Christianity, politics and climate change

COP 21 in Paris has ambitious hopes. COP 21 stands for the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It hopes not only to make a statement and have an agreement on limiting carbon emissions but, in a very real sense, change the way business is carried out in the world, which is having such a devastating effect on the planet. We as Christian must be in favour of this. We need to pray for the Paris meetings; write to our MP speak in our churches about this. We are sleep walking towards destroying what was by and for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. Andrew Leake has written an excellent article on this. Please scroll down for the English version. Please take time to read it.


The longest word in English

It is often said that the longest word in English is antidisistablishmentarianism. Actually , antidisestablishmentariam is the longest, non-technical word. The longest technical word is 189819 letters long, which the longest chemical protein, titin. Also it is the longest non-coined words such Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

All this is to introduce an interesting debate, piggybacking an article from Wednesday's Guardian--what do they think they are guarding? Truth? Good spelling? The article basically proposes disestablishment of the Church of England. Antidisestablishmentarianism opposes this.

The basic thrust of the article is that because the CofE is so estranged from the everyday life of the UK--a disputed claim in itself--the church should be disestablished to survive and serve the nation.

The C of E needs to let go of its constitutional power, drop its assumptions and end this charade that it’s still somehow the default setting for English spirituality. In its current form, it serves neither the nation nor the faith it proclaims: it needs to disestablish and de-institutionalise, to change its name and its face. It may soon begin its own programme of reform, but what it needs is a revolution. Because here’s another strange thing: we might need a reborn Church of England more than ever.

The question I want ask, however, is does the link between the church and state benefit or damage the mission of the Church of England? In one sense, as a non-Anglican, I do not have a right to opine about this. In another sense, with the media's tendency to see the Anglican Church as the expression of all British Christianity, I do.

As with most disputed issues, there are strong arguments on both sides. On the positive side it does express the important missionary assertion that faith and politics are inextricably linked. On the other hand it does locate that political theology in the centre of society rather than from the margins. Or to put it another way, it is political theology at home rather than in exile.

Practically, it does give vicars entrance into people's lives that a non-Conformist pastor may not get. It also gives more of a unified voice into society as the Archbishop of Canterbury attempts to do. It does put the Church of England into an extremely difficult position as the 7th largest landowner in the UK.

I am not convinced that even the new and wonderfully creative ways that the Church is trying in its mission, such as Fresh Expressions will truly resolve this problem. Mission from the margins, or the idea that we do mission from a position of exile are difficult to manage if you are in the centre.

These are ramblings rather than a coherent argument. Feel free to ruminate with me.


Without evangelisation there is no integral mission

I have mentioned this subject a couple of times but I decided to translate a blog post by C. Rene Padilla, which is so clear.
The gospel is the most precious thing that we can offer because it's the best thing that we have. All the help that we can offer to all the needs is good but it's not comparable to the possibility of appropriating to ourselves the resources that God wants to give us for a dignified life, full of meaning--Life in abundance.
To evangelise is to announce the good news that Jesus Christ in words and actions, to those who do not know them, with the intention that they, through the work of God are converted to Jesus Christ, and to follow him as disciples, to become part of his church and collaborate with God in the working-out of his purposes to restore relation with Him, with their neighbour and with creation. In this way, conversion is the beginning of a transformation that embraces every aspect of life.
For this reason, evangelisation requires the participation of human agents available to collaborate with the holy spirit. Bryant Myers calls to our attention a pattern, a model of evangelisation in the book of Acts, and demonstrates that the announcement of the gospel is often second act in the. It is the answer to questions that have been asked because something has happened, e.g. the sermon at Pentecost, sermon at the beautiful gate in Jerusalem comes after the healing of a crippled man. Stephen's sermon is a response to the accusation provoked by the miracles. In Myers' words, "in each case the gospel is proclaimed not because of an intention or a previous plan to evangelise but rather it is a response to a question provoked by the activity of God in the life of the community". There is an action that requires explanation and the gospel is that explanation.
We've got to ask ourselves therefore at what point do our actions provoke questions?
To conclude, the reaction is understandable against what we could call "the zealous Christian", the wish to convert people, without respecting wishes of the other. We must reaffirm that there is no place for proselytism, or manipulation. However, without evangelisation there is no integral mission.

