Blogroll Category: Christian Resources

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A communique from GAFCON-Tanzania

Anglican Ink - 10 hours 1 min ago

WE, the undermentioned ten bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, meeting at Holiday Inn, Dar es Salaam, on the 14th August 2019, after prayerful discussion, hereby issue this Communique.

PREAMBLE

Recognizing the need for us to contribute to the global movement seeking to renew the Anglican Communion through Gafcon;

Recollecting our experiences and commitments through our participation in the GAFCON Conferences (2008, 2013, 2018);

Recognizing the serious reality of the liberal agenda being pursued by some sections of the Anglican Communion; and

Seeing the need to reach out and equip Anglicans in Tanzania to remain faithful to the Gospel;

WE, THEREFORE, HEREBY STATE AS FOLLOWS:

1. That today, we have inaugurated a Gafcon Branch and those who attended the meeting are hereby constituted as an Interim Branch Council.

2. That, we re-affirm the position of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, that marriage is between one man and one woman in a life-long commitment, in accordance with Scripture and as affirmed by the Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution I.10.

3. That, we re-affirm our subscription to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. We further commit to uphold the orthodox view of Scripture as the inspired Word of God, fully and finally authoritative for all matters of faith and conduct, and to faithfully maintain biblical doctrine, particularly as found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

4. That, we re-affirm the position of the Anglican Church of Tanzania as contained in the 2006 Statement of the House of Bishops and subsequently ratified by the Provincial Standing Committee in 2007 and the Provincial Synod in 2008, which declared that the Anglican Church of Tanzania is not in communion with:

(a) Bishops who consecrate practicing homosexuals to the episcopate and those Bishops who ordain such persons to the priesthood and the deaconate or license them to minister in their dioceses; 

(b) Bishops who permit the blessing of same sex unions in their dioceses; 

(c) Priests and deacons in same-sex unions; 

(d) Priests who bless same sex-unions. 

5. That, we will develop and implement a strategy and programs to educate and equip Anglicans in Tanzania, both clergy and laity, to remain faithful to orthodox Biblical Anglicanism, participating in the global fellowship of Gafcon, including its networks. 

6. That, we will not attend Lambeth 2020 – because it is organized and planned in such a way that bishops who have departed from the authority of Scripture as understood in historic Anglicanism are invited and bishops who are standing faithful to Scripture are excluded, in particular those from the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church in Brazil. 

7. That, we are thankful to God for the election of the Rt Rev Dr Mwita Akiri as Branch Chairman and the Rt Rev Dr Elias Chakupewa as Branch Treasurer.

BISHOPS 

1. Rt Rev Dr Elias Chakupewa – Bishop of Tabora

2. Rt Rev Dr George Okoth – Bishop of Mara

3. Rt Rev Dr Jacob Chimeledya – Bishop of Mpwapwa and Retired Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania

4. Rt Rev Dr Mwita Akiri – Bishop of Tarime

5. Rt Rev Dr Sospeter Ndenza – Bishop of Kibondo

6. Rt Rev Dr Stanley Hotay – Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro

7. Rt Rev Dr John Adiema – Bishop of Rorya

8. Rt Rev Johnson Chinyong’ole – Bishop of Shinyanga

9. Rt Rev Mathayo Kasagara – Bishop of Lake Rukwa

10. Rt Rev Sadock Makaya – Bishop of Western Tanganyika 

APOLOGY 

11. Rt Rev Oscar Mnung’a – Bishop of Newala – He was unfortunately not able to join the meeting due to reasons beyond his control, but we know that he is in agreement to be part of the Gafcon Branch. 

RESOURCE PERSONS 

1. Rev Canon Charles Raven – Gafcon Membership Development Secretary and Acting Operations Manager

2. Mr Peter Waruingi – Gafcon Communications Officer for East and Southern Africa (Kenya). 

IN ATTENDANCE 

Rt Rev Donald Mtetemela – Retired Bishop of Ruaha and former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Tanzania. 

END

The post A communique from GAFCON-Tanzania appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Bus driver suspended for personal beliefs

Christian Concern - Fri, 16/08/2019 - 11:24
A Norwich bus driver has been suspended and is now facing investigation after refusing to drive a vehicle branded with the Pride rainbow colours.

A Norwich bus driver has been suspended and is now facing investigation after refusing to drive a vehicle branded with the Pride rainbow colours.

He reportedly told passengers in Norwich: “I am not driving this bus because it promotes homosexuality,” before asking passengers to “wait a minute” while he swapped buses.

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Peculiar Passages: The Case of Ruth, Boaz and the Contractual Sandal

The Good Book Company - Thu, 15/08/2019 - 09:55

One of my favourite phrases in the Old Testament is “kinsman-redeemer”*. It comes up several times in the book of Ruth, along with some weird things about sandals and uncovering feet. If we unpack those verses, we not only find out what’s going on in Ruth, but also learn something wonderful about the Lord Jesus.

Potted History (Ruth 1-3): Naomi was an Israelite woman who moved to Moab with her husband and sons. The sons married Moabite women, called Orpah and Ruth, but later, after all three men had sadly died, Naomi decided to move back to Israel. Orpah stayed in Moab, but Ruth went with Naomi. In order to find food for them both, Ruth went to a local barley field to collect any leftover grain that had been missed by the harvesters. 

The field belonged to Boaz. He was Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer. He was kind to Ruth and even gave her extra grain. Ruth continued to work in Boaz’s field until the end of the barley harvest. Naomi wanted to find a safe home for Ruth so she devised an odd scheme where Ruth went to where Boaz was sleeping at night, uncovered his feet and lay down. Apparently, this gesture was a customary means of requesting marriage. So, when Boaz saw her there, he knew that Ruth was asking him to marry her. But he had to check with someone else first as there was another possible kinsman-redeemer…

Leviticus law

In Leviticus 25 v 25 we learn that if an Israelite becomes poor and has to sell their land, it’s the responsibility of their nearest relative (their kin) to buy (redeem) it. This man is their kinsman-redeemer. Naomi has some land to sell, but Boaz isn’t her closest relative. There’s one man who is closer.

