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The following is an extract from Proverbs for You.
Proverbs’ wisdom is not just learned intellectually but lived out practically. And it’s not lived out alone. Proverbs’ wisdom is found in relationship with the Lord.
From the rest of Scripture we know the primacy of relationship with the Lord God, so it should not surprise us to find it in Proverbs. But it is important to see and say, especially because of the common temptation to think of Proverbs as a collection of sayings, rather than a book about relationship with God.
The more carefully we read this book, the more we see wisdom as a life lived in active relationship with God: listening, following, repenting—and, first and foremost at the start of Proverbs, fearing.Fearing God Is The Beginning
The prologue’s climactic verse tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a).
Fearing God is different from just being afraid, as we would be afraid of a storm or a burglar. That kind of fear is flavored by objects which simply harm us. Right fear of God is flavored by its object as well: the Lord God of the universe, who has revealed himself in the Scriptures. Fearing the Lord means reverencing him for who he is, according to his word. Fearing him is the beginning: the starting point for all these weighty wisdom words.The God of History
We should notice that the text does not say the fear of God. It says “the fear of the Lord”—Yahweh. (Bible translations often print this name all in capital letters.)
This is God’s revealed name for himself as the One who in steadfast love redeems a people for himself. Yes, this Lord is the sovereign Creator of all things. Yes, this Lord is the holy Judge of all people. The Lord God is one God. And yet Yahweh is a special name for God: it is the name God gave Moses to use in telling the people of Israel who it was that sent him to rescue them from Egypt: “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever” (Exodus 3:15). The Lord is the One who mercifully rescues a sinful people according to his promises.
That rescue was first hinted at in the Garden of Eden, after the fall, when God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of that serpent (Genesis 3:15). God channeled the rescue through Abraham and his seed, promising to bless them, to make them a great nation in the land he promised to give them, and through them to bring blessing to all the nations (Genesis 12:1-7).
By the time of King Solomon, Abraham’s seed that Yahweh rescued from Egypt had indeed become a great, prosperous nation, blessing all the nations around through the wisdom of their king. They were receiving the fruit of Yahweh’s promises. And yet it was not the final fruit. We fear the Lord, who has been personal and purposeful throughout history.The God Of Redemption
We read the book of Proverbs today knowing about the kingdom of Israel, which flourished and then fell, as God’s people turned away from their Lord. But the Lord’s name is forever. His word does not fail. We also know that the Lord brought that promised seed to this world, according to his covenant. The seed came through the line of David and Solomon and their descendants, down through the line of Judah, all the way to Jesus.
When we read the name of “the Lord” today, we sense the depths of that name as it has been revealed in history, and the depths of the love with which that name reverberates. This is the merciful God who redeems his people for himself, finally through his Son.The God Who Reveals Himself to Us
The beginning point of wisdom in Proverbs is the beginning point for all God’s people throughout all time: we must fear the Lord. That is, we must reverence him for who he is according to his word. This is the relationship that determines everything.
Proverbs is full of relationships— but there is no other starting point than a relationship with the Lord.
Proverbs is full of relationships (just like our lives): fathers and sons, mothers and sons, husbands and wives, men and women who are not husbands and wives, neighbors with each other, rulers and subjects, and on and on. But there is no other starting point than this relationship with the Lord whom we are called to fear.
What grace that he reveals himself to us, and that he himself redeems us, so that we are able to fear him as his beloved redeemed people.
The fear of the Lord will be put before us again and again, at crucial points in the book of Proverbs. It is the only starting point for a life of wisdom, and it is the necessary continuing touchpoint all along wisdom’s path.
This is an extract from Proverbs For You by Kathleen Nielson. This accessible, absorbing expository guide to Proverbs brings these ancient sayings to life, helping ordinary Christians to see what it can look like to enjoy living in line with God's wisdom in the great multitude of everyday situations and decisions we face.
03 August 2020, Thirtyone:eight
A statement from Justin Humphreys, Chief Executive (Safeguarding) concerning his withdrawal as a speaker at the ReNew Conference 2020
“I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from speaking at the ReNew Conference 2020 and in the interests of being fully open and transparent about my reasons for making this decision, I have made the following statement which has been communicated to the organisers of the conference.
My reasons for withdrawing are focused on three main areas of concern:
- Given that the conference is now to be held online rather than a physical gathering, my belief is that this no longer presents the best or most appropriate platform from which to address what is a complex topic at a challenging time for the constituency gathered.
- I am concerned not to create any false or unrealistic expectation surrounding my ability to address issues, which may be specifically within the focus of the ongoing Lessons Learned Review commissioned by Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon. As this review is now not due to report until after the conference, I believe that any reference to the detail of this work would be inappropriate and unfair to those that have been involved.
- Most importantly, I have been in discussion with a range of individuals, most of whom are victims/survivors of abuse within the wider Church context or their advocates. In listening to the views shared, it has become clear that to proceed with speaking at the ReNew Conference at this time would cause significant distress and anxiety to them.
Whilst I recognise that the message of creating safer places is perhaps more important now than ever, the opportunities to communicate this must be balanced with the need to be sensitive and maintain focus on those who have already experienced pain, harm and abuse. The voices of victims and survivors will often bring sharp perspective and focus to such situations and it is right that these are heard and that actions are considered as a consequence.
I apologise for any distress that I may have already caused to any victim or survivor.
I also apologise for any inconvenience or frustration that this may cause the organisers and delegates of the conference and pray that they will nevertheless have a productive and valuable time together.”Justin Humphreys
Chief Executive (Safeguarding)
The post Thirtyone:eight CEO withdraws from ReNew conference appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
Archbishop Justin Welby launches “Together In Unity” Appeal to help COVID-19 victims around the Communion
The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has released a video depicting the executions of four aid workers and a private security guard who were abducted on 8 June on the Monguno-Maiduguri road in Borno State, after ransom negotiations reportedly failed.
In a brief proof of life video released on 29 June, Abdulrahman Babagana, the camp manager for the State Emergency Management Agency in Monguno; Darman Dungus, who was employed by REACH International; Joseph Prince, who worked for the Alje Security Organisation; Ishaku Yakubu from Action Against Hunger (ACF); and Luka Filibus from the International Rescue Committee (IRC); pleaded for their respective organisations and the Nigerian government to save their lives.
In the latest video, released in the evening of 22 July, the five men are seen blindfolded and kneeling with their backs to five armed masked men in military fatigues as one of the terrorists, speaking in Hausa, gives reasons for their actions before the men are shot dead. ISWAP had reportedly requested $500,000 for their release. According to the Nigerian news agency HumAngle, the terrorist faction is currently short of food and money due to the government’s determination to no longer negotiate or pay ransoms.
