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David Kerrigan
Didcot, UK
General Director of BMS World Mission
Interests: reading to stretch the mind, photography to relax, sport to experience the occasional highs and desperate lows of life, cryptic crosswords, good food with good friends...
Recent Activity
Thanks Beverley
Toggle Commented Jan 9, 2015 on charlie hebdo revisited at thinking mission
Blackphi, I'd like to think that the context of the sentence is clear insofar as I'm referring to places where Islamic fundamentalists have attacked innocent people. But feeling snotty is Ok, especially when our sentiments are so screwed up after the events of yesterday. I am not blind to the faults of my own people but that isn't what I was writing about. However, your comment is helpful as it helps me to see how others might read my list - for that, thanks.
Toggle Commented Jan 8, 2015 on charlie hebdo revisited at thinking mission
Jim, I share your anguish and therefore largely share your sentiments. I will claim my right to free speech also. My right to argue that an Islamic interpretation of God is incompatible with my Christian convictions. That the Koran is not, in my view, a higher scripture than the Bible. That Mohammad was not the greatest prophet of God but that Jesus was the eternally begotten ‘true God from true God’. That too will offend some, but I am not seeking to offend. I will argue respectfully. If some radical chooses to kill because I have caused offense, then I have died for a worthy cause. In trying to formulate a Christian response, recognising the rights of those who published and the wrongs of those who killed, I am asking myself what can change the paradigm we are now locked into. Therefore I want to ask questions that flow out of my Christian view of the world. If loving my neighbour means anything, should it not mean restraining my freedom to offend? Can we claim and exercise the right to mercilessly mock the most cherished beliefs of Muslims and simultaneously criticise Muslims for not integrating? Does our mockery encourage Muslims to remove the veil and see the West as their friend? Is our pride in our western liberal democratic society given its richest expression by offending those who have come amongst us as guests? Do we look like generous hosts? As a Christian I am called to be a peacemaker and often that means restraining my rights. Turning the other cheek, if you like. That may be asking too much from secular writers, but it is a contribution to the debate we can make as Christians, especially in an environment when journalists have understandably closed ranks and few have dared to ask whether the actions of the magazine were entirely justified or appropriate.
Toggle Commented Jan 8, 2015 on charlie hebdo revisited at thinking mission
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The terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine came as yet another shocking example of the impact of Islamic fundamentalistm on today's world. Nothing, absolutely nothing that offends... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2015 at thinking mission
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So, the Evangelical Alliance and Oasis have parted company. EA have taken the initiative and have “discontinued the membership of Oasis Trust” and have done so on the grounds that... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2014 at thinking mission
This is excellent Andy - a reminder that Jesus can never be domesticated, never unthinkingly aligned with my theology, my convictions, my party, even my convictions. He challenges us all - with extraordinary love and great patience. Thanks for sharing it.
Toggle Commented Sep 23, 2013 on I've always thought of Jesus ... at andygoodliff
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Yesterday was marked in hundreds of our churches as 'The Big Welcome', sponsored by BUGB and others, and an excellent initiative. But the issue of welcome is not about one... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2013 at thinking mission
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The challenge of the contextualisation of the gospel is not be feared. In fact it is one of the greatest gifts we have. The Christian faith demands to be contextualised,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2013 at thinking mission
Thanks Eric - you're right of course. I corrected this in the magazine but have picked up the earlier version above. I'll correct the text above.
