Book review: Washed and Waiting
- Written by: Francis Chalwell
Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, by Wesley Hill (Zondervan, 2010). ISBN 9780310330035
A gay friend once said to me, “You know why I reject Jesus? Because I want a loving relationship just like you have. I want a man to snuggle up to at night and watch TV with. Otherwise, what hope do I have?” His reference to “hope” transcends the trenches of morality and truth – it is grounded in heart-affections. And this is the realm of the universally human. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill asserts how Christ can provide new affections which can help those who experience same-sex attraction and how the church is key to this. Hill’s book gives hope that is biblical, relational, sophisticated and timely.
Washed and Waiting is biblical. The title refers to two texts. The “washed” aspect refers to I Corinthians 6:9-11, where the Apostle Paul describes Christians as being "washed… in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." The “waiting” refers to Romans 8:23-25, where Paul refers to the groaning of all creation for glorious renewal. Hill holds the historic Christian understanding of sex as a gift from God that is expressed obediently in the context of a heterosexual marriage (see pp 51-53). But you won’t find an encyclopaedic, rigorous or systematic analysis of the biblical material such as in Gagnon (see www.robgagnon.net) or Schmidt (Straight & Narrow?). And that’s ok. However, such a scripture-saturated book would have benefited from an index of passages used.
Washed and Waiting is a personal book. Hill recounts how he struggled from a young age to uphold relational fidelity. He gives moving insight into his intense feelings of loneliness, shame and guilt. Hill’s honesty is purposeful and challenging. Regarding purpose, he says, "I hope this book may encourage other homosexual Christians to take the risky step of opening up their lives to others in the body of Christ." He challenged me to be the kind of straight supportive person who takes the midnight call and listens for 3 hours, or who takes the day off to spend with a lonely heart. Missing in the book, however, is a page or two on how churches can practically work toward being this community of support for the gay Christian.
Washed and Waiting is a sophisticated book. Hill weaves together reflections and stories of people as diverse and ecumenical as Henri Nouwen, CS Lewis, Alan Paton, Aristotle, the Pope and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Negatively, this could prove too ‘high-brow’ for many. Positively, Hill occupies the cultural territory often claimed by the Cultural Revolution (Peter Hitchens’ term) and frequently barren of any authoritative Christian voice. Hill is no ‘Westboro Baptist’ type! His sophistication means that his arguments cannot be conveniently dismissed.
Washed and Waiting is a timely book. Hill seems agnostic with regard to the origins of his same-sex attraction. He has no story of childhood abuse or parental absence. He doesn’t advocate "heterosexual reassignment." He therefore dodges another popular missal of dismissal: that of the Christian who advocates a ‘solution’ to same sex attraction. Hill simply considers himself a gay Christian who is – like all of us – ‘washed and waiting’.
I recommend Washed and Waiting for all Christians who experience same-sex attraction. You might even find it appropriate to give to a gay non-Christian. Its impressionistic biblical references, relational and sophisticated approach, and Hill’s own undoubted authority on the subject makes it an excellent way to present the “new affection” of Christ. This makes it a rare book on the topic. And gives hope for people like me who love and pray for my gay friends.
Francis Chalwell is the Rector of St Michael's Surry Hills in Sydney, and the Vice Chair of Liberty Ministries
- Written by: Dale Appleby
A Rightful Place. Race, recognition and a more complete Commonwealth. Noel Pearson. Quarterly Essay 55, 2104. ISBN 9781863956819
The Last Man. A British Genocide in Tasmania. Tom Lawson. IB Taurus. 2014. ISBN 9781780766263
Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History. Bain Attwood. Allen & Unwin 2005. ISBN 9781741145779
As far back as 2007 there has been bipartisan support for changes to the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to remove clauses to do with racial discrimination. This support was affirmed at the 2010 election. Recent reports suggest a referendum might finally happen in 2017. In the meantime Noel Pearson has written a Quarterly Essay outlining his arguments for Constitutional Reform.
The general question posed by Pearson is: “how do 10,000 distinct peoples [in the world] live well and prosper – and get along with each other – within 200 nation-states?” (6) The immediate question that affects Australians is that the Constitution of 1901 did not recognise the peoples who were here prior to the settlers arriving, but did provide powers to the Commonwealth to make laws based on race. Even the reform of 1967 still included indigenous peoples on the basis of race (more on this later).
Pearson takes some time to review the difficult issues of history-writing, and the differences of perspective that have plagued the debates. He thinks Bain Attwood's Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History is a fine circuit breaker to the “History Wars”, but wants to affirm a stronger view to what happened on the frontiers: the fate of the Tasmanians was genocide; and “the profoundest moral problem of this history: the heavy discounting of the humanity of the Aborigines” (20).
