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Too Good Looking to be Missionaries? February 12, 2017

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In the 1990’s a female colleague in Wycliffe explained how she was often treated as an honorary man by people from a culture where people didn’t know quite how to deal with her being in a traditionally male role and acting ‘as if’ she was equal.

She was referring to her work on a different continent, but sadly at times she could have easily been referring to how the church in her home culture treats women.


Wycliffe USA has a whole section aimed at women https://www.wycliffe.org/women

The rest of the site is aimed at everyone regardless of gender and there is no section labeled https://www.wycliffe.org/men


Unlikely Heroes in Bible Translation

Recently I read that when Florence Hansen and Eunice Pike declared they wanted to work as Bible translators in Mexico in the 1930’s some were hesitant. Objections centered on the danger of sending single women into a potentially dangerous situation and even the suggestion that they were “too good looking to be [missionaries]”.

It’s not clear how their looks would have been a disadvantage – perhaps increased fear of attack, or simply that they’d either distract some of the men, or themselves get distracted by getting married before they’d translated the New Testament.

It’s not an objection to women in ministry that seems to be raised as much today, but even among those whose theology doesn’t bar women from certain roles there is still often a sense in which women can participate as long as they can do so as if they were ‘honorary men’.

Back in the 1930’s Florence and Eunice lead the way for other women to enter the field of Bible translation.

By 1940, there was no mention of gender in any publicity material and by 1944 two thirds of Wycliffe members were women.

Elsewhere in mission circles and in the wider culture of many countries  things were also changing but greater prominence also resulted in greater opposition in some circles.

I’m currently undertaking an MA in Contemporary Missiology and for an essay looking at missiological documents from the Lausanne Movement I chose to explore the development of the role of women.

The first Lausanne Congress took place in 1974, organized by Billy Graham and Britain’s John Stott. It was foundational for many agreements and initiatives and the start of greater collaboration between mission agencies.

The Cape Town Commitment of 2010 affirms that men and women are “equal in creation, in sin, in salvation, and in the Spirit,” but also concedes that there are still “different views sincerely held”, with respect to roles in the church. (Capetown Comitment section IIF.3)

Often those views are polarized into egalitarian and complementarian, the former stressing equality, the second stressing difference including difference in roles. Debate includes the level to which gender differences are post fall or part of God’s original design. Both sides agree sin compounds injustice, power, oppression, violence and abuse.

Some fear that this is a battle between traditional interpretation of the Bible and a changing culture without always recognizing that their ‘traditional interpretation’ was influenced by their culture.

My own essay is available on request (and I’ll put it online when I’ve made a few more edits) but I’m pleased to see that Redcliffe is now offering an entire module in Gender and Mission this Summer. I’d like to think that would be an equal mix of men and women taking the course but somehow I doubt it.

We are not enemies, we are all Americans January 29, 2017

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I am an American (in a wider sense),


a European (even post Brexit),


and a human.



BBC Jan 28th 2017

Trump has united a lot of people against him, and against those in his country that support him.

I’m grateful to @antoniospadaro for retweeting @schwazenegger where Arnie (the former Governator) quotes Abe (the former President)

I’m not a US citizen. I’m not a fan of Trump. I’m not a fan of the UK PM’s initial failure to speak out against Trump’s ban.

…but I’m not an enemy.

The world is a complex place and there are few simple answers.

…even in scripture.

33When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

Within a few verses of Leviticus 19:34. is Leviticus 19:20-22 suggesting the sacrifice needed to atone for a man sleeping with a slave promised to someone else

and Leviticus 19:27 warning against trimming the sides of your beard. Perhaps this is why we’re mostly happy to quote quote v35-36 but sometime a little cautious of pointing to the whole passage.

35Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.

37Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.

Levititicus 19:35-37

Christians, like many others, can be guilty of choosing the facts and quotes that support what we already believe, and surrounding ourselves with people who think the same. (see Ladder of Inference)

We often need to read deeper and  wider and listen longer to those with different perspectives.

(The need to help and love refugees and other neighbours is not confined to a few verses)

Sometimes we agree to differ.

Sometimes we need to air our differences in order to find where we can agree


I started this blog on Jan 28th and was pleased to wakes to new headlines  on Jan 29th

and to understand where we have misunderstood, or where we need to rethink our position.

That there are lots of countries in the world (and we don’t all agree how many), and about 7000 languages (and they are very hard to count) is testimony to the fact that we don’t all agree. But, also that we can come together in a variety of uneasy alliances.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations are all pretty diverse and full of people disagreeing while trying to live together.

Given  all our different languages, different locations, different cultures, histories, hurts, hopes, experiences, expectations,personalities, and personal problems, it is amazing we ever agree on anything.

