Cordoba Day One

Bus journey from Salta. Let’s not go too closely into that. The one consolation was that there was another small (female) person at the back of the bus making as much noise as our small (male) person was making at the front of it. Pity the poor passengers in the middle who thought they might catch a wink or two of sleep.
Arrived in Cordoba. Our Argentinean-qualitycontrol pushchair had been dying since England, and now it gave up the ghost completely in the bus station, so we couldn’t fold it up to put it into a taxi with all our stuff. So we had to take two taxis between us.

I arrived at the Right place, complete with baby and most of luggage. Thought I’d wait outside for Martin to arrive with the rest of the luggage. Martin took his taxi to the Wrong place, rang the door bell, was told he was in the Wrong place, so he rang the Right place, where they thought I hadn’t arrived because I was still waiting outside for Martin to arrive. So I’m now technically missing, even though I’m actually in the Right place. Chaos reigns. People in the Right place eventually realised I was waiting outside, and a few minutes later Martin turns up too. We’ve arrived.

Reunite ourselves with our car, and decide to take it for a test, and buy a replacement pushchair; see above. There is an interesting pile of books been left on the back-seat. At some stage we need to mount a piece of research to find out whose they are and whether they want them back. We decide to leave this till later. Driving in Cordoba is always an interesting experience, especially after four months in England, and probably heightened further by not having any sleep; see above. Successfully negotiated the usual hazards… horses, motorcycles on the wrong side of the road, the odd dead dog, we manage to purchase a pushchair. Prices have gone up, this one had better last or that kid’s going to find himself sold into slavery.

Afternoon, Martin goes to the prison to catch up with his friend. I take Joni for a walk. Mobile phones not allowed in prison, but I persuade Martin to take the house number written on a piece of paper. I receive a phone call. Martin is on his way to hospital accompanied by three police-men. Nothing to do with the prison, he was on his way home and he slipped on the pavement. Good job he didn’t try and cross the road; who knows what he’d have done. I take the car and our friends to meet him at the hospital. We arrive before he does. After a few minutes Martin arrives in wheelchair accompanied by policeman. Hand him over to hospital. They strip him, poke him and x-ray him. X-ray clear; probably knee ligaments. Rest, ice, hopping around on crutches. He’s a terrible patient, but at least he hasn’t broken his neck this time. Things could get better.

On the positive side, we’re being jolly well looked after by the friends we are staying with, just had a great asado (BBQ) for lunch. And our favourite internet cafe has gone Wifi, so I am typing this on my own laptop, with a coffee on the side. And we’re hoping to get to San Francisco on Wednesday.

Suspended Animation

Hey, what’s going on? Well, we ran around a lot in England and generally had far too much fun. We were sort of prepared to come back to Argentina, but we weren’t really prepared at all actually to be back here if that difference makes any sense. We got off the plane and thought “flip, now where are we?” and then we all caught some stomach bug for a few days, and then we went into suspended animation for a few more days. So two weeks later, we’re still in Salta, which wasn’t the plan, as far as there was ever a plan. But now we’re all fit, rested, eaten well, done some walking, and enjoying the coffee shops in Salta, had some good talks with our friends here, and we’re taking the night-bus to Cordoba tonight. Meanwhile, while we were vegging, our luggage seems to have been busily doing that magic expanding thing, where the same stuff that used to fit into the same bags that we packed a couple of weeks ago doesn’t fit any more. Must be something in the air.


Now this is just too cool!
I’ve just figured out all by myself how to insert a hyperlink into our blog using html. If you have no idea what I’m talking about then please nod and say yes. If you know lots about computers then please pretend to be impressed anyway, I’m a technophobe, it took a lot of effort.

If you click on the link below, it will (hopefully, after all that!) take you to an exremely silly video on You Tube, which has been making us laugh for the last few days. Even Joni finds it funny, but we hope it won’t give him any ideas…

You Tube baby video


In a house in Barnet, in a corner of the lounge, lives an old man. He has had a distinguished career in medicine, and now his body is ravaged by Parkinson’s disease. He keeps our newsletter on the table in front of him, and he prays for us every morning. We were both in tears when we heard that today. Praise God for Peter, it’s folk like you that keep us going.

Landed 1

We’re back! Right now we are in Salta which wasn’t the original plan. TAM airlines who were supposed to deliver us direct from Sao Paolo to Cordoba decided instead that we should go on a scenic tour around the airports of Buenos Aires, so we turned the situation to our advantage and decided to re-route to Salta. This saved us having to make an extra trip from Cordoba to Salta which we were planning to do anyway in a few days, means that we can spend time landing gently in Argentina with our friends and colleagues here in Salta, and also enabled us to travel the final leg of our journey with Andes airlines. Andes airlines are one of those “must have” experiences, from the hand-written boarding passes with truly original spellings of our surnames (Canit for me, and Srose for the guys), to our seat being not quite attached to the floor of the plane, to traveling with the cock-pit door wide open giving the passengers an interesting view into the bewildering array of electronic gadgetry inside. Bizarrely the cockpit also appeared to double as the storage point for tea and coffee pots, taking the concept of multi-skilling into unexplored new territory.
So here we are in Salta, and at some stage we shall wend our way down to Cordoba, and eventually on to San Francisco. In the meantime we need to try and persuade our kid into Argentinean time; it was still pitch black when he woke up this morning, and then he started singing for his lunch before the rest of us had moved out of pyjamas.

