Today Friday March 15th young people all over the UK and here in Truro will walk out of their schools to protest about the woeful lack of action on climate change. The protests have been controversial but these young people will bear the brunt of the coming climate change and rightly see it as a catastrophic problem that is worth missing school in order to try and effect political change to avert disaster. It can be difficult for those of an older generation who have known the environment as stable and still with plenty of resources to take seriously the risk we face today. As Christians however, we have a duty to protest when we see the world and political or other powers behaving in a way which threatens God’s creation and the well- being of others, particularly the poor who bear the brunt of climate change around the world.
Being followers of Jesus means that we should be working to bring the full reality of the Kingdom of God into being: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10. The Kingdom of God is not “of this world” meaning that it is not part of, or subject to, the political and cultural powers of any place or time but it is very much of the created world and God’s plan is for the care and redemption of the whole creation.
The Jewish religion honours the fragile created world, and the Old Testament speaks of the need for Sabbath and regular rests for the earth and the 50 year Jubilee, where land was rested: “but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. “ Leviticus 25:4-5.
There is actually a long history of Christian campaigning and care for the environment which has only become more muted in recent years, some would say because of a fear of association with “pagan” or “New Age” religion within the Green movement. However, abuse of God’s creation is a sin. God created the world and sustains it moment by moment, he loved it so much he became incarnate within it in the person of Jesus. Therefore it becomes a Christian duty to protest when this creation is under threat. As Pete Enns says:
“We are humans living here and now under systems of government, but we are also living in and trying to embody here and now our deeper “heavenly” citizenship. ….. I take it as non-negotiable that the Christian’s first allegiance is to God and God’s kingdom. Doing so is why we are “saved” in the first place—not to escape this world but to help transform it.”
For those who are looking to join in with today's protest it begins at 9am from Lemon Quay, Truro and travels to New County Hall at 1100 followed by:
1200 Open letter read to government and a platform for youth to voice their concerns
1230 Study session
1300 Q&A with Sue James and hopefully other members of CCC
Please make sure you have spoken to your school or college about your desire to join the march before attending it.
Resistance begins in Lent.
Lent begins this Wednesday the 6th March, Ash Wednesday. Many of us are familiar with Lent in terms of giving things up, chocolate and alcohol being favourites. The church marks Lent from Ash Wednesday until Easter Saturday to remind the church of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil.
Jesus’ time in the wilderness happened immediately after his baptism and at the beginning of his public ministry. Matthew and Luke’s gospels describe Jesus’ temptation, with the somewhat disturbing statement that he was not forced by the devil but “led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”. We do not want to be led into temptation, praying specifically in the Lord’s Prayer that we will not be. A better translation is probably “Lead us not into a time of trial, or testing”. Of course, Jesus himself taught us the prayer, knowing that in our weakness we will struggle to resist as he did. The other interesting point is that the gospels record that the devil only began to tempt Jesus at the end of the forty days and nights, when he was starving and exhausted. Another way of looking at this is that when we are forced by circumstance to rely on God or more accurately, realise our complete dependence on God, then we are able to do more than we thought possible because we stop taking control and getting in the way of what God wants us to do.
Jesus resisted the devil in three ways: when the devil urged him to turn stones to loaves of bread, Jesus reminds him of the bigger picture, by quoting scripture “It is written, One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” In other words, satisfying only our immediate material needs does not lead to Life in all its fullness. In a wider sense Jesus calls us to look beyond our own lives, families, careers, racial, religious or social groupings to listen to God’s word for the whole of humanity and creation. Simply “looking after our own” is not an option for followers of Jesus.
Secondly, when the devil tempted Jesus to throw himself from the temple to be saved by angels, Jesus replied “Again it is written, do not put the Lord your God to the test” Here the devil is quoting scripture (Psalm 91) to Jesus. How often are we tempted to make a grand gesture or do something we know may harm ourselves or others rather than truly doing God’s will, believing that God will somehow retrieve us from the mess.
