Monday, March 30, 2015

Religion in public life

Not often would I link to a publication outside the church, but this just popped up on the Quadrant on line website. Religion in public life. I'm not endorsing or not, but noting that, following Oscar Wilde's quip, religious interest is at least being talked about, and that's better than not.

Friday, March 27, 2015

36: 25-36

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
Not for a blog.

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share …”
My debts.

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
What I hold to be important.

28. Tell your partner [I think they mean 'companion'] what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
Not for a blog.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
Only one? The time I reversed a fire truck into the car of one of my OIC’s friends. He parked right in behind me. But I should have checked.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
In front of another: can’t recall. By myself: recently with my son in hospital. At work I feel emotion from time to time when I read some harrowing case notes of people to whom we provide services, particularly when it involves young people with degenerative illness.

31. Tell your partner [companion -- if they are your 'partner', then you should have traveled far together and know much that you like about them, else they wouldn't be a 'partner'] something that you like about them already.
Not for blog.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
Children’s future.

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
The trajectory of my life changed after two successive romantic shocks, oh so long ago; neither of which anything in my experience had prepared me for. The first only became bad after the second; the second amplifying it retrospectively.

In the second, I think I was more heavily invested than my girl-friend was, yet I read her behaviour as she being equally if not more invested then I was. When it ended nothing seemed to close the chasm of loss; the only way I could make sense of it was to jettison the way of life that had exposed me to such pain, in the hope that different experience would protect me in the future.

I suppose I’d have liked to have been able to communicate that; but the loss was total, and I was insufficiently experienced to bring a different outcome.

I lost touch with her many years ago and wish it to remain that way.

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
My writings, because they are important to me. BTW, I wouldn’t bust a gut to save a pet.

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Brother’s: last link with my childhood; children's, because they're precious to me.

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
Not for blog.
But, let's pretend that I'm single and talking to another: its not a problem, but a puzzle: has my life been significant?

It's easy to think that it hasn't been because I'm not 'famous' (see answer to Q2), not even in a limited way; I don't even have many connections on LinkedIn! I don't have a huge nest of friends. But when I meet people, I talk to them easily, and often see a glimmer of the real them. That's good.
But there's more: a Christian doesn't limit themselves to the horizon of this life, in two ways: firstly, we are in the kingdom of God...forever in intimate fellowship with our creator, saviour and, as they said in the old days 'lover of my soul'; secondly, in this life we have unimpeded access to our creator in prayer. There is nothing better!

Our buildings

Most people laud a wonderful looking building; similarly, most people are pleased to be in an elegant space. More so than in a disheveled space. It changes the atmosphere, it elicits a stronger and happier emotional response; it would be interesting to examine if there are also productive benefits from spaces that are enjoyable to be in as opposed to those that are not. When given a choice people tend to want to be in spaces that give them a good feeling and not those that do not.

Do I want to be in a church meeting (service) in a space that is mean, or that is impolite to its occupants (that is, someone has arranged it, or failed to arrange it with regard for the emotional meaning people will take from it). I’ve been in both!

At one stage I disparaged expenditure on church buildings as taking funds from ministry. But not so now; expenditure on church buildings, wisely done, is part of ministry. The creation is physical and living in the creation entails us arranging our physical environment. Let’s do it well, rather than poorly.

Church has always been a people priority for me, and for most people, I think, but that priority is honoured with a space that dignifies our purpose.

Consider the contrast  between, for example, the interior of St James at Queen’s Square in Sydney (to the left)
St James Sydney, interior

and the interior of a community centre, school assembly hall or similar used for a church (to the right)

It also works in the detail: at Capenwray the lectern in the main lecture room was a very finely crafted piece of cabinetry reminiscent of Shaker work in its understated order. In fact, the principal at that time, Allan Catchpoole, made the point that excellence in our artefacts (within resources) is a valid contribution to ministry. His feel for aesthetics extended to the literary qualities of the Pauline letters that we were studying, incidentally, which dramatically increased their impact, to my mind.
Any old hall, interior

I returned to Capernwray some years later when it was under a different principal: one of the staff then was quite tall, so the lectern had been given a height extension. It was done in a fabrication of unfinished particle board, roughly screwed together...ugly. Is that how we think of our faith?

