A Failed Prophet

Harold Camping
Harold Camping

The news media have reported extensively on the failed predictions of Harold Camping that the world would end on May 21st. Apparently he has revised his prophecy and told us that we should now circle October 21st as “Judgment Day”.

My former church history professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Dr Robert Godfrey, who is now president of Westminster Seminary in California, has personal knowledge of Harold Camping, the failed prophet. Bob’s blog-posts are a helpful commentary on this man and his crazy theology. Here’s a sample of what Bob has written:

Harold Camping has not only deserted the church, he seems also to have deserted Christ and his Gospel. In his online book The End of the Church…and After, he began to reject a number of teachings on salvation common in Reformed churches. Consider this strange amalgam of biblical truths and errors all of which Camping rejects as errors so serious that Christ has ended the church age because of them: “Such conclusions that there can be divorce for fornication, baptismal regeneration, our faith is an instrument that God uses to bring us to salvation, a future millennium, women can pastor a church, universal atonement, our acceptance of Christ as a requirement for salvation, are typical of many doctrines solemnly adopted by churches.” In this statement are indications of serious confusion on the doctrine of salvation. Continue reading “A Failed Prophet”

The Church of Scotland General Assembly

vcAfter several hours of debate yesterday, commissioners at the Church of Scotland General Assembly voted by 351 to 294 to adopt a proposal which means a move towards the acceptance for training, induction and ordination of those in same-sex relationships for the ministry. The Assembly also voted by 393 to 252 to allow ministers and deacons in same-sex relationships ordained before 2009 to be inducted into pastoral charges.

A theological commission will be set up to bring recommendations to the 2013 General Assembly, as well as considering whether ministers should have freedom of conscience to bless civil partnerships and possible liturgy for such occasions.  As nothing has been formally enacted, the proposals do not need to consult the Kirk’s 46 presbyteries under the Barrier Act, but it does mark a significant departure from the Church’s traditional teaching, as acknowledged by the Commission’s report.

In presenting the report of the Special Commission, the convenor, Lord Patrick Hodge, reported that the commission had received a letter from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland confirming that their position was that sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman are sinful. The PCI Moderator, Dr Norman Hamilton, spoke in the debate yesterday and affirmed the position of the Irish Presbyterian Church.

While the debate was well managed by the Moderator, Dr David Arnott, some of the speeches confirmed my worst fears about the views of many within the Church of Scotland. “We know better than the Bible” was the tone of one speech, and, as one speaker said, since the Bible had got it wrong on slavery, the role of women, and the death penalty for adultery, we should not be afraid to discard what it says about homosexuality. The speaker insisted that current scientific evidence makes it clear that homosexuality is perfectly natural and not sinful, and therefore homosexuals should not be barred from leadership in the church. Another speaker referred to the pastoral and prophetic insights of bisexual and transgender people.

One feels for the many conservative and evangelical people within the Church of Scotland who must be very hurt and depressed by their Assembly’s decision. The conservative voice was not prominent in the debate and an amendment by Rev Martin Allen was overwhelmingly rejected. What the response of the conservative wing of the Church of Scotland will be is unclear, but if ministers, elders and congregations withdraw in numbers as a result of this decision, it may seriously damage the Kirk. The evidence is that this kind of schism has not happened in the recent past, and may not happen now.

Undoubtedly this decision will affect how Irish Presbyterians view their Scottish counterparts, and the links with both the Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) following their recent decisions may become an issue for debate and discussion within PCI.

Light from any quarter?

Here’s an interesting contribution to the PCUSA General Assembly which exposes the strange and erroneous arguments used by those advocating the ordination and acceptance of gay people in leadership in the church. The last two minutes are the most interesting!

A bonus point win for the PMS!

pmslogo_smallA letter today from Mr Arthur Boyd, the Administrator of the Presbyterian Mutual Society, reports that over 99% of the PMS members and creditors voted in favour of the rescue package which was proposed to them. This package means that no saver with the PMS will have less than 77% of their savings returned to them immediately, and many will receive substantially more than that. The rescue package also allows for the possibility that, given favourable economic conditions in the next number of years, all savers will get 100% of their money back.

I have to say that this is a great outcome for everyone who has been involved in seeking a resolution to this crisis since it first began in October 2008. I pay tribute to my colleague, Rev Dr Donald Patton, who got the campaign going, to the Lobby Group under the leadership of Ian McGimpsey and Isobel White, to those who advised and supported me, and to our representatives in both Houses at Westminster who lobbied and campaigned for us. Particular thanks are due to members of the Northern Ireland Executive and especially to the former DETI Minister, Arlene Foster, and her officials for putting the details of the package together. And of course, Arthur Boyd, has played a leading role in getting us to this outcome. A big thank you to everyone who has worked so hard and so effectively.

What makes this a “bonus point win” is the fact that Mr Boyd reports that 33% of the PMS savers have voted to make an additional voluntary deferment, thereby raising the Church’s contribution to over £2 million and thus ensuring that all smaller savers with less than £20,000 in the Society will get all their money back. That gives me particular pleasure since the needs of the smaller savers have been our primary motivation in seeking a solution to this crisis.

Above all, we give thanks to Almighty God for answered prayer.

Belfast Marathon

Ken Todd, former Methodist President, was my running buddy

I did it! I managed to complete my leg of the Belfast Marathon as a member of one of Tearfund’s relay teams. It was a great occasion, with everyone in high spirits. The whole event was bathed in glorious sunshine, and with a cool breeze, the conditions were ideal. It was unfortunate that our Ethiopian colleagues did not get their visas in order to be able to travel so that they could run with us.

There was quite a bit of mutual encouragement and support among the runners as we made our way through the city centre and up the Falls Road. The people along the side of the road clapped and shouted their encouragements as they urged us on. I was worried that the hills might destroy me, but I was pleasantly surprised that we managed to negotiate them comfortably. If I had been running alone, and without encouragement, it would have been a much more painful experience. Is that not a parable of the Christian life?

The most noteworthy aspect of the event, apart from the huge number of participants, was the number of people who were running for charities and good causes, and my running buddy, Ken, observed that there is something distinctly spiritual about this kind of altruistic activity. All kinds of organisations and foundations were represented among the runners, underscoring the fact that there is a huge amount of human need in our world and in our own community.  Clearly, doing something for the benefit of others lifts the human spirit and makes people feel good.

My minor success in this event has encouraged me to consider repeating it next year, DV. I just hope that Belfast City Council don’t change the marathon to a Sunday and thereby exclude people like me, and many others, who are committed to the programme of our churches each Sunday.

If you would like to contribute to Tearfund, then go to the Just Giving website and make a generous donation. What an encouragement that will be to our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia!