attempted to translate the text faithfully into a language I sort of understand.

This morning then I was reading in John 8. There is a discussion between Jesus and the Jews which culminates in Jesus explaining that not only does he know Abraham (despite being less than 50 years old) he has spoken with him. [Presumably eluding to eternal life and to recognisable states of existence in the after earthly life]

So far so good…

But the bit that confuses is what is to be understood by John 8:52

52The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.'

  • Are they talking about the same death?
  • Is Jesus suggesting that people who hold to His teaching never cease to breath the air of this blue/green sphere?
  • Is the death we won’t taste that Jesus is suggesting the same as the one in Matthew 16:28?
  • Or what about Hebrews 2:9? What death did Jesus suffer for all of us so that we don’t all have to ‘taste death’?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Is the Church really the hope for the world?

The developing thought stream on Martin Charlesworth’s blog and his observations through to part 4 of  Jesus's manifesto resonated with me deeply, but I was caught off-guard by the inclusion of Bill Hybel’s quote that "The local church is the hope of the world". I haven’t read where that particular quote comes from (though Bill's twitter page includes a quotation that embodies a similar theme), but as I read it, and connected it with Martin's observation of Jesus's mission in manifesto part 4, I thought ‘surely, Jesus Christ is the hope for the world?’

I fully appreciate that in any Christian quiz unless the answer is a squirrel, it is always Jesus, and it is so in this case isn’t it? When the church with it’s projects and activities, becomes more important than Jesus, when our actions are tempered not by his grace and mercy, but by our missional objectives, don’t we begin to believe that our program is what will save people, rather than salvation being a sovereign work of Christ by grace through faith?  [When we think of our Catholic brothers isn't our observed criticism that it's their tradition that has replaced relationship with Christ? That format and function has replaced action and purpose?]

Secondly, though Martin affirms "that the life of the church should naturally spill over into the society within which it is set", he appears to miss that the reason “social activists feel marginalised in local church” is not because the church doesn't provide programs, but because the church refuses to legitimise their participation in anything that is not church branded/run (as if church meeting or project participation is the only contribution that matters). 

Don’t we have to cease the somewhat childish pursuit of identification through branding? Isn't the identification of being 'follower of Christ', 'salt and light' enough?  It is surely wholly irrelevant whether a member of our community serves in our local church project or in some other (church or secular) project, so long as we have contact with those in need and are able to help, expressing the love of God as we go? Isn’t it true that where 2 or 3 are gathered there he is amongst us? If 2 or 3 are serving, isn’t church existing and visible? If the only way we can accept that the church operates in social action is in function, project and structure we surely miss the countless thousands of souls who would pass by our buildings and projects unaffected because we wouldn't step outside our paradigms to meet them.

Martin is right though to highlight that church leaders have a pivotal role in empowering it’s social activists, and I appreciate too that he hasn’t in this post (or yet in this discussion) outlined the ways in which that empowering might occur - so he may be coming to observations similar to mine, but I sincerely and humbly hope that he agrees with me that unless Church leaders legitimise life giving activities outside of the four corners of their building [and continue instead to attempt to squash God given passions into the restrictive shoes that the leader provides or his programs enable] we will not recover the everyday social action that was prevalent in the early church.

Finally, though I’m in danger of standing on my soap box ranting… the western middle class church has become clunky and unwieldy, stylised and way too comfortable and ineffective [reminiscent of the churches many of us left 30 years ago!]  It’s almost as if we need to hear Christ tell each one of us to ‘sell our possessions and give to those in need’ before we will be confronted with just how far we have moved from the early church life and the love and care they expressed to each other in the course of their daily life. When we are giving only from our plenty it is costless to us. When a Basic’s bank for example is established, it is not food from our table that we are sharing with the poor it is too easily Pharisaic-like wealth that we are showing off. May the Lord have mercy on us and preserve us from our church branded 'plenty' schemes for we know not what we hypocritically do to further damage people or damage the name of Christ however well intentioned our actions.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 (Amplified Bible)

7But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions, mere grandmothers' tales) and silly myths, and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit].     8For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come.     9This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody.     10With a view to this we toil and strive, [yes and] [a]suffer reproach, because we have [fixed our] hope on the living God, Who is the Saviour (Preserver, Maintainer, Deliverer) of all men, especially of those who believe (trust in, rely on, and adhere to Him).