Neville Callam, the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, calls upon Baptists to revive the practice of the veneration of the saints:
Shouldn’t Baptist churches retrieve the practice of venerating the saints, that is, engaging in corporate worship acts designed not to worship the saints, but to remember, honor, learn from, and celebrate saints from our Baptist family and from other Christian communions? Until we regularly include commemoration of the saints in our worship celebrations, we will continue to neglect the opportunity to give proper value to those from our past who have borne courageous witness to faithful discipleship. Commemorative acts done in our Sunday morning services would provide a suitable accompaniment for the tradition some have already developed as part of their Vacation Bible School program, in which stories are told of great spiritual leaders worthy of emulation … [HT: Steven Harmon]
Through recalling the truthful performances and writings of the early church (e.g., Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp and Cyprian) and of those on all sides of the Reformation, through examination of Augustine’s account of the analogical relationship between the Civitas Dei and the Civitas Terrena (each with their rival soteriologies), through a biography of Oscar Romero which is itself ‘a gospel’, and drawing heavily on the work of William Cavanaugh and John Howard Yoder, York reflects on the natures of, and relationship between, word and deed, and reminds us that martyrdom is the kind of public, political and liturgical witness – a second baptism, and ‘a moment in rhetoric’ (p. 146) – that unapologetically reveals the world to be the world, and reminds the church, as does the eucharist itself, that ‘allegiance to the heavenly city presumes an exilic posture that confers a missionary stance’ that sometimes, though not always, takes the shape of martyrdom (p. 100). But martyrs are not victims; neither is martyrdom tragic. Rather, as York reminds us, the logic of martyrdom belongs in the world of the apocalyptic, the witness participating in ‘the ongoing creation of not an alternative world but an authentic world: a world inaugurated by the cross and the empty tomb’ (p. 147). While few readers will follow York on every point, and many will want to go deeper and wider than this essay does, this book is a clear, insightful and ecclesiologically-fruitful introduction to the relationship between martyrdom and discipleship.
‘The manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookshop, who was abducted on Saturday by suspected Muslim extremists, was found dead yesterday. Medical officials said Rami Ayyad, 31, had been shot and stabbed. He was the father of two small children and his wife is pregnant with their third.
He is reported to have received several death threats since his Protestant bible shop was fire bombed six months ago, destroying shelves of books and pamphlets. He told friends that bearded men in a car stalked him and looked at him strangely after he locked up on Thursday.
The killers seized him as he left the shop on Saturday night. Suhad Massad, the director of the local Baptist bible society which runs the shop, said friends called his mobile phone when he did not arrive home. He told them he was running late.’
‘If the Church is “free” from the state, it’s all good. I can immediately fit in this situation. But if the Church is to be emancipated, then I must ask: By what means, in what way? A religious movement must be served religiously – otherwise it is a sham! Consequently, the emancipation must come about through martyrdom – bloody or bloodless. The price of purchase is the spiritual attitude. But those who wish to emancipate the Church by secular and worldly means (i.e. no martyrdom), they’ve introduced a conception of tolerance entirely consonant with that of the entire world, where tolerance equals indifference, and that is the most terrible offence against Christianity … [T]he doctrine of the established Church, its organization, are both very good indeed. Oh, but then our lives: believe me, they are indeed wretched’. – Søren Kierkegaard, Journals (January 1851)
‘In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant. My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known – no wonder, then, that I return the love’. – Søren Kierkegaard