Finally, the devil stops beating around the bush and tries a full-on bribe, promising Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he falls down and worships him. Jesus replies with a sharp rebuke to match the bribe: “Away with you Satan! For it is written, worship the Lord your God and serve only him” Although the devil’s attempt seems like an obvious ploy, sadly humans are not immune to this kind of temptation. Although it appears the crudest and most obvious temptation on one level, the temptation of power can also take subtle forms, especially when we start to justify it as promoting our faith like some American Christians who see the Trump administration as somehow ordained by God. We follow Jesus who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” (Philippians 2:6-7), therefore we take the powerless way of servanthood to each other and God.
Many of us will give something up for Lent but perhaps we could also practice resistance against the forces of evil that are prevalent in our world today, both blatant and subtle.
Some people who may inspire you: Rosa Parks, who was tired and worn out but found the strength to resist discrimination in the American South during the civil rights movement. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama Parks refused the bus driver’s order to relinquish her seat in the "coloured section" to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. Parks' act of defiance and the Montgomery bus boycott became important symbols of the movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.
Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, given the 2018 Nobel Peace prize for resisting power and the forces of shame. The physician Denis Mukwege has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war. Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq and herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.
More locally, peace activist Paul Haines, who has resisted the world’s constant warring by walking for peace from Rome to Jerusalem in 2015 and organises events every year for World Peace Day right here in Truro.
We can build resistance into our days in small ways too, indeed we must begin and continue with this to make it part of the fabric of our lives. In an atmosphere of increasing hate and suspicion of “others”, simply being open and friendly can become an act of resistance-chat to someone at the bus stop, gently challenge the untruths you hear in conversation if necessary and consciously replace judgement with love next time you catch yourself judging others. Resist the forces of commercialisation and over-industrialisation by making a garden, growing food, buying less. The possibilities are endless and you will think of your own Godly resistance to evil that expresses the unique way that God shows His love through you.
Step out boldly whatever you do, for Jesus says “take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
This month's blog was written by Kirsty who works for All Saints as our Parish Administrator.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!
During yet another commercial enterprise by the retail world that insists that the only way you can show your love for another is by helping with their profit margin! I offer something of an alternative look at Saint Valentine of Rome.
What you may not hear today is that St Valentine was a proper holy agitator. A 3rd century religious menace living and working in the heart of a very oppressive Roman world under Claudius II.
Valentine lived in Rome at a time when Christians were often persecuted. The reason for the persecution was the Christian claim of Christ’s sovereignty, which inevitably clashed with Caesar's claim of his own exclusive power and self-proclaimed godlike status. There was an expectation that all citizens would adhere to all the practices of the state religion by attending numerous feast and festival days throughout the year.
There are many legends of Valentine -- that he courageously refused to pay homage to the imperial gods faithful only to Christ, and that he was a war resister, subversively marrying young couples preventing the men from going to war (the emperor Claudius believed unmarried men made better soldiers so married men were spared the horrors of war).
His subversive behaviour ended with Valentine being clubbed, beaten and stoned to death, and finally beheaded on February 14th, 269CE. In the year 496, February 14 was named as a day of celebration in Valentine’s honour.
So what should we be marking on the day of his death?
Well this story of Valentine might help. Just before Valentine was executed by Claudius’ charge, whilst imprisoned, Valentine became friends with the daughter of his captor and judge. While under the arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus (the Latin version of his name) was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge's adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl's sight, Asterius would do whatever he asked. Valentinus, praying to God, laid his hands on her eyes and the child's vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus replied that all of the idols around the judge's house should be broken, and that the judge should fast for three days and then undergo the Christian sacrament of baptism. The judge obeyed and, as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family, and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) were baptized. Then, as the legend goes -- on the day of Valentine’s execution, he left the Judge’s daughter a note signed: "Your Valentine" ... instigating what has become a classic Valentine's tradition around the world -- of sending little notes to people we love (or people we would like to love).
