Winchester Diocesan Synod Conference 2013

Diocese of Winchester

This last week I was privileged to join with 200 other Diocesan Synod members and guests at the Winchester Diocese Synod Conference at The Hayes.  God did some truly amazing things as we talked, prayed, worshiped and listened together – uniting such a diverse group of people around four priorities for the next three to five years is no small miracle.

Below are the links to all my live-blog posts from the different sessions:

Please remember all of these blogs were written live and so won’t always be 100% accurate, and may contain typos and spelling mistakes. For further information about the Diocesan Synod Conference check out the Diocese of Winchester website.

Winchester Diocesan Synod Conference 2013 – Session 6

Diocese of Winchester

Session 6 is entitled “Theology of Giving – Part One” led by Peter Rouch, Phillip Cochrane and Peter Waddell.  This is a live blog – apologies for any spelling mistakes and/or typos.

 

Truly God, Truly Me – Peter Waddell

Peter Waddell started by showing us some clips of happiness – Dolphins breeching, Nelson Mandela’s release, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.  Fake it until you make it – don’t feel great about giving.  Bank balance looks good at the start of the month, but the mortgage, tax, water and energy companies, and then the car makes a funny noise, children aren’t into fasting and want to be fed – suddenly the number on the bank statements looks bad!

Average person gives £11.00 in the Winchester diocese in the week.  Probably giving money also elsewhere.  Michael Ramsey says: maybe you don’t really want to pray, but you can at least say you want to want to pray, or at least want to, to want, to want to give.  But a long way from that currently, it feels stressful, anxious and fearful.  So afraid of not having enough and clutch it to him.

How can I change?  How can I stop being anxious?  Peer pressure and guilt are the normal techniques to get more money but that just leads to resentment.  Jesus didn’t do guilt, so let’s start with the video clips we watched.  Think of whales leaping, Mandela walking from his cell into the sunlight, the Berlin wall tumbling down and people dancing on it, Andy Murray in the final championship point and how all those make you feel – and then you’re in the right place to start thinking about giving.

Great yes moments, getting married, swinging a grand child, hearing the birds tweet in the morning.  When everything wants you to shout, hug people for no good reason at all, just sheer unbounded joy at being alive.  William Wordsworth: “very heaven” – life like when lived close to God – vibrancy, energy, delight, love upon love – we see it in a glass darkly as we are just poor, cracked images of God.  But God is God, the one in whom there is no poverty, no cracking, simply love, joy and life.  He is the simple and eternal yes!  He is the roar of yes, which makes all things be, and raises the dead.

What would it be like for that great roar to roar through you?  What would our life look like if it was made you?  The glory of the gospel is that is not a hypothetical question, it is real, barring disaster it will happen.  The becoming is happening right now.  No matter how slow the progress, or how unreal it happens, this is coming, to make us what we were meant to always be – pure joy, pure yes.  Start thinking about your giving from there it is still difficult, frightening, but my god it is exciting, it has stopped being resentful, but joy.

Two questions to reflect on:

  • What makes your heart sing?
  • What does it mean to be in the image of God?

Truly Transformed – Peter Rouch

Christians are those who are learning on the journey we call discipleship, God’s invitation, “Be my disciple”.  Learning to give, as God gives, give themselves to one another, steady and careful listening.  Those who are learning to give rather than possess in personal relationships, learning to be good lovers, communion not satisfaction, learning to forgive, actively seek the well-being of your enemy.  Learning not to cling to possessions and money, but to use them freely.

It is the last one, the area of money, that Yahweh, our way is most incomprehensible.

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Monty Python clip is funny because it is true.  There is incomprehension between the gospel and the world.  We need to be committed to the narrative in which we live.  The world is bound to the possessions, like a shipwrecked person hanging onto a bit of drift wood, the world is doing that with possessions.

Why should we give?  Because through that journey of discipleship God will unlock your prison.  Money is not the only area in which God will challenge you, but money is as Jesus said an important area.  Rather than clinging onto driftwood let us be generous, building up the mission of Jesus.  It is the insight behind the early church – whatever you have you do not need you give to the poor, and whatever you keep you are stealing from the poor.

