METTLE Weekly Newsletter

Gentlemen,

I’ve been sitting on these two items for about a week now, so thought I better release them while they’re still current.

Prayer Request

  • Hi James, I have some news to thank God for.
  • Cathy and I have had a private struggle for a time due to our son Mitchell. He seemed to be slower in developing than his two sisters at the same age. In the end, a development specialist looked at him and said he might be “hypotonic”, which is more commonly known as Floppy Baby Syndrome. This means the baby is unresponsive, hangs limp when picked up and has problems feeding. The cause of the condition is unknown and can be related to a list of ailments as long as your arm!! We were scared and upset, and had him in prayer.
  • Since we started praying for Mitchell, he started responding and feeding well. We also placed him on some special positions and gave him some special exercises, which he seemed to enjoy. He made more eye contact and was not “floppy” when he was lifted. He does however frequently arch his back as if in pain, which is one of the symptoms of the condition and something he has done since birth.
  • Then today, while the Plunkett Nurse was visiting, Cathy was holding Mitchell and was sharing the concerns over Mitchell with the Nurse, when Mitchell promptly placed his feet firmly on the floor and pushed up. He stood supporting his own weight for the first time. Later on, he did it again.
  • Please keep Mitchell in prayer, as he is going to have an MRI scan to establish whether there are real concerns. In doing so, he needs to have a full anaesthetic. However we are today thinking that God has answered our prayers and we are hopeful that he will be fine and that all tests will be clear.
  • Blessings, Matt

