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Monday, November 02, 2009

Some people just don't get it

I read a great post today at "Love and Light" called "You just don't GET it!"

It's a great post from Meg that deserves reading and positive comments.

Meg talks about how heterosexual society forces GLBT people to fit their lives into a narrow mould.

She asks "Why should we have to edit our lives and our conversations just so you don't have to feel uncomfortable?"

There are some straight people out in the world who don't feel uncomfortable but, generally, she is spot on. There's still an awfully long way to go until the world is a comfortable place for all people to be publicly in love and affectionate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I won't back down


In what has been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least I have received much support but also some criticism for continuing to speak up for the rights of Gay and Lesbian Christians.
Some of the criticism has been quite hurtful but I refuse to back down from writing and speaking on this issue. I will continue with my thesis and blogging because I think it is important to maintain a voice of social justice and to continue to define and redefine the extent of God's love and grace.
This blog is here to stay. I will not stop writing or speaking on issues that I believe are important. If anyone in NSW or further afield (with some notice) wishes me to speak at their church or gathering I would be happy to.
If you feel excluded by the church or have felt excluded and damaged in the past please email me confidentially. I am happy to support and encourage those who have felt discarded by the institutional church.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spong - Time for Debate is Over

At "Straight, Not Narrow" I came across a post with an excerpt from recent comments by the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong where he says that he is no longer prepared to debate the age-old arguments with conservative Christians about homosexuality.

Here are the excerpted comments:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

There is much, much more posted on the blog A piece of my mind.

No Junk, Just Jesus


I came across a great site for GLBT Christians primarily but also straight allies called "No Junk Just Jesus".


It has a link to a free workbook for GLBT Christians who feel rejected by the Church and/or God. It also has a link to a pamphlet to encourage GLBT people to consider why Jesus loves them.


A lot of time and effort has gone into explaining that God's love and inclusiveness is so much bigger than the wider church sometimes makes out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What if churches closed?

This is question that has been asked before and I realize that there are a number of ways in which the answer can go but I am asking it in terms of reflecting on the impact of the church on a local community.

What would happen if your church closed its doors and stopped meeting on a Sunday and closed down all of its activities. Would anyone notice or be affected apart from the people who attend each week?

I realize that I am stuck on a tangent for the moment and I am trying to go out of my way to induce a deep sense of guilt but I am simply asking us to reflect on why we go to church. If we go to sing nice songs, to feel good, to hear an encouraging talk and to catch up with a particular social group then this needs to be acknowledged. These are not bad things but they need to be named and then the church can go on be an encouraging social club for a narrow demographic.

If this sounds uncomfortable or offensive then ask what further impact your local church makes to the local community and the wider world. I am reflecting on my own experiences in the church and, to be honest, if some churches closed no-one would notice and only the paid staff would have long-term concerns.

The next question that arises is "What do we do to ensure that the Church is an active agent of change and hope in society?"

Glocal Christianity

This is a plug for one of my favourite blogs "Glocal Christianity".

Matt Stone is a follower of Christ but seeks to interact with a wide-range of traditions.

He recently reflected on his blogs over time on the subject of yoga which is something that frightens the average, spiritually insecure, Christian.

He also has a magnificent collection of Christian Art.

This is a wonderful blog but Matt is also a top guy who seeks to live out his faith and beliefs authentically and offers me continual food for thought.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I don't get it!

Ok. In case you haven't noticed a trend I am frustrated with the evangelical church. I am tired of words, words, words from pulpits and study groups with little impact on the local community. I am cynical and jaded and I am happy to own these feelings but I still have to ask - what the heck is/was the "Jesus - All About Life" campaign about?

I drive a taxi and I have a lot of conversations about spirituality and no-one outside of the local churches seems to have heard about this campaign or have had a meaningful conversation with a Christian or even know what it is supposed to mean. It is yet another example of Christians pouring money into a programme when I think the problem is that, honestly, Christians don't care about whether their non-Christian neighbours know about Jesus. The church doesn't need another program; it needs to ask people honestly why they don't give a stuff.

Muslims



























I have been doing proof-reading working for some Saudi Arabian Masters and PhD students and am having some really interesting chats about their home, culture and religion. I have given the issue of religion a lot of thought and I have realised that I can't do it. I can't tell them that their religious views are wrong and that if they don't "give their heart" to Jesus then they won't be spending eternity with God in heaven. I just don't believe that any more.

