How Should We First Respond To Vicky Beeching?

I woke up yesterday morning to the news that Christian worship leader and theologian Vicky Beeching has revealed that she is gay. This doesn’t come as a particular surprise after the Oxford graduate openly supported same-sex marriage both on live radio and in print last year.

A stir has indeed been caused within the Christian community, and the wider world, after the story made front page news in both The Independent, and the newspaper’s more concise version The i.

The big question for the Christian population, is how we should respond to this news. No doubt our response to this ‘coming out’ will show the rest of the world our character and values – which the media could well put under scrutiny should they choose to. (In fact, a follow-up article from The Independent was published last night, where the singer-songwriter says she has been “overwhelmed” by support). It appears we have begun to get our response right, and it is crucial that we continue this. We respond in the wrong way, and we only add fuel to the fire of those who disagree with our values towards homosexuality.

So how should we first respond, not only to Vicky, but to all homosexual Christians?

Firstly I’ll say, that as a Christian, I believe in the Bible. And therefore I do believe that homosexuality is a sin. (Leviticus 18:22 is one of the clearer verses on this). I’m well aware that the Bible was written a long time ago, and that we must be careful not to use verses beyond purpose they were written for. Though I do believe that this verse is still applicable today.

Accept
That said, I think I first response to Vicky, and others, should be that of acceptance. I get the feeling that some Christians feel as if homosexuality shouldn’t be in our churches. The first thing we need to remember, is that as the church, we are not exempt from sinners. We are all sinners of past, present and future. The Bible says, in Romans 3:23-24: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (The fact that we all fall short, in my opinion, makes us equal.) And then the important bit… “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus“.

What does not accepting homosexuals do?

To not accept homosexuals, but to be willing to accept people like ourselves, puts homosexuals as worse than others, which begs the question of at which sin should we draw the metaphorical ‘line of acceptance’ (Fraudster? Adulterer? Murderer? Rapist?), and ultimately questions the strength of God’s grace in being able to cover every sin.

We shouldn’t be isolating anyone. That was never God’s heart for His people.

Be Compassionate
Secondly, I think we need to respond with compassion. Vicky’s story is difficult to read in places. Unfortunately, hers is not the only story like this. Many gay Christians have received some form of maltreatment from their church communities, damaging them emotionally. We need to act compassionately towards this, and pray for that damage to be undone, and that they would not resent the church for the treatment they have received. By doing this we acknowledge the church’s failings in this area, and we seek to understand the hurt these people have experienced. This is likely to be highly valued by the recipient. At a time where the person has had immense bravery to tell you (and possibly others) about their sexuality, part of our response must be compassion.

Show Love
Now we’ve seen the importance of accepting and acting compassionately, the final response I think should be that we love these people. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). God is a God of love, and therefore love is a core value of the church.

On a practical level, I think this means explaining to the person that although we don’t agree with that aspect of their lifestyle, we still consider it absolutely fine to spend time together, worship & pray together and so on, and that we don’t treat them any differently than we would have done before.

What does not loving homosexuals do?

If you are treating them differently to how you did before, or treating them differently to others, they’ll pick up on it. It could break down your friendship, and if a lot of people do this, they could end up leaving and resenting the church. God loves them, and we should be seeking to replicate that.

I believe homosexuality is a sin, I don’t want to shy away from that. But our priority must be to respond to these people in the most Godly way possible. Accept, be compassionate, and show love.

Thanks for reading :)

Please know that I am aware this is a much bigger topic than I have covered here,  with many complications and circumstances and these are just some of my thoughts.

Newday: 3 Things You Might Not Have Seen

Newday 2014 has been and gone! I don’t know about you, but it flew by for me! In my 2 serving roles this year, there were a few things that struck me, which hadn’t before as a delegate. So I’ve decided to share them with you below:

1) It doesn’t just happen in the Big Top
Frequently at Newday, the Big Top evening meetings are considered the main event – that’s your chance to meet with God should you want to. And fair enough really, as the event is aimed at 11-18 year olds who all meet in the Big Top. However, there is a kids’ work and believe me, God moves there too!

