Glasgow to Gatwick was uneventful, but then a long wait at Gatwick for the tranatlantic flight.
I sat in Yates Wine Lodge drinking cappucino from 8am until 9am. I'm amazed at how many pints of lager folk can down at that time in the morning.
US Airways Flight 95 had only 88 people on board, so my request at Gatwick to keep the seat next of me open was largely academic (I'd had to buy two tickets because of a change in plans). The video on demand system wasn't working, which meant I had to work instead! Average airline food, but charming Southern lady flight attendants.
US immigration wasn't so bad, though they still didn't smile or offer a welcome. It was quieter though, and quicker. Charlotte seems to be a good port of entry.
John Barr met me at Charlotte (68 degrees- unseasonably warm), and we drove up to Hendersonville, where we visited an Irish Bar. I had Pot Roast in an unfeasibly large quantity, and watched 'Monster Truck Racing' - a sport that seems as contrived as wrestling to me, but great fun nonetheless.
Woke up this morning to this view:
This speaks to me a lot. The lake has been drained exposing tree stumps. Perhaps something of what happens as we are exposed to the light of Christ in the Word? I have a sense that the Lord will do a bit of this over the weekend, as we look at the letter of James together.
We're visiting Chimney Rock this morning, where Daniel Day Lewis's version of 'Last of the Mohicans' was filmed, then people from Sumter arrive this afternoon.
Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong? That's today chez GadgetVicar.
It started with the discovery that a flat roof had filled with rainwater last night and flooded the lounge. Wallpaper, plaster, curtain and carpet havoc ensued.
This was quickly followed with a realisation that our internet access, which is usually solid, was down. No email (apologies if you emailed me today and it 'bounced'), or web access. Tried rebooting the modem and router - nothing. No time to call support, as I had a meeting in Bishopbriggs to get to.
Or so I believed. On arriving at Bishopbriggs, I had the thought, 'The meeting isn't here, is it? It's at Bearsden!'. So, I hared it over to Bearsden, arriving late.
Then it was off to St Silas' for the staff meeting (watched a great DVD on leadership by Bill Hybels). At 4pm, my mobile rang, as Ms GadgetVicar wondered if I'd be coming home to do the Confirmation Class at 5pm, and also informed me, 'The lounge has flooded again since this morning', despite clearing the guttering.
By the time I got home, the windows were open, airing the room, and calmness prevailed.
Internet still down, though. So I called support who told me that, 'Oh, BT changed the logon yesterday.' Really? Well, thanks for telling me!
All this wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for these facts: there was a meeting at the rectory tonight to plan an important church weekend in April, I'm flying to Charlotte, North Carolina at 4.30am and packing has yet to begin. I'm usually better prepared than this, honest. This is a recipe for forgetting something important.
I'm speaking at the weekend away of Holy Comforter, Sumter. They're a very kind and hospitable congregation. We'll be staying here until Monday, then hopefully I'll meet with the pastor of a church that I'm doing a weekend for in June on Tuesday.
Wednesday should see me flying to Montgomery, Alabama, to share with friends at Christchurch. I really enjoyed meeting them last year. Looks like they are going to work me hard this visit.
This is a new Anglican congregation that developed out of the Church of the Ascension after the Diocese of Alabama took a rather more supportive line in reappraising theology than many in the congregation were happy with. They are now overseen by a Ugandan diocese. It will be good to see how they are getting on - this time last year, things were really hard for them.
I'm amazed at the privilege of being asked to do such things, but must say that the allure of the travel involved has worn off.
The ordeal of getting through US immigration is enough to put anyone off! For last month's trip to conduct Lindy's wedding, the immigration official asked me, 'Couldn't they find a pastor here to do the wedding for them?'. Welcome to the US of A, right enough! It took a lot of self-control to not say something cheeky and end up in all sorts of trouble. I fully expect to get the nth degree as to why I'm returning to the US so quickly after the previous visit. Please do send food parcels care of Guantanamo Bay if you don't hear from me soon.....
I hope to blog while in the USA, so, if you are interested, please keep checking the site. As always, prayers are valued. Especially for Ms GadgetVicar.......
Listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning, I heard this programme about Camberwick Green, and its offspring, Trumpton and Chigley (Realplayer needed). Anyone growing up in the sixties and seventies will remember these shows. Who could forget the voice of Brian Cant, or the original organic farmer, 'Windy Miller', or 'Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub', the Trumpton firemen under the command of Captain Flack?
