Communal discernment and the church meeting

As Baptists, we believe in communal discernment of the will of God, and we engage in such communal discernment through the church meeting. However, this raises a question: is the practice of church meeting just a convenient occasion for communal discernment, or is it of the essence of such work? Is there something special about communal discernment that takes place in the context of church meeting, or is that practice of gathering merely a way of facilitating a process that can happen equally as well in other contexts?

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Moral arguments for independence

The Sunday Herald yesterday ran an advertisement carrying the names of thirty-four Church of Scotland ministers committed to a claim that a yes vote in the independence referendum would improve social justice in Scotland. Three individuals were quoted, two of them offering (what could be constructed as) moral arguments in favour of independence. Are they right? My judgement is that one might be, but it relies on an undemonstrated premise if it is; the other is wrong; both judgements depend on some interesting moral reasoning which is worth exploring.

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On patience: some reflections on the ethics of argument

The all-too familiar morality of strong opinions which we let off all-too easily and which accomplish nothing at all. I discovered yesterday morning, in the introduction to a seminar he was giving here in St Andrews, that Oliver O’Donovan, the leading moral theologian of his generation, is a colleague; apparently he took an honorary chair with us on his retirement from Edinburgh (which I probably should have known…). The above line is a quotation, as near as I could get it down, from early in a scintillating presentation on ‘Ethics and the Future’; Oliver reflected on time and action, hope and patience, as proper modes of Christian ethical life; it was, as we expect from him, beautifully crafted and extraordinarily tightly argued. The...

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Why should we be afraid of a UK Religious Right?

Last week’s Theos report asks the question ‘is there a religious right in Britain?’ and concludes not. The piece is well-researched and well-argued, and seems to me convincing. The Religious right in the US has coalesced around eight issues, of which perhaps two or three are on any UK Christian group’s political agenda; it has well-established links of influence with one political party, whereas UK groups either have no real influence, or work indifferently with all parties; UK Christians can be shown to be more left of centre than the general population on many or most questions of social and economic policy; and so on. At most, we can see two things. First, the beginnings of some symbiotic relationships between a couple of – small...

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A US election, social media, and Christian internationalism

In every country in the world bar one, thoughtful Christian people seem to be remarkably united in publicly expressing pleasure and relief at the re-election of Barack Obama as President of the USA; the single exception is the USA itself, where the reaction is considerably more mixed, and the majority position probably leans towards sadness at the outcome, with a significant minority expressing something like horror. How do we make any sense of that?

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