Advent and Christmas resources available from Church Society and elsewhere this year.
We have two sets of Advent devotional resources this year.
Lee Gatiss is resuming his popular daily Bible and Prayer videos during Advent. In these short videos, Lee reads from the Bible and then leads us in prayer. These are an excellent way to pause for a couple of minutes during a busy day and focus on the Lord. These will be available on our YouTube channel and there will be links to them on our Twitter and Facebook pages every day.
How to be a Christian is a series of daily written devotionals, based on the Book of Homilies. Each day there will be a suggested Bible passage, followed by a devotional thought, a couple of questions to consider and a prayer. These devotionals will be available on Prayermate or you can sign up here to have them emailed directly to you every day. Topics include: how to forgive, how to please God, how to love, how to have hope, how to disagree and many more.
Both these Advent series will begin on Advent Sunday, November 29th.
The team of Regional Directors chat to Ros about their work around the country.
Chris Moore, George Crowder and Tony Cannon chat to Ros Clarke about the work of the Church Society Regional Directors in supporting local groups, building networks and encouraging individual ministers around the country.
Lee Gatiss shares some of his initial reflections on Living in Love and Faith.
This whole Living in Love and Faith thing is huge. A 450 page book, a 5 week course, and 50 or so detailed scholarly papers online in a library, plus 30 hours of videos and podcasts. Not only that, but there is already an array of initial responses and comments from various bloggers and tweeters. So it’s hard work keeping on top of all this.
Overall, I want to say this: Ultimately, there is absolutely nothing in LLF which warrants a change in the Church’s doctrine or practice. It simply fails to present a sufficient case to justify revision, if that’s what some were hoping it would do. The clearer our feedback to the process of discernment on the back of this, the better.
Chewing gum for food
At a meeting I was at with various contributors to the LLF material, a bishop said that we need to keep looking at God’s word on this subject, because “obviously we have not done a good enough job yet.” We need to climb down from our positions and listen to each other, she said, hold our convictions provisionally, and keep learning. This sounds nice, and it is obviously a good thing to look at God’s word. But I was reminded of Paul telling Timothy that some people will be always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). It is a characteristic of false teachers to always give us chewing gum in place of food.
Andrew Bellis reviews Graham Cole's Faithful Theology: An Introduction
In the spirit of teaching someone how to fish, rather than simply handing over his own catch, Graham Cole, dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has blessed us with an excellent short book on theological method. This is the introductory volume for a new Crossway series entitled Short Studies in Systematic Theology. Volumes on the Trinity, Christology and Pneumatology, among others, are planned.
Although the book is brief (barely more than 100 small pages), it is not dumbed-down. The doctrine of the Trinity is Cole’s go-to example for demonstrating the outworking of his method throughout, and he includes a brief discussion of both the substance of the Chalcedonian Definition and its approach to maintaining orthodoxy.
Kirsty Birkett shares some observations about how the Living in Love and Faith book recognises genuine disagreements.
I would like to commend the authors of the Living in Love and Faith book (I have not looked at the other resources yet) for their insight and honesty. This is a book that provides a clear description of what the Bible says about marriage and sexual relationships. It contains some very good writing about relationships and how we live. There is a lot of content here, but presented in a way (and this includes format, as well as clear writing) so as to help the reader absorb it. It does not dodge the issues. This is also not a book that tries to paper over differences, but clearly explains where disagreements lie and why people might hold these differences.
There are differences in vision of ourselves:
Some, for instance, see talk of the ‘God-given ordering of creation’ as another way of saying that God made human beings for love, and that we become who we were meant to be by the right ordering of our love. For others, it is a way of saying that we need to follow all the instructions of the one who made us and our world, and not just those that focus on love, if we are to flourish, live well, and become the creatures that God intends us to be (p. 214).
This video from CEEC tells the Bible's beautiful story concerning sex and relationships.
