Skip to main content

For God and his Glory Alone

28 years ago I headed off to university in Edinburgh kicking the dust of Northern Ireland off my proverbial sandals, never intending to return, like many of my generation, particularly on the Protestant/Unionist side of the divide. I had had enough of the Troubles in my native statelet... they had been going on for most of my life, and by that stage I felt, quoting the words of my least favourite Shakespeare play "A plague on both your houses."
3 years later, however, a group of people some of whom I knew, most of whom I didn't, came together as Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI) to draft and release a document entitled "For God and his Glory Alone". The title was a conscious and direct challenge to the motto of the UVF and mental framework of many Ulster protestants brought up on the mythologuy of Carson and the Somme etc - "For God and Ulster", which too often got reversed in practice with people putting Ulster (or at least the stunted post-partition form of Ulster) first, and God a long way behind in second...
Someone gave me a copy... I can't remember now who it was... But I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Actually at times I felt that I owed them a punch in the face, because without that document I probably wouldn't be back in Northern Ireland today... It contributed to a Scotch broth of thoughts and emotions going on in my heart and head over the previous year... Starting with the Remembrance Sunday bombing in Enniskillen and Gordon Wilson's words of forgiveness, then the Gibraltar shootings, and subsequent Milltown Cemetery attack and the later killing of Corporals David Howes and Derek Wood in March... Then came this document out of the evangelical camp that I considered my own, but speaking language and dealing with issues I had never heard in any evangelical meeting to date, under 10 headings:
  • LOVE - for God and neighbour and enemy (even if that enemy is a terrorist)
  • FORGIVENESS - to be offered unconditionally (even to terrorists)
  • RECONCILIATION - with God and others... including the revolutionary idea that "as evangelicals we must accept our share of the blare for... the alienation felt by many of the minority community in Northern Ireland."
  • PEACE - the imperative of peacemaking and the rejection of violence, even in the guise of self-defense
  • CITIZENSHIP - including the revolutionary idea that you could be evangelical and Irish
  • TRUTH - that the truth of the Gospel is far greater than any of our formulations of it
  • SERVANTHOOD - rather than triumphalism
  • JUSTICE & RIGHTEOUSNESS - including the idea that any form of exploitation, oppression or discrimination is a denial of the intrinsic dignity of every human being, requiring a commitment to the human rights of others, particularly the poor and powerless
  • HOPE - in God, not any nationality, politics or culture.
  • REPENTANCE - humble acknowledgement of fault
In many ways this document changed my mindset with regard to this province, so that when I experienced a sense of call to ministry, and ultimately to ministry back here, it was with these imperatives echoing in my head, and in many ways my almost 20 years of Methodist ministry has been made up of trying to work these things out, in my head and heart, in my sermons and in my engagement with the wider community. Even today I was writing a sermon and a separate liturgy that reflects the language of this short document, and involved with 2 meetings that touched on many of the same issues 25 years further down the line.
If you haven't read it before you can either download the 15th anniversary revised edition, or come along to Skainos later this morning and buy a 25th Anniversary brand new re-release of the original, for the same price as it was back then - a whole £1.
My prayer is that in 25 years such a book will be no longer needed... Not because it is irrelevant, but because the issues within it are so mainstreamed within church and society that we don't need to articulate them.
We're not there yet...


Shalom

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Woman of no Distinction

Don't often post other people's stuff here... But I found this so powerful that I thought I should. It's a performance poem based on John 4: 4-30, and I have attached the original YouTube video below. A word for women, and men, everywhere... "to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is to be known." I am a woman of no distinction of little importance. I am a women of no reputation save that which is bad. You whisper as I pass by and cast judgmental glances, Though you don’t really take the time to look at me, Or even get to know me. For to be known is to be loved, And to be loved is to be known. Otherwise what’s the point in doing either one of them in the first place? I WANT TO BE KNOWN. I want someone to look at my face And not just see two eyes, a nose, a mouth and two ears; But to see all that I am, and could be all my hopes, loves and fears. But that’s too much to hope for, to wish for, or pray for So I don’t, not anymore. Now I keep to myself And

Psalm for Harvest Sunday

A short responsive psalm for us as a call to worship on Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday, and given that it was pouring with rain as I headed into church this morning the first line is an important remembrance that the rain we moan about is an important component of the fruitfulness of the land we live in: You tend the land and water it And the earth produces its abundance. You crown each year with your bounty, and our storehouses overflow with your goodness. The mountain meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are filled with corn; Your people celebrate your boundless grace They shout for joy and sing. from Psalm 65

Everyday Discipleship

Reading again the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho in preparation for our current Bible Study on "Whole Life Worship" and I am struck again by the difficulty, and importance, of connecting such stories with the everyday experience of people... and indeed myself. Years ago a friend wrote a poem that said "Oh to be in shining armour at the photocopier..." More that a quarter of a century later those words still resonate with me... Ask me clearly  To do the impossible  And I will happily attempt it. Separate waters  With a walking stick To escape pursuing foes. Blow my trumpet  To demolish the impregnable Despite mocking from the ramparts. Face a fearsome giant With a few pebbles, faith And not so youthful arrogance. Sit amongst lions Rather than desert you, Anticipating our enemies’ demise. Let me be a hero Striding across scripture Your words in my ears and mouth. Yes Lord, please Deliver me, not from evil But the undifferentiated mundane; The daily demands