Nike theology and mission

I have observed two tendencies in the relationship between mission and theology. On one hand, there is an unhealthy pragmatism in mission—a sort of ‘Nike Missiology’--don’t think, ‘Just Do It.’ However, mission without theological reflection tends to repeat the mistakes of the past or becomes a pragmatic attempt to find the cheapest and quickest way to fulfil an already decided course of action. On the other hand, there is a tendency in theology to reflect, often upon abstract themes, uniformed by and with little relevance to, mission practice. This sort of theological reflection is doomed to suffocate in the rarefied atmosphere of abstract debate.

Theology needs to navigate a pathway between these two errors and create a space where people can think and discuss openly and honestly about the concrete issues being faced in mission today. It needs to start with specific contexts and reflect theologically and practically upon those contexts, in the light of the gospel.


Love the city

There is a line in Lord of the Rings--I don't think it's in the film, only the book--where one of the soldiers in Minas Tirith says that sometimes Mordor feels closer and sometimes further away. From the football field at All Nations you can, on a clear day, see the Shard, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf.  I think sometimes it seems further away and sometimes closer; well it can stay where it is!

Cities can be scary places, places of violence and evil but the Bible's view of the city is generally not negative. The Bible may begin in a garden but ends in a city. Jesus weeks over the city of Jerusalem.

Yesterday we had a visit from an former pastor of Hertford Baptist, Phil Barnard. Apart from it being wonderful to see him again, he preached a very challenging sermon from Jeremiah 29: Jeremiah's letter to the exiles. He didn't preach from the verse that is most quoted out of context, "I know the plans I have for you..." but from verses 4-7.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’

The Israelites had sinned against God and the done evil both in following other gods and doing evil to the poor and vulnerable and it was God who had sent them into exile. The people of Israel had to live out their lives and do their mission in a strange land.

We often feel that we are having to live out our lives and fulfil our mission in a strange land. I still find I feel culture-shock in my own country. We are sent into this world to carry out our mission.

As an aside, I would recommend Chris Wright's book on the first six chapters of the book of Daniel called Tested by Fire. It shows how Daniel and his three friends worked out their mission in Babylon.

Returning to Sunday's sermon, Phil emphasised that we are to develop the physical good of the city; i.e. to build houses and plant gardens; to develop an alternative community; i.e. to marry and have sons and daughters; and to seek the spiritual good of the city; i.e. to seek peace, prosperity and pray for the city.

Jesus also challenges us to be salt in the earth to preserve the good and light of the world to show the way and highlight evil.

This made me reflect upon how sometimes in our churches--not referring to HBC-- we have so many structures to maintain in our church that we have no resources, human or financial to carry out our mission. Do we need a radical rethink about who the church serves, itself or God and His world?


The Universality of the Gospel


THE UNIVERSALITY OF MISSION: God fulfilled his promise to provide a redeemer for the whole world. The  purpose of God is that all human beings be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. The sufficiency and the universality of Jesus Christ are of the essence of the gospel. The universal character of the Christian faith and the confession of the sovereignty of Christ confer on the church its missionary nature. Consequently, the church is sent into the world to live and to be the messenger of the universality of the gospel.

The divine purpose and the universality of the gospel do not mean that all
pathways and options are valid in order to obtain God’s salvation. The sacramentalistic and ritualistic practices which express the intention to achieve justification by works are foreign to the purpose revealed by God in the Scriptures. The unique truth of the gospel and its resultant ethic oppose all universalism and relativism that consider every religious experience as equally valid.

THE WHOLE CHURCH IS MISSIONARY: The whole church is responsible for the evangelization of all peoples, races, and tongues. A faith that considers itself universal but which is not missionary becomes sterile rhetoric lacking authority. The affirmation that the whole church is missionary is based upon the priesthood of all believers. For the fulfillment of this mission, Jesus Christ has provided his church with the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit.