Bringing these thoughts to my present church, I’ve suggested that when we do our big expansion, we re-consider the front wall of the main auditorium: an indifferent blank wall; not bad, but not good, but with instruments and odds and ends stored haphazardly to each side.

I wouldn’t want to aspire to the careful drama of an Aalto interior...but a better setting for our services would an encouragement, I think.

Alvar Aalto: Viikki church interior

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adventure in America

A couple of years after we were married, my wife and I took off to the US (again, for both of us). We spent time in Los Angeles, toured around New England which we both enjoyed immensely, and took the opportunity to spend time at L'Abri. Most of that was at Southboro in Mass., but we also caught up with the organiser in Rochester Minn. Larry Snyder, whom my wife knew. It was nice being in Garrison Keillor country!
Once out of the major centres in the US, I find it is a 'home town' kind of country; perhaps because of the diet of American TV in my youth.
 At Southboro I read Pannenberg, which was really stimulating, and along with the Friday evening lectures and other students, had probably the best 'away' time of my Christian experience. Rochester was a lighter touch in my reading; I think I worked over the basic apologetic of God. Can't remember! I do remember trips into St Paul for theatre, and the airport, and it was nice to see O'Hare in Chicago again, where we changed planes. I know its not the biggest in the US, but it is nevertheless a mighty big airport.

It was fabulous to relax and talk with other Christians from such a wide range of backgrounds, and to be able to talk over one's reading with people who could not only assist, but lead one to reflect on one's response to the ideas that were discussed.

In Rochester we met Mrs Schaeffer and joined a celebration at her home for her birthday. As one does practical work when at L'Abri, I took the job of mowing Mrs Schaeffer's lawn! Nice to be involved. I found a brass key ring for the Rose Bowl that I keep. Oddly no one has asked why a non-sports follower such as I has such a sports fan memento!

The US experience differed from the local L'Abri branch (where incidentally, my wife and I met... because of a shared interest in opera), in that while there was a diversity of opinion on occasion, there tended to be a greater uniformity in the groups that assembled for weekend seminars. Reflective of a smaller catchment, I suppose. Still, Frank and Heather were always gracious hosts for our weekend stays.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Small Group

Last Sunday's sermon on Deuteronomy 11 was going normal until we got to the end: the question that will likely ring with me for a long time: "when did you last repent?"

Repent? Haven't heard that for a long doesn't mean feel sorry, or even say "sorry" it means turn from A to B. Live like you are in the KoG: where love is real.

At the small group we used the teacher's questions to prompt our discussion...we decided to not answer all 15 though! This isn't school, fellers.

One good question is all that one needs.

We took the first question:
  1.    Do you believe that you are as comfortable with saying “I Love you God”, as you are in saying “I will obey you God?” 
If Yes – then what does that look like, what does that mean to you?  How is that expressed?  Was it always the case, or have you worked up to that?
If No – what could some of the reasons be for that, what is the cause of that disparity, that gap?  Both culturally and personally?
[BTW, I don't know what "what does that look like" means...its cool people talk]

That kept us going for about 20 minutes. Then we capped off with the final question:

15. If we were to change our understanding of Loving God, so that we expressed it through obedience, how would our life look different?  In what way? 
["look different". Is it that in this day and age things only appear, but don't have substance? Don't know.]

To a person outside of Christian faith 'obedience' sounds oppressive. For a Christian it should be our aspiration to match the tempo and objectives of our life to the way of Christ: that is to live selflessly conditioned by love and outward looking.

Our discussion of the first question initially dealt with the statement "I Love you God" oddly capitalised for some reason. How odd to say this like God is your girlfriend...God is the almighty creator and sustainer of all that is. One doesn't say "I love you" to him, at least I don't think, one worships!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Serving a small group

After many decades absence from it, I'm again involved in small group ministry. Our church, being modern, likes to call we small group ministers 'leaders'. As though the other group members are sheep, I suppose!