CSW’s Chief Operating Officer Scot Bower said: “CSW extends its deepest condolences to the families of Abdulrahman Babagana, Darman Dungus, Joseph Prince, Ishaku Yakubu, and Luka Filibus. These cowardly executions constitute a gross violation of international law, and we condemn them in the strongest terms. Once again a death cult that goes to the most appalling lengths to extort money and garner headlines has deprived the world of dedicated, courageous individuals who worked selflessly to assist vulnerable communities in a dangerous area. We urge the Nigerian government to adequately resource the military units serving in the north east of the country, enabling them to address the terrorist threat decisively, and to offer adequate protection for civilians.”
On 21 July the Nigerian Senate passed a resolution calling for the country’s Service Chiefs to step down following a motion moved by Senator Ali Ndume in the wake of the killing of 23 soldiers in an ambush in Katsina State in the north west and the mass resignation of 380 soldiers, 356 of whom cited a “loss of interest” as their reason for resigning. However, the Nigerian Presidency has rejected the call.
The tenure of the current Service Chiefs, who have been in office since 2015, has been marred by an acute deterioration in security due to a multiplicity of armed non-state actors. On the evening of 22 July, Katripan village in Kaura Local Government Area (LGA), southern Kaduna State, came under attack by armed assailants of Fulani ethnicity, who were eventually repelled. It was the latest incident in a sustained campaign of violence targeting farming communities in southern Kaduna which has been ongoing since January 2020. Violence continued during a COVID-19 lockdown, and appears to have intensified during July, claiming at least 60 lives so far. CSW Nigeria has warned of increasing food insecurity in the area, as unchecked violence and a concomitant mass displacement are now occurring during peak farming season.
On 21 July the Nigerian Presidency reacted to the relentless violence by claiming in a statement that southern Kaduna enjoyed “comprehensive security deployments” which were “on the ground on a 24-hour basis.” The statement attributed the violence in the area to “an evil combination of politically-motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds,” and implied that attacks on farming communities were in response to alleged violence committed by their victims: “revenge and counter-revenge only creates a circle of violence.”
In response, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State Chapter, Rev John Joseph Hayab, regretted that state and federal governments were “twisting facts” and “misinforming the Nigerian and the international community” by claiming southern Kaduna enjoys comprehensive security: “CAN wish to unequivocally assert that the government has not done enough to stop the never-ending attacks, nor has it demonstrated guaranteeing steps to arrest the aggressors.” Rev Hayab asserted that “the government’s attitude simply assists criminals killing innocent citizens to be viewed as the victims.” He also called on the authorities to “apply the principle of justice for all in addressing this and other conflicts” in the country.
Hon. Sunday Marshall Katung, a former Member of the House Representatives also criticised the Presidency’s statement, describing it as a factually inaccurate and a “deliberate attempt to cover up the heinous atrocities meted out to the people of Southern Kaduna.” He added: “The citizens in Southern Kaduna in particular and other parts of the country whose lives have been cut short and who did not have to die deserve the President’s empathy and acknowledgement for gross failing and not an attempt to cover up the atrocities of the killers through the spinning of conspiracy theories or statements that appear to justify criminality.”
On 23 July hundreds of women participated in a protest in Zangon Kataf LGA against the continuing violence in southern Kaduna, while youth from the area protested peacefully in the federal capital, Abuja.
Scot Bower continued: “The persistent failure to address these relentless attacks highlights an overall failure by both levels of government to fulfil their primary responsibility of protecting Nigerian citizens. Moreover, if southern Kaduna does enjoy comprehensive security coverage, then this failure is catastrophic, indicating either incompetence or complicity. It is particularly disturbing that traumatised victims are essentially being re-victimised by false narratives. Across the country Nigerian civilians are bearing the brunt of insecurity that is rising inexorably and threatening the nation and the region. We reiterate our call for international pressure to be brought to bear on Nigeria’s state and federal authorities in order to ensure protection for all citizens, regardless of creed or ethnicity.”
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Ten people were killed, approximately 11 were seriously injured and five homes were burnt down during an attack by armed assailants of Fulani extraction on Zikpak, the seat of the Fanstwam Chiefdom in Jema’a Local Government Area (LGA), southern Kaduna state, at around 7pm on 24 July.
The victims have been named as Cecilia Audu (65); Joel Cephas (5); Madam Dakaci (52); Matina Dauda (70); Yanasan Dauda (70); Luka Garba (75); Victor Ishaya (22); Katung Kantionk (60); Kingsley Rapheal (28), and Rev Kuyet Shamh Ishaya (25), who had recently graduated from the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Theological Seminary and was soon to be married. The attackers also attempted to burn down the local ECWA Church building, but rain extinguished the flames. Six of the injured survivors are reportedly in specialist hospitals. According to local sources, security agents arrived at the scene well after the assailants had left. Zikpak is less than 2km away from the Joint Task Force (JTF) base.
This was the second assault on communities around Zikpak within two days. In the immediate aftermath of the attack Governor Nasir el Rufai of Kaduna State extended a 24-hour curfew, which has been in place in Zangon Kataf and Kauru LGAs since 11 June, to cover Jema’a and Kaura LGAs. Nevertheless, according to the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), on 25 July militia men attacked Zikpak for the third time, opening fire on its inhabitants at around 6am, but were driven away by local youth.
On 23 July, a militia attack on Agwala Magayaki in Doka Avong, Kajuru LGA, which occurred at around 8pm, claimed the lives of Thaddeus Albarka (32), Luvinus Danmori (52), Hannatu Garba (55), John Mallam (80), Albarka Mallam (85), Daniel Mukadas (70), and Jumare Sule (76). Prior to this attack Fulani assailants had descended on Takau Gida, Ungwan Masara on 22 July, but had been driven back by local youth. On the same day an attack on Kizachi-Chawai village in the Chawai Chiefdom claimed the lives of Kefas Monday (17), Lydia Monday (14), Giwa Thomas (14), and Living Yohanna (27).
The attacks on Zikpak are the latest in a sustained campaign of violence targeting farming communities in southern Kaduna which has been ongoing since January 2020, and which has seen a particular surge during July. Neither a COVID-19 lockdown nor the June curfew have inhibited perpetrators from attacking seemingly at will. CSW Nigeria has calculated that from 25 March, when the COVID-19 lockdown came into effect, until the morning of 15 May, 16 armed attacks were launched across five LGAs, claiming 59 lives. In addition, 155 homes were burnt down, and hundreds of people were displaced. Meanwhile, villagers deemed to have violated the lockdown were arrested and fined, and in Zangon Kataf Atyap youth who attempted to tend farms were detained for breaching the 24-hour curfew.