So today I task you with a few challenges. Firstly, ask a Christian about baptism and Jesus, or if someone wants to talk to you about Jesus, don’t switch off and dismiss them, listen and see what they have to say, because today is Valentine’s Day and the only reason we mark the day is because of Valentine's faith. Secondly, in memory of Valentine’s remarkable courage make sure you say with all your heart how much you love those who mean the most to you, like your wife, husband, partner, family members, closest friend. Whoever it might be to you, make sure you’ve had the time to say how much you love them. Thirdly, in memory of Valentine and the compassion he showed to his oppressive jailer and judge, reach out to someone you don’t see eye to eye with, and find out how life changing these words of Jesus are.
For Jesus said (Luke 6:27-36), ‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.”
29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Yours in Jesus
Revd Jeremy Putnam
In January 1989 Gillette launched its new slogan ‘The Best A Man Can Get’ with an $80m campaign during the Super Bowl XXIII. The slogan caught on and was translated into fourteen different languages.
Thirty years later the company released a new campaign ‘The Best A Man Can Be’ encouraging men to reject bullying and ‘traditional masculinity’.
Reaction to the ad was overwhelmingly negative across the world with many skeptical of a company profiting by telling men how to act.
It has however opened up the debate once again as to whether ‘traditional masculinity’ is a problem.
The facts from North America where the ad was first released are alarming:
The American Psychological Association recently released “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” which were founded on the postmodern belief that “masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural, and contextual norms.”
It identified “traditional masculinity” as “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”
Is this how it should be and if not what is the answer?
David French recently wrote that “grown men are the solution, not the problem” and he calls on men to shape their “inherent aggression, sense of adventure, and default physical strength for virtuous ends.”
In his view, we need more fathers to raise sons with discipline, respect, and encouragement.
We also need to escape masculinity which tells men they are to go it alone and to seek assistance is to minimalise their manhood.
We have a delicate balance, given to us by God from the very beginning, which is needed to be kept.
“…the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Work and keep translate Hebrew words meaning to improve and guard. Men were created to produce and protect, to work and provide.
However, men were not intended to be self-sufficient. Immediately after creating the first man, God created the first woman, explaining: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (v. 18). To fulfill their life purpose, men need women, other men, and especially their Father.
Self-reliance is a destructive illusion - “No man is an island” is not just a poem–it’s a fact and self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide. It cuts us off from the only true source of abundant life (John 10:10).
So how do men become the “Best A Man Can Be”?
Jesus Christ was the perfect male and should be our example.
He was strong enough to drive money changers from the temple (Matthew 21:12) but gentle enough to embrace children (Matthew 19:13-15). He was courageous enough to confront the corrupt leaders of his nation (Matthew 23) but compassionate enough to weep for them (Luke 19:41).
Now he is praying for us (Romans 8:34) as his Spirit works to transform us into his character (v. 29). He is ready to help every man become “the best a man can be.” And every woman to become the best she can be as well.
It is the challenge of a live time to live up to this standard but if we strive for it we will be our best and the people we serve will be blessed, to the glory of God.
Well now, Christmas has been and gone, but for many of us, indulgence continues, as we strive to get through the last of the Christmas cake, biscuits and endless chocolate. Not to mention working our way through the freezer and all those little extras we might have bought ‘just in case’ that are still lurking at the back of the cupboard. It is almost a challenge to have to consume all that is left over, and by now most of us are sick of the sight of rich food and have made New year’s resolutions to cut down, get fit, loose weight and have a healthier lifestyle. Some have even combined this with being kinder to the planet and going vegan for January!
I am acutely aware that not everyone is able to share in such ongoing indulgence. Just before Christmas I was emotionally torn at seeing the Food Bank putting so many food hampers together to sustain local families over the Christmas period. Gladdened at people’s generosity and kindness but deeply troubled at the need for it in the first place! I am all too aware that there are people on our doorsteps who are hungry and struggling to feed their families and we must continue to support them and to address the root causes of such deprivation as MP’s call for a Minister of Hunger to be appointed.
