Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Orange Reformation cannot be appeased

Orange Reformation and its internet claims that undermine the worth and work of the Institution for its own sectional interests, cannot be appeased.

No group should be allowed to exist that has the objective to sew discontent, and to take pleasure in doing what we regard as conduct alien to, and hurtful of the Institution.

Action must be taken to prevent this group, or any other Orangeman, from saying words and taking actions, which bring the Order to division and disrepute.

There are disciplinary rules in the Institution to deal with this situation. They must be used or it will suffer grievously from negative judgements and public distaste.

We have to see ourselves as others see us and move to ensure that the Order is what it claims to be a Christian organisation, positive in its commitments to the Christian faith and valuable in its place and purpose in society.

This matter must be dealt with expeditiously, for it is of deep concern to us now and promises to be more worrisome for the future well being of the Orange Institution.

Past experiences have taught us that we must not try to mediate with, or accommodate to, the aims, attitudes and aspirations of those who are set to advance their own agenda which is contrary to that of the Institution as a whole.

It is better to lose Orange Reformation members, than to allow their contrary views in order to retain them. “ An empty house is better than a bad tenant”

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Church And Society

Article 3 ~ April 2010


"We see real love, not in the fact that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to make personal atonement for our sins. If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other. " 1 John 4: 10, 11

. . . it is His (Christ's) explicit command that the one who loves God must love his brother too." 1 John 4: 21

A refusal of some church people to consider the views of fellow-believers of other denominations, much less to take them seriously, is the mark of that divisiveness which bedevils Christianity.

The churches may differ in belief and doctrine, but often their antipathies are about loyalties, animosities, and an unwillingness to live happily together. There is endemic suspicion and distrust even while verbal assent is being given to the Christian concept of brotherly love. It is easy to be self-satisfied when what we have makes for contentment.

There is pride of denomination. We should be more anxious to fulfil the Divine commission, and by learning from others and sharing with them, help in the common cause of bringing people to the knowledge of God and to faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord of their lives.

The task of the whole church is to influence the society of which it is a part, though the extent to which it involves itself in it will often be questioned. Churchmen have been charged, and condemned, for expressing political opinions because 'it should have confined itself to religious matters.'

This denial of Christianity's inclusiveness of everything which affects the lives of people is a refusal to recognise the church's true vocation which is to serve people whoever and wherever they are and whatever their needs.

Christians should fulfil their obligations as citizens, that must mean being concerned with and involved in all that matters to people in their society. There is always the language of religion, but the words which are meaningful today often have political and sociological content. Christian outreach in a secular society must be all-embracing. No subject is without the need of a Christian viewpoint, which will have the purpose of helping people to live happier, better and more useful lives.

The co-operation of the churches is needed in efforts to change our society.

"Sharing such others insights and standing together as Christians is an utterly essential part of our duty if the Christian faith is to remain credible to the people at large." (F. J. Mitchell)

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

Monday, 22 March 2010

Statement on the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.

On this the 450th Anniversary Year of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, we call upon the Pope to recognize that we stand for ‘civil and religious liberties for all, special privileges for none’ and to respect these settled and cherished principles of the United Kingdom on his first state visit here.

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the fruits of the Glorious Revolution 1688-89, allows various groups, religious and non-religious, to voice and demonstrate their concerns during the Pope’s visit. This is permissible in our democracy where there is freedom for expressing religious, political, moral, and ethical attitudes and responses.

The claim of the Pope to be the Vicar of Christ with supreme and universal primacy over church, state and world is unacceptable to us. He is the Head of the Roman Catholic Church, and ruler of the theocratic City State in Rome, without authority or jurisdiction within this sovereign state, which is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

We have a proud Protestant heritage in which we name a few of the many who have contributed hugely to the wellbeing of people here and throughout the world.

· William Tyndale translated the Holy Bible into English so that all may read it.

· Thomas Cranmer bequeathed the Book of Common Prayer to the English Church.

· John Knox spearheaded the reform of the Church of Scotland.

· William Bedell commissioned the translation of the Holy Bible into Irish.

· John Locke was a philosopher of political and religious freedom and tolerance.

· William and Mary safeguarded civil and religious liberty for every citizen.

· William Wilberforce led in the campaign which abolished the slave trade.

· David Livingstone pioneered medical missions.

· Florence Nightingale brought better training and practice to nursing care.

· Thomas Barnardo provided for and protected neglected, orphaned and vulnerable children and young people.

· C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist and author, challenged people to think deeply on life’s realities and what the faith has to say on them.

· HM Queen has exemplified Christian love and charity in the service of all.