Despite recent assurances by the Presidency of comprehensive security coverage in southern Kaduna, at least 80 people have been killed in July alone. 48 of these victims died in attacks launched between 19 and 24 July, yet no perpetrators have been intercepted or arrested. In a letter to Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) dated 22 July the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) stated that 300 southern Kaduna Christians had been killed in militia attacks in the 200 day period from 1 January to 20 July, and called for even-handed interventions on the part of law enforcement agencies. According to the group 620 Christians have been killed in the area in the last 18 months.
The seeming inability of the government of Kaduna State to end the killings in southern Kaduna is increasingly receiving local criticism. Terming the killings “unimaginably cruel and unspeakably evil”, former senator for Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, said “the north has lost its conscience and the nation has lost its will and spirit. Terrorists have turned southern Kaduna into a mortuary and a graveyard.” Former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chidi Odinkalu accused the Kaduna State government of “normalising the slaughter of its own people” by describing the deaths as reprisals.
In a television interview aired on 24 July Bishop of Anglican Communion in Zaria, Kaduna State, Rt Rev Abiodun Ogunyemi stated that “Until the government is ready to do something, the problem will continue.” The bishop described the campaign of violence as “genocide,” attributing a perceived lack of concern on the part of the international community in general, and the United Nations in particular, to the fact that the area is “almost 99%” Christian.
Nigeria is currently ranked the 14th most fragile state in the world and the ninth most fragile in Africa. The country also ranks third, behind Afghanistan and Iraq, among the countries most impacted by terrorism, including from “Fulani extremists.” According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopaedia common risk factors and warning signs of Genocide include large-scale instability; the prevalence of an ideology whereby leaders believe certain people are inferior or dangerous due to their race, religion, or national or ethnic origin, and the pervasiveness of acts of discrimination, persecution, and violence against people belonging to a certain group.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “The decision by the Kaduna State government to extend an unsuccessful curfew to cover more areas is deeply perplexing and must be reviewed as a matter of urgency. Events have already illustrated that the curfew does not deter the perpetrators of the violence. Instead, in conjunction with the continuing security vacuum, it has made law-abiding villagers easier targets for the killers. Following her 2019 visit to Nigeria the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions described the nation as an ‘injustice pressure cooker.’ CSW calls on the international community to make strong representations to the government of Kaduna State and the Federal government, apprising them of the urgent need to address the situation in southern Kaduna in an unbiased and effective manner while it is still salvageable, and to assist genuine efforts by these authorities to counteract the multiplicity of armed non-state actors currently terrorising Nigerian citizens.”
The post 21 dead in two Fulani attacks on Christians in Kaduna State appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
At least 23 people were killed this week and 20 others were wounded after unidentified gunmen stormed an Anglican church compound in South Sudan’s Anglican Diocese of Athooch, in Jonglei State. The assailants took six children as hostages, Anglican Bishop Moses Anur Ayom told Religion Unplugged.
The gunmen attacked Makol Chuei village from two directions, killing the cathedral’s deacon and at least 14 women and children who had sought refuge in the church compound by vandalizing the church, destroying their worship instruments and then setting the area ablaze along with the entire village.
“After killing people in the church, the gunmen went to the homestead village and killed people there,” Bishop Ayom said. “The gunmen burned down the whole village in Makol Chuei. Thus far, we have six people who are missing and we are not sure whether they are alive or dead. In addition, six children were also abducted.”
About 90% of Jonglei State’s population are Christian, but they are from many different ethnic tribes. Communal violence has intensified in the state, recently killing hundreds of civilians and creating humanitarian emergencies in the region. Meanwhile, political leaders are meeting in the South Sudan capital of Juba to implement the revitalized peace agreement designed to end the six-year civil war pitting President Salva Kiir Mayardit against opposition leader, First Vice President Riek Machar Teny.
The country’s vice president, James Wani Igga, visited Jonglei earlier in July and kneeled in front of the warring communities, begging them to embrace a peaceful means of resolving differences.
There have been ongoing clashes between the Nuer, Dinka and Murle tribes in Jonglei since before the creation of the Pibor Administrative Area in 2014. In mid-May, gunmen armed with machine guns attacked villages in Jonglei, killing hundreds of people, including a number of aid workers. Thousands of civilians were displaced. Several peace activists have accused the government of doing little to quell the cycle of tribal conflicts in the region.
Participants at the recent peace conference in Jonglei that brought together traditional elders and government officials headed by Igga recommended the creation of a buffer zone and deployment of neutral armed forces to curtail the counter attacks between the youth from Jonglei and the Pibor Administrative Area.
Rampant cattle raiding, child abduction, and conflict over grazing land have been blamed for the unrest in Jonglei. However, Bishop Ayom believes the latest killing of women and children in the church compound is politically motivated.
“The only solution to the communal conflict is to engage the youth, elders, and church leaders and bring them together for peace dialogue,” Ayom said.
Another attack in Jalle village killed an Anglican archdeacon, Jacob Amanjok, along with three pastors.
“There is no need of killing the pastors,” Ayom said. “I am not happy about this issue of killing and destroying churches. I would like to appeal to the international community to intervene. As a church leader, I forgive the gunmen. The Bible says we have to forgive those who do wrong to us.”
Read it all at Religion Unplugged
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that churches have been added to the list of establishments where patrons must wear facemasks to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
On 31 July 2020 Mr. Johnson said his government was extending the “requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas, and places of worship. We now recommend face coverings are worn in these settings, and this will become enforceable in law from 8 August.”
On 24 July the government asked patrons of shops and public transport to wear facemasks, and encouraged worshippers to wear masks in church. The new rule makes facemasks mandatory.
The Church of England’s “Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for churches” website updated its recommendations following the prime minister’s announcement. It stated:
“The Prime Minister has outlined plans to make face coverings mandatory in Places of Worship from 8th August and has withdrawn guidance to permit indoor professional performances with immediate effect. We will study detailed government regulations and guidance once they are available and will update our guidance accordingly.”
“In the meantime, we continue to strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.”
Archbishop Glenn Davies, after consultation with the Standing Committee, has decided not to call Synod in October.
Synod is, in effect, the parliament of the Diocese, with more than 600 members – mostly lay and clergy representatives – called together from each parish.
A special Synod in August to elect the next Archbishop had already been cancelled and Archbishop Davies, originally due to retire in July, will now stay on until next March.
“Ordinarily, the first session of the 52nd Synod would have been held in the second and third weeks of October this year,” Dr Davies wrote to Synod members. “However, COVID-19 has made many disruptions to our lives.
“The Government’s restrictions on gathering, under the current Public Health Order, make it not feasible for me to summon the Synod in the next couple of weeks. In consultation with the Standing Committee, I have therefore decided not to summon the first ordinary session of the 52nd Synod in October 2020.”
Diocesan secretary Daniel Glynn reported to the Standing Committee, which meets when Synod is not in session, that extensive research had failed to find a suitable way of holding the Synod under current health restrictions.
