flagging faith

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Stuck on Brexit

The public sphere is full of talk of Brexit - hard, soft, chaotic, in-name-only. Yet, among the clamour, the voices of the Churches are not being drowned out because they are not there. Before and since the referendum, Churches including the Methodist Church, have been worryingly silent on one of the biggest decisions in the history of this country. Why so quiet? The basic answer is because they are stymied by division. For decades, the call has come for the Church to 'speak out' on issues of national importance. However, that call has also usually demanded that the Church's message be univocal, unequivocal and unnuanced. The idea has stuck that that you can and must only speak with one, cle

Modern worship songs - why they're needed and why they're not the answer

The World Methodist Council has finished its latest session in Seoul, Korea, and members like me have returned to our homes with many memories. One of the highlights for me was the worship at our host church, Kwanglim Methodist Church, one of the largest Methodist Churches in the world. It has dozens of church plants, five main worship services each Sunday, each one with upwards of a thousand worshippers of all ages. Yet, all of this is accomplished with a robed choir - and orchestra! - singing hymns that most British Methodists stopped singing fifty years ago. All of this reminded me of a discussion I had recently with a colleague about modern worship songs. The two reasons given for having

The gift of anger

"We should not be ashamed of anger. It’s a very good and a very powerful thing that motivates us. But what we need to be ashamed of is the way we abuse it.” —Mahatma Gandhi I grew up in a household and a society that was terrified of anger, but where anger was always present. For those who visited Northern Ireland during the 'Troubles', many were astonished at how nice, friendly and hospitable the locals were, despite the stories of violence that had filled their TV screens. They found it impossible to believe that a society could be at once so friendly and yet so hateful. I now work in a Church that finds anger equally terrifying. Whilst calling on its members to hold their faith with deep

Conference Bites 6 - Mixed Feelings, Mixed Economy

When we heard that the Marriage and Relatioships Task Group had not completed their task and so wouldn’t be bringing concrete proposals to this Conference, all of us were deeply disappointed and frustrated.In light of the delay, some of our members decided to bring Notices of Motion to the floor of Conference that would enable the Church to move to the Mixed Economy faster. A huge thanks to Mark Rowland and Delyth Liddell who worked for many hours behind the scenes to make sure it got onto the Order Paper. In their Notice of Motion, the Conference were presented with some options for change. The debate which followed was measured, compassionate and deeply moving. The atmosphere in the hall w

Conference Bites 5 - Why I stood for President

Elections can be brutal - the people speak and the next day, the removal vans take the belonging out the back door as the new incumbent arrives at the front. They are also an enormous privilege, both for candidate and voter. For the voters, they get to overthrow their government with nothing more than a stubby pencil; for the candidate, it is the chance to place oneself before the public and offer to serve and, in serving, make a difference. It is supremely humbling, both if you win, the knowledge that so many strangers place their trust in you, and if you lose, acting with good grace and offering genuine congratulation to your opponent. I have had my name on a ballot paper a number of times

Conference Bites 4 - Vision

This is the sermon I preached at an ordination service at the Methodist Conference yesterday afternoon, based on Isaiah 6:1-8 [download a copy by clicking here] It is so wonderful to be worshipping in this chapel dedicated to the great Celtic bishop, St Cuthbert. Like the prophet, Isaiah, his life was shaped by visions. When he was a young shepherd, for instance, he saw a vision angels in the night sky carrying St Aidan to heaven. Little did he know that he would eventually follow in Aidan’s footsteps as Abbot and Bishop of Lindisfarne. ‘In the year that King Uzziah died …’ Isaiah sees a great vision in the Temple in Jerusalem. He might have seen his P45 because his ministry had begun to flo

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