In the kids’ work we saw amazing things. Children prophesied things that no 6 year old could think up; things that could only be from a God that loves to speak to all of His people. Queues of children were waiting to share at the front what they had heard; so much so, we had to move on as parents were due to arrive.

We also witnessed many children further their commitment to Christ in the form of a prayer led from the front, and some prayed that same prayer for the first time, and so became a Christian there and then. Out of my group of 9, 5 prayed that prayer, 1 of whom for the very first time.

There were tears in the eyes of us leaders as we watched this all happen. It was incredible.

2) 930 servers involved in the running of Newday
When you serve yourself, you realise just how many people are involved to run this event. As a delegate, you don’t get to appreciate this fully. Many servers, you do see; those who run the cafes & bookshop, the stewards, the ministry team, the 12-14s and those strange creatures in the orange Hi-Viz jackets from NewdayAssist (Someone tell me what they do!?).

But many teams you don’t interact with; fire officers, health & safety, the medics, the set-up teams, site maintenance, the servers’ caterers, the management team, the cleaning team and the supplies & resources team.

As a steward, and in the kids work, I got interact with most of the teams the delegates don’t see. And that is when you get full appreciation of just how much work these people put in. Many take annual leave from their full-time so they can come and serve.

3) The true scale on which God moves at Newday
Stewarding in the Big Top, I spent all my time on a door. I couldn’t lose myself in praise, as I had to be alert, but during the worship I had the chance to look out over the whole Big Top – all 7000 people – and see all that God was doing: healing, people meeting with the Holy Spirit and so on.

When you’re a delegate and surrounded by your youth group that understandably becomes your ‘micro-climate’ – what is happening the other side of the tent, you have no idea about. But being on the outskirts enabled me to see the full magnitude of what God was doing in that tent each night. Outside of the meetings I had the chance to mix with a range of people from other churches – all who had stories of how they and their youth had been impacted.

The mindset with which you attend Newday, as a server is different than as a delegate. You don’t go in with the primary intention of receiving; meaning you have a valuable chance to admire and be in awe of God, as others receive from Him. Seeing this can be as valuable as receiving from him yourself.

If you are currently of Newday age (11-18) then please keep going. If you are old enough, and in a position to serve at this great event, then I would encourage you to do so.

For another blog on Newday, see Andrew Wilson’s excellent post on ThinkTheology here.

The Evolution of Fielding

Fielding has changed massively in cricket over the years, due to a wide variety of reasons. But here’s the main one. T20 cricket.

The introduction of T20 cricket, and the subsequent creativity of batsmen such as Tillakaratne Dilshan with his infamous ‘Dilscoop’ shot, and the aggression which has emerged from that into all forms of the game, by those like Virender Sehwag (Who has an impressive test match career strike rate of 82.23) has forced the bowling sides to think about how they can stem the flow of runs from the other end.

Dilshan executing his famous ‘Dilscoop’ shot.

Bowlers have long been proficient at all variations of slower balls, cutters and yorkers and death bowlers such as Lasith ‘Slinger’ Malinga and Dale Steyn are dangerous game changers, but there’s been nothing new to see for a while.

So, the bowlers aren’t doing anything new. The batsmen are getting more aggressive and more creative. There’s only one area where there’s room for improvement. In the field.

Sure the tactics have changed, but I’m not going to bore you with the details. The most notable difference for me, is actually the desire, teamwork and creativity that fielders now show. The desire Andrew Strauss showed to take this famous slip catch off Adam Gilchrist is a primary example of this. In the picture it seems as if he is virtually flying! An incredible catch.

Former England captain Andrew Strauss in mid air catching Adam Gilchrist from the bowling of Andrew Flintoff, at Trent Bridge in 2005.

Also consider, how 20 years ago a well timed ball goes flying past someone in the covers, and they wouldn’t hunt it down to see if they could save the boundary. Now, in all forms of the game, we see fielders hunt in twos. One chases it down, while another from a nearby position follows in anticipation of their team-mate diving, and sliding the ball back to them, all before making contact with the boundary rope.

Now here comes the creativity. The Natwest T20 Blast has seen the emergence of two incredible catches, both from Yorkshire duo Aaron Finch and Adam Lyth. The first of the two, is this one in the War of the Roses. Lancashire were flying on 68-1 off 6.5 overs, and then this happens.