Dr Davies will consider calling a one-day session of the Synod later in the year, possibly on a Saturday, but this will depend upon the Public Health restrictions at the time. If such a session does not eventuate in 2020, the Archbishop will call a double meeting early in 2021 with the first ordinary session of the 52nd Synod in April, prior to a special session of Synod to elect a new Archbishop.
“Since my retirement as Archbishop will now take place in March next year, we have set aside the week beginning April 19, 2021 for a special session of the 52nd Synod for the purpose of electing an Archbishop,” he said. “If it is not feasible to hold the first day of the first ordinary session of the 52nd Synod before that week, then Monday, April 19 will become the first day of the first session presided over by Bishop Hayward, as the Administrator. The Election Synod will then be conducted over Tuesday-Friday, April 20-23.”
Dr Davies said the good governance of the Diocese is effectively being undertaken by the Standing Committee, alongside the Archbishop, regional bishops and archdeacons. “However,” he added, “in order that our various boards and councils may continue to operate effectively, the Standing Committee has recommended to me that October 12 be deemed as the first day of the first ordinary session of the 52nd Synod for the purposes of elections.
“These are challenging days for all of us, when our usual routines are disrupted… I pray that we shall all play our part with grace and generosity, as we seek to honour our Government, in order to honour the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:1-2).”
Dear Bishops and Deputies:
When we wrote to you in early June about the need to consider alternative plans for the 80th General Convention, we hoped that the summer months would bring us more clarity about the course of the pandemic and how we might reasonably plan for 2021 and beyond. But as summer stretches on, infection and death totals in the United States are climbing ever higher, even as the virus has been brought under control in other parts of the world. We continue to grieve for the children of God who have been lost to this terrible disease, for those whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered, and for those whose spirits are suffering from long months of physical distance from those they love.
In the midst of this devastation, however, some reports offer hope that the fast-track development of effective vaccines and therapeutics could change the course of the pandemic and allow some aspects of our communal life to resume. Because the situation continues to be so uncertain, we are not yet ready to make a decision about how and when we will hold the 80th General Convention. But thanks to the work of the task group we convened in May, we are closer to knowing how we will proceed if it is not possible to gather in Baltimore next summer.
In the event that we cannot convene safely in person from June 30 to July 9, 2021, we will postpone the 80th General Convention to 2022, working with our partners in Baltimore as we determine appropriate dates. During the summer of 2021, we will hold an online convocation of worship and prayer to help us hear what the Spirit is saying to the church as we prepare to gather at General Convention. And to make best use of the adaptive moment now facing us, we will appoint both deputy and bishop legislative committees well in advance of the new dates of General Convention, charging them to begin their work virtually using the new online and Zoom skills that we have all gained in the last several months.
The decision about how to proceed is a weighty one. Both lives and millions of dollars in convention contracts are at stake, and we have very little way to know what the prevailing public health and economic conditions will be by next summer. But in all things, our primary values continue to be the common good and the health, safety and welfare of General Convention attendees and the people we would encounter while traveling and meeting.
In the fall, we will reevaluate the public health situation and consult again with epidemiologists who have given us their time and advice so generously. In October, we hope to ask Executive Council for their advice and consent to our final decision about how the 80th General Convention will proceed, but we recognize that it may not be possible to finalize our plans that quickly.
We know that the continued uncertainty about the timing of General Convention makes it difficult to plan budget and schedules for 2021 and beyond, but we hope that understanding the alternative plan will help you prepare for what might be in store. It represents our best efforts to love one another as Jesus commanded, which is our greatest witness and highest calling.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies
The building is a sensitive yet distinctly modern architectural addition to the site of the Grade I listed Palace. Nestling in amongst mature trees at the north end of the garden at Lambeth Palace, the building sits on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Parliament. The location preserves the collection’s historic link to the Palace, while increasing public accessibility to the Library. In the new building the historic collections of Lambeth Palace Library – founded in 1610 and one of the earliest public libraries in the UK – and the records of the Church of England will be brought together, replacing inadequate facilities in a warehouse in Bermondsey, that risked the future of the collection.
The contemporary redbrick building has four and five-storey wings, rising to a nine-storey central tower, crowned by a viewing platform that will be periodically open to the public. The central tower is designed to register on London’s skyline, aligning it with historical architectural commissions by Archbishops of Canterbury over the centuries, and reflecting the national significance of the collection. In tandem, the viewing platform, which has direct sight lines across the Thames to the Palace of Westminster, reinforces the connection between the Church and the State embodied in the collection. Lambeth Palace Library by Wright & Wright Architects © David Phillips The façade is designed in homage to the neighbouring gate tower of the Tudor Lambeth Palace and blends into the red brick perimeter wall of the Palace gardens, while the design and detailing embody a modern take on Palladian design. The Library’s facilities include a public reading room, a group working area and seminar rooms, plus the upper room and roof terrace, which delivers flexible event space with seating for up to 70 people. In addition, it houses a specialist conservation studio to accommodate up to eight full-time conservators, and office space for up to 30 Library staff. All public spaces and the reading room benefit from carefully attuned natural light and provide curated views across the Palace gardens, which have been designed with landscape architect Dan Pearson Studio.
The Library layout is designed to minimise the building’s footprint on the grounds and enhance the local ecology of the gardens; the building also acts as a bulwark between the gardens and Lambeth Road, significantly reducing noise and air pollution in the garden, and to accommodate a new and enlarged pond and wetland glade. By animating and uplifting the public realm at street level, people are instinctively attracted towards the site with glimpses of the Archbishop’s garden and exhibition space visible through the entrance. As the Palace is sited on one of London’s many flood plains, the archive repositories are located above any potential flood risk.
Clare Wright, Partner of Wright & Wright Architects: “It has been a fantastic honour to work on this building, whose purpose resonates so powerfully with its historic site. We are indebted to clients, Declan Kelly and Giles Mandelbrote for their input and guidance, as well as to all in the team. It has truly been an act of collaboration.”
Declan Kelly, Director of Libraries and Archives at Lambeth Palace Library said: “We are really proud of what the team have achieved in creating a building and an environment that will not only protect and preserve our magnificent collections for the future but allow us to make them more accessible than ever before so that they can be explored and enjoyed by all.”
Oliver Driscoll, Director at Knight Harwood said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved in this scheme and the creation of a very special building. The quality of the design and workmanship ensures that the building interacts appropriately with both the tranquil garden setting within the Palace grounds and the prominent positioning on Lambeth Palace Road.”
The project has been awarded the coveted BREEAM Excellent rating and is an exemplar of how contemporary sustainable architecture can extend the accessibility and use of culturally important historic assets for the benefit of future generations. The project team included engineers Price & Myers and Max Fordham whom Wright & Wright Architects have worked closely with to ensure the safeguarding of the precious collection.