Toggle Commented Mar 21, 2013 on ignorance is not an option at thinking mission
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With the visit of President Barack Obama to Israel-Palestine this week, understanding something of the background to one of the world’s most complex situations is of paramount importance. The latest... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2013 at thinking mission
Hi David, you've raised an important point, so this is a helpful contribution to the debate. Obviously, there is a thesis waiting to be written in response to your questions but allow me to make a few remarks in response. - firstly, though I appreciate you're not quoting me, I think you paraphrase my position inaccurately when you suggest that I'm saying that ‘a failure to rely on the witness of scripture with regard to God’s view on homosexuality is not comparable with denying the divinity of Christ.’ You see I don't believe Scripture is necessarily as clear as we may think it is in relation to homosexuality. For example, there is a lot of research suggesting that some of the key verses about homosexual practice are referring to forms of cultic worship rituals involving sex with temple prostitutes. Its true of course that the texts say nothing directly about loving faithful homosexual relationships, but then in the times when scripture was written, there was no understanding of such homosexual relationships. As I mentioned elsewhere, until the 1960s, homosexuality was a crime in the UK, and still is in some parts of the world, so we can hardly be surprised that the prevailing view of scripture several several millennia ago was not more enlightened. - Ah, but 'Scripture is God-breathed, inspired and our sole authority in matters of faith etc" Yes it is, but this is where we fail to do justice, often, to the humanity of scripture, or to the sense of developing revelation in Scripture. We know that Scripture did not come about via an act of divine dictation - no-one in Scripture claims that. Therefore there is a human dimension to Scripture. This is why we don't have to be fazed by the apparent presence of factual errors or contradictions in Scripture. If we claim that Scripture is infallible or inerrant, as sone do, then they presumably mean it was thus in its original language, and has survived as an inerrant document over thousands of years through countless translations, via the manual copying undertaken by monks in dark cells, into many different versions, languages and dialects. What I do believe in is that Scripture is inerrant in 'all that it affirms', and 'all that it affirms' revolves around creation, fall, and God's salvation plan through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, ascended and returning. - I do believe we can and must speak of a developing revelation in Scripture, with Jesus as the ultimate revelation (Hebrews 1:1 In the past God spoke... through the prophets... but now he has spoken to us by a Son.) In many verses we see Jesus developing or even redefining previous parts of Scripture. See Mt 5:21-22, 27-28, 38-39 or 43-44. So, is Exodus 21:24 ('eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth') God's authoritative word, or is Matthew 5:39 ("... but I say to you, turn the other cheek?") God's authoritative word? I dont think these issues amount to a subtle undermining of the authority of Scripture. In fact i'll argue the contrary. By respecting Scripture for what it is (a collection of literature writing by various authors over many hundreds of years and comprising historical record, parable, poetry, love song, songs of praise and lament, poetry, apocalyptic and so on) we give to Scripture the respect it deserves. And above all we honour Jesus as the one whose words and example become for us the defining lens through which we understand God's revelation - a Jesus hermeneutic, if you like. And as Jesus is 'the exact representation of God's being' that is why I believe we must speak of primary doctrines (concerning the person and work of Christ) and secondary doctrines concerning other matters. David
Toggle Commented Mar 12, 2013 on of heretics, jews and turks at thinking mission
Martin, thanks for your comments and questions. I do accept that your questions are asked in good faith but I can only offer two comments in return, which probably wont be what you're hoping for. Firstly, you seem to want to compare 'heterosexual marriage' and 'homosexual marriage' but you'll allow me to sidestep the underlying premise because as I've stated elsewhere I am against the proposed legislation to redefine marriage. Secondly, and more importantly, you'll know that pastoral situations do not really lend themselves to an approach that says: 'here's the problem - can you tell me whether the answer is (a) or (b), support or discourage'. Whenever we are given the privilege and responsibility of accompanying people through pastoral crises what they need is others who can relate to them as Jesus would. And describing that can't be done in a few words but only by a lifetime of faithful discipleship. And even then we'd still just be learners!