Bain Attwood does provide a very helpful and insightful understanding of the so-called “History Wars” which emerged over the last decade or so, spearheaded in the popular understanding by Keith Windschuttle's The Fabrication of Aboriginal History (2002).
One of the things he identifies is a change in the way history is understood and done. Once upon a time the professional academic historian was seen to be the one who could tell us “what happened”. In fact there are now in the public arena a variety of historical discourses.
Attwood divides his book into three parts. Part 1 aims to trace the roots of the controversy. In Part 2 he critiques Windschuttle's work and attempts to show why it is flawed. In Part 3 he discusses how academic historians might better tackle their research, especially with respect to frontier history, and what role their discussion might play in the public sphere.
A lot of the book concerns the nature of historiography. About who can tell the story. Much Australian history has been told by the settlers and their heirs. Only recently has the Great Australian Silence been broken to hear an Aboriginal History. One of the issues in the book is the nature of oral history and the different ways history is preserved in oral tales. It also concerns the status of the field of Aboriginal History and its relationship to the studies of anthropologists and linguists.
Attwood also discusses what could be called national myths. Stories about a nation that the nation uses to define itself. With respect to the “History Wars” one thing that became apparent was that the public debate was not carried on, by and large, by professional historians, but by public intellectuals who were readers of history. In the process the academic historians appeared to have been marginalised, and their claims to authority weakened. This was part of the process of the democratisation of historiography.
This has led to a plurality of histories in the public arena. Attwood gives a masterly survey of a variety of ways of doing history and the way they relate and compete. In the end he writes to help Australians deal with the truth of the past so that a future can be made with two groups going together. He doesn't think reconciliation is the right word. It “implies that historical difference can somehow be transcended.”(194). He thinks that there will continue to be differences but that the task is to try to moderate these. A truthful exploration of all aspects of the story will assist this.
Pearson affirms Lawson's thesis that the British project was not aimed at genocide but nevertheless had a fatal logic such that even policies of protection “ultimately envisaged no future whatsoever for the original peoples of the island.” (23).
Tom Lawson writes as a British historian and a scholar of genocide. His interest is in what happened to the original inhabitants of Tasmania. Australian scholars have reflected on whether this is a genocide that is part of Australian history. Lawson thinks it is a British question, and argues that it has been part of British public knowledge since the mid 19th century (HG Wells used it as the stimulus for his novel The War of the Worlds). Raphael Lemkin, who prepared the groundwork for legal definitions of genocide, defined genocide as a “total social practice” involving two stages: destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; and the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. For this reason Lawson agrees with the authors of the Bringing Them Home report. The forcible transfer of children with the intention to undermine the viability of a community is defined as genocide in the 1948 Convention (20).
One question is whether it was intentional. The Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote in 1830 to Governor Arthur, warning that the 'extinction' of the indigenous population of Van Diemen's Land would leave an 'indelible stain' upon the reputation of the British government. Lawson's argument is that while protection was strongly in mind there was no concept of a shared future. The indigenous people would give way to the settlers, at best they would be Christianised and civilised. Even protection was a means of 'extinction'. The idea of the 'extinction', of course, ignores the descendants of those original people and has become part of a continuing cultural historical debate.
Pearson says he has “always understood that protection worked in concert with frontier dispossession and facilitated it.” (24) Yet as the inheritor of a mission's religion and traditions, he holds complex perspectives on the history. “... without the Lutherans my people would have perished on the Cooktown frontier.” (26). It is this complex history which each of these writers help us to understand better, and which needs to be heard in its complexity rather than read selectively.
One of the issues in the Essay is the question of identity, for which Pearson proposes a concept of layered identities, so that the various identity markers everyone has can be seen, not in competition but as layers. In this way indigenous people can share a bicultural future while retaining important aspects of their traditional heritage. There is no monocultural past they can return to.
Pearson comments on the lack of consent by the indigenous peoples to the arrival of the settlers, and goes on to urge that indigenous people need to have real choice, because with this goes both power and responsibility. He wants “indigenous Australians to become active agents in our own development.” (48). These are well-known Pearson themes.
A significant part of his argument is that “the basis of our inclusion in Australian citizenship in 1967 was fatefully wrong. We were included as citizens of our own country on the basis of race...” (52). Culture, language, ethnicity, religion are not shared uniformly, but there is only one race - all are part of the human race. So constitutional reforms need to remove the concept of race. He sees the Australian nation in three parts: the ancient indigenous heritage; the British inheritance; and the multicultural achievement. “Constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians … will make a more complete commonwealth.” (55) As part of this Pearson appeals for the protection and preservation of the indigenous heritage.
