25 January 2007


I have had the opportunity to listen to 2 wise Christian leaders in recent weeks – Archbishop Sentamu and Rev Graham Carter, current President of the Methodist Conference. Both were inspiring and much of what each said seemed to me to echo the other. (My reflections on what they said are mine alone – sadly I cannot vouch for the reliability of my memory, so I should emphasise that these are my impressions of what I heard!)

They both touched on the subject of community, in terms of how we relate to other Christian denominations and, as Christians, to other faith groups, whilst remaining true to our own distinctive beliefs. To me, and doubtless to others too, this had resonance for the differing groups within the CofE and the Anglican Communion too!

Graham Carter made the point that unity and community is about much more than simply going down a statement of faith and ticking boxes. Both he and Abp Sentamu stressed the importance of listening to each other with respect, but that those of other faiths did not expect – or want – Christians to abandon our beliefs. We should however engage in dialogue and work together wherever we can, as a recognition and reflection of our common humanity. Both leaders were also very clear that we cannot expect – nor should we claim – to understand God, nor to know the entire truth.

In her blog, Kathryn has recently reminded me of Henri Nouwen’s book of reflections, Bread for the Journey. I have started to use these again – and just the other day there was this reflection on community:

Community, a quality of heart.

The word community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naiveté. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question therefore is not “How can we make community?” but “How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?”

[Emphases mine]

Are we as a Church – am I as an individual – exclusive, self-satisfied and isolated? Or are we – am I – open-hearted, looking outwards, seeing the interests and concerns of others as more important than my own?

May God build in us, and through us, broad, inclusive communities where we can share our humanity in safety, trust and love.

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10 January 2007

A Christian Response?

Ekklesia reports the response of Faithworks leader Revd Malcolm Duncan to the controversy over the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Mr Duncan argues for a truly Christian response - ie one which reflects the love of Jesus. He says

"Christians are called to follow Jesus’ example, and he says remarkably little about sexuality in scripture. Rather, he treats all people he comes across with love and acceptance, and does not refuse his service to anyone, even if he does not agree with their lifestyle."

He concludes

"The proposed SORs are an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ. However, vociferous opposition, a lack of constructive dialogue, and threats of civil disobedience mean that the Church is in danger of sounding homophobic and is doing little to give itself a credible voice." [My emphases.]

The complete report is here, and Mr Duncan's explanation of his position here.

How very refreshing to hear an evangelical voice raised for love and grace, not to mention constructive dialogue. Could it catch on?!

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09 January 2007

Obsessive, moi?

Now the England "cricket" team, fresh from losing heavily to Australia in the Ashes series, loses heavily to Australia in a 20-20 game. I see that the usual selection policy has been applied - Chris Read has had his customary 2 matches and is dropped again!

Do tell me if I'm getting boring on this subject ....

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05 January 2007

Just a fan

When Chris Read was belatedly recalled to the England cricket team in August, the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew wrote:

“It is to be hoped that [Read’s] return comes with the similarly generous guarantee of an extended run that Jones was given in Antigua."

Which I thought was admirably even-handed of him, and I said so in one of my earlier rants!

Yesterday, after Chris Read had played 3 and a half Tests, Agnew wrote:

“[Read] is not a number seven batsman at this level”.

What price generosity and even-handedness?

Of course, I berated him on the Test Match Special blog – but in truth, I have to wonder if he is right. Ready’s scores of 3, 26 not out, 2 & 4 in this woeful Ashes series can hardly be characterised as a man seizing his opportunity – even though his wicket-keeping has, of course, been world class.

Chris Read’s misfortune in coming up against one of the truly great test sides, at the top of their devastating form, reminds me of the fate which befell many England batsmen in the 1970s, when granted the dubious privilege of a tour to the West Indies!

The truth is that, in almost every department – including management and preparation – this England team has been soundly beaten by the best team in the world. What this tells us long term about the abilities of the players involved is difficult to say. They have played well against lesser Test sides, and it may be harsh to discount them on the evidence of this hammering, embarrassing as it has been.

My fear is that the customary rush to judgement will be unfair on many of them – Chris Read included.

Anyone wondering about my record as a sports pundit might also like to know that, after my early and vehement criticism (see September 06 archive), my beloved Green Bay Packers managed a record of 8-8 in the NFL regular season and very nearly made the playoffs. Their season, which began with a 26-0 shutout loss to their old rivals the Chicago Bears, ended with a 26-7 win at the Bears. Symmetry and hope for continued improvement – hope deferred if legendary QB Brett Favre does not return for another year!

After all, in Football as in Cricket, what do I know? I’m just a fan!

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