Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Transgender - how should we respond?

I wonder what your reaction is when you hear the word 'transgender'? I know that for some the feeling that your biological sex doesn't align with your internal sense of gender identity will be something you personally identify with. Others may be living alongside children, other family members, friends or work colleagues for whom this is an issue. Still others may be involved in the worlds of education or health care where you are having to teach or give medical advice 
around transgender identity issues. Some of us will have very strong views, others will have no idea what to think. Given this range of reactions how should we as followers of Christ to engage with the conversation around transgender, or should we even engage with it at all?

My observation is that when we face issues like transgender (along with others like climate change, homosexuality or racism) there are three different ways Christians tend to respond:

  • Cocoon - the first response is to fail to engage with the issue at all, hoping that if we keep our heads down nobody will notice that we are absent from the conversation. This is understandable, given both the complexity of this issue and the heat it generates (just take a look at the criticism of JK Rowling when she challenged the current orthodoxy on certain transgender issues). However, cocooning leaves us looking like we and the Bible have nothing to say, and that Jesus is not good news for transgender people.  None of these are true - we have things to say and do which will make a positive difference in our world if we get them right. 
  • Confront - the second response is to act as culture warriors, becoming vocal and often belligerent advocates of a particular viewpoint without any real compassion for the people who are involved and without any real desire to engage with people who think differently to us. You will find these sorts of people all over YouTube and Twitter, often delighting in making those on the other side of the argument look ignorant or stupid. This may be a good way of gaining social media followers but it does little to help us be Christ to those for whom this is an issue. This isn't to say that there won't be times when we do need to confront, but the way we do this and the outcome we hope to achieve will look very different to the approach of the culture warriors. 
  • Conform - the third response is to simply conform to society, to go with whatever seems to be the prevailing view and take whichever approach is going to cause the minimum conflict or controversy. This may be done with a heart to be relevant, to be loving, or simply to have an easy life, but if conforming means that we miss out on declaring God's heart in either our words or our deeds then it is a mistake.
There may be times when it will be appropriate to cocoon, confront or conform, but if any of these becomes our primary response then we have almost certainly got it wrong. So how should we respond? I want to suggest three alternatives to the ones I have already mentioned, encouraging us to embrace all three. These are:
  • Be Kind - if you get into a conversation with someone around the issue of transgender then please be kind. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood; be a good listener; don't make assumptions; be gentle; don't feel like you have to have all the answers; set out to love the person you are speaking to. Remember that it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance. God is kind and we need to reflect that kindness to others. 
  • Be Knowledgeable - the whole world of transgender can seem incredibly confusing but we need to be people who are well informed and thought through. Informed as to the felt experiences of people who are transgender. Informed as to what the Bible has to say about how we think Biblically about gender. Informed as to what science has to teach us. As a first step I want to encourage all of us to read Preston Sprinkle's book Embodied which is the most helpful resource I have found in this area. I would really appreciate hearing the reflections of those who have read it. It would be great in September if someone started a small group to do a group discussion of Preston's book. Please share any other useful resources you come across. 
  • Be Courageous - Once we are equipped with both kindness and knowledge we are in a position to tentatively seek to help others. Kindness without knowledge can make us nice but ultimately unhelpful or even dangerous. Knowledge without kindness can make us right but hard and judgemental. Kindness and knowledge can make us look a lot like Jesus. Once we have these two things we then need courage. Courage to challenge wrong thinking in both the church and the world. Courage to speak up for those who may feel they don't have a voice. Courage to follow promptings of the Holy Spirit. Courage to be willing to be unpopular or misunderstood. Courage to admit where we've got things wrong or don't have all the answers. 
So let's show up well church. Let's not cocoon, confront or conform as our primary response, but let us be Jesus to our world by being courageous channels of grace and truth. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Gift Days - Investing in People

On Sunday 25th July and 1st August we are having online gift days across all of our sites to help fund the redevelopment of our buildings in Windsor and Farnborough. The aim of this blog is to encourage you to be thinking and praying about what to give to each of the funds. 

We are looking to raise £350,000 for stage one of the redevelopment of the Farnborough building. This will be enough to get the building ready for us to meet in on a Sunday and midweek. In Windsor we are looking to raise £100,000 to allow us to install heating in the building, fit smart TVs in the children's rooms and remodel the entrance which currently feels more like a maze than a welcoming way into the building! We will publish a detailed breakdown of the costs for each building in the next few days.

