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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 Ed Loane and Alex Keen, 3 Jul 2020

Ed Loane and Alex Keen review two short books on evangelism.

Book cover of Have no Fear

This little book has been produced to help Christians have the confidence and tools to witness to those around them about Jesus Christ. Lennox, as a leading apologist, has written a simple and clear account of the why and how of personal evangelism. This is not a book that claims to give all the answers; rather its main aim is to encourage Christians to action. More than this, the book paints a picture of evangelism as a joy rather than a duty to be undertaken begrudgingly. The tone and anecdotal writing style add to this outcome.

Lennox begins by encouraging Christians to begin conversations with other people. This may sound simple, but I certainly found it a refreshing encouragement to take some initiative rather than just retreat into my own little world with earphones in and head in a book. Lennox illustrates with many ways he has begun conversations, for example with people he was sitting on a train with. He then demonstrates ways to turn the topic from general chit-chat to the Christian hope in a natural way which engages people and gets them thinking. Lennox discusses how to use Scripture in evangelism as well as the importance of behaviour in conveying the message. He gives simple demonstrations of ways he answers common questions like all religions being equal and he also gives a straightforward way to lead someone into taking the step of commitment to Christ.

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Posted by Jonathan Pountney, 2 Jul 2020

Jonathan Pountney shares some new apps designed to help Christians connect with old resources.

If there is one thing that the last few months have taught me, it’s my dependency on technology.

That might sound rather trite, but whether it’s the old-fashioned landline or state-of-the-art online video conferencing software, technology has made communication and human connection possible.  For all its flaws and frustrations – and, no doubt, there are many – the accessibility of technology has enabled me to keep in touch with family, work from home, and even – despite never having imagined this would ever need to happen – worship with our church family. Which is all to say that, along with the common graces that we regularly give thanks to God for, technology ought to be included.

Don’t mishear what I’m saying, there are some things that technology cannot compensate for, and I don’t mean to be an advocate for replacing the reality of human contact with virtual connection. But as the lockdown continues and, by God’s grace, begins to ease, let us heed the Apostle Paul’s direction in Philippians chapter 4 to avoid grumbling and reflect on the good things that technology is able to do to help make and mature disciples. For if we truly believe, as Colossians chapter 1 teaches us, that Christ has supremacy over all of creation, then doesn’t He have supremacy over our technology, too?

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Posted by Marc Lloyd, 1 Jul 2020

As new guidance allows for the possibility of communion in some form, Marc Lloyd continues his series of blog posts on the subject.

Some people have been looking at Communion services online. As part of our series on The Lord’s Supper, following on from our post on the Supper as a visible and edible word, when we are able to gather again around the Lord’s Table, where should we look?

We look back
As the Prayer Book and Common Worship both stipulate, the service of the Lord’s Supper will rightly involve confession of sin. We will want to look back over the last week and repent of all that we know to be wrong. As our parents taught us, we ought to wash our hands before we come to the table.

But above all in the Supper we look back to the great events of salvation history. They are the essential grounds of this meal. They celebrate a historical reality: the mighty deeds of God on behalf of his people.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 30 Jun 2020

The Summer 2020 edition of Crossway is now published and on its way to members and other subscribers.

In the past few months, circumstances have caused many of us to reflect on the nature of the gathered church, the physicality of the sacraments and the authority of our bishops. The articles in this edition of Crossway were largely planned and written well before we had any idea of what was coming, but they speak into our current situation in ways that I hope readers will find at times both challenging and reassuring.

In my article, I look at what it means for the church to be the laos, that is, ‘the people’ or ‘the laity’. Articles from Lee Gatiss and Tom Woolford focus on specific kinds of church ministry: the ordained ministry of priests and deacons, and the oversight of bishops across multiple congregations.  Tim Ward reviews an excellent book on how to hear sermons well, while Tom Woolford highlights a guide to the BCP. We also take a look at the sacraments, with Eleanor Brindle’s impassioned plea about being unashamed of infant baptism, especially in working with children and young people, while Paul Darlington contributes the first of two articles thinking about what we’re actually doing as we celebrate communion.

