Thursday, 26 May 2011

RE teacher Gary Smith's Muslim attackers jailed

Four Muslim men who assaulted a religious education teacher because they did not approve of him teaching Muslim girls, have been jailed.

Gary Smith, 38, was beaten as he walked to Central Foundation Girls' School in Bow, east London, last July.

The gang left him unconscious after attacking him with a metal rod and a brick, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

The four all pleaded guilty to GBH with intent and given an indeterminate jail sentence with a minimum of five years. Read more

Monday, 23 May 2011

Chelmsford South Deanery Vision

Chelmsford South Deanery 
Chelmsford South Deanery stretches from Boreham and the southern half of the town of Chelmsford, all the way to South Woodham Ferrers and Ramsden Bellhouse. It encompasses 21 churches in 18 parishes. We have been involved for several years in creating a vision document, with the experience of Exeter Diocese being influential and with every PCC having been consulted at least twice; the four points below are the fruit of this consultation.

1. A Vision for Every Member
*We believe that every member needs to be equipped to live in his or her neighbourhood, family, social groups and workplace as a full-time Christian, serving his or her communities and telling of God’s love.

To equip every member to do these things, God gives his church gifted people. Our eyes and hearts have particularly been drawn to Ephesians 4; we believe that God will provide the ministry gifts of 
- Visionary Leaders,
- Prophets to speak truth to power,
- Evangelists to spread the good news,
- Pastors to care and include all, and
- Teachers to make sure young and old alike develop into the likeness of Christ.

Our synod in spring 2010 showed what a range of gifted individuals we already value within the deanery, including clergy, readers, pastoral assistants and evangelists, but also those recognised by our local churches and commissioned to minister under supervision. As part of this team of gifted people, there will be some ordained ministers; and of these, some will receive a stipend. Generally speaking, we believe that in 2016 every group of 180-200 active Christians will need the services of a full-time priest - not to do the work of mission and ministry for them, but to equip them to do that work of serving their locality and telling of God’s love. We are suggesting that we will need 10.5 stipendiary ministers in 2016 (down from 13.5 in 2009), and a smaller number thereafter. Our “deanery roadshow” is rolling out across the deanery with the aim of encouraging “whole-life discipleship” and vocation in the broadest sense possible; our deanery synods also have this focus.

*We believe that every member needs to be part of an intimate Christian group, whether a formal group or a set of friends. Smaller parish churches already constitute this intimate group.

2. A Vision for Pastoral Communities
*We believe that every member also needs to be part of a larger group in which the fullness of the ministry gifts listed above is put into practice. We call this larger group a pastoral community, though terms such as “cluster” or “collaborative unit” would work just as well. A pastoral community is a dynamic grouping of smaller communities; it is served by a collaborative team of ministers, paid and voluntary, clergy and lay, licensed and unlicensed. A large parish church (no doubt made up of a network of teams, friendships and small groups, formal and informal) might be a pastoral community in its own right; a small parish church would need to join together with other churches to enjoy the fullness of the ministry gifts God gives in a pastoral community.

Pastoral units will be of different sizes, but contain at least 180 regular members and be able to provide
  • leadership and envisioning with all five of the “ministry gifts” of Ephesians 4 in evidence
  • regular public worship
  • collaborative ministry
  • teaching, preaching, training, nurture, growth, and lifelong learning for Jesus’ adult disciples
  • teaching, training, nurture and growth for children and young people who are disciples of Jesus
  • evangelism in the community as a clear priority
  • involvement in and service to the local community, with a particular care expressed for the poor, after the example of Jesus Christ
  • effective pastoral care available to all in the community who need it
  • being partners in mission with other groups / churches inside & outside the Diocese
  • the provision of appropriate and realistically sustainable buildings
  • the necessary administration to support this work
In a pastoral community, no one church and no one incumbent, be they stipendiary or self-supporting, is preeminent (though a chairperson for pastoral community meetings will be appointed). In spring 2011, the parishes of Chelmsford South Deanery chose to group themselves into four pastoral communities:
  • The Chelmer Crouch Group (7 parishes from Boreham to South Woodham Ferrers)
  • The Great Baddow Team Ministry (one parish comprising three churches)
  • The Reservoir Pastoral Community (5 parishes around the Hanningfield reservoir)
  • Moulsham and Galleywood (3 parishes)
(One parish is still deciding which pastoral community to join). In June, the Standing Committee will be able to recommend numbers of ministers for each of these pastoral communities into the future.

