"If it's provable we can kill it."
Deja Vu?
Published on January 7, 2008 By EmperorofIceCream In Misc
Deja Vu is sometimes defined as a 'disagreeable similarity' to something else. Whether that definition applies in this case remains to be seen.

HCC stands for Hull Community Church. XCC stands for X Community Church. HCC was the church in England that I was most committed to, and attended for more than four years - before leaving to "Wander in the Outer Darkness", as the wife of my then Congregational Leader told me I was about to do. X Community Church is the most promising religious community I and Sabrina have explored since arriving in Virginia. We've attended their service twice now, and are about to begin exploring their 'small group' structure. It's interesting. And also slightly horrifying.

I just googled 'Hull Community Church'. The results were illuminating. There are now two entirely distinct religious entities that go by that name. One is run by the Reverend David Littlewood (my former congregation leader who, when I knew him, would have died before allowing himself to be referred to as a 'reverend' - far too Anglican High Church for a Pentecostal Charismatic). The other is affiliated with the University of Hull and is actively involved in social outreach among the city's prostitutes and drug users, and in building a church community that has no 'glass ceiling' - in other words, no set of specific doctrinal and dogmatic criteria which can be used to filter out undesirables such as prostitutes, drug users, and those who ask too many difficult questions.

Which is the antithesis of the HCC I knew and finally abandoned.

And then there's King's Church. King's Church is run by Mike Hardy, formely one of the Three Elders of HCC (or the Three Wise Fools, as I called them to their faces, on the day I finally realised I could no longer tolerate what they together were doing to HCC). Not so interesting to you, Dear Reader, as it is to me. But then, I doubt you have ever told the assembled Elders of your church (if you have one) that the organization they led would be dead and gone with a year, killed by schismatic infighting over dogma and doctrine, and by the pride and arrogance of the men who claimed to be the servants of all but were in fact not simply Overseers but Overlords.

I told them their church would be dead within a year. It actually took about nine months.

There are differences, at least on first sight, between HCC and XCC. There are no 'congregational leaders' at XCC because XCC has one building in which the entire church can gather, a luxury that HCC did not enjoy until almost the end of its existence. XCC has 'small groups'. HCC had 'care groups': but in principle they are exactly the same organizational sub-units, sub-groups of the main church that meet regularly for prayer, study, and social activity. The life of the church is carried on in these small groups, just as it was at HCC.

I wonder which is more important to the various 'leaders' of XCC? Their roles as leaders? Or their roles as members of a congregation in service to God? I know which mattered most to those three Wise Fools. In their own minds they were the Anointed and Appointed Elders, and while they talked a great deal about humility their reaction to any idea that contradicted their own settled views was simply to reject it out of hand. Good, bad, or indifferent, such ideas were carefully marginalized and effectively excluded from discussion within the church, and it very rapidly became known within the church as a whole that those who put them forward were of unsound doctrine, should not be listened to, and should in effect be treated as 'invisible persons' - until they repented, acknowledged their folly, and returned to the Way of Righteousness. In other words, until they agreed with the Elders.

What is a church? Firstly, it's a community devoted to the worship and service of God. Secondly, it's a community devoted to its own members. Thirdly, it's a community devoted to the testimony of the Word through action in the world. I know some would disagree with the order of those definitions. But, firstly, what draws the unbeliever to the testimony of the Word is the love that those who profess to accept that Word show to each other - because it's love that's supposed to divide them from the world around them. If you can't love your own how can you love anyone else? If you can't demonstrate that love, practically and realistically, among your own, how can you love others who are not of your own, practically and realistically?

The simple truth is - you can't. And the unbeliever knows it. Among contemporary Christians, here in America and elsewhere, miracles, wonders and signs, are praised and exalted as the true testimony of the real presence of God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Examine the words of Jesus and you'll discover that his miracles were nothing more than lures and temptations to love. The true testimonies of God are found in the presence of love among the community of believers. Without love, everything else, no matter how miraculous, is hypocrisy, deceit, idolatry, and abomination.

And there was precious little love in HCC. There was power, certainly; power over the minds and hearts of the people. And there was control, control that extended to words spoken, the type of clothing worn, the type of thinking, and questioning, and believing, that those who belonged to the church were allowed to speak, to wear, and to think. It took me four years to realise this. Four years during which I preached in the streets, four years during which I devoted myself heart and soul to the work of the church. Four years during which I took the hopeless and derelict from the streets and brought them into my home; during which I fed them, washed them, clothed them. And condemned myself constantly for not doing enough.

And when I finally understood, when I finally realised that what I had been engaged in was merely the salving of the egos of three Wise Fools, who accounted themselves the Voice and the Power of God, who had not the least understanding that God can and will speak through the least and the most lowly, who had not the least understanding that with God there is not any respect for person, or rank, or wealth, or privilege... Why then, I felt a sense of betrayal to which my first wife's infedelity is nothing at all in comparison.

I would rather die than feel such a thing again. I would rather die. Even now, so many years later, the memory of it brings me to the edge of tears.

