Sunday, 28 December 2014

(Sermon) Isaiah 61.10-62.5 & Galatians 4.4-7

As Christians we can rejoice because through faith alone we are both the Bride of Christ and also adopted Sons of God - not by our own merit or deservings but the grace, love mercy, and pity of the Great God of the Universe.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

(Sermon) Emmanuel - God with us

Christmas Sermon 2014.  Jesus is God with us, fully God yet fully human - the greatest hero and star of all history, someone we should be most excited about today and always!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

(Sermon) Acts 23.12-end - Surrounded by the Army

Paul discovers that his life is in danger because of what he has done in the past - we must pray not only for forgiveness of our sins but freedom from their effects.  The lies of the letter to Felix show us how we all paint our own story in the 'best light' but God's true light shines into our hearts so we must look in the mirror of truth and repent of our lies to others and ourselves.   Finally, Paul's army escort teaches us a spiritual truth - God's children are protected, even if we try to run away towards sin either our convicted hearts will turn us back or the army of God's love will chase us down: this spiritual truth gives us strength and assurance.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

(Sermon) Yahweh Nissi - Exodus 17.8-16 and Matthew 1026-39

The Lord is my Banner - what does it mean for us to have the Lord as our Banner?  It means that in the war against sin and Satan we 1) proclaim and march under Christ 2) get our orders and direction from Christ 3) rally and are healed under Christ.  We cannot win the war against sin on our own strength but with Christ as our banner and with our hands on the throne of God in prayer we can live victoriously.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Is 'dream interpretation ministry' a prophetic gift?

            Recently I have come across a number of ministries that claim that they can teach people, by the Holy Spirit, to interpret their dreams to see what God is telling them about themselves and the future.  Different things mean various truths - waterfalls, teeth, falling, animals - they all have unique interpretations and hold a message from God for your blessing and life.  But is this a charismatic dream or an unbiblical nightmare? 

            To start off I must confess to being unashamedly charismatic - not only do I believe that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Scripture are active today but I believe we should actively pursue them.  I see not a single biblical reason to think the gifts ceased and to claim such to my mind seems to require one to leave the Bible and rely on personal testimony, reason, and a patchy, far from clear reading of church history.   Do people miraculously speak in foreign languages today?  Yes.  Do people speak to God in 'tongues' and can some people interpret these?  Sure.  Have some people been gifted to be channels of miracles and healings?  Certainly.  Do some prophecy?  I believe so.  Does or should or even can every Christian do all of these things?  Absolutely not!  Can any, and I mean any, of the gifts of the Spirit be learnt like a skill?  I reject this idea utterly - they are by their very nature loving gifts we neither deserve nor naturally could conceive of.  God can give and take away gifts at a whim, and He does.  Anyone who has been blessed with a spiritual gift should always humbly recognise that it never has anything to do with their merit or skill or ability.   The question to be answered here though is: are dreams and dream interpretation a gift of the Holy Spirit? 

            The passage appealed to by proponents is Acts 2.16-18 where Peter declares the miracle of Pentecost to be the fulfilment of Joel 2.28-29.  The passage from Joel reads thus:

"After this
I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your old men will have dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
I will even pour out My Spirit
on the male and female slaves in those days."

God promises to pour out the Holy Spirit upon all humanity and this will lead to people prophesying, dreaming, and seeing visions.  What does Joel mean by this?  Firstly this prophecy predicts a time of great change in the way God interacts with His people.  Throughout the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was rarely given to people, He was not poured out but rather dripped and trickled upon specific chosen leaders who were anointed to a special work - the prophets, some of the judges and kings etc.   In the New Covenant the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all humanity - that is all those who believe regardless of whether they are Jews or not.  This will lead to all kinds of people being able to 'prophesy...dream...see visions' regardless of whether they are male or female, old or young, slave or free.   What an amazing grace and goodness to receive!

            We see this fulfilled in Acts in many places.  Agabus is a male prophet, and there are four sisters who are prophetesses in Acts 21.9.  Many receive visions including Stephen, Peter, and Paul.   Stephen in Acts 7.55-56 gazes into heaven and sees God's glory with Jesus standing at His right hand - importantly verse 55 explicitly tells us this vision was because Stephen was "filled with the Holy Spirit".  in Acts 10 both the Jew Peter (vs10-16) and Cornelius a non Jew (vs3-7) receive visions.  Paul receives 'night visions' in Acts 16 and 18 and it was possibly a vision of the heavens that Paul recounts in 2 Corinthians 12 (but possibly instead a very real and physical experience).  Jesus also speaks to Ananias in the vision in Acts 9.10-16.  Elsewhere in the New Testament Joseph has dreams of an angel firstly telling him not to abandon Mary (Matthew 1.20-23) then warning him to flee to Egypt (2.13 ) and later again in a yet another dream to return back home (2.19-20).

Paul would later speak of prophecy being the most excellent of the gifts in 1 Corinthians but does not mention visions or dreams in any of his lists of gifts of the Spirit - a glaring omission if he thought they were common or important.  Scholars generally agree that the prophecy in Joel is structured purposefully to describe the extent of the gifts of the Spirit.  This prophecy begins and ends with the Spirit being poured firstly on both Jew and non-Jew and finally on both slave and free.  Between these general statements we have two couplets - the 'sons and daughters' who prophecy and the 'old and young' who have dreams and/or visions (dreams and visions are often equated with one another in Scripture e.g. Daniel 2.28).  Are the dreams and visions the same as the prophecies?  This is certainly possible as many biblical prophecies came in an ecstatic visionary state - Genesis 31.10-13, 37.5-11; Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 12.27; Daniel 9.24; Acts 10.9-16).  Perhaps the best explanation of what Paul meant when he spoke of the gift of prophecy is found in Matthew Poole's commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:

"[the gift of prophecy] in general signifies the revelation of the will of God, whether by foretelling future contingencies, or opening the Scriptures by teaching or preaching."

Visions and dreams, given the accounts in Acts could certainly be part of the former.

But what is the content of these dream that people in the Bible have?  Are they normal dreams or unusual, do they need specific interpretation or is it clear what they mean?  It has to be said that the normal way of biblical visionary dreams would be the latter - in almost all divinely given dreams (and they are comparatively rare, only ever seeming to be given to specific people for a specific purpose) the meaning is either apparent or they are told what God wants up front by God or an angel.  Let us investigate the dreams or 'night visions' of the Bible and see if this is true.

