Sermon in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Sunday 17th September 2017, at a service of Commemoration of the Battle of Britain, 1940 - Canon Ian Ellis

St Patrick's.jpg

Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1: “The souls of the faithful are in the hand of God; and there shall no torment touch them.”

The Battle of Britain was a crucial event in the Second World War, stopping a potential Nazi invasion of Britain. It is of heroic proportions, as Sir Winston Churchill's famous words confirm, that never in the filed of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. Those words were preceded by Churchill's tribute to those involved: “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion.”

At this service in the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, we commemorate the Battle of Britain in 1940. As anyone who has ever fought in a war will no doubt attest, it is best avoided. A retired colonel, a good friend who has since departed this life, once spoke to me of his action during World War II and particularly at the Battle of Cassino during the Italian Campaign; he told very solemnly that a soldier returns from war in one of three ways: dead, physically wounded or psychologically scarred. Fighting in the air also must have its traumas and, sadly, many losses and injuries. Cassino itself was a series of Allied assaults in a successful but very costly attempt to break through to Rome. By contrast, the town's geographic location, at the foot of the hill of the 6th century abbey of Monte Cassino, is very beautiful.

We live in a beautiful world – indeed a world of spectacular beauty. But it is scarred by many things, not least of which is war. And the beauty of the world is also scarred by natural disasters, disease, poverty and sin.

Why does it have to be so? Why do there have to be battles? Why do there have to be tsunamis and violent hurricanes such as we have seen only recently on our television screens? Why do there have to be earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that take lives with such brutal force? Why does there have to be illness, the suffering of so many in hospitals and in their own homes, everywhere? Why does there have to be homelessness? Why do so many people have to live without enough money to survive properly in a world of so much plenty? Why does there have to be sin, the ignoring of God's laws and of the light that he has given to enlighten every person? Why does our world have to be like this?

For sure, theologians have offered many answers. There is the doctrine of the Fall, although it is far from straightforward. And perhaps part of the reason why things are as they are is that if we do not know darkness we will not fully appreciate light, if we do not know sorrow we will not fully appreciate joy, if we do not know need we will never fully appreciate what compassion is. But of course there is no simple, neat solution to the question posed. There is a mystery in life that we cannot ever fathom, but we do well to remember that as well as all the ugliness there is also so much beauty, as well as so much hatred there is also so much love. And the Church proclaims the great good news that Christ, the Son of God who came to dwell among us and share all our joys and sorrows, himself suffered unspeakably and yet, in a deeply sacred way, through his glorious resurrection, we learn that goodness is stronger than evil, that holiness is stronger, so much stronger, than ungodliness.

A commemoration of a battle in a service such as this is not a time for the historical analysis of events, or for any kind of political or national point scoring, but it is a time for us to stop and reflect on these deeper things of life.

War is with us; as soon as one ends, it seems, another either starts or is in the making. Theologians also have debated the conditions for entering into battle in a morally justified way: the just war theory is a historic approach to the question but as warfare becomes more and more sophisticated and potential human loss rises in scale, even that theory is seen to have its weaknesses.

Today we are facing a very critical situation with North Korea and its nuclear ambitions. While mutual assured destruction is claimed by many paradoxically to have preserved peace between the superpowers since World War II, we really do need to move to a better place, a world in which there is no need for mutual assured destruction but rather a world in which there is mutual assured friendship. A pipedream, a cynic might say. But no, such universal friendship is a Christian vision well worth striving for.

As we commemorate the Battle of Britain, we remember those who fought. We remember those who suffered psychologically, those who where physically wounded, and those who died in the service of their country and in the defence of freedom and civilisation. As the Wisdom of Solomon so comfortingly reminds us: “The souls of the faithful are in the hand of God; and there shall no torment touch them.”

Reaching the traumatised after hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma.jpg

Christian agencies are working desperately to help communities across the Caribbean and South-eastern United States devastated by Hurricane Irma. More than 40 have died and tens of thousands have been left without homes by the storm.

 Episcopal Relief & Development, the Anglican Alliance and USPG are among those getting involved. ERD and USPG have launched appeals.

Communications have been badly disrupted but Anglican Alliance co-director, Rachel Carnegie, said harrowing stories were beginning to emerge.

“Describing the storm as a Category 5 just does not represent the true horror,” she said. “This is a whole new reality. The Alliance and ERD are starting to establish contacts with dioceses across the region and we are hearing dreadful accounts of what has happened.

“The challenge now is to get food and water to people. Our concern is also to care for the carers – everyone is traumatised.”

The Alliance’s facilitator in the region, Clifton Nedd, said Elenor Lawrence, the Provincial Secretary of the Church of the West Indies (CPWI), had been in touch with the Diocese of the North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba, which includes some of the islands most devastated by the hurricane. She said there has been tremendous damage and destruction of Church buildings.

Mrs Lawrence said: “The Bishop was able to inform ... through someone else's cellphone that all the church buildings in Anguilla are flat with the exception of St. Mary but that will also require extensive repairs.” She noted that there was only minimal loss of life and committed the province to “continue to pray for them."

Clifton added: "We thank God for the several entities, including churches, who are responding to the immediate needs."

“We must remember that the clergy were also affected and face personal losses yet they are on the front-line of the response to the crisis; helping to heal their communities,” he continued. “As we respond I hope that we can lift up these and all other carers - specifically considering their needs.”

Earlier the Mothers’ Union issued this statement. “We the Provincial Council of Mothers’ Union in the Province of the West Indies, representing the Dioceses of Barbados, Belize, Guyana & Suriname, Jamaica & The Cayman Islands, North Eastern Caribbean & Aruba, Trinidad & Tobago and the Windward Islands, wish to send this message of prayer and solidarity to those in our province and beyond affected by the devastation of Hurricane Irma.

We have heard with great sorrow news of how the islands of the north eastern Caribbean have been devastated like never before. We mourn with all those who have lost loved ones, especially with one of our own delegates who has lost a family member in the British Virgin Islands.

Mothers’ Union and Church teams on the ground in the Diocese of North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba (NECA) are assessing and monitoring the situation as it develops and will be identifying how they can respond. Grants are being considered from the Mothers’ Union Disaster Fund in the Province of the West Indies and the worldwide Mothers’ Union Relief Fund once plans have been made.