Amongst the many things said in the Bible are statements that say

“all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 3:23 (click for wider context) (NIV)

and that say,

For God so loved all the world…

that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16 (and more) (NIV)

We are not all friends, but we are called to be family.

There are evils to be conquered

Battle Against Evil

10 Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. 11Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. 12For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 13Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

…but the real evil is not refugees, not those that fear them.

and the real hope is not in barriers and walls, but in Christ.



Zuckerberg – not the only atheist story January 9, 2017

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Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration that he is no longer an atheist had me wondering what other ex-athiest stories might be breaking at the start of 2017.

I was interested to spot the Hindustan times running an article on the growth of Christianity, predicting “Atheist China could have largest number of Christians in the world by 2030“.

Meanwhile the Big Think suggested Norwich as the most Godless city in Britain and pointed to biopsychologist Nigel Barber’s belief that most countries will pass the “Atheist threshold” by 2038 stating “cities tend to be more prosperous, and as such their inhabitants will feel less need for religion”.

Personally I suspect that there will continue to be a significant number of urban poor feeling a need for supernatural intervention, and that there will also continue to be those with higher levels of wealth and access to education and resources who feel that material prosperity is still not enough to satisfy all life’s longings.

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the first to discover that wealth offers some pleasant distractions, but that answers need to be looked for in something more. Here are some words from the book of Ecclesiasties:

Riches are meaningless

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
    whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
    This too is meaningless.

11 As goods increase,
    so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
    except to feast their eyes on them?

Ecclesiastes 5:8-11New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Ecclesiastes was a book I found helpful during my first read through of the Bible (now many years ago). It is a book full of questions and searching from a rich ruler who constantly declares his human attempts at meaning as meaningless.

Atheism has often been the response of people who reject overly simplistic ‘religious’ answers, or heavy handed religious indoctrination, but as it has gained popularity it has often been adopted unthinkingly by people who assume religion has been debunked and replaced by science, economics or something more fun.

Atheism is not over yet but neither is Christianity or the other world’s religions. Rich and poor will continue to search for help and meaning.

Zuckerberg – No longer an Atheist January 4, 2017

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In a reply to his Christmas message Mark Zuckerberg declared that he is no longer an atheist and that “religion is very important”.


I sometimes describe myself as a “lapsed atheist” and recently unpacked an old school book in which at the age of 13 I declared that I didn’t see much point in RE (Religious Education) unless I was going to become an RE teacher or a vicar.

I was surprised that the first page in my RE book had something on Bible translation and I’d written about how the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea had been waiting 100 years for a Bible in their own language. I would have been given an English New Testament by the Gideon’s at about that point but I didn’t try very hard at reading it.

Like Zuckerberg I “went through a period when I questioned things” but at 13 I just assumed most of the good questions about religion had been answered and that it was just a bunch of stories told by old people to children to get them to behave. I didn’t question my atheism until later. I still think questioning things is important. In fact if religion is very important it’s even very important to keep asking questions about what you believe and why – it’s one way you continue to grow.

athiest-who-p2e-really-smallThese days you can still get books to help explore questions about Christianity but there are also a few to help raise questions about the stranger idea that there is no God. (Here’s a link to read the opening chapter of The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist)

thedaydeathdiedWhen I was finally ready to explore Christianity properly at the age of 20 a friend gave me a copy of Michael Green’s “The Day Death Died” exploring the interesting question of whether Jesus actually came back from the dead and what that might mean. I believe it’s out of print now but there are still copies on ebay or lurking in church libraries.

Many newspapers are asking questions about Zuckerberg’s change of heart. Such as which religion he’s actually following or whether it’s a political move with plans to run for office at some point following his planned tour of every US state in 2017.

Journalist Sarah Graham-Cooke of the Independent used the story to explore her own rethink of atheism.

I’m sure there will be a few more new stories on Mr Zuckerberg and a few more people rejecting atheism in the coming coming year. Religion is very important – know which one you believe in and why. They are definitely not all the same.

The Virtue of Reality December 31, 2016

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I bought my first virtual reality headset in 2016. It was second hand and only £3 which already says something about the technology.


Jesus VR reviewed in the Guardian 2016

I decided that by the end of the year they’d be on sale in the Pound shops and Dollar stores of the world, and they are. The first VR Jesus movie also made it to a number of headsets in time for Christmas with mixed reviews following the release of a preview at the Venice Film Festival. I’ve not seen it but I’m sure it will have an impact.

2016 was also the year I ‘attended’ a friend’s wedding in India via facebook live and sat in on a couple of church services in Africa and the USA via Periscope. Not quite as good as really being there but better than not being there.

2016 was the year both YouVersion and Faith Comes By Hearing made scripture available online in over 1000 languages. I’m wondering whether 2017 or 2018 will be the year that church services are live streamed in over 1000 languages (I’m not aware of anyone collecting data on that yet).

