Friday, 26 November 2010

The Samoan Circle

Let me tell you how I spent much of Thursday.

I had been invited to Carberry Tower by the Ministries Council of the Church of Scotland to be part of a group discussing the issue of same-sex relationships and the ministry. I had not a clue about what I was going to take part in, other than the banner for the meeting was A Place for Hope the Church's conflict resolution project.

There were about 30 of us there, all wondering why we had been invited. We were meant to represent a range of views and opinions on the issue and I suppose we did. I planned simply to listen. The day was facilitated by an American, David Brubecker, a man very skilled in his job of facilitation and resolution as we were to find out!

The Samoan Circle was 6 chairs forming an inner circle, a group within the group, as it were. Anyone who wanted to speak had to take one of the speaking chairs and the others were to listen. We were to answer a question about our opinions on this issue and then later a question about the future of the Church. I had no plan to speak.

However, in the afternoon I did speak. This is the gist of my contribution.

I have been in ministry for 28 years and in that time have grown well-used to being in a minority because of the views I hold. Until now, I have been able to live happily in that minority with no feeling of threat. This time it is different; this time, being in the minority feels being threatened! It feels, from where I sit, that those who appear to hold the majority view on this issue keep telling me what to do and what to believe and that the future of the church is down to me giving up my minority view. We are a broad Church, we are told and when I hear people say that, it is as if they are telling me I have to accommodate myself to them! My views are not about hating anyone, but are genuinely formed and sincerely held from my reading of the Bible. I tried to persuade the group that when we talk about the Church we need to be careful in how we speak: is it 'you' or is it 'we'? Is there a mutual responsibility for the Church or are you telling me what to do and what I should believe?

Having done this job for a while now, I hope I am still willing to listen to advice, but I also hope that those with whom I may disagree will treat me well and respect that there is a certain amount of experience and professional expertise behind the things I believe and the way in which I conduct my ministry. It is a delicate balance to hold.

The outcome of the Samoan Circle? A realisation that we all love the Church, but we still wait for the outcome of the General Assembly 2011.

Pray that we discern the will of God for His Church!

Friday, 5 November 2010

water, water everywhere!

As some of you know, I managed to knock a glass of water over my laptop, quite by accident during the Sunday@Seven service last week; the laptop was not only knocked out for the rest of the service, it has been permanently damaged beyond economic repair; I'm now in discussions with the insurance company about a replacement!

The same glass of water enables me to preach by quenching my thirst and lubricating my voice.

Last week, we heard that some parts of Poipet, Cambodia, were under water. Some of the villages we had visited in July were badly affected and Chomno sent us some photos and one is opposite. What looks like a river, is in fact a road; this is the road that leads to Safe Haven centre for rescued children. This flooding has had an impact on the local area: some rice fields have been ruined, meaning that some people will have no food next year and also no seed to plant in their fields next year; there is an increase in some water-borne diseases and some people suffering from HIV are made homeless.

This is the same water that the people of Poipet rely on to replenish their supplies; the wet season provides them with water to last all the way through the year till the next dry season because there is very little piped water and very few taps.
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37,38)
These words of Jesus mean two things according to Leon Morris:
1)"the thirsty soul will find supplied in Jesus that need which could not be supplied elsewhere"; faith refreshes and gives life.
2)"faith has its results. When the believer comes to Christ and drinks he not only slakes his thirst but receives such an abundant supply that veritable rivers flow from him... As he receives the gift of God, he passes it on to others... God uses him to be the means of bringing blessing to others."
Food for thought! (the next time it rains!!)