I hope we have been encouraged, by the way in which God has used relationships that we are in, to reach people with the good news of Jesus. What a joy at growth group, to hear how God uses simple hospitality and family relationships, for his purposes of bringing people to faith and keeping us in the faith. And this is our priority as a church isn’t it; “To know Jesus Christ and to make him known.” As Jesus commanded us “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28: 18-19. Because Jesus is Lord and God, we seek to help others become his disciples and carry on being unashamed of his words (Mark 8:38). There are two opportunities coming up: Christianity Explored starting on February 4th. It is so encouraging to hear of members of the church inviting neighbours to this; and then the men’s breakfast on February 9th when we will hear from Steve Curley of how the Lord brought him to faith in the army. The full cost is £8.50, so perhaps some of us could contribute £10 so that others can be subsidised. Tickets will be £5.
We have been considering how as disciples of Jesus, we are to be obedient to him in the area of baptism of those who have transitioned. Of course, on one sense we would rather not have to stand on this issue. We have considered how Article 27 of the 39 articles of the Church of England provides us with a helpful summary of what baptism is: “Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian people are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New Birth, whereby , as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be sons of God by the Holy Spirit are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed and grace increased by virtue of prayer to God….etc” We have considered how the Bishops in the Church of England have issued guidance, which cannot be easily dismissed. This places transitioning gender on a par with the sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ. It makes the new identity of transitioning on a par with the new identity that Jesus gives through new life. This is in no way to fail to welcome those who are transitioning, are suffering from gender dysphoria or self-identify as gender fluid. We welcome everyone with the love of Jesus Christ. But Jesus was also clear in his teaching, which was very helpfully expounded on Saturday 12th January at the Livingout conference, by those who are same sex attracted and have experienced and continue to experience gender dysphoria (do see livingout.org.uk). These are the heroes of faith in our age. I was encouraged, that in refusing to conduct baptismal services for those who have transitioned, we are standing with such heroes. So, I am very grateful to PCC to have made the following resolution: “FEAG PCC reiterates our welcome to all whatever their sexuality or gender and rejoices to baptise all who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. FEAG PCC supports our incumbent in his communication, alongside others, to the Bishop of Chelmsford, regarding refusing to conduct services of Holy Baptism as a celebration and marking of gender transition. FEAG PCC supports our incumbent and any employees or ministers in refusing to apply Holy Baptism as a celebration and marking of gender transition and confirm that there will be no such services at FEAG.” This helps guard the gospel for transgender people as for us all. PTL. With much love in the only Lord, John Parker