INTEGRAL MISSION: The vision, action, and missionary reflection of the Church should be based upon the gospel which, when it is comprehended in all its fullness, is proclaimed in word and deed and is directed to the entire human person. We must do our missiology on the basis of the Word, from our Latin American reality, and in dialogue with other missiologies, seeking to overcome the deformations or
dichotomies that may have affected the gospel we received. This also demands a
comprehension of the new challenges posed by the world today, such as globalization, postmodernity, the resurgence of racism, esoteric religions, and growing ecological deterioration.

THE NEW MISSIONARY CONSCIOUSNESS IN LATIN AMERICA: The Holy Spirit has brought to life in Latin America a new missionary consciousness. To the missionary practice of the past is added a growing willingness to assume the responsibility of the church, in obedience to the Word, from within Latin America. Opportunities for the preparation and sending of missionaries to other continents and contexts have increased during these last years. However, the new possibilities provided by this missionary activity should lead us to a continuous evaluation and correction of models and experiences in the light of the Word of God.

THE INCARNATIONAL PATTERN FOR MISSION: The incarnation is the model for the mission of the church. In his incarnation Jesus identified himself with sinful people, shared their aspirations, anguish, and weaknesses, and dignified them as creatures made in the image of God. The church is called to approach its mission in Jesus’ way. To accomplish this demands the crossing of geographical, cultural, social, linguistic, and spiritual frontiers, with all that this entails. In all the world, the growth of great cities and their impoverished masses constitutes an especially urgent challenge. To respond to all of these needs it is necessary to reconsider the New Testament model, adequately use the social and human sciences, and reflect on this practice. Also indispensable is the spiritual discipline that equips the missionary with the holiness and the humility that make possible a real respect for and appreciation of other languages and cultures and faithfulness to the gospel. ,

THE URGENCY OF THE MISSION: The church in Latin America must fully and without delay assume its responsibility in world evangelization. It should create and promote training centers in every country, with adequate programs of preparation for local and transcultural missions. The structure of all theological education should be revised in light of the missionary imperative. Missionary advance has always arisen from the spiritual vitality during periods of renewal. To be a missionary church, the church in Latin America must renew its dependence upon the Spirit and give itself to prayer. In this way it can respond to the challenge to proclaim the whole gospel from Latin America to all peoples of the earth.

CONCLUSION: We praise God for the privilege he has given us to attend the Third Latin American Congress on Evangelism at this critical moment in the history of our
peoples. Such a privilege moves us to renew our commitment to our Lord Jesus
Christ and to his church as the bearer of the Good News of the kingdom of 10ve
and justice he came to establish. With humility we commend ourselves to God so
that he, through his Holy Spirit, may instill in us the determination to please him
in everything according to his good will. “Now to the King eternal, immortal,
invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”


Latin American reality

When thinking about a missional theology, we must analyse the context. This is an excellent analysis of the context of the mission of the Latin American Evangelical Church. I think the only missing element would the its mission in the context of the Roman Catholic Church.

From Latin America

THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: In the Latin American evangelical community a missionary concern for other continents has been awakened. New generations of evangelicals, however, generally do not know their own historical roots and Protestant heritage. The knowledge of our own history is essential in order to avoid the errors of the past, to recuperate distinctive characteristics of our heritage, and to fulfil our missionary mandate. In Latin America and in the Caribbean, Protestantism has historical roots that
date from the 16th century. It is an integral part of the history of Latin America,
not simply an alienating foreign element at the service of the advance of present-day imperialism. This affirmation does not excuse the evangelical church for its historical errors and for the deformations of the gospel as it was introduced and established on this continent. It is essential, therefore, to examine the positive and negative contributions of European and North American missiology as well as those of Latin American missiology.

