PMS update

pmslogo_small-1Thankfully, we are entering the final phase of the PMS crisis. I hear that the number of calls to the PMS office has increased in recent days with savers inquiring about when they might receive their money. Here’s the latest update from the Administrator. It looks like the envelopes with the cheques will be falling through the letter boxes before the end of July.

I can now confirm that my application for the Scheme of Arrangement to be sanctioned by the Court will be heard next Monday, 4th July 2011. On the assumption that sanction is obtained on that day, my plans are to draw down the funding available from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland) which should enable me to issue cheques to members and creditors before the end of July 2011 .

And here is the latest statement from Mr Boyd following yesterday’s court decision:

I am pleased to say that the Court has formally sanctioned the Scheme of Arrangement and that the Scheme Supervisors can now proceed to draw down the funds and issue cheques this month to members and creditors once certain pre-conditions have been satisfied.  I am currently working through the pre-conditions with my legal team and will update members and creditors shortly when I have a more precise date for drawing down the funds and making distributions.

I fully understanding that awaiting the outcome of the necessary legal process surrounding the Scheme of Arrangement has been stressful for members and creditors and I would like to thank you for your patience.

Evangelical Ministry Assembly

This week I attended the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London, and as well as enjoying the excellent addresses on the theme “Preaching that Connects”, I had the opportunity of catching up with some fellow pastors from the “mainland”. The EMA has grown in numbers in the past 29 years and all 850 places were booked by early April this year. The Assembly plans to move to the Barbican in 2013 so that they can accommodate many more people. It’s a good opportunity for evangelical ministers from many different denominations in the UK to share together. The conversations away from the formal sessions centred on the significant moves that are taking place in the churches in Scotland and England. Continue reading “Evangelical Ministry Assembly”

Window on the World

imgresMost Sunday evening we include an item in our worship service which we call “Window on the World”. It’s an opportunity for us to consider what is going on in our world beyond the narrow confines of congregational life.  This weekend, George Ruddock, one of our members who has been a teacher in India for many years, opened the Window on the World for us. His insightful comments and anecdotes are an excellent summary of the changing face of global Christianity. This is what George said:

There are three main things to I would like to report.

The first is that the church in India has no intention of dying out. In Britain, church attendance is falling and Christian witness seems to be reaching far too small a circle.   The Indian church has its problems. The church needs good leadership. It needs to maintain Biblical principles and teaching. Some Christian groups are very poor and need resources. There are far too many denominations and too much rivalry between them.  Nothing strange about that. More Asian is the fact that Christians are under constant danger of persecution – from the authorities, from the community, or at the level of family.  But in general, the church is thriving. Churches in South India are overflowing.  And in many other places right across Asia, the church is growing.

The second thing is that missionaries are moving into the most unlikely places. Each weekend up to Christmas, I visited the 13-year old boys’ dormitory to inspect their rooms and to give them marks for tidiness. And of course, I talked to them.  I did not teach them. There are three boys in the dormitory, from Scotland, England and the USA, whose parents all work in Outer Mongolia. I said “Do you all live in Ullan Batoor?” – and they laughed. “That’s how foreigners all say it! When you get there, remember to say Illan Batter.” But who would have thought, 20 years ago, that Christians might run a Bible College in Outer Mongolia?

There are twin sons of Spanish Christians who work with drug addicts in Delhi. One day, I overheard one of these youngsters shouting at a girl in Chinese. I asked him about his ability to speak a foreign language.  Yes, it was Chinese. “So who’s your girl friend?”  He was only 12, and he explained very solemnly that he had only met the girl since she came to school from Hong Kong  “Are you from Hong Kong?”  “Oh no” he replied,  “I’m Australian”.  “So how did you learn Chinese?” “My parents work in China, for an organisation founded by Hudson Taylor.” “Which part of China?”  “Yenan Province.” Yenan Province was Mao Tse Tung’s heartland, the base from which the Chinese Communist Party spread communism right across China.

Some of us remember the Great Cultural Revolution in 1966. It was a revolution that was against anything old, anything foreign, and against any and all religion. One of my snapshot memories is of Dr Craig, the former minister of this church, on Easter Sunday saying that nobody knew of a single Easter Sunday service in Peking in 1966.  And now Christianity is back in Yenan.

Thirdly, new Christians expect persecution and trouble  It is a normal, regular part of Christian experience. Some believers buckle under pressure, especially from their family, and especially over issues of education and marriage, which depend on the family. The early church had to decide what to do about believers who denied Christ and ran away. The Asian church faces the same questions today. But many Christians find great strength and great grace and persist in hope.

A woman who is a member of the catering staff in the school where I taught has worked there for years and is from a Hindu family.  I don’t know when she became a Christian, but she was living at home and I am told her brothers set out to give her a rough time, to shake her out of her new Christian beliefs, until they decided it was hopeless.  She still lives at home when she is off duty and in the holidays.

She comes to Bible Study. One evening, the passage being discussed included something Jesus told his disciples about persecution. So we said to her,  “You know more about persecution than any of us.” And we waited for her comment.  She smiled quietly.  She is a very gentle soul. And she said only this: “When I think what Jesus suffered for me – it is nothing.”

The centre of gravity of global Christianity is changing, as George’s remarks illustrate. It is becoming a faith of the poor and persecuted. Western Christians need to note this trend and think again about mission and ministry in their own areas.

Gilcomston South to leave the Kirk

churchindexThe Scottish Daily Record reports that Gilcomston South church in Aberdeen will be one of the first to leave the Church of Scotland following the decisions of this year’s General Assembly with regard to the possible opening of the ministry to couples in same-sex relationships.

Dominic Smart, the minister, is reported as saying

“This is us taking a stand against a decision we’re not happy with. It’s the strongest response a congregation can make and it’s a very serious step. But our convictions are clear. We have been discussing this for two-and-a-half years and feel our views are being compromised. However, you feel the gravity of what you are doing and it’s not something you do as a kneejerk reaction.”

The former minister of Gilcomston South was the well-known William Still, who exercised a powerful and influential ministry there for many years. Over the last 70 years, it has become one of the Kirk’s most notable evangelical congregations and Mr Smart and his congregation own the church building on Union Street.

A good debate

Yesterday, the General Assembly of PCI passed a resolution in which it “viewed with concern” the direction of the Church of Scotland General Assembly to move towards approving those in same-sex relationships as being eligible for the ministry. The resolution was proposed by Very Rev Dr John Lockington, and seconded by Rev Nigel McCullough (Hill St Lurgan), who both spoke in a very measured way about the important link between PCI and the Church of Scotland and the overall feeling of dismay and sadness that the Church of Scotland would consider allowing congregations to call openly gay or lesbian ministers.

The Church of Scotland Moderator, The Right Rev Dr David Arnott, responded to the proposed resolution and made an excellent speech. Those who watched the debate in Edinburgh had been impressed by the dignified and gracious way in which he had chaired their Assembly. He confirmed that their Assembly had set up a theological commission to report on the theological perspectives on same-sex relationships at their 2013 General Assembly. He reminded the Assembly of the point that was well-made in Edinburgh that in any controversy there is no “them and us”, it’s just “us”. Continue reading “A good debate”