3. A Vision for Sovereign Parishes
*We believe that parishes should retain as much control as possible over the shape of mission and ministry in their locality. Pastoral communities are not a replacement for parishes, they are simply a tool to help parishes help each other, and we are not looking for legal reorganisation for their creation. No clergyperson can be compelled to follow this scheme – nor would we wish it to be entered into reluctantly. We would ask that deanery clergy freely choose to include responsibilities to the pastoral community in their role descriptions. Where possible, we would hope that Readers and other accredited ministers would work in a flexible way to meet needs, and they are included in the new deanery vision.

4. A Vision for the Deanery Itself
Leadership in the deanery is offered by Andy Griffiths (the Rural Dean), Christine Horton (the Lay Chair), Carol Smith (Assistant Rural Dean), Canon Harry Marsh (the Treasurer), Lee Batson (the Chapter Clerk), Richard Cecil (the Secretary) and a team of others; we try to model the kind of collaboration of people with different gifts that we are urging throughout the deanery. In the context of God’s desire to shower us with blessing; in the context of full-time Christians, pastoral communities and sovereign parishes; and in the context of God’s love for the world, we are clear about the function of the deanery itself. We express it in twenty words:

We look to God for power
to equip every member
to serve South Chelmsford
and to tell of God’s love.”

Debate: Is a secular society a more tolerant society?

The next live debate at Gunnersbury Baptist Church, with two high profile speakers:

Terry Sanderson
Author, journalist and President of the National Secular Society

Rev. David Robertson
Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity. Minister of St Peter's, Dundee

Saturday 11th June
at Gunnersbury Baptist Church, Wellesley Road, W4 4BE

Doors open 7pm, Debate starts 7:30pm
Admission: FREE

For further information, visit or call the church office on 020 8987 2965

Sunday, 22 May 2011

GP rapped for talking about God with patient

A family doctor, Dr Richard Scott, fears losing his job after he was reprimanded by the General Medical Council for talking to a patient about God.

The committed Christian, was accused of “harassment” and told by the medical regulator that he risked bringing the profession into disrepute by discussing his religious beliefs.

The Cambridge-educated doctor has refused to accept a formal warning on his record, and is instead taking legal action to fight the censure.

His case follows a series of high-profile disputes between Christians and their employers over their freedom to express their beliefs, including an electrician who displayed a cross in his van and a nurse who prayed for a patient.

Dr Scott, 50, a married father of three, saw the patient who is at centre of the complaint in 2010.

Following the consultation, the patient’s mother complained that the doctor had abused his position by “pushing religion” on her son. Read more

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Annual Kirk assembly to discuss gay ministers

The Church of Scotland's General Assembly is under way in Edinburgh.

Among topics to be considered is the ordination of gay ministers - one of the most divisive issues faced by the assembly since it first met in 1560.

It follows the appointment of the Reverend Scott Rennie to Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009.

The meeting will also discuss reaching out to people who have no desire to go to church, by attending events such as the Rock Ness music festival.

The Kirk wants to consider how to engage with 90% of the Scottish population who currently do not attend worship. Read more

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A rite of torture for girls

People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.

It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day. Read more

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Archbishop allows freemason to be bishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury is at the centre of a row after it emerged he had appointed a Freemason to be a bishop.

Dr Rowan Williams named the Rev Jonathan Baker as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet despite knowing he was an active and senior mason.

The appointment, announced earlier this month, marked a significant U-turn by Dr Williams who had previously said that Freemasonry was “incompatible” with Christianity and had refused to promote Masons to senior posts.

Last week, as news of Fr Baker’s membership of the Masons began to circulate through the Church, it provoked growing concern and criticism from clergy and members of the General Synod.

When contacted by The Sunday Telegraph on Friday, Fr Baker defended his continued membership of the Masons and insisted it was compatible with his new role as a bishop.

Yet yesterday he said he had changed his mind was leaving the masons so he could concentrate on being a bishop, adding: “I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.”

Freemasonry, a secretive male-only organisation dating back 300 years, requires its members to declare a belief in a “supreme being” and to undergo elaborate rituals. Read more

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Radical Islam is filling void left by collapse of Christianity in UK

The decline of Christian values is destroying Britishness and has created a "moral vacuum" which radical Islam is filling, one of the Church of England's leading bishops has warned.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, claimed the "social and sexual" revolution of the 1960s had led to a steep decline in the influence of Christianity over society which church leaders had failed to resist.

He said that in its place, Britain had become gripped by the doctrine of "endless self-indulgence" which had led to the destruction of family life, rising levels of drug abuse and drunkenness and mindless violence on the streets.

The bishop warns that the modern politicians' catchphrases of respect and tolerance will not be strong enough to prevent this collapse of traditional virtues, and said radical Islam is now moving in to fill the void created by the decline of Christianity.

His claims, in an article published in the new political magazine Standpoint, come just days after he accused the Church of England of failing in its duty to convert British Muslims to Christianity. Read more

Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God

Richard Dawkins has made his name as the scourge of organised religion who branded the Roman Catholic Church “evil” and once called the Pope “a leering old villain in a frock”.

But he now stands accused of “cowardice” after refusing four invitations to debate the existence of God with a renowned Christian philosopher.

A war of words has broken out between the best selling author of The God Delusion, and his critics, who see his refusal to take on the American academic, William Lane Craig, as a “glaring” failure and a sign that he may be losing his nerve.

Prof Dawkins maintains that Prof Craig is not a figure worthy of his attention and has reportedly said that such a contest would “look good” on his opponent’s CV but not on his own.

An emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, Prof Dawkins last year supported a plan to charge Pope Benedict XVI with crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the cover-up of sex abuse by Catholic priests.

Prof Craig is a research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, in California, and the author of 30 books and hundreds of scholarly articles on Christianity. Read more

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Muslim-Christian clashes kill 10 in Cairo

Egypt's transitional government has called a crisis meeting after Muslim-Christian clashes in Cairo left 10 dead and cast a new cloud over hopes for peaceful post-revolutionary change.

A Coptic church in the Imaba neighbourhood was set on fire after fighting broke out over claims that a Christian woman was being held and prevented from converting to Islam.

Initials reports on Egyptian state TV said six Muslims and three Copts had been killed, and there were nearly 200 injured. The death toll later rose to 10. The army, sensitive to alarm about deteriorating security, was quick to announce that 190 people arrested in connection with the violence would be tried in military courts.

Eyewitness described how several hundred Muslims massed outside the St Mina church demanding the woman be surrendered. Gunfire rang out and stones and petrol bombs were thrown before the army and emergency services were able to bring the situation under control. A second church was burned down. Read more

Friday, 6 May 2011

Mixed reactions to appointment of flying bishops

... Women and the Church (WATCH) said, however, that it was “deeply disappointed” by the appointment of Baker and Banks.

“They will be bishops who do not recognise women as priests, and oppose the appointment of women as bishops,” the group said in a statement.

“The vast majority of people inside and outside the Church of England want to see the Church led by women as well as men.

“The risk of these two appointments is that they will haul us back to a position where women priests and bishops are ‘nearly but not quite’ on a par with their male colleagues.” Read more

Thursday, 5 May 2011

When the Lights Go Out: The Death of a Denomination

... As valid as the institutional question of establishment may be, the more important factor in this pattern of decline is theological. Churches and denominations decline when they lose or forfeit their passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the Bible as the enduring, authoritative, and totally truthful Word of God. If life and death are no longer understood to hang in the balance, there is little reason for the British people to worry about anything related to Christianity. If a church is not passionate about seeing sinners come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if there is no powerful biblical message from its pulpits, then it is destined for decline and eventual disappearance.

When a church forfeits its doctrinal convictions and then embraces ambiguity and tolerates heresy, it undermines its own credibility and embraces its own destruction.

Hamilton is surely right about one thing. It is true that the Church of England’s disastrous controversies over gender and sexuality are not the causes of the church’s decline. They are instead symptoms of a far deeper theological disease.

Hamilton’s closing words bear close scrutiny: “The Church of England was founded as a political act against the wishes of much of the population and is now dying out of political irrelevance and popular unconcern. History, as we know, moves on, taking no prisoners.” Read more