It is anticipated that the library, which is open to the public and used by researchers from all over the world, and which also attracts visits from religious and political leaders, will be officially opened in 2021.
The post Lambeth Palace Library reaches practical completion appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
A Rwandan refugee detained but later released following a fire at St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Nantes during the morning hours of 18 July 2020 has been re-arrested by police and has confessed his guilt.
Nantes Public Prosecutor Pierre Sennès, on 26 July 2020 said the suspect had been charged with arson and faced up to 10 years in prison. “We have determined that the man was in the area of the cathedral the morning the fire broke,” Mr. Sennès told the newspaper Ouest-France. “We noticed, in two or three locations where the fire started, troubling elements that could corroborate a criminal act,”
Police arrested the 39 year old volunteer, known as Emmanuel, following the fire which destroyed the cathedral’s 17th century organ, a painting and stained glass windows above the organ. Emmanuel had worked for several years as a volunteer at the church and as an altar server, and had been responsible for locking the building on Friday evening. He was questioned by police after investigators found no signs of forced entry, but was later released.
On 26 July 2020 Emmanuel’s attorney, Quentin Chabert, said his client had admitted his guilt after he was questioned a second time. “My client is relieved to have told the truth,” and “regretted his act”, the lawyer told reporters.
Three fires were deliberately set around the organ area, investigators found, and excellerants were used to spread the fire.
After local residents noticed the fire, the fire brigade was called out and the blaze contained within two hours. While causing considerable damage, no one was injured in the blaze. Police are continuing their inquiries.
A spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in the Kuching district of Sarawak has prompted the BIshop of Kuching, the Rt. Rev. Danald Jute to close churches in the southern portion of the diocese until further notice.
On 24 July 2020 Bishop Jute released a statement saying: “The affected parishes are the St. Thomas Cathedral, Kenyalang, Samarahan, Batu Kawa, Tabuan Jaya, Tabuan Dayak, Stampin, Siol Kandis, Sungai Maong, Taman Malihah, Matang, Quop, Taee, Bengoh, Bunuk, Padawan, Lundu, Bau Mission District and Mundai.”
An ordination scheduled for July 26 has also been postponed the bishop said, adding the decision to close churches to public worship had been taken out of an abundance of caution to limit the spread of infection.
The Malaysian government closed the nation’s house of worships following the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the Southeast Asian nation. It imposed a two week Movement Control Order starting March 18 to March 31, which was extended through June.The first cases were reported on January 23 when three Chinese tourists who entered the country from Singapore were hospitalizaed with the illness.
Beginning June 28 the government permitted churches to reopen but placed a limit on 100 worshippers and imposed social distancing and mask rules on those attending services. However, a new wave of infections has been detected in Kuching with over 50 new cases reported in the last two weeks of July.
As of 30 July 2020 the Malaysian Ministry of Health reported 8.976 cases, with 125 deaths and 8,644 listed as having recovered from the illness. Sarawak has reported 641 cases of COVID-19 so far.
The post Kuching churches closed a second time due to COVID-19 spike appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
Statement from the Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission
The Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission has completed its preparations for investigating the allegation by the Revd June Major, a former priest of the Diocese of Cape Town, that a former colleague raped her in 2002.
The Commission (also referred to in the Church as “Safe and Inclusive Church”) believes the Revd Major’s complaint warrants being investigated further and a Commission representative has invited her to nominate a counsellor and other persons to support her during the investigation process. If she feels it necessary, the Commission can also help facilitate her obtaining such support.
As indicated previously by the Archbishop, in the matter relating to Revd Major, Safe and Inclusive Church received on 8 July 2020 a formal (written) complaint relating to her alleged rape in 2002. In terms of our process, we meet with the parties involved (as well as any other members that may be identified as pertinent) and conduct an interview with them.
In our contact with the Revd Major, she expressed concern about the impartiality of an internal church process. As a consequence, Safe and Inclusive Church has included a reputable part-time commissioner of the Gender Commission on the panel which will investigate her complaint. It is hoped that this will provide her with an added level of trust and comfort with the process.
We are awaiting a response from Rev. Major on these matters, and that will then determine the next steps.
Historically, over the 150 years of its history the Church as a voluntary organisation has been governed under its Canon Law (church law). The courts have recognised Canon Law as a parallel but separate system of law, governing its particular sphere of church affairs. This has required that Canon Law embodies the principles of natural justice recognised in society at large and updated from time to time in light of wider developments in jurisprudence.
In the past 20 years, the Church has amended its Canon Law to comply with developments in labour law, establishing strict Pastoral Standards which govern the behaviour and action of its ministers, and making provision for processes to protect the rights of both complainants and respondents. The processes laid down by the Canons may be compared with a secular organisation’s grievance and disciplinary procedures.
Safe and Inclusive Church is a newly established faculty of the Church, assented to at the Church’s governing Synod in September 2019. This faculty was established to assist complainants and the Church to respond to allegations of abuse or harm (of which there are thirteen categories) and then move it into the Canonical disciplinary process. (Details of the Commission, and links to the relevant sections of Canon Law, can be found here: https://anglicanchurchsa.org/safe-church-guide/ )
The Safe and Inclusive Church panel which investigates a complaint conducts interviews and compiles all relevant documentation, then delivers a report to the Diocese concerned. The panel does not make findings or recommendations, but the Bishop or Vicar-General of the Diocese in which the respondent is resident appoints a Board of Preliminary Inquiry – or may appoint Safe Church as the Board of Inquiry – whose task it is to establish if a prima facie case exists.
The Bishop or Vicar General is able to take such other actions as the Canons permit, including the suspension of the respondent minister. Should a prima facie case be established, a Diocesan Tribunal considers the case against the accused. Either party in the matter has a right of appeal should charges not be brought before a Tribunal.
Having this matter investigated in any other way but in terms of our Canon Law, would render our process invalid in terms of our Canons and hence the Church would be unable to act on findings as well as be subject to court sanction for not following our own process.
Both Revd Major as the complainant as well as the respondent are free, at their own cost, to be accompanied by a representative of their choice and to seek such counsel and advice as they may need at any stage of the process.
The appointment of members of the Tribunal, apart from the Bishop who as President of the Tribunal is appointed by the Archbishop, is subject to challenge by both complainant and accused.
As an ordained minister of the church, albeit one that tendered her resignation as a licensed minister in 2014, Revd. Major is still bound by the precepts of Canon Law as this was part of the oaths and declarations she made at her ordination. This means that any disputes or complaints she may have with the Church would need to follow the precepts of the Canons as they prevail at the time.
Canon Rosalie Manning
Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission
Following the retirement of The Rt Revd Alistair Magowan, Bishop of Ludlow earlier this spring, we have undertaken a consultation across the Diocese and been in conversation with the National Dioceses Commission about his replacement. The Commission are responsible for approving appointments to vacant episcopal posts. This has all taken place against the backdrop of financial pressures caused by COVID 19 and a general fall in the number of clergy across the Church of England.