Hi Steve, thanks for your willingness to talk this through in public. I find it helpful and hopefully others might also. From the outset I have valued your insights into Steve Chalke’s hermeneutics and a number of subsequent comments, including these here. As it happens I’ve been re-reading English Baptists of the 19th Century (John Briggs) earlier this week (having had to buy another copy – been far too generous in my book-lending over the years, but I’m not bitter…) and you’re right in pointing to differing periods of Baptist life when something approaching credal statements were more pronounced. So, Briggs offers a view of 1880s Baptist life when he says that “… the Baptist Union at the eve of the Down Grade controversy, unlike seventeenth, eighteenth and even early nineteenth-century Baptists with their confessions and covenants, was the weaker for not having any well defined canon of reference.” (p171) What I find interesting is that this began to change in the early to mid 19th century, and the question is why. My own assumption is that this was in response to a stronger national union (as opposed to local associations) with a fear of doctrinal imposition and a consequent loss of freedom that would create echoes of earlier persecution. So might it be the case that Baptists never lost their founding principles in the 17th through to early 19th century, but were happy to have credal statements (for they do have value) when they were agreed at Association level and were therefore locally owned by the churches? Spurgeon in the 1880s, as you know, wanted the Union to adopt a basis similar to that of the Evangelical Alliance in order to weed out those who did not conform to his view of what it meant to be evangelical. That was too far for many who did not want to see ecclesiastical power residing in the credal affirmation administered by a central Union. As John Clifford wrote “It is not creeds; it is coercion through and by creeds I object to.” So, I will agree that to have a credal statement is not UnBaptist insofar as British Baptists have had, and others do have, such statements. Where I will put up a bit of stiff resistance would be to argue that such creeds can be UnBaptist if they are coercive, especially in areas of secondary theological importance. Neil - I really like your phrase "a desire to walk together and to allow freedom of conscience without breaking fellowship." I sense that is the immediate goal we're all striving for.
Toggle Commented Feb 1, 2013 on of heretics, jews and turks at thinking mission
Steve, I agree that Helwys had state coercion as his primary context when framing his cry for freedom of conscience but there is nonetheless relevance here. My focus is not only on the future judgement of the Baptist community as to whether Steve Chalke is right or wrong, but on the process by which we get there. So, I will agree up to a point that the Baptist community have the right to say that to be an accredited minister you must adhere to x and y and z. Indeed, I have given an example above of what I consider to be an appropriate limitation - if you deny the deity of Christ then its hard to say you're an accredited minister of the Union which would so fundamentally be in disagreement over an area of primary theological significance. Where I part company would be when we reached the point where, as in your example of the Baptist Faith and Message (a Southern Baptist confession, in case some are wondering) the statement of what must be adhered to, and signed, becomes restricting. In fact I would argue it does offend against liberty of conscience, not because it was passed but by the way it was imposed. A good number of Southern Baptists missionaries had to return to the USA and give up their mission work because in all conscience they could not sign the statement which outlawed speaking in tongues. I am open to correction here but to this day, if in the process of candidating to serve with the Southern Baptists Mission Board you declare that you have used, or do use ‘a private prayer language’ (glossolalia) you cannot proceed further with the process. That the SBC had the right to establish such a statement is not the question. My question is to ask whether it truly reflects the essence of what it means to be a Baptist to have a detailed creed on matters of primary, secondary or tertiary matters, which restricts the freedom of others, even in a later generation, to have an open conversation. If an overly restrictive statement of faith is in existence this will discourage or outlaw what I referenced above as Haymes’ view of Baptists doing theology, where theology and ‘practical living’ critique each other. This is why the response of the EA from Steve (Clifford) was understandable, but would never have come from a Baptist stable. Organised evangelicalism tends to draw firm boundaries, agree on the things we agree on, but then rule out of order, or out of the family, anyone who questions those boundaries. As a Baptist evangelical, I want to say my Baptist roots will demand that my evangelical commitments are held in a Baptist way. It is of primary importance that Baptists who engage in this debate focus not just on the issue of homosexuality but on the process of discernment that is underway.
Toggle Commented Jan 31, 2013 on of heretics, jews and turks at thinking mission
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Most people dislike controversies, but even in church life they are inevitable from time to time. When you care deeply about theological or ethical matters, then you’ll argue your corner... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2013 at thinking mission
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Andy - your knowledge of and commitment to rigorous theology is a gift to us at a time like this. Thank you for perceptive posts in recent days, and this excellent bibliography. Steve - I've never known a bibliography to lift my spirits the way your contribution above has. Knowing your own convictions, to have the grace to recommend the best of books on both sides is a testimony to the man you are. Thank you... You lead by example.