They had plenty of cats to rescue, but never got to use water to put out fires because of the difficulties of animating both fire and water in 3d. Visit Trumptonshire to learn of its delights.
On the telly, Channel 4 has let Richard Dawkins take a pop at faith in the form of his new series broadcast on Monday nights, The Root of all Evil, in which he argues that all religion is basically bad. I missed it, as our Vestry was meeting, but several people told me today that they thought Christianity got on his goat the most. Next week's show is entitled, 'The Virus of Faith'. Pejorative or what?
That was followed on Radio 4 this morning with the historian, David Starkey, presenting his new series, 'Who killed Christianity?', in which he looks at five people who he believes changed the teaching of Jesus for their own ends. This morning it was Paul's turn. I think Paul's defenders did rather well. The emperor Constantine takes the blame next week.
I visited Rachel and her baby, Rosie in hospital this afternoon. Her husband, Colin, was also there. She continues to get better, but there are good days and bad days. Visits are kind of limited and need to be brief, as Rachel gets tired. It's been great to see and hear how their homegroup have offered practical support in childcare, food, flowers, etc, through these hard weeks - they are so thankful.
If you are inclined to pray, please remember this family - for perseverance and complete healing.
Mr Kennedy resigned. I'm saddened by what has happened, but it does seem that people had, over the years, tried to encourage him into different patterns of living. If one is addicted, the first step to beginning to deal with addiction is the recognition that it is so. He'd done so much for his party, but now he needs to move on. He's now in a position to get on with life with his young family.
Another leader is also in the spotlight - George Galloway, erstwhile Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin and now Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. He's facing further criticism for entering the Celebrity Big Brother House (I might post some thoughts on CBB later), when he should be representing his constituents in Parliament, which returns next week. I suppose the difficulty here is that he isn't really accountable to anyone except those constituents, when the next General Election is called. No one can make him turn up in the House, and it's only by checking his voting record that you know when he has been there. He gives his reasons for entering CBB here.
I had meetings with Mr Galloway several times while he was MP here. He is a very affable character, but I remember asking him to come to a hustings meeting organised by the West End churches at the 2001 General Election. He was reluctant to do so. I suggested that this was called accountability to the electorate and as a fellow member of the Party (no longer- I left in 2002), I thought he should come. He eventually agreed, and on the night of the meeting, blamed me for the hard time he was getting from members of the Scottish Socialist Party who felt he was being hypocritical standing for Labour (I'm being very careful what I say here - he loves litigation!). His Palestinian wife was very lovely and charming, and I found it helpful to hear her views on the situation in her homeland.
His entry in Wikipedia is suprisingly long (someone must be interested in him, and no, I don't think he put it there himself, as it's far too damning), but this bit is particularly interesting:
Galloway's participation in Parliamentary activity fell to minimal levels after he was suspended and later expelled from the Labour Party. After speaking in a debate on Iraq on March 25, 2003 Galloway did not intervene in any way in Parliamentary debates or ask any oral questions for the remainder of the Parliament and his participation in House of Commons Divisions was among the lowest of any MP (the website "They Work For You.com" has more details). Since being elected in 2005, his participation rate has remained low. At the end of 2005 he had participated in only 15% of votes in the House of Commons since the general election, placing him 634 out of 645 MPs - of the MPs below him in the rankings, five are Sinn Fein members who have an abstentionist policy towards taking their seats, three are the speaker and deputy speakers and therefore ineligible to vote, and two have died since the election. Galloway claims a record of unusual activity at a "grass roots" level. His own estimate is that he has made 1,100 public speeches between September 2001 and May 2005. In November 2005 Galloway's commitment to Parliamentary activity was again called into question when he failed to attend the Report Stage of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill in the House of Commons, despite Respect having urged its members to put pressure on MPs to attend. It was subsequently confirmed that Galloway had been giving his one-man show in Cork, Ireland on the night (Galloway's spokesman asserted the performance was "uncancellable"). It initially appeared that the government won a vote by a majority of only one, and Galloway's attendance would have resulted in defeat for the government. Respect later put out a statement stating that it regretted the vote had been missed though claiming that they did not fully support the amendment. The statement further claimed that Galloway had cleared his diary for all the subsequent votes on the bill. Galloway did attend a subsequent debate on the Bill.
He ousted a very fine MP, Oona King, at Bethnal Green and Bow, who represented her constituents well by all accounts. Yet, in a strange way, I kind of like George - he speaks his mind and is a maverick, but he does seem somewhat self aggrandising. He'll have to 'raise his game' if he wants to stay at Westminster, though!