There is a pastoral function, but it is mutual. 'Leadership' conjurers up too many images and impressions of control, authority, and being boss. I eschew such connections.

I hope and pray that I serve diligently, but that's what I do: I serve (like the Prince of Wales' Ich Dien...although generally I don't put much store in princes). If you must sling a title at me, I convene the group, I serve it by preparing studies, and I keep in mind Brookfield's approach of learning by discussion. Which is darn hard. These types of discussions aren't just chats, but are well structured, and prepared to deal with the likely forks in the road that we take.

A group of us meet quarterly to discuss our experience in serving small groups. The woman who convenes this group calls it the 'leadership' group. I call it the ministry group. I much prefer Christian concepts to business ones.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ethics at school

We received a letter from children's school that ethics classes were about to start for children who didn't attend scripture lessons.

Not a bad idea; I hope they start with ethical epistemology and the naturalistic fallacy just to get things straight. That is, on what basis can ethical judgements be made in a materialist world that don't descend either to the convenience of the individual, or the will of the powerful. If you think that 'community agreement' is a valid basis, then you are voting for the will of the powerful, and that can change at a moment's notice.

The other problem with 'ethics' is I wonder where forgiveness is located. In a Christian ethical framework I know where to find it, but what if you make ethical mistakes, or cannot keep up with your own ethics? Does this leave a child with an unsolvable dilemma?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Blokes breakfast

A few of us turned up to the breakfast, less than had booked, but that's the way it goes. Nice time had by all.

I don't mind the odd prayer breakfast, but this one was not, and its just good to get together and chat, including the odd arguments about coal seam gas and floating exchange rates and an illuminating discussion on killing ants and the joys of Opal cards.

The madness of ministers

Mentioning the Jensen boys in my Katoomba post reminded me of St Matthias, where both ministered. While at St Matthias I was in the midst of a long and complex relationship with a wonderful woman. I'll call her Echo (her parents gave her a different and more feminine name).

The relationship was enthralling but becoming difficult. I learnt much from Echo about loyalty, sacrifice, and what love truly was; she and her family were generous and I always felt welcomed into their home. But we were diverging. I was sliding from my 'high' Anglican affiliation to a more evangelical practice. Echo had no plans to move from her Roman Catholic commitment.

This problem vexed me. I knew the answer, and ultimately acted upon it, but I sought counsel from a minister at St Matthias. His suggestion was that 'they' talk to Echo. I had no idea what this was intended to produce, either in me or her, but I couldn't get over the arrogance of it. How could he think I would insult someone suggesting they talk to a minister at my church? Echo didn't even pay much attention to the pope, so she was not going to listen to a protestant splitter! She and her family persisted in their love of the Latin Mass and supported a breakaway group that followed Lefebvre. No pope was going to stand in their way!

All I can say, in some despair, is 'evangelical haughtiness' at work. It was some time ago, and I mentioned this to Carnley when he was Primate. He shared my despair, but was not surprised at the behaviour.

Contrast this with the approach of a friend, an older Roman Catholic priest. We discussed my frustration and concerns at some length and the implications of considering conversion. But he would not pave a way for my decision making. His conclusion to me, given with much kindness and concern, was that for Christians, their faith would be at the centre of the marriage, and if there was a divergence in the practice and content of that faith, there would be a division at the heart of the marriage.

Of course, I knew that. I just needed someone to tell me.

Friday, March 13, 2015

36: 13-24

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
Nada, or, if I must answer: movements in the stock market.

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
I was planning to take a cruise in Alaska prior to meeting my now wife, but...No, I got married instead.

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Only others can judge that...what have I enjoyed achieving? Growing in understanding and confidence.

16. What do you value most in a friendship?
The other person’s fellowship.

17. What is your most treasured memory?
My childhood, particularly the morning sun shafting into our lounge room with the happy sounds of my parents, particularly my mother, in the background.

18. What is your most terrible memory?
The outwash of rejection in a very significant relationship.

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
I’d stop watching crappy TV shows; because they are crappy.