GOSPEL AND CULTURE: The gospel is relevant to all of human reality, including culture through which humankind transforms creation. The capacity for cultural creation is a gift granted by God, in whose image human beings were created. Thus, it is important that culture occupy the place it deserves in our logical reflection and practice. During these 500 years, our continent has witnessed contempt for the autochthonous cultures and their systematic destruction in the name of evangelization. The subjection and the abuse which the indigenous peoples suffered must be condemned. Thus it is absolutely essential to seek reconciliation between our peoples. At the same time we must recognize that every culture can be an adequate vehicle for the faithful communication of the gospel. From this perspective every culture should be understood, respected and promoted without presupposing the superiority of one culture over others. It should be pointed out as well that every culture is affected by sin, which introduced corruption, conflicts, egotism, and the breaking of relations between God and all of creation. Therefore, all cultures are under the judgment of the Word. The Creator may not be identified with his creation nor with any particular culture. The revelation of God in Christ transcends both and at the same time enters into a relationship with both creation and culture to redeem them.

Evangelical missiology should function in two ways. First, it should recognize,
respect and dignify peoples and their cultures; second, it should evaluate them in the light of the judgment of the Word, offering the hope of the gospel for their
transformation. The faithfulness of the church to the purposes of God demands a contextual hermeneutic which permits the faithful communication of the gospel in open dialogue with culture. The church should fulfill its mission of announcing integral salvation to the whole human being in the reality in which he or she is rooted.

EVANGELICAL IDENTITY: As evangelicals, we need to reevaluate our indigenous, African, mestizo, European, Asian, and creole roots, and consider the plurality of cultures and races that have contributed to our enrichment. As the Latin American church, we confess that we have identified more with foreign cultural values than with those authentically our own. By God’s grace, because of our cultural identity and our evangelical identity we can face the world without a sense of inferiority or shame.

The aflirmation of our evangelical identity involves reaffirming our commitment to our Reformation heritage. It does not mean assuming a noncritical position
with respect to our tradition, doctrines, or missiology. As a church we are called to consistent reformation in the light of the Scriptures as our final authority.

We must evaluate the models of mission we inherited from the past or import
in the present, and seek new models. This requires forging a missiology from Latin America that takes into account the experiences and contributions of the churches from the different ethnic and cultural groups of the continent. Nevertheless, the search for new models must not lead us to make concessions with respect to the truth of Jesus Christ.

We thank God for progress in the unity of the evangelical church in Latin
America and for the new forms of cooperation which have arisen in the fulfillment of its mission. However, we must recognize that individualism and denominationalism have created divisions in the Latin American church. To confess the unity of the church in Christ means to overcome ideological, cultural, social, economic, and denominational barriers. We need to open ourselves to constructive dialogue, to value each contribution, to strengthen communion, and to cooperate in mission. It is not honest on our part to proclaim a gospel that reconciles the world if we still have not become reconciled among ourselves.

SOCIO-POLITICAL CONTEXT: Latin America at present can be characterized as a continent in crisis. Various countries have suffered under repressive military regimes which committed grave violations of human rights. In others, many years of civil war have caused enormous human and economic loss. The persistence of male dominance in our culture has made women the victims of different kinds of discrimination which limit their full participation in social and civil roles. Profound social and racial divisions in the country and in the city place millions of men, women, youth, and children in conditions of extreme poverty, denying them the employment, adequate food, housing, health, and education that make possible equality of life that is truly human.

Purely formal democracy, corruption of state institutions, and inadequate neo-
liberal economic measures show that power does not serve the whole of society,
least of all the impoverished majority. The problems of corruption, the external
debt, drug trafficking, terrorism, moral degradation in its different forms, and the disintegration of the family also lacerate our peoples.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCH: In the face of this situation, our Christian conscience cannot close its eyes. The gospel of the kingdom of God exhorts us to practice justice, which is the essential consequence of forgiveness and reconciliation in Jesus Christ. Our faithfulness to the call of the gospel demands that we assume Christian responsibility in the conflictive situations of our continent. The church must affirm and promise the life denied by all sin, by unjust structures, and by avaricious interest groups. Within its community, the different forms of discrimination predominant in society on the basis of sex, educational level, age, nationality, and race must be ended. The church
fulfills its mission as it follows Jesus’ example and takes seriously God’s question
to Cain, “Where is your brother?”

