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Steve Chalke, the Baptist minister and founder of the Oasis Trust who sent shockwaves through the evangelical community when he declared his support for same-sex relationships, has criticised the traditional Christian understanding of 'Original Sin'. In a new series of online study resources developed for the Open Church Network, Chalke argues that a historic misreading of Genesis 3 has led to centuries of guilt and needless religiously induced shame. He says the doctrine mistakes the biblical view of God's relationship with humanity and has resulted in untold misery for generations of churchgoers. Chalke says Western readings of the story of Adam and Eve have been coloured by St Augustine's interpretation, which is different from understandings present in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. 'We make some assumptions that aren't there,' he says 'The story of Adam and Eve and the eating of the fruit that's been forbidden from them doesn't mention Original Sin. It doesn't even tell us that the serpent is really Satan.'

Our ministry took a step into the unknown over the last three weeks. We took the “Foundations” model away from the comfort of its usual environment and held two ‘taster days’, in Wellington, Somerset and Bangor, Northern Ireland. Now looking back, what has been really amazing has been the way that God, in both cases, worked through our weaknesses and deficiencies in order to minister to each unique grouping of people.

In Wellington, Keith and Nancy Smaldon (with Marion Threlfall) had booked a church hall in a small village and did a sterling work promoting the event in the local region. As a result we had a group of around 40 to experience a seven hour dose of ‘foundations’. We had a team of five, with Jose de Silva providing the teaching and his wife, Sarah, along with David and Keila Macrow providing worship. Jose spoke on the Hebraic roots of our faith in two sessions and it was after his first session that our model ‘kicked in’. It was a case of, OK, the teaching is finished, now over to you …, and it was revealing to observe that most people, so used to the usual Church schedules and programmes, just sat there, not sure what to do next! Eventually the awkwardness passed and it was interesting that, in the afternoon session, people had adjusted and were started to revel in their unexpected freedoms.

Each of Jose’s talks was followed by a discussion, a yeshiva, in another room. Elsewhere the Macrows were training a small choir. We also had the Quiet room, for confession and communion and ongoing craft tables. The day finished with a ‘show & tell’ allowing three people to talk for ten minutes on their passions (drama, art and gardening), followed by a worship session, with the choir and a time of healing led by Sarah.

Bangor was far different. Because of prohibitive costs I was not able to bring a team and so set up and ran the whole conference myself, to a group of around 60, who came from both the North and the South, expertly gathered by Colin Nevin, the organiser. During the day we incorporated all of the same elements as in Wellington, with the addition of a prayer walk in the afternoon. This day is one that is going to live in my memory for a long time. Our intercessors, the Knutters, prayed throughout the conference and it showed. After a terrible night’s sleep (thanks to Friday night revellers) and temporarily being stuck in a lift, the Lord sustained me throughout the whole day, keeping away any disruptive influences and ensuring an atmosphere of fellowship, openness and reverence.

God’s Hand has been apparent. In both occasions He provided the right people, particularly in Bangor, where I had no worship team. Sung worship was provided by a 30 minute impromptu session of ‘congregation-led’ acapella singing, which was a joy. Also the yeshiva option never really took off, which was a mercy for me, as I am never that comfortable in those situations. The crafts were a major factor, culminating in around a dozen pictures/drawings, some of visions received during the day, most explained poignantly by the artists themselves.

The most abiding memory is the fact that, in both cases, the Lord orchestrated events in such a way as to circumvent my inadequacies and built upon the needs of the people present. In Wellington there was great participation in the yeshiva and the music workshop but in Bangor the greatest triumph was the degree of networking, between people who had heard of each other and never met before, or who found new people to link up with. God met with everyone’s needs during both days. Isn’t this what Church needs to be about?

If you want a more comprehensive introduction to Foundations, why not consider our weekend conferences in August (only a couple of weeks away) and November?

A terrific row is raging over the Israel government’s policy on access to the Western Wall. Join me as I suggest to Avi Abelow of Israel Video Network that everyone, both orthodox and progressive, has got this issue fundamentally wrong.

Author Steve Maltz introduces this new series of short videos, where we will explore the questions posed by his new book 'Livin' the Life' www.livinthelife.church and other things too ...

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"There are facts, there are opinions, and there are lies," says historian Deborah Lipstadt, telling the remarkable story of her research into Holocaust deniers — and their deliberate distortion of history. Lipstadt encourages us all to go on the offensive against those who assault the truth and facts. "Truth is not relative," she says. 

Artless

Published on 3 Nov 2015
A re-imagining of the prophet Daniel in a 1940's Film Noir parody.

Hashkama

(Due to bad weather and another dip in my health at the beginning of August, I have had opportunity to put a few thoughts together, hence this article.  It is a great blessing to share with God’s people.)

2 Chronicles 14 – 16; 1 Kings 15:9-15

Middle East Report

Stories this week include:  Archaeologists in Israel discover a new find from the time of Jesus, Christian Journalist shares the impact of his faith and Israeli Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu favours independent State for Kurdish people..

 

Olive Tree

Recently, whilst in Israel recording these programmes, I met with Avi Mizrachi in Tel Aviv where he is the pastor of a Messianic Jewish congregation. We hadn’t seen each other for about a year so I began by asking him whether he’d had an encouraging few months.

Thinking Differently

Steve Maltz looks ahead to the challenges of 2016

Watching Over Zion

The Word:  Adonai showed me two baskets of figs set before the Temple of Adonai.