What also concerns me is that I don't think many Christians believe this deep down because, if they do, they aren't going very far out of their way to tell anyone. If Christians really believe that non-believers go to hell (whatever that is) then they don't seem to be very concerned. There are a large number of Saudi and Sudanese Muslims in Newcastle and they are not difficult to find. They are very friendly; I have had coffee and meals with a number of them now and, yet, I don't see the local Evangelicals going out of their way or making any effort at all to tell these people about their faith in Jesus.

In fact, I think much of the evangelical talk is simply pious rhetoric. All over Newcastle are lovely posters saying "Jesus. All about Life" but I don't see anyone sharing that message with any urgency.

I simply don't believe, any longer, that the Christian message is correct. I don't believe that only those who have made the evangelical commitment to Jesus will spend eternal life with God. I am not sure what heaven is but, whatever it might be, it's not a bigger version of an evangelical church.

Ask the average Christian how many people they REALLY share the gospel with. Ask the average Christian how many people they have personally "converted" or "led to the Lord" and you will find a lot of embarassed silence. There is a lot of talk in the church and little action. I, for one, want to live with integrity so I will love and support my Muslim friends and affirm their beliefs and devotion.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Seeking for the Light

I'm still here and people are still reading so I must be doing something right. Feel free to send comments or email me at lchatwin@gmail.com - I always enjoy conversations about spirituality but, right now, as I try and piece together the threads of my journey over recent times I value intelligent, sensitive input.

Anyhow, I am still a part of the Theoblogger which is a project of the excellent Homebrewed Christianity. Below are details of an excellent blog book tour coming soon.

You may wonder where I am on this journey and, to be honest, I don't know but as I said to one of my friends the other day, I've given up with church but God and I are still on speaking terms! We'll see where I end up.

Please take time to check the other bloggers.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Philip Clayton and Harvey Cox both have new books out and they are taking them out on tour. One of the blog tour stops will be here, but as you can see below they will be making their rounds over the next month until they wrap things up in Montreal at the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting. There they will be joined by an illustrious panel including Eric Gregory, Bruce Sanguin, Serene Jones, Frank Tupper, and Andrew Sung Park to share a 'Big Idea' for the future of the Church. These 'Big Ideas' will be video tapped and shared, so be on the look out for live footage from the last night of the tour.


Philip's new book is Transforming Christian Theology for Church & Society and Harvey's is The Future of Faith. Both are worth checking out at one of the many tour stops. If you can't wait you can listen to them interview each other. Enjoy the blogging!


Joseph Weethee , Jonathan Bartlett, The Church Geek, Jacob’s Cafe, Reverend Mommy, Steve Knight, Todd Littleton, Christina Accornero, John David Ryan, LeAnn Gunter Johns, Chase Andre, Matt Moorman, Gideon Addington, Ryan Dueck, Rachel Marszalek, Amy Moffitt, Josh Wallace, Jonathan Dodson, Stephen Barkley, Monty Galloway, Colin McEnroe, Tad DeLay, David Mullens, Kimberly Roth, Tripp Hudgins, Tripp Fuller, Greg Horton, Andrew Tatum, Drew Tatusko, Sam Andress, Susan Barnes, Jared Enyart, Jake Bouma, Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, Blake Huggins, Lance Green, Scott Lenger, Dan Rose, Thomas Turner, Les Chatwin, Joseph Carson, Brian Brandsmeier, J. D. Allen, Greg Bolt, Tim Snyder, Matthew L. Kelley, Carl McLendon, Carter McNeese, David R. Gillespie, Arthur Stewart, Tim Thompson, Joe Bumbulis, Bob Cornwall


This Tour is Sponsored by Transforming Theology DOT org!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Business of Church

I'm a little concerned. It is now about 3 months since I gave up on attending church. The sky hasn't fallen in, my kids are happy and I am close to securing a better job so I can reduce the taxi driving to one shift a week. Having ceased attendance at a local church I have had time to reflect on the health and status of my spiritual journey and also to reflect on some of the reasons why I have left church.

