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Archive for March, 2010

Virtue Reborn

March 31st, 2010 2 comments

virtue-rebornI have just purchased a copy of Bishop Tom Wright’s new book, Virtue Reborn, and the opening chapter is really good. I can’t wait to read the rest. This volume is a sequel to Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope, in which he addresses what many of us would call sanctification, and which he refers to as Christian character or virtue.

What makes the opening chapter so good is how relevantly he addresses the current situation. With all the issues surrounding the global financial crisis, Tom Wright’s brief analysis of that collapse is very apposite and helpful, not to mention his excellent illustration from the world of rugby. Here’s a sample, which may whet your appetite for the entire volume. Read more…

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The Kingdom of Mourne

March 29th, 2010 Comments off
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Annalong Youth Fellowship

I was back in the Kingdom of Mourne yesterday, and took part in two well-attended services of worship, in Kilkeel in the morning, and in Annalong in the evening. It was encouraging to see so many people at worship and to share in the life of two vibrant congregations.

It was a beautiful day as we drove down through Rathfriland and Hilltown into Kilkeel. The sunshine illuminated the wonderful splendour of the whole region where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

One of the most pleasant  features of visiting congregations is the opportunity to spend some time with my ministerial colleagues and their families. Yesterday, we were once again well-fed and watered in the Kilkeel and Annalong manses, and enjoyed good conversation with our friends, the Johnstons and the Finlays.

The evening service in Annalong was followed by a visit to their lively youth fellowship where I was interrogated about myself  and my experiences as Moderator. It was good fun and I wasn’t allowed to leave until I had promised to record my visit on this blog! So here’s to all the cool guys and gals in Annalong! Thanks for all your support and prayers. It was great to be with you.

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A Psalm for Palm Sunday

March 27th, 2010 Comments off

file-jesus_entering_jerusalem_on_a_donkeyThe metrical version of Psalm 24 is an appropriate item of praise for Palm Sunday. In the older version of the psalter, the two stanzas which cover verses 7-10 of the psalm were traditionally followed by a third stanza that (in a slightly unPresbyterian style?) contained lots of Hallelujahs and Amens. When I first sang it, the third stanza seemed a bit out of place.

The second half of the psalm represents a song that was probably sung at one of the great temple feasts, perhaps the festival of New Year when God’s people celebrated his enthronement as king of the world. It is an antiphonal song that was sung by two choirs. One choir would be approaching the temple is solemn procession, carrying the sacred ark or some other symbol of God’s presence. They would be chanting and singing: “Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”

The other choir from within the temple precincts sings back: “Who is this King of glory?” And the first choir responds: “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” Read more…

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PMS update

March 25th, 2010 8 comments

photoI spent yesterday at Westminster, London, attending a debate on the crisis surrounding the Presbyterian Mutual Society. It was held in Westminster Hall within the Palace of Westminster, and was chaired by Sir Nicholas Winterton.

The debate was the result of a request made by the DUP’s Chief Whip, Reverend William McCrea MP, and he opened the debate with an excellent speech outlining the current situation with regard to the PMS, and highlighting a number of key issues.

A number of Northern Ireland Members were able to make important points to Dr Ian Pearson, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who was there to wind up the debate and to respond to the points that had been made. There were significant contributions from Mark Durkan, The First Minister, Peter Robinson, David Simpson, and Lady Sylvia Hermon. The Hansard record of the whole debate can be read here.

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I believe that this was a significant debate which maintains the pressure on the decision-makers to come up with an agreeable solution to this long-running problem. The PMS situation also created some lively interchanges with NI Minister of State, Paul Goggins, during Northern Ireland Questions which can be read here. Again, the NI Members used the opportunity to make important points and to seek assurances from the Government. All in all, it was a very useful day of discussion when almost every speaker accepted that this crisis needed to be resolved quickly. I believe that minds are now focused on getting a solution, and that encourages me.

A visit to Westminster also gives the opportunity to chat about other issues, and I appreciate very much the work of the ever-efficient Margaret, who has been such a good friend and who has opened so many doors for us during this crisis. Without her help, many significant conversations would not have taken place. We trust and pray that all these efforts may soon yield fruit, and that this distressing situation may yet be resolved.

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Hans Küng

March 22nd, 2010 3 comments

file-kung3Hans Küng is a Swiss Catholic priest, a controversial theologian, and a prolific author. Küng claims to remain “a Catholic priest in good standing”, but the Vatican has rescinded his authority to teach Catholic theology.

Though he had to leave the Catholic faculty, he remained at the University of Tübingen as a professor of EcumenicalTheology, serving as Emeritus Professor since 1996. In spite of not being allowed to teach Catholic theology, neither his bishop nor the Holy See has revoked his priestly faculties.

He has commented on the child abuse scandal in his own characteristically lucid way here. It is, as my friend Carl Trueman described it, “vintage Kung”. I have quoted the article in full below the fold.

Read more…

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