In Genesis 20 the pagan king Abimelech has a dream sent from God in which God plainly speaks to him as God to explain the situation with Sarah and Abraham's deception.  The Lord appears to Isaac at night, possibly in a dream in Genesis 28.22-25 and speaks plainly.  Jacob's famous dream of a stairway to heaven in Genesis 28 is not actually supposed to be interpreted as a message, the message is what God - who is standing right next to him - speaks, the staircase is merely a vision of the heavens opening much as other prophets saw.  In Genesis 31 Jacob has a dream in which he sees, rather puzzlingly, sheep of different markings mating but here again God (The Angel of the Lord) speaks to Jacob and directly tells him the message as the Lord does again in the dream given to Laban in verse 24.  The meaning of Joseph's dreams in Genesis 37 are obvious even to his brothers and needed no real interpretation.  God tells the Israelites in Numbers 12 that when God wants to speak to someone He does so in a vision or a dream - with the implication in verse 8 being that God sometimes speaks in riddles to prophets (except Moses) but the phrase 'speak with him in a dream' implies not a visual riddle to be solved by interpretation of symbols but a riddle more akin to the parables of Jesus and the vocal prophesies in parts of Isaiah.  The Lord refuses to speak to Saul in dreams about a specific question he needs answering leading him to seek out the witch of En-dor (1 Samuel 28).  In 1 Kings 3 the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and plainly speaks to him.  In Acts all of the dreams are either self-explanatory or have an auditory element through which the message is plainly given or the image interpreted either in the dream or immediately afterwards by an outside event (not by some kind of gift of interpretation).

There are, however, two sets of dreams in Scripture where a Spirit led interpretation is needed.  These are Joseph with the baker, cupbearer, and then Pharaoh, and Daniel twice with  Nebuchadnezzar. All of these dreams are visions of bizarre things which disturb the viewer deeply and trouble them - they are clearly not just normal dreams which people have all the time!  In all of these cases the people in question were not believers, God gave them these obscure dreams not so much to give them a message (though that happens) but rather to bring his servants into positions of influence and power that would turn out in time to be vital to the salvation of His people.  That is to say that these remarkable occurrences of dreams needing special God-given interpretation are first and foremost unique acts in salvation history necessary to bring about the birth of the Messiah in due course.  Nothing in Scripture implies such dreams are common, normal, or frequent but rather unique, special, and limited.  Indeed, neither Joseph nor Daniel seemed to have used their 'gifts' again outside of these important promotion-relevant occurrences and the Bible paints their interpretation as mainly a response to humble prayer:

"I am not able to,” Joseph answered Pharaoh. “It is God who will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.” Genesis 41.16

"Then Daniel went to his house and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah about the matter, urging them to ask the God of heaven for mercy concerning this mystery... The mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a vision at night, and Daniel praised the God of heaven..."  Daniel 2.17-19

In general the Bible takes a very negative stance on alleged prophetic dreams - known as oneiromancy.   In Deuteronomy 13 God makes clear that if someone were to correctly predict future events through prophetic dreams yet encourage people, regardless of how slightly, to move away from the Biblical God and reliance upon Him then that person is to be put to death.  These people are allowed to predict the future and such other wonders only because God wants to test the people.  In Jeremiah 27.9 God compares those who claim to have prophetic dreams to be akin to diviners, sorcerers, fortune-tellers and liars - see also Jeremiah 23.32. Through Zechariah God rebukes such dreamers for their false words and empty comforts (10.2).  These texts warn God's people to be inherently suspicious of prophetic dreams even when they seem to come true because their veracity is no indication God is blessing the dreamer.  Importantly, these texts do not refer to the notion of being able to interpret dreams which outside of Joseph and Daniel is never mentioned in the Bible. 

So what are we to conclude, biblically, about ministries of 'dream interpretation' which claim to be a gift of the Holy Spirit.  God did indeed promise that He would pour out the Holy Spirit upon His people and that this would lead to people 'dreaming dreams' which is seen as akin seeing visions and prophecies.  But this is only a promise that people would  have dreams not that they would need to be interpreted.  Almost every single dream or night-time vision in Scripture is auditory: God speaks plainly a message to the person concerned, often times God appears as well.  On rare occasions there is an originally puzzling visionary aspect  but God always interprets this plainly either within the dream itself or by an outside event immediately afterwards.  In all these dreams there is no symbolism which requires interpretation.  Biblically speaking on very rare occasions God has given a deeply troubling symbolic dream to pagans for the purpose of promoting a child of God to a seat of power that His people might be saved.  Even in these instances there is no hint of a 'gift of interpretation' but rather humble people praying mightily to God for an insight.  The Bible doesn't mention the idea of interpreting dreams outside of these unique events and its silence should be indicative that we are not to go seeking interpretations for our dreams from Him or anywhere else.  Nearly all our dreams are exactly that - dreams - a natural and meaningless phenomena which even dogs have.  People often wake from dreams as a course of nature (Psalm 73.20) and God's enemies are to be considered as immaterial and worthless as dreams:

" All the many nations
going out to battle against Ariel—
all the attackers, the siege works against her,
and those who oppress her—
will then be like a dream, a vision in the night.
It will be like a hungry one who dreams he is eating,
then wakes and is still hungry;
and like a thirsty one who dreams he is drinking,
then wakes and is still thirsty, longing for water.
So it will be for all the many nations
who go to battle against Mount Zion."  
Isaiah 29.7-8

Ultimately, if God wants to speak to His children in a dream He does so plainly and simply.  There is no biblical or historical accounts that support the idea of dream interpretation as a spiritual gift that can be learnt or sought after.  Such ministries, in truth, seem to be little more than a syncretistic mish-mash of pious aspirations, genuine desire, and Freudian Dream Analysis which is itself, to put it as politely as possible, absolute nonsense.  Whilst God may of course use symbolic dreams to speak to His people and obviously could give someone a measure of insight into its interpretation the biblical witness is such that we should be at best most wary and very questioning if we come across such a ministry.

