Category Archives: Church

Chief Justice ahead of the times…

Instead of being behind the times, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, is a few steps ahead. Calling for a calm debate on religion and law is revolutionary. From the furore he’s caused, it seems South Africa may not be ready for it.

Exercising his constitutional right to freedom of opinion, Mogoeng recommended that religions should influence the lawmaking process. For example, he reasoned, if laws discouraged adultery, there would be less murders flowing from adultery. Mogoeng also suggested that religion has a role to play in restraining lawlessness. Religions develop social systems and habits that could help eradicate fraud and corruption.

Nor about your religion...

Nor about your religion…

Mogoeng made it clear that he was simply raising these issues. He is in no position to change laws. On the contrary, he is bound, as a Christian, to fulfill his role as Chief Justice and to act in accordance with the constitution. In the past, where the constitution has not agreed with his religious views, he has upheld the constitution.

At the same time, Mogoeng is bound as a Christian to influence society for good. And this is what he wants to debate. He wants all religions to influence the lawmaking process so that good can be promoted in our land. Although religions differ, in the area of moral and social good they often agree. Laws that promote family, or that alleviate poverty are consistent with most religions. So Mogoeng’s call is not exclusive.
Also, the majority of South Africans do claim a religion, so why should they be governed by laws which have not been influenced by religion? This is equivalent to telling people to believe their religion in their homes, but not in the public square. A humanist would want to influence the laws that govern him, why should a religious person not be allowed to want this also? Is that not oppression of religion?

South Africa is a secular state. Some assume this to mean there’s no place for religion, but this is not true. A secular state is neutral in matters of religion, and treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion. So, if the constitution allows us the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion, then why should we not have the right to voice our opinions, based on our religions, about the laws that govern us?
Just because laws have been informed by religion, doesn’t mean laws will be discriminatory. Mogoeng spends half of his speech assuring his listeners of this, at one point saying, “Truly the ‘hallmark of an open and democratic society is its capacity to accommodate and manage differences of intensely-held world views and life styles in a reasonable and fair manner’.”

It could be argued that because of Mogoeng’s influential position he should have kept quiet about his faith. Just letting people know that he is a Christian will make them suspicious of his judgements. This is a fair comment. In fact, his keynote speech at the Conference on Religion and Law is overloaded with Biblical quotes. Enough to make any person of another religion, or non-religion, nervous. But this still doesn’t ruin his main point. Mogoeng believes religion can influence law for the common good in a pluralistic society. Should we dismiss him with some name calling? Or can we, in the true spirit of the constitution and our secular society, enter into some calm


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Power and duty.

“To govern is to serve, not to rule. There is nothing dangerous in a man’s having as much power as he likes, if he takes the view that he has power to do only what it is his duty to do.” -Seneca

The image is of Michelangelo’s Pieta in St.Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

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Love is Patient, Love is Kind.

We introduced this Sovereign Grace song in church a few months ago. Our children have memorized it, because it’s a catchy tune, and it’s been a great teacher in our home. When Anna is shrieking at Joah we remind her that Love is Patient; when Joah steals Anna’s fluffy toy we remind him that Love is Kind; when Lael rolls her eyes at both of them we remind her that Love Gives and Gives; and when we start breaking into cold sweats we remember that We Need a Saviour.

Love is patient, love is kind
Everywhere and every time
It gives its place in line
To serve another
But my heart it struggles so
I need Your grace to grow
Lord, help me give and show
This love to others
Jesus, set me free to love unselfishly

Because You first loved me
I can love You
With all my heart
Because You first loved me
I’ll love others too
The way You do
I’ll love them too

When I love, it looks like this:
It always gives and gives
To God and then it lives
To help my neighbor
That’s a love I haven’t got
It’s me I love a lot
Stuck here I’m tied in knots
I need a Savior
Jesus, set me free to love You more than me

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He makes it manly to worship Jesus.

Mark Driscoll is in town and Sarah has an article on him in The Weekend Witness. You can read it here.

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Churchy jargon, pudding and pie.

In our church meetings we try hard to either not use, or to carefully explain, our Christian jargon – for two reasons. Firstly, we want people who have no church background to come into our church and to understand what is being said. The good news of Jesus is  also for people who don’t know what ‘sin’ and ‘saved’ means. Secondly, we don’t want Christians to forget what they actually believe because it’s buried under a pile of  over-used and under-explained terminology. We want to remember that sin is more than naughtiness and that being saved is more than going to heaven.


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A Good Story

“Once there was a mechanic, an engineer and a philosopher. And one day, they decided to start a church.”

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s actually the end of a good story. In 2006 Deane, a philosopher, Sam, a mechanic and Pierre, an engineer, started, along with their families, Church on the Ridge. Their personalities were as different as their professions, and in many ways they looked like an odd fit. But they were united by a common desire to bring God’s good news to people who thought it was bad news.

This last Sunday, after four rich years of working together, we said goodbye to Deane and Polly Baker and their lovely children. Deane has taken up a position as an Ethics lecturer, with the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He sees it as a great opportunity to influence the future leaders, of the world’s only superpower.

For us as a church it felt like we were saying goodbye to physical family. But we found comfort in two things. First, that the church congregation felt the tragedy of losing the Bakers. This means that the relationships amongst us are deep. Deane, even explained that the people of COR had turned him from an academic recluse into a kind of people person. But second, that the congregation did not feel despair at their leaving. The Bakers are a greatly gifted family and it could seem impossible to function without them. But we know that this is God’s church and He will give us who we need to do His work.

What a comfort.

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Last night in Liverpool.

It was cold, wet and bleak outside, but in a parish hall in Aigburth, 50 people had gathered to hear about and pray for Church on the Ridge. That made us warm.

Steve Palframan, the leader of Aigburth Community Church interviewed us on how we had become Christians, the political situation in South Africa and church-planting in Pietermaritzburg. Then we discussed how Church on the Ridge (COR) could partner with Aigburth Community Church (ACC) and Christ Church Liverpool (CCL). Sam explained that it was customary in Africa that when a church-planter visited, you gave him a parting gift of any Apple product – iPhones, iMacs, Macbooks – any one would do.

Three comments in the course of the evening really stood out to us. Firstly, Steve said that he had seen a few missionaries working independantly in countries, getting disheartened and then returning to the UK in despair. He was encouraged that they could send people from the UK to serve alongside us at COR and know that they would not just be effective, but also be cared for in a gospel community. It makes sense to do missions work this way.

Secondly, Andrew Evans, the leader of CCL, thanked God that even though our three churches might differ in many ways, and might even disappoint each other in small ways, we are still united by the desire to see God’s gospel spread. It was very encouraging to be with people who were willing to partner with us, even though we may not be able to tick all of their boxes.

Thirdly, someone asked about the violent crime in South Africa and why we didn’t emigrate to Liverpool? We didn’t want to point out, again, that it was cold and rainy outside, so we told the truth. Our church family, our biological family, the rich mix of cultures and people’s willingness to speak about God, make South Africa the best place to live on earth.

It was good to remember that.

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