Friday, 14 May 2010

Strange reporting!

In the Sydney Morning Herald today there is a very sad story about a priest in Newcastle Anglican Diocese defrocked for sexual misconduct. Part of the reporting struck me as extremely strange. The reporters claim that although there were no criminal charges "church doctrine dictates sexual relations between a priest and anyone else must be sanctioned by the hierarchy". Now that seems odd, doesn't it? Surely no Christian church has a process of approving sexual relations outside of marriage. In very liberal churches committed same sex relationships may be accepted: but that is different to the "hierarchy" approving a sexual relationship.

The Diocese professional standards say what I would expect a church to say "You are to be chaste and not engage in sex outside of marriage and not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature". However the standards also say “If you intend to make physical contact with another adult or speak to them about a sexual matter you should... seek permission.” Commonly in professional standards this simply means that if you are going to put your arm around an adult parishioner at a funeral to comfort them you should say “do you mind if I give you a hug?” or if you are going to demonstrate how to participate in a children's game you should seek the child’s permission by saying “do you mind if I put my hands on your shoulders.” Perhaps the reporters have completely (and bizarrely) misinterpreted this guideline (and called it church doctrine!)

The reporters seem to have no idea that Christians believe that "do not commit adultery" still applies. Here's some more proof that we live in a post-Christian society. In terms of sexual ethics we are counter-cultural. So counter-cultural that it seems that two journalists from Sydney's leading newspaper cannot comprehend a Christian framework.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Missional Church

"Missional Church" is a hot topic at present, and almost everyone in church leadership says that they are committed to church being 'missional'. But what does the term mean? And what implications does it actually have for how we understand church and, more importantly, how we live as a church? Like lots of these kind of terms, "missional" has a history and comes from a specific discussion. A key figure in the development of missional thought about church is Leslie Newbigin (1909-1998), a Church of Scotland missionary in India who, in light of his Indian experience, challenged the churches of Europe to give up the idea that they lived in Christendom and to start thinking and acting as missionary churches.

On 25th May PTC will host a lecture on Missional Church entitled "For the sake of the world: a missional ecclesiology" by Mike Goheen from Trinity Western University in Canada. Mike is a popular speaker in North America on the topic and is a well published author. His PhD was a study of the theology of Leslie Newbigin. I am expecting that Mike's lecture will be worth hearing for at least three reason. First, he will get beyond 'missional' being a cliche and explain what the term means for people who have taken Newbigin seriously and show how it actually challenges what we think about church (not just giving us a new name for old practices). Second, Mike brings a distinctively Reformed view of the issue. Third, he won't leave the discussion in the realm of 'theory' but will talk about how it should change church life.

For a fascinating afternoon reflecting on church and God's mission and the implications for our churches join us at PTC. The lecture will run from 2-3:15pm and will be followed by afternoon tea. The cost is $10, simply pay at the door.