Monday, 15 December 2014

(SERMON) Ehyeh-Ašer-Ehyeh / Yaweh - Exodus 3.1-15

In Exodus God reveals, through jesus, that He is high above all, He is completely self-sufficient.  Quite simply God 'is'.  Jesus, speaking through the burning bush as 'The Angel who is Yahweh' says that His Name is I AM THAT I AM and we should call Him this through all generations.  Over a thousand years later Jesus would tell the Jews that He is I AM, for this they killed Him.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

(SERMON) Genesis 22 - Yahweh Jireh 'the Lord will provide'

In Genesis 22 Abraham declares that 'the Lord will provide' and 'the Lord will be seen'.  All of Genesis 22 exists to point us to Jesus Christ the true and greater Isaac who on the same mountain and on the same spot 2000 years later died for our sins.  We can trust God even against impossible odds because God is shown to be trustworthy above all in that He loved us so much that He didn't spare even His only Son who He loves.

Monday, 24 November 2014

(SERMON) Jesus IS Saviour - John 3.14-21, 31-36 and Romans 5.1-11

Jesus is the Saviour.  Taking John 3.14-21, 31-36 and Romans 5.11 together we learn four things:  1) we are bad people who live in darkness and deserve hell.  2) God is a God of love, justice, giving, and sacrifice.  3) Because of Jesus, if we believe in Him - and only if we believe in Him - we can be counted holy, reconciled to God as on the Cross Jesus takes all our sin and condemnation whilst in return giving us all that is His.  4) This salvation gives us an unstoppable hope, an irrepressible joy, and an eternal peace as the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts beyond all measure.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

(SERMON) Ephesians 6.10-20 Spiritual Warfare by the strength of God

In Ephesians 6.10-20 Paul exhorts believers to prepare themselves and stand ready against the spiritual forces of evil, against the demonic, against Satan who is always trying to crush us.  Using military imagery of Jesus from Isaiah and reference to contemporary military armour and weapons Paul makes clear that as Christians we cannot be spiritual pacifists.  But we must rely only on God's strength, God's armoury, and our access to this is prayer.

Monday, 3 November 2014

(SERMON) Is Jesus God

 Jesus repeatedly claimed to be none other than God Himself come down to save us.  For this He was killed.  Given His outrageous statements we must decide whether He was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord of All.  His resurrection gives proof that He was Divine and the stamp of approval on all He said and did by the Father.  Jesus is now seated on the Sapphire Throne in all His glory and terrifying splendour - till He comes again in His full glory to judge the living and the dead.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Should we use the Regulative Principle of Worship?

Should we use the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) or the Normative Principle of Worship (NPW)?

          The Classical Anglican Church, that prior to Laud and Charles I, was most certainly recognised and self-identified as a Reformed Protestant Church with close ties to the Reformed Churches of Switzerland and the Netherlands.  But anyone sat at the Council of Dort would have noticed that Anglicans were, well, different.  Only one chair in the room had a canopy over it, it was not the person leading and organising the event and discussions but the bishop from the Anglican delegation.  The other churches did not have bishops, Anglicans did, interestingly though this was no barrier to recognition on either side and indeed much respect was given the Anglican delegation.  So why the difference?  Why did Anglicans have bishops and the Continental Reformed not?  For that matter, why did the Anglican ministers wear robes when their continental brothers did not?  It all comes down to what has been known as the battle between the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) and the Normative Principle of Worship (NPW) - Anglicans followed the latter, the Continental Reformed the former.  But why, and what really is the difference - if any?

            Usually the difference is put this way:  RPW's believe that all we do in worship must be regulated by Scripture and thus to do anything not commanded in the Scriptures is wrong and potentially actually sin.  NPW's believe that worship must follow the norms set down by Scripture but so long as it is not explicitly condemned in Scripture it is potentially permissible if it promotes the common good. Now, it is important to recognise the nuance there - the NPW is not the 'negative principle of worship' where worship is a complete free for all and you can do whatever you like so long as Scripture doesn't say you can't do it.  No, that is not the NORMative Principle at all.  Something that is 'normative' means that it sticks to a prescribed standard and 'normal' way of doing something, for something to be 'normative' it  must follow the principles and value judgements of something which says that that is how things should be done.

"anyone sat at the Council of Dort would have noticed that Anglicans were, well, different."

            There are a number of issues with the RPW, two of which are that if taken literally it amounts to absurdity and is utterly unsustainable and, secondly, the separation of worship into only a church setting as oppose to the rest of our lives.  Let us look at both of these in turn.

            If one were to hold literally and solidly to the RPW it would be near impossible to run a church - those who claim they do are almost certainly hypocritical in some areas.  Giving out notices in Church? That isn't commanded in Scripture.  Preaching from a pulpit? That isn't commanded in Scripture.  Using PowerPoint presentations or media systems and microphones?  Not in Scripture.  Sitting down in services? That isn't commanded in Scripture. Singing only the Psalms?  What about the 'New Songs' we are supposed to sing (Psalm 33.3; 40.3; 144.9; 149.1; Isaiah 42.10; Revelation 5/9; 14.3)? In fact if we can only sing what is explicit in Scripture in its exactness why are we not singing in Hebrew and Greek - I don't recall a command to translate the Psalms into English anywhere?  Expository style preaching?  That isn't found in Scripture. Reciting Creeds or manmade confession of faith?  Not commanded in Scripture.  Not using cymbals and harps and such instruments in worship?  Well you should be as that is commanded in Scripture over and over again in the Psalms. Not raising your hands and not clapping during worship or shouting 'Amen!'?  You should be (Psalm 63.4; 134.2; 47.1; 97.8; 1 Corinthians 14.16 1 Timothy 2.8) Not evidencing speaking in tongues and giving prophecy?  You should be because Paul tells people they should be. 

            The problem is that Scripture just simply doesn't tell us, explicitly, enough to run a viable service and many of the things it does we often don't do.  A literal taking of the RPW is unworkable.  Instead what more sophisticated RPW proponents say is that certain things are 'implied' in Scripture as being present in NT Church worship and that their use is thus right and proper.  Preaching expository sermons is implied from the fact that all of Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching.  Giving notices is implied by Paul asking and notifying things in his letters.  Essentially these RPW followers pencil in alongside Scripture interpretations that make it workable in the modern world to run a church given the paucity of NT evidence and the massive changes in society since then.  But everything done in the service must be Biblical and have a Biblical foundation and be rooted in God's commands.  In other words everything must be regulated by the norms of Scripture... which doesn't sound so unlike the NPW.  The reality is that sensible and conservative use of the NPW and reasonable use of RPW looks almost exactly the same.

"the NPW is not the 'negative principle of worship' where worship is a complete free for all and you can do whatever you like so long as Scripture doesn't say you can't do it."

