King James Bible Exhibition in Sydney

I hear the King James Version is touring Sydney this month and next, the Village Church Annandale up to 31st July and another venue (TBA) between 4th – 28th August.

“Twenty-five historical Bibles including a King James Version from 1611, are touring the nation. Sydney will be next to see this amazing Historical Collection, presented by Bible Society Australia.”

Personally I find it a bugger to read and far prefer the NIV but the historical significance of the book is undeniable (even, by his own admission, to Richard Dawkins)

AAANZ Sydney Event – What Would Happen if We Really Tried Nonviolence?

What Would Happen if We Really Tried Nonviolence? Would it be a disaster? Would it be faithful? Would it open us some new possibilities? If it’s a question that intrigues you, or possibly even concerns you, you may want to come along to this event:

AAANZ Sydney Event:
“What Would Happen if We Really Tried Nonviolence?”
An Evening With Ron Sider

Wednesday, 28 July, 7.30pm
Avalon Baptist Peace Memorial Church, 2 George Street, Avalon.

Just to be clear, I’m not an organiser, but I do plan to be going because this guy is an awsome speaker. If you’ve debated this topic with me online, join me on the night.

The official blub: “Ron Sider is Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry & Public Policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University in the US and author of over 30 books including his 1977 ground-breaking book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  Other titles include The Scandal of Evangelical Politics, and The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.  He is the founder and president of Evangelicals for Social Action.”

For more information: or phone (02) 99974632.

Blackstump, McLaren and the Sines

Blackstump-genesisloungeOk, so I am finally sitting down to write about Blackstump 2009, or at least my experience of it. For those of you who don’t live in Australia, Blackstump is the down under equivalent of Greenbelt, a four day festival of Christian music, art and teaching.

I wasn’t there for four days though, just last Saturday, but what a packed Saturday it was. In the morning it was a Bible study with Brian McLaren. McLaren spoke on the barriers that divide us and had some interesting insights into the gospel of Matthew that I hadn’t picked up on before. He explored the confronting encounter between Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, but then linked this to the second feeding incident and Deuteronomy 7. His synopsis? If we resist the temptation to water down the text, we can see how, in overcoming his own barriers, Jesus models this for us. My synopsis? I give a thumbs up to anyone who can surprise me and get me wrestling with scripture in new ways.

After this I caught up with friends, Lucy and Andrew (HT for photo), who had organized a small, informal gathering over at the Genesis Lounge for people interested in missional arts and dancing. Good conversation.

After this, I caught some electives, the most inspiring of which was a talk by Andy Flannagan on Just Worship. Andy affirmed poets and artists as worship leaders, encouraged us to explore all of God’s character in worship, and inspired me to delve deeper into how I can lead others into poetic worship through my own.

Then some dinner with Simeon and Rosemary, friends from my Mind Body Spirit Festival days, and down to Mars Hill Café, where I joined a conversation with Tom and Christine Sine, Dean Tregenza, Ben Weatley, and a few others. Four or five hours later … after the lights were turned out on us … I turned into a pumpkin.

In the process though, I accepted an invite from Dean to be on the Sacred Space team next year. Keep posted.

Keep posted also because one of the things I haven’t mentioned previously, but may as well now, is that Tom and Christine Sine will be joining us for dinner in Pendle Hill towards the end of October before returning to America. One of the things I appreciate about Tom and Christine is that they seem to have more appreciation than most for the diversity in the emerging / missional conversation. I’ll be keen to see how their experiences here shapes that.

What do you think life’s about?

Jesus-all-about-life With the Jesus All About Life campaign now underway in Sydney I thought I'd do a scan of what's happening online. In the process I stumbled across a conversation between Dominic Steel, senior minister of Christians in the Media, and Shane Rogerson, an old church buddy.

Dominic asks, "I have been struggling to think of the next 10 words that I want to say after the advertisement’s brilliant catchy statement: Jesus is all about life. But what are the next 10 words I am to say to my friends?"