Praise Report

  • A Farewell Message from Kim Workman
  • Kia ora koutou,
  • The events and pressures of the last two months, meant that I was personally unable to visit and say goodbye. This letter, coming a week after the date of my retirement as National Director, is written, not just to say goodbye, but to comment briefly on what the future might look like for Prison Fellowship.
  • About 18 months ago, I signaled to the Board of Prison Fellowship that we needed to look for a replacement – someone with a head of steam, a new vision, and a heart to make a difference. It was not that I had run out of ideas, but that increasingly, I felt called to a new season in my life. The social justice issues that have always been at the centre of my concern, become more pressing by the day, and I keep being reminded by others that it is time to “write my book”.
  • Mine has been a rich and varied life – unlike most public servants of my era, I found it difficult to settle at one task. I was at my most contented during times of change – and was sometimes guilty of imposing change without concern for the stressful impact on others. Whether it was in the Police, the Ombudsman’s Office, the State Services Commission, Maori Affairs the Department of Justice, of the Ministry of Health, change was what kept me alert and interested.
  • My appetite for change was well sated in the eight years spent as National Director of Prison Fellowship. When I was appointed as National Director in 2000, we had $16,000 in the bank, and I was expected to raise my own salary. Within four years, income exceeded $1.0m. With the support of a highly competent Board, and the sacrifice and commitment of staff and volunteers, we made a strong initial impact on volunteer prison ministry, developed a suite of highly effective and innovative programmes and services for prisoners, ex-prisoners, victims and their families, and gained recognition as a significant influence in the criminal justice sector. That effort resulted in Jackie Katounas and I jointly receiving the 2005 International Prize for Restorative Justice, and followed in 2007 by being made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order.
  • Those years have been rewarding, but we have paid the price for our persistence. It was frustrating to deliver programmes that year after year got the support of participants, funders and government agencies, yet failed to attract funding for their sustained provision. It was progressively debilitating to witness other providers receive funding adequate to meet infrastructure as well as service costs, only to be told that our business case for funding had once again, been declined.
  • It has become more and more difficult to raise funding from the private sector. Many funders will not support programmes partly funded by government, and some (quite properly) consider that if the programme is working well after the first 2 -3 years, then government should step up to the plate and pay for it. Still others mistakenly believe that if government publicly supports the quality of the programme, they are probably paying for it. The immediate challenge is to increase the amount of non-government funding to meet our ongoing costs and maintain the high quality of service provision for which we are known. The next challenge is to persuade government to invest in prisoners’ programmes and services, rather than build more prisons.
  • The fault is not with the Department of Corrections. We have been blessed by the support we have received. At this year’s Prison Fellowship Conference, Barry Matthews, Chief Executive of Corrections had this to say,
    • Prison Fellowship NZ has seen a tremendous strengthening of the organisation and a significant growth in its influence.
    • One only has to look at this conference, which has grown over the last several years to become the single most significant criminal justice-oriented regular event of its type in this country.
    • It has become a ‘must attend’ for key sector advisors and participants, and it is becoming increasingly influential in influencing sector decision-making.
  • We are fortunate that Basil Wakelin has agreed to fill the vacancy for the next six months, as we search for a suitable replacement. Basil is a Board member, and a very experienced manager. He will serve us well.
  • More and more, I have felt called to “speak out” on issues of crime and justice, and I will continue in that capacity as Project Leader of the Rethinking Crime and Punishment (RCP) project, initially in a voluntary capacity. We have received strong support for the project from the judiciary, policy analysts, academics, criminal justice professionals, and those looking to consider in a rational way, the most effective means of addressing criminal justice issues. The RCP Board of Reference has agreed to establish the project under a Charitable Trust, and seek to expand its efforts over the next three years. I will continue to manage a couple of small projects for Prison Fellowship. My garden is waiting patiently for me to realise its potential, and I intend to become a serious student of jazz piano. There is a theology degree awaiting completion, just in case I get bored.
  • But most of all, I shall write and speak out on social justice and policy issues. I have accepted an Associateship with the Institute for Policy Studies, Victoria University, and that will provide an opportunity to meet and work with a others from a range of disciplines and perspectives.
  • In recent times, I have become closely involved with the Taita/Pomare community and that has been an enriching experience. I have rediscovered the pleasure of “stepping outside of ourselves” – that when we help the community, and get involved in it, the community embraces us. When we fight for the rights of the last, the least and the lonely, we cease to be lonely, or lost, or intimidated. That in service, we earn respect and dignity. That while we are free to pursue our own dreams, it is only when we seek a higher purpose that we can truly exist.
  • If there is one thing I know, it is that this is not the time to sit on the sidelines and watch. Martin Luther King talked about the “fierce urgency of now”. The Anti-Asian demonstrations in South Auckland herald a new low in the nation’s race relations – and yet we live in a time when the “R” word is less acceptable than the “F” word. We live in a time when the media daily pronounces the existence of a crime wave, and public events are staged which do nothing more than raise the level of fear and insecurity within our communities. When we value people who daily engage in the rhetoric of revenge and retribution, over the man or woman in the street who do daily whatever is required to address issues of poverty and family dysfunction, we have the makings of a sick society.
  • I believe that a time will come soon, when the government will realise that there are thousands of New Zealanders out there who want to step up – who want to make a difference. That instead of trying to run things itself, government will leverage that civil commitment to come to terms with national challenges. That those with the capacity and the capability to contribute, will be given the resources to bridge the widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. That our commitment to service will be directed toward those sections of our communities that are least developed.
  • Governments do many things well, but social innovation isn’t one of them. I look to the day when government will facilitate and resource citizens to develop their own service agenda – encouraging communities to make their own changes from the bottom up, at the same time releasing the expertise that lies within central and local government. That the state stops telling the community what it should do, and instead empowers them to do it.
  • There are those who yearn for the halcyon days of the 1950”s. The days when we were unified in a national cause, still reeling from the impact of a World War, determined that this nation would be and think as one. What existed then, and doesn’t exist now, was a spirit of unity. There is only one way to renew that spirit – through service. We need to understand that if our individual destinies are to be realised, they can only be realised through a collective spirit of service.
  • It is only then that, as Martin Luther King once said, that “the arch of history is bent once more toward justice”
  • I look forward to a few more years of bending the arch.
  • God bless you all,
  • Kim Workman