            From the start of RPW theories the more sophisticated and realistic proponents recognised that there are two areas in the question of how to worship - elements and circumstances.  The elements of worship must be commanded in Scripture but given how the world changes the circumstances in which the elements are lived out and portrayed is naturally subject to change.  Elements are the basic building blocks of Biblical worship, the circumstances are the paint on the blocks and how they fit together.  It is along these lines that it is possible to visit two RPW churches and see that they are very different and see Scripture and regulating different things.  When we stop seeing RPW as a monolithic ultra-legalistic method and recognise it as the more nuanced and complex principle that it is the difference between conservative NPW and sensible RPW begins to look less black and white and less clear.

            It is because of this similarity that someone like Richard Hooker one of the most celebrated Anglican Theologians could defend the BCP and Church Practices against the more extreme RPW Puritans by saying rather frankly "For our constant persuasion in this point, is as theirs, that we have no where altered the laws of Christ further then in such particularities only as have the nature of things changeable according to the difference of times, places, persons, and other the like circumstances."

          So to conclude this first point - a literal attempt at the RPW is utterly untenable and those who claim to follow it almost always differ from each other and indeed in ignoring some commands end up being somewhat rather hypocritical. 

"When we stop seeing RPW as a monolithic ultra-legalistic method and recognise it as the more nuanced and complex principle that it is the difference between conservative NPW and sensible RPW begins to look less black and white and less clear."

          Secondly, it is worth asking if the RPW makes too big a dichotomy between worship in Church and worship in the Christian life.  One of the unique things about Christianity is that it teaches that God is not just in a Temple but everywhere and we worship the Father not in Samaria or Jerusalem but in Spirit and Truth where ever we are.  Our worship is not to be sacrifices in particular places but rather our whole lives are to be spiritual sacrifices to God in all places at all times.  We are not only to pray in Church but to pray without ceasing.  All that we do in life, not just in Church, is to be to the glory of God and the praise of His name.  Yes, Scripture clearly and irrefutably emphasises the importance and imperative nature of  gathering together as an assembly before the Lord but it doesn't make that the be all and end all of worship. 

          Yet in our everyday lives Christians do not follow the Regulative Principle and say they can only do what Scripture explicitly commands they do, rather they follow the Normative Principle and try to govern their lives by the norms laid down in Scripture and apply them to all kinds of situations.  Should you take the job as a banker in Santander or HSBC?  Good luck finding an explicit command for that in Scripture.  Should you buy a Mercedes SLK or a more practical family estate car?  Should you buy violets or roses for your wife? Scripture won't explicitly tell you.  But Scripture does impose on us general moral norms and general ways in which we most glorify God and general ways in which we don't.  By reading Scripture, not just legal commands but the stories, the parables, the histories, the poetry, the letters, the prophecies, we learn the heart of God and follow that heart in our lives. 

          If we worship God in our daily lives 24/7 by the Normative Principle then why would we change so radically to the Regulative Principle when we gather together?

"For our constant persuasion in this point, is as theirs" - Richard Hooker

          Nonetheless, RPW theologians often try to point to parts of Scripture to prove their point - that the RPW itself is commanded in Scripture.  Let us look at some of these and see if they hold water.

          The first one chronologically is the story of Abel and Cain - God rejected Cain's sacrifice not just because he was morally corrupt but because it was, being grain, not an acceptable offering.  Abel's sacrifice of an animal, pre-figuring Christ and the fundamental importance of spilling blood, was acceptable.  Yet the odd thing is - Scripture nowhere tells us that Cain and Abel were ever commanded or expected to offer sacrifices in the first place, they were not acting on God's explicit command but what they felt was an appropriate and natural response to God's love in sparing their lives.  To say that the text 'implies' that God commanded them to offer things before Him is to again pencil in an interpretation not actually present in Scripture and thus defeats the very point of the RPW!

          The use of the 2nd commandment, the one against idolatry and worship of images, to support the RPW is odd because actually this is a classic example of the NPW of worship in action - this is not a command to 'do' something but one not to do something.  It doesn't in and of itself tell you what worship looks like without idolatry only what it looks like with it.  The fact that NPW reformers such as the Classical Anglicans were just as iconoclastic, if not at times even more so, than their continental brethren is a case in point that this commandment doesn't really change the playing field for the RPW.

          The use of the very detailed almost OCD commands of God in the Old Testament about how the Temple and Tabernacle should be and how everything was tightly ordained in terms of ceremonies is on the surface convincing. The punishment of Korah, Nadab, Abihu, and King Saul are examples of this.   But this is only convincing if we reject the three-fold division of the Law because Christ abolished all these ceremonial laws when He brought in the New Covenant and there is nothing in the New Testament even approaching being a pale shadow of such regulation.  Indeed, this very fact means that RPW people are in reality saying that these laws show us that the normal principle that God uses to govern worship is very exact and based on His commands - which in and of itself is an NPW argument not an RPW one.  Regardless of this the NT ended the Old Covenant and there is nothing in the NT replacing such things.  The reason why God seemed so OCD in the Law was not so much to show us under the New Covenant how to worship, rather, all of these ceremonial laws were primarily not even about worship but about Christ and His ministry of which these laws were but a shadow in a dark mirror to be fulfilled.   All of these Old Testament Laws teach us something about God's personality, especially His perfection and remaining with His elect, but how this seems to be worked out after the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all believers look very different in the New Testament witnesses.

"The fact that NPW reformers such as the Classical Anglicans were just as iconoclastic, if not at times even more so, than their continental brethren is a case in point that this commandment doesn't really change the playing field for the RPW."

          Moving to New Testament texts it is alleged that Jesus' rejection of the 'human traditions' of the Pharisees in Mark 7.6-9 proves that all worship must be regulated by God's express commands.  But is that really what Jesus is saying (laying aside that this text is still under the Old Covenant)? Another reading would be that the practices Jesus condemns stem for a works based righteousness and evil hearts and it is this falsity and hypocrisy that He decries yet it says nothing about human traditions which are positive and not promoting works based righteousness.  Jesus took part in Synagogue worship - yet you won't find how Synagogue worship was precisely regulated by commands from Scripture.  Jesus was concerned about living the law without changed hearts - Christians are not only set free from the ceremonial regulation of the Law but we have the true Law written on our hearts that we might worship Jesus in Spirit and Truth at all times and in all places.  The idea that the Great Commission's command to teach people what Jesus taught His disciples is about regulating congregational worship is a massive step of eisegesis given the salvific gospel proclamation context and the fact we have no idea of what Jesus personally commanded regarding the regulation of Worship besides possibly reciting the Lord's Prayer, fasting without pride, the two Sacraments, and giving alms.