Shane responds, "Its a great conversation starter. Everyone knows it won't seal the deal. My next 12 words: what do you think life's about? have you seriously looked at Jesus?"

Now, while I think there's a danger here in any suggestion we adopt formulaic responses, I do agree asking open-ended questions like that is not a bad way to engage with the sorts of questions the Jesus All About Life may stir up.

I think Shane's other comments deserve some attention too. We all know it is nothing more than a conversation starter, but I am not sure how many non-Christians realize that we realize that. 

So, I'd just like to throw this question out to everyone, Christian and non-Christian, religious and non-religious. What do you think life's about? Have you seriously looked at Jesus?

Civil Disobedience or just Naughty Christians?

Hope FM, a Christian radio station in Sydney, Australia, broadcasted an interview with Jarrod McKenna earlier this week. Here’s the blurb:

Four anti-war protestors risked their lives recently, by entering defense land at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, during live firing and bombing exercises.

They were attempting to halt a major military training operation, called Talisman Saber. The peaceful protesters were arrested, and fined for trespass and obstruction.

What’s unusual about these protesters is they were all Christians – two women and two men, including Reverend Simon Moyle, a young Baptist pastor from Urban Seed in Melbourne, and Jarrod McKenna – founder of the Peace Tree community in Western Australia.

They call themselves the “Bonhoeffer Four”

Listen Now – Christian peace activist Jarrod McKenna dicusses civil disobedience

Jesus All About Life … and bodily excretions

Just been watching the new kids resources for the upcoming Jesus All About Life campaign in Sydney. Completely irreverant, Aussie style, sorta like a Louie the Fly meets Billy Graham. Not my style but I'm not the demographic. I'll have to test it on my kids and see what they make of it. There's a series of five. Here's the rest:

JAAL Flies 2 – the feeding of the multitudes
JAAL Flies 3 - the healing of the blind man
JAAL Flies 4 - the crucifixion of Jesus
JAAL Flies 5 – the resurrection of Jesus

If you are interested in what's on offer for older age groups, you may want to browse through the youth resources. There's a series of four videos, use the arrows to view all. 

Faith Beyond Church Forum

For those in Sydney, you may be interested to hear that Ryde based group The Harbour is holding a forum called “Faith Beyond Church” next month. The forum is for people “who have been emotionally or spiritually hurt or disillusioned by the institutional church” with the aim of providing opportunities for people to share experiences and find ways to renew their understanding of church. Details:

  • Friday 11th September 2009
  • Forum starts at 7pm, initially in a coffee shop in Chatswood (further details upon registration)
  • Registration by 4th September is essential as places are limited.
  • Enquiries and for registration please contact:

God Hates … These Videos

Boing Boing has been drawing attention to the new Westboro Baptist Church music video, "God Hates the World". Oh how joyous!

Westboro God Hates The World Music Video – Watch more Funny Videos

All I would like to do is draw attention to what the Australia Baptist Union has said of Westboro Baptist Church and its pastor Fred Phelps in the past: "Mr. Phelps has a sad history of making bizarre and extreme statements that do not reflect a Christian position. His comments … are biblically and theologically invalid, scandalous, and most regrettable."

Michael Jensen on John Calvin

John-Calvin-michael-jensen Jarrod Saul McKenna has drawn attention to an interesting article on John Calvin by Michael Jensen, son of the Archbishop of Sydney and sometimes visitor to this blog.

If you have hung out at Glocal Christianity for any length of time you would know I am not a huge fan of Calvin, that I identify far more with the Anabaptist reformers that Calvin is known to have opposed. But you would also know I am an advocate of conversational unity within the church and that this means listening to one another. I think Michael's call for a more balanced understanding of Calvin deserves attention by non-Calvinists.

Michael Jensen writes:

HE is a byword for bigotry cast in the role of the austere, humourless and cruel preacher of an austere, humourless and cruel God. He was held responsible by Max Weber for the rapacity of late capitalism. He is remembered as the persecutor of his opponents, including the hapless heretic Michael Servetus, for whose burning John Calvin is held responsible.

Calvinism, the form of Christianity he spawned, allegedly shares its fatalism with Islam. It is a church of prigs and wowsers, of Talibanesque idol-smashers and woman-haters, of middle managers and bean counters. It is a faith that broods on the depravity of humankind rather than celebrating its glorious capacity to build, to create and to redeem. It is the religion of Ned Flanders and the ironically named Reverend Lovejoy.

In his famous series of novels, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman placed the headquarters of the demonic anti-church in Calvin's city, Geneva.

But if this is how we think of Calvin, it is only because we are happier with the cardboard cut-out version of history mainly written by Calvin's detractors than with what history actually records. It is like accepting a biography of Kevin Rudd written by Malcolm Turnbull (or vice versa).

The real Calvin was a scholar steeped in the humanist intellectual culture of his day. In this he followed the great Erasmus. He was a man of texts, of the original sources read in the original languages. He was expert in classical literature as well as in the Bible. Not only did he learn Greek but also Hebrew and he consulted Jewish scholars about their interpretations of ancient writings. He was no obscurantist, no anti-intellectual.

Calvin's great work was his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which must surely count (with the Bible) as one of the great unread classics of Western thought.

It was translated into English as early as 1561 and has been of inestimable influence in Anglo-Saxon politics, science, liturgy and literature since. The God of the Institutes is not the remote, harsh deity who delights only in his exercise of arbitrary willpower. Actually reading the text, you encounter everywhere a tender-hearted father-figure, a divinity overflowing with love for his creatures. Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson wrote: "Any reader of the Institutes must be struck by the great elegance, the gallantry, of its moral vision, which is more beautiful for the resolution with which its theology embraces sorrow and darkness."

Calvin is a moral realist. For all their created nobility, human beings are tragic figures, impaled on their own pride. That is why, although Calvin upheld the freedom of the individual conscience, he was also an advocate of collective and democratic decision making. It is not accidental that his followers have been some of the greatest promoters of republicanism and democracy in the modern era.

Calvin was not without flaws, some of them serious. Yet if we are to judge him cruel, we are failing to recognise that he was a man of remarkable moderation in an age of often extreme judicial cruelty. If we are to judge his view of humanity too bleak, we are seriously overestimating our own capacity for moral heroism. If we are to celebrate the waning of his influence, it is quite possibly because we have accepted too lazily the caricature of his critics. As Robinson reminds us: "There are things for which we in this culture clearly are indebted to him, including relatively popular government, the relatively high status of women, the separation of church and state, what remains of universal schooling and, while it lasted, liberal higher education, education in the humanities. How easily we forget."

Summary Reflections

Michael Jensen is surely correct in challenging the lazy caricatures of non-Calvinists. On the flip side, it is very refreshing to hear a humble assessment of Calvin by a Calvinist. If I have any criticism it is that the article is too short and leaves me wanting to hear more. I am not quite sure where to find separation of church and state in any of Calvin's teaching (he was a magisterial reformer wasn't he?), and I would like to know what Michael does acknowledge as Calvin's flaws (does the "byword" have any basis in reality in Michael's estimation?) but the very acknowledgement of a mixed legacy opens up a lot of space for conversation and that is something I appreciate.

So I'll leave you with a cheeky suggestion. Maybe we have to admit John Calvin was not so totally depraved after all ;-)

St Paul’s Castle Hill recording new worship album

I was interested to hear from Jeff that our old church, St Paul's Castle Hill, is gearing up to record a new worship album. One of the leaders, Keith Baker, has linked some videos which you can view here:

For me it's a bit of a blast from the past. I no longer drive sound desks or do the muso thing, it's not really my scene, but I still have a few friends that go there so I wish them well.