Sandal time

Boaz goes to the town gate (where legal transactions were made). He asks ten elders of the town to be witnesses as he discusses Naomi and Ruth with the man who was an even closer relative. To start with, that man is keen to buy Naomi’s land. But then he discovers that he would also need to marry Ruth as part of the bargain. He doesn’t want to do that, so passes over his rights as kinsman-redeemer to Boaz. 

To show that this decision was legal and final, he took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz. We may think this is odd—but so did the people who first read the book of Ruth. So the author very kindly added an explanation for them and us:

“Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalising transactions in Israel.” (Ruth 4 v 7)

It’s possible that the taking off of a sandal was associated with walking the land as a symbol of ownership (Joshua 1 v 3). Whether or not this was the reason, the sandal swap meant the transaction was now legal.

And then—to make this transaction even more unusual—the town elders (and anyone else hanging around the town gate) had a prayer meeting! They asked the Lord to bless Boaz and Ruth with a child, and prayed that the family would be “famous in Bethlehem”.

The greatest Kinsman-Redeemer

The end of the book of Ruth tells us how the Lord answered their prayer. Ruth and Boaz had a son—called Obed. Ruth 4 v 17 tells us that “he was the father of Jesse, the father of David”. The family of King David would certainly be “famous in Bethlehem”.

And wonderfully, David was an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1 v 1, 17) who came as a Redeemer too.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law … He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 3 v 13-14)

A true redeemer is someone who is willing to pay a price for the sake of others. Boaz was ready and willing to redeem Ruth. The Lord Jesus willingly paid a much greater price to redeem us. He is the greatest-ever Kinsman-Redeemer!

*Note: The 2011 NIV changed this phrase from “kinsman-redeemer” to “guardian-redeemer”. I still really like the original, so that’s what I’ve used throughout this post.

Categories: Christian Resources

Archbishop urges MPs to ‘Care for the most vulnerable’ in setting abortion laws

Anglican Ink - Thu, 15/08/2019 - 02:46

Archbishop Glenn Davies has told a State Parliamentary inquiry that the catchcry of new legislation has been ‘decriminalisation’ but skates over the details that it radically extends abortion in New South Wales.

Abortion is not unlawful in New South Wales under certain circumstances because of a precedent set by the ruling of a District Court Judge in 1971.

The new legislation, which allows for abortions up to birth without effective safeguards, has had minor amendments in the state’s Legislative Assembly and now goes to the Upper House for scrutiny and then a vote.

After two weeks of media appearances and joint appeals with other religious leaders, Dr Davies was able to speak directly to the Upper House MPs who form the Social Issues Committee of the Legislative Council.

Faith leaders not consulted

Dr Davies said the bill had been rushed and that many people did not know what it contained.

“I think that you have (enough) time to consider carefully, consultatively, in a way in which to get the very best Bill. I’m not opposed to changing the Crimes Act with regard to abortion, not removing it because (even) this bill doesn’t remove it completely. But I prefer to see legal statements rather than opinions of judges.” Dr Davies told the committee. “You are the representatives of our state and that’s why I’m here. Because I think the best needs of our state is to send this back to the drafting board, do proper consultation and come back with a Bill which is actually going to care for women who are pregnant with all the concerns and the emotions involved with that and care for the unborn as well. And care in a way which establishes that we, as a society, care for the most vulnerable. That is how society is judged, not by the way it treats the rich and the powerful.”

When it was put to the Archbishop that women weren’t trusted to make decisions about their own bodies, Dr Davies replied “When a pregnant mother holds a genetically distinct unborn child – it is not merely her own body.”

The Archbishop also lodged a submission by the Social Issues Committee of the Diocese, which argued against the legislation on several grounds, including its impact on women.

“Women who contemplate abortions do not do so lightly. Women who have had abortions often struggle with the implications of having done so. We do not seek to condemn women who have had to make this tragic choice, but there should be every opportunity for women not to have to make this choice. The problem with this Bill is that it will have the effect of normalising the termination of human life in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy. ” says the submission, signed by Committee Chair Emma Penzo. 

“This Bill is premised on the idea that once a pregnancy is determined to be problematic, the only viable solution is to terminate the pregnancy. For all its flaws, the current system in NSW recognises that ending a child’s life in utero is a terrible thing. If as a society we are going to permit abortion, then we also need to do everything that we can to ensure that no woman is led to make that tragic choice because she had no other alternatives. This Bill is not pro-woman because it fails to acknowledge the emotionally confronting choice she will need to make. It leaves no room for other options as would be the case with any other healthcare plan.”

Abortion extended

The Diocesan committee’s submission also details the way in which the Bill extends the current abortion practices.

“First, the Bill allows for the abortion of a baby well into the second trimester, namely 5 ½ months, for any reason or no reason at all. Currently, abortions are permitted on economic, social or medical ground where there is a basis for believing that the pregnancy poses a danger to the mother.” it says.

The Bill also allows for the abortion of a baby after 22 weeks (5 ½ months), where the medical practitioner, in consultation with another, considers that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed.

“Most Australians do not support abortion at this late point because they know instinctively what biology tells us: that a baby of this age is able to survive outside the womb. The baby is fully formed, she can hear, taste, move and suck her thumb.” Ms Penzo’s submission says.

Dr Davies has also urged support for a petition on the legislation which calls on the Upper House of Parliament to reject the ‘Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019’.

The petition reads “This Bill, if enacted, will put both mothers and their unborn babies at risk by increasing access to abortion up to 22 weeks, with no effective restrictions on late term abortion. Furthermore, it would impose on medical practitioners with a conscientious objection to abortion, an unwarranted new legal obligation to facilitate abortion through referral.”

The post Archbishop urges MPs to ‘Care for the most vulnerable’ in setting abortion laws appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

NAF launches pre-paid gas card program to help patients obtain abortion care

Anglican Ink - Thu, 15/08/2019 - 02:16

Today, amid increasing restrictions on abortion care, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and its 40-year-old Hotline have announced a new pilot program to help some member clinics provide pre-paid gas cards to patients seeking abortion care.