          To take Paul's rejection of celebrating Jewish holy days and Sabbaths in Galatians 4.9-11 (or Colossians 2) as even more so an explicit rejection of celebrating any human made days and ceremonies is interesting but misses the whole point of Paul's argument.  Paul is concerned with the Galatians resubmitting to the Law and falling back into works based righteousness - no sensible NPW places ceremonies and practices onto a salvific level but rather says they are helpful for teaching and order.  Of course, if Paul is serious here as RPW would have it then all Christians had better become like Jehovah's Witnesses and never, ever, celebrate Christmas or Easter or Birthdays!!

"We are human beings not disembodied souls and we only truly worship with all that we are when we worship not just in our minds but with our whole bodies. "

          The use of The Letter to the Hebrews rejection of the Old Testament Ceremonial Law as a shadow of things to come meaning and implying Christians are to worship on a higher level in our spirit and in truth is odd.  Yes we are certainly not under the Ceremonial Law, and yes unlike then we worship more fully in Spirit and Truth, but to claim that this means and entails a rejection of physical and tactile worship which involves rituals and representations of truths is bizarre given that Jesus Himself explicitly commanded only two things definitively for Christian worship and both of them - baptism and the Lord's Supper - are physical, tactile, ritual, and representational acts of worship.  We are human beings not disembodied souls and we only truly worship with all that we are when we worship not just in our minds but with our whole bodies.  To separate out spiritual and physical worship so much and make one out to be holy and one to be evil is very Gnostic.

          Ultimately, the difference between a realistic use of the RPW and a sensible use of the NPW is rather small and one more of emphasis than fact.  The strict use of the RPW is so fundamentalist that it is practically impossible to follow and always leads to hypocrisy somewhere.  The sharp division of Spirit and Body is rather dangerous and promotes an unbiblical view of the human person. Likewise the sharp division between worshipping God every day and worshipping Him in a congregation is unhelpful and minimises the radical nature of the New Covenant and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Not only does getting a strict RPW explicitly from Scripture rely on eisegesis and the finding of questionable 'implications' there is simply not enough in all of Scripture for us to realistically regulate all of our congregational time together. 

          All of the ceremonies and aspects of the BCP, Ordinal, and Classical Anglicanism were kept or created not to enslave people to rituals but to bring order and clarity to the church, to use liturgy and praxis as a powerful teaching tool to bring the truth of Faith Alone to a whole nation lost in the ignorance and darkness of mediaeval Roman Catholicism.  All of them were governed by principles and norms laid out in the Scriptures or things which teach Scripture by a means consonant and not opposed to Scripture.  The state of modern Anglican Practices is another matter entirely but I firmly believe that Classical Anglicanism was on solid ground for all that it did, though at times it was perhaps too legalistic in enforcing unity.


(Religion Saves and Nine other misconceptions by Mark Driscoll has a good chapter on the Regulative Principle vs Normative Principle and ends up proposing a 'Missional Principle' - it is well worth a read and some of it has informed this article.)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

(SERMON) Acts 19.21-41 A Sermon Against Idolatry

Looking at the anti-idol Christians of Ephesus who caused a riot by threatening the idol-makers profit and religion. We also see in Ephesus the importance of having Christians in all levels and areas of society - and of course the importance of reaching out to them all too. Thinking about the making of idols this sermon considers how the early church was emphatically iconoclastic -they destroyed and opposed religious images, statues, amulets, icons etc. Whilst the influx of unconverted pagans in slowly changed this, at the Reformation the Church of England took a stark Iconoclastic stance and ensured that all images and statues and idols were destroyed. Our confession of faith (39 Articles) explicitly rejects worship or honouring/reverencing images, statues, and relics whilst the "godly and wholesome doctrine" of the longest Homily (Against Idolatry in three parts) in depth destroys the arguments for religious images from Bible and history. Likewise the old injunctions and canons enjoined such things to be destroyed. Whilst today the church has changed and opinions have swayed we must be careful to always be on guard against idolatry.

(I personally believe the Reformers were correct in removing religious art, shrines, icons, statues, relics, and images from churches though think it possible with great care to use some religious art for educational purposes yet even this is to risk a unhealthy legacy so must be sparse at best.  Given the current state of canon law, the views of many in the congregation, and the fact I am only a curate I did not feel able to as strongly and categorically condemn Christian Idolatry in our church as I would have liked but pray my warning would lead to personal reformations.)

Monday, 27 October 2014

[SERMON] Acts 18.1-7

Paul leaves Athens and heads to Corinth where he meets Priscilla and Aquila who had to flee Rome due to the Emperor Claudius - something corroborated by history and proving Acts is reliable.  Paul preaches that Jesus is the Messiah and those who deny this commit blasphemy, deserving death for rejecting Jesus.  Ministers, as the CofE Ordinal lays out, and asks us to vow, must be watchmen (Ezekiel 33.7) warning people of sin and blasphemy otherwise it is our own fault they perish.  Ultimately, despite opposition God promises to protect Paul and, as always - then and now - God fulfills that promise.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

[SERMON] John 10.31-39 - Can we trust the Bible?

Can we trust the Bible?  All of it? Really?  ~ If we believe Jesus is God our answer must be yes.  This sermon looks at Article 6 of the CofE Confession of Faith which claims all that we could ever need to know to be saved and please God is in the Bible.  Not only is it in the Bible but in matters of faith and salvation Scripture is clear and easy to understand - it is 'perspicuous'.  One thing it is clear on, and Jesus says time and again, is that all of the Bible, from start to finish, even stories like Jonah and the Big Fish, are true - completely true.  Jesus says the Bible is so true it cannot be broken, and Jesus is God so cannot lie - as Christians we have a simple choice, either we believe Jesus is God and completely believe the Bible or we deny parts of the Bible and thus say that Jesus is a liar and not God.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

(SERMON) Matthew 22.1-14

In this parable Jesus not only challenges us as a church He also tells us both history (the killing of the OT Prophets) and the future (fall of Jerusalem in 70AD). He challenges us to recognise His love for His Bride the Church and to realise that it is not our personal holiness that gets us the 'invitation' to the heavenly wedding party but rather the Father's initiative - just make sure you actually know Jesus and belong there before turning up!