From the CEEC description: Christians believe that the gospel is good news for all people and for all time. But since the narratives of our contemporary culture don’t always echo a biblical worldview, the church needs to be clear about how the gospel challenges and transforms human experience – including in our relationships and sexuality. The Beautiful Story is a 30 minute film that explains how a biblical vision for human sexuality is good for individuals, the church and society as a whole. It is intended to galvanise and support discussion in local churches around sexuality and relationships and to provide the case for what many call a traditional Christian viewpoint.
It has been made by the Church of England Evangelical Council (founded by John Stott and others) – a network of networks that connects the majority of evangelicals in the Church of England. The contributors include bishops, clergy and well known lay leaders – all of whom recognise that the church has not always got things right in the area of relationships and sexuality and who share in this film both from their personal experience and from their biblical convictions.
There are further resources, including suggestions on how churches might use this video and accompanying material, on the CEEC website.
Lee Gatiss and Kirsten Birkett share their first impressions of the Living in Love and Faith resources with Ros Clarke.
We’re delighted that the Church Society podcast is back, in both audio and video formats, kicking off with this discussion featuring Lee Gatiss and Kirsten Birkett, in the week that the Church of England published the Living in Love and Faith book, along with the suite of accompanying resources. Lee and Kirsty share their first impressions of the material and make suggestions about how we begin to respond to it.
Robin Barfield reviews John Perritt's "Not If, But When: Preparing Our Children For Worldly Images".
The responsibility of talking to our children about sex is a great one and a difficult one, even more so talking to them about pornography. When pornography is prevalent in our society and younger children are being exposed to it, having a resource which gives parents helpful words to share is of high value. John Perritt attempts to do just this. The book is aimed at 7–12 year olds, and while this may seem young, most children will have seen some form of pornographic image by the age of 11 and this book seeks to protect and prepare.
The book is split into two parts: the first to read with girls and the second with boys. This seems immediately sensible as the way we would want to relate these issues to each will differ. I read through the second half, slowly with my sons to road test it. Perritt has set the information in the form of a conversation between a mother and a daughter over the advances of a boy at a waterpark and between a father and his son over the viewing of a pornographic image. The conversations develop around Biblical passages and ideas, as questions are asked and wisdom is shared.
As the Church of England publishes its Living in Love and Faith resources, CEEC makes a statement in response.
The Living in Love and Faith resources published today include a book, a five part course, podcasts and videos. These can be found on the Church of England website, and by registering for the Learning Hub. The book can be read free online or downloaded as separate pdfs for each chapter, if you prefer not to purchase the paper edition.
The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), of which Church Society is a member, have published the following press release in response:
Living in Love and Faith: evangelicals say they are ‘ready to engage and ready to contend’
Evangelicals in the Church of England have promised to ‘look closely’ at newly-published materials on sex, relationships and gender.
They say the key test for them will be whether what is set out is consistent with the teaching of the Bible. And they have pledged that, while they will encourage all evangelicals to engage and listen carefully, they will also contend ‘unflaggingly’ for ‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’.
Christopher Idle reviews Robert Smith's, "Come, Let Us Sing: A Call to Musical Reformation"
In this attractive but disturbing manifesto, a Sydney Anglican exposes two scandals which damage evangelical Christians when and wherever they meet.
One is their virtual abandonment of the Psalms, in spite of the unparalleled resources now available. Michael Baughen’s early initiatives are noted, but not the complete metrical Psalters from Carl Daw, Martin Leckebusch, David Preston or Emma Turl. Brian Wren and John Bell are quoted for their hymn-related wisdom but not their hymns, so also Brian Edwards for his book on revival, but not his masterminding a hymnal (Praise!) which opens with 150-plus Psalm versions. Most of those named are content, like Watts and Wesley, to leave the music to others.
The second blot on our gatherings is the wholesale surrender to the current culture of singer/songwriters, too many of whom can neither write nor sing. Pastors whose teaching programmes would scorn any hint of sub-standard doctrine seem content to entertain their flock on a diet of musical junk food. This is put more politely in quotations from Nick Page and David Montgomery, who says, “The standard of contemporary worship songs is embarrassingly low.”