We recognize that the Latin American evangelical church generally has not
assumed this responsibility faithfully. It has confused the world, into which it was sent to serve, with worldliness and sin and has isolated itself from social and political processes. In some cases, it even justified violent dictatorial regimes. This explains why some evangelicals who have participated in the public arena have achieved little or nothing in favor of the majority of the people; on the contrary, they have limited their political participation to satisfying personal interests and to obtaining certain privileges for the evangelical church.

At the same time, we celebrate the growing awareness of the evangelical church
with respect to its social and political responsibility and its increasing participation in society. Different evangelical entities, churches, and individual believers participate in development projects, in public administration, and in institutions that defend human rights.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN: The proclamation of the whole gospel commits us to the creative work of developing more and better ways of participation in society. The certainty of the final triumph of Jesus Christ, guaranteed by his resurrection, impels us to make constructive contributions, even though they may not achieve definite results. Our commitment to Jesus Christ as the only mediator of the peace of God provides the foundation for the conviction that his redemptive work is relevant for every conflict and for all human suffering.

Responsible participation in civil life requires the preparation of leaders motivated by the Christian call to service. The church should affirm that every aspect of national life is an area of legitimate action for Christian service. It must provide formative help and pastoral accompaniment for those who have a political calling.At the same time it is necessary that the church assume its prophetic function to denounce, among other matters, the abuse of sex, the manipulation of the communications media, and the deification of the state, money, and violence, whatever its origin. It does so legitimately when it manifests in its own existence the life of love, justice, and peace which is possible through obedience to the Word and the power of the Spirit of God. The exercise of leadership in the life of the local churches should be marked by the model of the suffering servant and show a contrast with the political demagoguery and other deformations caused by the abuse of power.

Practice is demonstrating that local churches can respond to the needs of their
communities according to the extent of their resources. They are developing
projects that show the possibility of transformation, beginning with local initiatives and resources that promote appreciation for the dignity of persons and of peoples; we see here a challenge that should be taken seriously by the entire evangelical community. The power of the gospel and consistent action on the part of evangelical churches can permeate and transform the conditions of injustice and inequality that prevail today in Latin America.



What is the Whole Gospel?

As many of you will know, my passions include Mission, theology and Latin America. So I thought I'd bring these three things together an use some insights from Latin America on mission and theology. This except is from CLADE III (CLADE stands for Latin American Congress on Evangelization) which took place in 1992, 500 years after Latin America encounter Europeans for the first time. It is one of the most coherent and complete declarations on mission I have encountered.


The Whole Gospel

The gospel and God's Word: the Whole of the counsel of God and the manifestation of his Kingdom have been announced us by means of the gospel. The Scriptures recount God's revelation in history through concrete acts. They come together in Jesus Christ, the full and definitive expression of the God's revelation. Therefore, God's Word is the foundation and starting point for the life, theology and mission of the Church.

The gospel of the creation: God is the Creator of everything and what he created is good. He created humanity, man and woman, in his image, as beings called to live in a harmonic relation with, its neighbor and with nature. God placed them as stewards, responsible for the whole creation, for benefit of the whole of humanity. But the human beings fell into sin and the whole creation suffered the effects of this fall, remaining a captive of sin and death. Nevertheless, God in his sovereignty has taken the initiative to establish a covenant to reconcile humanity with himself and the whole of creation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God is restoring human dignity, transforming cultures and leading his creation towards the final redemption.

The gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation: Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate, gift of God and the only way to Him. By means of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, forgiveness is offered to humanity, and reconciliation and redemption for all creation. Repentance and faith are essential, to receive the salvation, as expression of total dependency of God. Those who receive forgiveness become children of God; and this new filial relationship enables them to obey him. New life requires that humanity maintains and develops this relation with its Creator. It produces a new relationship with its peers and with the whole creation mediated by the commitment to the Lord and based on the practice of love, truth and justice. God in Christ creates a forgiven and reconciled community called to be an agent of forgiveness and reconciliation in a context of hatred and discrimination.