He makes a strong appeal to the conservatives, concluding, “... you cannot have a unified nation, this cannot be a fair nation, without the proper inclusion of that 3 per cent of the nation who were originally excluded from the constitution. And who, when belatedly acknowledged in 1967, were included on the fatefully wrong basis of race.” (72)
These books and the issues they discuss are of great relevance to evangelical Christians, because it was our forebears who, in many places, stood (admittedly often with their own faults and racist views) between the indigenous peoples and their destruction. The departure of the missions from direct involvement in aboriginal communities may have reduced our view, and the apparent take-over of indigenous “aid” by the “left” may have further isolated many of us. But it is not too late to pay attention and contribute to what is now a national debate.
Book Reviews: Books for Mission
- Written by: Chris Appleby
The Top Five Mission Books
Essentials asked a number of Mission Agency leaders what their top five Mission books were.
Here are the nominations from Bishop Tony Nichols and Rob Healy (BCA WA).
David Bosch Transforming Mission, though more than thirty years old, remains a classic text. (See review on page 13).
Bruce Dipple’s recent Becoming Global has good practical advice for the local church, but in my view is not strong theologically. (See review on page 6).
Out of the Saltshaker and into the World - Rebecca Manley Pippert ISBN 9781844744282
This was one of the first books I read about personal evangelism/mission. Pippert uses Biblical truths and stories to inspire the individual and churches in mission.
Christian Mission in the Modern World – John Stott
Stott shares a model of mission that engages with people’s needs both spiritual and physical. There is a link between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
When we focus on one or the other mission is unbalanced and ineffective.
Transformed! People – Cities – Nations: Ten Principles for sustaining genuine revival. Alistair Petrie ISBN 9781852404826
The Transformation Movement has had an impact around the world; especially in the 3rd World. This book encouraged me in seeking to build relationship with other Christian Leaders as we engage in mission. It highlights the importance of unity of purpose, and the bond of peace, in the Holy Spirit, for the struggle of mission is not just against flesh and blood.
Operation World – Jason Mandryk ISBN 9780830857241
My family used this book as part of our devotions. It gave us great encouragement in prayer for mission. It helped our children to see the broader picture of God’s mission to the people of the world. When we welcomed a Sudanese Refugee Congregation at Holy Cross Hamersley, it was a given that they were our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Mosques and Miracles – Stuart Robinson ISBN 9780987089137
A book for the present times and our response to Islam. Without understanding a culture there can be little effective mission. When we understand something there is also less fear and a far greater willingness to engage in dialogue. I have learnt not to be a critic of Mohammed and the Koran, but to point to Jesus as the “Hukum Dunia” (Judge of the World). It is a good idea to get to know the judge before you must stand before him.
The Suburban Captivity of the Church
by Tim Foster
Acorn Press 2014. ISBN 9780992447618
Reviewed by Stephen Hale
“The truth of the matter is, unless we think really carefully about who Aussies are, what they believe in, what drives them, what makes up their culture and worldview, and then think about how the gospel addresses those issues, we are going to continue to be ineffective in reaching people in our generation.” said Richard Condie at the Book Launch at Ridley College.
Tim Foster's book seeks to address these very issues. The issue is how we contextualize the gospel: that is, how we take the eternal truths of the scriptures that God has revealed to us, the gospel, and communicate it in such a way that people in contemporary Australia can understand it. I didn’t realize this was a controversial issue until I attended the City to City Conference earlier this year. Tim Keller helped to unpack some of the themes in Centre Church related to this important mission principle. The people I was with loved it. It was a surprise to discover afterwards that not all were convinced of the need to contextualize!
Tim Foster's book is very helpful because it tackles these questions in an Australian context. The first part of the book deals with our understanding of the gospel. Tim argues for a gospel story that is more about how God is fulfilling his purpose in the world, rather than a punitive gospel. These chapters are challenging and well argued but won’t be without controversy. The view presented here is about how we converse with people with God’s story and how they fit into it, rather than a set piece that we present if we’re giving a talk.
In the Second Part Tim looks at Good News for three different groups - Suburbanites, Urban dwellers and Aussie Battlers.
I’ve mainly ministered with suburbanites and lived as a suburbanite and the analysis rings true from my experience in two cities. But if your ministry is more amongst Urbanites or battlers, then there is also a feast of cultural analysis and gospel observation in the book for you as well.
“Tim is concerned that we understand the hearts of the people we are trying to reach, and tell them the gospel story in a way that opens them up to it rather than turning them off. The thesis that drives the book is that mostly the gospel we preach has been held captive by suburban values, hence the title. That it is more suburbia than gospel. If he is right, and I think he is, this captive gospel will fall short in even reaching suburbanites, let alone battlers or urban dwellers or people from other cultures in our midst.” Richard Condie
The final part of each chapter in this section of the book reflects on the key gospel themes that speak to the culture of the three segments of society that he looks at. Tim is a member of the church I lead and it was encouraging to see that we are reflecting his vision of how to communicate in a suburban context.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on the Americanization of the Australian church with a year of Conferences with speakers from the US. It is refreshing to read an Australian book that speaks into our context and both inspires and challenges us.