I guess one of the biggest concerns is that the Church, whether we like it or not, big and small, needs to make money to function. This, in itself, is a fact of life; pastors need to be paid, utility payments need to be met, resources need to be purchased etc. The problem for me is that these things seem to become the main event. I am speaking from the position of the Baptist church in Australia. A Baptist pastor can rarely raise questions, take radical positions or defend causes unless those views are held by the majority of the local church or else that pastor could find themselves looking for a new job.

If a pastor is locked into a good superannuation scheme, has a car loan through the Baptist Union, maybe has their kids subsidised to attend the local Christian school and a nice house with rent paid by the church what incentive do they have to encourage the local congregation to be radical in their discipleship.

The issue of money and security goes much deeper than this. I have been in many, many churches and have observed people who are just like their neighbours except for one thing only - they attend church on a Sunday and maybe, if they are devout, a mid-week Bible study but their lives, to all intents and purposes, are just like their neighbours. I am not claiming to be any different because I had fallen into this humdrum, numbness of getting through the business of living.

How do we change this and, realistically, does anyone really care. I guess my ultimate question is - what is church for? If it simply a nice middle-class social club where parents can find safe friends for the children, families can meet like-minded people for bbqs and dinners and people can enjoy some nice songs and a soothing motivational talk on a Sunday morning then church needs to be recognised as this.

In Australia there is a campaign called "Jesus. All about Life". I drive a taxi, I meet with quite a few Muslim students from Saudi Arabia who I am doing proof-reading work for and I observe society generally and all I can see is that there are nice posters outside church buildings but, really, no-one cares too much.

I am not part of the evangelistic scene anymore because I am moving towards a more universalist perspective. I am trying not to sound bitter but I think that church needs to be named for what it is so people can make a choice between the local lawn bowls club, the local pub or church as the basis of their social network. If churches claim to be a part of the Kingdom of God then a lot of work needs to be done in terms of impacting society because, from what I can see, a lot of the language is simply pompous rhetoric.

A final thought that is nagging at me. What if the structures of the church, even those that emerged from the New Testament letters, were simply convenient power structures for people to maintain control. What if there is little point in maintaining paid pastoral positions and weekly gatherings in church buildings. What would happen if church buildings were sold and people met in homes to seek ways to positively influence their local communities and we stopped believing the lie that the person preaching has all the answers?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Blurring the Boundaries

Regular readers of this all too infrequent blog will know of my efforts to find interesting images to complement each post. In this particular post I am writing about my first baby steps into the world of Michel Foucault and especially his "History of Sexuality" and the importance his work well have in my overall thesis and this image seemed particularly pertinent as I consider gender theory, queer theory and how the Church so often hurts and pushes aside the "other" in a game of power.

I am now officially enrolled in the Masters of Philosophy (Religious Studies) and The University of Newcastle in NSW (cue fanfare and drum roll) and am extremely excited. I have no idea how I will manage financially or where I will find the time but I am, nevertheless, very excited!

The foundation to the thesis will be the work of Juergen Moltmann but, as I said, I have just begun exploring the philosophy of Foucault and it is magnificent. Another project down the track is to engage with Judith Butler but she will have to wait her turn for now.

All is good in Les-world. I must say thank you to all of the people who have been so supportive as I have travelled, and continue to travel, stormy theological and spiritual seas in search of a place where I feel content. I will endeavour to write more as the studies and my spiritual journey progress.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Leaving Church

I feel like I have been sat in the doorway of church for a long time gazing at the open door and the possibilities that lie outside but have been afraid to step out because so much of my identity is tied up in the institution of the Church.

Over the past couple of years my confidence in the Church and Christianity has been slowly chipped at and eroded. Rather than dealing with this dilemma and tension I have tried to find an accomodating position so I did the ministry in the pub but gradually I came to realize that the doubts that I was supressing meant that I couldn't talk to anyone about my faith and beliefs until I had sufficiently understood them for myself.

I haven't been to church in quite a while and I can't see a way back. I studied at Bible College and was ordained as a pastor and, however much I tried to deny the fact, I have realized that so much of my identity was tied up in this role and in the evangelical Christian community and so I feel that I have to go through a grieving process as I seek to find a new identity that I can own with integrity.

