Why talk about Sexuality

TonyCampoloPlease take time to read this rather long invite to the above meeting. It is a long letter because I have taken time to think about how to communicate on this sensitive issue. I hope you will take time to read and come to the event. I hope you will also accept and respond in the spirit I have written to you.
As an organisation Signpost International has wrestled with how to respond to the worldwide debate within the church on the issue of human sexuality. As a Christian Community dedicated to expressing our faith through eliminating violence, poverty and injustice and establishing Shalom we found that we are not immune from this issue. Signpost International is made up of a group of Christians who have different perspectives on this issue. Our different church partners around the world also see this issue in different ways. We have found for instance that in Uganda where evangelical Christian are calling for the death penalty for gay people we have had tried to challenge that extreme view and been cast in the ‘liberal’ role. Equally we have found ourselves cast in a more ‘conservative’ role when faced with abusive behaviour. The board of trustees have concerns that by even raising the issue we may be courting controversy and stirring up feelings that are unhelpful and yet feel that there are real issues that need to be explored in a wider context. So with prayerful concern Signpost has partnered with the Episcopal Church to host an evening with Peggy and Tony Campolo.
The evening will explore two peoples different views on human sexuality and the bible. How as a married couple they fundamentally disagree on what the bible teaches and how they have managed to live as a happily married couple. They will tell their story

Stories are sacred, and at this event we will try to treat them as such.
PHOT0014.JPGAs the Director of Signpost International my wife and I have sat across the room as a young woman, looking down at her hands, told us her story….complete with the difficult parts…. each word chosen with the kind of care and courage that made me recognise that moment as a precious gift. It was a gift because it cost her something—vulnerability, painful memories, the possibility of rejection. And it was a gift because it honoured us to know we were trusted with something so valuable, so fragile, and so personal.
Stories faithfully and bravely told are sacred gifts, and in this evening, we will treat Tony and Peggy’s story with gentleness and respect. There will opportunity to hear others stories, the stories from both sides of the issue. When people tell their stories, whether we agree or not, we will be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. This is not an evening for those that want to win, or force their point; nor is it intended to change anyone’s stance. It is intended to be a safe place where we can meet and elevate the discussion from what is currently seen as the acceptable medium of cultural engagement—the polarising back-and-forth, win-lose rhetoric in which no one wins; because when Christians talk about sexuality we tend to revert to sides or stance. As in, we take other people’s stories and make them about us: where we stand on “issues” like homosexuality and premarital sex. Perhaps we do this because we are frightened by the complexity of sexuality, a complexity that does not lend itself to the comfortable categories that assure us that we’re right, that we’re “in,” that we’re safe, that we’re talking about “other” people from “other” places in “other” communities.
We have been advised by some people not to go here so why do it.
In some ways we have felt trapped by fear. When faced with fundamentalist Christians in Africa calling for the death penalty for homosexual people dare we speak out as a more moderate voice, when friends and colleagues dare to share the secrets they have been hiding how do we walk with them.
So, at its heart, this meeting is not about stance, but about people. Homosexuality is not a mere “issue.” Singleness is not a mere “issue.” Marriage is not a mere “issue.” As any mother of a gay child or survivor of sexual abuse will tell you, when we talk about sexuality, we are talking about real people, real bodies, real families, real lives. To forget this is to subject our fellow human beings, created in the image of God, to a sort of theological objectification that robs them of their humanity and renders their stories, their experience, their backgrounds, their spirituality, their relationships, their struggles, and their joys down into something I can either “affirm” or “condemn,” something that is either “pure” or “defiled.” Yes, we are called to “test the spirits,” to think critically, to make judgment calls, and at times to call out sin, but above all, we are called to love. And love does not objectify. It is not rude or self-seeking. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. And without love, our discussions and debates and polemics are just clanging cymbals that hurt the ears of God.
And so, as we listen to one another’s stories, we must quiet ourselves. We must listen. We must love. We must take off our shoes. For we are on sacred ground.
Scripture is sacred, and we will treat is as such.
This means recognizing our own biases and presuppositions when it comes to interpretation, educating ourselves about the culture and context in which the Bible was written and assembled, and resisting the universal tendency to conform the Bible into a weapon or an idol of our own making. Taking the Bible seriously, means accepting it on its own terms, living in its tensions and confronting those texts we don’t like or understand and sitting with them for a while, perhaps even a lifetime. It means respecting the Bible enough to wrestle with it.
That an ancient collection of history, poetry, letters, laws, prophecies, proverbs, and stories might have something important—indeed, sacred—to say about sexuality may seem like foolishness to many, but we are as committed as ever to the notion that Scripture is inspired by God, and useful for teaching, correcting, and training, so that the people of God are equipped for the good works we are called to share with the world.
And so, as part of the meeting, we will be discussing what the Bible says about sexuality, looking at the “big picture” as well as the particular texts that tend to spark debate.
We do not intend for these discussions around Scripture to stand in contrast to the stories we share, but rather to complement them. After all, the Bible is mostly stories, and even the letters and laws we tend to read as dry directives themselves arose from the context of a story.