Stephen Hale is the Vicar of St Hilary's Kew and Chair of EFAC Australia.
Graham Stanton considers
The Wisdom of Islam, the Foolishness of Christianity, and the Challenge of Youth Ministry
The Wisdom of Islam and the Foolishness of Christianity is a new book by Richard Shumack. Shumack is a graduate of Moore College with a doctorate in Islamic studies. In this book he engages with nine objections to Christianity held by Muslim philosophers.
Each chapter begins with an objection that Muslim philosophers have to the Christian faith. Shumack presents each objection with care and respect and interacts with prominent Islamic scholars. He then explains why the objection is not philosophically necessary. His aim is to show that Christianity is not as foolish as Muslim philosophers claim. Each chapter finishes by arguing why the Christian approach is the more persuasive alternative.
Shumack shows that the fundamental disagreement between Islam and Christianity concerns how God and humans interact. In Islam human beings relate to God as servants relate to their king: a legislative model. Servants have no need to know the sovereign as a person, all we need is to know the sovereign’s will and to obey it. Christianity operates on a fellowship model: God is not only the Lord, he is also Father. Shumack’s aim is to ‘show how the adoption of this fellowship model removes many of the Muslim objections to Christian belief and opens the way to a much richer conception of human knowledge of God’ (p.14). The book sets out to help Muslims see that the Christian faith is not only plausible, but captivating, beautiful and true.
This book is a wonderful example of the sort of tone to use when Christians discuss and debate with others. Shumack has an obvious respect for the Muslim scholars he interacts with. He makes frequent reference to the sincere affection he has for his Muslim friends. Is there any other way for us to debate as Christians? How can we urge people to put their faith in the God of love if we do not conduct our debates as people of love?
Shumack’s winsome and gracious tone is in itself a commendation of the Christian faith.
But it's not just those engaged in Muslim-Christian dialogue for whom this book is essential reading. It may be surprising that I think Shumack's book will be particularly helpful for youth ministers!
Many young Christians seem to share the Muslim approach to each of the issues Shumack discusses. This is particularly so among those who have grown up in conservative churches. They long for certainty in place of doubts. They want God to make himself plain to them and the world. They have optimistic views about human capacity to do the right thing. They find the doctrine of the Trinity confusing and irrelevant. They regard the incarnation more like God making himself just look like a human rather than actually becoming just like us. They often use simplistic and unjust presentations of the atonement. They are unsure of how to respond to the human authorship of Scripture or the imperfections in the transmission of the text. They tend to have a legalistic approach to ethics and look for ways to exercise political power to bring moral change. In short, I suspect that many Christian young people reach adolescence with a legislative model of divine-human relations.
Perhaps what I am observing is the result of conservative theology that has operated in a legislative model of how we relate to God. This is the ‘older brother’ church that Tim Keller has identified (The Prodigal God, 2008). But even for children raised in a more healthy fellowship model, the way teenagers take on childhood beliefs often leads to legislative thinking. There is a normal process of questioning that comes with adolescence. This is often a destablising experience for young people. It is especially so when the church hasn't supported or encouraged that process. The searching involved in adolescence should identify and strengthen central convictions, while leaving room for unanswered questions and uncertainties. Without searching and questioning, many teenagers just retreat back to the security offered by a legislative model of interaction with God.
Effective youth ministry needs to wean young people off familiar certainties. We need to walk with young people as they examine and rework their childhood faith. This will prepare them to become mature Christian young adults. Shumack’s book is a wonderful resource to help adult mentors assist young people in that search.
Mature faith is able to live with uncertainty and mystery because we have seen the plausibility and beauty of Christ. Young adult Christians will need that sort of maturity to hold on to faith amidst the variety of beliefs the world throws at them. That sort of maturity will also help them respond with the same wisdom and grace that Richard Shumack has shown in his engagement with Islam.
Shumack, R. The Wisdom of Islam and the Foolishness of Christianity: A Christian response to nine objections to Christianity by Muslim philosophers. Island View. 2014
Graham Stanton was the founding Principal of Youthworks College, Sydney. Among other things he is currently serving as the youth ministry advisor for the Matthew Hale Public Library in Brisbane alongside pursuing research in practical theology at the University of Queensland.
Shoot Me First. A cattleman in Taliban Country. Twenty-four years in the hotspots of Pakistan and Afghanistan, by Grant Lock. Broad Continent Publishing 2012 Also available as an eBook and on CD ISBN 9780980526417
Reviewed by Dale Appleby
Someone once told me that if I wanted to understand the troubles in Palestine I should read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). It was good advice. I think if anyone wants to understand better the events in Pakistan and Afghanistan they should read Shoot Me First.
Here is an amazing testimony of God at work in places where you wouldn't think God was present at all.
