Friday, January 30, 2009

Alaska Discernment Committee

The Standing Committee is pleased to announce the appointment of the following persons to the Bishop Discernment Committee:

· Mr. Dan Hall, Southeast, Chair

· Ms. Deatrea Marciel, Southeast

· The Reverend Wilfred Lane, Arctic Coast

· Mr. Martin Oktollik, Arctic Coast

· Mr. Clarence Bolden, Interior

· Ms. Linda Demientieff, Interior

· The Reverend Ann Whitney, Southcentral

· Ms. Stacy Thorpe, Southcentral

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Great Divide

"For to some the Bible is absolutely unique and from above - God given; while to others it is only outstanding and from beneath - man-wrought. To some it is, and makes ours, an indispensable revelation without which men cannot see the truth about God; it provides a final standard or court of appeal by which all claims to have found the truth can and must be judged. To others it is rather the product of the spiritual discernment of men of old, a discernment which by the same Spirit men today may not only equal but even superseded; so that a man enlightened by the divine Spirit may so discern fresh or fuller truth as to be able rightly to criticize and even to discard parts of Scripture...These different views cannot both be right. They are not merely complementary aspects of a larger whole just waiting to be united. Rather, as experience has proved, they will not mix. Nor is there hope of vital unity among us until we are afresh agreed in the conviction that the Bible, which is history, is like the Incarnation absolutely unique history, because it is also and first of all special God-given revelation."

Monday, January 26, 2009

From "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor" - by D.A. Carson

  1. There is always more pastoral work to be done, so remember that we serve under a gospel of grace.
  2. As Marg Carson said, “Work hard and play hard, but never confuse the two.”
  3. When other ministers in your sphere are working effectively and fruitfully, learn what you can, but keep envy at bay with rejoicing.
  4. If you have a tender conscience, rejoice because that is a great gift. But be sure to combine that gift with a deep understanding of the limitless dimensions of the love of God.
  5. No matter what is going on, never ignore your wife and children.
  6. When change is necessary, pray and plan carefully, and act.
  7. Be serious in working out what it means to be content in your busy ministry life.
  8. Know yourself, and play to your strengths.
  9. Fill your life regularly and deeply with the knowledge and love of God so that when the dark times come, the call to God is one of a cry for help rather than a judgemental curse.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reform England Chairman Speaks

REFORM is an Evangelical network in the Church of England, the aim of which is to preserve and foster gospel ministry. It’s as simple as that. I suppose we’re stuck with the title of “conservative”, but our concern is not with labels — our concern is with gospel ministry. We think the country should have the opportunity to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus as it is in the Bible, and so the authority of the Bible should be para­mount. Undermining the au­thor­ity of the Bible undermines the gospel. If you can’t trust one bit, how can you trust the rest?

Critical reading of the Bible is good, if it means seriously to engage with the text. If it means to put it to one side in favour of other author­ities, it does undermine its authority.

We don’t do major membership cam­paigns. But we have about 1600 members, about 500 of whom are clergy. We estimate that two or three times that number of clergy are sym­pathetic to our aims, if not to every aspect of our covenant — that’s the essential statement of what we be­lieve, and I think it’s the best ex­pressed statement of Evangelical faith at the moment.

Homosexuality is not at all the main issue — we want to welcome everybody, irrespective of their sexuality. But where the authority of the Bible is undermined, we will stand up for it. We’re not a single-issue group — we’re fighting the battle wherever the battle is.

There should be male headship of the local church because it’s a visual aid of Christ’s relationship with his people. Reform believes that there needs to be a valued ministry of women in the church as there needs to be a valued ministry of men; it’s a difference of function. The way we order ourselves is a visual aid of how we relate to God. But there are gradations between us on this issue.

We intend to remain faithful, and to be part of the Church of England. An important part of that is re­specting the biblical basis of the Church. Canon A5 is based on the teaching of scripture. If people move away from that, we’ll find a way round those obstacles — for ex­ample, if a bishop of a diocese started to teach something which seems against what the Bible says, we’d remain part of the diocesan structures, but look for spiritual oversight elsewhere.