20. What does friendship mean to you?
Non-judgmental open and generous conversation with comfortable silences.

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
Well, its all about love: as imperfectly as I do it, but I find nothing more deeply satisfying than seeing someone enjoy time that I spend with them.

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
Can’t do this on a blog.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Yes, although in my Army psych interview I inadvertently said 'no' to a similar question...still got in.

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
She’s dead, so I don’t have one.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Next Saturday some of us blokes from church are going to have breakfast together at the Runaway Spoon. I checked it out this morning (its been revamped from when it was the Tablespoon) and had quite nice Spanish baked eggs and a few cups of tea: English breakfast. Then it was to the M7 for a trip to Wollongong via Appin. Nice morning drive to my conference to discuss pricing, dollars and revenue risk and avoided the Sydney traffic.

I had lunch at the Fraternity Club on the way back to the office (Spaghetti Bolognese), continuing up the coast road to have a short coffee at Coledale in a cafe where the verandah overlooked the road and the toilets had magnificent ocean views...only in Australia. Nothing like that on the Amalfi coast.

The radio on the way up the coast road had Margaret Throsby interviewing Alan Gold, author. Alan likes opera so we were treated to a few great works: a quartet from Rigoletto and the fabulous Gotterdammerung: Funeral March by Wagner. A tremendous work that MT introduced very aptly I thought, referring to the death's tragic unavoidablity (to which there is no response in a materialist, agnostic or atheist just watches dumbly).

After swooshing at moderate speed over the sea bridge I headed up to Stanwell Tops. The last time I'd been on that road was I think with Foxtrot, a girl I was at a camp with...we had 'bunked off', something I love to do at camps (I was at a Christian conference in Brisbane many years ago and did the same to see the film Another Brick in the Wall, being a bit conferenced out, and feeling quite good about it, similarly at a business conference in Hong Kong; I nipped down to Macau for the day instead of attending).

But opera: Gold related taking his 11 year old son to me thinking to take my son to see a good opera seeing he's about that age. As Gold pointed out, opera traverses the range of human emotion and spirituality (if you are so minded to see it that way, and I do) so it can shine lights into corners that might otherwise go unlit.

Cruzin' through the past.

In my reflective trip through the storm of a few weeks ago, my thoughts turned to my times at Stanwell Tops Conference Centre (now called The Tops) as I drove past the road that one can take to it.

The first 'camp' I was really involved in there from a ministry point of view was organised by Paul Cameron, (I hope the link with his photo stays live, he's administrator for the Churches of Christ conference in VicTas...likes to use 'CEO' which I think is wrong term in a Christian mission) with the theme 'love'. Now, what a cracker of a theme for a couple of hundred 16 to, say 24 year olds!

Paul, true to form, brought it off very well. I was in my Calvinist phase then, and read a lot of nevertheless useful literature in prep for working with a small group. I think we went into areas that most people had not considered and it was a wonderful time with all that youthful depth, earnestness and attachment doing its usual job as we thought about grand ideas that we ourselves were only just touching.

At another camp, I and a couple of fellows new to my acquaintance stayed in a remote bunk room attached to a large and generally unused (and therefore unkempt) auditorium. Being a bunk room, we bunked off. But in a good cause.

The friend of one of the fellows had to get to Katoomba hospital to start her night shift. We all piled into his car some time after dinner and drove madly (not dangerously, but insistently and on a mission) to Katoomba. We arrived back after midnight! I felt like we were in Kerouac's On the Road but absent Sal Paradise's angst. Can't remember anything else about that particular camp, but the drive was an adventure.

These camps were great.

My most recent time at the Tops was an Interserve conference when I shared a room with some other fellows. One snored. Never again. But, it was good to see the place with my wife and smell the lovely bush scents.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

United States churches

I've put up a few posts on churches I've visited in the US.

I just want to cap off with three more church experiences during my first trip to the US, where I combined attendance at a conference in New York, business meetings in Los Angeles and Chicago and 'sightseeing'.

After my morning experience at Garden Grove, I was hankering after some better Christian contact and sought a church closer to my hotel in Hollywood. I can't find the church on Google Maps, but I was surprised that the one I came to nearby was closed. No Sunday evening service! I regret not having gone to the Hollywood First Presbyterian, which was just a little further away and distinctly well regarded.