John Thew (former CMS Federal Secretary) said, “It's a missiological book but it reads like a thriller." It is certainly a great read. Short chapters, lots of action, tension, humour, threat. In some ways the book is like an anthropologist's road movie with story after story describing in fascinating detail the interactions, confrontations and heart-warming love of an Aussie couple attempting to cross cultural and language divides.
In this book you will also get up close, on the ground, insights into Islam for ordinary Pakistanis and Afghans.
It is a personal book, full of hope, fear, frustration, love, and danger. It is also a missionary book that shows how the gospel and the love of Christ can make progress in the most difficult places. Here are eyewitness reports of the power of God at work in very dark places.
Grant says that the aim of the book is to give people an insight into Islam on the ground, and to give people insights into cross-cultural ministry and an understanding of development. “I challenge people in the west,” he says, “to love Muslims but ask big questions about Islam and Sharia law.”
The politics of Western aid and intervention are seen with insights only an expat on location can see. The practices of Islam in Taliban territory are described by an eye-witness who lived there for 24 years. He asks questions that people in multi-cultural Australia should ask.
And the final story of the man who turns to Christ in prison after visions of Jesus ought to encourage every person who prays for people to turn to Christ.
It is no wonder that this book is one of Koorong's best sellers. Worth reading - and giving away.
For other books on Islam and Christianity
See page 15
Justice Awakening by Eddie Byun
InterVarsity Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8308-4419-7 (includes questions for group discussion after each chapter).
Reviewed by Cassandra Nixon
We celebrated the 200th anniversary of the end of legalised slavery in 2007, but slavery isn’t over! Byun’s book is written to draw our attention to ongoing slavery, and to encourage us to lead our congregations into awareness and action against it. Eddie Byun is (apparently) a United States citizen, but is the pastor of a large church in South Korea. When he was made aware of how ubiquitous slavery was while reading Not For Sale by David Batstone, he gathered his church into action, initially in Thailand and Cambodia. Later he found out that there are about one million women in sexual slavery in his own country of residence - South Korea.
His statistics are frightening: someone is sold into slavery every eight seconds, and there are about 30 million slaves in the world – many more than the population of Australia.
We are dimly aware that there are people in sexual slavery even in Australia, and those of us in WA saw and read headline news earlier this year when market gardens north of Perth were raided by the Immigration Department and dozens of agricultural slaves were found living in prison camp type conditions.
Byun’s book is light and easy reading (if you can say that about a book on slavery) and has lots of practical suggestions on how to make a congregation aware and active against slavery of all kinds.
• Getting informed (he provides lots of background information on how modern slavery works)
• Praying (one of the ideas that caught my attention was praying every time you stop at a red light, for the red light districts in your town, and the enslaved women who may be in them.) No red lights in Manjimup though, and no obvious brothels either.
• Supporting ministries among men, families and youth to strengthen and keep them away from use or involvement, especially in sexual slavery
• Joining with organisations already involved, so as not to have to start a ministry from the beginning
• Working together with other churches in your area or denomination
• Researching what is happening locally, and in places where your congregation may travel for business and tourism.
The book as a whole is readable, practical and Biblical.
Byun spends several chapters spelling out the Gospel, and how God’s character and love for people leads to God’s passion for justice and the church's calling to speak and act for justice. He probably spends too long doing this, especially considering who his readers are likely to be, but it is emotionally compelling material – good source for sermons and bible studies. There are useful appendices with lists of organisations, resources (not surprisingly nothing Australian) and case studies.
I found the book a bit irritating in the way it focused so much on Byun himself, and his own feelings and actions.
I have my own criteria for books:
Would I buy this book for my own library with my own money? No
If I had free access to this book, would I keep it in my library? No
If I had a copy, would I give or lend it to someone? Yes
Would I encourage the church to buy copies for group study and discussion? Yes
If your church does not already have a social justice activity of some kind happening (don’t spread yourself too thin!) I could recommend this book as way to inform, challenge and lead to action as a whole congregation or in a small group.
Cassandra Nixon is doing a long locum in the Southern Forests of the Diocese of Bunbury (including Manjimup, Pemberton and Northcliffe).
View from the Faraway Pagoda by Robert & Linda Banks Acorn Press 2013 Also available as an eBook. ISBN 9780987132956.
Reviewed by Peter Schendzielorz
View from the Faraway Pagoda recounts the life and missionary service of Sophie Newton (the grand-aunt of Robert Banks), who served in south-east China from 1897 to 1931. Her work in establishing schools and training local Christian women happened amidst events like the Boxer Rebellion, the Nationalist Revolution and other local conflicts.
The book captures Sophie's trust in God in serving abroad and is an encouragement and challenge considering the ongoing gospel needs and conflicts in the world today.