 This sermon was preached at an all age service


Saturday, 11 October 2014

(SERMON) 1 Corinthians 1.18-2.2 : Preach nothing but Christ crucified

At the start of 1 Corinthians Paul cuts to the chase - Christians are to preach Christ and Him Crucified not morality and eloquent philosophy.  We are to know nothing but Christ crucified which may seem foolish to the world but is the wisdom of God.  Only through the gospel of the crucified God can we receive the power, wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and freedom.  

(This talk was given at a day conference in Sleights)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

(SERMON) Philippians 2.1-16

What does it look like to image and follow Christ as His children?  What does God Himself, in becoming human and dying on a Roman cross teach us about love and humility and the sheer amazing grace He has and extends to us?  How are we to live this life to God - by calling on Him each and every day for He alone can change us.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Why I believe North Side celebration to be important.

Why I support celebrating from the North Side.

It may seem a small and trivial thing where the minister stands when presiding at the Lord's Supper - but often it is  the small things that most impact what happens in a service and how people understand what exactly is happening.  I personally believe that faithfulness in small things is indicative in faithfulness in large things - faithfulness in small practical details generally entails faithfulness to large theological principles.  This is true in what ministers wear, what rituals they use, and indeed where they stand at the time of Holy Communion.

For three hundred years the Church of England was unique among all other churches across the world in relation to where the minister was to stand.  The Book of Common Prayer rubric from 1552 onwards has stated that "The Table at Communion time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel, where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said.  And the Priest standing at the north side of the Table, shall say the Lord's Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling."  It is important to notice a few things here.  Firstly, there is no such thing as an 'altar' in Classical Anglicanism*.  The word 'altar' - which implies by definition a place of sacrifice - was purposefully stricken from existence because it lies at the very heart of the Roman Catholic error concerning the theology of the Lord's Supper and indeed the ministry of the Priesthood.   Secondly, the Table that replaced the 'altar' is moveable and could be in a number of places depending on where it was most convenient to place it.   Thirdly, and concerning what this article is about - the Priest is to stand at the 'north side of the Table.' 

[*for my definition of 'Classical Anglicanism as the historical Anglicanism of the Pre-Caroline times see the following essay:  whilst technically 'Classical Anglicanism' is a merely historical phenomenon it is also something that a number of current Anglicans both aspire to re-create and see as the 'anglicanism' most true to the Historic Formularies they profess to be their confession]

               The exact meaning of 'north side' only really came into question with the rise of the second generation Oxford Movement and the Cambridge Camden Society who, wishing to celebrate like the Roman Catholic Church, wanted to stand with their backs to the people facing East.  When it became obvious that the rubrics would not legally allow this they began to promote frankly ridiculous arguments to try and re-interpret the rubric to mean the northern part of the table when facing East.  Suffice it to say that this argument was indeed ridiculed, largely abandoned, and legally condemned as nonsense.  Even the likes of Pusey and Newman didn't buy into such ideas.  Instead the Ritualists came up with the idea that historically the table was UNIVERSALLY placed with the short 'ends' East and West and thus, because the tables were then placed up against the East wall of the Church there was no 'north side'.   This argument is now common even among low church ministers for justifying Westward facing celebration.  However, historically it has little credence. 

               In this article I want firstly to look at the historical reality of the placement of the table and the historical interpretation of the rubric.  Secondly I shall consider if the tradition handed down to us is important today or if the Westward facing celebration accepted by both Protestants and Roman Catholics is to be preferred over traditional North Side. 

               Due to Laud there are in fact two traditions of 'north side' in the church of England resting upon either the Table being in the midst of the congregation with the people gathered all around it or the Table being up against the East wall with the congregation separated from it until reception.  The two dynamics of service here are radically different and both will be considered in turn.

               Firstly, it is now universally accepted that 'north side' means nothing more than "stood to the north of the Table"  Regardless of the shape of the table or its orientation this is all that 'north side' means.   As Dr. Stephens in his Notes on the Book of Common Prayer says "No form of table  has been prescribed by the statue, and therefore it may be square or any other rectilinear figure, or even circular, where of course you cannot have any 'side'... The meaning of 'at the north side' therefore seems really to be simply 'to the north' of the table"  Legally this was supported in the Folkestone Ritual Case by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 1876.  Indeed, historical evidence points towards Edwardian tables - those at the time of the rubric - being made increasingly square (mockingly called 'oyster boards') that they might look even less like the destroyed 'altars' they replaced.

               But many tables remained oblong with what we might customarily call two longer 'sides' and two shorter 'ends'.  How were these tables placed in the body of the church or chancel before the advent of Laud?  Remember that before Laud the people were generally much more gathered around the Tale which was not usually cordoned off by railings.  Those who want to claim that Westward facing is the natural outworking of the rubric claim that they were near universally placed lengthwise - that is with the short ends at the East and West.   In this case the set up would look much like the following diagram.

However, as shown by the extensive research of J.T. Tomlinson  - one of the greatest and most knowledgeable writers on the English Reformation to ever live - that this set up was universal or indeed even originally the most usual is completely unsupported by evidence.  For full details as to why I would encourage you to read the two tracts on 'north side' that he wrote for the Church Association which can be found in volume one of his Collected Tracts on Ritual

In his first tract (C.A. tract No.88) he notes how none of the reformers placed any emphasis or meaning into whether the table is to be placed lengthwise or alternatively 'altarwise/crosswise' (that is with the 'ends' North and South').  It was the growth in popularity of pews and designated seating during the reigns of James I and Charles I which led to the 'lengthwise' set up with the table down the middle aisle in the nave becoming most common (and indeed the tables becoming very, very, long and slender so they would fit).  Tomlinson concludes his tract by saying that "Until the reign of Charles I [coming of Laud] no one attached any importance to the length wise, or crosswise arrangement of the table; and at the Restoration, as we have seen, the word 'side' was retained with the deliberate intention of leaving that point entirely free."  In his second tract on the issue of north side celebration Tomlinson considers further extensive evidence about the placing of the tables.  Included in this is how the table of the Langely Chapel in Shropshire - famous by its use to support 'lengthwise' placement - is actually drawn differently in different books - lengthwise in the Anastatic Society's Report and 'crosswise' in Bloxam's Companion to Gothic Church Architecture. 

