Six Texan bishops lament “inhumane” conditions at US southern border

An immigrant family is detained by the US Customs and Border Protection officials after crossing into the United States and turning themselves in to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico on Tuesday 9 July. [Photo: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

An immigrant family is detained by the US Customs and Border Protection officials after crossing into the United States and turning themselves in to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico on Tuesday 9 July. [Photo: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

Bishops from the six dioceses of the US-based Episcopal Church in the State of Texas have issued a joint letter decrying “fear-based policy-making” on immigration. They say that people seeking asylum should be treated “humanely”. In their letter, the bishops call for “a humane and fair system for moving asylum seekers through the system as required by law.” The bishops’ dioceses cover almost one third of the 2,000 mile US-Mexico border. “All of Texas feels the impact of anything that happens on our southern border”, they said.

“We feel it through our families, many of whom have ancient deep roots in lands south of the United States. We feel it in our economy, as Mexico is Texas’ biggest trading partner. We feel it in our culture, since Texas was part of Mexico before we were part of the United States. Most of all, we feel it in our souls, for these are our neighbours, and we love them.”

They say: “We call on our state and national leaders to reject fear-based policy-making that targets people who are simply seeking safety, and a chance to live and work in peace. The situation at the border is, by all accounts, a crisis. Refugees come in desperation; border personnel are under stress.

“We call on our leaders to trust in the goodness, generosity and strength of our nation. God has blessed us with great abundance. With it comes the ability and responsibility to bless others.”

The letter, signed by Bishops George Sumner of Dallas; J Scott Mayer, Sam Hulsey and Rayford B High Junior of Fort Worth; J Scott Mayer of Northwest Texas; Michael Buerkel Hunn of Rio Grande; Andrew Doyle, Jeff W Fisher and Kathryn M Ryan of Texas; and David Reed and Jennifer Brooke-Davidson of West Texas, contains numerous calls on Scripture, including Matthew 18 2-6, on welcoming children in Jesus’ name, and Leviticus 19 33-34, on welcoming foreigners in your land.

“This is not a call for open borders”, the bishops said. “This is not saying that immigration isn’t complicated. This is a call for a humane and fair system for moving asylum seekers and refugees through the system as required by law. Seeking asylum is not illegal. Indeed, the people at our border are following the law when they present themselves to border authorities.” [ACNS]

WCC represented at German Kirchentag

Ecumenical studies in Bossey was one of the hot topics at the WCC booth in Kirchentag 2019. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Ecumenical studies in Bossey was one of the hot topics at the WCC booth in Kirchentag 2019. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Conversations at the World Council of Churches (WCC) exhibition booth at the 19-23 June German Kirchentag in Dortmund showed there is a growing interest in ecumenical movement among German churches.

“The presence of the World Council of Churches at the Kirchentag festival in Dortmund enabled many conversations with the German public on ecumenism and ecumenical initiatives in which German churches can be involved,” said Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication. “Among the most interesting topics were the Thursdays in Black campaign and ecumenical studies in Bossey”, she added.

Ms Ejdersten continued: “Our cooperation with the hosting Church of Westphalia contributed a lot to the visibility of Thursdays in Black in the German context, standing together for a world free of rape and violence.”

“Many students of theology and of other relevant disciplines stopped by and were highly interested and fascinated in the Bossey Ecumenical Institute study program and the possibilities of not only learning about world Christianity out of books but also by the daily personal encounters,” said Rev. Dr Benjamin Simon, Professor of Ecumenical Missiology at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland.

“Visitors of the Kirchentag are very much interested in concrete initiatives and enterprises - they want to have ideas and suggestions to take home and to implement,” he added. [WCC News]

Vital role for African church leaders in wiping out malaria

Bishops and spouses who participated in the CAPA orientation in Kenya

Bishops and spouses who participated in the CAPA orientation in Kenya

According to healthcare professionals, the Anglican Churches in Africa are a “unique, trusted network” with a vital and strategic role to play in the elimination of malaria across the continent.

Bishops representing six provinces of the Anglican Communion recently took part in an orientation for new bishops run by the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) in Kenya, where they were encouraged to play a strategic role in helping tackle malaria.

Founder of the J C Flowers Foundation and part of a cross-border malaria initiative, Chris Flowers, said: “I am delighted that these CAPA bishops have prioritised malaria, which still kills a child every two minutes. I visited a village in Zambia, and in this very remote place, the only organised institution was an Anglican Church. There was an expected, trusted pastor. These are essential.

“You can have fantastic science, you can have fantastic medicine, you can have nets delivered, but unless they are deployed correctly and people are trained on how to use them and to recognise when to go for treatment, it's all in vain. The church provides a unique, trusted network to get that last mile.”

CAPA’s orientation of new bishops and their spouses revolved around the theme “Transformational Leadership” and addressed topics including sustainable leadership in an ever-changing context, managing transitions, resource mobilisation, and malaria elimination.

Following training from the J C Flowers Foundation in malaria transmission and strategies for prevention, treatment and community mobilisation, Bishop Moses Deng Bol from the Diocese of Wau, said: “In South Sudan, if you want to share any information with a big number of the population, use the church. Few people have radios because people need food more than a radio. Who interacts with the most people on a weekly basis? It’s not the chief. It’s the pastor. Maybe through media the President of the country can reach people, but it’s the pastors who reach the most people.”

The bishops recognised the opportunity that they have as trusted leaders, working in areas with significant malaria burdens. Bishop Vicente Msosa from the Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique, said: “The fact that our communities still have malaria means that we as faith leaders have failed. We didn’t realise malaria elimination was possible. But we can mobilise communities to eliminate malaria, and that is our task. We can do it, and we must do it.”