As a biography, it's encouraging to read of an Australian missionary. Anyone familiar with Sydney suburbs such as Newtown and Burwood, or country areas like Katoomba, Singleton and Yass will find an identification with Sophie's journey. CMS Summer School events are mentioned regularly as missionaries report back and are re-commissioned after furlough. These references in particular give insights into the priorities and mission of the Church Missionary Society (formerly Church Missionary Association) that continue today, and the role of local churches in sending and supporting missionaries.
The book is an easy, engaging read. Historical events are interleaved with personal reflections and reconstructions based on journals and letters. This balance of details and facts alongside emotion create a sense of connection and empathy with the events that are taking place. It's also interesting to read about some of the conflicts and opportunities present in China over time, particularly in understanding the openness of the past, and in understanding the challenges since.
It's somewhat surprising to read of the effectiveness of communications and committees despite not having instant means of sharing information as we do today. The book makes reference to mail arriving in Sophie's location every 2 weeks. Yet she was able to achieve much in the space of 3 years in preparing to serve abroad.
Another insight the book gives is to Sophie's reliance on God, particularly in her scripture reading and prayers. A motivating text for Sophie is Psalm 37:4: "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." which impacted her life in preparation for mission, and also her reluctant (and short lived) retirement.
Her reliance on God is also reflected in the value placed on the prayers and partnership of others, despite the geographical distance separating them. There seems to be a knowledge and support of mission (and Sophie) that many churches or missionaries would be envious of today. A passion and concern for those they support, and a longing to hear from them that is perhaps less prevalent today despite easier means of communication.
As a model of ministry, Sophie's emphasis on equipping local people for ministry (an approach that sometimes put her at odds with other missionaries) has left a legacy in the areas she served. Her impact was effectual to the extent that on her final retirement (having had an interim retirement due to poor health) the local church requested that CMS send a replacement to continue her service.
View from the Faraway Pagoda isn't just a good book to read for those connected with China. I'd recommend it to anyone considering long term ministry or mission particularly in the way it portrays a life of service to Jesus.
Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, by David J. Bosch Orbis Books, Maryknoll New York 1991.
Reviewed by Dale Appleby
This massive work is Number 16 in the American Society of Missiology Series, written by the former Professor of Missiology at the University of South Africa, who died a year after this work was published. Although now more than 20 years old, it is nevertheless a classic that should be re-read.
Bosch examines five major paradigms that have described how God saves, and how people respond to God's salvation. He then outlines a "post-modern" paradigm for an emerging ecumenical mission theory.
Bosch examines the history of "mission", noting that until the sixteenth century, the term was used exclusively with reference to the doctrine of the Trinity. The Jesuits introduced the word into the vocabulary of the spreading of the faith. The new expansion of the faith throughout the world in the following period was closely associated with European colonial expansion into the non-Western world.
More recently the assumptions which underlay this missionary expansion have been modified, questioned and in some cases abandoned altogether. Bosch identifies a major crisis in mission itself, that has to do with the authority, aims and nature of the mission.
This crisis is linked with a wider crisis in the church at large. His analysis of this crisis is very informative. He lists six elements:
1. The advance of secularisation.
2. The steady de-christianising of the West - the traditional base of the whole modern missionary enterprise.
3. A change from a world divided into "Christian" and "non-Christian", to a religiously pluralist world in which the followers of some faiths are more aggressively missionary than many Christians.
4. The guilt of Western Christians because of their involvement in the subjugation and exploitation of coloured peoples.
5. The increasing gap between rich and poor, and the fact that the rich are those who consider themselves to be Christians; which leads to anger and frustration on the part of the poor, and a reluctance on the part of affluent Christians to share their faith.
6. Western ecclesial ways, and Western theology are now suspect and have been by and large replaced by various indigenous practices and theologies in the Third World. This has added to the confusion in the Western church.
Bosch attempts to show a way forward and provide a paradigm for a mission practice that takes modern realities into account.
He introduces the book with an "interim" definition of mission which the book spells out in detail. He has thirteen elements in his definition:
1. The Christian faith is intrinsically missionary.
2. Missiology is not neutral, but views the world from the standpoint of Christian theology.
3. But this must be continually reassessed, so a narrow or permanent definition is not possible.
4. A necessary foundation for mission lies in God's self-communication in Christ.
5. The Bible does not give a set of unchangeable laws of mission. Mission is an ambivalent enterprise which remains an act of faith.
6. The entire Christian existence is a missionary existence.
7. Foreign missions is not a separate entity to home missions. Both are grounded in the gospel.
8. Mission is God's mission. Missions are particular forms of participation in God's mission.
9. The missionary task includes the whole set of needs and aspects of human life.
10. Mission is thus God's "Yes" to the world.
11. Mission includes evangelism as one of its crucial elements. "Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in Christ to those who do not believe in him, calling them to repentance and conversion, announcing forgiveness of sins, and inviting them to become living members of Christ's earthly community and to begin a life of service to others in the power of the Holy Spirit." (p. 11)
12. Mission is also God's "No" to the world.
13. The church-in-mission is a sign in the sense of pointer, symbol, example or model. It is a sacrament in the sense of mediation, representation, or anticipation.