I've long since learned to separate the Christ, and what the Christ means to me, from the idiocies practiced in Its Name. But that doesn't mean that I have forgotten, or forgiven. Nor does it mean that I will ever again fail to hold accountable those who preach the Word, but understand nothing of the Word.

Let me, Dear Reader, recount for you the sad history of the instance that finally revealed to me the true nature of HCC. Up until this particular moment occurred I had in all things subjected myself to the authority of my church, and the Elders of my church. While I had questions and doubts that went unallayed and unsatisfied I never once, in private or in public, questioned either the teachings of my church, or the authority of the Elders to preach and teach their doctrines and their dogmas, no matter how much in the privacy of my own conscience I questioned what it was they taught. Schism, not Satan, is the greatest enemy of Christianity. Schism, and pride.

I and my first wife, who was as much an ardent believer in, and devoted follower of the Christ ,as I was and just as happy in belonging to HCC as I was, had two friends. We'll call them A and Z. A and Z were both highly regarded femal members of the congregation. A was a leader of the Christian Youth Fellowship of the College she attended. Z, while not in any way a member of the hierarchy of the church, was very widely known among its membership and very much respected. Both alike were held up to the youth of the church as paragons of Christian living, and as examples to be followed.

They were also lovers, and had been lovers (as in the sense of sexual partners - just in case you're confused as to the meaning of the word 'lovers') for several years. Together, A and Z reached a point where the hypocrisy of their life in the church became intolerable to them. They could no longer look each other in the face, and live the lives they had pretended to live. So, together, and holding hands, they stood up and confessed before the entire church what they were to each other.

Allow me Dear Reader to explain something to you. Something it has taken my wife close to five years to understand.
I will not be told. In that I'm like my mother. I can be persuaded. I can be argued from one position to another. I can, through debate, be convinced to change my position. But. I. Will. Not. Be. Told. I was made to resist. And resist I will. Those three Wise Fools failed, as they failed in many other ways, to appreciate this simple fact. I will not be told.

There was an occassion where I and my care group leader went out together. We went to see a movie, which we both enjoyed, and from there we went to a local bar for a drink together. During this time my care group leader informed me that, as someone who was rising in the leadership of the church I was expected to set an example - something with which I agreed. However, the example which I was expected to set included the ostracisation of my friends, A and Z. I was to ignore them. I was to deny them access to my home. I was, in every way I could, to discourage other members of the church from acknowledging them.

As I recall I looked at my care group leader and I said sometging to the following effect:

"So what you're telling me is that if A and Z turn up at my door I'm to turn them away? If they ask for for my help I'm to deny them? If they come to me for counsel and advic I'm to refuse them?"

He said, and I quote, "I don't say that. The Elders do".

To which my reply was, "Fuck you. And fuck the Elders. I won't do it. I'll leave the church first." Which, ultimately, is exactly what I did. I don't pretend not to understand the thinking that led the them to conclude that their decision was correct. Their thought was Biblically sound, and it was, within the tenets of the NT, perfectly just. It was also utterly typical of their arrogance, their pride, and their despostism. I don't say say they, the Elders, were Biblically unfounded in what they decided to do. I say that they were wrong, and that the death of their church is proof absolute that they were wrong. God judges the heartrs of men, and those that claim It as their justification, but yet are not of It, are repudiated and denied. You can fool men. But you can not fool God.

The Elders of HCC denied to these women any validity to their experience of reality. They set out to be as honest as they could and their courage, and their honesty, were by the Elders deliberate will turned into a kind of lie. Notwithstanding whether they, or the Elders, were right, I was told I should have nothing further to do with them. A judgment I utterly refused. My friends are my friends, no matter what.

No matter what..

The issue that eventually came to a head between myself and the Elders over these women had nothing to do with theology, and everything to do with practical reality. By instructing the chuirch to have nothing at all to do with these women, the Elders forced them into the wide open arms of a militant lesbian community that had a highly positive reputation within the wider non-christian community in the city. These Wise Fools forced these two women to choose between the people of God and the people of the world.

And, as a consequence, they chose the world. They ended up denying everything they had known, everytghing they had believed, everything in which they had once placed their faith, in order to conform to the dictates of a community they would have once have repudiated and condemned - but which accepted them when everyone else in whom they had once had faith and trust had repudiated them.

Let me ask you something, Christian. Is the Christ who made a disciple of a whore and a tax collector likely to be perturbed by the antics of two women who love each other? My answer is no. As it was to the three Wise Fools who told me that God's judgement is contained in the Bible. What is contained in the Bible is the visions of prophets and the ethics of philosophers. But God is more, as I told those them. And because they would not believe me the church they worshipped is dead.

Ah well. XCC may be exactly what it proclaims itself it to be. And it may not

Trust me. One way or another, I'll know.

on Jan 07, 2008
These Wise Fools forced these two women to choose between the people of God and the people of the world.

It seems that this kind of attitude from "professional" religious leaders is not restricted to only one of the 3-Big Ones.