At the moment, I find myself longing more and more each week to be gathered together again with my church family. Working on this edition of Crossway has reminded me of the theological significance of everything it is that I am missing. I hope it will do the same for many of you.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 30 Jun 2020

Mark Wallace, Lee Gatiss and Ros Clarke chat about the issues of the day for the Church Society podcast.

This week we’re discussing the latest government guidance for places of worship, the implications of that for sharing communion, and the current state of Christian journalism.

Listen to the audio version here or subscribe to it via your usual podcast provider.

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Posted by Lee Gatiss, 29 Jun 2020

Lee Gatiss considers the art of catechism.

It takes two to tango, they say. It also takes at least two to catechise. Catechesis is from a Greek word meaning careful religious instruction. It is used eight times in the New Testament itself (e.g. Acts 18:25, Romans 2:18, Galatians 6:6). Christians have always been eager to develop effective means of instructing people in the faith, and particularly recent converts (either children or adults) who were early on known as catechumens prior to their baptism. Catechesis has often consisted of basic training in the essential foundations of Christian doctrine, with an especial focus throughout all of church history on the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed as central items for meditation and memorisation.

Question and Answer
Protestant catechisms developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as an aid to the basic biblical and doctrinal education of the laity (as opposed to the more clerical focus of the Tridentine Roman Catechism of 1566). They utilise a distinctive question and answer format, though this predates Protestantism itself and has been used as an educational method in other religions and even in secular contexts.

Several Protestant catechisms have attained the status of secondary or subordinate doctrinal standards (under Scripture) within denominations, most notably Luther’s catechisms and the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms. Protestantism emphasises individual responsibility before God for reading and understanding the Bible, and responding to God accordingly. This is why it was and has been a key driver of the two-step, “call and response” tradition of passing on the rudiments of doctrine, rather than a more sacerdotal form of spirituality where the priest with his sacraments are given greater centrality.

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Posted by Edward Bowes-Smith and Michael Hayden, 26 Jun 2020

Reviews of two books by J.C. Ryle, recently revised by Mary Davis.

What a powerful little book this is! This new edition of one of J. C. Ryle’s tracts is as refreshing as a citron pressé on a hot summer’s day. In three three short chapters Ryle gets right to the heart of what constitutes true happiness.

The first chapter focuses on the essential ingredients of true happiness. Ryle explains with succinct clarity that to be truly happy a person must have a source of happiness that lies outside of the material world—everything of this world is temporary and uncertain. Joy based on worldly distractions might be deeply felt but is short-lived.

The second chapter concerns itself with some of the common mistakes people make about the way to achieve happiness and it is striking how contemporary Ryle’s thoughts are at this point. Status, wealth, intelligence, leisure, and pleasure seeking are all examined and examples taken from Ryle’s day help to illustrate his point that human beings persist in seeking happiness where happiness cannot ultimately be found. Over each of these fountains God has written, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.”

In his final chapter Ryle explains the way to be really happy is to join him in being a real, thorough-going, true hearted Christian. The Christian is in a uniquely happy position compared to the unbeliever. They have a clear conscience before God and a deep inner peace. The true Christian is happy because their heart is in the right place, not set on this world, but the next. Ryle ends with a plea to those who are not yet believers to come to Christ and to those who are Christians not to rest on old grace but to press on deeper into Christ and to find an even greater happiness in His service.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 25 Jun 2020

Ros Clarke's article from the Autumn 2019 edition of Crossway looks at the ultimate, eternal reality of sex.

“Bible-believing Christians hate gay people, we repress our sexuality, we are ashamed of our own bodies, we don’t care about people being lonely, frustrated, unloved or abused, we are more concerned with arbitrary rules than people’s happiness.”

