Category: meeting report

Ray Gingerich’s visit: violent God and pacifist Jesus?

 Over the weekend, me and Nicole went to three meetings where Mennonite scholar Ray Gingerich was speaking. His most interesting and challenging talk for me was the Sunday night one at Scripture Union House, Mt Hawthorn. It was a fundraiser for the Pine Gap 6, who are facing jail for doing a ‘Citizens’ Inspection’ of the Pine Gap (US) military facility in Australia.

 His theme was ‘A violent God and a pacifist Jesus?’. Ray likes to ask a lot of questions and provoke his listeners into thinking. He has a curious mind which tends to go off on tangents he finds interesting.

His basic argument was that if Christ is the fullest revelation of God and he is pacifist, then God is pacifist too. Where the Bible suggests a violent God, we defer to our fuller understanding of God through Christ.

Ray was asked, ‘What about when the Old Testament reports God asking the Israelites to slaughter an entire town? Does that mean the writer had it wrong?’ His answer to this was round-about and a long time coming, but when it did come, it affected me a lot.

Ray referred to Yoder’s posthumous work The Jewish-Christian Schism revisited (which I haven’t read yet). In it (apparently) Yoder talks about how Jesus was in a certain stream of Judaism, one particularly influenced by the post-exilic prophets. It was these books of the OT that were at the centre of Jesus’ Bible. Add to that the fact that the canon was not yet nearly as stable as it is today for the Old Testament.

Ray’s answer presupposes that there is contradiction within the Old Testament and between it and the New Testament. These streams can’t all be right (‘a square circle’) – so we’d better decide which streams are life-giving and fit into the fullest revelation we have of God in Jesus.

 I felt simultaneously suspicious and excited at this idea. It needs a lot more talking about.

PAF disbands

On Sunday 1 April we met for the last time as a church.

Over the last few months, it has become clearer that God is leading us in different directions. The Prangnells are leaving for Indonesia where Dave has a job. The Hobbys have moved to Nedlands where they want to plant a church. The Schillings want to ‘relocalise’ in their church life. Others are unsure of what’s next, but for Megan, Tim and Don, it was time to strike out in a different direction.

We invited people who have been a part of the group over the last six years to come and join us for this final meeting. And many of them came! We had twenty people in the meeting, and it felt so good to all be together again for one last time.

Each person shared what PAF has meant to them and what they see ahead for themselves. We then laid hands on them and prayed, commissioning them for what is to come next.

It was a sad time for me and Nicole. I’ve got all the usual questions – ‘does this mean we’ve failed’? ‘What could I have done differently?’ – and some answers to these questions. I think as a church we had reached a point of stagnation. The fact we came together from all over Perth meant we didn’t have the body life we believed in.

The Anabaptist connection remains, and we hope to have Perth Anabaptist network meetings. I will keep this blog going as a news relating to Anabaptism and house church in Perth.

Sunday 18th February 2007 – Does God still speak from pillars of cloud?

There were twelve of us meeting together yesterday morning. The readings focused around the transfiguration of Jesus, and Moses’ veiled face as he came down from the mountain.

Tim asked the prophetic question that struck at the heart of what I’ve been thinking of for the last two weeks – ‘Do we believe that God still speaks out of pillars of cloud? Or was that just for the Israelites?’

In answer to this, I told how I am being challenged to start seeing God at work in the world. My instinct is to find God in the Bible, in books, in theology, in conversations, in ideas. But I am reading Wolfgang Simson’s work during the last fortnight and am completely challenged by the way he looks to things going on right now, to prophetic words being spoken by people and finds God at work in them.

Simson says at one point “God is offending our minds in order to reveal our hearts.” I guess I’m in need offence.

Simson pushes far further than I am comfortable, even finding God’s judgement in natural disasters, whereas my response is to always go back to what Jesus says some place in Luke, when he asks if the people who were killed by a falling tower were any worse than anyone else.

I don’t have answers right now, but God has touched a nerve. I know I need to see him at work in little things, everyday. (‘I just don’t want to end up like a crazy pentecostal or something…’)

The practical effect so far?
– I was walking home from the bus the other day and realised with joy that God was in charge of the wind, was involved in the grass growing and the roses in the park near my house.
– I’ve been praying more, and praying for little things I didn’t use to bother God with.

After I told this, Brad shared that he is being challenged in a similar way, that he’s stopped seeing coincidences as God’s work – but he wants to recover a sense of God at work.

Meeting report : 10 December 2006

We met at Don and Marianne’s house in Maddington this week.

The main discussion was about the possiblility of helping Bessie, the director of Oikos ministries to come over to the Anabaptist Conference in January. I felt it would be important to have her there, as she can encourage people who are interested in beginning house churches – the best way, we are convinced, to have a chance to ‘live Anabaptism’ (the theme of the conference). I wasn’t sure how everyone felt about this idea, but when it was time to write down pledges toward the cost, we quickly had nearly enough to cover the airfare, and so this showed real enthusiasm!

A lot of house churches, I have heard, avoid money altogether. Yet we have been glad to have the opportunity to take up a weekly offering and help people with it. When we’re just spending our money as individuals, we lose the corporate nature of the decisions and have less accountability. To know that together we can enable ministries makes us feel like we’re doing something as a church. We’ve kept it simple, though – we take up an offering and then instantly give it away to the things we’ve decided it should be used for. No bank accounts and no bureacracy that way.

Meeting report : 3 December 2006

We met at Tim’s house in Huntingdale, and were lucky enough to have three visitors – a German couple, Daniel and Katerine, and Kristo Newall. One of the things that came out of the discussion was a desire to improve our prayer life.

In the top photo are Brad, Katerine and Daniel. In the bottom phot are Ian, Nathan and Kristo. Thanks to Marcia for the photos.

Katerine and Daniel are travelling around Australia and are hoping to find models of being church and living in Christian community to take back to their ministry to youth in Stuttgart.

Kristo is a Christian activist looking for a church.