The Anglican Church isn’t an organisation which welcomes a range of beliefs. It has core beliefs which stand at the heart of its identity. You can’t ignore the formularies of the Church — that’s not Anglican. Having said that, it does have a reputation for tolerance and allowing space for people to disagree over secondary issues, and that’s something I prize enormously. It’s a genuinely national Church.

I alternate between admiration for Dr Williams, and despair. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t admire his courtesy, huge thought­ful­ness, and desire to keep people together; but what makes me some­times despair is the lack of any clear action to support the confessional basis of our identity as Anglicans. It’s one thing that prompted


The Bible became significant to me slightly later in my life. I became a Christian from the age of seven, and grew up in a Christian family — Plymouth Brethren and then Baptist. In early adulthood I fell away from Christ. I came back, partly as result of getting married and thinking about the fundamental things I wanted to base my life on, and partly on discovering a Church of England church where the Bible was taught in a way I’d never heard before. It opened God’s revelation to me.

I went into the Civil Service, but de­spite being fast-streamed, I decided to move out when Margaret That­cher came into power, and worked in various business organisa­tions. I fin­ished as Director of Em­ployment and Environmental Affairs at the CBI.

My most embarrassing moment was when I had to carry the can for a real mess-up in a visit of a senior Japanese trade delegation. At one point, the entire delegation walked out — something nobody had heard of before.

When I was a young child, I wanted to be a farmer. When I grew up, I wanted to go into politics. But the polarisation of views among political parties at the time I finished uni­versity left me feeling unhappy about committing myself fully to one party.

The ordination process started with the reconciling of my faith with un­derstanding the Bible as being the living word of God. And I was given increasing numbers of oppor­tunities to teach the Bible, which I hugely enjoyed — and found very chal­lenging. Professionally, I’d reached a point where I needed to move on, but I wasn’t attracted to any of the options available to me. It was a long process of discernment with fellow-Christians, and also with my wife.

I’m married and have three chil­dren, who are very much moving into adulthood now: the youngest is 17. I’ve loved seeing them develop. You give them exactly the same op­por­tunities, but they all turn out different.

I was brought up in the most exclusive version of the Plymouth Brethren. Leaving it opened up life in a way it hadn’t been opened before. I came out with the rest of my family, except my father. He was later excluded — probably for not being able to control his family. When you see these things happening, you know it has nothing to do with Christian love, nothing to do with standing firm in the faith.

I hope the first impression of my church is that it’s joyful and friendly. People say that. Emphasis on the Bible’s teaching is at the centre, and we’re in the process of change. We were a small church, now we’re a medium-sized church, and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to change and grow.

Being in the Exclusive Brethren and seeing the destructive effect it has on families has given me a lifelong love of the tolerance you find in the Church of England. Leaving was an important choice. So was marriage, and finding a church which taught me the Bible. And, of course, becoming ordained.

I gave my life to Christ at the age of seven as result of reading The Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John. I’d be hard put to choose between the books of John Stott — they’ve all been hugely influential. I’ve just finished Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. I loved it.

When I was relatively young, Billy Graham had quite a strong influ­ence on me — his story and what he did. I read his biography and went to the Earls Court mission, and was selling song books there for one or two weeks. I remember dashing out to get his autograph and being disappointed that he refused — on the grounds that he’d have to give everyone else one. I looked around and there wasn’t anyone else there. . . But I still admire him enormously.

My biggest regret is selling my house in London at the bottom of the last recession.

I do remember a sermon by Dick Lucas which explained to me for the first time how the Church is at the centre of God’s purposes for the whole of history. I heard it on a Walkman as I walked round a super­market and was utterly gripped. I don’t know what happened to my shopping.

Fairtrade coffee tastes delicious. Yes, I do support Fairtrade — and we sell it regularly at our church.

Leisure time is any time spent with my family, particularly as the youngsters are now becoming adults. Spending time in conversa­tion with them is wonderful. Living in Plymouth, I enjoy going out in a boat. I built a sailing boat when I was 16, after reading Swallows and Amazons, and that love has remained with me all my life.