Final weekend

With family at homeIt’s our final weekend here in Baldock and the family descended. There have been up to twenty people at various times in my parents’ house. Fun and chaos reign in fairly equal proportions. Sunday afternoon and most people have headed off so we are now a mere nine, the kids are all wild and over-excited, and we really need to starting thinking about packing for heading back west tomorrow.

old walking bootsI know it barely compares with world hunger and the global credit crunch, but I am filled with dilemma over whether to pack my walking boots or not. OK, let’s get real; I wear my boots most days in England, I took them to Argentina before, and I never wore them once. Argentina has three categories of terrain as far as I can make out. One is concrete and requires trainers, the second requires major mountaineering and a better grade of boots than these, and the third is vast prairies of arable land without any footpaths, and is sprayed with toxic chemicals from the air. So realistically I’m probably never going to wear my walking boots in Argentina. And heaven knows that I surely need the space in my rucksack. And yet, to leave them behind feels like I’m abandoning part of my person here, and somehow making a statement that I might never really be at home in Argentina. Dare I do this?

These and other Affairs

Herewith is the promised blog on homosexuality, gafcon and affairs of a similar nature (no pun intended). Although I’m trying to be careful about how I write this, I’m sure it won’t be my final and definitive position, just a snapshot of the view from where I’m standing at the moment. In reality the homosexuality debate in the Christian world in general, and the homosexuality debate in the Anglican church in particular, has been winding me up for a while, so the gafcon conference, and the “Jerusalem Declaration” coming out of it arrived like a red-rag to the already wound up proverbial. So this is me trying to tease out where I think the problems are with the debate in its current form.
Problem one; “The false gospel and the true gospel”. It has become the norm to state positions in terms of the false (homosexual) gospel and the true gospel (the rest of us). In their final statement, gafcon choose to word it as the “false gospel” versus the “biblical gospel” which amounts to the same thing. I think there is a non-sequitur here; namely the assumption that if the other guy’s position is false, then mine must be true. Naturally I believe my understanding of the gospel to be true, otherwise I would revise it. However, I am also aware that I am continually revising my understanding of the gospel, so I am unable to guarantee that I will still fully agree with my today’s understanding by this time next week. Yes, I surely do believe in absolute truth, I just can’t claim that I will have a handle on it this side of heaven. When climbing a mountain, we may be pretty sure that the path we are on leads to the top, but incontrovertible proof can only be had by successfully reaching the summit (or not). Some of the false gospel / true gospel arguments that I am reading seem to go one further than the builders of the Tower of Babel in that the writers appear to believe that they are already at the top, in possession of the mind of God, and therefore don’t need even to go to the bother of building a tower. A little humility might go a long way.

Problem two; “The authority of Scripture”. This phrase makes me so cynical. It’s not the fault of the words, it’s the way they are carelessly thrown around. Say “it’s an authority of Scripture issue”, and apparently that clinches the debate; everyone must agree with me or you are being deliberately anti-scriptural the end. What is not being discussed is what we actually mean by “The authority of scripture”. How is scripture authoritative? To whom? Under what circumstances? Does this mean that we have to take it literally? All of it? Are some parts more authoritative than others? Who decides? On what basis? How do we know they are right? Is Paul’s request that Timothy should bring his coat also authoritative to us? If we use common sense to decide then are we ranking common sense above the authority of scripture? Latin Link is a multi-denominational mission, although theologically we probably lean towards a gafcon type position. Our basis of faith statement is similar to those found in many similar organisations. It slithers out of any discussion on the authority of scripture in a fairly standard, but non-the-less thoroughly cheapskate fashion, by inserting the phrase “as originally given”. This prevents any argument, since we don’t have the originals to argue over, and in doing so, claims absolutely nothing at all regarding the translations of the Bible which we hold in our hands today, giving us free reign to toss such phrases around without wasting any valuable energy over understanding their meaning.

Problem three; “Proof-text ping-pong”. Assuming that we had reached an agreement on the nature and function of “the authority of scripture”, turning to scripture itself presents us with another range of issues. Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 both tell us that “to lie with a man” is detestable. Pretty straightforward, until we find that these verses are sandwiched around other instructions such as Leviticus 19:19 in which it is also forbidden to plant two crops in the same field, or to wear a garment made from two types of cloth. So, what would an honest and consistent approach to these verses look like? (And what does that say about the recent resurgence of allotment growing in the UK?)