There is such a deep irony, that, whilst some of us struggle to shed the extra pounds gained over Christmas, as the NHS seeks to combat long term obesity, as gyms see an increase in subscription for weight loss programmes, others loose weight perilously, effortlessly, inescapably! Both on our doorstep and on the other side of the world there are those who are desperately hungry, indeed there are many in the world many who face starvation! Here people have begun to stockpile tinned food in case of a no-deal Brexit, panicking that there won’t be enough of our favourite things lining the supermarket shelves, whilst in the Yemen the supermarket shelves have been empty for years, there is hardly any food getting through as the ports are blocked and mothers watch in desperation as their children weaken each day because there was nothing to eat yesterday, little or nothing today, and tomorrow is a whole world of uncertainty and fear.
Aid agencies like UNHCR, Save the Children and Mercy Corps report that the situation in Yemen is dire. Four years of brutal conflict has left millions of people without a home and on the brink of starvation. Some have resorted to eating leaves just to stay alive. Since March 2015, a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has been fighting anti-government Ansar Allah forces, resulting in widespread destruction, bombing and gun battles. Children are paying the heaviest price. They are facing a deadly triple threat - bombs, disease and hunger - they are at risk of dying from entirely preventable causes - hunger, or treatable illnesses and diseases.
With fighting escalating in the port city of Hodeidah - the country's main gateway for food, fuel and humanitarian supplies, little is getting through with Aid Agencies struggling with all the complexities of bringing humanitarian aid in by land. Economic collapse has left many families unable to afford food and water. And millions of children don't know when or if their next meal will come. Yemen is on the brink of the worst famine in 100 years. The UN warned last month that up to 14m Yemenis are on the brink of famine.
Save the Children estimates that 85,000 children under the age of five may have died from acute malnutrition in three years of war in Yemen. The number is equivalent to the entire under-five population in the UK's second largest city of Birmingham,
With a fragile truce in place and peace talks that began in Sweden at the close of 2018, there may be a glimmer of hope of better things to come for the Yemen, but resources are desperately needed on the ground now.
So, perhaps when we reach for that last chocolate bar or box of biscuits, we might also reach for our purse and donate to the aid agencies working in the Yemen, knowing that if we all did so, we could make a difference. We might also reach for our bibles and remember what St. Paul commended us to do -
‘When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to
practice hospitality.’ ( Romans 12: 13)
And the writer to the Hebrews: -
‘and don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.’ ( Hebrews 13:16)
And in doing so we may just find that we are blessed with far greater riches -
‘The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor’. (Proverbs 22:90
And we can all lift our hearts and voices to God in prayer, for prayer never goes unheard or unanswered.
Peace and blessings
Samaritans 116 123
Cruse Bereavement Support Helpline 0808 808 1677
Premier Christian Helpline 0300 111 0101
The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. (Isaiah 9:2)
We have all experienced darkness.
We have all failed to see.
We have all hidden in the shadows.
We have all reached for the comfort of the night.
And some have experienced all these things with severe intensity.
Some have been so overwhelmed by darkness that even a pin prick of light, seen with open eyes, can be profoundly life changing.
Some have been to the very bottom of the darkest pit. Where death seems all too close, and tragically for some, has even felt appealing.
The fact of the matter is, in our communities there are people that feel just like this, right now. And yet, at Christmas, the world talks of light as if every festivity, every meal time, every shopping trip and every candle lit can make everything better, everything lighter. They don’t. For those who suffer with depression, low-self esteem, or stress; for those who continue to mourn the loss of loved ones; for those whose families are divided, or even harming, Christmas comes like the darkness. In fact for many of us, even if we do not share these same challenges, Christmas can feel heavy not light.
I was sat in the barbers on Friday waiting to have my haircut. A young man was in the chair ahead of me, he was talking to the barber about Christmas. This young man, probably about 22 years old was expressing his severe dislike of Christmas. “It is stressful.” He said. “I don’t have the money. There is too much expectation and not enough time.” He even went on to say, “It is the one time of the year where I feel the most hurt.”
Christmas comes like the darkness.
How can we take the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 9:2-7) seriously? Especially when he says, ‘the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.’ What light? The latest John Lewis advert? The Black Friday glitzy adverts? The lights of late-night shopping? What light?
The message from Isaiah is clear. For those that sit in darkness, or fear, or failure, or want: rescue is coming!