Stuart, I'm glad you've found the thread here helpful. Genuinely, so have I, in fact almost every comment adds some new insight if we take the time to listen to each other. Now, as for not being a Baptist ... :-)
Hi Graham, I agree that as we have a nationally accredited ministry then we need to operate within the boundaries of what has been agreed nationally. What I find interesting is that our accreditation addresses few if any other areas of ethical or pastoral judgement. It lays no limits as to the age of someone we can baptise, nor who we can marry or choose not to marry, to whom can we offer communion and so on. There would be Baptists who think it is against Scripture to marry a divorcee, or to offer communion to someone who is seeking faith but hasn't yet made a full commitment but that freedom is given to ministers by virtue of there being no constraining statement issued. So my quest for a way forward was to ask whether the community (i.e. our Union) might reflect on whether it could allow the same liberty of conscience over the issue of participating in some aspect of a civil partnership arrangement by withdrawing an unusually specific restriction e.g. no longer prohibiting offering a church blessing without that amounting to a statement that the Union is either affirming active homosexual relationships or supporting gay marriage. Lastly, an interesting point as to whether its sensible to define people according to their desires. I think its deeper than desires and closer to an issue of identity, with all that 'identity' entails. My identity can be (and has to be) described in a thousand ways, including my relationship to Christ, to my family, my visible characteristics... and somewhere down the line, I'd say part of my identity is that I'm straight. Now, you rightly say that our whole identity must come under Christ and 'the biblical pattern Christ has provided'. Agreed. And that's where we are today - asking the question 'do the Scriptures offer any solace to a gay man or woman that their sexuality can be expressed in a loving, faithful monogamous relationship as we would answer 'yes' to for a straight couple? And of course historically the church would say no to that question. The current debate is asking the question ' is there more to break forth from Christ through Scripture on this issue'. Some say yes, others no, and others are unsure. The big question for me is two-fold: firstly, can we find a way to allow the debate to happen without fearing the worst of each other, and secondly can we find a way of allowing the few who believe under Christ the rightness of adopting a non-traditional stance (as Steve Chalke has done by offering a church blessing to a gay couple) without simply showing them the door? Wow, written more than I planned to do! Graham, thank you. You know how much I seriously value your wisdom in these matters.
Mark, thanks for the Rahab insight, and for your reflection on the wisdom of using the word 'normative'. And I like your description of this as a situation in which 'the people of God test their intuition'. I think that's where we're at and I just hope that the wider community can be relaxed about that. Not silent - we need an exchange of views - but relaxed enough to not feel the need to man the barricades against the hordes of invading barbarians.
John, you make some very sweeping assertions. Truth is we don't know why some people are gay. Maybe one day we will, but frankly it doesn't change a thing. I don't know why some people are bipolar, some are gorgeous, some are introverts, some are skinny as a rake, some are great at languages, some are left-handed... I don't think it matters. I listen to gay people (who rightly say "don't talk about me without me") and they will say 'I have not chosen to be gay'. I don't even find that hard to believe, in fact most people don't. So to love gay people (any people) is not an option - its only a question of how that love is expressed. And even then, the Christians I know who would not find it possible to support a loving gay relationship, their desire also is to be loving. No-one has the monopoly on righteousness, we're all searching for a way forward here. But I believe its more likely that we'll bring honour to the name of God if we could avoid a winners and losers approach to this, pause in our exchange of proof texts, respect each other's conscience and then do what we can to support a community of people who feel as if the church doesn't understand them or want them.
