What the Archbishop of Westminster really said…

The top news story on several UK sites on Christmas morning ran as follows: the Archbishop of Westminster, knowing that his midnight Christmas mass homily would be widely reported,  had used the opportunity given to him to attack the government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage. Christian comment on (those bits that I see of) FB and Twitter was highly critical, suggesting that – even if he happened to be right about equal marriage, which most people who took the trouble to comment seemed to think he wasn’t – to make this the central message of Christmas was totally inappropriate. All this was rather predictable; also rather predictable was the fact that the media reports were at least highly misleading, if not actually inaccurate, and...

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On not having preached about sexual violence

I’ve been involved in an online Bible study organised by the excellent Sophia Network, and we have been looking this week at narratives of sexual violence in the Old Testament, particularly (or I was particularly struck by) Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13) and Shechem raping Dinah (Gen. 34). Various points were made in the discussion, but one which struck me was a contributor saying ‘I’ve never heard a sermon about sexual violence’. It struck me that in twenty something years of preaching, I’ve never preached a sermon about sexual violence. I am fairly confident that I have not avoided the subject deliberately: I cannot recall either planning a series and thinking ‘Let’s skip that text’, or...

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Why Baptists can’t (currently) be ‘complementarians’

I gestured at this argument in an introductory book on Baptist theology I have coming out soon; reading the proofs, it occurred to me that a more substantial discussion would not be out of place. Probably, I ought to write a journal article – ‘had we but world enough and time…’ One of the themes of the book is the extensiveness of ecclesiology; I argue (contra various people) that Baptists are distinguished only by their ecclesiology, but then argue (contra various other people) that ecclesiology is actually quite far-reaching, and so our distinctiveness here makes (or should make) us a quite distinct body of believers. I illustrate this in various ways, with various arguments, as the discussion proceeds; one has to do with the question of...

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How much Scripture to preach on?

It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows me, virtually or in real life, that one of the (fairly few) things that annoy me about the contemporary, ‘soft-charismatic’ style of worship that represents the British Baptist mainstream these days is the relative lack of Scripture heard in the services. I’ve written elsewhere about my desire to return to, at least, ‘Old Testament, Epistle, Gospel’ patterns of lectionary reading as opposed to just reading the passage preached on. (We’re just back from holiday in the Lake District, which allowed us to return to the delightful little fellowship at Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church. Three passages of Scripture, read and allowed to mutually interpret, during the sermon;...

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Festival preaching

Neil posted a comment today about what he hopes to get out of this year’s ‘Baptist’ (sic, ‘English and a few Welsh Baptist’) Assembly. In it he offered two version of a criterion for judging the quality of the preaching: I trust that those who speak in the main celebrations will ensure that their words are driven by the Biblical text, showing an appreciation of the theological questions that surround the text and their subject and communicate with clarity, conviction and character in a way that inspires us with a grander vision of God. (My private test is whether I would want to invite them to preach in church here, which is a marginally more humble way of asking if I think they are better than me). This caught my eye, because it...

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