Monthly Archives: April 2014

May God Have Mercy On Us All


Where ever you come down on the issue of capital punishment, it’s impossible to deny that what happened last night in Oklahoma was horrific.

Last night also reminds us of a broader horrific truth that so many of us deny or simply ignore: Capital Punishment is murder at the hands of the State.

California ExecutionsCapital punishment is typically done in sanitized, tightly controlled, environments. “We The People,” carry it out thusly so that we can feel better about what we’re doing.

Yes, we’re killing a human being, in the name of all of us, but we’re doing it kindly and gently. You know, like we might put down an old dog.(1)

Last night ripped the pretense off this view. Murder is the intentional taking of another human beings life. Capital punishment is murder at the hands of the State, however “nicely” it happens.

If this offends you, I…

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Christianity in China

from the Telegraph, 30 April 2014
Fears for China’s churches as Christianity rises
Demolition of state-sanctioned church in eastern China stokes fears Communist Party will unleash nationwide campaign against fast-growing Christian community



On Monday night excavators laid waste to one of the city’s largest places of worship, the state-sanctioned Sanjiang church
By Tom Phillips, Wenzhou11:46AM BST 30 Apr 2014
It is impossible to visit Wenzhou, a bustling port city known as the Jerusalem of the East, without noticing the crosses.
Bright red and in some cases taller than houses, they thrust into the sky from roof tops, domes and spires – a constant reminder of Christianity’s rapid spread in this officially atheist nation.
Recently, however, the crosses appear to have become too visible for Beijing’s liking.
On Monday night excavators laid waste to one of the city’s largest places of worship, the state-sanctioned Sanjiang church, amid accusations that the Communist Party was preparing to launch a nationwide assault against Christianity.
At least 10 churches here in Zhejiang province have been ordered to remove their eye-catching red crosses or are facing partial or total demolition, activists claim. Already this month two churches, one Catholic, one Protestant, have been razed.

Communist Party officials insist the demolitions are a matter of planning permission not religious persecution.
Yet whatever the truth, the highly symbolic destruction of Sanjiang, a state-approved congregation, has underlined escalating tensions between an increasing large and assertive Church and a Communist Party that appears less and less tolerant of those groups it sees as a threat to its power.
Exactly 25 years ago, hawks and doves within the Party leadership debated how to deal with mass protests that had broken out in Tiananmen Square and hundreds of other Chinese cities.
Some, like Zhao Ziyang, China’s reform-minded General Secretary, advocated a conciliatory approach, noting that the students’ calls for an end to corruption were in line with the party’s own pledges. Others pushed for an iron-fisted response, claiming the protests had been whipped up by hostile foreign forces intent on toppling the Party.
“This clearly is a planned, organised conspiracy,” said Li Ximing, Beijing’s conservative mayor, according to leaked documents published in the Tiananmen papers.
Church members told The Telegraph authorities had attempted to silence the congregation


A quarter of a century on from those debates – eventually and fatefully won by the hardliners – the Party appears similarly split over religion and Christianity in particular.
Some leaders are said to share Prime Minister David Cameron’s newfound enthusiasm for the faith as a weapon against spiritual and moral collapse. But as with the 1989 protests, many others view Christianity as a “hostile” and “foreign” danger that needs to be stamped out.
Foreign missionaries were forced from China following the Communist takeover in 1949 and the Party’s deep suspicion of proselytising outsiders appears to have changed little since then.
A high-level government directive, leaked in late 2012, ordered universities chiefs to guard against a gang of “US-led Western countries” which were “infiltrating” Chinese campuses and “using religion to carry out their political plot to westernise and divide China”.
China’s Protestant and Catholic communities – now thought to number anywhere between 25 and 100 million people – enjoy incomparably more freedom than during the three decades that followed Chairman Mao’s 1949 Revolution.

Church members accused Communist leaders in Zhejiang province of ordering an anti-church crackdown
But the bar was set very low by years of destruction and persecution in which pastors and priests were routinely beaten, thrown into jail and even tortured as their places of worship were closed or ransacked.
Even today, the only legal way to worship legally is inside state-controlled churches run by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM) or the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA). Chinese citizens are forbidden from attending foreign-run churches where overseas priests might preach inconvenient sections of the Bible.
Thaddeus Ma Daqin, a Catholic bishop in Shanghai, has effectively been under house arrest since he spoke out against the Party’s stranglehold on religion in 2012. Earlier this month a government official accused the bishop of acting “under the influence of foreigners”.
The significance of this week’s church demolition remains unclear, with observers divided on whether it was the result of a regional grudge against Christianity or a direct order from Beijing.
However, some within the Christian community fear Beijing is gearing up for a nationwide anti-church campaign designed to halt the advance of what they view as troublesome “foreign” movement.