Such technology offer tremendous opportunity for people who cannot  easily attend services in their own language in other ways.

As the year closes we’ve just spent a couple of weeks bridging two of our own realities – leaving our home in England to visit, pack up and sell our home in Canada.


VR is good but sometimes reality is better

Our last Christmas in Canada was 2010 but it really did feel like we’d stepped back into that life. Reconnecting with friends, shoveling snow and enjoying the pleasures of A&W Burgers, Tim Horton’s, and of course the home cooking of our friends.

There’s a lot to appreciate in Canada and it’s easier to appreciate by being there. As well as some sledging and ice skating our son also got to reconnect live with some friends he last saw briefly in 2013. Having arrived back he’s already connected again with two of them via skype, google hangouts and a couple of online games.

We’re hoping the technology helps them stay in touch and looking forward to how future tech improves that connection until they  can meet face to face again.

Jesus: What to expect December 5, 2016

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whattoexpect This Sunday I’ve been invited to speak on the subject of Jesus’ humanity. (someone else covered the subject of his divinity).

So how human was Jesus?

The answer isn’t difficult. In my culture people don’t have trouble believing Jesus was fully human. It’s the bit about him also being fully God  that people outside the church struggle with.

But what does Jesus being fully human mean and why does it matter?

It’s a good question for Advent so I’ll let you wait for a few of my thoughts on that.

As part of my presentation I’ll be asking people to simply reflect on some of the milestones in a child’s life and to discuss what the first year of Jesus life might have been like. After all the events surrounding his birth I wonder what Mary and Joseph were expecting? How ‘normal’ did they think their child would be? How much like their own childhoods did they think his would be?

Later writers came up with some ‘interesting’ stories based on their ideas of what a child who was God must have been like, and there was a recent movie, ‘Young Messiah‘ that weaved some some of those in along with some fresh imagination.


It’s not a film I’ve seen and I’m sure it gets quite a few things wrong. But the trailer helps raise some good question.

The truth is we don’t know a lot about what it was like growing up for Jesus or for his parents. Born under an oppressive regime, in a temporary shelter, Jesus was fairly soon a refugee carried by his parents to a foreign land.

Sadly too many people this year know what that can be like.




Create your own Theresa May advent Calendar December 1, 2016

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It’s the first of December (or was when I wrote this) and news has recently broken that British Christians should not be afraid to talk about their faith (at least “in the same way you might talk about sport, hobbies and family life”).

I won’t comment on the politics of this and obviously different parts of the British press are reporting this in slightly different ways. Less obviously I haven’t read them all but, if you like, you can use these links to create your own advent calendar and read one a day.

I’ve not found 24 mentions of the story yet so perhaps on the other days you could simply talk to people, or read about and perhaps pray for Christians in other countries where persecution is a little more intense. There’s lots of information on OpenDoorsUK.org (which would be a good web address for an advent calendar but is actually about praying for the persecuted church.)

Links below from Google News search for Christians Therasa May on Dec 1, 2016


Christians should not fear speaking about their faith at work and in public places, Theresa May says

Telegraph.co.uk – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Christians should not be afraid of of speaking “freely” about their faith at work and in public places, Theresa May has said. The Prime Minister said people should be able to celebrate Christmas as she endorsed a report which said that Christianity

Theresa May says Christians must feel free to celebrate their beliefs without fear

Daily Mail – ‎21 hours ago‎
Christians must have the right to discuss their beliefs and celebrate Christmas without fear, Theresa May declared yesterday. The Prime Minister, a vicar’s daughter and regular churchgoer, told MPs that Britain should be proud of its Christian heritage.

Speak about your faith freely, Prime Minister assures Christians

Church Times – ‎7 hours ago‎
THE Prime Minister has welcomed a report that seeks to encourage Christians to share their faith and invokes Charles Spurgeon’s adage that a Christian is “either a missionary or an imposter”. Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Theresa …

Christians Too Scared to Talk about Faith in Public, Says Bishop

Breitbart News – ‎4 hours ago‎
Christians are increasingly fearful to speak out about their faith in public due to the rise of an “intolerant liberalism” in the UK, a bishop has said. Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, said Christians feel “picked on” by some secularists who

PM May backs call for Christians’ freedom to talk of faith

Belfast Telegraph – ‎8 hours ago‎
Christians must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear, the Prime Minister has said. Christians must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear, the Prime Minister has said. Her comments come as a report from

Bishop of Leeds: Some Christians too scared to talk about faith in public

Irvine Times – ‎10 hours ago‎
Some Christians feel so “picked on” they are too scared to speak about their faith in public, a bishop has warned. The Right Reverend Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, said some secularists “have a problem” with religion being talked about. And he

Theresa May says Christians must feel free to celebrate their beliefs without fear

Daily Mail – ‎21 hours ago‎
Christians must have the right to discuss their beliefs and celebrate Christmas without fear, Theresa May declared yesterday. The Prime Minister, a vicar’s daughter and regular churchgoer, told MPs that Britain should be proud of its Christian heritage.