If the Old Testament complicates our lives, how about the New Testament? Let’s assume we have agreed that homosexual practice is sexually immoral, because while the NT only mentions homosexuality a couple of times, it does have more references to sexual immorality. The “fruit of the spirit” passage in Galations is one well-known example. It says “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality… (long list) and envy… and those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”. For a different genre compare Revelation 21, which offers “the fiery lake of sulphur” as the ultimate destination for various people, including “the sexually immoral” and “all liars”. In my blog of the 7th of July, I clearly admitted to being envious (of those people who weren’t spending their lives queuing on the M25). Since then, no-one has cancelled their speaking invitation, no-one has declared us to be out of fellowship, and no-one has called me in for counselling. I am pretty certain that all of those things would have swiftly followed if I had admitted to being a practicing homosexual. Likewise in Revelation, the phrase “all liars” suggests that there is little wriggle room to distinguish between “a white lie” versus out and out fraud. So when we say “I didn’t have time” meaning “I have no intention of doing this”, then we are condemned right alongside our homosexual brother. Therefore, if we are unable to draw a wedge between us, the question must be asked; are we equally God’s children, or are we equally to be excluded from the Kingdom?

One way of moving away from “proof-text ping-pong” is to look for the wider principles of the Bible. I have heard a couple of speakers begin with Genesis (which is the beginning after all). Genesis 2 sets out the principle for Christian marriage; a man and a woman, different roles, man “united to his wife” etc. The opening chapters of Genesis also define a pattern for work and rest. If we are going to use Genesis 2 as a mandate to exclude homosexuals from holding prominent positions in Christian organisations, then we quickly end up playing ping-pong again, since consistency demands that we will also use the same passages to oust many (most?) existing leaders of Christian organisations, for consistently failing to maintain Godly patterns of work and rest. If we are making any serious claim for scripture to be authoritative, then surely we must recognise a modicum of internal consistency, however uncomfortable that might be for us.

Problem four; “The parts we didn’t read”.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke
to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Isaiah 58
We have set ourselves up for this one. Any single issue debate carries a risk of losing sight of the bigger picture. Although gafcon et al may not have been responsible for starting the debate, for us to respond by defining it as an “authority of scripture issue” leaves us wide wide open, with the areas where scripture is rather less than authoritative in our own lives exposed to the heavens and the world. Where sexual immorality can be found in a few isolated verses, which I had to use a concordance to go looking for, the mandate for God’s people to model justice and inclusion occupies vast swathes of the Bible, from whole books such as Amos and Proverbs, to much of Isaiah’s teaching, to the scaffolding set out in the Pentateuch upon which Israel’s society was to be built, to the Jesus who spent his life identifying with sinners and marginalised people.

The gafcon declaration upholds the four ecumenical councils at item three, it upholds the thirty-nine articles at item four, it upholds the book of common prayer at item six, it upholds the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage at item eight, and it “seeks relief of the poor” at item ten. Skating swiftly over this interesting order of priorities, the wording of “seeking relief”, is still rather unfortunate. Maybe freudian, it could be mis(?)-interpreted as “we seek to be relieved of the poor”, but most importantly, it belies a “charity for the helpless” attitude, one where my conscience can be appeased by dropping a coin in a jar, which exposes a total lack of commitment to seek out the sources and causes of injustice, particularly those where my own economic decisions lead to the oppression of my unseen brother.

To give one example, when Coca Cola are stealing water supplies from poor farmers in Brazil and India, and polluting water courses in Panama and Guatemala, and treating the poor less favourably than the rich by permitting 30 times the level of toxicity in Coke in India compared with the USA, and standing by while their trade union activists are murdered in Colombia, it is difficult to see how I can maintain the contradictory stances of endorsing this organisation by buying their products, while looking down on my homosexual brother, and still claim to have any regard at all for the “authority of scripture”.

How can we who have consistently prostituted ourselves to secular gods of consumerism claim even a molehill of moral high-ground from which to judge another’s servant? (Actually Coca Cola aren’t even the worst, I just use them as one example of many, partly because they the most “in your face” of the multinationals in Argentina, and as such they have come to symbolise to me a daily reminder of the insidiousness of the evil which dwells among us).
The Independent correspondent in her response to gafcon wrote “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or fiddling while Rome burns; pick your metaphor and weep”. I am reading John 8:1-11, and I am weeping. I weep for the lostness of all those people genuinely desperate to uphold the truths of scripture yet somehow lost in a caricature defending their tiny god and his mini-scriptures; and I weep for the lostness of the rest of the world waiting for a real Saviour; and I weep for myself for all those times when my own rage and frustration render me impotent to take the action that I ought. Come Lord Jesus.