This week's Church of England online service is led by Lee Gatiss.
This week’s Church of England online service is led by Rev Dr Lee Gatiss, the Director of Church Society. In his sermon, Lee reflects on God’s kindness and mercy. The prayers are led by Ros Clarke, with readings from Gideon Emmanuel and Niv Lobo. Music is performed by Olivia Chapman.
The service will be available from 9am on Sunday 9th August here.
Geoff Locke reviews Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America by Michael Winship.
This is a good year to read Professor Winship’s book. Four hundred years ago, on 6 September 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers finally set sail for America – an event that deserves to be celebrated.
“The hotter sort of Protestants are called Puritans” said Perceval Wiburn in 1581. It was a term of abuse, much like “Methodist” or “God squad”. The Puritans, in popular estimation, were grim-faced people who disapproved of anybody having fun. On the other side of the Atlantic – as portrayed in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible – they executed innocent women accused of witchcraft. What Winship seeks to do is to tell the tale of the Puritans accurately and sympathetically, relating how this side of the Atlantic came to influence the other.
In this article from the Spring 2015 edition of Crossway, mediaeval historian Andrea Ruddick looks at the implications of the Magna Carta for the freedom of the church.
It is unlikely to have escaped your notice by now that 2015 marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta, the famous charter of English liberties issued by King John in 1215. Or, at least, the eight-hundredth anniversary of its first draft… In fact, Magna Carta did not attain its iconic status as the cornerstone of English democracy until somewhat later. Its rebranding as a repository of ‘British values’ is still more recent.
The mythology that has grown up around it as a key text for seventeenth-century English parliamentarians and eighteenth-century American revolutionaries would certainly have surprised its original compilers. For the first ‘Great Charter’, signed by John at Runnymede in June 1215, was simply the product of peace negotiations between the king and his rebellious barons. It was never intended to be a timeless statement of abstract ‘rights’. These peace negotiations proved unsuccessful, however, as John almost immediately went back on his word. The ensuing civil war was only halted by his convenient death in 1216, which enabled the political community to rally around his nine-year-old son, Henry III, for a fresh start.The original Magna Carta was a hotch-potch of traditional grievances and particular complaints about John’s tyrannical kingship, with one or two genuinely innovative ideas thrown into the mix. Many of its more specific clauses quickly became obsolete, and most of its provisions only affected the highest levels of society. Nonetheless, the principles behind its provisions, especially the idea that the king should not arbitrarily take his subjects’ property, made the Charter an important symbol of good government during the Middle Ages. It was repeatedly reissued over the next three centuries, usually as a pledge of goodwill when the king was planning to ask for more taxes.
This is an excellent little book which is well worth a read by anyone with a hunger to know God’s word better. Esther may not mention God in any verse, but each chapter of David Strain’s book not only expounds the text, but also points to Christ in a heart-warming way. He is similarly faithful in opening up Ruth.
The ‘Focus on the Bible’ Series aims to be ‘Readable, Reliable, Relevant’. David Strain’s treatment of Ruth and Esther score highly on each account. The divisions of the text, and thus chapters of the book, are appropriately done, with Ruth broken into six chapters and Esther, nine. In each chapter, Strain expounds the text carefully and movingly. You can tell that this has been worked on by someone who is diligent with the text and the particular nuances that each book brings, just as much as you can hear the preacher’s voice and tone as he opens up God’s word. It was particularly pleasing to see each chapter lead us to fulfilment in Jesus in a real and relevant way: obviously essential but sadly not always included in Old Testament commentaries (or sermons?).
Lee Gatiss responds to the mention of Church Society in a recent blogpost about Stephen Sizer
Racial harassment and abuse are offensive to God who made each one of us in his image, and to our Lord Jesus in whom (by grace alone through faith alone) “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).
Church Society has been mentioned in a blogpost concerning the Revd Stephen Sizer against whom various accusations of antisemitic racism have been levelled. Dr Sizer wrote two articles for Churchman published in 1999 and 2001, not singled out for any criticism as such, though as always pointed out in the journal, “the views expressed by authors of articles or reviews do not necessarily represent those of Church Society.” Since we publish a large range of material from diverse sources, clearly we do not endorse all the views of all our contributors, and it has never been necessary to be a member of Church Society (or even an Anglican) to contribute. Stephen Sizer was elected to be a member of Church Society Council in the late 1990s (until 1999). He left the Society for some time, but became a member again briefly as part of the merger with Reform in 2018. He is no longer a member.