I can't believe in the literalness of much of the Bible story and that bothers me because I uncritically accepted the Biblical narrative for so long and preached and counselled others in believing and confessing the Christian story. I don't know where the future lies for me or my faith. I know that there are no easy answers but I am just putting this "out there" to seek friendship and care as I make this journey.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bridge the Gap Synchroblog

My post today is part of a larger initiative of more than 50 bloggers all sharing their thoughts on how to ‘bridge the gap’ between the straight and gay Christian communities. You can check out the other links at: www.btgproject.blogspot.com

I have been incredibly slack and am a little late but I encourage you to check out the great work of "Bridge the Gap". They have a wonderful dvd project to encourage evangelical Christians to listen to some other sides of the "gay" story.

Here in Newcastle, NSW I have been holding the germ of a Christian discussion group at the city's gay bar. This Tuesday we begin a fortnightly Bible study as an inclusive Christian study group to supplement the discussion group project. The plan is to form the nucleus of a group that will be the basis of an inclusive Church.

Always in my ministry my heart's desire is to positively connect with those outside of the church. The gay community has been pushed away from God in many ways and my desire is to find ways of engaging in conversations about God and authentically loving people of same-sex orientation.

Please check out "Bridge the Gap" and the other wonderful synchrobloggers. Some people might say that I am focussing too narrowly on a specific group. My Masters thesis will be looking at a positive perspective on same-sex orientation and so I can understand the concern but I feel a strong calling to reach out missionally to a group of people who have been marginalized and who need to know that God loves them passionately.

Please pray for the project here in Newcastle. I have a small nucleus but few resources and would value support however you may feel called to do that. Please pray for this ministry and if you can help with purchasing books for my Masters study through Amazon then I would welcome the assistance.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Study Direction

I am 3 subjects into an 8 subject Masters but there seemed to be a potential stumbling block in terms of my tentative proposal exploring a reframing of same-sex relationships for helping evangelical Christians (primarily in Australia) to come at the issue from a more wholistic, ethical perspective and not simply from the issue of semantics and hermeneutics.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with the Professor of Theology at Newcastle University, John McDowell. John is Northern Irish and has spent the past few years lecturing at Edinburgh University. At the beginning of this year he took on the role of establishing the new theology department at the university.

John and I got on very well and he is interested in, and supportive of, the basic proposal for a doctoral thesis. I have to stress that it is very early days and we are currently in the process of establishing the best method for me to get on a track that will lead to a PhD thesis.

I will cease my current Masters of Theology because there is not sufficient connection for a transfer. I will commence the Masters at Newcastle Uni specializing in Religious Studies. This is a purely research-based Masters. John has tentatively suggested that I work with Moltmann and Bonhoeffer in formulating an ethical thesis for approaching the issue of supporting and affirming same-sex relationships from a Christian perspective.

I will use the Masters to become more familiar with the nuances of Bonhoeffer's work and then if the research is progressing satisfactorily I will be able to move onto a PhD late next year. I am very excited about these developments and feel God's purposes are being worked out in my life. I have a strong desire to develop a professional academic and teaching role as well as the missional ministry through the pub.

If anyone has significant knowledge of Bonhoeffer or helpful resources please let me know.

Thank you all once again for your love, interest and support.

Monday, May 25, 2009

“God Hates Gays”

GayChristian

I thought the headline might grab some attention as well as put in clear written words the absurdity, rudeness and arrogance of the sometimes unspoken, and often spoken, sentiments of large sections of the Christian community.

This past week I attended the sub-regional conference of the Metropolitan Community Church. It was a great weekend of networking, worship and friendship. The biggest thing I took away was an increased commitment to support same-sex relationships and stand up for the rights of gay people to live full and active lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

I was privileged to be invited into the private lives of some special people who told me stories of rejection by their families, society but mostly stories of rejection by the Church that call itself Christian. I heard stories from people who were sincere believers who loved and served Jesus in their place in the world.

To say that God hates anyone is a disgusting statement fuelled by a narrow, homophobic worldview. To claim a biblical foundation for this sentiment of bigotry saddens me more than I can say.

Of course, by writing such a post, I am prepared to engage in theological debate but want I want you to understand is that this weekend I have hugged gay men and lesbian women. I have heard stories of despair but also stories of hope and redemption as lives have been touch by the God who is love. Wherever the debate goes I will be there but wherever people need to be affirmed and supported to live lives as children of God I will also be there.