The Protestant Reformed faith has contributed largely and positively in the making of the United Kingdom, the tolerant and diverse society in which its people can live together whatever their differences. We believe in the all sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, in the knowledge that our salvation is a gift of God through Christ alone by faith alone. We appeal to our members and people generally to be guided and governed by the example of Jesus Christ and to live peaceably and happily together for the common good.

A Prayer for the Clergy and People

O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially, we pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ his sake. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

Sunday, 14 March 2010

St. Patrick: the real Patron Saint revealed


St. Patrick's Day March 17, with its concentration on Ireland and the Irish and its celebrations in music and song, parades and parties, has long been the most popular day of the year for many more than the Irish. It has been said with more than a little accuracy that all in New York are Irishmen on St. Patrick's Day with the green of the Emerald Isle the colouring for everything.

That the day is well known everywhere does not mean that Patrick is any more than a name to very many; and that could apply to Ireland too. People need to be reminded or told that the patron saint of Ireland was a Christian preacher, teacher and writer whose life and work had such an effect on his time and thereafter that hr is to be seen as the pivotal person in the beginnings, and development of Christianity in Ireland. As with historical figures generally much has been written about St Patrick.

BACKGROUND

When the man speaks for himself we learn some things about him. He does that in two writings - his "Confession" and "The Letter to Coroticus", in five sayings in tin book of Armagh and the hymn, "The Breastplate" which has been attributed to him He tells us he was a Roman Briton from Bonnaven Taberniae. The location of which has been set in Scotland, near Dumbarton on the River Clyde and in North Wales near Milford and we are left with these uncertain choices. His father was Calpurnius, a farmer and deacon of his church and his grandfather was Potitus, a priest. Captured and taken as a slave to Ireland he served a chieftain, Milchu, as a swineherd and cattle drover for six years on Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim. In his captivity Patrick came to see his dire straits as a punishment for his neglect of God. He described in his Confession how he "earnestly sought God and then I found Him."

TRAINING

After he escaped from his captivity there followed the "Silent Years" in which at home he worked and trained to be a minister of the Gospel. In a time of religious awakening in Europe Patrick studied in Gaul, France, where his mentor was Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, and perhaps in Rome. It was in these Silent Years that he had a Paul-like vision of one Victorious bearing letters and one "The Voice of the Irish." As he took the letter he "heard the voice of those who lived beside the wood Foclut near the Western sea." Responding to the call to "come over and help us" he returned to Ireland, having been consecrated a bishop by Germanus. The year was 432 and by his leadership there began the growth and development of the Celtic church. An early covert was the chieftain, Dichu, who gave him a site at Saul, Co. Down, where his first church, "Patrick's Barn" was built. From that beginning there were churches to follow in several places as Patrick and his Christians converted people from paganism. And these Celtic Christians were to take the faith to Britain and Europe with incredible results in the spread of Christianity. Whatever historians say about Patrick and Celtic Christianity his writings are Bible-based - the scriptures are quoted extensively - and his preaching and teaching was Christ centred and people orientated.

PRACTICE

The legacy of St. Patrick is a Christianity free from the disunities and distresses that have adversely affected it in Ireland for many centuries. A cure for the ills, divisions and disturbances of today would be in return to the emphases of St. Patrick - the fundamentals of Christian belief and the primary purpose of the churches and Christians to bring people to faith in Christ to enjoy the benefits of the Gospel.

Denominational claims on Patrick mean little when what is important is that the man be seen for what he was - a pattern Christian whose life and work should be a persuasion on Christians everywhere to be as he was in his commitment and witness to Christ and in his service for people. If that thought is not lost in the festivities of St. Patrick's Day there is gain for those who participate in them.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Disunity - Unity

Article 3 ~ November 2009

"Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 3:3 (AV)

"I . . . earnestly appeal to you to put up a real fight for the faith which has been once and for all committed to those who belong to Christ" (JBP)

The General Epistle of Jude with its condemnation of false teachers and plea for loyalty to the truth of the Gospel has the practical purpose to warn against all such and to encourage, persuade Christians to value those who stand firm for the faith and to share with them in the fight against whoever and whatever would threaten its continuance and growth.

It is a singularly appropriate appeal to believers in these contentious times for the faith and the churches, under continuous attacks from materialists, humanists and most militant atheists.

The reality is that within the churches there is unity and disunity and we are constantly made aware that Protestantism is so diversified in theology, ecclesiology and attitudes to evangelism and ecumenism that it cannot be a definitive summation in Christian faith and practice. It is, though, what is taught and believed in Protestant churches to give them a unity in diversity.

The tenets of the faith recited in creeds by those with set liturgies, are the beliefs to which others give assent for the differences are less theological than practical and historical. Any research on denominational origins will find their beginnings, while dissimilar in each case have more to do with personal preference, the dictation of conscience and the choice of church order and discipline.

These aspirations were the causes of separation and alienation.