For Christians this news of rescue comes in the shape and form of a child. This is the single reason the church is gathered on Christmas Eve: “a child has been born for us, a son given to us.”
For this child is the gift. This child is our light, our rescue, and our good news. When the church is at its best, and it is offering what it is called to offer, it takes its role as the stable and manger, cradling the child in its embrace with the world, in the embrace of our aching human hearts.
After all, it is for this light, this child given to us, that our painters have painted, our musicians composed, our architects designed, our martyrs died, our healers healed, our activists agitated, and our preachers preached. [Nancy Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, 2006]
More good works have been inspired by this child than any other. And yet more and more feel the pressures of Christmas and what it has become. So what can we say?
"It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
This is as true for us, as it was for Isaiah. Think of the darkness of the womb before new life meets the world. Think of the darkness of the tomb before that first Easter morn. Think of the darkness of the early morning shadows before the sun rises. Think of the darkness of the blind man’s gaze before the miraculous deeds of Jesus returned his sight. Think of the darkness you have witnessed yourself, before hope replaced it with light. At Christmas we must always remember that the light has come, and the light is coming.
And so rather than ask where the light is? Why not ask who the light is?
Ironically, in a season that is so filled with light, - Christmas trees, festive street lights, fireworks, candlelit Christmas dinner tables and the like, it can still end up feeling as though Christmas comes like the darkness. It can be a very difficult time for many many people. But when we ask the question – 'who is the real light?' then we can look beyond the many lights of the season, and see the one true light, the light that has come to enlighten everyone.
Jesus is indeed the light of the world. It is only his word and his message that can suppress the darkness from our lives. You can have as many Christmas lights, shopping days and inspirational adverts as you like, but unless we seek the one who is the true light, then Christmas will always be less than what it was meant to be.
And the third, and last thing is to say that it is only through Him, Jesus, that we can overcome the darkness in our lives. In the symbolic battle between light and darkness, of which the bible refers to frequently, the moment we think we can manage with our own light and strength, is the moment we are in danger of losing the fight. In my experience, and from what I have witnessed in the lives of others, those that have sought the light of God, and who have welcomed the Christ child into their lives, have also admitted in the same breath that they cannot do it alone. It is that same moment that light truly comes, and they receive the power to overcome darkness. Once we come to believe that a light greater than ourselves can restore us and rescue us, then we do indeed walk in the light of Christ.
For the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.
If you know someone who is really struggling this Christmas, who might also be suffering with depression or anxiety, or a deep sense of loss then please make sure you encourage them to talk to someone about it. Create some space for them, in the midst of the busyness of Christmas, so they have permission, to feel and to be heard. For those who need more urgent support, go with them to see there GP, help them pick up the phone to the Samaritans 116 123, or phone a bereavement support line like Cruse Bereavement Support Helpline 0808 808 1677 . For when we receive the light of Christ in our lives, we can share that same light with others.
Revd Jeremy Putnam
You may not know that the very first Black Friday was Nov 18th 1910, and it had nothing to do with shopping. On this day 300 women marched to the Houses of Parliament as part of their campaign to secure voting rights for women. The day earned its name from the violence meted out to protesters, some of it sexual, by the Metropolitan Police and male bystanders. Thanks to the courageous perseverance of these suffragette women, and even earlier the commitment of Chartism for the working class, there is now equality in voting. We still have a way to go though, inequality is still very present in our society.
You may be wondering why I am talking about Black Friday when the rest of the Church is probably talking about Advent & Christmas. Inequality was certainly very real at the time of Jesus’ birth. Consider Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary had no status, or societal influence. Her wealth was next to nothing, and she had no real material value that would’ve caused people to stand up and take notice. And yet because of this, God chooses Mary. In the eyes of the world she had nothing to give and yet Gabriel was sent to her with some extraordinary news. Mary was a young girl in a society that valued men and maturity; she was lowly and poor as her canticle of praise mentions. In other words, Mary was not someone who was favoured in the world, but Christians learn from the Gospels that she was indeed honoured in the eyes of God, she was in fact blessed because of her poverty.