The Diocese of Hereford is part of the wider Anglican family of churches, and whilst prudent investments have maintained our reserves and capacity to invest in mission,we recognise that national reductions in front line clergy require us to carefully scrutinise all posts.In the light of this, and in consultation with the Commission, we have decided to restructure our senior staff and replace the existing combined Bishop/ Archdeacon of Ludlow role with a full time Archdeacon. The post holder will work with The Ven Derek Chedzey, Archdeacon of Hereford, The Bishop of Hereford, Rt Revd Richard Jackson and other colleagues in supporting the work of our parishes across the Diocese. This post will continue to be funded by the National Church and will result in further savings in the diocesan budget. We also plan to appoint Assistant Archdeacons in both archdeaconries. These will attract a small honorarium (similar to the role of a Rural Dean) but will be alongside the person’s full time stipendiary role. We are grateful to receive a personal email from the Archbishop of Canterbury encouraging us in this strategic decision.
We expect to advertise this new post in the autumn and have someone in place by early 2021. They will reside in the current house in Craven Arms. Whilst the See of Ludlow will not be filled, that does not rule out an appointment in the future. We remain committed to being a united family across the 5 counties covered by the Diocese of Hereford.
Bishop Richard is looking forward to visiting all the benefices in the diocese as soon as possible for Sunday worship. It is the intention of all the senior staff team to prioritise interaction with local churches to encourage and support their ministry.
The post Declining diocesan fortunes leads to suspension of suffragan see of Ludlow appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
The news that the chief executive of the safeguarding charity conducting the lessons learned review into the Jonathan Fletcher abuse scandal is to be a main speaker at the upcoming ReNew Conference raises serious questions.
Emmanuel Wimbledon in south-west London, the Church of England proprietary chapel where Fletcher was minister until he retired in 2012, has commissioned thirtyone:eight’s independent review into his abuse. Lisa Oakley, associate professor of psychology at Chester University and chair of a national working group for child abuse linked to faith or belief in the UK, is leading the Fletcher review. But Justin Humphreys chairs the thirtyone:eight group overseeing it.
Scale of Fletcher’s influence
The thirtyone:eight investigation into Fletcher’s abuse has to reckon with the scale of his influence among Anglican conservative evangelicals in England over the past 50 years. When the ReNew Conference launched in 2013, it was a partnership between four Anglican conservative evangelical groups – Reform, Church Society, the Fellowship of Word and Spirit and the Anglican Mission in England. In 2018 Reform and FWS merged into Church Society. Thus ReNew became a partnership between Church Society in the Church of England and AMiE operating outside the CofE.
Fletcher was a founder member of Reform in the early 1990s and later a trustee, acting as mentor to various of its younger leaders, now prominent in ReNew. Fletcher got to know these younger men through the Iwerne evangelical camps for pupils from the ‘top 30’ English boarding schools. From the 1960s until the truth about Fletcher as an abuser began to trickle out in 2017 and 2018 culminating in The Daily Telegraph’s unmasking of him in June 2019, he was a leading figure in the Iwerne network.
Fletcher also had lobbying access to the Archbishop of Canterbury through his membership of the Nobody’s Friends dining club at Lambeth Palace. Fletcher became a member of this elite club through his father, the late Baron Fletcher of Islington (1903-1990), a cabinet minister in the Labour Government of the 1960s. Fletcher had considerable private means inherited from his father and holidayed expensively. He became a friend of the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby through the Iwerne camps in which the savage serial abuser John Smyth was also a leader in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Curate in the 1970s at two conservative evangelical flagship churches in the CofE, the Round Church in Cambridge and then St Helen’s Bishopsgate in the City of London, Fletcher spread and consolidated his influence among English conservative evangelicals through the preaching conferences and training courses of the Proclamation Trust. Through his network of conservative evangelical contacts, Fletcher was instrumental in getting the PT conferences and courses up and running in the 1980s, a fact the celebrated preacher Dick Lucas, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate at that time and the PT’s first chairman, has acknowledged. Many of Fletcher’s contacts who went on the PT conferences were also involved in Reform and then in ReNew.
It is no exaggeration to say that the power of Fletcher’s personality, combining arrogance and competitiveness with an ability to charm people, has been very significant in shaping the culture of Anglican conservative evangelicalism in England since the 1960s.
Arguably significant for the thirtyone:eight probe is the timing of Justin Humphreys’s mid-September appearance at the ReNew Conference. According to the timeframe for the Fletcher review, Emmanuel is due to publish thirtyone:eight’s report around the end of September. So, for the sake of the perceived independence of the thirtyone:eight review, should Justin Humphreys be addressing the ReNew Conference before Emmanuel publishes the report?
The Watergate question
Secondly for the thirtyone:eight investigation, there is the ‘Watergate’ question around Fletcher’s closest associates in ReNew: what did they know and when did they know it?
Are there men now leaders in English conservative evangelicalism whom Fletcher tried to involve in his naked massages but who turned him down? If so, then they knew he was pressuring them to take part in something wrong but did not blow the whistle on him. What were the reasons, personal to them and in the conservative evangelical culture they were part of, that might have led to their silence?
Moreover, were there other men Fletcher abused in some way for a short time, whether in manipulative bullying, massages, gym-shoe beatings or masturbatory activity, but who moved out of his orbit? These men may or may not have stayed within conservative evangelicalism but, because of the understandable embarrassment they felt, might have kept their brief experience of his abuse to themselves.
But even more disturbing is this question: was there a Praetorian Guard of younger conservative evangelicals protecting Fletcher who knew what he was up to and enabled his abuse by bullying into silence victims inclined to speak up?
Jobs for the boys and fingers in pies
Thirdly, in getting to grips with Fletcher’s abusive power in the ReNew movement, there is the ‘jobs for the boys’ question. It is not only proprietary chapels in the CofE that have historically developed a way of ensuring the evangelical convictions of the ministers they appoint. Some of the flagship conservative evangelical parish churches have appointing trusts designed to ensure evangelical succession in their incumbents. Fletcher was on some of these appointing bodies.
In terms of conservative evangelical committees and trusts, Fletcher had his fingers in a lot of pies. Because his circle was a boarding-school sub-culture peopled to a large extent by clergy and school-teachers, who compared with other English professionals are not earning big money, the whiff of private means about Fletcher added to his charisma. But, even for those he did not physically abuse, what was the cost of cronyism for the men caught up in his web? To what extent was Fletcher able to exploit his power of patronage to manipulate younger conservative evangelical men aspiring for positions in the prestigious churches? Among the men who got the big jobs, to what extent was he able to create a sense that they ‘owed him one’ and exploit that to perpetuate his power over them and through them into the wider conservative evangelical constituency?
