A mother in Israel

I was out preaching at another church this morning; I’d planned the sermon some weeks ago, before I realised it would be Mothering Sunday. This week I’ve struggled again with a commercialised festival that constructs a romanticised picture to celebrate, ignoring the pain this heaps on so many who for whatever reason cannot fit that picture. Pete Greig tweeted a wonderful litany this morning which captured this remarkably well; my response was to tell a story in the ‘children’s talk’ slot that explored a rather different vision of ‘Biblical motherhood’ than is usually offered. The style is visibly, to me, a second-rate Bob Hartman rip-off, but here it is: ‘A mother in Israel’ There are lots of mothers in the...

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Thought Leaders: Coleridge, the Clerisy, and Catalyst Live

It was a privilege to be a part of the ‘Catalyst Live’ event organised and sponsored by BMS World Mission a few weeks back. The vision, the mix of speakers, and the organisation, were each simply excellent; I got asked to give a couple of talks, but also to engage personally with Jürgen Moltmann. Hearing him tell his own story, of discovering the hope that is in Christ as he read the Bible whilst a prisoner of war in a camp in Kilmarnock, was profoundly moving; talking to him at some length as we planned the interview sessions – well; I have disagreed with aspects of his theology in public, and I stand by those points; but his personal graciousness, gentleness, and humility were utterly captivating and disarming. (At one point, as we shared a...

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Once again: on being unapologetically charismatic

‘Are you a closet charismatic, Steve?’ I was having lunch with someone I like and respect greatly when he threw this one at me a month or two back. My response was heartfelt and immediate: ‘What do you mean, “closet”?’ On this issue, I’m out and proud – although hardly uncritical of the movement as a whole, or in its various strands. Because of this, I initially looked seriously at the first reports from the ‘Strange Fire’ conference that happened across the pond a while back; I have to admit that I quickly lost interest: there are some serious theological criticisms to be made of the charismatic movement, but there was no-one on that platform capable of making them. I picked up a farrago of...

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Improvising in the key of gospel

My friend Wesley Hill (who blogs, with others, wonderfully here, incidentally) shared a story about Pope John Paul II on Twitter today – do read the link, but the essence is that the Holy Father encountered a priest who had deserted his vocation and had been reduced to begging, and then restored him by asking the fallen priest to hear his – the Pope’s – confession. (There seems to be some evidence that the story is factual, not hagiographic, incidentally.) The story grabbed me: I added it to a small group of tales I know, only some of which I can tell (the most personal I can’t, online, because of the people involved. But ask me why I just love baby showers one day when we’re alone). Tony Campolo’s famous tale that ends...

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Celebrating Lynn Green’s election

Today, the Revd Lynn Green has been elected as General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. (Report here.) On one level, this news is distant from me. It happens that I do not know Lynn – we have met, more or less in passing, but I certainly cannot claim any close relationship with her. And it is eight years or more since our family moved to Scotland, and so I transferred my ministerial accreditation from BUGB to the Baptist Union of Scotland. That said, BUGB is the denomination into which I was baptised, which tested and affirmed my call to ministry, which ordained me, and in which I began my ministerial service. The two General Secretaries before Lynn are personal friends, as are several other national and regional leaders. I owe BUGB more...

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