I have seen the power of God’s love and it does not flourish in the dark halls of a conservative agenda.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A story of magic

I have just finished watching Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium with Samuel and Thomas. It is the second time we have seen it and I still got sucked in by the magic and wonder of the story and it feels SO good to be captivated by the special things in life.

The story is about a magical toy store run by Mr Magorium who is 243 years old. The toys are alive and bouncing and it is a haven for children of all ages. The secret is that Mr Magorium believes in the store but one day he announces that he is leaving. In fact he says that he is "leaving this world" and he hands over the store to his young assistant.

The assistant is horrifed. She doesn't want Mr Magorium to "leave" and to make matters worse the store reacts badly and eventually shuts itself down and all the magic departs as well as the customers. The movie has a wonderful moment when assistant takes Mr Magorium on a special day to help him see the magic of life. He understands at the best last day of life ever. They jump on beds in a bedroom store; they roll out a giant sheet of bubble wrap and dance on it to the sound of popping and laughter and they set all the clocks in a grandfather clock shop to the same time so the whole store breaks out into chiming at the same time.

As the film continues the assistant must either sell the store or discover the source of the store's magic. We had a great time. Thomas and I were lying on bean bags and had a big blanket over us. Samuel was curled up under his blanket and we laughed and imagined and dreamt dreams.

We agreed to hunt out giant bubble wrap and take it to one of the shopping malls to dance. Thomas wants to put out a hat to see if we can get some money!

For the past 6 weeks I have had Thomas off school. For most of that time Thomas and I have been in our new house. I have him for 5 nights a week but due to behavioural issues I agreed to take him out of school before the end of last term and we have only just got word on funding for a teacher's aide and his case worker is liasing with the school to make his reintroduction a more positive experience for everyone.

I have to say we have had the best time. I recalled this when Mr Magorium's assistant said that they needed to wait 37 seconds for the clocks to start chiming. He replied "No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime."

6 weeks well used has been a lifetime of memories. We have climbed up to the helicopter in McDonald's playgrounds; we have swung on swings; we have laughed, hugged and sung songs; we have bought large cuddly toys and had heaps of fun.

There is still magic in the world if only we take the time to look and realize that 37 seconds well used is a lifetime.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Newcastle University

I am still here in the land of the living and, although my internet access is still limited to the local library, I haven't slacked off in terms of my thinking. I have been put in touch with the head of the theology department at Newcastle University and on May 6th I am meeting John McDowell to discuss transferring my Masters across to Newcastle and also to plan ahead for my doctoral thesis.

I am really excited about the potential for expanding my research and John seems to be open to a broader theological perspective which will allow me to explore the intersections of theology, exegesis and culturally-imposed worldviews. I will keep you posted on the journey.

Thanks for all the comments and emails over the last couple of months. I have been encouraged in all aspects of my life.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sacramental Theology

I am beginning to explore Sacramental Theology and Liturgy. I am on the beginning of the learning curve but wish to explore this issue both from a theological perspective and also to understand how sacrament helps those who are spiritual seekers to connect with "mystery" and "otherness".

I am hopeful that you, my faithful readership, can be a part of the process by sending or recommending resources that I can utilize.

I am going to my first ever Anglican service this coming Sunday morning.

Thank you as well for all of the love and encouragement I have received these past few weeks.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Doubting (and) Thomas

I am on one of my periodical visits to the internet and I have enough time to squeeze in a blog to reassure any readers of my continued existence. As part of the recent events in my life I find myself, happily, as the primary carer for 8 year old Thomas. He is not in school at the moment because the education authority won't have funding for a teacher's aide until next term and so Thomas and I are enjoying life, studying at home and becoming even better friends. There is no doubt about my love for my other two boys but, because Thomas and I have more time together and because of his disabilities I feel a strong bond with him.

In the midst of the changing times and reorientation there is also my continuing journey of faith and doubt. I went back to church 2 weeks ago but, I have to be honest, and say that evangelical church with its songs, 30 minute sermon, coffee and return to the world leaves me very cold. I know such a bland, limited sentence leaves me open to criticism but for about a year now I have been trying to find a way of honoring my sincere spirituality and love for God with my disillusionment with institutional church.