We continue to ask for prayers from Mothers’ Union members and the Church around the world for all those who have been affected by this tragedy and for all those who are acting to respond in the relief effort. [ACNS]

Television vicar to star in BBC series on the Camino

A pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, where the Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal is hoping to build an Anglican Centre. The pilgrimage route is to feature in a new three-part BBC television series. (Photo: xtberlin/Pixabay)

A pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, where the Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal is hoping to build an Anglican Centre. The pilgrimage route is to feature in a new three-part BBC television series. (Photo: xtberlin/Pixabay)

A new three-part BBC television series exploring pilgrimage will follow seven famous people as they embark on a 15-day pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The Revd Kate Bottley, vicar of Blyth and Scrooby with Ranskill, and Chaplain of North Nottinghamshire College in the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham, is one of those taking part. Bottley became famous in the UK after staring in the Channel Four programme Gogglebox, which looks at how people watch television. She now has a number of media roles, including presenting the popular Songs of Praise television programme and BBC Radio Two’s national Sunday morning early breakfast programme, the Sunday Hour.

Other participants include actor Neil Morrissey, magician Debbie McGee, M People lead singer Heather Small, comedian Ed Byrne, investigative journalist Raphael Rowe and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers. Some are known for the strong faith beliefs while others are atheists.

“Human beings have been making religious pilgrimages for thousands of years and the 21st century has seen a marked rise in people making these moral and spiritual journeys,” the BBC said in a statement announcing the new commission. They said that the seven participants would be “stripped of the trappings and comforts of fame and celebrity to become modern day pilgrims for 15 days, travelling the famous medieval pilgrimage. . .

“Living as simple pilgrims, including staying in traditional hostels and carrying everything they need on their backs, [the participants] embark on their own spiritual journey of a lifetime and explore the spiritual meaning of pilgrimage.”

They continue: “Walking alongside thousands of other pilgrims they visit historic and religious landmarks, meet incredible people and encounter extraordinary events. But it’s anything but a walk in the park. The physical challenge proves too much for some, theology debates divide opinion but an unexpected confrontation brings the group together.”

The programme will explore how the experience impacts on their own faith, and ask whether medieval pilgrimage has any modern spiritual relevance. “As they learn about more about themselves and each other, they gradually reveal and understand their own beliefs more and discover a greater insight into the meaning of faith,” the statement said.

The BBC’s commissioning editor for religion, Fatima Salaria, said: “My ambition for The Pilgrimage is to show how a group of well-known faces, taken out of their comfort zone, discover what their faith means to them as they walk in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims.”

Tom McDonald, head of commissioning for the BBC’s specialist factual programmes said that religion was “at the heart” of his department’s offer. “We’re committed to growing our reputation for bold and contemporary ideas which bring religion content to the broadest possible audience,” he said. The series, and other new religious programmes announced by the BBC today, “in different ways, explores how the challenges of modern life and questions of faith intersect with surprising, moving and often uplifting results.”

The Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal (the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain), is seeking to construct an Anglican Centre at Santiago at the end of the Camino – the burial place of St James and considered by many to be the third holiest Christian pilgrimage site after Jerusalem and Rome - and recently declared its cathedral in Madrid to be a welcome centre for pilgrims on the route. [ACNS]

 

Charlottesville clergy hold anti-racism prayer meeting

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists clash with anti-fascist protestors at Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday 12th August.  

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists clash with anti-fascist protestors at Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday 12th August.

 

Clergy from the US-based Episcopal Church joined other Christians leaders in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend in a show of solidarity with members of minority communities. Priests from across the Diocese of Virginia took part in the rally which was held to counter what became a deadly protest by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other extreme right-wing groups.

The right-wing protest was sparked by a decision to remove a statue of Civil War Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee and change the name of the city’s Lee Park into Emancipation Park. The decision to remove the statue is currently being challenged in court. There is growing pressure to erase Lee from public view, or celebration, because of the way that far-right groups across America have turned him into a rallying symbol and icon for racism.

Last Saturday’s 'Unite The Right' march was met with a counter-demonstration, leading to violent clashes in which around 15 people were hurt. A further 19 people taking part in the counter-demonstration were injured and one - 32-year-old legal assistant Heather Heyer – was killed when a car was deliberately driven at them. The alleged driver, 20-year old James Fields of Ohio, is due to appear in court today charged with murder, malicious wounding, and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

In a separate incident, two police officers were killed when their helicopter, which they were using to monitor the protests, crashed.

Writing in advance of Saturday to invite clergy to take part in a counter-protest against the racist groups, the bishops of the Diocese of Virginia said that “together we will stand in non-confrontational and prayerful opposition to the rally… Our purpose will be to bear visible witness to the entirety of the beloved community in which people of all races are equal”.

Clergy were asked to join a prayer gathering organised by the Charlottesville Clergy Collective. The invitation was extended only to clergy, rather than lay members of the churches “for the purposes of crowd reduction and public safety.”

The clergy took park in a 7.30 am march from Jefferson School’s African-American Heritage Centre, through Emancipation Park, and on to the First United Methodist Church where they remained for a prayer rally while the main protests took place.

Clergy taking part in the march were asked to wear clerical clothes “to make the most visible witness”.

The bishops of the Diocese of Virginia - Shannon Johnston, Susan Goff and Edwin Gulick - concluded their letter saying: “Your voice is needed! As people who have been reconciled to God through Christ, we have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). In our judgment, therefore, the Church cannot remain silent in the face of those who seek to foment division.”

The Bishop of Washington, Mariann Budde, responded to the weekend’s violence in a blog post. “Once again our nation’s demon of racism has reared its head, spewing hatred and inciting violence,” she said. “What we saw in Charlottesville was unmasked and ugly, culminating in a deadly act of domestic terrorism. But something else was also present in Charlottesville: the power of collective resolve and mobilised love.”

The bishop praised the work of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, saying: “Their witness was needed on Saturday, and they were ready. As white supremacists shouted words of hatred and violence, people of faith stood resolute in prayer and song. And the Episcopal Church was strong among their number.”

She added: “The Spirit of God is at work in our world and will prevail. The evil of racism is real, but it is not stronger than God’s love embodied in the lives of those committed to justice.” [ACNS]

Anglican Communion Secretary General reflects on second year in office

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, addresses members of the ACC in Lusaka

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, addresses members of the ACC in Lusaka

… I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
[Ephesians 3]

St. Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus is also my prayer for the family of the Anglican Communion as I mark my second anniversary of becoming Secretary General. Paul was confined to prison as he wrote. By God’s grace we have the freedom to travel with relative ease to almost every country in the world.