The cost of the actual abortion procedure is only one expense women must manage when they need an abortion. Since there are a limited number of providers and states continue to impose additional restrictions, many women have to travel long distances to reach the closest provider who can help them. And this situation will only worsen as the political environment continues to become more hostile toward abortion rights. According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, if Roe v. Wade were overturned or weakened, increases in travel distances would likely prevent 93,500 to 143,500 individuals from obtaining abortion care.

To help address this issue and ensure that patients can obtain care quickly and with dignity, NAF is piloting a program to give pre-paid gas cards through its Hotline’s Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund. The Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund primarily helps cover travel-related expenses for women seeking abortion care. This fund honors the legacy of long-time NAF member, Dr. George Tiller who was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist in 2009. The pilot program will start with a small group of NAF-member independent abortion clinics in states where the majority of their patients drive to the clinic and where there are a number of factors like onerous state-mandated waiting periods and laws that require women to make two visits to the clinic, which make access harder for patients. After a three-month pilot, NAF hopes to expand this project to other NAF-member clinics across the U.S.

Statement from The Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, Interim President and CEO of NAF:

“Our Hotline has been helping people obtain the abortion care they need for the past 40 years. We receive thousands of calls each week from women, their partners, families, and friends who have questions about abortion or need help getting care. In addition to helping patients cover the cost of their procedure, we also provide case management support and help covering travel-related expenses. We are always looking for ways to provide more support for patients so they can make, and act on, the best decisions for themselves and their families.

We have already seen an increase in distances patients have had to travel to obtain the abortion care they need and expect this trend only to get worse. Whether it’s having to drive longer distances or struggling just to get across town for multiple state-mandated appointments, paying for both their procedure and the gas it takes to get to their appointments can be an insurmountable barrier for too many women seeking abortion care. This program will help remove the barriers too many women are facing.

Travel-related assistance is a service that shouldn’t have to be provided. People should have easy access to the health care they need—including abortion care—without the help of hotlines and donated funds. Unfortunately, due to the anti-abortion bans and medically-unnecessary anti-abortion restrictions, politicians have made it impossible for many to obtain the care they need. We’re here to do something about it.”

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Congregational dynamics and murder

Anglican Ink - Tue, 13/08/2019 - 19:35

A murder story, widely reported last week in the Press, would not normally have attracted any comment from this blog.  But the recent conviction of Benjamin Field for the murder of Peter Farquhar does have considerable relevance to our concerns.  The victim was said to have been befriended and drawn into a homosexual liaison within the setting of a small church congregation at Stowe.  The dynamic, which the murderer used to draw Farquhar into a sexual relationship with him, was described as a kind of grooming.  Field allegedly used similar grooming techniques not only with the other individuals he wanted to exploit (of whom there were several), but with the entire congregation.  This village congregation was said to be completely in thrall to Field’s influence.  The trust and the power that he exerted allowed him to take a leading role in the congregation as a parish secretary and there were even moves afoot to put him forward for ordination.

The careful reporting of the story by the Times newspaper mentions that, following the murder conviction, the Diocese of Oxford is to hold an inquiry into the way that the grooming of the congregation by Field took place.  The notion of grooming is widely used as a shorthand for indicating the way that certain individuals prepare their victims for acts of abuse.  The word contains notions of influence and control not dissimilar to the old idea of brain-washing.  Here grooming refers to the influence exerted by Field that caught up not just victims but many others. This idea that a single individual can manipulate groups is far from being a novel idea to students of the so-called cults.  It has been recognised for over a century that when people gather together in groups or in a crowd, they become aware of themselves in a different way from when they are alone.  We speak about the different atmospheres created by the presence or absence of other people.  At the end of the 19th century a number of writers interested in the behaviour of crowds came up with the notion of ‘contagion’.  This is the notion that an idea held initially by a few members of a group can spread very quickly to become the dominant way of thinking by the whole.  It only needs the conviction of a leader with a powerful gift of rhetoric to infect an entire crowd into thinking in a particular way.  Theories of crowd behaviour may not seem particularly relevant to the situation in Stowe.  What is relevant is the idea that any group can quickly normalise a single thought among its members. We have all felt the pressure of a group to think a particular way.  It might be in a football crowd or in a charismatic gathering.  In this situation it is very hard not to sing along or cheer in the same way as everyone else.  Field somehow understood these dynamics and manipulated them to his benefit.  That is perhaps also the secret of Trump rallies as well as dictatorships everywhere.

The capacity of groups to become one in their thinking and feeling is one part of the way that congregational dynamics worked initially in Field’s favour.   The group consensus was that he was to be trusted and also was thoroughly reliable.  The other part of the dynamic of the congregation were the actual methods available to Field to sustain this common belief.  There were various motivations that were in operation in Field’s plan but they are perhaps the least interesting part of the story.  What is important is the way that the congregation were so mesmerised by him that no one was able to see that something was not quite right in his close association with Farquhar.  Field was not, of course, an official leader of the group but in many respects he seems to have been able to act in this capacity.  From his upbringing as the offspring of a Baptist minister he had considerable knowledge of the Bible and this was superior to anyone else in the congregation.   A facility to quote scripture easily gave him power and influence in a congregation where reverence for scripture was highly esteemed.  The theological conservatism of this particular congregation meant that there was little appetite to question any decisive use of bible quotes to further an authoritarian agenda.  My article in Letters to a Broken Church, explores the variety of bible passages that can be and are used to boost the leadership credentials of an official (or in this case unofficial) leader.   In short, the fundamentalism of Field’s church facilitated the kind of exploiting of human weakness that ended, in this case, in an episode of desperate tragedy.  Youth, charm and the skilful use of bible texts seemed to been able to perform the task of group manipulation over a considerable period of time.

The grooming of the congregation to which Peter Farquhar belonged was, as far as we can see, deliberate and planned by Benjamin Field.  That he was able to go as far as he did in abusing the trust of good and intelligent people ought to alarm the leaders of all our churches.  The story at one level is extraordinary and exceptional.  At another level it reflects a reality on the ground in many churches where people are inveigled into trusting leaders who may not be worthy of such trust.  The dynamics of power in this particular congregation were probably not so different from the way that many congregations operate up and down the country.  Narcissistic leaders, whose motives for being in charge involve their own emotional, financial and sexual gratification, are still found in our congregations.  Whether the system is able to spot such people before they are let loose on vulnerable trusting congregations remains to be seen.  The Church historically has been extremely reluctant to let go priests (and bishops) whose behaviour has shown that they are a danger to potential parishioners.  Is it the acute shortage of clergy within the church part of the reason that dangerous individuals are still found within the system because those in charge are unwilling to spot the dangers? 