This is a story that will be continued.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Presence

The past few weeks have been eventful to say the least but I felt that it was time to blog again and offer some thoughts and let people know that I am still here and growing stronger each day.

As part of this process of change, repentance, healing and restoration I have been considering the place of anxiety in my life. I have been really challenged by a fascinating book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. I picked it up from a charity bookshop a while ago and recently started reading it.

It is a book that, I guess, fits into what evangelicals would call "new age" teaching and I must confess that when I saw it on the book shelf I felt the old evangelical misgivings creeping in but I decided, as I knew he was an important spiritual author, to give the book a fair go. It is wonderful. I can't say that I agree with all of the ideas contained in the book but the basic premise has really helped and encouraged me in recent days.

Tolle asserts that the only moment that ever exists is "now". We allow the past to impact upon us too much and we worry or plan for a future that we can never know and these two pressures cause us anxiety, fear or simply to not be in the "now". What interested me as well was the suggestion that there are no "problems" but simply "situations" that need to be dealt with. Tolle asked the reader to learn to be here and now. If there is a situation we can do one of 3 things; we can get out of the situation, we can change the situation or we can accept the situation as it is.

I am still trying to learn, understand and accept other parts of the book but last night as I lay in a temporary holiday cabin where I am staying with Thomas while we look for a rental I accepted the now, enjoyed my surroundings, became at peace with my circumstances and slept well and did not allow anxiety to crowd in as it has done so often in the past.

I am told that this teaching is similar to certain Buddhist teachings and, as I said, I am still figuring out which parts of the book I disagree with and why that it is but, as a guide to being and the power of the presence it is a very, very good book. Too often Christians live in a world of head knowledge and ridicule or dismiss meditation and contemplation forgetting that the history of the church is rich with these practices.

For me I am going to sit awhile and just enjoy being here now.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Some other beginning's end

Amongst the wonderful thoughts and prayers that I have received in this time of turmoil and change someone quoted a line from "Closing Time" by Semisonic.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end."

Way back when God was making new beginning's from some other beginning's end. He did it with Adam, with Abraham, with Moses, with Paul and, ultimately, with Jesus.

When Jesus was nailed to the cross to die an ignominious death it was the end of what had seemed such a promising beginning. But there was a new beginning waiting to unfold.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring; I just know that I am trusting in the one who fashions new beginnings out of the unlikeliest materials.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A new beginning...I guess

After many ups and downs and trial and tribulations things came to a head last Tuesday when my wife of nearly 13 years said she could no longer be married to me. The details are not relevant for a blog but I wanted to share this information because it will, inevitably, color my writing from this point forwards.

I have been through a lot in recent times and I am SO weary. I don't know what the future holds but I love my 3 boys and we are both committed to their future and happiness. I am still not keen on church; still clinging to God and feeling lonely and trying to minimize and work with the fluctuating anxiety that comes like rolling waves.

I am not blaming anyone just trying to find a constructive way forward. Let's see when erudite gems emerge out of this new period of my life. I feel very unemployable being a separated ordained pastor who is seeing a psychologist and has been wrongly accused. I am thinking of picking up the Masters of Counseling. I have little money and am staying with 2 wonderful friends who have extended an open welcome for as long as I need it.

I am keen to be able to find a reasonable place for when my kids come over and I want to be fairly close so they can call in when they miss me or want to catch up.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

National Day of Mourning

Today, Sunday Feb 22nd 2009, is a National Day of Mourning for the many people who died and lost homes in the tragic fires earlier this month.

Wherever you are in Australia or the world please take time to remember those whose lives have been forever changed by the brutality of the fires.

The main event is being held at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne but there are also people gathering in the main towns ravaged by the fires.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Trials Continued

This past 2 or 3 weeks has been a tumultuous ride which is partly why I haven't been blogging. I keep trying to find time to do book reviews and theological thoughts but life just seems to come right in and try and stamp on my head. Before I get into the nuts and bolts I want to accentuate the positives.

I have been through an incredible trial and yet God has loved, supported, sustained and encouraged me. Each time I have felt like I cannot go any further God has drawn so close to me. It is not the way that I would choose to encounter God's love and grace but I am so grateful for His very real presence.