As I encourage you to give I want to remind you that our vision is not for buildings, our vision is for lives being changed. For people across all of our sites to encounter Jesus through our declaration of the gospel and our practical demonstrations of the love of Jesus. And then having encountered Jesus for all of us to grow as his followers. A community growing to be more like Jesus, and learning what it means to be Jesus to our friends, neighbours and workmates. Buildings are simply a tool to help us achieve that vision for lives being changed. People are God's treasure, and by giving to help create the spaces where lives are changes we are investing our money in something which will have an eternal return.  

The amazing news is that even before we have these first gift days people have already given over £110,000 for the Farnborough redevelopment and over £35,000 for Windsor. I never cease to be amazed by the generosity of our community - thank you so much to everyone who has invested already. That means we are left looking at raising another £240,000 for Farnborough and another £65,000 for Windsor. 

We are also going to give away a tithe (10%) of whatever comes in for both funds. Half of the Farnborough tithe will be allocated through Heather our Farnborough site pastor to projects local to Farnborough. Similarly half of the Windsor tithe will be allocated through Leon in Windsor. The other half of both tithes will be available for allocation by Pelumi and Ben as the Bracknell and West Wight site pastors. As we do with all tithe funds any suggestions for giving will first go to our trustees for approval. If you have any thoughts on where money could go please contact your site pastor.  

So here are some thoughts based on how you might give depending on which Kerith site you call home:

Farnborough and Windsor - you are those who will directly see the impact of your giving. Not only will you see the buildings you meet in being transformed (which is always exciting) but more importantly you will get to meet at least some of the people whose lives are being changed in them. Please give generously to your sites fund (you can of course also give to the other sites fund too!). 

Bracknell - If you were part of our Bracknell site when the Kerith Centre and K2 were being built you already know the difference that investing in buildings can make to the lives of people. You have watched children, young people and adults gather together, receive physical food and spiritual food, do Alpha, find friends, find Christ, have powerful encounters with God, get baptised, break free from addictions, get physically and emotionally healed, celebrate births and weddings, mourn the loss of loved ones, make life changing decisions and much more in the buildings that you helped to pay for. This is an opportunity for you again to invest again and 'lay down treasure in heaven' by investing in lives being changed.  And for those of you who have joined since the buildings were completed then you are currently benefitting from the sacrificial giving of others. This is your opportunity to sow into God's kingdom as the generations before you have already done in Bracknell. 

West Wight - I suspect many on the island will be wondering why you are being encouraged to give to fund buildings on the mainland when Kerith West Wight doesn't yet have a permanent home. That's a good question! I could give many answers but the one I want to focus on is the biblical principle that you reap what you sow. This is a moment when our focus is on Farnborough and Windsor, but there will come a day when the focus will be on West Wight. I can't say when it will be, but our heart for all of our sites has always been that in time they would have a permanent home to do ministry from. The day will come that God leads us to a building or buildings on the island, and on that day the finances will flow from our other sites to you and you will reap many times over what you have sown. 

Online - There are a growing number of you who call Kerith home but who aren't near to one of our physical sites. We love having you as part of our community, joining us online on a Sunday and connecting with zoom based small groups. As part of our online community I want to encourage you too to have a Kingdom mentality and to be willing to invest in one of our physical sites. 

So please be thinking and praying about what to give. I do want to encourage all of us to think about what it might look like for us to give sacrificially. For some giving £10 would be sacrificial, for others it might mean giving £10,000. It isn't about the amount but the heart behind it and how that giving will impact us.  Perhaps add a zero (or two) to the figure you first think of! Sacrificial giving is part of our history as a community and needs to be part of our future as we look to see lives changed. 

You can give to the Farnborough fund here and the Windsor fund here. For both funds you can give a one off gift, pledge to give a regular amount, or do both. Thank you so much.

Finally a reminder that God loves a cheerful giver! I don't want anyone to feel under pressure over this. I know some of you would love to give but because of circumstances you aren't able to. Others may be inspired to invest in other ways into the Kingdom. Whatever we do let us resolve to live lives of generosity in response to God's overwhelming generosity to us in giving us his Son.