We were sent an earlier draft of the blogpost about Mr Sizer, which was considered at our last Council meeting. The Council noted that a proper legal due process seemed to have been followed with regards to him. They were pleased to see that the Board of Deputies of British Jews had agreed its complaint about Dr Sizer’s behaviour was resolved (according to the agreed statement). A further investigation seems to have been undertaken after this too, under the Church of England’s clergy discipline procedure, according to reports. The Council did not consider it to be their place to re-investigate or second guess that complex and time-consuming official process. Ministers are accountable to their bishops.
Ben Sear reviews Mike Reeves's introduction to Charles Spurgeon's teaching on the Christian life.
Michael Reeves has gifted us an excellent addition to the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series, which is clearly written and a joy to read. Reeves does a good job of letting Spurgeon do much of the talking, which he tells us is exactly what he set out to do. The book is, therefore, full of wonderful Spurgeon stories and quotations. The chapter themes provide us with a clear presentation of Spurgeon’s theology and ministry priorities, but also his character and desire to enjoy his God-given life. I think, if anything, it was “meeting” the person of Spurgeon in this book that was the most encouraging part.
In the opening chapter we meet a man whose theology shaped his life, which led to living life “full-on.” He was a kind man, a fun man, someone who lived in the knowledge of his Heavenly Father’s care and sought to enjoy and learn as much about this God-given world as he could. He believed that cheerfulness wins souls. The later chapters remind us that Spurgeon’s life certainly wasn’t free from suffering. He was a man who wrestled with depression and physical pain, but we are given an insight into how he found comfort in Christ and spoke comfort into the lives of others.
Wallace Benn remembers the life and influence of his former tutor, Jim Packer (1926-2020).
It was announced on Friday 17th July that Dr. Packer had passed away. It is a sad day for Reformed Evangelicals because we have lost our champion, but not for him as he is now with the Saviour he honoured throughout his life. He was the best Anglican Evangelical theologian of his generation, and a brilliant communicator of warm-hearted and big-minded classical evangelicalism. His wonderful books will live on, and as they are read by a new generation, will, please God, give them a deeper and more profound understanding of the Christian Faith, and deliver them from a weaker and more muddled modern version.
He saw himself as “a voice that called people back to the old paths of truth and wisdom”, and he wrote, “I should like to remembered as one who pointed to the pasturelands”. In an interview done for Crossway in 2015, he said:
“As I look back on the life that I have lived, I would like to be remembered as a voice- a voice that focused on the authority of the Bible, the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the wonder of his substitutionary sacrifice and atonement for our sins.
I would like to be remembered as a voice calling Christian people to holiness and challenging lapses in Christian moral standards.
I should like to be remembered as someone who was always courteous in controversy, but without compromise.
I ask you to thank God for the way that he has led me…”
Lee Gatiss kicks off our Virtual Summer of JAEC with a powerful pastoral charge from Titus 2.
If you are junior, Anglican and evangelical, you are warmly invited to join us now in the JAEC Facebook group where we will be watching this together and have chance to discuss it with Lee. We will also be joining together for Evening Prayer at 9pm.
All the information about this year’s conference plus details of how to register are here. Please note that the seminars, workshops and keynote papers will not be streamed publicly on the website. Delegates must be registered in advance and will be sent details about accessing the content on Zoom.
Rob Brewis reviews Brian Rosner's book on identity.
This is a great book that offers true comfort to broken believers and real insights into deep scriptural themes. Rosner takes a biblical theological approach, looking at what it means to belong to and be known by God, seeking to shown how this over-looked theme is developed through the canon. Rosner’s contention is that being known by God and belonging to God are key to self-identity.
After setting out the nature of western society’s contemporary identity angst and assessing our common identity markers, Rosner turns to Scripture to explain what humans are, what it means to be made in the image of God, being known by God in the OT and known by God and Christ in the NT, how our union with Christ affects our identity, how being adopted shapes our self-understanding and behaviour, and finally, how God’s work of salvation in and through Christ gives us a shared memory and defining destiny with other believers.