And, then when you thought it couldn’t get much better, they produce an even more impressive carbon copy against Leicestershire later on in the tournament.

The phrase “catches win matches” has always been true. But with T20 matches often coming down to the last ball, teams are recognising just how much of significant difference fielding and creative catching can make in counteracting aggressive batting, and the knowledge and skills for this, is transferring into all forms of the game. The prospect of seeing catches like Finch & Lyth’s common place in cricket is exciting. Whatever next!?

To My Parents…

Today is apparently 3 years since I started up this blog. So on my 3 year anniversary I figured it was an appropriate time to post this little tribute to two very wonderful people…

To the Mum that gave up work so she could be at home with me full-time.

To the Dad that constantly went in early and stayed late at the office give us all a better life. (And he still does).

To the Mum that took me to feed the ducks in the park and go on the swings most weeks.

To the Dad who would help me make model cars and aeroplanes while listening to Spurs on Radio 5 Live on a rainy afternoon. (Some of my fondest memories with him).

To the Mum who spent hours making me a Thunderbirds’ Tracey Island out of paper mache for Christmas, as we couldn’t afford one from the shops.

To the Dad who would take me down the park to play cricket with me in the summer after a hard day’s work.

To the Mum who prayed with me when I felt I had no friends.

To the Dad who helped me prepare for my interview for the Saturday job I had.

To the Mum who drove me to my University open days, and asked questions and made notes.

To the Dad who advises me on workplace issues(!).

To the Mum who loves me no matter what.

To the Dad who loves me no matter what.

You are both my friends and my inspiration. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me. Love you lots xx

Why Do People Watch Britain’s Got Talent!?

ITV’s popular talent show is now in it’s eighth series, and amassed an impressive 10.5 million viewers in the first set of auditions two weekends ago.

I always tell myself after the end of one series, that I won’t watch the next one – especially not the cringe-worthy auditions including owls that seemingly can’t even rotate their heads 360 degrees, singers that could bring down The Shard with a solitary note, and people trying to break the world record for the most Ferrero Rochers they can eat in one minute.

In the second set of this series’ auditions – which I somehow found myself completely consciously seeking out on ITV Player – they showed us a string of awful magicians, attempting run-of-the-mill tricks your 5 year old could do with the help of a Paul Daniels kit. Any seasoned viewer of BGT could tell you what was coming next: an amazing magician. Just the way ITV like to play it; they build up the frustration of viewers to tipping point and then in comes a really fabulous act to seemingly ‘save the day’.

Another thing they love to do, is give everyone a story. Most recently, impressive opera singer Lucy Kay came on stage to reveal that she had been bullied and therefore had moved across the country due to that. It is of course, terribly sad to hear that someone has been bullied, but how much ITV like to embellish some of the stories, I and many others remain to be cynical about.

Though fantastic the aforementioned magician was, British, he was not. And neither were last year’s winners, Attraction. Yet another controversial topic surrounding BGT and it’s applicants for viewers far and wide to discuss.

So, why do we watch it then!?

I’m reminded of the famous 5 minutes when Scot Susan Boyle strutted out on stage, hand on hip to sarcastic wolf whistles. She confidently introduces herself, and manages to ‘surprise’ everyone with an enthusiastic, if a little out of place, roll of her hips.

Simon questions her, and finds she is unemployed, but wants to be a professional singer – and as successful as Elaine Paige. The crowd stifle their sniggers. Everyone is against her. No one believes she’ll be any good (Their opinions solely based on her appearance, and a two minute interaction with the judging panel remember). Cowell looks bored before the music has even begun. And surely to top it all off, she’s singing I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables – a big song.

But she opens her mouth, sings and wow. Just wow. A powerful moment, not just because she’s so good, but the whole nation feel bad for having judged Susan based entirely on her appearance and a snippet of her personality. We momentarily learn a vital life lesson – only to unlearn it before the start of the next audition.

It’s moments like that, which I suspect keeps a considerable amount of viewers who are frustrated and bored of all the things (and more) listed in my rant above, watching BGT. We say we won’t and that we’re not interested, yet we are unwittingly drawn back to watching each set of auditions for moments like that.

