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We update our blog several times a week, with news and comment on ministry, theology, the Bible, liturgy and issues of the day.

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Posted by Michael Hayden, 24 Jan 2019

Michael Hayden continues our mini-series reflecting on Christmas in the church with some thoughts about the Santa Claus myth

In the weeks before Christmas, President Trump yet again made the headlines, this time for daring to ask a seven year old child whether they still believe in Santa Claus, before describing such belief at that age as “marginal”. This led to a flurry of news stories condemning President Trump, and seeking to reassure the world’s children that Santa does, in fact exist. Such a story headline is hardly new; there have been several vicars who have made headlines for much the same reason, and this Christian charity who allegedly asked children to smash up a chocolate Santa to show that wasn’t what Christmas was about. And how many parents have experienced the stress of older siblings coming to realise the truth, whilst younger children still believe? This, I think, poses a challenge for us as Christians, and Christian parents in particular: should we join society in teaching children to believe in Santa Claus, or should we join with those who believe they are standing for the truth by quelling the lie?

Well, as a single person, I have no way of knowing where my thoughts on this might stand if/when I might have children, but at the moment I envisage some guiding principles governing my thoughts on the matter. I offer them here for consideration, ideally as part of a larger conversation on the matter.

1. I don’t believe the dichotomy need be as sharp as laid out in my opening paragraph. Uneasiness with the consumerism built around the Santa myth need not result in us feeling the need to go around viciously spoiling the festivities of small children, à la Ebenezer Scrooge. There may be a way of helping our children engage with the Santa myth that doesn’t sell out to the wider culture, in a similar way that they might enter the world of any other fairy story or imagination game. It could well be argued that there is no difference between telling children about Santa, and telling them about Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel, or even reading them a Narnia book. But, I would gently push back, there is one significant difference: teaching children the Santa story results in something quite tangible—presents on Christmas morning. There is more incentive for children to believe in a real Santa than a real Aslan.

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Posted by Lee Gatiss , 23 Jan 2019

The theme of the Lectionary readings this week is the necessity of the proclamation of God’s word to the community of God’s people.

The readings for the Third Sunday of Epiphany (or the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany when 6th January is on a Sunday, as it is in 2019), are Nehemiah 8:1-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21.

You can follow along with these video expositions on the Lee on the Lectionary Facebook page. We also tweet the video link every Sunday morning at 6am for those who like a morning exposition of the word to begin the week. Follow us @churchsociety.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 21 Jan 2019

This week Ros ventures across the border into Wales, to talk to Mark Broadway, a curate in the Church in Wales.

The Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales

Anglican Essentials Wales Conference

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Posted by Stephen Walton, 18 Jan 2019

Stephen Walton looks at the connections between two of the current stories in the Church of England: transgender liturgy and resurrection-denying clergy

The crisis in the Church of England has been brought into the light by two stories that hit the news in the last month. At first, they may not appear to have much to do with each other. But on a deep level, they are closely connected, as we shall see.

The first was the publication on 11th December of the House of Bishops guidance on services for marking gender transition (see here for the press release and a link to the guidance document). The Church of England is here leaping onto a cultural bandwagon, but without checking to see who is steering it, or which direction it is racing in. Transgender people experience “gender dysphoria”, a perceived mismatch between their physical sex, and the gender with which they identify, which causes great discomfort and distress. So some may go through “gender transition”, which may mean legally adopting a new name, dressing and living as the gender with which they identify, taking hormones, and having surgery that changes their physical sex to match their perceived gender. This is a horrible situation for anyone to be in, and our hearts should go out to anyone who experiences this.

Of course, churches should be doing all they can to love and welcome transgender people. But the House of Bishops guidance goes farther than this. It proposes that gender transition should be met with “unconditional affirmation”, and marked by services in church of a “celebratory” nature. Furthermore, it recommends the use of the Service for the Affirmation of Baptismal Vows or, if someone has not already been baptised, the Service of Baptism. This is very serious and completely wrong; the objections to it have already been stated by, amongst others, Lee Gatiss and Ian Paul.