In San Francisco, which was just a sight seeing destination for me (and I wanted to see Daly City!), I somehow found a sort of house church in an old apartment building. Always pleased to be with other Christians, I turned up at about 8pm. It must have been a time that they'd advertised. The man at the door, friendly enough, wouldn't let me in. I can't criticise as he didn't know me, but I was disappointed. He told me of the next meeting, and I explained that I would be in Chicago then. He urged me to stay for it, and tell the people I was meeting with in Blue Island that I'd met some great people and had to postpone. Of course, I hadn't, I couldn't and I wouldn't. I'd met some suspicious controlling and unfriendly people. Probably a cult!

New York was better. I had in my mind that Disciples of Christ churches were in the same denominational family as my home church; I later found out not so...

My hotel was near the Park Avenue church, but again, time elapsed has stifled the memories and I'm not sure that was the one I visited. I had a very pleasant meeting with the minister on duty, who invited me to his office for coffee. It was a small garret like room up narrow stairs in the tower. He suggested that I attend their Bible study group that evening, which I did. Was a small group of people, slightly older than me, mostly students at some local institutions (Columbia and the Julliard). Once again, I was the talkative man from Oz. Maybe I talk too much! Was very pleasant, and at the right time as I was a little nervous about my first conference presentation that I was in the city to give.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Men, power and women

Julia Baird's article of last week aroused a veritable torrent of responses. A couple of articles appeared in the SMH, one on women experiencing violence at the hands of their church-going husbands quoting (misquoting) scripture at them (and how is that loving?), another on women leaving evangelical churches as they are excluded from ministry opportunities due to their sex.

Both are terrible indictments of a church that fails to teach the scriptures to challenge society and has allowed itself to become absorbed by its society instead. The Anglican misreading of Paul's reference to people and heads stands out in this regard. The passage in Corinthians is far too complex and makes far too many connections with other texts to be amenable to such glib handling.

But others have agreed with my comments to Baird on the problem of power in the church. Here's a letter from the Herald in those terms (in case the link disappears):
Archbishop Glenn Davies' condemnation of violence against women  (Letters, March 3) is reassuring as far as it goes but it doesn't address the question raised by Julia Baird and others – to what extent does the doctrine of headship (wives' subordination to their husbands) condone and lead to violence against women? Based as it is on obscure and contested texts in the Bible, headship should have no place in our modern egalitarian society.
Andrew Macintosh Cromer
 On the other hand, however, I am a little disturbed when women who are interested in ministry often fall into the same conceptualisations of power and authority, and not service, that bedevil the church and give rise to the very problem they oppose.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


I've found the evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to be disturbing, as have many people. It had a bit of an edge for me as I've colleagues who are directly involved in the Commission and I have direct experience of some of the depravity at Knox Grammar School at Wahroonga. Details are unnecessary.

I know that many organisations allowed the commission of crimes that have damaged people over many decades, but most grievous has been the part church organisations have played in this foul game.

On the basis of this I can only reaffirm my conviction that church and state must be separate, and the church like any other voluntary association, is subject to the state. This lines up with Paul on the state, in Romans 13:4
for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil
And Christians, above all, should have been pointedly aware of man's propensity for evil and corruption, and protected the people in their care accordingly. There are no excuses.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A quiet Sunday

A quiet Sunday is nicely capped by with two ABC programs: Songs of Praise in the morning, the only ABC TV show worth watching in my view, and For the God Who Sings, with Stephen Watkins on ABC Classic FM.

I particularly like Songs of Praise when they talk to the people who are part of the life of a parish, more so when its a rural parish. I don't think I've heard a Watkins program that hasn't blissed me out before falling asleep late on Sunday evening.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Depravity week in Sydney

Once again, that time of year. Yes, its Depravity Week in Sydney. The 'let's normalise sexual perversion' parade is on again. And some wonder why an over sexualised society finds sex crime and sex related abuse so pervasive!

