‘Home for Good’

Home for Good began life as a campaign started by the UK Evangelical Alliance to promote church involvement in fostering and adoption. It has continued as a movement jointly sponsored by EAUK, Care for the Family, and CCPAS. It is now becoming a charity in its own right, to have a permanent existence. I’ve been on the council of the EA for about four years now, and a member of its board for the last couple; I’m honoured to be involved with a great organisation doing many wonderful things, and I’m proud of most of the things to which we, as a board, have been able to give permission, funding, prayer, and encouragement. But Home for Good is probably the one thing we’ve started that I am most inspired by. I remember the lightbulb moment when Krish Kandiah first showed us the number of children in care in the UK, and then the number of evangelical churches, and offered the simple comment that if every church could encourage, equip, and release its members to adopt or foster one child, we could shut down the UK care system. It was a vision so simple, so audacious, and yet so achievable, that it was impossible not to be inspired by it. I remember reading Krish and Miriam’s Home for Good book in draft, checking for theological comments; after I’d read through the stories of how the lives of vulnerable children can be transformed, I wanted to add a comment about interpreting 1 Peter, and had to wipe tears off my keyboard to type it. I remember our collective excitement as we saw the vision begin to catch, and began to hear the stories of people and churches becoming motivated to do something, to make a difference to the lives of the most needy children in our society. The time has now come for EAUK to let go, and for Home for Good to become something separate and permanent; we did the same with Tearfund back in the day. To get established, H4G needs some start-up costs quickly; there is a fund raising campaign running; this is an excellent cause and well worth...

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Baptists and sexuality

UPDATE: I reaffirm everything I said about BUGB handling this discussion astonishingly well, but I now understand that what I heard to be a change of policy was not…

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‘A love I seemed to lose with my lost saints’: Mission and evangelical identity

This weekend passed was our church mission weekend; it was excellent. It was led by Eddie Arthur of Wycliffe Bible Translators, ably supported by Sue Arthur, Judy and Iska, two of our members who spent seventeen years in Papua New Guinea working with Wycliffe, and continue to be involved in Bible translation from their present home in Fife, and Hilary and Peter, who worked with Wycliffe in South Asia and now work in the UK office, and with whom we also have long-standing links. I have, I think, three reflections as a result that I would like to blog about: one on the place of mission in evangelical identity; one on conversion; and one on the Bible. One of the wonderful things about the weekend was the connections: these are our people; we know them and love them; it happens that one of the couples has a daughter a similar age to our elder two, and they have become friends during visits over the years, and now keep in touch on social media. Because of connections like that, their triumphs are our triumphs: there was an astonishingly moving moment during the weekend when Eddie held up a Kamula New Testament and told the – amazing – story (the Kamula people in Papua New Guinea were, literally, headhunters and cannibals just a generation ago; they asked for the Bible; our church members became involved, created the written language, and translated the NT and portions of the OT; now many of the Kamula are headhunters once more, evangelists to the neighbouring peoples…). Then he looked out at our little church congregation and said ‘You did that – thank you!’ And it wasn’t cheesy or forced; this was, in part, our project, carried forward by our people, who we had sent out, prayed for, and supported through many years. Eddie and the team led the weekend extremely well; it was interactive, fast-moving, very positive and upbeat, informative, encouraging and challenging. I do not, however, suppose we would have held such a weekend without these personal connections – and, for a mainstream evangelical congregation like ours, that is a significant shift from where we would have been a generation ago. I have reflected several times in public on the place of a formal or informal list of ‘saints’ in every Christian tradition: every vibrant Christian spirituality, it seems to me, is deeply formed by a set of stories that convey a vision of what Christlike living might look like in our generation and context. For British evangelicals, the missionary biographies unquestionably fulfilled that role; overseas mission defined us as a movement, and overseas missionaries were our heroes, our ‘childhood saints’. Zealous evangelicals went overseas; the rest of us gobbled up their news hungrily, prayed for them, and gave, often sacrificially, to support them. Even I remember the tail-end of this: the church into which I was converted, just over 25 years ago now, and which sent me to train for ministry, had a chair that had belonged to William Carey in its pulpit; even when we moved here to St Andrews, only ten years ago, retired visiting preachers at this church (we had a pastoral vacancy when we arrived) would recall David Livingstone (there’s a local connection) or another of the authorised list of great missionaries; our children’s church library still holds tattered biographies of Gladys Aylward and the rest. These were the stories we expected would shape our young people’s faith, and inspire the continuation of our own. What changed? Three things, I think. The first was a loss of interest in the idea of conversion; more on that in another post. The second was a measure of success of the missionary enterprise; Henry Venn imagined an African church that was self-led, self-supporting, and self-propogating; his dream came true some generations ago in much of Africa. (He never imagined an African church that was sending missionaries to the UK, but this has been the reality for over a century, as Israel Olofinjana has repeatedly demonstrated – see for one quick survey, his blog here, but see also his various books; in recent years this ‘reverse mission’ has become extraordinarily significant; the expansion of the, Nigerian, Redeemed Christian Church of God across the UK in the last two decades is one of the great untold missionary stories – approaching a thousand churches planted, several with membership in the thousands.) Of course, there are many unreached people across the world still; but in many areas, quite rightly, Western missionaries made themselves redundant. The third, and most significant, is the end of the British Empire. Of course this is a...

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