Does that sound like a challenging note in your heart?  Hope so, because unless you’re perfect you aren’t listening.

Most of us are struggling in this area, we have attachment addiction to the things of this world – consumerism is probably our greatest addiction.  We believe we are quite simply consumers.  Other cultures must have their own bondages.  Beginning to address this bondage is one of the most profound steps we will take.  Most of us don’t so most Christians must be living in a semi permanent state of guilt.

We need to detach ourselves from the purpose of our culture, making us consumers, happiness is the abundance of our possessions.  Be not conformed by the world, but by the renewal of your mind.  Challenging words from Paul for us.  This will have consequences – Christians will live in smaller houses, drive cheaper cars, have less jewelry, drink less gin!  Being weaned from consumerism.  We should be moving to a different beat – but the world don’t see that.  Our money is to be an expression of divine love.

Not said who we should give to.  This journey, this giving is integral to the journey, what matters is who we are becoming, communion, and the furthering mission of Jesus.  The mission does require finance and so giving should include a key element to the church.  If we believe the gospel transforms lives, then we should want to give so they can experience this.  We should not give so we have a stipendary priest, an new community centre, an expensive organ – that may or may not be the answer – that is the test of communion and mission.  It might be our money is spent elsewhere on Jesus’ mission.  The better off we are the more we should expect this to be the case.

Being an Anglican is being part of a regional, a national, a international mission.  Merely paraochial giving that seeks what our community or even worse our congregation can get out of it is not what we are called to.

In each place where the signs of God become evident we can see the Spirit at work, so resources can help develop this.  Personal giving needs balance, but it is not just to fund the organisation, it is that you may truly be who God calls you to be and God’s mission goes forward.

Truly, Madly, Deeply – The Joy of Money – Phillip Cochrane

Imagine Gareth Bale comes and gives one third of his wage i.e. £100k how would that affect your wider giving?

6 years ago a group went to Stockholm, a church on the cusp of the business and red light areas.  A guy came along who was small, an introvert, with a way in which God shone through him.  He was addicted to seven forms of God – so you can either choose life or let yourself go.  In that moment he was healed of all the drug addictions at once!  Three years had passed since then, and most of the Deacons in the church were ex-drug addicts.  Caroline Baston said: “the glory of God is a human being who is fully alive.”

That is what we are about, human beings that are fully alive, so we need to do deal with the things that get in the way.  Bishop Tom says we need to become like God reflecting things, like that man in Stockholm.  Not bringing glory to God with how we use it, but also how it benefits the mission of God.

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We have a parody in our advertising: “power to you” Vodafone, “because you’re worth it” L’ Oreal, “it’s all about you, have it your way” Burger King.  These messages disicple us, and so we need to see them as they are and address them.

Benedictine three key promises:

  • Stability
  • Obedience
  • Conversion

We need to allow ourselves to be shaped and moulded – often the last things we see converted are our wallets.  We need to embrace a bigger vision for what God wants us to become.  Becoming like Jesus.

In the process of doing this:

  • Regular: done as and when money comes in – weekly, monthly or other.
  • Reviewed: with direct debit etc. it is easy to forget to update the giving.
  • Proportional: came from a church in Northern Ireland where the giving was published – we do compare ourselves either in said or unsaid ways – maybe that church was more honest putting it in a written form – thought not the right way.  We are invited to go deeper with God and not worry about other people.  It is proportional to what has God given you.
  • Excessive: we need to be radically generous, be planned and strategic, but be spontaneous – write a cheque and think ouch later.  Showing God’s wild and reckless love.

Our giving individually and corporately we are saying something about the kingdom of God in our lives and what we make possible for the kingdom of God.

Need to know what Diocesan Synod thinks about giving and how that will affect the future of the Parish Share.  Completing a questionnaire, with discussion, and individuals sharing their own thoughts, and what most closely reflects their views.  Often don’t really agree with any position so tick which one most closely reflects.