Tag Archives: christians overseas

The Grand Tour

Our Grand Tour wrapped up two weeks ago and it was incredible.

Lots of people have asked me about our highlights – one amazing thing that happened, or a shortlist of the places we liked best. My usual answer has been that the whole trip was a highlight: everything we saw and smelled, tasted and heard was so beautiful and overwhelming, that every day was just as wonderful as the last.

That being said there were some things about the trip generally that I really loved. They’re not really highlights, I guess. They are the things we did throughout the whole trip that, in the end, made the Grand Tour very grand indeed.

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The Lost History of Christianity

Over the last few years I have felt compelled to brush up on my church history – not because of my history-loving husband, or because of a subject I took at college, but because I have spent most of my adult life talking to Chinese people about Jesus. A lot of those Chinese people are interested in Jesus because they are curious about Western religion. And more and more I am discovering that Christianity is not actually a Western religion. I thought it might be a good thing to so some more research on how the global church has grown and changed over the last two and bit thousand years.

Cue the holidays and time to read!

My holiday reading time so far has mostly been spent in The Lost History of Christianity by Philip Jenkins. It’s been blowing my mind, and driving me to distraction. Thanks to all those friends who have patiently listened to me process this book over the last week!

Despite what the title might suggest, this is not a book of conspiracy theories. It’s not one of those books where someone discovers some secret lost manuscript that changes the face of Christian history forever.

The reason this book has taken me through such excited highs and concerned lows is the way it has collected non-Western historical data that, up until now, I had never really understood the context of. It’s full of Syrians, Copts and Nestorians, it’s the story of the Silk Road, it’s story of the Armenian Genocide. It places all these moments into a narrative I have never heard before.

It’s a history of the church, a history of God working through his people, but it’s completely different to the church history I have been taught and retold over the years.

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Check in: Summer School

Internet coverage here is patchy at best but I'd like to keep sharing things that happen at Summer School.

Right now we are sitting in the main shed listening to the guy who used to head up the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students talking about the spread of the gospel since 1989. Riveting!

EDIT: Those talks by Lindsay Brown were fantastic. If you are someone who likes listening to talks online, I strongly suggest you find something by him to listen to. He explained the bubke so well. Also he has a great speaking voice (Welsh!), well structured ideas, very insightful thoughts to share and great stories from Christians around the world, including Christians from countries we don't hear much about in Australia.

Think globally…

Last month we receieved the latest CMS magazine in the mail, and it came complete with a neat pull out poster. Today I took the poster in to work and stuck it up on the wall near my desk, next to my Anglicare Strategic Plan poster.

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Oh boy, I miss having CMS in my life like I used to. With Matt working there I would be regularly roped into to volunteer at conferences and events and I would be kept in the loop about missionaries lives and plans. I could drop in at the office any time. I found myself part of the staff community there who lived and breathed global mission. It was really humbling but also exciting to be constantly exposed to the experiences of churches in so many contexts different from mine.

Matt’s departure from CMS hasn’t dampened our interest in global mission and the world-wide church, but I have definitely missed being in the thick of it like I used to be. On top of this, I have been away from the EU community at uni for just about a year now, a year away from another community full of people who cared about and supported brothers and sisters around the world.

My focus is now being shaped more and more by my local church and Anglicare – great and wonderful places, but a little more centred on the local and less on the global. And it’s right and proper for Anglicare to be like that. We have a job to do here in Sydney, helping to meet the needs of people and communities here. And church at Ashfield? Well, I guess we will just keep working hard! There are a handful of us who see the need to shift the culture a little. I’m really praying that sometime soon our local church will be full of people who know about what’s happening in churches around the world, who pray for all their brothers and sisters (even those outside of Sydney!) and who consider making sacrifices for the sake of Jesus and his church – be it their time, their money or even where they end up living and working.

On Martyrdom and Persecution

Student: Sir?

President Bartlett: Yeah

Student: Do you consider yourself a man of principle?

President Bartlett: I try to be

Student: Well… Don’t you consider, I mean I know they’re our enemy, but don’t you consider there’s something noble about being a martyr?

President Bartlett: A martyr would rather suffer death at the hands of an oppressor than renounce his beliefs. Killing yourself and innocent people to make a point is sick, twisted, brutal, dumb-ass murder.

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I recently rewatched the West Wing episode produced just after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The episode is called Isaac and Ishmael. This scene, where a student quizzes President Bartlett on martyrdom, has really got me thinking. What does it mean to be a martyr? What is the ‘proper’ context in which to die for your faith? Is President Bartlett right?

Last year I went to a talk by Bishop Josiah A. Idowu-Fearon who was visiting Australia at the time. Bishop Fearon oversees the Diocese of Kanduna in Nigeria. It straddles the middle of country, the very volatile part where the predominantly Muslim north meets the predominately Christian South. It’s a dangerous place. Religious tensions are mixed up with political and economic power, and are regularly expressed with violent physical attacks.

Speaking to a small audience of mainly Christian workers in Australia last year, Josiah Fearon talked about the difficulties of leading the church in a climate like this. Not only does the church feel threatened by reactive Muslims, but many members of the church believe that it is their duty to defend the honour of the church through avenging other injured Christians or even attacking Muslims who slander the church. Fearon clearly articulated his own stance: Christians follow a crucified Lord, who was insulted, oppressed, persecuted and killed. He told his followers to turn the other cheek and warned his followers that they would be abused just like him. Christians who feel like they must defend the honour of their religion through further violence, or even avenge the injury or death of family, are not following Jesus as they do these things.

Josiah Fearon’s attitudes have made him the target of a few assassination attempts, not just by Muslim extremists but also by Christian extremists who think he is too soft in his approach. But I don’t think he is being soft. I think it would much harder to take persecution ‘lying down’ than fighting back.

Although they speak about slightly different things, I’m inclined to think that Josiah Fearon would agree with Jed Bartlett on martyrdom, and Jed Bartlett would agree with Josiah Fearon on persecution (even though Jed Bartlett is fictional…). Martyrs die for their faith, but they don’t kill innocent people. Persecution means enduring suffering and humiliation without ever seeking revenge, and Christians must never initate violence.

Do you think this is the correct way to view things? Issues of violent persecution and martyrdom don’t really come up in contemporary Australian society, but they definitely do right now in other places of the world. This week, 13 people were killed in a religious attack on a village outside Jos, one of the larger towns in Josiah Fearon’s diocese. Most of them were women and children. Is it fair to say that the church should sit by and watch people get abused and killed? If you were a Christian leader, how would you seek justice if your local community was governed by sharia law? Would you take justice into your own hands?

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all.If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written: “‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord”. To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give hims something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head”. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21

P.S. Did anyone notice that Josiah Fearon and Jed Bartlett have the same first name?

Summer School 2010 #1

Regarding the multitude of Christian conferences that I attend, I usually try to keep the livejournal record concise, cause I’m concerned about boring people, especially people who have never been on one before. But summer school has been way too awesome to say nothing. So here follows a short series of posts and comments about random things that have grabbed my attention.

We’re almost finished at CMS summer school this year and I’m taking advantage of the free wireless to update during the session. I’m sitting on the asphalt at the back of a giant shed listening to two thousand people singing to God and praying for his kingdom to come. There are a few hundred people singing along in tents outside because we don’t all fit here. When I go outside during the singing there are enough people for the singing to be out of sync. The speed of sound letting me here everyone is slower than the speed of light letting me see everyone. It made me realise just how crazy it could sound when Jesus comes back and the millions or billions of his people sing in all the world’s languages, out of sync due to the slow speed of sound. Crazy!