It’s important to know that Mary’s status before God would have undoubtedly brought her shame. In her day, an unmarried woman expecting a child was cause for disgrace. It broke every social and familial law of acceptability. Not only would her condition bring shame on the family, but to try and explain it was somehow a blessing from God, that conception was by account of a visit from God’s messenger, well, this would have been blasphemy of the highest order. Nevertheless, she trusts God. Mary’s part in the Good News and the Incarnation is so inspiring, so extraordinary, and so liberating for us because of her faith.
Mary was the first champion of the Christian faith, showing such courage despite facing the possibility of social darkness, disgrace, shame and violence. Because of her faith the Word of God came into the world. To the world around her Mary had nothing to give. To us, as Christians, we learn that Mary had everything to give, and held nothing back. Her faith inspires us today.
And so, this Christmas I hope like Mary, you know the grace to trust God completely. There are many challenges still facing our society with regards to freedom and equality, and we do need boldness and faith to survive them and to challenge them. But my prayer this Advent and Christmas time is that we learn how loved we are by God through the inspiring faith and motherhood of Mary, and together make the changes God longs to see.
May God bless you and keep you this Christmastide.
Revd Jeremy Putnam.
Despite the nice sounding quote from John Piper [above) anything other than an egalitarian approach to the role of women and men in partnerships, marriages, households, workplaces, churches and indeed society, can potentially leave the door open to abuse of rights and abuse of power. Most Conservative Evangelicals in this country no longer buy into the idea that men are superior to women. Many now insist that scripture teaches that there are only two contexts in which male headship actually applies: the household, and the Church. Women are not inferior, but different they say.
What progress is this? Surely it still leaves the door open for spiritual abuse and the abuse of this claimed positional power.
Over the last couple of years there has been a noticeable increase in religious commentators linking the doctrine of headship and domestic violence. Kelly Ladd Bishop writes, “Most complementarians [see below for explanation] appeal to the servant leadership of the man and the loving submission of the woman. The idea is that a man is to lead his home by serving his wife and family, and this should never involve abuse. The problem is, while many complementarians may truly be outraged by domestic abuse, their theology enables it. Any time there is a power imbalance, one party becomes vulnerable, and the door is opened to abuse.”
A prime example of this imbalance is in the words of leading Evangelical John Piper, who is also one of the founders of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He spoke out in response to one of his Youtube subscribers who asked, “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?”. His first response was to clarify different types of abuse, suggesting there are different responses for different forms. This might sound okay on the surface but then John Piper states that if the abuse is just verbal women should be encouraged to ‘endure the abuse’. Does he not know that emotional, spiritual or psychological abuse is just as harmful as physical abuse?
He later offered some clarifying remarks and encouraged women to seek out civil protection. Sadly, what he does not see is that when you are in an relationship with a significant imposed power imbalance (in the sense that you live under an improper authority that is justified by your own faith) then how does a wife seek civil protection and at the same time make sure ‘it does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband?” ...There is no such thing as “civil protection” that arrives at the beck and call of a beaten wife and hangs around her home to protect her. [Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, Dr. Ruth Tucker]
Here is another example. During a talk about the meaning of Bible verses on male headship an image of newly-shorn actress Kristen Stewart flashed appeared on an overhead screen. It was during a talk at a women’s conference in Sydney that had over 3000 participates and 1600 viewers online. As reported by Anne Lim in Eternity magazine, Carmelina Read, the Dean of Women at the Presbyterian Christ College in Sydney, said "it might be more in line with God's good design to have long hair because it was a visible sign of the difference between men and women in which God delighted". Ms Reed then went on to say that women should consider themselves as ‘helpers’ of men in the workplace.
I just don’t understand why people can’t see that Jesus didn’t come to patronise women or defend a tradition that places women lower in society and home. He came to show how women inspire, nurture, care, defend, bring about change, fight the powers of greed, how women are often the cause of our faith in Jesus. For goodness sake, Mary, his own mother, was an inspirational radical protestor who sang about a defiance against political oppression, inequality and cruel regimes (Luke 1:46-56). Where was the headship and authority of Joseph? No precedents being set here. So where does it come from?