Young Chinese often saw Christianity as “very fresh, modern and attractive” but many senior Communists regarded it as “a sickness” that posed a potentially fatal threat to the Party’s health, said one underground “house church” leader.
As congregations swell – a leading expert recently predicted China would become the world’s biggest Christian congregation by 2030 – and the profile and influence of churchgoers changes with the conversion of younger, more educated urban believers, so too do these fears.
Fenggang Yang, the head of Purdue University’s Centre on Religion and Chinese Society, said Chinese Christians would face growing pressure from Beijing in the coming decade, likening the situation to the Roman Empire’s Great Persecution of Christians in the 10 years leading up to the AD313 Edict of Milan.
That may be putting it too strongly, but the destruction of Sanjiang church has done nothing to improve the Communist Party’s long-strained relations with the Church.
There was now an urgent need for greater dialogue between churches and the government, the underground leader argued. “We have to build up trust. The mistrust is a very, very big issue.”
At Wenzhou’s Sanjiang church any trust was obliterated this week as government demolition teams took just hours to level a place of worship that had taken years of work and millions of pounds to build.
After being spied on and harassed by local officials and police who had sought to hide the demolition from the public eye, congregants woke up on Tuesday morning to find their church reduced to a heap of rubble.
“They should respect our faith,” said one congregant. “Politics is so complicated, especially in China. We can saying nothing more.”

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“The Bells! The Bells!”

Christ Church, Bath

BBC News Report

The eight bells at Christ Church have not been heard for over a decade and tests have confirmed that the bells are very loud
A church has launched an appeal to restore its “very loud” bells with measures to make the bells quieter.

The eight bells at Christ Church, on Julian Road, Bath, have not been heard for over a decade because the church’s bell frames have been declared unsafe.

Now the church wants to raise £115,000 to restore the bells to working order.

But trustees said as the bells “haven’t been heard for some time” and were “very loud”, they were planning to install soundproofing.

The small 18th Century church stands in a closely built-up area of north Bath.

Soundproofed floor
To avoid disturbing neighbours, the church council and trustees are planning to install measures to “control and direct” the ringing sound upwards.

“Tests have confirmed that our bells are very loud,” said a spokesman for the church.

“This is because they hang right inside the open louvres in the tower, so part of the proposal is to block up the louvres, leaving only a small gap at the top.”

The church hopes the volume can be controlled with a soundproofed floor above the bells and a trap door to let the sound out through the top of the tower.

“When the trap-door is closed the bells should become barely any louder to someone on the pavement outside than ordinary passing traffic,” the spokesman said.

“Over £50,000 has already been raised and we are now looking to the wider Bath community to help secure the remaining funds needed.”

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April 30, 2014 · 10:03

Press dealings

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Saints in da V’tcan

The Canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II – Rome, 27 April 2014

With apologies to my very many Catholic friends, this was a wonderful and significant occasion at St Peter’s today: the canonisation of John XXIII and John Paul II, but, although they did much for the Roman Catholic Church, for hastening the end of the USSR in the case of the latter, and for the reforms his predecessor inaugurated – as a Protestant, I just don’t get it.

They are now “immortal”, but aren’t all true followers of Christ?

They are to be honoured and lauded for their achievements but isn’t this too soon for the ultimate veneration?

Just a thought.

Also, and this is important: This is the first time in history that two popes have been canonised at the same time.  And the first time that two Popes have been present (Francis and “Pope Emeritus” Benedict)?

A final note:  I’m a bit uneasy about this – Relics of each man – a container of blood from John Paul and a piece of skin from John – were placed near the altar.

Am I alone at feeling a bit disturbed by this?

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Is Britain a Christian Country?


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Doubting Thomas

Sky Pilot

Why did Thomas need to see Jesus’ wounds in order to make this confession of Jesus as Lord?

For Thomas Jesus needed to do something new, something different. He needed to show his vulnerability. So Jesus appeared wounds and all and held his pierced hands out to Thomas who had doubted. It was in the wounds of Jesus that Thomas found comfort.

The wounds of Christ comfort us

I’m not sure that we ever see anything good in wounds. For the most part we try to hide our own wounds.

But what we forget is that these wounds are the force that binds creation together. Wounds are what prove and test our humanity. Through wounds the brokenness of Humanity was overcome. Though wounds the healing work of Christ commenced.

Through wounds the healing work of Christ continues. Humanity is famously good at acknowledging difference. But also famously good at understanding…

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Caravaggio(b. 1571; d. 1610)   The Incredulity of Saint Thomas ( c. 1601–1602)



“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”

It’s commonly held that Thomas didn’t accept the Risen Christ’s offer, that his empirical world-view was superseded by FAITH; and so, because of faith, he believed.

This wonderful painting by Caravaggio would suggest otherwise and that Thomas did, in fact, take up Christ’s invitation.

Is Christ almost FORCING Thomas to carry out his  earlier declaration, “unless I… place my hand into his side, I will never believe”?

Look at the furrowed brow on Thomas’ forehead; Christ’s strong grip of his wrist- is there hesitation here?  Does Christ have to force a hesitant Thomas when the latter is actually with him.?  Is this Thomas effectively being told to “put up or shut up?”, given his earlier bravado?

Perhaps Caravaggio caught something of what the author of the Fourth Gospel really meant to convey, but what others over the centuries have misinterpreted.

Thomas is, after all, the Patron Saint of blind people!



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April 27, 2014 · 08:53

Splashing Out!

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April 26, 2014 · 13:58

The Great Commission – for Today’s Church

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April 26, 2014 · 13:06