Time and circumstance has encouraged some to develop good relationship, and to present a better picture of Christianity to the world. Each of the churches would insist however that the primary task is to worship God and to show by word and deed to commitment to Christ. And to claim that the Christian philosophy for life is based on the conviction that people need God, for without Him life is lived in a lesser dimension, that the faith works when people turn to Christ and their lives are changed and enhanced by that decision.

It is the recognised duty of the churches to bring people to that experience and to have and enjoy the benefits.

The faith is always more than a corpus of belief. It is the motivating force in the lives of Christians, true to their commitment to Christ. The contention is that the answers to the ills of the world and the needs of people are to be proud in the Christian faith, that if the country is to be freed of the distresses, the attitudes and lives of people must be changed and centred on character and conduct best exemplified in the Christian way of life with its Christ. Like selflessness and determination to care more for others than oneself to practice that Christian brotherliness that seeks the good of people spiritually, intellectually and physically; to help bring about just legislation and to condemn all that grievously disaffects us - sectarianism, racism and classism among them.

On issues of such consequence there should be unity in the churches for disunity is defeatist and disastrous for the faith.



Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Christian And His Fellowman

Article 3 ~ October 2009

Nowhere in the writings of St Paul is there more rational, sensible and sensitive thinking on Christian, and other, attitudes on human relations than in Romans 12: 10-21. With its sentiments expressed in words and phrases with charity and precision, memorable and still applicable, beginning with "Be kindly affectioned one to another: in honour preferring one another not slothful in business . . . serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation . . . given to hospitality", and ending "If thine enemy hunger, feed him, if he thirst, give him to drink . . . Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good."

Principles to be Applied
It was said of a preacher that in his sermons he stated the obvious and then spent time explaining it. One could be excused for feeling that anything added to this passage, by way of interpretation or explanation, would be superfluous, for it speaks so clearly, for itself. There is value, though, in meditating on sentiments so clearly stated by Paul, at his most inspired, putting words to thoughts.

The practical application of these Pauline posed Christian principles would have far-reaching consequences. Paul makes a strong plea for that quality of forgiveness which Jesus exemplified in His speech and conduct; that humility which the early Christians, and the first Christian Martyrs, literalised in their reaction to misunderstanding, violence and persecution.

The evangelising quality and value of this kind of conduct has its illustration in the effect of Stephen's martyrdom on the once grossly intolerant Saul of Tarsus. St. Augustine explained it, "The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen."

To be happy with the happy, and sad with the sad, is to share in the common crises experiences of our fellows. Happiness and grief, gain and loss, are of the warp and woof of life. It comes easier to share joy than sorrow. Many a man in trouble has found that his convivial friends are only dependable when the going is good. Friendship is proved in adversity. Shared tears bind people together as shared laughs never can. And yet, apparent contradiction, it is often easier to say sympathetic words to someone in the dumps than to congratulate the fellow who is scaling the heights.

Envy is a sin which prevents us from being big enough to appreciate the quality and ability of another person. "He is a poor man who can't appreciate another man's brains, or brawn." Envy is the attendant of the empty mind. "There is not a passion so firmly rooted in the human heart than envy." (Sheridan) Here is a proverb, "He that would live clear of envy must lay his finger on his mouth, and keep his hand out of the ink-pot."

We are to live in harmony with one another. Good relations among Christians can be elusive.

Church Tensions
Church tensions are the cause of division and separation. "See how those Christians hate one another" was someone's indictment of some who claimed loyalty to Christ but showed little of his spirit. Nothing is more destructful of Christianity than the antagonisms of Christians.

The most unChrist-like attitudes and actions are sometimes found where lip loyalty to Him is given with noisy enthusiasm or belligerency of the tongue, without depth of spiritual sensitivity and sympathy. The faith which shows in high quality Christian living is not always where it is to be expected.

Pride is the vice of the foot. Nothing is more persistent and pernicious than the sin of pride. The early Church was where master and slave sat down together.

Any form of egotism is to be excluded, whether of an estimate of oneself, that would lead to lack of respect from one's fellows, or any kind of self-seeking that leads to the anti-social vices like contempt for them. "If a proud man could only see how small a vacancy his death would leave, he would think less of the place he occupies in his lifetime."

Our Christianity should be winsome, forgiving, winning; never hard, unbending, repelling.

Revenge not for Men
We are to live in peace with all men, conditionally, "if possible; and so far as you can." Principle must never give way to courtesy. Tolerance can be weakness. Peace is the masterpiece of reason.

Revenge is not to be considered. It is not for us. It is the prerogative of God. Vengeance can break people, kindness can make them.