The second news story was the announcement on 8th January 2019 of the appointment of an interim director for the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Anglican Communion’s embassy at the Vatican. The new director is the Very Revd Dr John Shepherd, formerly dean of St George’s Cathedral, Perth, Australia. Soon after the announcement it came to light that in his 2008 Easter message, Dr Shepherd had denied that Jesus rose from the dead bodily. According to Dr Shepherd, “The Resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the Resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body… Jesus’ early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts”.

This is, if possible, an even more serious departure from the gospel than the guidance on transgender services. Again Dr Lee Gatiss, the Director of Church Society, has called on Dr Shepherd to resign

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Photo by Image from https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/whats-wrong-with-transgender-liturgy/

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Posted by Adam Young, 17 Jan 2019

In the first of a mini-series examining Christianity and Christmas, Adam Young explores three areas where churches frequently make compromises at Christmas which they would not tolerate at other times.

Christmas; you either love it or loathe it.

This is true even for clergy, for whom Christmas is incredibly stressful and highly pressured.  I doubt that any clergy are ever “ready for Christmas.”  To make things worse I’ve found that the longer I have been in ministry the more my conscience and integrity have been challenged by what we are expected to do.

Christmas offers unrivaled evangelistic opportunity.  At crib services our churches are filled with young families and children.  At midnight we meet people who would never normally be found in church—mainly because they now have dutch courage. We have a ready-made excuse to knock on doors and sing worship to the Lord Jesus.  It really is a unique and precious opportunity to reach out to our communities with the gospel and hospitality.

But I feel the nagging question: at what cost?

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Posted by Lee Gatiss , 16 Jan 2019

In this week’s readings we rejoice that in the coming of Christ all things have been made gloriously new.

The readings for the Second Sunday of Epiphany (or the Third Sunday of Epiphany when 6th January is on a Sunday, as it is in 2019), are Isaiah 62:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11.

You can follow along with these video expositions on the Lee on the Lectionary Facebook page. We also tweet the video link every Sunday morning at 6am for those who like a morning exposition of the word to begin the week. Follow us @churchsociety.

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Posted by Isaac Pain, 15 Jan 2019

Isaac Pain shares his newfound recognition of the Anglican communion service as a covenant renewal ceremony.

On Epiphany Sunday this year I had, well, an epiphany. During the week leading up to our Sunday service I had been reading Meredith Kline’s The Structure of Biblical Authority. Kline is well known for his insights into how ANE covenant treaties between suzerains and vassals sheds light not only on our reading of Deuteronomy, but in fact upon the whole of the Scriptures. And so it was with covenantal concepts in the forefront of my mind that I stood up to lead our Holy Communion service on Epiphany Sunday. After praying the Prayer of Preparation I began to read the summary of the law, and then it hit me. I knew what we were doing. I suddenly found myself in the middle of a covenant renewal ceremony. I did a kind of mental jaw drop as suddenly rabbits darted in various directions pursuing all the implications of what had just dawned on me. No doubt this is not news to many readers, but for me it was a revelation.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 14 Jan 2019

Ros Clarke talks to Gerald Bray, the former editor of Churchman about the journal, academic theology, and raising up a new generation of scholars.

Gerald Bray editorials

Gerald Bray Essay Prize

Subscribe to Churchman

Contact Gerald via the Latimer Trust

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Posted by Lee Gatiss , 9 Jan 2019

In our readings this week we celebrate the baptism of Christ.

The lectionary readings for the First Sunday of Epiphany (known as the Second Sunday of Epiphany when 6th January is a Sunday, as it is in 2019) are Isaiah 43:1-7, Acts 8:14-17, and Luke 3:15-17 and 21-22.

You can follow along with these video expositions on the Lee on the Lectionary Facebook page. We also tweet the video link every Sunday morning at 6am for those who like a morning exposition of the word to begin the week. Follow us @churchsociety.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 7 Jan 2019

Ros Clarke and Amanda Robbie discuss Glen Scrivener's, 'Long Story Short'.

Cover of Long Story Short

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