Category Archives: Church of England

Do we worship the same God?

hands-worshipWheaton College is probably the best known Evangelical college in the USA. And last month, Larycia Hawkins who taught political science at Wheaton, became their best known professor.  She had pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbours.  But she was suspended after she wrote on Facebook, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”  “This statement is unbelievable,” tweeted Baptist blogger Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville. “Really jaw-dropping.” Many others criticized Larycia. “A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you. Peace & respect,” Hawkins tweeted in response to her critics. She linked to her Facebook response, where she stated:

“Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others like the Triune God , the virgin birth and the Resurrection. Let there be unity in our diversity of views about all of the above.”

Wheaton have instituted dismissal proceedings against Larycia. Other Wheaton faculty have defended her.

Do we Worship the Same God? from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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The Right Rev Andrew Watson on “Hearing God’s Call”

A sermon preached on 1 Samuel 17 at Christ Church, Virginia Water, Sunday 12th October 2015 during a special Deanery service on the theme of Christian Vocation.

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See more photos here

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Troubled But Not Destroyed: Archbishop Giatri’s Autobiography

See photos taken at the Lambeth Palace book launch here

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Ambassadors Needed

Heartened by the recent historic meeting between Prime Minister David Cameron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations, signaling a long-overdue thawing of Anglo-Iranian relations, I was delighted to attend the New Horizons interfaith conference in Tehran last week, as a member of a UK delegation.

The conference addressed issues where faith and politics intersect in the Middle East such as Israel’s war on Gaza, Islamophobia in the West as well as the rise of ISIS and those sponsoring extremism.

“There is no teleology in western society, no guiding morality, only an obsession with materialism,” argued organizer Arash Darya-Bandari. “We believe it is necessary to control the negative tendencies in culture, such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, to strive towards a more moral and justice society.”

One of the contributors, Eric Walberg wrote, “Contrary to the shrill cries in the western media that the conference was anti-Semitic, it was unique in my experience in addressing Zionism and US imperialism forthrightly and intelligently, without a hint of racism. The issue of anti-Semitism was addressed and dismissed, as “There is no issue with Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” explained Darya-Bandari, “but rather with Zionism, that secular distortion of Judaism that itself is racist, and has been used as a pretext to dispossess and kill Palestinians.”

He went on to report, “The conference issued a resolution condemning ISIS, Zionism, US unconditional support of Israel, Islamophobia, and calling for activism locally to boycott Israeli goods and to promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, and to fight sectarianism. “This was a great opportunity to meet anti-imperialist activists from around the world, to bring Russians, Poles, western Europeans, North Americans together with Iranians and other Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in a forum without sectarianism, truly supporting peace and understanding,” said delegate Mateusz Piskorski, director of the European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis in Warsaw and former MP in the Polish Sejm.”

I was invited to contribute to the opening ceremony and present a biblical perspective on Jihad and in particular, a Christian refutation of the Islamic State (IS). Later in the conference I was asked to present a paper on the impact of the Israel Lobby in the UK, especially in parliament and in the media, ahead of the publication of my new book on the subject.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Ambassadors, of necessity serve in foreign countries, where perspectives may be different and at times even hostile to one’s own. But given the dire consequences of any breakdown in relations between countries, dialogue and diplomacy are always to be preferred over war and strife.

In the journal Diplomat, Michael Binyon asks,

“Are Christian church leaders becoming the world’s most active peacemakers? Only a week after President Peres of Israel and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the Pope’s invitation to pray together with him in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a dramatic flight to Nigeria to pray with President Goodluck Jonathan and encourage him to make every effort to find the schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

The Archbishop’s impromptu trip came hard on the heels of a visit to Pakistan, where he visited a small embattled Christian community and praised their efforts to forge closer links with the wider Muslim community, despite regular attacks by militants, the threats of mob violence and the increasing use of the notorious blasphemy laws to force Christians from their land and property…

Peacemaking and reconciliation – within the Anglican Church and between the world’s main faith groups – were the declared priority for Justin Welby from the moment he became Archbishop. He is well qualified for the role. As an oil executive who visited Nigeria often before his ordination, he has seen at first-hand the conflict raging between Christians and Muslims in Central Nigeria that is now taking a deadly toll. As a former head of Coventry Cathedral’s Centre for Reconciliation, he has himself conducted delicate negotiations between militant groups in an effort to free hostages, often risking his own life.”

A walk through the deserted US embassy in Tehran last week was a poignant reminder of how a failure to pursue diplomacy has fueled not only decades of missed opportunities but also perpetuated misunderstanding and animosity between our countries.

Ironically, the leaders in Jesus day, tried to dictate whom he could and could not meet with, criticizing him for eating with “tax collectors and sinners”.  Clearly they considered his actions “conduct unbecoming” a rabbi. Thankfully for us he did not listen to them.

