Witnessing in a pagan world
The Church Society met in May for its annual conference at High Leigh. The conference aim was to encourage us to stand for Christ in an increasingly hostile world and reflect on some issues in the Church of England that confront conservative evangelicals.
On the first day, Gordon Warren, Vicar of St Anne’s, Limehouse, gave two talks encouraging us to live and witness effectively in a pagan world. After reminding us that British society had been founded on God’s commandments, Mr Warren explained how the situation was now reversed as the unredeemed sought to judge Christians by their own liberal views, so that Christians must adapt to an increasingly hostile environment.
Rev. Warren gave advice about witnessing in a multi-cultural society, using his own experiences at Limehouse as illustrations.
On the second day, John Cheeseman, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Eastbourne, addressed the problem of homosexuality in the church. He explained how homosexuality had been gradually accepted over the past 15 years by many clergy and bishops in the Anglican Communion.
Rev. Cheeseman then reminded us that we need to be clear on the biblical teaching on homosexuality. He explained that forbidding homosexual practice was part of God’s moral law, upheld in the New as well as Old Testament.
After the Church Society annual general meeting, Rohintan Mody, assistant curate at Christ Church, Virginia Water, addressed how Christians should engage with other faiths, under the title ‘Empty and evil’.
Mr Mody explained that this was a practical issue for him, because he was converted from an Indian Zoroastrian background and still had to deal with family gatherings where there might be food sacrificed to idols. He expounded 1 Corinthians 8-10 where Paul deals with food sacrificed to idols in Corinth – God has not left us without guidance.
After this, David Phillips, General Secretary of the Church Society, explained why it was important that conservative evangelicals should be involved in the structures (such as the various synods and parish councils) of the Church of England. After explaining how to get involved and the potential costs and hardships, he listed good reasons for involvement, such as limiting liberal influence in the church.
George Curry, Vicar of St Stephen & St Paul’s, Elswick (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), ended the day by reminding us of the biblical teaching on women’s ministry. He listed some reasons ‘evangelicals’ gave for accepting women into ordained ministry, such as misinterpreting texts like Galatians 3:28; ‘submitting our conscience to the church’; and ‘God seems to be blessing women presbyters’. Rev. Curry then advised how we could uphold the biblical teaching on gender roles, exposing false views of male and female.
On the last day, Duncan Boyd, chairman of the finance committee, explained why our Protestant constitution is worth defending. On each day of the conference, Mark O’Donoghue from St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, gave three expositions on Philippians.
Under the titles ‘A passionate man’, ‘A passionate mindset’ and ‘A passionate ministry’, Mr O’Donoghue exhorted us to follow the apostle Paul’s example of a gospel-centred life.
Overall, the conference was a great encouragement as we were reminded to uphold the truth within the Church of England and nation. It was also a spur to evangelism and recommitting ourselves to gospel priorities. (CDs are available of most of the talks.)