Sexuality is sacred, and we will treat it as such.
How is sexuality sacred?
Well, we are not entirely sure, to be honest. That’s something we will be exploring together as part of the meetings
We are however sure that preserving the sacredness of sexuality means speaking about it with reverence, respect, and truth (and with some humour now and then too, as I’m convinced that our ability to laugh at ourselves has a direct correlation to our ability to spot the idols in our lives). It may also be true that preserving the sacredness of sexuality means giving up control, relinquishing power, and leaving space for mystery.
Perhaps the hardest part of recognizing the sacredness of sexuality is acknowledging the fact that we will not master it, that we won’t ever be able to “get it right”—not exactly. As Christians we make the most beautiful things ugly when we try to systematize a mystery. I suspect this is why much of what the Bible has to say about sexuality is said with poetry.
Peggy and TonySo please come ready to listen and if you would like to ask a question please write it down and hand it to a steward on the night. We will only take question written and handed in so as to ensure that the space we create remains a safe place for people to share.
Tony and Peggy Campolo – A dialogue: 12th September 2013- 7:30 p.m. St Pauls Cathedral, Dundee
There is no charge for the event but a retiring collection will be taken to cover the costs of the event.
Please let your congregation know about this event. Everyone is welcome. I look forward to seeing you there,
Warm regards,

Kerry Dixon

What happens when Jesus is not the answer?

While I was a theological student, a heated debate broke out during one of the Principal’s lectures around the issues of evangelism and suffering.

The Principal’s view was that preaching faith in Jesus to hungry people was unhelpful because it did not meet their need for food. He argued that salvation had to be socio-economic, as well as spiritual, or it was of no use.

In my youthful zeal I reacted strongly against this ‘deviation’ from the truth – that people really need to be saved from hell, so they can go to heaven when they die – and I shouted across the room,

“Jesus is the answer! Now, what’s the question?!!”

Fast forward nearly three decades to last summer, when I was visiting development projects in India…

On this particular occasion a man – who insisted on calling me ‘Master’ despite my strong protestations – fell to his knees and asked me to bless him.

I found it excruciatingly uncomfortable.

His mother needed medical treatment and his father could not work because of an infection that has now rendered him incapable of doing the hard manual labour he has done all his life. This man had prayed and searched for many hours for a job, or for some way of paying for his mother’s medical treatment, but had no answer.

Now he hoped that my prayer would be more effective than his own.

But what should I pray? Jesus is not the answer to this man’s prayer – he already knows Jesus! – so what is the answer?

What is the Good News?

As evangelicals, we have often reacted badly to anything that puts a greater emphasis on people’s physical wellbeing over their spiritual well being. We have labelled those who believe in bettering people’s physical lives as ‘do gooders’, or we accuse them of believing in a ‘social gospel’, like some kind of heresy, because it lies outside the narrower view of a gospel that saves souls for heaven when we die.

In the 1920s a progressive movement came to prominence, led by liberal theologians, that believed the Lord’s Prayer to be a mandate on Christians to be operational: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). These ‘Social Gospellers’, as they became known, believed that the Second Coming could not happen until humanity had freed itself of all social evils, and that the Church’s role in society was to work to that end.

The movement was influential, inspiring people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and Gandhi, and eventually seeing most of its ideals enshrined in today’s labour laws.

It was also controversial, with many Christians rejecting the Social Gospel in favour of a theology that focused only on people’s spiritual salvation, whatever their physical circumstances.
That was where I was at, in that rather explosive lecture many years ago, and many evangelicals still remain largely ‘single agenda Christians’. That is to say, willing to consider social action only if it leads to conversion.

When good for good’s sake is not good enough
Now, when I speak on behalf of Signpost International, the Christian development agency that I work for, I tell stories of the hungry being fed, children going to school, jobs, livelihoods and incomes being created.

And there is always someone who asks me, “But how many got saved?”

I usually answer them by asking how many people they would like to see saved, with “All of them, I guess”, being the usual response.

Fortunately I can guarantee that!

“Before we build another house, dig another well or create any more small business opportunities I promise you that I will first ask who, in that community, wants to become a Christian,” I say.

“And I can assure you that everyone in that village will put up their hand and then pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’”

The problem, of course, is that it isn’t real.

When William Wilberforce set out to end the slave trade, no one asked ‘how many got saved?’  Wilberforce worked for justice, to right a terrible wrong and to see people set free in this world.
When we work to end poverty we work for justice, to end the slavery that comes from poverty, and so that there is not food for some, while others starve, or that some have houses while others live in slums.

And as I read the gospels, I find that ‘salvation just for heaven’ was not on Jesus’ agenda either. He quite gratuitously, as Luke put it, “went about doing good”; healing sick people, feeding hungry people, loving the unlovable, and befriending and accepting even those on the fringes of society.

So, when Jesus talks about separating the sheep from the goats, it is not on the basis of belief but on doing good. Because, if worship is to acknowledge the worth of God, then reaching out in love to those made in His image is true worship. Or, as it says in James 1:27, “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Doing good cannot be an optional extra for Christians, but must be at the core of our existence. For our faith is not measured by a list of sound doctrine, but instead by the fruit it produces in doing good.
Unanswered prayer?

Returning to my friend in India, I would have to say that it is not a lack of prayer or faith that stops this man. Rather, it is a lack of answered prayer.

But this is not because God does not hear this man’s prayer – or the prayers of the millions like him –but maybe it is because those of us who live in plenty struggle to hear God’s call to us for a different way of living.

What happens when spiritually regenerated people see their loved ones suffering for the lack of small amounts of money, while others of us live lives of luxury and comfort unimaginable to most people in the global South?

You either have to conclude – like the man who asked me to bless him – that we are somehow the spiritual ‘elite’, whose prayers answered because we are somehow ‘more worthy’ than those who live in poverty.

Or we may have to consider that God wants those to whom He has given much to take seriously our responsibility and requirement to share. As the Bible puts it,

“The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,

‘nothing left over to the one with the most, nothing lacking to the one with the least.’”

2 Corinthians 8:14 (The Message)

It is this shift in the way we live our lives that is at the heart of the Gospel, as we follow the example that Jesus set for us and do the good works that has God prepared in advance for us to do.
I would love to see the evangelical church reconnect with the social gospel, seeing thousands of small projects spring up around evangelical churches in the West, all working for justice and ‘doing’ good.
Because, for the times when Jesus is not the answer to the question, then maybe we are?

Because, for the times when Jesus is not the answer to the question, then maybe we are?