And that, is why millions of people watch BGT.

Interested in Football?

If you’re interested in football, and are after some alternative thoughts on the sport, go follow my friend Christian’s blog, entitled ‘Against the Run of Play’. He’s a third year sports journalism student I know, looking to get his name out there. He’s an entertaining writer with an obvious good knowledge of football. Click here to go follow him! 

With me, there’s not much going on at the moment, and so nothing to write about unfortunately – but please keep watching this space. 

Cheers

Joel

Say Farewell to Facebook in 2014

A new year dawns on us soon, a time when many choose one or two resolutions for the New Year. While Facebook (and other social media) continues to strive to make our lives more convenient and more interactive, maybe it’s time for a more simplistic approach to life and relationships? Several months ago, I left Facebook – and I really don’t miss it. Here’s just a few reasons why you should make leaving Facebook a resolution for 2014.

1) Time
Facebook is one of the ultimate time-eaters. Minutes whiz by without us noticing and there’s always something to read, meaning we constantly have it open on a separate tab – even if we’re supposed to be doing something more important. Facebook wastes time, making simple but important tasks take longer, and yet the time we have spent on the much-used social networking site hasn’t added anything significant to us, apart from news about the latest family dispute a few doors down and the odd bad joke.

Maybe we could do something with our time that is productive, something that grows and develops us – an e-learning course if we must be on the computer, or what about just spending time with our loved ones? Once time is gone, we can’t retrieve it. Why spend it on Facebook? (Or come to think of it, writing blogs…)

2) Unnecessary attention seeking
If we peruse over the statuses we have posted, and are completely honest with ourselves, we can evaluate how ‘necessary’ the update was. People don’t really need to know what you’re eating for dinner or where you’re eating it, do they? And however humble you attempt to be about your latest ‘A’ grade, lets be real; there’s always an element of boastfulness.

When it boils down to it, the vast majority of updates are to gain attention. It’s normal that we long to be in the attention of others and we crave their acceptance – and Facebook is just another outworking of that. But it’s not really an outworking that we need, and it certainly promotes an unattractive, but albeit natural, side to human nature. Facebook is basically just unnecessary attention seeking.

3) Repetitive!
With the majority of us partaking in this attention seeking status behaviour, inevitably a culture of repetitiveness is created. If it’s not one person’s Sunday roast, then it’s someone else’s full English. If one person isn’t having a hard time, there’s bound to be another person who is willing to tell you all about it, so you end up scrolling through the News Feed, reading the same content, from different people – how boring.

4) Real Friendships?
Take a flick through your Facebook ‘friends’. How many of them do you value as true friends? How many of them would be there for you in a crisis? Certainly when I flicked through my little over 200 friends before my departure, it dawned that very few were true friends of mine who I know value me just as much as I do them.

Facebook isn’t really the place to make or maintain friendships. The people who really care about you, will be happy to make other arrangements to contact you. And if anything, Facebook is far more well-known for breaking down relationships than it is building them.

5) Privacy
There has been much controversy and concern over Facebook’s ever evolving privacy policy, which no one can be bothered to read, but each Facebook user is essentially just a set of data to Zuckerberg et al. Adverts are now targeted to what pages you are connected with and the boffins based in California can see everything about you.

Criminals have been known to use Facebook too – whether it’s to groom a young teenager or just find out when you’re off on a summer holiday so they can break into your house, you’d be surprised what they can find out with some very simple software.

6) Be different
1.11 billion people are on Facebook as of March 2013. So you’ll probably cause more of a reaction to say that you’re not on Facebook, than if you are. And people might just have to take your mobile number, landline or email address in order to get hold of you *gasp* – how freakishly old-fashioned.

7) Remain professional
The less information about you that is on the internet, the better when it comes to work. Potential employers often search applicants on Facebook to see what they’re really like, but if you’re not on it, you can’t be found. Simple.

So I’ve got you convinced, right? I speak from personal experience when I say life is better without. I also know several others who have never signed up to Facebook. They report they don’t feel left out, and would never consider joining even at this late stage.

Live 2014 without Facebook tying you to the keyboard and gluing your eyes to the screen. All you have to do now is go and deactivate. You know you want to.