‘Safe churches in an unsafe world’ is the title of the ReNew Conference session Justin Humphreys is due to address, leading into a panel discussion on safeguarding. In the sight of Fletcher’s victims and the churches he deceived and for the wider view of thirtyone:eight’s safeguarding integrity, is it safe for its chief executive publicly to associate himself with a gathering over which the sinister spectre of Fletcher’s influence has been hanging?
Finally, would it not be more helpful to the evangelical people in the ReNew network of churches if Justin Humphreys were to keep his distance from Fletcher’s former protegees at the top of the organisation? If he were to preserve his independence and delay addressing the conference until after the Fletcher report appears, might not this help the ReNew membership to absorb its findings, think biblically about how they might change the spiritual culture of their movement for the better, and press for reforms, such as electing their chairman, steering group, and regional leaders? Would not the renewal of ReNew in more accountable leadership and greater membership engagement be a desirable outcome from the lessons learned in the thirtyone:eight report?
Julian Mann is an evangelical journalist based in Morecambe, Lancashire, and author of Christians in the Community of the Dome
The post Can England’s conservative Evangelicals be trusted to clean house? appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
The book of Proverbs: what exactly is it, how do all the seemingly disconnected thoughts hang together, and how are we to use it every day?
In this episode we talk to renowned conference speaker and bible teacher, Kathleen Nielson about her new study guide to the book of Proverbs.
Kevin Kallsen and George Conger discuss the latest news (mostly corruption) from England, China and India.
In many parts of the Christian church today the Psalms are a neglected treasure: many churches are like a poverty-stricken house with incalculable riches forgotten, neglected, moth-eaten and dusty in the attic. Let us bring the Psalms out and revel in the wonder they offer—a fullness and richness of relationship with God undreamt of by so many of us half-starved Christians.
So I want to invite you to come with me on a journey to learn to pray.
This is exactly what the Psalms are in the Bible to do. The Psalms give a window into how Jesus learned to pray, in his fully human life; and they are how the people of Jesus are to pray as the Spirit of Jesus leads us in praying and praising by the Psalms.
The Psalms are in the Bible so that all the people of Jesus may learn to pray all the psalms all the time. What do I mean? Let’s look at the opposite. Someone told me enthusiastically about a pastor who says he reads through the Psalms until a verse resonates with him; and then he dwells there for a period, until it ceases to resonate, at which point he moves on. It sounded wonderful—and yet it would be hard to find a more completely wrong approach to the Psalms! If I adopt this approach, it puts me in the driving seat; I decide what resonates with me, and then enjoy it. And the danger is that the psalms (or the verses) I select act like an echo chamber for my own desires and thoughts, amplifying my feelings, whatever they may be, and never challenging my thoughts or views.
The purpose of the Psalms is very different. In the Psalms we learn to pray corporately, with the church of Christ in every age. We learn to pray Christocentrically*, with our prayers led by Jesus Christ, by whose Spirit we pray them. And we learn to pray empathetically, as we identify with the wider church and focus less on our individualistic (and often introspective) concerns. This will involve a massive paradigm shift for many of us, especially those of us nurtured in individualistic Western cultures, where the Christian life is a “me and God” thing, with the emphasis on “me”. Learning to sing and pray the Psalms will be a challenging affair, an unsettling experience, and yet a discipline that transforms us into the image of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, whose own prayer life was shaped by these wonderful poems.Come, learn to feel!
I also want to invite you to come with me on a journey to learn to feel.
Do you ever wonder what we are supposed to do with our feelings in the Christian life? Since about the 1960s, when the charismatic movement swept much of the evangelical world, there has been something of a sad divorce between what we call head (thinking) and heart (feeling). Some “do” feelings with energy and enthusiasm; in reaction to this, others “do” thinking. “You just think but don’t feel!” says one Christian to another. “Well, you feel but don’t think!” comes the reply. Neither is helpful.
The Psalms are God’s chosen way to engage our thinking and our feeling in a way that is passionate, thoughtful, true and authentic. The Psalms show us how to express our varied feelings; but, more than that, they reorder our disordered affections so that we feel deeper desires for what we ought to desire, more urgent aversion to that from which we need to flee, and a greater longing for the honour of God in the health of Christ’s church. The Psalms form within us a richer palette of rightly-directed emotions. It is not so much that the Psalms resonate with us as that they shape us so that we most deeply resonate with the God-given yearnings they so movingly express.Joining Christ’s choir
Imagine you are seated in a great concert hall. In the middle of the stage is Jesus Christ, the conductor and song-leader of the people of God. Behind him stands a huge choir: his church in every age. This choir sings the Psalms as the songs of Jesus, led by Jesus, shaped by Jesus, guided and taught by Jesus.
What do you need to do to join in? You need to understand the words of the psalms. You need to get hold of the “tune” of the psalms, by which I mean the emotions and affections they convey. You need to grasp what commitment will be required of you if you are to join the choir of Jesus and join in, for every psalm asks of us some commitment. Finally, you need to get up out of your seat in the audience and join the choir! That is the aim of Psalms For You—to help us to do that.
After taking into account multiple factors (i.e. our small size; our location; we are less likely to facilitate Covid-19 transmission [or other infectious pathogens for that matter] because unlike a residential campus we are not an incubator for infectious pathogens), the Deans Cabinet plans to resume in-person classes as scheduled on August 31, 2020. We will end residential face to face classes on November 24, two days before Thanksgiving to avoid possible heightened infection risk from returning staff, students, and faculty. The last week of class will be conducted online. In essence, what we are proposing is a hybrid model for the fall.
Of course, no one can predict with any degree of accuracy either the pattern of this Covid-19 pandemic or what the rate of infection in Beaver County (or anywhere else for that matter) will be in the fall. We believe we can, given today’s data points, resume face to face teaching safely. A level of risk is always present, and we believe that we will be able to implement the necessary changes to reduce our exposure to a manageable threshold. Additionally, we believe that if we can have face to face connections at the start of fall semester, even for just a few weeks, that will make transitioning to online (if that becomes necessary) more effective. Certainly our online experiences this past spring semester would have been radically different if we hadn’t had half a semester of residential instruction to get to know one another.
We will be putting a range of safety measures in place for fall semester to mitigate the risk of contagion. Plans on how to prepare for re-opening are being carried out by the Reopening Committee consisting of representatives from the various departments on campus as well as a student representative. Over these summer months, this committee has been implementing changes to class and campus operations such as (but not limited to) lunch, chapel, physical distancing, appropriate PPE, visitors, monitoring for cases of Covid-19, and contingency procedures for closing the campus should an outbreak occur.