Confession

Have you ever noticed how our motives can be deceitful? While thinking we are living a true Christian life, we can at the same time miss the point – we can be completely self deceived as to our true motives.

I have been thinking about how honestly I confess my sins and my motives for my confession.

Water of life!

If I confess my sin so that I am free from my guilt and my sin but do not at the same time confess and struggle against the injustice I see against the poor, oppressed and marginalised people of the world, I don’t believe I am being a true disciple of Christ (for my concern is on my need and remains a base and selfish act).

To be a true disciple I should not only confess my sin, but also confess the injustice I see in the world and thus fight against the powers of darkness and hell to help eliminate the societal sins and their root causes that keep people living in poverty.

When I fail to do this I fail to love my neighbour as myself.

Towards a post modern view of the Christmas story

Towards a post modern view of the Christmas story

Texts: Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-12, John 1:1-14.

Christmas is, at the same time, the most beautiful of festivals, and also the most puzzling. For, at this season, the church tells the story of a virgin who gives birth to a child, of angels coming to earth to announce the good news, of a strange heavenly body, star or comet, which certainly does not appear to obey Newton’s laws of motion.

We, by and large, are the children of the age of enlightenment, the age of reason, of the modern period, in which knowledge has come to be equated with scientific discovery, and history asks the question “what really happened?” It is small wonder that we are dominated by these ways of thinking. They have, for five hundred years driven western society. Not only that, but they have been spectacularly successful. Who among us would want to live in a world without electricity, without modern means of transport and communication, without modern medicine?

But the benefits of modernity have come at a price. The externality of life has become so all-important and all-consuming of our resources and energy, that we have lost contact with innerness, with our own innerness and the innerness of the whole of creation. From being a place of awe and wonder, the world and its creatures, including our fellow human creatures, have become an object of exploitation for our profit and benefit.

The reason why Christmas is puzzling is that, in line with this whole way of western rational thought, we come to the foundational stories with the question “Did it really happen?” “Were there really angels and shepherd and kings, was there a star, is a virgin birth possible?”

I suggest that to place such questions against the story of Christmas is part of the price we have paid for modernity. With our concentration on rational discovery, scientific method and historical accuracy, we have lost all understanding of the role of narrative in our lives. The reading of novel and poetry becomes a leisure activity, music becomes entertainment, story is something for children, legend and myth become synonymous with untruth. Both theology and popular thought have applied these modern canons to the Biblical stories, and one of three things has happened…

  1. For the vast majority, the stories of the Bible have become simply meaningless and irrelevant to their world. At Christmas time even Santa Claus has greater credibility that Matthew or Luke.
  2. For the liberal theologians, the mythical and legendry elements have been pruned out of the Biblical narrative, leaving bare historical facts, which are interesting, but of little worth celebrating.
  3. In fundamentalist thinking the myth and legend have been translated into rational fundamental fact, cute if we are talking about shepherds, kings and angels, (just been to see William and Thomas in school nativity)but dangerous if we try to make Biblical story into political controlling agenda. Fundamentalists may feel that they are battling against forces that threaten their most sacred values. During a battle it is very difficult for those fighting to appreciate the other persons position.

What is clear is that modernism is reaching the end of its dominance of our world, of its intellectual, social and political life. We are realizing that the concentration on the external, together with our de-valuing of story, myth and legend, has led to a deep impoverishment of our lives.

In post-modern thinking we are beginning to realize that the important question is not “Did it really happen?”, but “Is it true?” As we try to begin, again, to fill that deep hole of spiritual yearning which modernism has left at the heart of our human experience, we ask whether the Christmas story among others, can bring us to a deeper and fuller humanity.

The end of modernism has begun to teach us that rationalism is a thin veneer on the surface of our humanity. We have begun to realize again that the roles of art, music, poetry, prose, drama and dance, together with story, myth, legend, religion and psychology are intertwined as they take us beyond that thin surface of our lives. As we begin to value again their place in the search for truth rather than fact, they will be our companions in that twin journey into the depths of our own being and into the heights of the infinity and unity of all being. This is the double journey, which is so often today described by the word “spirituality”. It is I think no co-incidence that a widespread renewal of interest in spirituality comes with the demise of modernity.