The story of Benjamin Field has many aspects.  There was among those involved with him a mentoring priest who had spotted the fact that he was showing severe psychopathic tendencies, including a total lack of empathy or feeling for others.  This encounter was voluntary on Field’s part and we are left to wonder whether, apart from this, the selection process would have penetrated through the personal charm that he had used to endear himself to his home congregation and his abuse victims.  Are all ordinands required to examine the part of themselves that relates to personal power and its management?  Recently we have seen, at the highest levels of the church hierarchy, some extraordinary examples of empathy failure.  If the church is indeed becoming more focused on efficiency and structure, will it also be more likely to miss out on such pastoral issues and the preservation of integrity among the clergy?  Field, having learnt the ropes of how to do ‘church-speak’ got dangerously close to beginning the path to ordination.  One is forced to ask the uncomfortable question.  How many other malignant narcissists have got through the system and are even now preparing, if not to murder people, at least to harm them in the cause of satisfying narcissistic hunger and their drug-like craving for importance and esteem?Facebook 

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Church of England to launch independent review into the John Smyth case

Anglican Ink - Tue, 13/08/2019 - 18:32

Details of the independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC have been published today.

Keith Makin, a former director of social services with more than 30 years experience in the social care field,  will lead the independent lessons learnt review which will consider the response of the Church of England and its officers to the allegations against John Smyth. Keith has led on a number of serious case reviews and has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships.

The Terms of Reference show that the review will also consider the response of the other organisations involved; Winchester College, the Titus Trust, and the Scripture Union, to the extent that those organisations are willing to co-operate.

This review will allow those individuals who are survivors of John Smyth and who have given an account to the Church of England to describe their experiences. It will also consider the actions of Church of England participants and will identity both good practice and failings in the Church’s handling of the allegations, so lessons can be learnt to improve response to allegations of abuse and, thereby, ensure the Church provides a safer environment for all.

Commenting on the review, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, Peter Hancock said: “I know for survivors of John Smyth this review into the Church’s response – and the response of others –  is vital to them.  It was their bravery in coming forward that finally brought the abuse perpetrated by Smyth to the attention of the police and wider Church. We commend their actions and I pray that with cooperation from the other organisations the review will be comprehensive and that lessons will be learnt both by the Church and all those involved. We recognise that the process of a review can be a very difficult one, and our thoughts remain with the victims and survivors of John Smyth.  We remain aware that there are others who were victims of Smyth that have not come forward to the Church and we urge them to make contact if they would like support. Please email safeguardingeo@churchofengland.org

Further information

Keith Makin is an executive in the social care and health sector, with over 30 years experience as a manager. He has held the posts of Director of Social Services, Chief Executive of an independent child care agency, Executive Director of a Government Improvement Agency and now runs a consultancy in social care and health. Keith is also active in the voluntary sector, having been a Board member and Director of several organisations, including two social enterprises.

Keith is a qualified social worker. He has a degree in Economics, with post graduate qualifications in Social Administration and Management.

Keith has chaired several local safeguarding partnerships and has led on a number of high profile reviews and inquiries into safeguarding concerns.

2017 Church of England statements on Smyth abuse

Statement on John Smyth allegations

Statement on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Comment by the Archbishop of Canterbury in response to the statement by the Bishop of Guildford
 

2018 statement on death of John Smyth

Response to reports of the death of John Smyth

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Peculiar Passages: The Case of Paul and the Unexpected Handkerchief

The Good Book Company - Tue, 13/08/2019 - 09:32

What do you do when you’re ill? Take two aspirin and lie down until you feel better? Go to see your doctor? Ask someone to pray for you? Maybe even all of those. But my guess is that you don’t wait for someone to bring you a special apron…

But that’s what happened at one time in the apostle Paul’s ministry:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19 v 11-12).

Hmm… What’s going on here??

It seems unlikely that Paul had multiple aprons, even if he had several handkerchiefs, so they probably belonged to the people who were ill. You can imagine a worried friend or family member might take an apron from a sick woman, bring it to Paul to touch, and then return it to the lady who was ill. Or borrow a child’s handkerchief (preferably one that hadn’t been blown in too much!), and again bring it to the apostle.

But why should this strange approach work? It doesn’t seem to have been a normal approach to healing - hence calling them “extraordinary miracles” in verse 11 - so why now?

To answer that we need to look a few verses earlier in Acts:

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. (Acts 19 v 8-10)

In verse 9 we see that those in the synagogue, who Paul first told the gospel to, “became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way”. So Paul instead began to teach “the Way” (Christian belief) to the Gentiles instead. During the next two years, “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord”. That’s a LOT of people.

How did so many people come to hear gospel truth? They wouldn’t all fit into the lecture hall. But the “extraordinary miracles” Paul was doing would certainly get lots of attention. 

One of the results of all this attention was that other people tried to do the same thing, but with far different, and painful, results (v 13-16). Therefore “the name of Jesus was held in high honour” (v 17) and “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (v 20).

In the New Testament, miracles point to the truth about Jesus and his gospel (see John 20 v 30-31, Acts 3 v 16; 5 v 12-16). We now have that truth recorded faithfully for us in Scripture, which is why we can’t expect to be healed by any old apron today. But the great-apron-and-handkerchief-experience was greatly used by the Lord at the time to grow his church.

Categories: Christian Resources

Diocese of Oxford responds to the Ben Field murder conviction

Anglican Ink - Tue, 13/08/2019 - 00:11

Statement by the Archdeacon of Buckingham:

Following a painstaking investigation by Thames Valley Police and a lengthy trial at Oxford Crown Court, Ben Field was on Friday found guilty of the murder of Peter Farquhar. You will be aware from the press coverage of the depth of Field’s cruelty to those who became his victims.

