Monday, January 11, 2010

How the world changed in the Past Decade. Part 6 - The Church

I called this The Church not Christianity as I have a high view of the corporate nature of my faith. My view of what is church is that of the classic reformed tradition. She is catholic and apostolic, local and universal, invisible and visible, militant and triumphant and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. She is the bride of king Jesus and his appointed means to fulfill his great commission of preaching the gospel and baptising all the nations.

This decade has seen a further southward move of global Christianity. It is no longer a largely European based faith and the vitality of confession and witness had moved south especially to Africa. Western churches are increasingly paralysed by their abandonment of biblical faith. Liberals do not evangelise and grow. Evangelicals and charismatics do. So in the UK traditional liberal dominated churches have declined. Evangelicals and charismatics, black churches and Roman Catholics see growth. The Anglicans have been beset by the ordination of homosexual clergy, especially in the USA where they are now among the episcopate. Developing world Anglicanism will have no truck with this. The American church has been split and the intransigence of the face of ugly American episcopalian imperialism is likely to split the world wide Anglican communion. The Church of England is unlikely to see any significant exodus. Ever since 1662 the C of E has never expelled ministers and very few have repudiated its communion. Most who have left have moved to Rome, the natural destination from a church that was never fully reformed. Most have gone recently over women's ordination. More may go if women in England become bishops. Evangelical continue to stay. The cost of leaving is very considerable.

The Church of Scotland faces a similar crisis over ordination of homosexuals. Some there may leave but again, the cost especially in property is a consideration. The smaller Free Church would be a natural haven for these prospective refugees from the established church but exclusive psalmody would appear a real barrier. The Free Church which has also had a split and battles over property does show encouraging signs of questioning the exclusive psalmody stance which is encouraging for the prospect of its growth.

South of the border we have seen growth in the two small evangelical Presbyterian denominations. I have had two spells of two year terms as moderator of our presbytery. We have seen growth with two new congregations in England and six plants in progress. We have new congregations among Turks in Belgium and in Romania. There are plants in Romania, Italy and Azerbaijan too. The historic moment of being moderator came when we were able to have a presbytery meeting in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey. That also got one free admission to see all the abbey FOC.

Our local church in Ealing started the decade losing its pastor back to America then a time with no-one full time except a new graduate which I found difficult.Our pastoral search specified as high among our priorities a man with a British wife happy to settle in London. Too many Americans do not appreciate the strains involved in residence where though the language is allegedly in common, ways of living are different. A man applied who had no real tertiary education of any description so we did not invite him to preach. Dick Lucas heard and told us we had to hear him preach. We did. he has been our pastor for over six years now and we have seen unprecedented growth. He is an evangelist at heart, committed to staying until God calls him elsewhere, a godly young man with a great gift for contemporary expository preaching which attract people to the gospel. Under his ministry morning congregations have grow to more than our chapel can hold, evenings have gone from single figures to over 50, youth work has flourished and lunch time evangelistic services commenced in the Town hall. We have taken on an assistant pastor and a missionary to Farsi speakers. We have also been blessed with two Mission to the World families settling and the men being called as elders. Our denominations worked has also been blessed by other colleagues from the PCA working in England and other European countries. Our own session now numbers six men. Note we still are male. The only two things that prohibit consideration for eldership in our denomination are being female or a Baptist. The first qualification happily goes against the trends of the world which have invaded churches. We still believe in a male headship of loving servant authority in the spheres of family and church.

The second qualification led to the secession of most of our largest congregation. The elders wanted to ordain Baptists as elders in what was a Presbyterian church. Failing over several years to resolve the situation all the elders and most of the congregation left. Of course Baptists can be elders. But not in a church called Presbyterian.

As a denomination I do not think we have been beset by problems from emergent church, new perspective on Paul or Federal Vision. Theonomy, never a problem for us, seems to have gone downhill with the departure of RJR.

The demons of elf and safety and other arcane legislation ire upon us. Pot luck lunches are deemed unhealthy lest some visitor is poisoned. CRB checks are for all, even some of us who do not minister to children. Windows must be in all church doors. Queen Elizabeth would not have them in men's souls but the state must have them in our doors together with No Smoking signs in buildings where no visitor has ever been seen smoking. In a society not ruled by ten commandments our laws are legion.

The development of our church site has been blighted by the uncertainties of the property market. The old convent building next to us is derelict. The Chinese Embassy never gave us the requested opportunity of first refusal. It went through a couple of property developer, one of whom in total disregard of a preservation order, felled the pine tree which was over 100 years old and next to our chapel. The church though feels constrained not to repeat the procedure with one tree which will be in the way of any proposed redevelopment.

After it was declared that our last PM did not do God, it appears that our public sector is with him. Christians are increasingly marginalised. Registrars cannot opt out of the unchristian civil unions, counsellors cannot opt out from advising homosexuals in perverted acts, teachers and health care professionals offering to pray for or bless the needy face dismissal. Preachers who openly oppose homosexuality or Islam face arrest. Those who complain about public promotion of homosexuality are visited by Plod. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Most notable loss of the decade: Ed Clowney, friend, theologian and preacher par excellence. Anniversary of the decade, Calvin 500 in Geneva which I attened in July 2009.

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