Our global family

One of my responsibilities is to ‘further the distinctive contribution of Anglican Churches around the world in witnessing to the reconciling love of God in Christ’. To that end, it is a particular joy for me to travel to many parts of the Communion. Indeed my role is becoming more ambassadorial.

Since taking office, I have accepted invitations to participate in synods, services, consecrations and meetings in 25 countries from Barbados to Zambia. I am encouraged by the vigour and variety of Anglicanism everywhere and am grateful for the hospitality shown to me. I have seen first-hand how churches act synodically. This process is fascinating and exciting and something from which other churches can learn. One highlight I have observed in parts of Africa and SE Asia has been seeing Primates eschewing doctrinal disputes in order to concentrate on the need to relieve poverty, and to challenge bad governance, corruption, ignorance and Islamic extremism. It is my ambition to visit all of our 39 provinces, to listen and learn from each and to share what I have found elsewhere.

Much of my time is spent at the Anglican Communion Office in west London, where my responsibilities include leading the Secretariat. To assist me, David White was appointed as Chief Operating Officer earlier this year. I also have a strong team of directors and staff, including the London-based members of the Anglican Alliance.

Change is a fact of life for any organisation. During this past year we have seen the departures of Canon Phil Groves and Canon Flora Winfield from the roles with the Indaba Project and at the United Nations respectively. Both served with great distinction and are missed. Our Director for Finance and Administration, Tim Trimble, will be moving to a new post soon, and my personal assistant, Christine Codner, has retired after 34 years service. We are grateful to God for our fellowship in the Gospel with all of them and pray his blessing on their future.

Communion growth

As I write this, I am preparing for one of the highlights of my time in office. I will shortly travel to Khartoum for a service to mark the inauguration of a new province: Sudan. It is a nation where Christians are in a minority. I have met federal ministers in Sudan who belong to the Muslim majority and who recognise Christians as believers with whom they are willing to work. When Anglicans change their approach to Islam, this leads to healthy inter-religious dialogue. I am optimistic about the possibilities ahead.

Chile presents an opportunity for the formation of another new province, as a result of evangelism, church planting and growth. I look forward to visiting three proposed dioceses there later this year.

Our prime calling is to proclaim Jesus and his world-wide mission and I have seen several examples of new outreach. In the US, for instance, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry took part in a conference in Dallas to promote new ways of evangelising; churches are being planted in new neighbourhoods there even before people move in. In South-East Asia churches are being planted to respond to the needs of the people. And in Kenya, the Primate has made it clear that he is not interested in a divided church, but will concentrate on development in rural and urban areas and on reaching out to Muslim neighbours

Looking ahead

Tensions within families - and that includes families of churches – are part of the human condition and were certainly experienced in the New Testament churches. While they were, and are, to be regretted, we are people of resurrection hope and must not be ground down by them. When divergent views are held with equal conviction, we are especially called to love one another. Such unity will be our witness “that the world may believe”

As bishop and archbishop in Nigeria I was called to be a bridge-builder between Christians and Muslims and was used to promote understanding and respect between previously warring factions. It was that experience which prompted me to apply for the post of Secretary General in the Anglican Communion, where there is an acknowledged need to build a culture of respect and mutual understanding.

The personal ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury is an exemplar of patience and humility. It has been used by God to bring about reconciliation between provinces which were at odds with the rest of the Communion. I believe the Archbishop demonstrates what it means to be gracious. I value deeply the regular conversations I have had with him ever since I was appointed.

The next phase of my work as Secretary General will be to promote understanding across the Communion of the different cultures in which member churches are rooted. We should not expect other parts of the Communion to be exactly like us when their culture and history are different from ours. I want the Communion to develop a better understanding of itself. Sometime deeply-held convictions about churchmanship and authority (including that of bishops and archbishops) are more influenced by local culture than Christ.

It may be painful for some to abandon the claim that they alone are the church, with the implication that others are not. But we cannot afford to say “I have no need of you” for that would deny the opportunity to give and receive the blessings which we owe one another.

Within the Anglican family, from whatever part of the Communion we come, we become members of the Church by accepting Jesus as our personal Saviour and by being baptised. Thereafter, even though we sin, we remain church members. So we cannot ‘unchurch’ one another on the grounds that we disapprove of their behaviour. In the final analysis, it is God who distinguishes between the faithful and unfaithful. It is for us to love one another and leave judgment to the Almighty.

There is no room in the Anglican tradition for dictatorship: decisions must be made in recognised, constitutional ways. The bishop is a servant, teacher, guide and protector of the people. The theologian Richard Hooker identified three sources of authority: Scripture, Tradition and Reason, with Scripture having the what we might think of as the casting vote. This analysis could be the means of shifting the logjam when Christians seem to have taken up intractable positions in opposition to one another.

My strong recommendation is that from the Anglican Communion Office we facilitate a series of intra- and inter-provincial visits, so that Anglicans meet and learn from one another, engage and support one another in mission, and attend each other’s synods as observers. Visitors could be invited to address brothers and sisters of the other province. Mutual understanding should result, especially as we see how authority is exercised.

The Primates’ Meeting and Lambeth Conference

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called a meeting of Primates for October 2017 and a Lambeth Conference in 2020. The ACO will provide the administrative support required.

A Primates’ Task Group, formed at the behest of the Primates to help the Communion walk together despite differences, has already improved our openness to one another, especially when considering authority. The bishops, clergy and lay members of the Group have come to recognise that the Anglican Communion is very diverse in terms of culture, ecclesiology and polity. They will return to their provinces as ambassadors with a broad vision of that diversity.

The 2020 Lambeth (Conference) Design Group has members from every region of the Communion. My hope is that they will correct any misinformation about the process, by demolishing the myth that the agenda is set by ‘the West’ and then foisted on the rest! There may also be regional meetings between primates with the Archbishop of Canterbury, to feed ideas into the Design Group. I am anticipating a wonderful and meaningful Lambeth Conference in three years’ time.

It will be our first Lambeth Conference for 12 years. It will be an historic occasion. The bishops there represent their local churches, bringing with them their good news as well as difficult issues. Throughout it, they are upheld by prayers from around the world. They meet to discern what the Lord is saying to his people, through the study of the Word and in waiting and sharing together. The conference carries a lofty moral authority. It is not legally binding on the provinces because they are autonomous. But when it speaks in a formal resolution, the whole Christian world, not just the Anglican Communion, should listen. In a Lambeth Conference resolution, the Anglican part of the universal Church has spoken.