Some politicians want to appear on the big stage, forgetting what matters most to their constituents is what happens at a local level, in the lives of ordinary people. No wonder so few people vote, when their confidence in their leaders doesn't have much to inspire it.
Jesus' model of leadership is to serve people, even unto death. It's what inspires and motivates and it's what helps grow churches and communities. Perhaps our leaders need to take another look at Him?
Charlie Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, faces the triple demons of Labour, Tories and alcohol. Some of his colleagues have lost confidence in him and journalists have recordings of him while 'under the influence'. His position seems untenable.
Yet, some political leaders in this country have done well, despite their alcohol problem. Winston Churchill is possibly the best example. Of course, in his day, there was not the scrutiny that there is today, which meant he never had to confront his addiction. Mr Kennedy has had to, and one can only hope he is given time to get better. I fear that he will not.
From a Christian perspective, there is always the possibility of healing and even restoration. Jesus has a thing for 'losers', and the apostle Peter is a good example of the process at work. But when a leader fails, there needs to be space for those processes to go on. There must be repentance and work at rebuilding confidence in that leader. There might need to be a recognition that things cannot go on as they were before the revelation of failure came to light- a letting go of responsibilities and power that might have contributed to the problem. Above all there has to be love for the person who is struggling.
I hope and pray that Charlie Kennedy and his family are given the love, support and space they will need.
We begin two new sermon series on Sunday, looking at Nehemiah in the mornings and James in the evenings. We're also having a focus on stewardship at both services (using our gifts well). We need more workers!
We are hopeful that we'll have a lot of building to do this year, both physically and personally, so I'm confident that these books will encourage us in both. Mind you, it's a lot of hard work kicking off two new series at the same time. Prayer is valued.
I meet with the other two members of the prayer triplet, Martin and Johnny, for the first time in ages tomorrow at 7.30am. Work and tiredness took it's toll towards the end of 2005, so we were not as sharp as we should have been.
Tomorrow night, a group of St Silas' wannabe preachers meet to help each other work on sermons. The idea is to bring an outline of a sermon to be preached then we (gently) critique one another.
I came across Preaching: throwing a hand grenade in the fruit bowl by Jonny Baker over the holidays. There is much wisdom here, particularly when he talks about methods of communication. We try to use different media, aiming for response and incorporating ritual. We don't really 'accept that some people don’t need to hear any more sermons' though. That seems a little arrogant, if people believe that. The reality is that we need to be constantly reminded of who God is and what he has done, as well as being challenged to service. I hope what Jonny means is 'some people don't need to hear any more boring sermons'. There is always more to learn or be reminded of.
A helpful critique of the Windsor Report - GadgetVicar
The Report of the Lambeth Commission is flawed fundamentally because it refuses to take up the substantial issue that caused its coming into
existence: the issue of homosexuality.
"Process" statements will not suffice at this juncture in Anglican church history. Theological "conservatives" can take heart from most of the findings of the Report, although it is deficient in equating the New Hampshire consecration with the crossing of diocesan boundaries on the part of "orthodox" bishops and primates.
Two further problems with the Report are its ambiguous use of the Bible in relation to an issue on which the Bible is unambiguous; and in its ultimate result, which papers over the cracks.
There was a headline a few years ago in a college lampoon newspaper that
read: "Michael Jackson: What Went Wrong?" It went without saying, something had gone wrong. I would like to ask the same question concerning the Windsor Report.
And this is now after the sixth reading, as Ian Douglas and I recently completed a conversation about the document for Church Publishing. It weighs on me very much, as it seems from my end that the Report went seriously wrong.
In this brief essay I would like to outline what I think is missing and unsatisfactory about the Report, then reflect on what it means: what it means for ECUSA, what it means for the Anglican Communion, and what it means for the Anglican project as a whole in the contemporary world.
The Lambeth Commission took a big risk and at the same time ducked one when it decided that its brief did not include the subject of homosexuality in theological perspective.
The Report makes that clear in Section A.26 and again in Section B.43: "We repeat that we have not been invited, and are not intending, to comment or make recommendations on the theological and ethical matters concerning the practice of same sex relations and the blessing or ordination or consecration of those who engage in them."
This is the fundamental problem of the Report. The Report fails, by conscious intent, to discuss the issue that brought it to birth. It fails, by deliberate and explicit admission, to give one single word of argument that impinges on the catalytic catastrophe that ignited the worldwide crisis to which the work of the Lambeth Commission was the supposed solution.