Bosch has an extended survey of New Testament models of mission. He discusses the early church's missionary practice and considers whether there were alternative approaches that may have made the ultimate exclusion of Jews from the church less likely. He outlines missionary paradigms of Matthew, Luke and Paul.
He traces four subsequent historical missionary paradigms: that of
* the Eastern church;
* the medieval Roman Catholic church;
* the Protestant reformation; and
* mission in the wake of the Enlightenment.
The concluding section outlines elements in a post-modern ecumenical missionary paradigm. These include: Mission as the church-with-others; as Missio Dei; as mediating Salvation; as the Quest for Justice; as Evangelism; as Contextualisation; as Liberation; as Inculturation; as Common Witness; as Ministry by the Whole people of God; as Witness to People of Other Living Faiths; as Theology; and as Action in Hope.
Bosch offers a profile of what mission is in terms of six aspects of Christ's ministry:
Incarnation; The Cross; The Resurrection; The Ascension; Pentecost; and The Parousia. His insights about how these great events affect the nature and method of our mission are very suggestive.
He concludes by raising again the modern criticisms of mission, exemplified in John Mott's question asked before the Edinburgh Conference, "Do you consider that we now have on the home field a type of Christianity which should be propagated all over the world?" Bosch rejects the idea that mission is merely western colonialism in disguise, and points to its origin in the missio Dei. It is not the church which undertakes mission but the missio Dei which constitutes the church - and purifies it.
"...mission is, quite simply, the participation of Christians in the liberating mission of Jesus, wagering on a future that verifiable experience seems to belie. It is the good news of God's love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world." p.519.
Transforming Mission is a mighty work, that deserves to be read by clergy and all who are thinking and planning in any area of the church's mission.
Tactics for Teen Ministry by Scott Petty
Anglican Press Australia, 2014.
free sample: http://tiny.cc/e0w7ox
Reviewed by Stephen Ritchie
Not too big, not at all boring and just a little bit fancy.
Scott Petty speaks straight to the point on essential youth ministry topics that leaders will always have questions about. Including the most recent ones of evaluating and navigating the online world in a positive way. He has a gift for articulating his topic comprehensively and concisely, proven already by his successful series of Little Black Books. It is easy to see why Tactics for Teen Ministry was shortlisted for the 2014 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award.
Throughout this comprehensive and well structured handbook, we are convinced that every teen ministry tactic should be for the purpose of producing whole-hearted disciples of Jesus:
“If you are going to the effort of running a youth ministry, it should be one that honours God and puts his Scriptures into action, one that harnesses the energy of your leaders for maximum kingdom impact and aims to grow disciples of Jesus.”
Every meeting, every camp, every small group and every talk is for this purpose. Petty has undeniably achieved a more succinct and updated form of Ken Moser’s in depth and detailed work entitled, Changing the World through Effective Youth Ministry. In fact I would promote Petty’s contribution to pastors as “the version that will actually get read” by volunteers, whilst keeping Moser’s series of four books close at hand for further reference. Petty packages his years of experience for an Australian context, sharing his own helpful snapshots entitled How We Have Done It including seven very welcome practical appendices. Just while writing this review I have easily adapted his New Leader Package (Appendix 1), Camp Leadership 101 (Appendix 5) and his Small Group Evaluation questions (p.50) for my own volunteer team.
Perhaps the best way to set this parish resource apart from others, is to understand the significance of its finishing focus on communication (Chapter 9) and families (Chapter 10). Having addressed the common tendency towards highly attractional youth ministry models and events, we agree that without authentic relationships (1 Thessalonians 2:8) we are building in vain. However the fatal flaw many churches fail to avoid is perceiving and engaging Christian parents and family members (biological, nuclear and wider church) as the primary disciplers of kids and youth. The youth ministry team simply backing them up. Is your youth ministry setup almost entirely disconnected from families and the wider church family? This is the immediate area that any fresh energetic youth practitioner needs skills in: a strategy for communication with parents and an insight into the significance of family ministry for a parish context.
“The implication for our youth ministries is very plain: if we attempt to raise mature young Christians without the influence of older Christians (be they parents or other older mentors), we will doom ourselves to failure in many instances.”
Visit Youthwork’s youth ministry website Fervr.net (easily the best in the world) and follow their book review link or find the free sample here: http://tiny.cc/e0w7ox.
Stephen Ritchie is a PK who became a High-school Chaplain before studying at Trinity Theological College and now serves passionately as Kids and Youth Minister at Dalkeith Anglican Church in Perth.
