News

What’s the equivalent of the Red Flag Act within the church?

Philip Sudworth poses this question in a recent post on the PCN Britain discussion forum.  He raises the question in connection with a passage from William Barclay’s commentary on Matthew 9 16-17.  The quote and Philip’s footnote is reproduced below.  To respond please go to http://www.pcnbritain.org.uk/index.php/forums/viewthread/27/

New Wine – William Barclay’s Commentary on Matthew 9:16-17

“No-one, said Jesus, tries to put new wine into old wine-skins.  To put this into modern terms: our minds must be elastic enough to receive and contain new ideas.  The history of progress is the history of overcoming the prejudices of the shut mind. Every new idea has had to fight for its existence against the instinctive opposition of the human mind.  The motor car, the railway train, the aeroplane were in the beginning regarded with suspicion.  Simpson had to fight to introduce chloroform, and Lister had to struggle to introduce antiseptics into the work of the doctor and surgeon. Copernicus was compelled to retract his statement that the earth went round the sun, and not the sun round the earth.  Even Jonas Hanway who brought the umbrella to this country had to suffer a barrage of missiles and insults when he first walked down the street with an umbrella.

“Within the church this resentment of the new is chronic, and the attempt to pour new things into old moulds is almost universal.  We attempt to pour the activities of a modern congregation into an ancient church building that was never meant for them.  We attempt to pour the truth of new discoveries into creeds which are based on Greek metaphysics.  We attempt to pour modern instruction into outworn language which cannot express it.  It may be that we would do well to remember that when any living thing stops growing, it starts dying.  It may be that we need to pray that God would deliver us from the shut mind and give us the open mind. 

“Viscount Samuel was born in 1870 and he begins his autobiography with a description of the London of his childhood.  ‘We had no cars or buses or tube trains; there were no bicycles – except the high penny-farthings; there were no electric light or telephones; no cinemas or broadcasts.’  We are living in a changing and an expanding and a growing world.  These verses are Jesus’ warning that the church dare not be the only institution which still lives in the past.”

Footnote
William Barclay wrote this commentary in 1956, over 50 years ago.  Just think how much society, our awareness of the world around us, our use of technology and our knowledge of the vastness and complexity of the universe have all changed in the five decades since then - and how little the church has changed.  In the early days of the car, a law was passed in 1865 that a man had to walk 55 metres in front of a car with a red flag and the speed restriction in towns was 2 mph.  What’s the equivalent of the Red Flag Act within the church?

Report from the 2010 AGM

PCN Britain’s AGM took place on Saturday 17th July.  In his latest letter the chair, John Churcher, highlights the main conclusions.

First of all an enormous thank you to those who managed to get to the AGM held in York on Saturday 17th July. The AGM, chaired by Mary McMahon [Vice Chair of PCN Britain], concluded successfully with two new members elected to the Committee, Angela Smith and Richard Tetlow; Terence Cooper’s co-option was confirmed into full membership of the committee; two members were re-elected for a further three years, Adrian Alker and Philip Goodwin. Since the meeting there has also been an offer from a younger member of PCN Britain to be considered for co-option onto the Committee. We can continue to look forward to the future with much enthusiasm.

Part of the business of the AGM was to consider an addition to the Constitution. Ian McAllister, a member who now advises the Management Committee [MC] on legal issues had commented prior to the meeting that the role of people asked by the MC to provide expert advice, etc. should be more clearly defined. Ian stated that, in the interests of openness and accountability, it is important for members to see how any advice that is recommended for implementation has been subject to a robust discussion by the committee and has been agreed by the committee. The AGM agreed the following addition to the Constitution:

“From time to time the committee may gain advice from suitably qualified and/or experienced individuals in areas where they feel they are insufficiently represented within the membership of the committee to provide such advice. Any recommendations emanating from such advice will be subject to committee approval before any implementation.” 

Other business included the approval of the Minutes of the previous AGM held on 24th October 2009; the Annual Report and the Financial Statement [both 1st January to 31st December 2009]; and the re-appointment of Peter Stribblehill as our Independent Examiner. Members of the AGM also voted unanimously to send letters of greetings and thanks to Jill Sandham and Hugh Dawes for their vision, commitment and hard work involved in establishing and developing PCNBritain.

The speaker following the AGM was Dave Tomlinson. Dave is the author of several books including ‘The Post-Evangelical’ and ‘Re-Enchanting Christianity’. Through the 1990s, he led ‘Holy Joes’, an alternative church that met in a pub in South London. Now he is the vicar of St Luke’s church in Holloway, North London. Dave gave us all a stimulating and challenging insight into the topic: “How Churches must Change or Die.” Two particular comments struck a chord with me: the first, “‘church’ should be a verb, not a noun”, and the second, “we need to change just to stand still!”

The AGM was followed by a MC meeting. Details of that meeting will be included in a future email update from me. Best wishes to you all.

John