A journey to the depths of the self and to the heights of heaven is a journey fraught with many dangers. Those who suggest that it is simple and open to anyone to try, are not unlike those who would suggest we set off to the North Pole on skis or across the Atlantic in a rowing boat, without charts, compass or support system. The church community in all its breadth  exists to offer the guidance needed through the many pitfalls of the journey of the spiritual life.

I would suggest three starting points for the journey of the spiritual life, which I hope more and more of us will want to undertake in the coming years.

The first is an encounter with story, with text, with the Biblical story. The Bible is a collection of stories, which chronicle humanity’s encounter with itself and God, and God’s encounter with humanity. I think the time has now come to enter into the story as story and to find there, the echoes and guideposts of our own spiritual encounter and journey. That we become part of the story, (here Eugene Peterson’s bookEat This Book” is helpful) Thinking of the Christmas story, the angels, the shepherds the star and the wise men, the baby born in the stable all relate to how we find the message and the meeting with the one who gives us new birth, new depth of meaning, new direction and new mission. We meet our God in a text, which takes us beyond fact and offers us insights into truth. Here I find my own new birth, my own vulnerability and experience my own humanity.

The second is to directly encounter God, this we can reach through inner stillness in the centre of our lives. Christian have meditated on the Word for thousands of years, stilling their minds and discovering again the sense of peace and joy and wholeness that can come from the discipline of meditation. I am reminded of that old carol “It came upon the midnight clear”

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
the world hath suffered long;
beneath the angel-strain have rolled
two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

Through such encounters with the divine we find a new vocation for our lives with new and deeper meaning, which we may have been searching for and thought we had lost forever.

The third is the meeting with God in the context of the meeting of the community. Our story is maintained through ritual and liturgy. Today, and each day of the year, we tell the story in word, in action, in poetry, music, art and dance. Through the telling of the story together, we affirm our community, we find new faith and hope, and again we find a new sense of the mission and a vocation of humanity i.e. to be human in our de-humanizing world – to be the image of God.

At this Christmas season we hear a story of journeys, the journey of Mary and Joseph, the journey of the shepherds, the journey of the wise men, the journey of angels and even of a star. May I invite you on a journey, a journey to the discovery of our true selves, a journey to find a new sense of humanity, which our world so desperately needs.

I was inspired by a sermon written the Very Rev Michael J.Pitts, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal and while I have largely copied his work it has been change and edited by me.

Power and Authority

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” Philippians 2: 5-7a While travelling with Tony Campolo this summer, he told me this story: ThAngrye health board in an American community asked the local government to grant permission for the opening of ‘halfway’ houses for people being discharged from a local psychiatric hospital. The homes were intended to be a safe place where those who had previously suffered from mental illness could rebuild their lives. The local community (many of whom were Christian) rose up in arms at this proposal. They did not want these homes in their neighbourhood! The lobbying machine went into overdrive, with a concerted local media campaign swelling the protesters support. When it was time for the next meeting of the local council hundreds of angry residents arrived to bombard the elected members with their opposition to these homes. Seeing the mood of the meeting, the council members voted unanimously not to allow the health board to open the homes. Just as the vote was passed the door of the hall opened, and in walked the frail figure of Mother Theresa. In the area to speak at a conference, Mother Theresa had heard of the furore raging over this issue. With the room suddenly silent and every eye on her tiny frame, Mother Theresa walked to the front of the hall and knelt in front of the Council. “Please give these people a chance,” she begged, “Please, please, please!” Faced with the kneeling nun, the council rescinded their recent decision and – with no opposition from the onlookers – the halfway homes were duly built. What was it about the plea of one small woman that carried such sway against hundreds of outraged citizens? The protesters in the local community used their power to try to force their will on the local council – a media campaign, and many angry voices – but Mother Theresa spoke with a compelling authority. Where did this authority come from? It came from the fact that Mother Theresa had given up everything for the sake of the poor, living a life of sacrifice and selfless giving, truly identifying with the people she served in every possible way. When we, as Christians, speak out on issues that face us today, do we speak with power or ? If we want to make a difference to the communities in which we live then we need to be sacrificially involved with those in need: giving our time and money, letting go of our own agendas and truly serving our communities.

