flagging faith

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Surviving the Church

In some ways, I feel sorry for those who now lead the Churches. They have inherited a mess and, whatever they say in public, I bet they use a few choice words about their predecessors in private. For most of church life, well-meaning amateurism left nothing more than badly-maintained buildings and a lack of detailed records. But it also left the door wide open to abusers and predators who wanted a safe place to prey on the vulnerable. A spirit of acceptance became a culture of impunity and left far too many victims and survivors in its wake. Today, the Churches are beginning to acknowledge that past and its shameful legacy. New procedures are in place and we are all learning the language of

Anxious Times

We live in anxious times. The nerve gas attack in Salisbury is but a symptom of a fractious and potentially confrontational relationship with Russia. The world is, once again, lining up for a fight, or so we fear. Whilst Brexit is itself a cause of anxiety, it is also a result of a once-powerful nation unsure of its place in the new world order and fearful of its own internal cohesion. And whilst too many in the Churches believe we are made of different stuff and so are immune from anything affecting the world around us, we are also increasingly consumed with anxiety. In the last decade, the Methodist Church has lost one third of its members, mainly through death, and demographics predict an

The Mother and Motherhood of God

I’ll be honest, Mothering Sunday has never been an easy one for me. I don’t think that I am alone in saying that my relationship with my mother is complicated. Thankfully, there have been others in my life who have nurtured me and provided the kind of selfless love that we think a good mother provides. But this day is also complex for the Church in a number of ways. For Protestants, it is one of the very few days when we focus on the place of women in the faith. For many people who no longer attend, the Church in Britain has become the ‘Institute of Victorian family values’. Whatever we actually say about family or relationships, our image still projects a version of family than does as much

Laying good foundations

Recently I wrote about the direction that I felt ministry in the Methodist Church was going. I was concentrating on the work of presbyers in particular and now want to say a bit more about lay ministry. Last week, I decried the way that lay ministry has been over-functionalised in the last twenty years. In CPD, the Methodist 'rule book', the section referring to lay ministry has gone from being titled 'Lay Ministry' to 'Lay Workers' to, now, 'Lay Employment'. As the number of lay employees increases and many posts are open to either lay or ordained, the legal distinctions between different types of ministry will become, in my view, impossible to sustain. In the meantime, it seems that lots o

When is a church not a Church?

The death of Billy Graham, aged 99, was announced last week. It was reckoned that he preached to over 200 million people in his ministry. But the sad fact is that, in certain churches, his ministry as an ordained pastor is still not recognised and so he would not have been able to preside at the Eucharist. As well as recent news from the Church of England's General Synod about Methodism, it appears that Salvation Army officers are also to be given permission to preach in Anglican Services for the first time. Why has it taken 150 years? In all our debates about ecumenism and Church unity, there appears to be a huge confusion between two terms: apostolic succession and so-called historic succe

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