In the middle of 2008 I wrote about a particularly distressing and painful time in my life where I was accused of a very serious offense that involved a short police investigation. That investigation consequently proved my innocence of all charges but the process was, nevertheless, very traumatic.

Last week I felt like I had navigated a lot of stress in my life and I was very pleased because I have been feeling a strong desire to drop the Saturday night taxi shift so we can go to church as a family once more. I was thinking of how I was going to tell the owner of the taxi about my desire to drop the Saturday shift and that very day he phoned me to tell me had found a Fri/Sat night driver and would I mind not driving this Saturday! How good is God.

The next day as I was processing a strong call to become more involved in pastoral ministry I received a phone call from the Baptist Union. Evidently although the allegations against me had been dismissed by the police the family in question had made the same allegations to the Baptist Union of NSW who are obliged to investigate them and so the frustrations of defending myself against blatant lies continues. This time I have all of the documents that I was able to access from the Freedom of Information stipulations and also the leaders at my old church are more convinced than ever of my innocence.

The investigation shouldn't take too long but I am SO frustrated. Please pray for my wife and I as we deal with this again. I am also, in the midst of this, feeling a very strong call to ministry but I am not sure what that entails. God is very much in control and I feel that this latest episode smacks strongly of spiritual attack and so we keep going to God for His grace and provision.

This time has drawn Tanya and myself much closer together so I am thankful for that.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Transforming Theology

As part of my journeys through the blogosphere I came across a few references to Tripp Fuller and the "Transforming Theology" project. It is an exciting initiative to provide pdf files of significant theological works and access to free books to stimulate theological discussion across the blogging world.

As a passionate lay theologian it was right up my alley and a chance to interact more purposefully with other theologians.

The first pdf sent out is "Reclaiming Christianity" by John Cobb. Having dipped my toe into Process Theology I am very interested in Cobb's work and have been most encouraged by the first half of the book. I will blog more in coming days.

It is a wonderful project and I commend anyone with an interesting in Theological Dialogue to sign up.

By the way, I found the image on a google images search and really liked it. It is a painting by Wojciech Macherzynski and details can be found here.

Australian Disaster

The scale of the fires raging in Victoria have been absolutely staggering and, tragically, the death toll has surpassed anything Australia has ever experienced. Yesterday I was driving the taxi and had the radio tuned in to the bushfire updates and stories. Even though we are in another state and about 10 hours away from the fires their is a collective sense of loss and grief across Australian society.

The following link is to the ABC photo gallery in the aftermath of the devastation. This is a link to an audio file where a survivor describes the wall of flame that he faced.

The death toll is currently 93 and is almost certainly going to rise as the emergency crews move through the disaster zone. More than 700 homes have been lost and the scope of the tragedy and the time it will take to rebuild lives and communities is hard to imagine.

I am going to resume blogging on theology and my faith journey but I wanted to raise awareness of a national tragedy and ask for your prayers for the people of Victoria at this time.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Death of God

In the 1960s, following on from the proclamation of Nietzsche's mad man there was a movement that sought to proclaim the death of the traditional Christian God. It trumpeted the death of God but was more in line with a liberal restructuring of Christianity in some ways.

I had picked up an old paperback copy from the 60s and have just finished reading it. I enjoy reading theology from different perspectives but was pleasantly surprised to find some gems within this book.

There is a great deal of complex thinking. The authors engage with Kierkegaard at a deep level which lost me at times and also with Tillich and Bultmann. If nothing else it has spurred me on to try and understand more of the work of these other theologians.

In the next few posts I am going to drop in a few selected quotes and some thoughts which might be helpful in the current climate of trying to "do" church in the 21st century.

There is a fascinating quote from Nietzche where he suggests that Christianity had moved away significantly from Jesus life and example. He calls Christianity "the tremendous question mark" and goes on to say:

"...in the concept of 'church' it has pronounced holy precisely what the 'bringer of the glad tidings' felt to be beneath and behind himself - one would look in vain for a greater example of world-historical irony" (italics in the original).

Is the traditional model of church a "question mark" and has it moved so far from Jesus? What does this mean? Are we destined to be victims of cultural forces or is there an essence of faith and Christ-following that can be recaptured in our day?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Some People Are Never Happy

Attached to this post is a picture of Bar Beach; just one of many fabulous beaches in Newcastle and the surrounding coastline. I live about 30 minutes from the center of Newcastle near Lake Macquarie, the largest coastal lake in Australia.