Overall the compelling evidence is that the Reformers had no intention as to lengthwise or crosswise and such use was arranged locally depending on church shape and the personal preference of the minister.  To claim that lengthwise was the instituted norm is simply ahistorical.  What is certain is that at the time of Laud the moving of the Table to where the altars once stood, up against the East wall, and having them fenced off was the final evolution of the placement.  The reason for the placement was partly ritualistic and partly practical - many people were unhappy that the congregation were putting their hats and coats on the table during services and moving it away ensured this couldn't happen!  With the moving of the table celebrating from the North at the short 'end' became the more common practice though we know that a number of churches continued to have their tables lengthwise with the short 'end' being up against the wall.  Again, local discretion was the watchword and there was no real uniformity across the land. 

Having laid out how historically neither lengthwise nor crosswise can claim authoritative approval it is worth considering why Cranmer would have the minister stand to the North of the table in the first place.  This was not the practice among the continental Reformers who celebrated much as we do today with the table (often) separated from the people, arranged crosswise, and with the minister facing West (the basilican tradition as it is known).  Cranmer was relentless in pursuing pan-Protestant unity, especially in relation to the Lord's Supper, so why would he do something so radically different that clearly marked the Church of England out as distinct from their continental brethren?  As J. A. Motyer said in his essay on why he supported north side celebration over the then innovative westward facing method "The one thing that seems certain, amid all the uncertainties that surround this important question, is that Reformers were moved by some purpose and not by lack of purpose or mere negativism... The man who thus wrote Of Ceremonies [Cranmer] had his eye on divine truth and positive human edification.  We owe too much to Cranmer to call him a fool in this one respect." (Why I Value the North Side Position. pp.20-21)  John Stott in the same volume backs this up stating that "although [the Reformers] undoubtedly knew that the Westward position was primitive, and was being  chosen by their fellow reformers on the Continent, they yet declined to adopt it themselves, and invented the North side position instead.  They have left no record of their reason, so far as I know, but they must have had theological objections to their early tradition, which made it unacceptable to them." (Ibid. p27)

I personally believe that there was a good reason for this unique and distinctive move to North side over and against not only the Eastward facing Mass but also against the even more ancient and continentally accepted Westward facing.    My hypothesis (and it is nothing more than speculative but seems the only plausible and possible rational reason for ushc a move) would be that it is all to do with the perception of space and holiness.  The Eastward facing position of the Mass creates a sense of holiness moving up the church.  In the West you have the least holy part where the congregation are, moving onwards you have the Chancel which is clearly demarcated off and is usually far more richly ornate (increasingly a sense of holiness further)  and this is where the minister, clearly holier than the people, sits apart from them to conduct his business - when a chancel screen or rood screen exists the minister is likely so holy that he couldn't even be seen by the people!  Moving even further up the building you have at the extreme East steps leading up to the holy altar where the body of the Lord Jesus resides and the sanctity of the Eucharist is expressed (where the sacrifice of the mass takes place).  This altar area is even more ornate than the chancel and is again ring-fenced off.  The whole tenor of such a building is one of ascending holiness from West to East.  We have the Cambridge Camden Society to thank for the fact that virtually all Anglican Churches are now once again laid out like this and such a theology was explicitly behind their activism and revolutionary intentions.  Even if the minister stands facing West this sense of ascending holiness continues and the emphasis of separation from the people remains - the role of the minister as presiding over and above the people is there to be seen and understood regardless of the ministers intentions.  

Placing the minister to the North of the table and placing the people around the table seriously upsets this sense of ascending holiness (or even just having the minister off to one side as in post-Laud times).  The minister is now in among the people, the chancel is no longer the place of the holy minister and the table is amongst the people along with the Priest who stands or kneels around it just like everyone else.  The reason that the table was sometimes kept in the chancel was in order to stop the superstitious tradition of 'hearing mass' - if you were not to actually receive the Lord's Supper then you were not welcome at the table or to stay and hear that part of the service (as seen by the 1549 rubrics, the 1552-9 exhortation and the countless writings of various bishops).  The chancels were at times co-opted for this purpose of separating out the different parts of the service.  Alternatively, the chancel became the primary place of worship because the small congregation allowed this - again something that really overturns the normal understanding of an ascending holiness.    Ultimately, placing the minister to the North of the table helps to defend against superstitious ritualism and a false understanding of the separateness of the minister and the people - especially if as intended the table is brought in to the body of the church and the people stand around, or the people come and stand around it in the chancel.  Indeed churches such as those of Wren which were the first to really be built, rather than merely adapted, to BCP principles were square auditoriums with no chancel at all. The emphasis was on visibility and audibility - getting the maximum number of people to both see (hence the rubric 'with more readiness and decency break the bread before the people in the BCP Communion Service before the prayer of consecration) and hear (hence the references in the BCP to saying with a loud voice) what is happening at the Lord's Supper.

The best possible thing that a minister today could do is return to Cranmer's intention and at the time of communion place the table in the midst of the people (a good excuse to get rid of pews!) as this re-emphasises the fellowship aspect of the meal and the collegiality of the people with the minister whilst de-mystifying all that happens.  But how is it best to place the table?  Lengthwise or crosswise?  With an eye to both visibility and audibility I personally believe, and feel experience has confirmed, that crosswise is superior for these criteria - though this is of course a subjective preference.  Look again at the diagram of the lengthwise placement above and note the number of people behind the minister who cannot see what is happening or besides the minister whose sight lines would be impaired and how these people are also less well placed to hear by nature of being either besides or behind the minister.  Now look at this diagram of the table set up crosswise and consider the same issues - less people are behind or beside the minister, more people can both see and easily hear what is happening and as an added bonus the minister can see more people too.  Even if no one is placed behind the minister the truth holds.  Yet so long as the table is amongst the people as Cranmer intended and to avoid an ascending holiness or progressing hierarchy the minister stands to the North of the table as our Formularies command then we should not be divided over the adiaphora of the orientation of the Table.

However, the sad reality is that because of the overwhelming success of the Cambridge Camden Society the vast majority of English Churches simply cannot carry out Cranmer's vision regardless of whether the table is placed lengthwise or crosswise.  Thanks to Laud and the CCS we are stuck with a table which is separated from the people, arranged crosswise, and of which it is practically impossible to gather the people around due to architecture or local tradition.  In such a setting should we just follow the now common Westward facing position or should we follow what Laud started and remained the unbroken tradition of the Church of England till relatively recently and celebrate on the short 'North end'?  Personally, I think making sure that despite the table being taken away from the people Laud's keeping the minister to the North of the table was pretty much his one redeeming feature - it was a stroke of genius which we should not so easily abandon. When faced with this situation I believe that this potentially should not be considered  minor adiaphora and something completely 'indifferent' but is rather something that portrays important theological principles over and against Eastward or Westward positions.   But why would I think this?  There are a number of reasons of which I will list some here.