While in the middle east, and in one of the City's average-size mosques the Imam of that mosque was one of the best open-minded true-understanding type of Imams i have ever met. He told the following story as an "actual" event. I dont know that for sure. But i dont think a man like him would lie. In a Friday Sermon he was talking about the best way to deal with "the world" and its problems particularly when it comes to beliefs and following God's guidance. He mentioned the folloeing story to demonstrate his point:

An Imam in a small mosque in one of the poor neighborhoods in the city had a boyhood friend who never prays or go to the mosque even for the Friday Prayer. So this Imam asked his friend: Why are you neglecting prayers like that, even on Friday? The friend said: It is a hassle, and it takes lots of time and I am a poor man and cant afford to waste time and pray five times a day and each time 4 Raka's and do this and do that.

The Imam said: that is not true, you dont have to do that. All you have to do is this: on your way to work in the morning, take your shoes off enter the mosque pray one Raka and every prayer after that you pray just two. you dont have to do anything else.

The friend said: that is all? i dont have to sit and listen to anything or do all these Raka's. the imam said No, just do what i told you. The friend said: that is easy, i will do that.

The friend actually started doing that. and his friend sees him do that every day and doesnt object or tell him anything.

One day, the Imam was Sick and asked another Imam to take his place. The new Imam, comes in the first day and sees that friend do this "ridiculous" kind of prayer. He let it go and didnt say anything. Next time he sees the man doing the same thing. He gets up follows the man on his way to the door and asks him "what did you just do exactly ?", the man said, i prayed the Noon prayer. The new Imam gets mad and say "who in the world taught you to pray like that?". The man says: "our regular Imam taught me that". The new Imam started cursing the man, the other Imam and acusing both of ignorance and "fooling around with God's religion". The friend got upset, cursed both Imams and swore that he will never step into a mosque ever again.

The man goes to his Imam friend and tells him what happened and acused him of misleading him and causing him to do the prayers in a wrong way.

Next day the two Imams meet in the mosque and the new Imam starts lecturing the regular Imam about the sin that he did and causing people like the friend to do.

The regular Imam answers with this simple statement: "At least I got him to come to the mosque and pray a little .... you chased him away. Now who is the sinner?".

The new Imam didnt say anything and just left.

I never forget that story whether it has really happened or just an imaginary example. It is very informative about how to deal with "reality" and the actual world.
on Jan 08, 2008
That's a wonderful story, and it matters not at all whether it happened or not. If it didn't, it's still true. As a reply in the same spirit, I would like to tell you a story.

Long ago, in a far distant land, a man who looked for truth came and sat down by a man who was known for his honesty. The man who looked for truth said to the honest man "Why is life so hard? Why do the good suffer and the evil go unpunished? Why is the wicked man rich and the honest man poor?"

The honest man looked him in the face and said" Can you imagine that you are a sword?" He said that he could.

"Is not a sword a paragon among the things that are beautiful? It's edge is perfect, dividing life and death. It is jewelled as a bride is jewelled. It is in every way perfect. Is that no so?" And the man who looked for truth agreed that it was so.

"Yet consider" said the honest man. "This beauty is born from the raw metals of the earth. It is pounded by the hammer of the smith. It is heated by him, and quenched by him, many times. Now tell me, if a sword could speak, would it say that it is birthing was pleasant? Would it say that its making was easy?"

The man who looked for truth looked at him and said nothing.

"You are the sword. Life is the forge. And God is the smith."

"What should I do?" said the man who looked for truth.

"Give praise to God", said the honest man.
on Jan 09, 2008
"You are the sword. Life is the forge. And God is the smith."

"What should I do?" said the man who looked for truth.

"Give praise to God", said the honest man.


This is truly beautiful. and is true.

We, humans, frequently ask :Why is forging must be so hard and painful?

this story makes it clear that it may be a necessity to achieve the beauty and abilities of the sword. that is why. What is more, humans are aware of this beauty and abilities which makes the whole thing even more profound and deserving of their praise.
on Sep 14, 2008

Emperor of Ice Cream, would it surprise you to know that the 2 HCCs you talk about are the same, and not seperate entities (and no, there is no church linked to the University of Hull that helps drugs addicts and prostitutes) - that is in fact the church you left, a church that reaches out into the community, pouring out our love and our lives for our neighbours and those who are hurting and in need..  The church you describe has been transformed (if you believe in the transforming power of Christ?) - and yes Dave Littlewood himself started the work on the streets reaching out to women in prostitution - where we have met, welcomed, and loved many women in lesbian relationships, and loved and accepted them for who they are.  I have been at HCC for 15 years and it is a place and a church of love, not judgement or condemnation.  Everyone is welcome, and free to think their thoughts and hold opposite views....  The world has changed, Emperor of Ice Cream, you have say you haven't forgiven or forgotten, and yet we are that very church that you left and perhaps would feel differently about if you came back.  Everything you write about HCC is the opposite of the our family and church.  Here's a story that will tell you more... http://www.emergingchurch.info/stories/hull/index.htm

I hope you find what you're looking for in X Community Church.

If some day you think about HCC again, just remember that Christ has the power to transform people and churches, and that change is in the nature of God.