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC)

Our next ACC is due in 2019. The ACC has a different composition with laity, clergy and bishops all represented. The other Instruments of Communion are also represented. It also has a constitution. The ACC has enormous authority and, like the Lambeth Conference, its resolutions can carry moral weight. There should be scope for these to be discussed at diocesan level, rather than subject to provincial filtering. That way bishops, priests and laity can see that ACC resolutions can lead to action at grass roots level. I would like to start a fresh reflection about the moral weight of ACC-16 resolutions and those which will emanate from the Lambeth Conference.

Development

My vision is to reshape our Communion. We have to change in terms of representation, partnership and mission. I foresee a Communion where:

  •     we will grow spiritually as well as numerically;
  •     there will be a growing recognition of our cultural differences;
  •     diversity will be respected;
  •     we will be proud to be Anglican

It is my privilege to serve the Communion in the role of Secretary General and I am excited to see what God will do during my third year in the post.

“… I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” [ACNS]

Celebration of achievements of Hong Kong at St John's Cathedral

Photo: St John's Cathedral  

Photo: St John's Cathedral

 

St John’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Hong Kong Island, recently held a special service ‘Celebrating Hong Kong’ to celebrate the ‘vibrancy, diversity and achievements of Hong Kong’.

During the service, faith leaders and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (Hong Kong SAR) took part in candle lighting and prayed that the city would be blessed with peace and love.

The ‘Celebrating Hong Kong’ service was led by the Most Revd Dr Paul Kwong, Archbishop and Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. Amongst the congregation were the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Mrs Carrie Lam, representatives of consulates-general, and representatives of many Christian denominations and also of the Muslim, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist faiths. Over 400 people attended the service.

In the opening prayer, Archbishop Paul Kwong thanked God for the many blessings upon the life of Hong Kong and for those who offered themselves for public service. “We join together to offer our hopes and dreams for this place, and ask for the strength to strive for the greater good. We come to pray for all the people of Hong Kong, our nation and our world,” he said.

The prayer was followed by reflections upon the topic ‘What’s Good about Hong Kong’, contributed by a teenager, an adult and a senior citizen. After a litany of thanksgiving led by the Christian leaders, The Very Reverend Matthias C. Der, Dean of St John’s Cathedral, invited members of the local community to light three candles, which represented faith, hope and love.  

The first candle, ‘the Candle of Faith’, was lit by representatives of the local faith communities, praying that Hong Kong citizens may proceed on life’s journey in harmony and happiness with a peaceful heart. The second candle, ‘the Candle of Hope’, was lit by a group of young people. They prayed that, through this gift of illumination, people would find the way through the darkness of this world and be a light for others in need. Three couples lit the third candle, ‘the Candle of Love’, and gave thanks for the gift of understanding and compassion for all of humankind.

Mrs Carrie Lam then lit the fourth candle, ‘The Bauhinia Candle’, a symbol for Hong Kong. The congregation prayed that the city would continue to be blessed with peace, justice and prosperity. Archbishop Paul Kwong ended the service with the Prayer of St Francis and a blessing of the congregation and the city. [ACNS]

Church and Society Commission seminar in Dublin focuses on mental health awareness

The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin, introduces the seminar.  

The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin, introduces the seminar.

 

Over 30 clergy and other church leaders from the Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, Quakers and Salvation Army recently attended a seminar on issues surrounding mental health, hosted by the Church of Ireland’s Church and Society Commission (CASC) in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin. The morning seminar had contributions from three speakers focusing on different aspects of mental health.

The first speaker was Professor Eilis Hennessy, senior lecturer in developmental psychology in UCD’s School of Psychology, who spoke on ‘challenging stigma to improve young people’s mental health’. We learned that young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems and young people with mental health problems are stigmatised. However, lower levels of stigma are related to higher levels of help–seeking. Education can reduce stigma and increase a person’s intentions to seek help. Adolescents who are taught about mental health problems and who meet someone with a mental health problem generally have more positive attitudes as a result.

The second speaker was Dr Regina McQuillan, palliative medicine consultant in St Francis Hospice and Beaumont Hospital, who spoke on ‘supporting the mental health of people living with a life–limiting illness’. Dr McQuillan spoke about how living with a life–limiting illness can affect the emotional and mental well–being of the person with the illness and those close to them and also considered how people with pre–existing mental health problems may be affected. She emphasised the importance of minding your mental health by maintaining good practices, maintaining links with support services, managing medication, informing new healthcare teams of previous diagnoses, being alert to your own warning signs, and using information technology wisely.

The third speaker was the Revd James Mulhall, a social worker, career guidance counsellor and Church of Ireland curate in the Lismore Union of Parishes, as well as being the Safeguarding Trust Child Protection Officer for the Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Dioceses. Mr Mulhall spoke on ‘faith and mental health’. He described how in his work with people, conversations would never start about God but with hidden feelings, loneliness, anxiety, family conflict or bereavement. However, by listening, being attentive and attending to the person, they would both unearth ‘hidden treasure’, the good news behind the bad.  

The seminar was opened by the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, who said: ”We need to speak of people and of humanity at the heart of mental care matters. Our instinct within the Church is to say: ‘What can I do to help?’ We need to ask: ‘What can I do to listen and what can I do to learn?’”

The Revd Martin O’Connor, a member of CASC, closed the meeting. He said that the seminar was very informative and thought–provoking and would help those engaged in the pastoral care of people living with mental health issues. He thanked the speakers for their contributions.

A version of this article was first published in the Church of Ireland Gazette.  The presentations by the speakers are available via the Church of Ireland website (https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/7315/church-and-society-commission-seminar). [Church of Ireland Press Office]

Three Christians in Iran given long jail terms

Photo Credit: M.E. Concern  

Photo Credit: M.E. Concern

 

Two Iranian Christians, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz and Hadi Asgari have been sentenced to 10 years in jail and a third, Amin Afshar Naderi, has been jailed for 15 years. Pastor Victor was verbally charged with "conducting evangelism," "illegal house church activities" and "Bible printing and distribution" among other charges. Amin Afshar Naderi, a convert from Islam, was charged with "acting against national security" and "insulting the sacred" (blasphemy).