Last week most of America was glued to their TVs or Ipads watching the Senate Committee hearing over the suitability of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Judge, and filling the vacant space left by Anthony Kennedy. The high profile and global nature of this event is due to the allegations made by a number of women that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted girls at High School, and College. Judge Kavanaugh has a great deal of support from the Conservative and predominately evangelical Republican Party who have accused the Democratic Senate members of political games and manipulation in order to delay the appointment of Kavanaugh. A friend of mine was visiting the US at the time and shared a photo of her colleagues sat watching the hearing live on Youtube. It sparked some comments from people both sides of the Atlantic – including one comment from a clergy person in the UK saying, “Seems like a witch hunt I’m afraid. No evidence being presented to corroborate witness statement, Kavanaugh testimony strong.” Later that evening I was watching comments made by Americans include suggestions that what Kavanaugh is alleged to have done was merely a misdemeanor, and comments like ‘boys will be boys’ were offered. Why is it that so many jump to the defence of someone we know nothing about? Don’t get me wrong, I defend wholeheartedly the principle of someone being innocent until proven guilty, but when a woman’s testimony is questioned because of a perceived political agenda, or a man’s defence is based solely on his position and power, we are in danger of giving an appalling confidence to the abuser whoever it might be. I am fearful to the core for my two daughters who are growing up a in a world where a man pinning a woman to the ground can be described as ‘boys just being boys’, and how world leaders like Trump and Berlusconi laugh off comments that degrade and demean a woman’s body by what they say and what they do behind closed doors, or even from the platform. The Church has to take seriously how its theology can encourage an environment where this is allowed to happen. It makes me so angry to think that the Church (particularly in the States) has helped to create an environment where there is even the remote possibility that a man’s lie can be accepted over a woman’s truth.
Read below for a more egalitarian hermeneutic.
Christian Theology actually asserts that men and women are equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). The ethical and spiritual justification for this is inspired by a proper reading of the Bible, by focusing on passages that deal in primary truths (i.e. they aren’t contradicted and therefore held as ultimacies) about human nature (eg. Genesis 1:26-27; Galatians 3:28); rather than passages concerned with correcting cultural or customary norms (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7). For those that like boxes, this view puts me clearly in the Egalitarian Evangelical box. In other words, I hold to the Bible stating that there is no defining difference between men and women that can possibly defend the notion that one gender has authority over the other. Women and men are made equal, in authority, for the glory of God, and for the common good. When this truth has not been honoured, like for most of Christian history (certainly since the 3rd century CE) it has been due in part to the warping of the natural order by either societal a-values or dogmatic religion predominantly for the benefit of men. We now have the privilege of hindsight and thus can see the imbalance that has held society and the Church back for far too long, and damaged many lives.
Despite this, the clear majority of Conservative Evangelicals still hold to a theology of ‘Complementarianism’ in which men and women are declared equal, but with an important caveat; when it comes to the Household and the Church, men are given the role of ‘leader’. And for women, a life of faithful obedience in the Church or in the home is lived out by ‘helping’ the man, by supporting and complementing their leadership. This is due to a particular reading of a few passages by the Apostle Paul, such as 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. In which submission of women and men is put within the context of our call as Christians to submit to Jesus. In addition, through a simple reading of the Gospel narratives, it is seen that Jesus calls men as disciples, and how God chose to be God as Man Incarnate. Further, Paul is very explicit in this letter to Timothy about what women should and shouldn’t do in the life of the Church (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7).
There are number of problems with this view (biblical justification for an egalitarian approach)
Acts 435 was inspired by the works of the early church, as described in the Acts 4:32 to 4:35. The early disciples shared their possessions and passed money to the apostles to give to anyone who had need. Acts 435 was set up in 2009 in recognition of the increasing needs of people in UK poverty in a time of recession and austerity.
It was the brainchild of a Yorkshire businessman who recognised the donor fatigue in charity giving where donors want to be connected with a specific cause and know their donation is not just going into a general pot of funds. This is particularly important for those with only a small amount to give, so that they can be sure their gift will make a difference.