At the end of what has been a hugely difficult ordeal for all those affected, please keep in your prayers Peter’s family and friends, his former colleagues and pupils. Remember too, those who worship at Stowe Parish Church, where Peter worshipped, and the community in Maids Moreton where he lived. Field was also convicted of fraud against Ann Moore-Martin and of other crimes in the community – please keep all those affected in your prayers. Pray too for the people of Olney where Ben’s family live – pray for them, and for him.

At times like this, the caring ministry of our parish clergy and the healing depth of our Christian communities come into their own. There has been work going on in the background for over two years to address various safeguarding and pastoral aspects of the case.

We hope that all those affected are receiving the support they need. If, however, anyone reading this is particularly affected by the case and needs to speak to someone, please contact our Authorised Listeners via the Safeguarding Team on 01865 208290.

This has been an extraordinary and unusual case. No one who came into contact with Ben Field was not manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church and then, to quote his own words, “I’m gonna become a vicar … just because I can outmanoeuvre the Church.” His arrest put an end to this pretence.

Any incidence of harm to a church member causes us to reflect and we will need to learn what this case has to teach us about safeguarding. Sentencing will be followed by “lessons learned” reviews by various organisations including the Diocese. If you have any particular concerns to raise in connection with this or any other safeguarding situation, please contact our Safeguarding Team on the number above.

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.”

The Ven. Guy Elsmore
12th August 2019

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Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui House of Bishops Pastoral Letter

Anglican Ink - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 17:47

In the past two months, the “Extradition Bill” (2019) sparked a series of marches and spread conflicts. As clashes between the police and civilians grew more acute, tension permeated the city, causing anxiety and pain.

We think that when Christians respond to political or public issues, we should remember that we are all members of God’s family, even if we hold different opinions. We might stand on opposite sides, and feel animosity or even hatred towards those with different views. When this happens, we have to be extremely careful, because our hearts might have fallen into the control of the “evil one”. We need to remember that benevolent thoughts come from God while wicked intentions originate in the “evil one,” Satan. In these times, we all need to pray to God for mercy and forgive one another.

When conflicts arise between us, people from both sides need to respect the other party, listen, communicate, and build mutual trust. In the current social atmosphere, we tend to adopt a confrontational approach in response to political issues. If the Church, too, takes this approach, how are we different from the rest of the world? We are one family, can we try to stand in each other’s shoes and understand one another’s position?

The manner of expression is also an important issue. Sometimes, an expression of kindness can open up a new horizon while responses born of animosity only lead to both parties ignoring the others’ demands and opinions.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5: 43)

Archbishop Paul Kwong  Bishop Andrew Chan  Bishop Timothy Kwok

4 August 2019

The post Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui House of Bishops Pastoral Letter appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Belfast bishop voices concern over closure of shipyard

Anglican Ink - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 17:40

A statement from the Rt Rev Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore:

The insolvency of Harland and Wolff is a troubling development for the people of East Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.  Harland and Wolff has played a central and iconic role in the province’s economy to date, and has shown innovation and resilience by adapting its business to the growth in renewable energy.  The company has had an important role in passing on skills learned and built up over decades to a younger generation, which should not be lost.  I encourage all in leadership to do everything in their power to secure the future of the company and for government to seek out new opportunities on behalf of its employees and their families.

The post Belfast bishop voices concern over closure of shipyard appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Bishop to preach atop Norwich “helter-skelter”

Anglican Ink - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 17:32

The Bishop of Lynn has announced that he will preach next Sunday from atop the “helter-skelter” installed in Norwich Cathedral. The Eastern Daily Press reports that at a dedication of a clerestory window at St Agnes Church in Clawson this past Sunday, the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Meyrick said he had asked the dean, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, if he might preach his scheduled August 18 sermon from atop the 50 amusement park ride that has been set up inside the cathedral.

At the conclusion of his sermon the bishop is expected to descend the slide to the ground to rejoin the congregation, but is not expected to have to pay the £2 fee.

Bishop Meyrick, the Daily Press reported, was not embarrassed by the controversy surrounding the decision to set up a fairground amusement ride inside a cathedral, stating: “In fact, I insisted on her agreeing that I could preach from the helter skelter.”

The bishop told the congregation the installation of a circus ride would enable visitors to have a closer view of the carved roof bosses in the cathedral and struck by such magnificence would be converted to the faith. The project entitled Seeing it Differently will take place at Norwich Cathedral from 8 to 18 August 2019.

The decision by the cathedral chapter to install the helter-skelter as an evangelism outreach tool has not generated the sort of publicity expected, with the secular press ridiculing the move as a stunt. Anglican Unscripted’s Dr Gavin Ashenden raised objections on aesthetic and theological grounds.

Speaking on Anglican Unscripted last week Dr. Ashenden said the “naff” carnival ride displayed “some very impoverished theological conclusions” from the cathedral clergy.

“Their understanding of God, their understanding of who Jesus is, their understanding of the Kingdom, is so far away, I think, from radical, traditional Christianity, which takes evil seriously, believes in Heaven and Hell, knows that people have to be reborn and must be saved. This is completely off their map. What they are doing is spirituality — they’re doing moral, therapeutic deism … They’re not doing Christianity.”

The post Bishop to preach atop Norwich “helter-skelter” appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Crazy cathedrals and stately street preachers

Christian Concern - Mon, 12/08/2019 - 16:31
Christian Concern Communications Manager, Paul Huxley, comments on Norwich Cathedral’s recent decision to install a helter skelter ride in its nave.

Christian Concern Communications Manager, Paul Huxley, comments on Norwich Cathedral’s recent decision to install a helter skelter ride in its nave.

What’s wrong with putting crazy golf courses and helter skelters in cathedrals?

The decision of Norwich Cathedral to install a helter skelter in its nave has ignited debate about the role of cathedrals in our society and exactly how much fun you should be allowed to have in church buildings.