-        The Westward facing position whilst not irrevocably tied to a sacerdotal view of priesthood and the Eucharist  is certainly able to be read this way.  That both Roman Catholics with their very sacerdotal view of ministry and Presbyterians can accept it should make us consider if it is helpful or just confusing - conformity which dilutes didactic teaching and doctrine is an unhelpful conformity, it is a conformity in merely word and deed and not in doctrine, it is essentially thus an instrument of deception.   As John Stott said "This phenomenon, that the Westward position is acceptable to both ends of the theological spectrum, make it immediately attractive to some.  Ought it not rather for this very reason to be somewhat suspect?... It is evident, therefore, that the Westward position itself does not clearly symbolize, and for this reason cannot definitely secure a proper doctrine of the Holy Communion." (Ibid. p32) If our views of the Priesthood are so radically different to that of Rome (and they are, the Roman Catholic Church holding that Anglican orders are 'absolutely null and void' due to 'a deficiency in intention' - as the Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae tells us - that is to say Anglican do not believe that the minister is a sacrificing priest or that kind of mediator at all.) surely this should appear evident in our practice as well as our theory? 

-        North side protects against the people mistakenly feeling that the presence of Christ is localised in the bread and wine rather than in their hearts upon reception.  Again the Westward facing position does not need to lead to this but over time and given the inclination of the human heart to superstition and idolatry it likely will.  The placing of the table at the centre of worship by having it between the minister and the people leads to a sacramental focus of the service and the presence of God.  North side helps to avoid this by rejecting an ascending holiness view of the church and also a centralising holiness in the elements. 

-        North side also protects against priestcraft where the minister is, to use an analogy, the 'actor' and the people are the 'audience' or where the minister is the man at the McDonalds checkout which people must approach to receive their grace and communion.   A.M. Stibbs rightly remarks that "by refusing to put [the minister] into a Westward position facing the people from behind a crosswise table, it made plain that Christian ministers are not a presiding hierarchy, on which the laity are dependent for sacramental grace." (Ibid. p12)    North side places the minister as a servant not a master, being the people's delegate.  Being 'side on' to the people the chances of seeing the minister as presiding in the place of Jesus Himself - who is the true President - is reduced.  As Motyer says "this 'half-ways' position, is one of our great legacies of the Church, the Ministry, the Sacraments, and the Atonement, and a thing concerning which we ought to pray that we may be careful guardians." (Ibid. p24)  The North side is discreet whilst the Westward is too prominent such that it may promote an unhealthy and exaggerated view of the ministry and role of the minister in the Sacrament.  It is the Lord's Supper, and it is the Lord's Table - so why do we make the minister and not the Lord the most prominent part of it by having him placed at the centre of what is going on?  Far better to have the minister at the right hand of the Master as His underling (1 Cor 4.1) than usurping His rightful position in the centre.

These points contain a lot of 'may be seen' or 'could be understood' things.  And that is at the core of the issue.  The Church of England has a long tradition in matters where things could or are likely to be understood wrongly and thus promote unhealthy and unbiblical views of God, ministry, worship, Sacraments, or the Christian life, of doing all it can to obliterate them.  Thus the Church of England was explicitly (and still is according to its formularies) iconoclastic - the very danger of using images in church, especially of Christ and the saints, is that the human heart is prone to idolatry and thus it is better to not put temptation before it.  Likewise, the risk of making church and Sacrament 'mystical' and promoting a pagan view of prayer led to the banning of candles on the Holy Table or as prayer aids by the church - the same goes for incense.  The flamboyant robes of the Roman Catholic Church (or indeed for that matter the Eastern Orthodox) were soundly rejected and burnt or cut into pieces not just for their historic theology but because of the very tenor they give to the service and the role of the minister they exaggerate - better to have ministers garbed simply in largely plain and academic clothing which portrays a proper and biblical view of ministry.  One need only look at the state and form of spirituality in modern Anglo-Catholic churches or indeed Broad Churches to see how influential the revival of these things has been.  The views of the sacrament, of the ministry, of the role of the congregation, of the importance of space, of prayer, or worship are all not only completely at odds with Classical Anglicanism but at odds with the whole Reformation and indeed, arguably, the Biblical vision of Church.  

Individual ministers may use some or all of these things with the best intentions and a right theology of it in their own hearts and minds but so did those who first used images and the bishops who said it was OK just for teaching.  Suffice it to say that history proves that the best intentions of ministers never outlast them and quickly become warped and twisted in the hearts of the less theologically astute (and even at times in their own hearts!).  In this vein, celebrating from the North of the table, be it with the people gathered around (preferably like this) or as Laud would have it, gives the best protection and actively presents to soundest theology.  The Eastward view actively ensures poor theology (regardless of the intentions of the minister), the Westward makes it possible (regardless of the intentions of the minister), the Southward most effectively heads them off (regardless of the intentions of the minister).

Let us be proud of our heritage, of the genius of Cranmer and his fellow reformers, let us hold fast to our unique and distinctive - and right - tradition of North side for it alone is the most secure way of ensuring rightful worship and truthful doctrine.  As A.M Stibbs concluded:

"we venture to assert that for the minister to stand at the North side of the Table is not an antiquated eccentricity to be abandoned as soon as Westward position can be properly authorized; but a relevant and significant use by which, rather than by adopting the Westward position, we may as ministers visibly demonstrate both that we disown misplaced sacerdotal and hierarchical claims, and that we are in the service of Holy Communion one with our brethren in Christ as dependent recipients of His saving grace, and as grateful guests at His bountiful Table." (Ibid. p13)

Or in the words of the ever indomitable John Stott:

"Our concern should be first and foremost to embrace for ourselves, and commend to others a New Testament theology of grace, ministry and sacraments, and then to put the officiating minister at the Lord's Supper into a position which plainly and incontrovertibly exemplifies this theology.  It is for this reason supremely that I, for one, far from wishing to abandon it, welcome the symbolism of the North side." (Ibid. p32)

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