Thursday, 13 November 2014

Would you let Ched Evans back on your team?

This week the news has highlighted Ched Evans will train with his former club, Sheffield United, following his serving of a prison sentence.
I listened carefully to the BBC Radio 5 live interview with Nigel Clough last evening. I didn't need to be overly discerning to hear his carefully crafted answers, which were governed by an awareness of the legalities and potential action against Sheffield United.
Ironically, I was en route to meet with the governing body of the Bristol Churches Football League and I began to wonder how we'd feel about such a situation - basically it boils down to would we let Ched Evans back on our team? Would I? As a Christian the answer to that question really needs to be a response to a bigger one ....'what would Jesus say'?
I've followed the story to the extent I've pricked up my ears whenever I've heard a report ... football, justice, re-habilitation for people convicted of crime are all things my antennae home in one, so put them together and I'm all ears. However, I was horrified to discover what comes up page 1 when you google 'Ched Evans'. Sadly, it reflects the tide of public opinion I'd been aware of, but not appreciated the shallowness and hypocrisy, until today.
So why would I accept Ched Evans back on my team?

I believe he has served the penalty for what he was convicted of. Otherwise, how can I argue elsewhere with a potential employee to offer a job to anyone previously convicted? For me, there's something about upholding our legal system and not trying to replace it.

I believe he should be offered his request for 'a second chance'. For me, there's something intrinsic to the gospel, which always responds to such a request.

I believe in rehabilitation. No way is this going to be an easy walk back into professional football. The easy route would be to slink away into obscurity. I want to work with anyone who is brave enough to stand up and be counted - there will be no third chance, can you imagine the headlines? For me, there's something about the need for a holistic response.

I believe in the need to highlight the horrors of gender based violence. I'm a big supporter of the new BMS project Dignity - refusing Ched Evans being on my team would not support this. For me, there's something about my integrity here.

I believe he is telling the truth when he claims his innocence of rape and someone needs to be prepared to believe in him. For me, there's a need to call the bluff of those who are pulling away from their previous so-called 'support' of Sheffield United. It's very sad when people take a look at the mud, which is being thrown and decide on the basis of not wanting their name, or product, to be associated in the same news item. For me, there's something about welcoming the outcast. Remember he was in the team.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Survival is not enough ....

I've been on holiday, reading Ezra and Nehemiah and facing the reality survival is not enough ...

Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:2 NIVUK)

Some survived, but ....

They said to me, Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.(Nehemiah 1:3 NIVUK)

cf story of Ezra too:

Now honour the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.(Ezra 10:11 NIVUK)

NB this is where Ezra's recorded episode ends not where it begins.

Who can blame either group of people for thinking 'we just need to get through this', whether they be exiled in the strange land of Babylon, or the no longer the comfort zone home-land of Israel?
Certainly not Baptists who seem to have adopted a survival mentality. 
I'm hearing the same messages in different ways all over the place.
'We have enough money to keep going at this rate of deficit for the next X years .....'
'Our numbers have kept up more, or less (that last word is always worth further investigation) the same for the previous two Ministers.'
'We're looking for a sustainable future, so we won't be reliant on the giving to sustain our Ministry.' (usually equates to a full-time stipendary Minister).

My fear is, in too many places, we're settling for survival. 'Survival as and for what'? We could move to a financially sustainable model as a national (Baptist, but probably not exclusively so) resource with our present resources, in my opinion, which is not at all dependent on whether we maintain, or increase the number of churches, or not. We could continue down our trajectory to become a Union of Ministers, more than churches. We could maintain the number of academic learning institutions, which carry the Baptist name, whether we have any ordinands for Baptist Ministry, or not. We could maintain the organisation of a number of Baptist Associations, whether we maintain, or increase the number of churches, or not. Many churches will continue for a good number of years from now, whether anyone is added new into the kingdom, or not. 

If we started with 'why', when did we forget to keep asking the question?