On one hand I don't really care what the heathen get up to, except that the by ways of perversion will end up dragging others into the pain and limitations that it engenders.


Katoomba Christian Conventions figure strongly in the experience of many Christian young adults. In my mid 20s I attended a few KCCs, where incidentally, I met one of my most enduring friends (30 years now). The Jensen boys were speaking at the first one I attended. I later attended the church where they served.

At that time the Convention was wonderful: the sheer numbers were impressive, about 5,000 were there, I think. There was a little of the herd feeling given the size, and a superficial uniformity that reached into 'serious' conversations. Even those could be superficial, but I did meet genuine people as well. It was almost cult-like in some respects. By 'superficial' I mean they conformed to an expected pattern, and the conversations were almost predictable. All except for the friend I'd met whose conversations were penetrating, critical and informed. What a relief.


I attended a Convention some years after this and discovered that my first impression had matured--at least the accommodation at The Grange was pleasant (before it belonged to Barker); memorably I met a young woman there who had just had surgery for a similar hand deformity to me! Thrilling! (Don't worry, its a bone growth that is not visible to you)--but I was now righter than before: even within broad evangelicalism, there was a lack of critical thinking through the Scriptures due to the dead hand of Calvinism, and while it was thought provoking in certain ways, it finally left me cold.

[I had a similar experience when I re-read something by Pannenberg that I'd read at L'Abri many years ago. It was of that time not of this one! Moltmann's work has a similar effect, although I do like some of his thinking.]

My most recent adventure at Katoomba was a men's convention I attended with others from St Swithun's, a church that wife and I really felt a part of but had to leave to better accommodate the needs of young children.

A group of young women was prowling with a video camera between sessions, in fact after a session when the speaker had been telling some very unfortunate jokes, the butt of which was women! The jokes were dreadful, and I wrote to the organisers to complain. [The speaker later divulged a past 'problem' with pornography...its doleful effect distorting his view of women was clearly enduring.]

The youngsters were asking what I thought of the convention. I told them I didn't think much of it because I found it objectionable that the church split along sex lines and I found the jokes in the previous session to be simply bad; very bad. Oddly, my comments weren't shown on the big screen! Typical.

I've not been back.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

36: 4-12

As the astute reader might surmise, its getting tedious doing the 36 questions. I'll do them in bulk from now on.

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
At work: everyone I’ve dealt with feels positive and we achieve good.
At home: house work done, becoming lost in a project, family in the circle but likewise enjoying their interests.

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I don’t. Well, I do: I like to put nonsense lyrics to well known tunes for the benefit of my family. However, they do not detect a benefit in my efforts and politely ignore them.

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
The mind of a 30 year old? So immature, so unfurnished.

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
No. I'm more interested in they hope beyond where Joshua of Nazareth has gone before.

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
I don’t have a ‘partner’ I have a wife: Christian faith, interests in the arts and business, interest in people’s motivations.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
[the 'Christian' answer aside] Living in Australia in C21.

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
A butler.

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
Well, I'm not going to do that on the Internet!

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Able to more effectively engage people in satisfying (for them) conversation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


John Darnielle's mention of the 23'd Psalm on a recent radio interview got me to thinking as I was driving through the swirling rain on the motorway...The Spirit often talks of shepherds in the Bible.

Let's put 'shepherd' into today's terms. What would be the job today that would be equivalent to shepherd then? Try 'garbage truck driver'.

Just see how striking the picture is now:

The Lord is my garbage truck driver, I shall not want...An angel appeared to garbage truck drivers checking their trucks one night...

Does who God is grip you? Our categories and priorities mean nothing to him...nothing. We'd better get that straight as we follow him; because that's how the new creation will be: his categories, not ours.

Women in ministry: first contact

In my post on Julia Baird's article on Piper I mention the problem that the Sydney Anglican diocese has with women ministering as rector.

My interest in women's ministry was piqued in the mid 80s when a friend at the time, Delta, I'll call her, expressed to me her frustration at being discouraged in her ministry calling by the men who were administering the Baptist church she was part of in south-west Sydney.