We are being reminded continually that violence begets violence. There is no solution to our "Northern Ireland Problem" in violent reciprocation. The lawkeeper must not degrade himself to the level of the lawbreaker. Booker Washington, the great black scholar and statesman, who knew about degradation said, "I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him." The way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

We are saying no more here than that we must do one thing, help our people to see the sense of the Christian attitude to life, and to help them to take God seriously and to meet His demands on them courageously. We need real Christianity to be like Christ!

Friday, 11 September 2009

St Paul And His Partners

Article 3 ~ September 2009


Prominent among the disciples of Jesus named in the Gospels were Peter, Andrew, James, John and Paul.

There were others, men and women whose contributions to the growth and influence of the Christian faith were equally acceptable.

They were those willing, able and available to play lesser roles in the plan Jesus had to bring people to real faith and trust in God and to believe that in Him God was personalised as a man among them.

The leaders were dependent on these others to enable them to meet their joined commitments to Jesus.

The truth inherent here is that God does not only need those who do extraordinary things but all those who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.
This article "Paul and his Partners" illustrates that reality in his life.

There can be no doubt of the very large contribution St Paul made to the progress of the Christian Faith as a teacher, preacher and author. The church's indebtedness to this one man is readily acknowledged, and evidenced in that his thinking, insights and perceptions on the faith, are taken as the true and acceptable beliefs of Christians always and everywhere.

Very many books have been written on the person, worth, work and writings of Paul. They describe him as the pastor, missionary, writer exemplar of Christianity; and tell of the respect he earned from his fellow believers for his total, selfless, committal to Christ. They showed him, by their care for him, in the many experiences of his most active and adventurous life, a devotion that made it possible for him to keep going in spite of the handicaps of ill health, injuries, persecutions and imprisonments.

Paul greatly valued his many friends. He named some of them for their very much appreciated contributions to him in care and concern, and often at considerable cost to themselves. They shared with him in the making of Christians, building up their local churches and living out the faith in their communities.

Among them were those whose ability, commitment, self-sacrificing zeal for the faith made them pastors and leaders of such competence that by them the church of Christ had an amazing growth. There were others, "ordinary Christians", who lived their lives quietly and responsibly in doing what they could for the continuance and development of the church where they were. The situation has similar characteristics then and now.

To recall friends of Paul is an exercise in understanding and appreciation their worth in their several and diverse relations with him.

There is Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, who on becoming a Christian gave all he had to the church (Acts 4: 36, 37). Available for service he was sent to Antioch (Acts 11: 19, 24) and thence to Tarsus where he persuaded Paul to go back with him to Antioch. Later the two of them were taken at Lysta to be manifestations of the gods Jupiter and Mercury (Acts 13:3). They were together at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15: 1, 2) and with Silas they visited the churches to advise them of the findings of the council.

Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John Mark whom Barnabas wanted to take with them on a missionary journey. The two went their separate ways in the remaining tours (Acts 15: 36-41). In spite of the break they remained good friends caring for one another (1 Cor 9:6; Gal 2:1, 9:13; Col 4:10; 2Tim 4:11). John Mark, nephew or cousin of Barnabas was probably the boy who followed Jesus to Gethsemane and was injured escaping from there (Mark 14:32). Scholarly, he was called "the interpreter of Peter". His Gospel is largely the dictation of St Peter.

Silas (Acts) Silvanius (Epistles) (2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess1:1) was chosen by Paul to travel with him when he broke with Barnabas. Silas was jailed in Philippi. Later Paul left him and Timothy at Thessalonica while he went on to Athens and his confrontation with the scholars at Mars Hill. Silas and Timothy were in Corinth with Paul and are mentioned in his letters to the church there.

Timothy of mixed race, Greek and Jew, was also with Paul on his second missionary journey. It was on his promptings Paul wrote the letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. He was with Paul in Corinth when he wrote to the Romans (Acts 20:2; Romans 16:20) and in Troas in his imprisonment there (Col 1:1; Philemon 1) and on the apostle's request in his jail at Rome. Helpful to Paul at Rome were Onesiphorous, an Ephersian Christian (2 Tim 1:16, 19; 4:19) and Onesimus, a runaway slave who on Paul's advice returned to his master Philemon at Colossae with good result to both Christian men, (Philemon) Tychius who accompanied Onesimus had been with Paul when he went to Jerusalem and was described by him as his "beloved brother." It was he who brought the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.

Not all Paul's friends were equal in ability and quality. There was Demas who had had potential as a Christian (Col 4:14; Philemon 24) but who abandoned the faith (2 Tim 4:10).

There were many more than these that received creditable mention by Paul. These are the reminder of the value of friendship and the beneficial effects it had on Paul always thankful for his friends and himself a good friend. Paul and his partners is the reminder that however important the Christian leader there must be those who are his/her dependable co-workers always at hand when they are needed. He or she and they go forward together in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord. (read especially 1 Thessalonians).



Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long
There was an error in this gadget