Christians should not fear speaking about their faith at work and in public places, Theresa May says

Telegraph.co.uk – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Christians should not be afraid of of speaking “freely” about their faith at work and in public places, Theresa May has said. The Prime Minister said people should be able to celebrate Christmas as she endorsed a report which said that Christianity

Christians are ‘fearful to mention their faith in public’

ITV News – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Christians have become fearful of speaking about their religion in public, an MP has claimed. MP Fiona Bruce gave her comments during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, and highlighted a report from think tank ResPublica that warned religious …

PMQs: Are you afraid to talk about Christmas in your workplace? Please get in touch

The Independent – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
It just gets earlier and earlier every year doesn’t it? Still not even December and already everyone’s talking about being too scared to talk about Christmas. Don’t laugh. This is, as Fiona Bruce MP (Congleton) pointed out at Prime Minister’s Questions

Theresa May ‘welcomes’ Christian report on how to proselytise at work

Left Foot Forward – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Why is the Prime Minister giving a plug to evangelical Christian groups seeking to proselytise in the workplace? A weird exchange at today’s PMQs raises the question. When asked by Fiona Bruce MP – a stalwart lobbyist for Christianity in parliament

Tory MP claims Christians are ‘fearful’ of backlash if they mark Christmas at work

Daily Mail – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Christians are ‘fearful’ about celebrating their faith and marking Christmas at work, a Tory MP claimed today. Fiona Bruce cited a think tank report which warned religious freedom was being eroded in Britain. Theresa May – a vicar’s daughter – told the

Theresa May says Christians must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear of repercussions

The Sun – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
CHRISTIANS must be free to speak about their faith and Christmas without fear of repercussions, the Prime Minister has said. Her comments come as a report from a think tank warns religious freedoms are being eroded after teachers, magistrates and other …

Theresa May: Christians Are Free To Speak About Their Faith

ChristianToday – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Theresa May encouraged Christians “to speak about their faith” at work and in public during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. The PM said the UK should be proud of its Christian heritage and tradition of free speech. May, a Church of England …

Theresa May: we can all be proud of our Christian heritage

Premier – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
The Prime Minister has told MPs “our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of”. Theresa May was responding to a question from the Conservative MP for Congleton and Christian Fiona Bruce, who asked the Prime Minister if she would endorse a …

Tory MP Claims British Christians ‘Fearful’ Of Talking About Faith

Huffington Post UK – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Congleton MP Fiona Bruce told the Commons during prime minister’s question time today: “Many Christians are now worried even fearful about mentioning their faith in public.” Theresa May said people should be able to “speak freely about Christmas” while …


The Christian Institute – ‎Nov 30, 2016‎
Theresa May has said Christians should be able to speak about their faith in the workplace. Responding to a question in Parliament today, the Prime Minister said the UK has a “very strong tradition” of “religious tolerance and freedom of speech”, and

May defends right of Christians to speak up about faith

The Times (subscription) – ‎21 hours ago‎
Christians must feel free to talk openly about their faith and about Christmas without fearing a negative reaction, the prime minister has said. Theresa May said in the Commons that people of faith had the right to speak freely, but also “respectfully

Bible Translation statistics and stories November 28, 2016

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In the 20 years I’ve been with Wycliffe, scripture has been made available in over 1000 languages for the first time ever!

For 20 years I’ve been both looking at the numbers and hearing the stories of the people involved in translation and of those who receive God’s word for the first time.

If you want to take a look at some of the numbers, a guided tour through this info graphic may be helpful.

Wycliffe UK’s latest magazine provides a glimpse into the some of the individual people and projects.
My (Peter’s) role has changed a little over the last 20 years.
In 1996 only a small proportion of Wycliffe supporters were online but it was becoming important to look to the future and build websites and communities to help raise people and funds.

In 2016 not only do most people in the developed world interact via the web in whole new ways on their phones but so do many people in the communities we work with.I recently read of a community of 60,000 people in a “very isolated area of the Northwest Region of Cameroon”.

It took me less than 30 seconds to find a facebook group for this community with 4,400 members.

I don’t know how many of the communities we work with have people online but I think we are now at the stage when more do than don’t.

Jennifer’s contribution has morphed over time too, although always centered around coaching an empowering others in their management and strategic leadership. Currently she is leading the HR thinking around the growth and development of staff, how the organisation can learn, develop and change more effectively and how staff supervisors can better provide guidance and support for their staff.

Working with Wycliffe means that we rely on financial support of churches and individuals (we’re required to raise 110% of of our income). Click here if you would like to donate or find out more.

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