Some other books on Islam and Christianity
Jesus and Muhammad
by Mark A. Gabriel. Charisma House. 2004
This volume explores the surprising similarities and differences between two of the most important religious leaders of all time--Jesus and Muhammad. Born into a Muslim family in Egypt, Gabriel is a converted Christian and former professor of Islamic history at Al Azhar University in Cairo. [Publisher Notes]
Islam and Christianity on the Edge
by Peter Riddell, John Azumah. Acorn Press 2013
This collection of essays by scholars and human rights activists engages with some of the most pressing issues in Christian-Muslim relations, addressing matters of theology, the encounter between civilisations and inter-religious affairs. These are key questions for the 21st century. [Publisher Notes]
Christianity Alongside Islam
by John W Wilson. Acorn Press 2010 ISBN 9780908284917
An excellent book for the person who wants to know how to respond to questions about Islam. Is Islam about war, peace, politics or pietism? What does Islam say about Jesus, the Bible, human rights, women? [Publisher Notes]
The Third Choice
by Mark Durie. Deror Books 2010 ISBN 9780980722307
Mark Durie's book exposes the history and ideology of surrender - the 'Third Choice'.
The worldview of dhimmitude, he argues, offers indispensable keys for understanding current trends in global politics, including the widening impact of sharia revival, deterioration of human rights in Islamic societies, jihad terrorism, recurring patterns of Western appeasement, and the increasingly fraught relationship between migrant Muslim communities in the West and their host societies. [Publisher Notes]
Liberty to the Captives
by Mark Durie. Deror Books 2013 ISBN 9780987469106
Mark Durie presents unique resources for ministering freedom from the yoke of Islam, both for those who have lived as non-Muslims under Islamic dominance, as well as those who have come to Christ out of a Muslim background. The prayers and declarations provided here have been tested across four continents, and have proven value for setting people free from fear, breaking spiritual strongholds, and releasing men and women to be bold and effective witnesses to Muslims of the saving power of Christ.
Book Review: Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found The Hidden Gospels
- Written by: Dale Appleby
Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found The Hidden Gospels. Janet Soskice. Vintage Books 2010. ISBN 9780099546542.
Janet Soskice is Professor of Philosophical Theology in the University of Cambridge. She is the first Roman Catholic woman to be a Professor of Theology at one of the ancient British Universities. She has written a ripping story of two Presbyterian Scottish sisters who were awarded Honorary Doctorates by European Universities before Cambridge was awarding any kind of degrees to women.
Agnes and Margaret Smith were twins. Their mother died two weeks after their birth in 1843. Their father, a lawyer, brought them up in the tradition of strict Scots Calvinism, and encouraged their education, independence and foreign travel. He promised to take them to each country whose language they learnt. So they mastered French, German and Italian while still young. He died while they were still single and left them an enormous fortune. So they decided to travel down the Nile.
Book Review: Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World's Oldest Bible
- Written by: Dale Appleby
Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World's Oldest Bible. DC Parker. The British Library/Hendrickson 2010. ISBN 9780712358033
One of the moving experiences I remember well is seeing Codex Sinaiticus in the British Library some years ago. What it is, why it is important, and how it got to the Library is told in this very interesting book.
In one way the book is the report and promotion of the collaboration of four groups in the research, and making available to the world, of Codex Sinaiticus. The project came together in 2005 when the Archbishop of Sinai, the British Library, the Leipzig Library and the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg agreed to collaborate in making their different portions of the Codex available to the world.
This book is a report of the collaboration and an introduction to the Digital Project which now has the whole of the Codex viewable by anyone with access the World Wide Web [codexsinaiticus.org].
Book Review: Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need To Know
- Written by: Steven Daly
Essential reading for Essentials readers: Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need To Know, by J. I. Packer.
My title overstates my position. I do not think J. I. Packer’s new book is literally essential reading. Nevertheless, I would like to heartily encourage you to buy this little volume (totally 175 pages and 8 chapters) and read it carefully. It is wonderful little book and a great resource to have at hand.
J. I. Packer’s new book is several things at once, and it is hard to answer the question ‘what is this book about’ succinctly. In the Preface, the author tells us at some length that his book is about catechesis—“… intentional, orderly instruction in the truths that Christians are called to live by, linked with equally intentional and orderly instruction on how they are to do this.”
However, the book is not really about catechesis. The author does not provide us with a defence of catechesis as a teaching method in comparison with other teaching methods, nor even an outline as to how to conduct catechism classes. Indeed, beyond the Preface there is hardly any discussion of the concept of catechesis at all. I understand from others that catechism classes traditionally revolve around the memorization of answers to set questions, such that Christian doctrine is memorized and understood according to set wordings. But I have no direct experience of this myself—having been raised in a non-church family and having been discipled since conversion in churches that concentrated on small group Bible studies augmenting weekly expository Bible preaching sermons—so my questions about catechism, and its place in discipleship, were left largely unanswered.