The jail terms were imposed by a judge in Tehran following a hearing in June. The men were not in court when the sentences were read out. Their lawyer will appeal against the court's decision.

Pastor Victor, who is of Assyrian background, was seized at his home along with Naderi at a Christmas celebration in 2014. They were subsequently released on bail but Naderi was then re-arrested during a picnic last August along with Hadi Asgari and three others, including Pastor Victor’s son. Hadi Asgari, also a convert, was charged with "acting against national security" and "organising and creating house churches".


Pastor Victor’s son, Ramiel Bet Tamraz, was charged with "acting against national security" and "organising and creating house churches" as well as charges relating to his father's ministry. Pastor Victor's wife, Shamiran Issavi, was summoned by the authorities last month to Evin Detention Centre in Tehran and charged with "participating in foreign seminars" and "acting against Iranian national security" as a church member. She was released after one day on bail of approximately $30,000.


Iranian Christians have requested prayers that the appeal judge will overturn the jail sentences and also acquit Pastor Victor’s wife and son. [ACNS/Middle East Concern]
 

WCC urges end to escalation in Korea

Demonstrating for peace (Photo: WCC)

Demonstrating for peace (Photo: WCC)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has reiterated the urgent appeal issued by its Executive Committee last month for “all states engaged in the perilously escalating military confrontation in the [Korean] region to refrain from further escalation and to pursue instead initiatives to reduce tensions and to create a window for new dialogue initiatives”.


The reportedly successful intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea on 4th July, and the joint US-South Korean ballistic missile drills it provoked, have raised tensions in the region to a dangerously new high, according to Peter Prove, director of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs.

"As the WCC Executive Committee has recently observed,” noted Prove, “confrontation by military or other means carries far higher risks of conflict – with catastrophic consequences for all people of the peninsula and the region – than prospects of leading to peace. A sustainable peace, and the peaceful denuclearization of the region, cannot be achieved through mutual provocation, but only through dialogue. In this particularly dangerous moment, self-restraint is indeed all that separates armistice and war. We call on all parties to beware of this perilous threshold." [WCC News]

"Heartbroken" bishops back South Sudan peace move

Archbishop Albert Chama (Photo: ENS)

Archbishop Albert Chama (Photo: ACNS)

By Adrian Butcher, ACNS

Anglican leaders in Africa are sponsoring a church-led initiative to end the conflict in South Sudan. The Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) has invited South Sudanese church leaders to Zambia next month to press for the guns to be silenced.

The move comes after a group including leaders from CAPA and the ecumenical Council of Churches of South Sudan visited refugee camps in northern Uganda to hear first-hand the stories of those who have fled the fighting. They were joined by church leaders in Uganda which has taken in 1.25 million South Sudanese refugees.

One camp – Bidi Bidi – has more than 226,000 refugees. CAPA chair, Archbishop Albert Chama, said many of the delegation had been left in tears by what they encountered there.

“We heard from women, men, young girls, young boys, child soldiers who had been rescued – it really broke our hearts. We could not resist asking the question ‘what can the church do?’  The children are crying for school, they are crying for health.”

Archbishop Albert said the huge influx of refugees had put a big strain on the Ugandan authorities. Bidi Bidi camp has been forced to halve the daily rations given to refugees to ensure everyone is fed.

“This was really, really difficult for us to comprehend. You can imagine when you have got young people they need food to grow and maintain health,” he said. “But we sympathise with the authorities – when you plan for, say, 50,000 people and you get 100,000 what else can you do? You have to share. But seeing this was really something else for us – we could not hold back our tears.”

Archbishop Albert said the camp visits were an opportunity for church leaders to listen to the refugees and see the difficulties they are facing. And he said the message they heard was loud and clear.

“The people were saying ‘go back and speak to the people involved in the conflict...the government and the diaspora outside South Sudan. Tell them we are suffering and we don’t know why we are suffering. Tell them to stop the guns, tell them we need peace, we need peace, we need peace.”

The civil war in South Sudan erupted in December 2013 after the president, Silva Kiir, accused the vice president, Riek Marchar, of plotting against him. Attempts at mediation since have repeatedly broken down. But church leaders have been in dialogue with both men amid signs of hope.

Now CAPA is working with the Council of Churches of South Sudan to bring peace. CCSS leaders have been invited to the Zambian capital, Lusaka, next month to seek God, pray and discuss the situation and then formulate a united response. Archbishop Albert is optimistic.

“People (in the camps) were saying to us ‘you are the only hope we have’.  If the church speaks, the people will listen,” he said. “So if the churches are united in one voice, they can stop the war. When they work with their denominations, their pastors, things will change on the ground. That is our hope.

“We hope the outcome of the retreat in Lusaka will be that church leaders go ‘full throttle’ telling the warring factions to silence the guns so that negotiations can begin.”

After visiting the camps, the delegation continued its discussions with other leaders at a summit meeting near Entebbe. In a communiqué issued afterwards, there was praise for Uganda for the way it was helping the refugees.

It said: “Despite the challenges being faced in the resettlement camps, the South Sudanese refugees expressed profound gratitude to the government and people of Uganda... for receiving and setting aside land for resettlement.”

The sentiments were echoed in a statement by the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who has been visiting northern Uganda this week.

“In a world where so many people are selfishly closing their doors, closing their borders, not allowing people to come, this example deserves praise (and) admiration from the whole international community,” he said.

Church of England parish at heart of relief efforts following London inferno

St Clements.jpg

In the hours since a massive blaze ripped through a tower block in west London early last Wednesday, nearby St Clement's Church has been rapidly turned into an emergency relief centre. It sheltered more than 100 residents as the blaze raged and has subsequently been overwhelmed with donations. People have given clothes, bedding and toiletries for the residents of the tower, many of whom fled the block in their nightwear and have lost everything. Volunteers from churches throughout the area are running the relief operation.

Revd Alan Everett described how events unfolded in the hours after the devastating blaze: “I opened the church at half three in the morning and within minutes the local community started bringing in supplies – the tables are now completely overflowing. The response has been overwhelming” he said. St Clement's has now reached saturation point and has simply run out of room to store any more supplies.

Revd Alan says St Clement's has always had a strong emphasis on community outreach work and this tragic event has brought people together in a very strong bond: “Because of this church’s longstanding community outreach work, it is a highly trusted place. We are trusted by people of all faiths. This response is the social gospel. In the wake of the tragedy people might ask where is God? God is present in the hands that are reaching out to help.”