Should a Christian own a BMW?

Just a thought – but if we work on the WWJD principle how much “stuff” would we buy?  If when faced with the latest consumer must have gadget, we stopped and thought about Jesus as he is portrayed in the gospels, and asked what would Jesus do or could I imagine Jesus buying this?  How many things would weBMW buy?

A BMW is more than a car, it is a status symbol.  I don’t mean to pick on BMW owners anymore than anyone else, but it is a good example to use as an illustration of how far away we are from living out the values and simplicity of Jesus.  In basic terms, if Jesus had £50,000 to spend and he knew that people were dying from the lack of the basic necessities of life – such as food and clean water, would he buy a status symbol or feed the poor?

The heart is deceitful above all things and it is easy to convince ourselves that we need things or deserve things (I recently heard a friend say they deserved a new car due to the stress they had recently endured).  I find it difficult to imagine Jesus saying I need a holiday in the Maldives, or I must have an iPod, and yet I hear this kind of language on the lips of many Christians including my own (I have never been to the Maldives but I do own and iPod).

Some years ago I had a conversation with an up and coming business manager.  He and his wife lived in an ex-miners’ terraced cottage.  It had three bedrooms and small garden.  The manager and his wife were both committed Christians.  When he got promotion at work he told me he had to buy a bigger house as his clients would expect it.  “It is important for my career.”He said.

I replied with the following question “I wonder what would happen when your clients knowing you could afford a bigger house, discoverer that you had chosen to stay in your cottage so that you could give more money to the poor?

He bought his big house and has been successful in business but I still wonder what the impact would have been if he had not moved and would he have been more or less successful in business.

It is easy to see the speck in my brother’s eye but the plank in my own is trickier for me to spot. As I said, the heart is deceitful above all things and it takes considerable effort to examine my own motives, but it is imperative that I do it. I try to focus on Jesus and compare my morality against him and in this process give permission to some members of the community of faith to speak into my life.  I need those who God has placed me with because they see the plank in my eye far more clearly than I do, they are not caught up with my fantasy – in fact we should all make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves , seeking others who can honestly reflect back to us what they see in us and turn both our will and our lives over to God.

In 1946 Mother Teresa heard Christ’s miraculous call to “Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come, be My light.” “Will thou refuse?” How could Mother Teresa refuse? For in 1942, she had made a personal, secret vow to Jesus, “Not to refuse Him anything, however small.” When I became a Christian in 1978 I prayed a prayer very similar to Mother Teresa’s vow – the prayer was in a booklet written by Norman Warren entitled Journey into Life.  The prayer was as follows…

Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I have sinned in my thoughts words and actions

There are so many good things I have not done. There are so many sinful things I have done.

I am sorry for my sins and turn from everything I know to be wrong.

You gave your life upon the cross for me.

Gratefully I give my life back to you.

Now I ask you to come into my life.

Come in as my Saviour to cleanse me.

Come in as my Lord to control me.

And I will serve you all the remaining years of my life in complete obedience.

Amen

What set Mother Teresa apart is the speed and faithfulness in which she honoured her vow.  I have been trying to fulfil my vow for 31 years, it has been a wonderful and exciting journey and it is a journey that is still challenging.

