The social issues team of Affinity organised a one-day conference at Carey Baptist Church, Reading, on Saturday 14 March on the theme ‘Being a courageous Christian in a secular society’.
The conference explored some of the factors that can unsettle us and how to combat them in our increasingly secular and anti-Christian society.
Peter Milsom, director of Affinity, gave a welcome and introduction to the conference by reading from Acts 4:23-31. John Benton, co-pastor at Chertsey Street Baptist Church, Guildford, then gave a warm and encouraging Bible exposition on the subject of ‘Courageous people for difficult days’. This was based on 2 Timothy 2:1: ‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus’.
Christianity is now considered toxic by many people in our society. The source of our courage and strength is the grace that is in Christ Jesus: grace for salvation; grace for significance, as sons of God; and grace for suffering, in the footsteps of Christ, ultimately to glory.
Truth and justice
The second session, ‘Upholding truth and justice in a secular society’, was taken by Andrea Minichiello-Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern.
She gave a comprehensive overview of the way in which our society has moved over the past 60 years, from one in which Christianity was seen as the bedrock of morality to one where Christianity is vilified as a source of evil and the proclamation of biblical truth is punished.
Ms Minichiello-Williams gave some depressing statistics about the consequences of a low view of human life before birth, and ways in which God’s design for marriage and the teaching of Jesus Christ is under ever-increasing attack from the legislature.
Christian Concern exists to encourage, empower and equip individuals to live and speak out for Jesus Christ in public life. For this we need clear vision and policies, a voice and a platform, and visibility as well as consistent practice. God has equipped us with the privilege of prayer, and the freedom at present to proclaim the gospel. We need to use these resources to the full.
John Ling has written and lectured extensively on bioethical issues and took the third conference session, ‘How to live the bioethically courageous life’.
He spoke movingly about the vast array of issues in which medicine has gone wrong and a ‘culture of death’ has presided. Bioethical issues from conception to death affect everyone in some ways and all Christians should be concerned.
Believing and doing
The Bible teaches that there are credenda (things to be believed) and agenda (things to be done). In order to make a difference we need to have an agenda which includes being aware and informed about what is happening.
We need to pray, educate ourselves, our family, church and friends; engage — we’re called to be ‘salt and light’; care — we must be ‘eager to do good’; and give — time, money and energy where we can best have an impact with our gifts.
The final session of the conference was taken by Roger Hitchings of the Pilgrims’ Friend Society who spoke on ‘Caring for older Christians and using them in local church ministry’.
Roger has a wealth of knowledge and spoke helpfully and practically about Christian care for older people, and contrasted it with the attitude often displayed in UK society where old age is seen as a wasteland experience.
He described some of the physical realities of aging and emphasised that nothing is purposeless in God’s economy. Old age is a blessing from God and older people have intrinsic value. We need the courage to respond biblically to aging and to be prepared to listen as well as provide practical and spiritual support, including in cases of dementia.
The conference was a well thought out day, with some valuable insights and merited a much larger audience.