What’s wrong with Aussie Baptists?!

Ross Clifford, former President of the Baptist Union in Australia and principle of Morling College, recently wrote on the state of the denomination in Together in Ministry and I though a few of you might find it an interesting read.

For those who don’t know the back story, Ross, along with my friend Philip Johnson, were the pioneers of Mind Body Spirit Festival ministry back in the early 90s. Together they co-authored Jesus and the Gods of the New Age and Beyond Prediction: The Tarot and your Spirituality in collaboration with John Drane. Community of Hope, the group they formed and which first introduced me to more contextual styles of Christianity, was the forerunner of groups like Dekhomai in the UK which is were Jonny Baker comes into the picture. Mike Frost, who many of you would know, is deputy principle at the college where Ross hangs out.

Morling, you may recall, is also where I am studying counselling. I was discussing the leadership issue with a few bods over dinner last night when Ross dropped by. Unfortunately a pesky exam precluded any in depth conversation over this but I appreciate that Ross is putting these comments out there. Anyway, onto the article:

President of the Baptist Union of Australia Rev Dr Ross Clifford shares some insights gained from his 3 year term which finished in November 2008.

In my columns I have endeavoured to highlight the many inspiring things Baptists are doing across the country as well as to challenge our thinking on sharing the gospel in the market place. I wrestled over this final column and I have a real sense the Lord wants me to speak about a prophetic reality check for Aussie Baptists.

Let me explain. A couple of months ago Mark Driscoll hit Sydney. If you haven’t heard of him he is a bullish pastor from Seattle who is growing a significant church and creating waves. He is the unusual mix of being a reformed pastor who is open to the gifts, eg. tongues. He shoots from the hip, which can be a concern. He preached at my College, Morling, and told us that we were world leaders in contextualization, but needed to lift our game in proclamation. He went to Moore College (Anglican) the next day and from the same passage told them they weren’t cool (i.e. weak in contextualization). He then spoke to a forum of mainly Sydney Anglican ministers and part of his presentation was 18 things wrong with Sydney Anglicans. It has created a stir around the globe, and it appears that many young ministers have responded positively to the challenge/rebuke. I believe that Sydney Anglicans showed a spiritual maturity by putting the 18 criticisms on their website, rather than being defensive.

I don’t want to match Driscoll, but I believe it is time for Australian Baptists to accept the challenge of a reality check. Unlike many denominations we are holding our own, but we are not significantly growing. There are issues we still need to address. After three years let me list some areas of concern I have. I only want to mention a few, as I would really appreciate your responses ( My commitment is to ensure that your concerns are shared with our Baptist leadership. So let’s get in touch. My list is not about what’s wrong, but positively what can we do better together. Where is the Lord challenging us?

  1. Leadership – I don’t believe that we are challenging enough of our best young people to consider pastoral ministry. Our churches and our denomination will suffer if this does not change. Leaders also need to be empowered to lead.
  2. Theological education – How we train is still strongly influenced by accrediting agencies, consortiums that we are a part of. Our colleges are strong, and therefore it is time for some radical reflection and action.
  3. Baptism – In some churches it is lost. Have we become ashamed of baptism, in our openness to other traditions?
  4. Evangelism – Often spoken of, but I sense for many it’s left to the occasional church event/outreach.
  5. We need to support both our ‘mega’ churches and our ‘missional’ churches. Let’s call a truce, and empower both forms of church and learn from both.
  6. How can our pastors and smaller rural churches survive without a new paradigm of supporting them financially and with resources? This is a national issue for all denominations.
  7. Prayer has a vital role in all our churches, but without concerted prayer for denomination as a whole we will continue to struggle. A more national, global perspective to our prayer life is needed.

Well, just a few thoughts which are offered by a former President who has been blessed by many wonderful things God is doing in our midst. Let me know your thoughts.

I plan to respond to this, but first, what are your thoughts?