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California pastor elected bishop of the North American Lutheran Church

Anglican Ink - Sat, 10/08/2019 - 23:31

Indianapolis, IN: Following a year of discernment after Bishop John Bradosky’s retirement announcement at the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) annual Convocation last August, the Rev. Dr. Dan Selbo, 63, was elected this week by a majority of delegates at the 2019 NALC Convocation to serve as its next bishop. Selbo is currently serving as the pastor of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in San Jose, CA and was the former dean of the Central Pacific Mission District.

Before the annual Convocation, congregations proposed eligible pastors to a nominating committee, who then published answers from each nominee pertaining to various questions related to their ministry and hopes for the future. This week, 299 pastors, 308 lay-delegates, and 187 visitors from mission districts across North America met in Indianapolis, IN for prayer and discernment before voting to elect Selbo.

A slate of twelve nominees who were willing to stand for election to be the next bishop of the NALC were announced on May 10, 2019. An additional two nominees were nominated on the floor during Convocation. “The Executive Council and the Nominating Committee are grateful for the prayerful manner and approach our church took to bring us to the election of our next bishop,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, NALC General Secretary. “So many people were praying. We wished for prayer, not politics. Thank you to everyone who helped in that effort.”

The nominees included the Rev. Dr. Catherine Braasch STS, (intentional interim pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jackson Center, OH); the Rev. B. A. “Tim” Christ STS, pastor of Joy Lutheran Church (Richmond, TX); the Rev. Phillip Gagnon STS, pastor of St. Albert Evangelical Lutheran Church (St. Albert, AB); the Rev. Dr. Jeffray S. Greene, pastor of Word of God Lutheran Church (Peachtree City, GA); the Rev. Marshall E. Hahn, pastor of Marion Lutheran Church and Norway Lutheran Church (St. Olaf, IA); the Rev. Ronald Hoyum, pastor of Port Madison Lutheran Church (Bainbridge Island, WA); the Rev. Melinda H. Jones, pastor of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church (North Charleston, SC); the Rev. Kenneth C. Kimball STS, pastor of Old East Paint Creek Lutheran Church (Waterville, IA) and Old West Paint Creek Lutheran Church (Waukon, IA); the Rev. James T. Lehmann STS, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church (Thomasboro, IL); the Rev. Dr. Eric M. Riesen, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (Ashland, OH); the Rev. Dan Selbo, pastor of St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church (San Jose, CA); and the Rev. Dr. David M. Wendel, assistant to the NALC bishop for ministry and ecumenism (Jacksonville, FL). The Rev. Dr. Amy C. Schifrin STS president of the North American Lutheran Seminary (Ambridge, PA), and the Rev. Dr. Amy C. Little, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church (Monroeville, OH), were nominated from the floor of the Convocation as the thirteenth and fourteenth candidates for bishop.

These fourteen nominees were asked to prepare and submit written materials for clergy- and lay delegates’ consideration. The materials included their basic biographical information and responses to a comprehensive questionnaire.

Following several earlier events in the week, including the prestigious Braaten-Benne Lectures in Theology and the NALC Mission Festival, the Convocation began with morning devotions by the voting machines were distributed individually to certified delegates and clergy at registration.

Following introductions, reports and greetings, the first ballot began following lunch, narrowing the election to the final four candidates: pastors Riesen, Schifrin, Selbo and Wendel. Following opening statements from these remaining nominees, all clergy- and lay-delegates were strongly encouraged to attend a time of informal conversation with each of the nominees. Following morning devotions on Friday, voting continued. In the fourth ballot, an election was reached as Selbo was named the bishop-elect. An installation service followed the election.

“Dan Selbo is the leader our pastors and lay-delegates have chosen to be the third bishop of the North American Lutheran Church. God willing, he will begin his service in the tenth year of our corporate life,” said Bishop John Bradosky. “I will do all I can as his predecessor to support him in the catalytic ministry to which he has been called, one of spiritual oversight, as defender of the faith, pastor and teacher to the pastors and congregations of the NALC, the chief evangelist, and one dedicated to the disciple-making mission of the Church.”

In his address to the Convocation, Selbo expressed his deep appreciation to the North American Lutheran Church. “Thank you for who you are, for being the Body of Christ,” said Selbo. “I am honored to be part of the North American Lutheran Church. It is a powerful voice that is so needed in this world today and we are on track, we are being led by the Spirit, we are following Jesus Christ, and we have a message this world is dying to hear and we need to share it. Thank you for your vote of confidence. I ask for your continued prayers in the four years ahead.”

Several leaders participated in the laying on of hands during the installation, including Bradosky, as well as the Rev. Yonas Yigezu, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus; the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alex Mkumbo, bishop of the Central Diocese (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania); and the Rev. Paull Spring, bishop emeritus of the North American Lutheran Church and bishop emeritus of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

Also present during the Convocation were a number of ecumenical representatives, including the Most Rev. Dr. Ray R. Sutton, presiding bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church and bishop of the Diocese of Mid-America (Anglican Church in North America); the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod); Carmen LaBerge, executive director of the Common Ground Christian Network; the Rev. Martin Fromm, representing both the Confessional and Missional Global Lutheran Forum and the Church Coalition for the Bible and Confession in Bavaria; the Rev. Andreas Späth, vice president of the Internationale Konferenz Bekennender Gemeinschaften/International Christian Network; and the Rev. James Erich Rutten, chair of the Commission on Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).

Bishop Bradosky will stay on until October 1, at which point Selbo will assume his new responsibilities. “The entire church would like to honor Bishop Bradosky, and we look forward to celebrating his ministry among us,” said Chavez. “God provided the leadership that we needed in the person of John Bradosky, and we have already witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of gratitude and thanksgiving in the past several months. We look forward to celebrating his ministry among us for many years.”

The NALC is a growing Christian church in the Lutheran tradition, uniting more than 142,500 Lutherans from 433 congregations across the United States and Canada. The NALC embodies the theological center of Lutheranism in North America and stands firmly within the global Lutheran mainstream. The NALC is a church family committed to the authority of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and, in keeping with the Lutheran Confessions, believes all doctrines should and must be judged by the teaching of Scripture.

