Friday, March 14, 2014

One foot in the grave

Bills to bring forward the legalisation of 'Assisted Suicide' are being progressed both at Westminster and Holyrood.

It is yet another example of our society stumbling, without any firm reference points, into the further commodification of human life. That this legislation, if passed, will just be a first step to the eventual widespread practise of euthanasia in our society should not be in doubt.  

When the legalisation of abortion was argued for in the 1960s, we were assured that it would be a last resort reserved for only the most desperate cases, it would have to meet rigorous medical and/or psychological criteria, and it would be scrupulously regulated. Of course, we now know, 40 years on, that abortion is carried out effectively 'on demand', with few (if any) questions asked and on a scale beyond anything its original proponents would have imagined. The government's response to this 'industrialisation' of abortion (6.7 million since 1967). has not been to tighten up the controls or to seek to return to the original narrow criteria but to make it even easier and less regulated.  For those assuring us that 'assisted suicide' would be rare and strictly controlled - the example of Belgium in extending its legalised euthanasia for children is a chilling glimpse into the future.

Once the taking of life, at the point it is perceived to be lacking sufficient quality or that it has become an unfair burden on others, becomes acceptable and legal - the insidious pressure will be that those persisting in similar circumstances are being a little selfish. After all look how much freer, happier and wealthier Family X is now that Granny is no longer 'tying them down' and draining them of their resources. Thus very subtly poor struggling incontinent Grandad in Family Y may start to feel a bit of a 'parasite'.

Almost inevitably legalising assisted suicide will shift the burden of responsibility for the care of the disabled and sick away from 'the well' and onto the sufferer themselves. After all if a sufferer rejects the now available option of ending their life - then why should their family or anyone else feel any responsibility to care for them? After all it's their choice if they choose to carry on living!

The problem with any form of suicide is that is involves the weak and vulnerable valuing their lives against the powerful and secure. The great darkness of legalising 'assisted suicide' is not simply that it allows people to be accessories in the taking of human life - but that it says that human life is 'takable'.

It is telling for all our society's hubris about progress and moral enlightenment that we seem to be regressing into a pre-Christian Dark Age when it comes to human life. Abortion on demand, embryo selection on the basis of gender and other physical characteristics, and now the pro-active termination of adult life on health grounds are all now 'on the table'.

How did we get here? We live in a time when advances in medicine and technology mean the ability to alleviate suffering and provide palliative care have never been greater (in the West anyway - interestingly the 'right to die' does not seem to be a big demand in the developing world). Tragically though we have the tools to help - a century of aggressive materialistic atheism has left us with decreasing reason to use them. If we are just haphazard conglomerations of chemicals with no ultimate purpose or value - then there is no reason to view human life as anything other than disposable and utilitarian. The squeezing out of the 'Life Giver' from public consciousness is leading our culture deeper into an ever deepening amoral 'survival of the fittest' view of ourselves. 

As Dostoevsky put it, "If God does not exist, everything is permitted." 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Eat Pray Love [and Plant Churches]

An article written for the FIEC website. 
Eat, Pray, Love (and Plant Churches) primary image