I might have said the PA system at the Reform conference was the last thing that made me angry, but the National Evangelical Anglican Con­ference in November. . ! That dread­ful inability to vote about the doctrine that lies at the heart of An­glicanism astonished and angered me.

One of the things which makes me really happy is seeing the changes in people’s faces after a Christianity Explored course. I run them regularly, and as people discover Christianity for themselves, one of the wonderful things is to see their whole manner change.

There are innumerable people in the epochs of history I would like to get locked in a church with — and yet I think I could only understand someone within reach of my own generation. I once heard Tony Benn say that he felt in some way he was accountable for his life. I’d love to pick that conversation up with him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why the Gospel Needs the Law

Why the gospel needs the law

About The Way of the Master, a ministry which encourages evangelism

My friend Andrew sounded excited on the phone. But using the Ten Commandments in evangelism?! Sounded like legalism to me. He gave me the website address of The Way of the Master — I said I would take a look. But as soon as I saw the material, I was gripped.

In a reality TV show style, the interviewer used the Ten Commandments to bring knowledge of sin and conviction of sin, and then offered the gospel. Over the course of about a month, enjoying soup lunches in my study that spring, I searched out episodes of The Way of the Master TV programme that some bright spark had posted on YouTube and watched them on my laptop. I slowly became convinced about the theological basis of using the Law in evangelism, based on such texts as Mark 10.17ff, Romans 3.20; Romans 7.7, Galatians 3.24, James 2.10, 1 Timothy 1.8-11, etc. It truly was a revelation — something so simple yet powerful which I had never come across or heard about before.

Still cautious

But still I was cautious about releasing the material on the church — something so completely unknown, and which did not pull its punches.

One day, a thought came to me. Ten years before, while on the Cornhill Training Course, Dick Lucas was giving away a lot of his old books. I had picked up a few of them, including The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges, regarded by many as a spiritual Reformed classic on the ministry. I searched my shelves, pulled it down, and began to flick through it, wondering if there was anything in this old volume. I was speechless to discover that there was a whole section on use of the Law in evangelism, listing quotation after quotation after quotation from people as widespread as Augustine, Calvin, Whitefield, Matthew Henry, Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott, saying the same thing. For example:

John Wesley: ‘The very first end of the Law [is], namely, convicting men of sin; awakening those who are still asleep on the brink of hell … The ordinary method of God is to convict sinners by the Law and that only. The gospel is not the means which God hath ordained, or which our Lord himself used, for this end.’

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones: ‘A gospel which merely says, “Come to Jesus”, and offers him as a friend, and offers a marvelous new life, without convincing of sin, is not New Testament evangelism. (The essence of evangelism is to start by preaching the Law; and it is because the Law has not been preached that we have had so much superficial evangelism.) True evangelism... must always start by preaching the law.’

‘The trouble with people who are not seeking for a Saviour, and for salvation, is that they do not understand the nature of sin. It is the peculiar function of the Law to bring such an understanding to a man’s mind and conscience. That is why great evangelical preachers 300 years ago in the time of the Puritans, and 200 years ago in the time of Whitefield and others, always engaged in what they called a preliminary law work.’

Nothing new

Aside from the biblical texts, here also was historical proof. This was not a new fangled method dreamt up by Americans, but, in fact, one the ancients swore by, to bring deep conviction of sin and repentance — Spurgeon even called the Law ‘our greatest auxiliary’ (our greatest weapon).

I ordered the material from The Way of the Master and began to advertise the training course. In our small country village church, 20 signed up for the eight-week course, including the churchwardens. Many were fearful, some did drop out, but, with those who did continue, we had some extraordinary bold adventures in evangelism, culminating in witnessing on Eastbourne seafront as a group one Saturday afternoon, giving out tracts and engaging with people. To this day I remember the district nurse, who, when, after a very good dialogue supper conversation, a friend turned to her and said, ‘I wish there was a warning of Judgment Day’, replied, cool as a cucumber, ‘This is your warning. You may not get another’. And that wasn’t even part of the script of the course! That is the kind of boldness we are talking about.