The NALC has embraced four Core Values which shape its common life: Christ Centered, Mission Driven, Traditionally Grounded, and Congregationally Focused. As a church centered on the unique Gospel of Jesus Christ, the NALC is animated by missions and evangelism, grounded in the 2,000-year tradition of Christian faith, and organized chiefly to serve our congregations. A renewed Lutheran community moving forward in faith, the NALC is focused on living out Christ’s Great Commission to go and make disciples in North America and around the globe.

More details found at thenalc.org/bishop2019

The post California pastor elected bishop of the North American Lutheran Church appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Melbourne Anglicans urge Bishop of Wangaratta “not to break the unity of the church”

Anglican Ink - Sat, 10/08/2019 - 23:13

A prominent group of Melbourne Anglicans comprising both senior clergy and lay people today issued an open letter to the Bishop of Wangaratta (the Rt Rev John Parkes and the synod (diocesan parliament) of the Diocese of Wangaratta urging them not to pull away from the rest of the Anglican Church of Australia by acting on their own in their upcoming synod meeting 30 & 31 August. Bishop Parkes has said he plans to ask the synod to approve the blessing of couples that have had same-sex marriages.

President of the New Cranmer Society, Kimberly Smith, (a layman and member of the church’s General Synod) said,

“We have urged the bishop and his synod not to proceed with this divisive course of action.

We recognise that the topic of marriage is a difficult one for our national church but there has been agreement amongst us to come to a decision together. This move by Bishop Parkes flies in the face of not only the view of the national church expressed at our General Synod, but also an agreement by the Australian bishops themselves not to act in this way. Bishop Parkes’ actions threaten the hard-won unity of the Anglican Church of Australia and so we urge him and his synod to reconsider his intentions and not to break the unity of the church”.

The full text of the open letter reads as follows:

Dear Bishop John, brothers and sisters,

It has been reported in the August edition of The Melbourne Anglican that you will be considering giving approval to a liturgy to enable the blessing of same-sex marriages at your upcoming meeting on August 30-31. We write to urge you not to approve such a liturgy.

We would like you to consider that approval of such a liturgy would:

Be contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures (and of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 19 in particular) and the doctrine of marriage contained in the Book of Common Prayer and A Prayer Book for Australia.

Be divisive to our national church, disregarding the clear decisions of the most recent General Synod and the bishops’ statement of 2018 that “the doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman.”

Pre-empt the process set in place for the national church to deal with this issue.

In view of this, out of concern for the truth of Christ, and in order to preserve the unity of the church, we plead with you in the name of Jesus Christ not to take this course, which would strain the fellowship between us to breaking point.

The post Melbourne Anglicans urge Bishop of Wangaratta “not to break the unity of the church” appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Norwich Cathedral: An invitation to some Serious Fun

Anglican Ink - Sat, 10/08/2019 - 23:01

How did a helter skelter end up being booked for ten days at Norwich Cathedral?

Roll back two years and I am standing in the Sistine Chapel. I am being jostled by the crowds, packed tight, the guards are shouting at the people “Stop talking!” and “No photos!” The ceiling is amazing but I just want to get out of there. As I try and work my way to the exit, I find myself longing for the sanity of Norwich Cathedral and a thought strikes me: the ceiling of the Nave at Norwich Cathedral, with its amazing roof bosses, is every bit as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel. It is just so high up it is difficult to appreciate.

I should have stopped there but my mind kept racing. How could you get closer to the wonderful images captured in the roof bosses? Tours along the Clerestory? Out of bounds! A tall scaffold tower? Ugly and too many steps? A ferris wheel? Lovely idea but you would never get it through the doors. A helter skelter…surely not? But in that moment Seeing it Differently was born.

Could the playful presence of a helter skelter help to open up conversations about the building, help open up conversations about God? This unexpected presence in the Cathedral would act as a draw. Climbing to its top, the visitor will literally see the Cathedral differently. They will also come closer to the roof bosses and to the story they tell, the story of Salvation.

Although the star attraction, the helter skelter will be only one of the ways our visitors will be encouraged to think about seeing it differently. Visitors will be encouraged to literally lie down and look up. We know from previous occasions how much visitors love being able to simple lie down and enjoy a different perspective on the building. And as they lie there they will be gazing up at the story of salvation.

In the North Transept there will be the opportunity to walk a labyrinth. This ancient practice of intentional walking has long be recognised as a way of helping the walker see things differently, gain a new perspective in their life. For the more passive in the South Transept will be a Bible Box, offering the opportunity to literally sit inside the Word of God. Surrounded by all the words of Scripture, and the story of Salvation, how would you see life differently?

For the more ambitious the Cloisters will offer a blind trust trail. When we cannot see how then will we see life differently? We we are disorientated in our lives, whom then will we trust?

Each of these installations is designed to provoke questions about both how we see the building and how we see life –  and, linked to that, to open up questions about God. Our specially trained volunteers will be on hand to help and guide at each of these points in the Cathedral and, where appropriate, to follow up the questions and conversations that may flow from these experiences.

And in the East end of the Cathedral will be displayed stories from individuals explaining how Jesus has helped them see life differently. Alongside this there will be a range of free resources available for the faith curious. Twice each day we will also be offering “The Walk of Salvation,” a chance to discover more about our amazing roof bosses and to hear the story captured in these beautiful carvings.

For all the fun of the fair captured in the image of a helter skelter in the Nave of the Cathedral, Seeing it Differently is essentially reflective in nature. The image of this traditional fair ground ride in an unusual setting in itself invites the visitor to see things differently and once we start trying to see things differently, where might that end? To learn a new perspective is essential to resolving difficulties, to discerning a way forward; it is the beginning of wisdom.

The fun comes in the shape of a helter skelter. The serious comes in creating opportunities for reflective, God-shaped conversations. It is playful in its intent but also profoundly missional. It is the Cathedral doing what it has always done – encouraging conversations about God. By its sheer size and grandeur it speaks of the things of God; it points beyond itself. Its sheer presence helps to keep the rumour of God alive and plays its part in passing on the story of Salvation.