Those who are immunocompromised or living in a household with such at risk individuals will be given off-site participation options. Trinity is investing in the technology that will allow immunocompromised students to join the residential classes remotely in real time if need be, as well as enable such faculty to teach a residential course remotely. This will be done via Smart Screens and web cameras.
The Deans Cabinet is aware of how limited our control is regarding how things will pan out in the fall. Government and health authorities could mandate that we go online before Aug 31 or anytime thereafter. Fortunately, we already had a significant online footprint before Covid-19 hit last semester and we demonstrated the capability to quickly pivot and shift modalities back in March. If need be, we can do so again.
Erika Moore, PhD
Trinity School for Ministry
Ambridge, PA 15003
July 21, 2020
The post Trinity seminary to offer in-person classes in the Fall appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2020.
In his book exploring the growth of evangelical Christianity, The Hallelujah Revolution, the journalist Ian Cotton describes how Lloyd Kuehl, an American Christian, travelled from the United States to join a group of British Christians praying for the healing of a man called John who was suffering from liver cancer. As it turned out, Lloyd arrived to find that John had already died. But Lloyd felt that God said to him, “I will raise him from the dead”. Fired by this conviction, the group continued to pray that John would be brought to life. Four days later they gave up and John was cremated.
No one has switched God off. Modern humanity has not closed the doors of the world, leaving God on the outside, unable to get in.
So can we expect miracles to happen in the way they did during the ministry of Jesus and the apostles?
Should our expectation of miracles be shaped by what we read in the Gospels and the book of Acts?
Some people think so. We live in the age of the Spirit, they argue, and so we should expect the story of Acts to continue in our own lives with a miracle for every chapter of our lives.
Yet it’s hard to avoid a recognition that miracles don’t happen today in the way they did in the time of Jesus.
[inline_product:qcamira]The Pattern of Miracles Today
The link between the role of miracles in the Bible and the role of the Bible today enables us to explain the pattern of miracles today.1. On the Frontline of Mission
We often see more miracles on the front-line of mission and this should not surprise us. Even within the New Testament, we see this (John 4:29; Acts 5:12-16; 8:6-8; 9:35). Miracles abound when the gospel enters new territory. John Stott says, “Especially on the frontiers of mission, where a power-encounter may be needed to demonstrate the lordship of Christ, miracles have been and are being reported”.
There are a number of things that make people more inclined to pay attention to the Christian message: the lives of Christians (Titus 2:9-10); our response to persecution (1 Peter 2:11-12); the community life of the church (John 13:35; 1 Peter 3:8-15); the worship of the gathered congregation (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). But these things are largely absent where a church has not yet been formed. In such contexts, it may be that miracles are more common.2. Where the Bible is Absent
Another key factor will be the absence of the Bible. As we have seen, we encounter the words and works of Jesus through the apostolic testimony in the New Testament. But on the frontline of mission there may be no copies of the New Testament, maybe even no translation of the Bible in the local language. In such contexts, it may be that miracles play a more significant role.3. When the Occult is Strong
As we have seen, it seems that Satan’s primary approach in the west at the moment is to spread the lie of materialism, and, to this end, overt Satanic activity is uncommon. In this context, our spiritual warfare is to confront this lie by proclaiming the truth. But where people are involved in Satanic or occult activity, we can expect a different type of confrontation between the people of God and the agents of Satan—one that might involve some form of miraculous release from Satan’s grip.
There is one point in the story of Acts where Luke describes the miracles being performed as “extraordinary”. Even by the standards of the early apostolic period, these miracles were exceptional. Luke says, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched him were taken to those who were ill, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:11-12).
The striking thing is that these took place in Ephesus, a notorious centre for occult activity. Luke himself highlights this very point. He describes a group of seven itinerant Jewish exorcists trying to evoke the name of Jesus but being overpowered by the evil spirit (Acts 19:13-17). As a result, many people confessed their occult practices. Those who had practiced “sorcery” brought their books of spells and burnt them in a public bonfire—sending items valued at around 50,000 silver coins up in smoke (Acts 19:18-19).
Here was a culture deeply entwined with occult practices and this is the context in which Paul did extraordinary miracles. Yet still the focus is on the word of God, for Luke draws this confrontation to a close with the words, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).4. When Believers are Immature
John Frame (The Doctrine of God) also suggests that God often provides for young believers in more direct and miraculous ways. A parent closely watches a small child and often intervenes in a direct way to prevent them from coming to harm. The child strays near the road and the parent pulls them out of danger. The child feels hungry and the parent spoons food into their mouth. In a similar way, perhaps, God intervenes more directly in the lives of young believers. He keeps them from danger more times than perhaps they realise. But his intent is that they grow and mature. He wants them to learn to avoid temptation and trust him in adversity.
So God may directly intervene less as Christians mature. His interventions become geared towards shaping the Christian’s heart rather than changing their circumstances. Indeed, God may use suffering and unanswered prayer to refine our faith. Frame concludes:
When young Christians become more mature, they often wonder why such things happen to them less often or not at all. They worry that their faith has grown dim, because they don’t see as many supernatural events in their lives. That may be so, but it may also be the case that in their individual lives, as often in Scripture, the extraordinary has been a preparation for the ordinary.Our compassionate God
On one occasion, Jesus spends an evening healing many people. The following morning the disciples come to find him because everyone is looking for him. People are queuing up, as it were, to see a miracle. But Jesus avoids the crowds. “Let us go somewhere else,” he says, “to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (Mark 1:38). The next thing that happens is that Jesus meets a man with leprosy who says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40).
It’s an odd thing to say. If the man had met me, he might have said, “If you are able, you would make me clean”. He would doubt my ability. But there are no doubts about the ability of Jesus. What’s in doubt is his willingness because he has just avoided the miracle-seeking crowds so that he can devote himself to preaching. Preaching is his priority and miracles are a distraction. So what happens? “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean’” (Mark 1:41, ESV). Preaching is Jesus’ priority, but he still performs a miracle because he is filled with compassion.
The primary purpose for miracles is to reveal God’s glory and rescue his people.
The same is true today. The primary purpose for miracles is to reveal God’s glory and rescue his people. These purposes have come to a climax in the Lord Jesus Christ and the record of his work in the New Testament. God is still active in his world. He is still a God who is full of compassion. So he does intervene through miracles to provide for his people. But he does so less often now that the primary purpose of miracles has been fulfilled. We certainly don’t need to worry if we’re not seeing many miracles in our lives or our churches.
What matters is that we have faith in the resurrection of Jesus, which is the ultimate sign and the promise of eternal life.
This is an extract from Do Miracles Happen Today? The book is a part of the Questions Christians Ask series. This growing series is ideal for helping you get to grips with some of the biggest questions you may have found yourself asking.
Throughout all of July we're offering a special discount. Get any 2 from the series for £5 when you use the code 'bigquestions' at the checkout. Shop the entire Questions Christians Ask series here.