Other News

  • Faith Base Evolution, by Roy Spencer, 8 Aug 2005
  • Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as “fact,” I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism.
  • In the scientific community, I am not alone. There are many fine books out there on the subject. Curiously, most of the books are written by scientists who lost faith in evolution as adults, after they learned how to apply the analytical tools they were taught in college.
  • You might wonder how scientists who are taught to apply disciplined observation and experimentation and to search for natural explanations for what is observed in nature can come to such a conclusion? For those of you who consider themselves open-minded, I will try to explain.
  • True evolution, in the macro-sense, has never been observed, only inferred. A population of moths that changes from light to dark based upon environmental pressures is not evolution — they are still moths. A population of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics does not illustrate evolution — they are still bacteria. In the biological realm, natural selection (which is operating in these examples) is supposedly the mechanism by which evolution advances, and intelligent design theory certainly does not deny its existence. While natural selection can indeed preserve the stronger and more resilient members of a gene pool, intelligent design maintains that it cannot explain entirely new kinds of life — and that is what evolution is.
  • Possibly the most critical distinction between the two theories (or better, “models”) of origins is this: While similarities between different but “related” species have been attributed by evolutionism to common ancestry, intelligent design explains the similarities based upon common design. An Audi and a Ford each have four wheels, a transmission, an engine, a gas tank, fuel injection systems … but no one would claim that they both naturally evolved from a common ancestor.
  • Common ancestry requires transitional forms of life to have existed through the millions of years of supposed biological evolution. Yet the fossil record, our only source of the history of life on Earth, is almost (if not totally) devoid of transitional forms of life that would connect the supposed evolution of amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds, etc. This is why Stephen Jay Gould, possibly the leading evolutionist of our time, advanced his “punctuated equilibria” theory. In this theory, evolution leading to new kinds of organisms occurs over such brief periods of time that it was not captured in the fossil record. Upon reflection, one cannot help but notice that this is not arguing based upon the evidence — but instead from the lack of evidence.
  • One finally comes to the conclusion that, despite vigorous protests, belief in evolution and intelligent design are matters of faith. Even some evolutionists have admitted as much in their writings. Modern biology does not “fall apart” without evolution, as some will claim. Maybe the theories of the origins of forms of life fall apart, or theories of the origin of capabilities that those life forms exhibit, or the supposed ancestral relationships between them fall apart. But these are merely intellectual curiosities, serving only to stimulate discussion and teach the next generation of students the same beliefs. From a practical point of view, the intelligent design paradigm is just as useful to biology, and I believe, more satisfying from an intellectual point of view.
  • Intelligent design can be studied and taught without resorting to human creation traditions and beliefs, which in the West are usually traceable to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Just as someone can recognize and study some machine of unknown purpose built by another company, country (or alien intelligence?), one can also examine the natural world and ask the question: did this machine arise by semi-random natural physical processes, or could it have been designed by a higher power? Indeed, I was convinced of the intelligent design arguments based upon the science alone.
  • Of course, ultimately, one must confront the origin of that higher power, which will logically lead to the possibility of an original, uncaused, First Cause. But then we would be firmly in the religious realm. All naturalistic cosmological theories of origins must invent physics that have never been observed by science — because the “Big Bang” can’t be explained based upon current physics. A naturalistic origin of the universe violates either the First or Second Laws of thermodynamics — or both. So, is this science? Or faith?
  • It is already legal to teach intelligent design in public schools. What is not currently legal is to mandate its teaching. The Supreme Court has ruled that this would violate the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause.
  • But I have some questions relating to this: Does not classical evolutionism, based almost entirely upon faith, violate the same clause? More importantly, what about the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion?
  • If the public school system insists on teaching evolution as a theory of origins, in the view of many a religious activity, why is it discriminating against the only other theory of origins, intelligent design? (There is, by the way, no third theory of origins that anyone has ever been able to determine.) At the very least, school textbooks should acknowledge that evolution is a theory of origins, it has not been proved, and that many scientists do not accept it.
  • There are a variety of ideas that try to blend evolution and intelligent design, the most unified one being “pantheism” that sees God and nature as One. This view, which has been held by many peoples throughout recorded history, has also been advanced here at TCS. But more commonly, people subscribe to the notion that a Creator “got things started,” and then evolution “took over.”
  • The problem I have with this is that it grants far too much significance to macroevolution, since it has virtually no observational evidence to support it. One wonders: Why do so many people defend it so fervently?
  • Whether intelligent design is ever taught in school is probably not as important as the freedom that we have in a free society to discuss, and study, such issues. And for that, I am thankful.

End Notes

  • METTLE is an acronym for Men’s Elim Team Together for Learning Experiences. We are primarily (but not exclusively) businessmen from Wellington Elim Church, who meet occasionally in the CBD to encourage each other in our daily walk with Jesus. This newsletter is our primary means of communication. If you know of anyone who may benefit from these newsletters, you are welcome to forward them along. Similarly, if your circumstances are such that membership in this distribution list is no longer relevant, then hit reply and type UNSUBSCRIBE to have it removed.
  • METTLE has no affiliation with Telecom New Zealand Limited
  • If this week’s newsletter has been of benefit to you, why not drop a line and say so. Or better yet, visit the TVORNZ website and add a comment!
Advertisements

One thought on “METTLE Weekly Newsletter”

  1. James
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought provoking newsletter.  You are a faithful man stimulating others to consider relevant and key questions and issues.  Thank you so much for what you are doing here.

    Regards.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s