People of all faith and no faith are welcome in Norwich Cathedral. Wherever you are, or are not, on your faith journey, the space invites you just to be, to explore and encounter the space in your own way, to let it speak to both heart and soul. In the same way Seeing it Differently is an invitation to enjoy particular activities in the way that works best for the visitor. In the true spirit of hospitality the Cathedral invites but never seeks to impose. At Seeing it Differently the visitor may chose to experience each of the activities and just go on their way. But for the faith curious the opportunities will be there. Churches should never hector but only ever invite with a warm welcome offered without condition.

So roll-up, roll-up and enjoy riding the helter skelter at Norwich Cathedral but if you are so minded, it just might help you see things differently.

Seeing it Differently will take place at Norwich Cathedral from 8 to 18 August 2019.
Opening times will be 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 12noon-3pm on Sundays.  Admission to the Cathedral is free (donations always welcome!) and it will cost £2 to take a ride on the Helter Skelter.

The post Norwich Cathedral: An invitation to some Serious Fun appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Anglican Unscripted 523 – Helter Skelter

Anglican Ink - Sat, 10/08/2019 - 13:01

Last week it was Golf in the Cathedral to raise attendance. Not to be outdone, another Diocese in the Church of England has erected a Helter-skelter inside their Cathedral.

The post Anglican Unscripted 523 – Helter Skelter appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.

Sow the seeds of cultural change

Christian Concern - Fri, 09/08/2019 - 12:03
In an article for the Spectator this week, Greg Sheridan (foreign editor of The Australian) has argued that “the West cannot survive without a re-energised belief in Christianity”. Christian Concern’s Communications Manager, Paul Huxley, looks at Sheridan’s argument.

In an article for the Spectator this week, Greg Sheridan (foreign editor of The Australian) has argued that “the West cannot survive without a re-energised belief in Christianity”. Christian Concern’s Communications Manager, Paul Huxley, looks at Sheridan’s argument.

The unbeliever is like a child slapping her father while supported by his lap.

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Is there a moral case for conservatism?

Christian Concern - Fri, 09/08/2019 - 11:01
The author of Edmund Burke’s Battle with Liberalism has just released his newest engaging book, The Moral Case for Conservatism, published by Wilberforce Publications.

The author of Edmund Burke’s Battle with Liberalism has just released his newest engaging book, The Moral Case for Conservatism, published by Wilberforce Publications.

Author Samuel Burgess argues that conservatism is not simply a political tradition but a moral one, built on Christian foundations, with real power to transform lives.

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Peculiar Passages: The Case of the Failed Miracle

The Good Book Company - Fri, 09/08/2019 - 09:31

I love Mark’s Gospel. I’ve been to performances where it is recited dramatically;  I love to read it in a single sitting (takes about an hour and a half); and it’s the book I often turn to when introducing people to the life of Jesus and the gospel message.

It’s sometimes called the “Go Gospel” because of it’s pace and frequent use of the word “immediately”. Mark underlines how Jesus' miracles are not elaborate conjuring tricks, packaged into events. The Lord says something: it happens—immediately. No hanging around. No messing about. He speaks; it’s done. 

So around half way through—just before Peter makes his famous “you are the Christ” declaration on the road to Caesarea Philippi—something very odd happens. 

"And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”' Mark 8:22-25

Epic fail?

What is going on here? Why, when every other time Jesus heals immediately, does he need to, effectively do it twice? Was Jesus having an off day? Was he tired from the travelling, or did he “do it wrong” somehow? Perplexing… 

But of course, it’s none of these things. And again, what seems strange when you are looking at the detail, suddenly makes sense when you look at the bigger picture. When we focus on the trees walking, we miss the shape of the forest.

The healings we read about in the gospels are significant because Jesus is using them to reveal something significant about himself, God, and the gospel message. It’s why John picks seven significant miracles and describes them as “signs”. Signs are designed to point us to something. Mostly, they point us to the identity of Jesus—who he is. But here, it is a kind of enacted parable pointing to what is about to happen with Peter.

Confused disciples

Just before this incident is a long conversation with the disciples about miracles and the demand for signs by the Pharisees. They talk about the feeding of the 5,000 and the subsequent feeding of the 4,000. But it is clear that the disciples still do not yet understand what’s going on. He says to them, with what I imagine to be frustration in his voice: 

"Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? … do you not yet understand?" Mark 8: 17-18, 20

And the astonishing thing is that they don’t get it! All the mighty miracles performed in their presence have not given them the understanding they need to know who Jesus is.

And then immediately afterwards Peter suddenly gets it: “You are the Christ” (v 29).

But then Jesus begins to teach them that…

“…the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mark 8: 31-33

Although Peter sees that Jesus is the Christ—he does not yet understand the kind of Messiah that the Lord Jesus came to be: a suffering servant who would die to bring forgiveness to the world, and usher in his kingdom and rule. Just like the man who is touched once by Jesus, and partially sees, Peter needs a “second touch” to fully comprehend who Jesus is, and what he has come to do. 

Far from losing his touch, the healing of the blind man in Mark is is a kind of enacted parable of what the disciples were about to go through. They were spiritually blind, God grants to them partial understanding, but there will come a time when they will fully “see” who Jesus truly is. This parable is a powerful reminder to them of how their understanding needs to grow. They spend the rest of Mark’s gospel seeing Jesus like the man sees people like trees walking around. Only as the full gospel story unfolds, with Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost will they finally understand more fully.

What do we take from this?

1. Always look at the context. Bible passages, perhaps especially in gospels, can feel like disconnected stories. They are not. The gospels are carefully constructed narratives where the stories link together and throw light on each other. Always read forwards and back, and from the beginning to the end. 

2. Understanding comes from God. Even when it seems blindly obvious to us, the truth of the matter evades both the Pharisees and Jesus closest friends, until we are “touched” by Jesus, who alone gives sight—understanding. So any of our preaching, teaching, explaining of the gospel to others must be soaked through with prayer that God would grant sight to those who listen—only he can do it.

3. Expect the same in our evangelism. I would not want to push this too hard, but it is our experience that people come slowly to an understanding of the gospel. People often have a number of significant moments in their journey towards Christ. Quite where along this road they are “converted” is sometimes hard to tell by us and them. So it encourages us to continue persevering in our prayers and in our gospel explanations as the light slowly dawns on our friends, as God opens their eyes.

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