The thing I want to do I don’t do and instead I do the very thing I do not want to do – this is my story – so when I challenge others I am confronted by my own hypocrisy and my falling short.  I am fortunate to be part of a Christian community that challenges me to push in harder to God and who also forgive me when I don’t.  Who will save me from this body of death? Yes you know who!

A new vision of Church or an old one?

Cloisters

What if…

What if being a ‘member’ of a church wasn’t about accessing communion, or submitting to the church’s  authority, but was about committing to one another’s lives no matter what.  A covenant even, that we will pursue God’s best for one another.

That we will do life together – through good times and bad.

That we will take down our masks, revealing what’s really going on in our lives and hearts.

That we ask each other difficult questions.

That when you sin against me, and when I sin against you, we are committed to forgive and work through the issues.

That there’s no bailing out when things get tough.

What if we made that covenant to each other?

What if the ‘church community’ wasn’t about weekly meetings, but about being in and out of other people’s homes and lives, day in day out?

What if it involved breaking down the different compartments of our lives – our homes, our families, our work, our friends, our neighbours, our communities – but instead tried to integrate them?

What if it didn’t pursue ‘ministry’ – but simply ‘life’?

What if it was committed to a specific geographical community, dedicated to bringing God’s values to that area?

What if it committed to pursuing love and justice, no matter the cost? How far is it willing to go for the sake of the lost?

What if it really believed that each time we walk past someone in need, we walk past Jesus?

What if it didn’t accept hard-heartedness to sin, selfishness, and poverty as an option?

What if it rejected the notion that Christian values = middle class values – that Christianity shouldn’t be ‘respectable’?

What if it committed to building friendships with the types of people Jesus himself preferred to spend time with – the broken, the forsaken, the poor?

What if it opened its homes, not just to one another, but to those in need as well?

What if we’re holding out for some sort of revival that we actually need to initiate?

What if our ideas about love have to take a step up?

What if Isaiah got it right when he said that only when we spend ourselves on behalf of others, then our light will break forth in the darkness?

(This blog was sent to me by afriend in my community http://www.communitychurchdundee.org)

5 Issues facing Dundee

Tay BridgeI have been thinking a lot recently about what are the top five issues facing Dundee (though this could apply to any city anywhere – however I live and work in Dundee).

Recently I made a brief appearance on a television show called the secret millionaire (I by the way am not the millionaire). In the show the secret millionaire asked me about living in the Hilltown and one of the things I said to her was how we have had to teach our small children not to pick up discarded hypodermic needles on the way to school.  This comment has led some people to suggest that I showed Dundee in a poor light and that Dundee is not like that.

However talking to one of the mum’s at the school gate last week she told me how in her block a drug addict had overdosed and looked like they might die, her friends seeing she was in a bad way (they too are addicts) tried to push her down the rubbish chute so that she wouldn’t die in their flat. After trying in vain to force the woman down the rubbish chute they took her down stairs and left her in the basement to die.

Most Christians in Dundee will never hear such stories first hand or have their children step over needles, condoms and used sanitary towels on their way to school (all of which are a regular occurrence for us). This is because of the transformation of their lives through their faith leads them to better parts of the city and keeps them out of the social paths where they would meet the people whose lives are blighted by addiction and abuse.  I am not trying to point the finger nor do I want to make us out to be some kind of saints, (we are defiantly not), but as I have asked the people I meet what they think are the top 5 issues that need to be solved in Dundee the following list has emerged

  1. Drugs and alcohol addiction,
  2. Crime (and the fear of crime),
  3. Break down of the family,
  4. Teenage pregnancy
  5. Unemployment

659428_42488329These are the top favourites at the moment.  (I have not finished asking people yet and so the list may change I will blog more when I have completed my survey),

The question I want to ask is what is the church doing about tackling any of the issues in the list?

I accept that there may be Christians  doing jobs I know nothing about but as far as I can see there is no visible Christian response, presence, thinking and or debate on these subjects.

If the church is to be relevant then surely the top five issues of any city must become our agenda too?