Brian (and Andrew), I think the Union have been very wise over recent years in encouraging processes of deep listening and learning in relation to homosexuality. That shouldn't change - there is no value whatsoever in bringing forward any resolutions that might broadly be characterised as pro- or anti gay. The outcome will only be division. Far better to follow our Baptist principles and trust God's people, in community, under the guidance of the Spirit, to discern the mind of Christ and act upon it. And if different approaches emerge, that doesn't necessarily mean one is wholly right and the other is wholly wrong. Rather, trusting each other in the unity of the Sprit, each gives the other permission to walk according to their conscience, trusting God to reveal more to each of us as we walk by faith. This is precisely why Baptists can actually make a huge contribution in this area. We do not need to divide from each other - only respect and trust each other. So far so good on that score.
Hi Dani, the church's 'general' attitude to divorce has indeed softened somewhat in recent decades, but has 'generally' remained unchanged in respect of homosexuality. Outwardly, both seem to be censured in scripture, as you point out, the latter by Jesus himself, but in the case of divorce the church has allowed for a more generous pastoral response. A major factor here was that as divorce became more widespread in society so it became more widespread in the church also. That really changed things, and quite understandably, churches wanted to be pastorally forgiving and supportive. So too, many people do now know gay people from work, friendship circles and so on, because gay people are more willing to identify themselves as such, and suddenly the abstract becomes real.That would be all the more true if there were more gay people in churches. This alone is never a reason why we should change our scriptural convictions. But it becomes the impetus for more and more people going back to Scripture to look again at the wisdom received from past generations. Thats what's happening in this generation. So the argument that our view of scripture should never be influenced by culture really isn't going to hold water. It should never be 'driven' by culture alone but culture has to affect how we read scripture. Arguably it was the emergence of anti-slavery campaigners (only some were Christians and sadly some of those were for not upsetting the applecart!), women activists and earth-scientists who have reshaped our understanding of the evils of people trafficking, the importance of affirming women in ministry and the urgency of creation care.
Hi John - that is the situation where I believe our Union could consider a change. Whilst it probably wouldn't have a great numerical impact I think it would send an important signal. The signal would not be that the Union has realigned its theological position but that it wishes to liberate ministers and congregations to express pastoral care according to their understanding of what it means to follow Christ in a hurting world.
Hi Malcolm, I share your sentiment that post-publication we can often wish we’d expressed something differently, especially on blogs. I apologise for saying that part of what you wrote 'bordered on attacking Steve's integrity." I should have chosen a better phrase, especially as my desire is that this debate avoids the harshness that so often characterises such issues. There were things you wrote that I agreed with and those I disagreed with – no problems there. But two particular areas troubled me. The first you have referenced yourself when you wrote "it must surely be acknowledged by Steve himself that he is not an ‘evangelical’ in any traditional or faithful understanding of the word". I am worried that this might be the first expression of that characteristic of evangelicalism that says at times 'if you don’t agree with a traditional evangelical expression of the faith then you're not one of us'. Secondly, you ask the question "Why do we persistently look for men and women to be heroes in the church and take our lead from them?" Its true, many people do admire Steve for what he’s done over the years but this read to me like you were chiding people for taking notice of what he said because to do so was to elevate him as a hero. Look, I listened to you at the Assembly in Scotland in late 2011 and wrote afterwards that your teaching was superb. People listen to leaders – its not hero worship to do so. Leaders want people to listen – that’s not hero-creation. You went on to say that "the impact of Steve’s article tells me that we must determine to move away from the celebrity driven culture that has invaded the church and we must each learn the art of wrestling with Scripture and seeking to live under is authority and power". Again, seemed to be saying ‘to listen to Steve Chalke is to engage in the cult of celebrity – the alternative course is to wrestle with Scripture. A false dichotomy in my view. But – and with this I’ll finish – neither of these concerns represent an attack on Steve’s integrity. I shouldn’t have used those words - that was careless. David
I'd forgotten about this post until someone reminded me of it - it has relevance here http://karnaphuli.typepad.com/thinking-mission/2012/08/linus-and-the-beavers.html