We have magnificent beaches, a beautiful lake, fishing, surfing, walking etc and yet...and yet I still hear a multitude of complaints in the taxi.

This week we hit over 40 degree temperatures on Saturday which is exceptionally hot in anyone's book especially an ex-pat Englishman like myself. Last summer didn't really happen and people complained about the lack of sunshine but now that we have a hot summer people complain about the heat. And people have the nerve to call English people "whinging poms"!

It appears that it's either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Myself, I look to adjust to whatever temperature comes my way and try and enjoy the day.

It got me thinking about the tendency of some sections of the Australian church to complain. We complain about Hillsong or Sydney Anglicans or the more progressive aspects of the Uniting Church. They're either too literal or not literal enough and all the while the rest of society gets on with their lives and increasingly sees the church as irrelevant and out dated.

The remedy, as I see it, is not to give up critiquing but to look for the positives in our brothers and sisters. I find it difficult to sleep in the hot, humid weather we are having so I get up and try and find some productive way to use my time rather than sweating and complaining. I find some of the preaching of Hillsong is not to my liking but I rejoice that a friend of mine who has been through divorce and depression is an active member of the church and has found a community that has supported and sustained him through the rocky parts of his recent journey.

On Australia Day 2009 I appeal to all of the readers of this blog to put away complaining and bickering and to seek to find the positives in our brothers and sisters. Critique robustly but don't put people down and use your words to hurt people.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope Continued

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as " to desire with expectation of obtainment and to expect with confidence."

I have been reflecting a great deal on what I perceive to be apathy amongst many church attenders in Australia. People attend church on Sunday. Many of them stand in rows, sing a few songs, listen to a Biblical talk/lecture/sermon of approximately 30 minutes duration, sing some more songs and then move off to the area set aside for tea, coffee and biscuits.

Without wishing to be too reductionistic and judgmental if this is what the Christian life is all about then no wonder pretty much all of the people from outside of church culture that I interact with don't want any of it.

What I am wondering is - is this all it is for many people? What is the experience for people from other countries? Do many people see the gospel as simply a "ticket to heaven"? Why do people go to church but live the rest of their lives mostly indistinguishable from their neighbours?

Have we lost a sense of hope that can transform people, communities and cultures?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free Emerging Church Books


Yep, Free Books on the Emerging Church. Tall Skinny Kiwi who is a prolific and thoughtful blogger is traveling and is offering to post books free to anywhere in the world.

It is worth adding his blog to google reader if you have it.

To find out the details of the free book offer check the blog post for details.

If you take him up on the offer please encourage him. He is a great blogger and this is a wonderful gesture to those of us pushing at the boundaries of faith and culture.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back from the Black

Last weekend I descended into a black hole of depression and anxiety. It has been building for a while which is why the blog has been lying dormant for a while.

I need to give up taxi driving as soon as I can. Driving nights is not conducive to lowering one's anxiety. I was going to concoct a story for the owner of the taxi but on Thursday I went and met with his wife and himself for a cuppa and shared honestly about my struggles. I am only working Saturday night this week and then we will review my shifts. I have asked him to look for a replacement driver for the Friday and Saturday night shifts.

I will drop down to 3 nights and am exploring opportunities to return to part-time pastoral ministry with a church. I am on my medication and am waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist to review the medication and reassess me. Before I enter into preaching and pastoral ministry I want to be sure that I have good support and boundaries.

It's a very trying time and my marriage is just about surviving. My wife has found a good local church so I plan to drop Saturday asap so we can go to church as a family as part of the process of putting some normality back into our lives.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year, New Gathering

My good friend Benjamin Wheatley has taken the bull by the horns and begun a blog for the Newcastle Cohort. Ben and I met for coffee late last year and discussed the idea of a loose gathering of people to talk about faith, Jesus and church.

I am really excited about this development. There are some good thinkers and practitioners in this part of the world that often get overlooked because of the size of Sydney and Melbourne.

As I look to establish a house church and build on the work of the pub church this is a timely opportunity to wrestle with issues of faith and practice in the 21st century.

Please consider adding the blog to your reader or favourites list as we begin to explore what it means to follow Jesus in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.