50 people from over 25 churches and Christian organisations gathered in Glasgow at the end of February to hear Andy Paterson (our Mission Director) and Mez McConnell (Pastor of Niddrie Community Church) outline a vision for a new generation of church planting and revitalisations. The lunchtime event organised by FIEC brought together church leaders and Christian workers from across the West of Scotland.
Mez highlighted the desperate need in many of Scotland’s most deprived areas for gospel churches to be planted or revitalised, and spoke of the vision of 20schemes to see this happen. Council housing estates in Scotland are known as ‘Schemes’ – the hope is to see at least 20 healthy gospel churches established or re-established in such areas throughout Scotland over the next ten years.
Mez speaking at the lunch
Niddrie Community Church is leading the way in this, having built a growing church that is making a huge impact a community with high social needs. Currently a training programme, run by the church, is preparing local people and others to be Church Planters and Revitalisers in similar communities elsewhere. Mez’s call was for those in the West of Scotland to get behind this vision - especially as is it the area of Scotland with the highest number of schemes lacking any meaningful gospel witness in them.
Andy Paterson outlined the national picture and vision of FIEC in seeing new churches planted in unreached parts of the country. He shared something of the work being progressed by FIEC in seeking to identify areas of the UK where there is an urgent need for gospel witness. The challenge was for existing churches to come together in order to see healthy and growing churches (re)established in such places.
Andy speaking at the lunch
This lunchtime gathering was a great opportunity for a whole range of church leaders and others to meet up, to chat, pray and be encouraged by each other. It was also a chance to note the wider vision of FIEC to bring churches together – the value and potential of which the lunch itself was a great illustration of.
The feedback from those attending was very positive, and everyone will hopefully have left better informed and challenged about the need for strategic church planting and revitalisation, but also encouraged that there is already a vision for this, and there is help and experience available for those wishing to be partners in this work.
Please pray that this gathering will result in continued and deepening relationships between churches, and will lead in time to the planting and revitalising of much needed gospel churches in Scotland and beyond.
Andy Hunter photo
Andy Hunter - FIEC Scotland Director
Before joining FIEC in November 2013, Andy worked for Greenview Church in Glasgow for nine years, prior to which he trained at Oak Hill College in London. He is married to Jessica and they have three children.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sex, Dating & Relating

Don't leave it to the internet or TV to teach your teenager about this...

Monday, March 03, 2014

Our friends in the north

Some thoughts on a recent visit to the Shetlands Isles.

Garthspool Evangelical Church, situated 100miles north of the Scottish mainland, is the most northerly FIEC Church in the UK. Originally founded in 1914, as an outreach to the fishing community around Lerwick harbour, it will celebrate its centenary this September. Over the years it has been a centre of Gospel witness on the island to locals, workers and holiday-makers alike.

In recent years, along with many other churches on the islands, numbers have declined and it’s been increasingly hard to sustain many of the previous ministries. The church administrator is Margaret Fraser who organises speakers and chairmen from around the Island and further afield. It is a church with good relations with Christians around Shetland and is something of a hub for bringing folks together. Its 8pm Sunday evening meeting means that it can be a gathering point for Christians with an appetite for some extra Bible teaching and to hear speakers often from outside Shetland.

The bigger picture church-wise on Shetland is of a number of small fellowships of various types (Brethren, UF, Baptist, Independent etc). Due the scattered and rural nature of the island population these are often inevitably small and operate on very limited resources. Lerwick with a population of 7000 (the largest town by far) has 13 different churches! It does beg the question though of whether such a large number of small churches relative to the population is sustainable and indeed sensible for longer term Gospel witness.

Encouragingly it was great to meet Christians from different churches and hear of ongoing School’s Work around the islands, the annual Shetland Youth Camp that brings together over 200 young people and an initiative to host some ‘9 Marks’ training later in the year.

The challenges are many but chief among them is reaching the population afresh with the Gospel – this includes the many temporary workers brought to the islands by the oil and gas industry (Lerwick Harbour is dominated by huge floating accommodation blocks brought in to house them). It is here especially that a church like Garthspool has real potential – it is strategically placed on the main road along the harbour front, it is committed to the Gospel and, as noted, has been able to be something of a ‘rallying point’ for evangelicals over the years. It’s involvement with FIEC and its links with a number of Missionary Workers demonstrate a vision bigger than just ‘maintenance’.
The long flat topped buildings are
floating accommodation blocks. 

The prayer of the Garthspool congregation is for new and committed members to take the work forward. There is also a real opportunity for the right leader, able to draw Christians together under the Word, to help revitalise the church to again be a thriving centre for reaching the community around it – the reason it was founded in the first place.