By partnering with local churches and charities, Acts 435 enables a direct connection of people in need with people who want to help. Advocates, who are local volunteers, meet with clients who have been referred by local agencies such as the Foodbank or job centre where a crisis need has been identified. This can be anything from being able to top up an electricity meter, buying school uniform, purchasing work boots or replacing a fridge. Requests can be made for a maximum of £120 and a limit of three requests per client. The advocate posts the request on the website and donors can give online in amounts from £5 to £120. Requests are essentially met by crowd-funding and 100% of every donation goes to the person in need.
Acts 435 is a very real way of giving to those in need in your local community and giving a helping hand to those who are really struggling. It maybe that you yourself need a helping hand at a time of crisis. To be referred you will need to been seen by an official agency who will refer you on. You don’t need to have a faith to be referred, Acts is for all those in need.
A small gift can make a big difference in lifting a burden or preventing a crisis for the most vulnerable in our society. If you would like more information about how you can help, or be helped, please contact one of the advocates, via the online contact form, at All Saints Church (asht.org.uk) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get more information from acts435.org.uk
I am writing this on the hottest day of the year so far. A day that has followed several very hot days. Before I go on, please know this, I’m not going to moan about the weather. The sun is glorious, its warmth is welcome, the cool waters of Cornwall are invigorating. It can bring the best out of people (and I might add the worst too, out of the hot and bothered), but with the sun out and the blue sky stretching ahead of you, some things seem just a bit more possible than they did before. Those jobs in the allotment you’ve been putting off are there for the taking. The very delayed walk on the beach has come. Even that once lost opportunity to have a long G and T (substitute with drink of choice) with your feet up has now returned. Somehow the world feels a little bit better. Somehow more whole and more restored when the sun is shining.
Having said that, the heat can get a bit much and therefore escaping to the shade is definitely needed from time to time. Additionally, more time should be given to our loved ones who don’t cope as well in the hot weather, in the same way they don’t cope well in the cold. Which is really my point. For some the weather comes as a blessing and for others a curse.
At the beginning of May I was asked to lead a Rogation Service for a neighbouring parish. Rogation Sunday is a very special service in which the community asks for God’s blessing upon the fields, the herds, the newly seeded crops and the tools of farming. In my talk to a church full of farmers I likened good farming to good discipleship. I said, “a good farmer doesn’t just pray for rain, but prepares for it!”. I thought I’d made a strong case for the idea of preparing for God’s blessing and expecting it, rather than praying for it and wondering whether it will come at all.
As soon as I said this, laughter struck a good portion of my audience. After the service one of the farmers came to me and said, “your in Cornwall son, there’s never any need to pray for rain!” He was right, we get plenty of rain.
The bible is full of references to weather. Rain, wind, sun and snow are all described equally as blessing as well as disaster. It is one of the many areas in which Scripture and Science are aligned – in scripture and in textbooks weather is describe as chaotic, unpredictable, uncertain and indeterminate. Yes, we have the seasons, day and night, but even in this ordered creation we still know to fear the weather for its power and ferocity. Sadly, our chaotic weather patterns are more frequently a disaster than they are a blessing due to the impact our 21st century lifestyle is having on the global climate.
Unpredictable weather is also a used as a metaphor in scripture for the unpredictability of life. This was evident in Job’s life, as well as in the disciples who found themselves overwhelmed by the storm over the Sea of Galilee. In every case anchoring one’s self to God was the calming influence both over the waves, wind and thunder, as well as over life’s tempest.
Whilst we still experience one of the hottest summers on record maybe we could think about where one might go to anchor ourselves to God, and keep cool. The coolest places are definitely churches. These old stone buildings that remain open during the day are the perfect refuge from the sun. They are also wonderful places of faith that speak of God’s power over chaos, his comfort in our struggles, and his healing over wounds. Cornwall has many beautiful church buildings why not find some shade!
All Saints Highertown is open most days for prayer and some cool shade. Please pop in, you'd be very welcomed.
Rev Jeremy Putnam
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.