Baptism visits

A few weeks into the course, I was still concerned that it would be dismissed as ‘dreadfully American’. I was determined that we had to get some British footage. Andrew Baughen kindly agreed to film us. ‘What about Covent Garden?’ he asked. I nearly died; I had not reckoned on being a street evangelist in quite such a public place! But with much prayer and the Lord’s help, I managed myself to get two contrasting interviews on camera, which have been a great asset in demonstrating that British people can use this material.

One of the most interesting venues for using the material has been on baptism visits. In my baptism visits for parents wanting their children ‘done’, I have traditionally used a spiritual questionnaire to find out where they stood, and then used the Two Ways to Live material. It has been faithful, solid stuff, but often not had much effect. People have still very much had the attitude ‘take it or leave it’ really.

I began to show one of the video clips also as part of the preparation, and the effect has always been profound. People are intrigued and amused to begin with. Then, as the interviews progress, the implications of what they are viewing begins to hit — that they also have broken God’s laws, and they also are in the same spiritual predicament of standing under his judgment. They are awakened to their sin, and to various degrees also alarmed at the consequences of it. During the last baptism visit I did, we spent a good half hour discussing sin, righteousness and judgment. The fathers particularly were very thoughtful.

Our standing with God

The perfect example of this in Sussex was a father who was a successful newspaper man. Before the clip his questions were about science and suffering, fairly academic and casual questions. As soon as he saw the clip, his questions were completely different. He commented that he always believed that Christianity was how you measured up with other people. Now he saw that it was where you stood with God. I said. ‘You got it in one’. I lent him a book, met up with him, answered lots of his questions. He started coming regularly to church, to the Men’s Breakfast, reading Christian books, praying in the car, reading his Bible, and wanting (his words) to ‘become a committed Christian’. Which he did. All through the trigger of coming under conviction of sin through use of the Law.

Rabbit in the headlights

I saw the same effect on children in family services. You can teach children the Ten Commandments in a fun way, using pictures associated with that particular commandment. You then test them. You then go on to talk about the commandments and the gospel. And every time, whether in assemblies or in family services, I saw what you might call ‘the rabbit in the headlights’ look. You can see the cogs in the head turning just the same as with adults: ‘I have broken God’s laws — I’m a sinner — God is not going to let me off because he is a good God — he’s going to call me to account — I’m in trouble — help!’

Most modern methods of evangelism in the UK swing on getting people to examine the claims of Jesus. You get someone to come on an Alpha course, or a Christianity Explored course. But what if someone is just not interested in looking at the claims of Jesus? (which many people you encounter just aren’t). What if they won’t commit to a six, eight, ten week course? What then? That often means they don’t get even to hear the gospel: we are pretty much stuck.

‘Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’, perhaps we say, with a shrug. That’s right. But you can salt his oats. What I mean by that is, if you put salt into a horse’s oats, that salt will give him a great thirst. It will cause him to want to drink; to run to the water, and drink in deeply. Well, what can we do similarly for sinners, that will make them thirst for righteousness? What will make someone cry out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ as they cried out in the times of Wesley and Whitefield. The answer is the Law of God.

Pressing need

Which is, of course, what Wesley and Whitefield preached much of, before they ever got on to the gospel of grace. Perhaps it is time we returned to that. Listen to Gresham Machen: ‘A new and more powerful proclamation of law is perhaps the most pressing need of the hour; men would have little difficulty with the gospel if they had only learned the lesson of the law.’

If you are serious about wanting to see sinners saved, to turn them in the Way, in my experience these last 12 months, there ain’t nothing quite like the Law for doing it. But it is hardly my discovery - our Reformed forebears knew that all along. It is just that we have forgotten it. No wonder the appropriately named Ray Comfort of The Way of the Master has called it ‘Hell’s Best Kept Secret’.

James Paice,
St. Luke's Church, Wimbledon Park, London