I felt for her then, but was puzzled why she would face such a barrier, as in the Churches of Christ in which my family had been long involved, there didn't seem to be a problem. There were women in respected ministry positions, including teaching at the Woolwich Bible College. None as the paid pastor, tho, as far as I knew then.

Later on I became involved with Men Women and God, convened, from memory, by Gerald and Rosemary Christmas. They hosted a memorable speaking tour by David Scholer, a great advocate for the complete ministry equality of males and females. I obtained a copy of his lecture notes from Fuller, where he taught.

In a previous post I mentioned my efforts in the debate on this matter in the Presbyterian church, in which I started my Christian life and so felt something for it; I don't think they came to much, although John Bracht, the minister, was encouraging. He later left for the Baptists over the Presbyterian intransigence on the matter.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Big Sunday

One of my favourite films is "Big Wednesday". I'm not that interested in surfing, the film's subject, but it rings with me with its themes of loss and anticipation, of unfolding life, of connections strained and was Big Sunday in a completely other sense.

Communion, being the first Sunday of the month; communion isn't 'big' in Baptist churches, compared to my years at St James...think patronal festival--that's BIG; but the hymns were great. We started with Be Thou My Vision, which always moves me: upwards. The sermon was a tag-team effort with our two girl ministers taking us through the Shema. Another 'very good' part of the service.

I also met LeeLing who was here for the first time with one of her grandchildren. She was lovely and true to the meaning of her name (you have to find that out).

While I write, with family out, I'm listening to a recording of Brahams String Quartets, up loud.

None of this is the 'big' of the title.

The 'big' of the title is the announcement that we are to forge ahead with the extensions to the church premises. The estimate is about $2.75 million for what is called a 'growth-in-contact' extension. Knowing how Quantity Surveyors estimate things, I'd say $3 mill. We were asked to consider our support for the project. Now it hits home: I might have to shelve, or at least adjust my plans for a new Ettinger portfolio case! Not hard, I think...well, yes hard...but I know which is the more valuable in the mind of our Lord.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Piper, Julia and me.

To Julia Baird:

I was pleased to read your critical mention of John Piper in today's SMH article. Despite, or maybe because of many years in Anglican churches, I have become very wary of the Calvinist program (or maybe it's neo-Calvinist) that runs in the diocese. Moreover, the casting of the church family into an 'authority' structure is the start of the social error and the misreading of scripture that abounds in the Sydney view of male-female relationships. To think that in the equality and  mutuality of marriage there is a 'leader' is abhorrent and contrary to the tenor of Paul's corpus (when one puts aside the 'authority' lens).

Some of the work on the Christians for Biblical Equality website I've found fruitful in my thinking in this area, and would hope that it would penetrate the minds of the blokes who serve in the diocese...I wish they primarily characterised their activity as 'serving' as well, and not 'leading', which it is not.

BTW, a critique of Piper. I'm not vouching for it, and might not agree with everything (yada yada), but there it is. Here's another, same proviso.

Make the world gooder!

At the Sydney University O-week I heard the atheists bleating the usual 'if God is so good why doesn't he make the world good'.

The trouble with this statement is that it doesn't entail a critique of its own basic premise.

What it wants is that God 'fixes' this world, as it is...atheists think that this question represents the fatal undoing of Christian belief. It does not; it demonstrates the flaw in the atheist world view.

The question is usually asked within terms of a materialist world view, and those asking fail to acknowledge this; they recognise the broken world problem, and having no answer they want to say that Christ has no answer. But they fail to understand that the problem is a relational one, between persons, and not a purely 'mechanical' problem where the 'god' that they imagine can just fix it, but leave them in their dis-related state with the creator.

That's not possible of course, and most Christian apologetic fails to deal with it effectively because it is based on a theology which has unexamined materialist foundations: it inadvertently posits a creation that is not from and only from the hand of a loving God, but one into which God intervenes but some other external 'principle' is entertained. It also fails to deal with the basic-ness of God as love; and love is about relationship.

So, the materialist cannot have their 'god' fix the world and remain out of relationship with him, because the 'out of relationshipness' is the cause of the problem. And God has fixed that in terms of the relationship itself.