Area Dean, Revd Mark O’Donoghue, has been at St Clement’s since dawn yesterday: “I have spent the time sitting with and listening to people who are desperately looking for friends and relatives. This is a church showing Christ like compassion and care.” Revd James Heard from a neighbouring parish has been spending time in prayer with those in distress: "I was here most of yesterday. People have been coming in too shocked to speak." [ACNS]

Designated spaces have been created within the church grounds for prayer and clergy from throughout the area have come to offer support to grieving relatives. St Clement’s is providing registration for missing persons.

It’s a highly multicultural area with many nationalities represented; there’s a high population of Moroccans, Filipinos and Eastern Europeans as well as many people from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the response from the community had been an “extraordinary sight.” Local Bishop, Graham Tomlin, says it’s crucial the clergy are visible: “It’s important to open the doors of our churches and of our hearts and to offer whatever help we can. This church is at the heart of the local community and we have here with us families anxiously awaiting news of relatives. There’s an Ethiopian family here who can’t find their five year old son. Our local Filipino Chaplain is also very involved as there are a number of Filipinos in the tower block missing.”


St Clement's is a four minute walk from the tower block. [ACNS]

Climate Change - Comment by Canon Ian Ellis

In a statement issued on 11th June, the World Council of Churches – of which the Church of Ireland is a member-Church - expressed its “ deep disappointment” at the United States' withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change action.

The US withdrawal was announced by President Trump on 1st June, but swiftly after that announcement, the Governors of the a number of states – including California, New York and Washington - established the 'United States Climate Alliance' nonetheless to press ahead with the goals of the Paris Agreement. They were joined by a range of city mayors and business leaders. However, the Paris Agreement itself stipulates that this withdrawal cannot take effect before November 2020 – in fact, one day after the US presidential election of that year. So, quite how this all works out remains to be seen.

The Paris Agreement is also known as 'COP21' - the 21st 'Conference of Parties' to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). There were 195 participating countries, along with the European Union.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary UNFCCC, commented of the Paris Agreement at the time of its passing by international consensus: “It is an agreement of conviction. It is an agreement of solidarity with the most vulnerable. It is an agreement of long-term vision, because it is an agreement of commitment to turn this new, legal framework into the engine of safe growth for all for the rest of this century. It is an unequivocal clarion call to the world."

The WCC's 11th June statement says that the US withdrawal would have “grave consequences for the impoverished and vulnerable, for our children's children, and for the entire planet, putting at risk people's access to clean water, food, shelter and secure livelihoods, and undermining efforts for environmental sustainability and for peace”.

The Met Office points out that the planet faces a range of scenarios depending on the level of continuing emissions of greenhouse gases - gases that trap heat in the atmosphere - and that the severity of long-term climate disruption depends on future emissions. It is recognised that urgent action is needed for the wellbeing of future generations as the heating of the planet is causing sea levels to rise and many areas face drought.

It is good to see that there are so many people in positions of leadership across the United States who remain committed to the Paris Agreement goals and, while President Trump has expressed a willingness to re-negotiate the terms of the Agreement, this seems most unlikely to happen. The Agreement that was reached in Paris in 2015 allows flexibility – in fact, that was the key to its success. Professor David Victor, of the University of California at San Diego, has commented that the Paris Agreement's “pledge-and-review system helped transform climate diplomacy", making it easier for national governments to tailor their commitments to what they know they can deliver at home.

There does not appear to be either the scope or the opportunity for a re-negotiation of Paris 2015. Also, crucially, there really isn't the international will.

At last month's General Synod of the Church of Ireland, the ongoing development of the Representative Church Body’s environmental policy was highlighted, along with the RCB's newly revised policy on climate change. The RCB also accepted a motion on climate change proposed by Stephen Trew, of the Diocese of Dromore, as part of the RCB’s commitment to investing in funds to help the transition to a low carbon economy - that is, an economy based on minimum greenhouse gas output. The Church of Ireland's investment arm is clearly aware of the critical issues surrounding climate change and has shown itself to be proactive in the right way.

Archbishop of Canterbury's statement on the General Election

Abp Justin Welby HoL.jpg

Archbishop Justin Welby's 9th June statement in response to the result of the UK General Election:

“In recent weeks we have seen acts of terror and violence committed against innocent people in London, Manchester and around the world by those fundamentally opposed to our shared common values. Set against that, yesterday’s election was a powerful and vivid testimony of our enduring faith in the values of peace, freedom and democracy, and a rejection of the forces of fear, hatred and division. It is heartening to see voter turnout increase at this election and I offer my prayers and good wishes to all those elected to Parliament, to all who put themselves forward as candidates and to the countless many who make our democratic process work so well.

“I encourage all Christians, and people of all faiths and no faith, to hold our political leaders in their thoughts and prayers at this time. My prayer is that they may know the love and presence of God, made known through Jesus Christ, as they continue their discussions and prepare to take on the weighty responsibility of leadership.”

Fate of quake damaged NZ Cathedral to be decided in September

The Anglican Church in New Zealand has said the future of ChristChurch Cathedral, which has been derelict since an earthquake six years ago, will be decided this September. The Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch will rule on whether the Cathedral should be restored – or demolished and replaced with a contemporary building. Local officials involved with the city's regeneration have been pressing for a resolution and campaigners have called for immediate government intervention to restore the iconic Cathedral. The diocesan property division has defended itself over allegations that it has dragged its feet. 

Bishop Victoria Mathews said, “We are very aware that the city and beyond is very frustrated with the amount of time it has taken to reach a decision on the future of our beloved Cathedral. Church Property Trustees (CPT) and the entire Diocese share that frustration. After much thought and prayer I have decided to reserve the question on the future of the Cathedral in the Square to September 2017 for our diocesan Synod’s decision” she said.

“As the ChristChurch Cathedral is a church building above all else, and a place of worship, the decision on its future should be made by the membership of the Synod comprising the gathered clergy and laity of the Diocese who will be using the Cathedral forever......To date the view of the Church has been that we should proceed with a contemporary Cathedral. In 2013 our Synod voted for an inspirational Cathedral. Recently the Standing Committee expressed its view that a new Cathedral, costing no more than the insurance proceeds received for the Cathedral building in the Square, is its preferred option.”