Critics of conferences such as New Horizons should think more carefully about how their inflammatory words will negatively impact on their own communities in Iran.

They would be better served following the examples set by our Prime Minister, the Pope and the Archbishop who, as true ambassadors, are working for peace and reconciliation.

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Gaza Benefit Concert with Garth Hewitt and Friends

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Church Membership 5: To Receive Communion Regularly and Faithfully

When I travel abroad, I empty my wallet of all my extraneous plastic – there’s my Boots Advantage card, Tesco Club card, Waitrose, Shell and Nectar ‘you deserve it’ loyalty cards, my Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Caffe Nero cards, my Halifax Ultimate Reward Card, my RAC members card and of course, my Wentworth Club card. Into my wallet goes my British Airways Executive Club card and my Passport. I would be very surprised if you are not and never have been a member of various ‘clubs’ at some time in your life. It may be a trade union, professional association, community group, society or charity. Membership is universal. Some are more exclusive, and more expensive than others. But what may surprise you is that ‘Membership’ is actually a Christian word.

In the letter to the Romans it is written, “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5). That means ‘the Church’ is the oldest and largest club in the world. What makes membership of the Church unique however, is this – it is granted freely because Jesus has paid the price.

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Christianity Explored in Arabic

Would you like to help make history? South Sudanese Christians have asked for our help to fund the translation of the Christianity Explored course into Arabic.

One of our partners I have worked with in Juba writes,

“there is urgent need to translate the CE material to Arabic to benefit mainly those South Sudanese Christians who came from Arabic background. They are taking their discipleship seriously and they have great impact on other believers in South Sudan.”

We need to raise $1,000 US Dollars to facilitate the translation of the course material by this Summer. In August we hope to return to South Sudan and continue to train church leaders to use the course. If you would like to help make this possible, we would be pleased to hear from you. We are working with the charity Fields of Life to make this happen.

Here are photos of some of our adventures introducing Christianity Explored in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and South Sudan.

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Ten Commandments for Worship

I modestly suggest ten rules for the introduction of new music without pain, if sensitivity and careful explanation are used in the exercise.

  1. The best in traditional hymnody should be preserved and used. Much modem worship may supplement the old, but it cannot possibly replace it.
  2. New songs should be biblical in emphasis and in actual wording.
  3. Heavy use should continue to be made of the Psalms (in one form or another). This is our only God-given hymn book.
  4. The music should be appropriate to the words. This is easier to feel than to define—but we all know when it happens, and when it doesn’t.
  5. There should be a judicious mixture of styles, age, rhythm, length of hymns, shortness of songs, etc.
  6. At least some of the hymns and songs should be credal, confessional and Christological (ie stating the great facts that we believe, especially about Jesus). Traditional examples are ‘At the name of Jesus.’ Splendid modern examples are ‘These are the facts as we have received them’, ‘Jesus is Lord! creation’s voice proclaims it’, and the more brief ‘God has highly exalted Jesus’.
  7. At least one hymn or song should be trinitarian (ie proclaiming the persons of the Godhead and what they mean to us). Traditional examples are ‘Thou whose almighty word’ and ‘God is in his temple’. It is significant that many of the modem songs are specifically trinitarian: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord’, ‘Father, we adore You’, and ‘Father, we love You’ to quote but a few.
  8. There should be a balanced mixture of the objective (what God is, whether anyone believes it or not) and the subjective (how we feel about it and what we experience when we believe it).
  9. Use the right instruments for the appropriate words.
  10. If you can’t find any modern hymns to fit your sermons, there’s probably something wrong with your sermons. If you have the same problem with traditional hymns, quit preaching.

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Richard Bewes Joins Christ Church Team

Richard_Pam_BewesWe are delighted to announce that Richard Bewes OBE, the former Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, will be joining the preaching team at Christ Church. Richard and his wife Pam, moved to Virginia Water in December and have joined Christ Church family.

Following the fruitful ministry of John Stott and Michael Baughen, as leader of All Souls, the international nature of the congregation (embracing some 70 nationalities) continued to develop with some 2,500 attending every Sunday. During Richard’s time, the facility to listen to sermons online was achieved, and a ‘virtual weekly global internet congregation’ stands as one of the many legacies of his time in post.

He chaired the Church of England Evangelical Council throughout the 1990s. Stepping down from All Souls in November 2004, Richard was awarded the OBE by the Queen in the New Year of 2005.

Richard has been strongly involved with the evangelistic and humanitarian work of African Enterprise, and is also on the British Board of The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its sister work of Samaritan’s Purse.

Visit Richard’s website here and sermon website here

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One Day

One day album artChristmas Services
For more information visit Christ Church, Virginia Water

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