The gospel and the community of the Spirit: The person of the Holy Spirit acts in power in the world. He does so primarily by means of the Church granting it life, power and gifts for its development, maturity and mission. The Church, the community of the reconciled with God, is sent into the world by Jesus Christ. A radical transformation occurs in the Church that demonstrates the divine purpose of eliminating all injustice, oppression and signs of death. As the community of the Spirit, the Church must proclaim freedom to all those oppressed by the devil and to stimulate a pastoral practice of restoration that brings comfort to those who suffer discrimination, marginalization and dehumanization.

The gospel and the God's Kingdom: With the coming of Jesus Christ, God's Kingdom became present among us, filled of grace and truth. The Kingdom is in constant conflict with the powers of darkness; the struggle takes place in the heavenly realms and is expressed in creation at the personal, collective and structural levels. Nevertheless, the community of the Kingdom lives in the confidence of the victory that has been already won and that the God's Kingdom will be revealed fully at the end of time. With the power and authority delegated by God, it assumes its mission in this conflict, to be an agent in the redemption of creation. Jesus Christ the King was incarnated and calls to his community to do the same thing in the world. To follow him as his disciples means to assume his life and mission.

 The gospel of justice and power: The gospel reveals a holy, just and powerful God in his character and in his actions. For this reason, the Church is called to live according to the justice of the Kingdom, in the power of the Spirit. In a world characterized by the abuse of the power and the mastery of the injustice, the testimony of the Church confronts the power that dominates in the present. That is why the proclamation of the Kingdom announces Jesus Christ and denounces the forces of evil.


Where was Jesus?

In a world of heinous crimes and awful violence, where the God of love? The events of Friday night have rocked the world. Of course, this is a daily reality for many who live in the Middle East or many other of the black-spots of world events such as Somalia, Pakistan or Nigeria. But as a Christian, I have my faith shaken. Where was Jesus in all this? It seems that the all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God didn't want to, didn't know how to, or couldn't stop these awful events.

Where was he? I feel sick asking the question.

The Western World has realised that their governments cannot supply 100% security which they have come to expect. When there is an attack like the Paris attack, who among the authorities is to blame? Well, nobody.

It is interesting when we turn to the Bible, God is not portrayed as the ultimate government official guaranteeing our safety. He doesn't seem to be in the business of protecting his people, or anyone from the actions of evil people. From Job through to the Apostle Paul all suffered. I know from my own circumstances that God does not protect us from the unjust actions of others. So where is He? Where is Jesus?

He is there. He is along side. He knows what it is to suffer injustice and the evil actions of others. There, on the cross, he suffered and died. When He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsakened me", he was identifying himself with the innocent sufferer of Psalm 22 and struggling with the same sentiments we are feeling here. The next couple of phrases clarify it well.

[why are you] so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Jesus knows and has been in that darkest place. This is no answer to Paris, Beirut or Baghdad but it does tell is that God is not a high-up aloof God who does not care. He's been there.


Missio ad Rationem Creationis

Many Christians who I speak with give the impression that they believe that care for creation is a recent interest in mission thinking. It can therefore be ignored as a fad. It is true that in the past ten years the issue has been more main stream within Evangelical mission circles but its root good further back.


When I was a student at All Nations (1991-1994), I remember Chris Wright taught a module called "Wholistic Mission" and we dealt with the issue of creation care.

I also want to share a quote from the 1983 document "Transformation: The Church in Response to Human Need". Under the subtitle "Stewardship of Creation," it says:

"The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it" (Ps. 24:1); "The land is mine" (Lev. 25:23). All human beings are God's creatures. As made in His image they are His representatives, given the responsibility of caring wisely for His creation. We have to confess, however, that God's people have been slow to recognize the full implication of their responsibility. As His stewards, we do not own the earth but we manage and enhance it in anticipation of Christ's return. Too often, however, we have assumed a right to use His natural resources indiscriminately. We have frequently been indifferent, or even hostile, to those committed to the conservation of non-renewable sources of energy and minerals, of animal life in danger of extinction, and of the precarious ecological balance of many natural habitats. The earth is God's gift to all generations. An African proverb says that parents have borrowed the present from their children. Both our present life and our children's future depend upon our wise and peaceful treatment of the whole earth.

I hope this indifference does not persist.