“For the past six and a half years Church Property Trustees and its staff have done extraordinary due diligence on different options regarding the future of the Cathedral.  This includes engineering investigations, quantity surveying and research into fundraising options.  Along the way there has been active and passionate debate on what should be done" said Bishop Mathews.

“We recently undertook a scientific survey of public preferences among residents from Greater Christchurch on the future of the ChristChurch Cathedral. The results of the research were clear. People’s preferences change when they are fully informed, but there is still no overwhelming preference. People are still divided over whether to reinstate the Cathedral building in the Square or to commit to building a contemporary Cathedral that is inspirational and fit for purpose. We will soon release the survey results." [ACNS]

Prayers and Candles for the Victims of the Manchester Bomb

Manchester.jpg

Candles are burning in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, for those killed and injured in the Manchester Arena terror attack on May 22.

Special prayers are being said, and people wishing to take time out to pray and light a candle are welcome to call into the Cathedral today and over the next few days.

The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, said: “It is with deep sadness that we awoke this morning to the news from Manchester. So many lives lost and injured, the likelihood being that many are children.

“Our hearts go out to all the families involved and our prayers are with them today, and will be in the coming days as this devastating attack brings such sorrow to so many.”

Dean Mann continued: “We also remember in our prayers the members of the emergency services and all whose trauma at these events must be acute, even as they seek to assist others.

“In the communities, schools, churches and other faith centres, whose prayers and concern for those of their members will be deeply felt, may they know the support that is being prayed for by those across the country and around the world who seek to uphold them, as best we can, in this time of such distress.

“As we pray daily for the evil of this world to be abated and human beings of all races, nations, creeds and religions to find the common goals of peace and justice, we pray for the perpetrators of violence, that their hearts may be turned to healing and building up and life, rather than destruction and death.

“Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.”

 

CMS missionaries complete 28-year project to publish whole Bible in Kurdish Sorani language

Paul Thaxter, CMS international director

Paul Thaxter, CMS international director

A team of Bible translators in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, working against the backdrop of civil unrest and religious persecution, has completed the first ever translation of the whole Bible into the Central Kurdish Sorani language.

For the last eight years, Church Mission Society (CMS) mission partners, Joel and Ruth Hammond* have worked alongside indigenous Kurds and other foreign nationals drafting text, checking names, terminology and style, and finally checking both the Old and New Testaments so that they could be published together for the first time as the complete Bible.

The whole translation of Old and New Testaments took 28 years to complete and will enable six million native speakers of the Sorani language to hear and read the Bible in their own language for the first time. As well as physical copies, the new translation is available digitally, both through the YouVersion app and a newly-designed Kurdish app called Pertukekem (‘My Book’).

The new translation, which has been a joint initiative between Church Mission Society, Biblica and several other linguistics services, was launched at a special ceremony earlier this month by Dr Carl Moeller, CEO of Biblica.  Dr Nawzad, General Director of public libraries in the Kurdistan region, received the translated Bible and welcomed its contribution to Kurdish culture and mutual understanding between the faiths of Kurdistan.

Following the project’s completion, Joel is now training in linguistics and undertaking language studies: “It has been a privilege to be a part of this project. Kurds have known healings, dreams and visions from Christ but having the whole Word of God available in written form will crystallise their faith and allow them to pass it on more effectively.”

Already, the team have begun to receive feedback from Sorani speakers revelling in the impact the new translation is having. One said he felt “empowered” by being able to use the new version on his mobile phone while another related how he had been able to give the text to a local Mullah.

Paul Thaxter, international director at CMS, recently travelled to the region and was delighted to see the completion of the translation project. He said:  “Trying to live as a Christian while being denied the chance to read the Bible in your own language is unimaginable. However, now through the application and commitment of people like Joel and Ruth, and the team around them, millions of people will now have the ‘Gift of Life’ in their own hands.”

  * name changed for security reasons [ACNS]

Put people first post-Brexit, urge Welsh bishops

Church in Wales-Brexit.jpg

Welsh bishops are calling on the UK Government to put people first as it negotiates the country’s exit from the European Union.

Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the EU, the bishops of the Church in Wales have said that inequality and disadvantage need to be addressed in order to build a better Wales, post-Brexit.

They said: “The vote to leave the European Union exposed deep divisions in society. Whilst some have benefitted from economic prosperity and the opportunities to travel, work, study and trade freely across European boundaries, for others, these things have been irrelevant. The causes of division and disaffection do not all lie with our membership of the EU, and if we are to build a better Wales post-Brexit, it is essential that we recognise and address each and every inequality and disadvantage which damage our sense of solidarity and of belonging to one another in our community.

“With this in mind, we urge those responsible for negotiations to prioritise the protection of human rights; to offer pro-actively security to individuals and families who have come to live within our borders; and to maintain the employment rights, safety standards, and environmental protections which have developed in common with our European partners over the past 40 years. It is equally important to continue support to those areas of Wales which are most affected by economic disadvantage, to promote the rural economy, and to support sectors which rely on European markets

“As Christians we recognise our common identity as children of God. Political differences will not marr our relationships with fellow-Christians in Europe and beyond, particularly through the worldwide Anglican Communion. We pray that Europe will continue to be a beacon of peace, hope and mutual endeavour across national boundaries; and that these will be qualities and endeavours in which we can continue to play a part.”

The Welsh bishops are:

Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, John Davies
Bishop of Bangor, Andrew John
Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron
Bishop of Monmouth, Richard Pain
Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy

[Church in Wales News]

WCC offers prayers for victims of ‘heinous’ bomb attack on St Petersburg commuters

Albin Hillert-WCC.jpg

(Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has condemned as “cruel and despicable” the actions of those responsible for the 3rd April lethal blast on the St Petersburg metro that killed 14 people and injured at least 49, calling for prayers for the victims and their close ones.

“Once again innocent people are victims of a heinous, cruel and despicable act that targeted train commuters in the underground system going about their normal daily lives in Russia’s second city,” said WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in a statement issued the following day.

“We express our condolences and let us pray for the victims, their families and close ones as well as the people of St Petersburg and Russia in this tragic time.”

The head of Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the blast hit a train between Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologichesky Institut stations, Russia Today reported.

President Vladimir Putin was in St Petersburg at the time of the attack to meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. (WCC News)

Biblical faith and journalism

Ian M Ellis_1.JPG

Biblical faith and journalism - A talk by Canon Ian Ellis at St Mary's church, Macosquin, Diocese of Derry, on Wednesday 15th March 2017.