That is what the world thinks of us. The world looks at the church and sees discrimination and exclusion, when we know that the gospel message is one of inclusivity and diversity, of love that transcends boundaries.

The world looks at the church and sees prudes and killjoys, when we know that Christ came in order that we might have life, and have it to the full.

The world looks at the church and sees abusers and hypocrites, when we know that in reality our pews are simply filled with forgiven sinners, as weak and flawed and wicked as anyone else, but welcomed, forgiven, healed and redeemed in Christ.

The world is hearing a false story but they are believing it. People in our churches are hearing that false story too and more and more of them are believing it. Simply telling them what the Bible says about who is allowed to have sex and when and with whom, treating the Bible merely as a rulebook to be obeyed, isn’t enough. What we need is not a rulebook, but a love letter from our bridegroom, wooing us tenderly, seducing us into faithfulness to him.

We all need this better story. Whether you’re married or single, whether you have a fabulously satisfying sex life, or one that is painful and frustrating, whether you’re widowed or divorced, whether you’ve been abused or assaulted, whether you’re a virgin or whether you’ve had a whole string of shameful sexual experiences, whether you’re attracted to people of the same sex or the opposite sex, to both sexes or neither. Whatever your experience of sex and sexuality, you are part of this bigger story, this great romance in which God sweeps his people off their feet and into his arms.

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Photo by Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash

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Posted by George Crowder, 24 Jun 2020

George Crowder begins a new mini-series on the New Testament model for church leadership.

Harmonious partnership between churches plays out sweet symphonies of fruitfulness and faithfulness, but just as an orchestra requires a conductor, partnership requires leadership.  For healthy church partnerships, the question is not whether leadership, but what kind.

‘Partnership’ does not capture the whole meaning of the Greek word, koinonia.  As I have shown from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, koinonia works at three levels.  It is, firstly, the spiritual unity between the individual believer and Christ.  United with him in his death, our sins are expunged (3:10).  United with him in his resurrection, our resurrection hope is secure (3:11). 

Secondly, that unity with Christ forges a bond between believers in the local church, which is expressed in gathered worship, mutual care and communal testimony to outsiders (2:1-4).  Servant-hearted leadership is vital to keep this fellowship of believers rooted in God’s word and growing in faith and godliness.  Hence the appointment of pastor-teachers is actively promoted, and their qualifications carefully prescribed, in several places in the New Testament.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 23 Jun 2020

Instead of our usual residential conference, this year we are excited to offer a 'Virtual Summer of JAEC'.

How can we be faithfully Anglican as we contend for the gospel in the church today?

We’ll need to understand what the church is, how it is governed and structured, how we worship together, and how we pray. At this year’s conference we will be doing that by exploring the essentials of Anglican ecclesiology, Anglican liturgy, and Anglican spirituality.  Each main session will have a follow up, either in a guided discussion time or in the optional seminars, helping us to ground the principles in good practice and to apply them to contemporary debates. Other seminars will help us see our place within the global church, and focus on specific stages of ministry and life.

We’re delighted to have James Hughes (Vicar of St Alkmund’s Duffield), Mark Smith (Dean of Clare College, Cambridge) and Mark Pickles (Director of the Northwest Partnership) leading our three main sessions on Faithful Ecclesiology, Rich Liturgy, and Deep Spirituality respectively. Bishop Graham Tomlin will be giving the conference Bible Reading from Daniel 6 and 9.

These four sessions will be held on Tuesday 1st September and Wednesday 2nd September as Zoom events. Conference delegates will need to register in advance for these sessions, and will also be able to sign up for seminars happening over the summer. There is no charge for the conference. However, if delegates wanted to make a donation to Church Society, that would be very much appreciated.

Register now for the Summer of JAEC

While we are disappointed not to be able to enjoy the fellowship of time together, we hope that our plans for a ‘Virtual Summer of JAEC’ will enable many more people to benefit from this year’s programme, and we pray that it will serve to foster wider and deeper relationships among evangelical Anglicans at these early stages of ministry.

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