 

In the Church, the Bible is of course very much to the fore, and in the world around us there is journalism everywhere – newspapers, radio and television, the Internet. We are very fortunate indeed to live in the free world where, providing one does not defame another person or publish obscenities, there is freedom of expression. It is a vital freedom if human beings are to flourish.

I often think, when I see rows of newspapers lining a newsagent's shelf or in a stand outside a shop on a sunny day, how great it is to live in a society in which people are allowed to write their views freely and to have them published so openly.

I remember many years ago, when I was a student, visiting the former East Germany, then under communist rule as a satellite state of the then Soviet Union. It was at the time when the Warsaw Pact nations invaded the then Czechoslovakia because its government was becoming too freedom-loving. That was August 1969, and the previous Spring came to be known as the Prague Spring, a time of liberalisation in Czechoslovakia under the new leader Alexander Dubcek. The freedoms which Dubcek wanted to introduce included travel, speech in general and the media.

On my visit to East Berlin that August, just as the invasion was taking place, the page 1 headline in the communist controlled East German newspaper, Neues Deutschland, was 'Prague citizens welcome Russian troops'. It was pure spin, as it is called - propaganda. But our society is not like that and much though we may at times find things in the media unwelcome, or irritating, it's good to be free.

This is perhaps the first point of interconnection between the Bible and journalism. Freedom is an essential part of the Biblical witness. God has made us as free individuals and the purpose of that freedom is surely so that we can grow fully as people before him.

If we were not free, we would grow as people in a kind of straitjacket. No, we need to be free if we are to be fully human beings, even though that freedom will mean that we will make mistakes. Yet, even our mistakes in life can be important learning and growing points. Indeed, the motto of the Anglican Communion is 'The truth shall set you free'.

I'm sure you have heard, in recent months, what has become a familiar but actually new term: 'fake news'. As a new term it has been catapulted into our common vocabulary by the new President of the United States, Donald Trump.

According to Mr Trump, the media fabricate news stories and therefore aren't to be trusted. Instead, we are asked to embrace what an adviser to Mr Trump press has referred to as "alternative facts". It is a kind of upside down world, in which those who try to convey the truth, often after lengthy journalistic investigations, are frequently vilified, while the people at large are expected to buy into an 'alternative reality' that is presented precisely by those being investigated by journalists.

But who is conveying the fake news in America? The newspapers or the White House? How are we to know?

At any rate, the concept of 'fake news' is eroding trust all round. Is the media to be trusted? Is government to be trusted? Such questions are a catastrophic consequence of the whole concept of 'fake news' – loss of trust. But freedom demands responsibility if trust is to be guarded.

Perhaps here is another connection between Biblical faith and journalism – recognising the truth, recognising the authentic. In the Bible we come across references to “false prophets”. In Isaiah (44: 25), we are told that the Lord “foils the signs of false prophets”, and in St Matthew's Gospel (7: 15-20), Jesus says: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (7: 15) The false prophets, the people who peddle lies, are extremely dangerous people - “ferocious wolves”. You can't get much more dangerous than that!

Yet, Jesus indicates that there is a way of knowing who is who: He says: “By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.” (7: 16-20)

By their fruits you will recognise them. There has to be a discerning of that which is right and true, and in order to discern properly we need to have grown in spirit and in wisdom. Another interconnection between Biblical faith and journalism is precisely the emphasis that both place on reflection and discerning.

It is one of the drawbacks of the modern communication of news via the Internet that people are more and more inclined to read headlines only, or headlines and a few paragraphs. The traditional newspaper allows for much more reflection and gives greater opportunity for that all-important process of discernment of the truth.

Of course, we do know that some branches of the media have behaved very badly indeed, as was illustrated in the whole phone hacking scandal a while ago. The media is not all innocent, and nor is the political class. There are faults all round, but what is important in the media, in political life, or in our own everyday life, is what we take as our guiding light. And for us as Christian people that guiding light is Christ himself.

Biblical faith, from a Christian perspective, is faith in God the Father who created us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who brings us life. For us, that sums up the essence of biblical faith.

However, the Bible requires much study and reflection. Delving deeper into the message of the Bible is not an entirely straightforward matter. There's a lot to think about. For example, just what do we mean when we say scripture is inspired by God? Do we mean that there was some kind of supernatural dictation going on, or do we mean that scripture is inspired rather like we might say after reading a really good book that seemed to speak right into our situation with a remarkable aptness, "Well, that was certainly inspired!" We often speak of an “inspired choice” as someone makes a really good judgement call. Is the inspiration of scripture somehow along those lines, although of course recognising that the Bible is so much more than just any other book, in a category of its own as Holy Scripture?

There's a lot to think about when it cones to the Bible. Another issue is that of context – something that is also vital in good journalism. What did the words of the Bible mean to those who wrote them all those centuries ago, and to those who read them all those centuries ago? When scripture refers in the Commandment at Exodus 20: 4 to the heaven above, the earth beneath and the waters under the earth, we see an understanding of the geography of the universe as a three-tiered affair, as oppose to the kind of universe we have come to know with planets orbiting in space.

Biblical faith can be seen as actually a very diverse kind of faith, with different people understanding it in different ways. There is a whole process of interpretation that has to go on when we read holy scripture. But at heart, and from a Christian perspective, the Bible is about the actions of the Trinity, although it took the church a while to develop its understanding of the Trinity. And actually, at the heart of the Trinity is truth itself. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; the Spirit leads us into all truth; the Father is true to the Son, wonderfully raising him on the third day.

There are many ways in which biblical faith and journalism come together, but it is perhaps most clearly in terms of freedom and truth – both immensely important themes in both theology and philosophy.

More Prayer Books to be printed

Prayer Books.jpg

A Working Group has been established by the General Synod's Standing Committee to arrange a reprint of the Book of Common Prayer, which is now completely out of stock.

A revised edition of the Book of Common Prayer will be going to press in 2018, and will include the various changes and additions that have been approved by meetings of the General Synod since 2005. It is intended that the pagination will remain unchanged (as far as this is possible).

However, the Working Group is hearing from parishes of an urgent need for copies of the Book of Common Prayer at the present time, and so is asking members of the clergy to tell them of this need, in order that the desired number of copies can be made available by the short–term reprint.

This will be a reprint of the basic pew edition. It is hoped to keep the euro price as it currently stands (c. €20), depending on the number of copies printed; fluctuations in the exchange rate may affect the sterling price.