The orientation included bishops from six Anglican Provinces within the Anglican Communion: the Indian Ocean, Central Africa, Tanzania, Southern Africa, South Sudan and Kenya.

The General Secretary of CAPA, Canon Grace Kaiso, challenged the bishops to take forward what they had learned. He said: “As a church, we are concerned about issues that affect the quality of life of people in our communities. I’m looking forward to hearing which of you begins putting a malaria-free diocese on your agenda.”

The bishops were encouraged to set an example for clergy in their dioceses to follow by working on malaria elimination with the ministries of health in their countries. [ACNS, by Rachel Farmer]

'Human peace chain' reflects the wish of the people on Korean Peninsula and receives religious support

People joining hands in a form of ‘human peace chain’ along the 500 km long Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. (Photo: John C Park/DMZ)

People joining hands in a form of ‘human peace chain’ along the 500 km long Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. (Photo: John C Park/DMZ)

Some 500,000 people have joined hands to form a “human peace chain” along the 500 km long Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. They expressed their strong desire for permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula, gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of Panmunjom Declaration and commemorate the centennial of the 1 March Independence Movement.

Rev. Sang Chang, World Council of Churches (WCC) Asia president, urged WCC member churches and all people of good will to continue to express their solidarity with Korean people. “The WCC will continue to work with the Korean people for the permanent peace on the Korean peninsula,” Chang said on the day the chain was formed.

In a message, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said the WCC endorsed a worldwide call for the reunification of Korea. “As a Christian fellowship, the WCC will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Korea and invite all Christians to pray for the Korean peninsula and that God’s will, for justice and peace, be done,” Tveit wrote.

Human peace chain participants, in a call to action issued on 27 April, said the wish of the people has been expressed. “With just one heart, we took our neighbors' hands, looking for the day when we will hold our hands of North and South from Halla to Baekdu,” they wrote. “Through 70 years of separation, we learned that peace is the responsibility of our people.”

In a message released last month, the National Council of Churches in Korea reflected that the Korean people have lived a history of suffering. “We cannot go back to the old days when conflict and antagonism dominated,” the message reads. “This is because peace on the Korean Peninsula is an irreversible national historical imperative and an historical task for the world.”

All people are passing through this important historical moment, the council message reflects. “True peace will not come from any of the great powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula, but we believe that our salvation, God, will listen to our prayers and make a new history of peace through us,” reads the text. “Let us, the children of God, reach out with the hand of peace first.” [WCC News]

WCC condemns terror attacks in Sri Lanka, calls for end to violence

Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Easter Sunday statement from the World Council of Churches:

With deep shock and sorrow on this Easter Sunday the World Council of Churches (WCC) expresses its solidarity with the churches and people of Sri Lanka following the news of the bombings of churches and hotels which have claimed a reported 200 lives and injured many more.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “While we still await information regarding the perpetrators and their motives, we strongly condemn these attacks on people gathered at worship and on tourists visiting Sri Lanka, and offer our heartfelt prayers for the victims and condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in these appalling acts of violence.”

Tveit added: “As a global fellowship of churches, we stand in special solidarity with the Christians of Sri Lanka who have been attacked in this vicious way while celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the pivotal moment in the faith journey for all Christians.”

Tveit said also, “The targeting of churches in this manner is an attack on religious peace and harmony and on the social and cultural fabric of the nation, which has long struggled to uphold principles of religious harmony and diversity.”

One of the targets of these attacks was the community of St Anthony’s Church, Kochikade, a national shrine held in deep respect and visited by people of many faiths.

Tveit said, “Such acts of violence undermine the sanctity of life and constitute a sacrilege in many senses. Even as we cry out against this sacrilege, we resolutely affirm that violence must not beget violence. In the spirit of the love of Christ, on this Easter Day, we hold fast to the belief that violence, hatred and death will not have the last word.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our member churches of the WCC’s global fellowship, our ecumenical partners of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Government of the Republic of Sri Lanka which has rightly called upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong and is taking steps to contain this situation.”

Tveit concluded: “A fitting tribute to the memories of those who lost their lives in sacred spaces of peace and refuge is for us all to live out the difficult task of demonstrating that the power of peace and love are far greater than the power of violence.

Jesus Christ our risen Lord says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)”

“May these words become all the more true to those who cope with the aftermath of these attacks. May they offer to all of us hope and healing.”

Condemning the attacks the Anglican Bishop of Colombo the Rt Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, a member of the WCC's Central Committee said, "The Church of Ceylon unreservedly condemns these cowardly and cruel acts of terrorism and conveys our deep condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives and have been hurt. We wish all those who have been injured full recovery. We pray for them and their families that God’s comforting presence will continue to be with them through this tragic experience.”

Calling for a thorough investigation into the these incidents to bring the perpetrators to justice, the bishop appealed to the government of Sri Lanka, "to ensure the safety of places of religious worship and to prevent any individuals or group from taking the law into their hands or provoking acts of intimidation or violence against any community or group." [WCC News]

Statement by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Revd Ken Good, following the murder of Lyra McKee

Bishop Ken Good

Bishop Ken Good

The following is a statement by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Revd Ken Good, following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee:

“I am outraged at last night’s murder of the 29-year-old journalist, Lyra McKee, in Derry-Londonderry. My first thoughts, today, are with her partner, her family and friends. I sympathise with them in their heart-breaking loss and assure them that their pain is being felt right across our community.

“Sadly, though, Lyra’s death, while needless, was not entirely unforeseeable.

“Only last January, after the bomb attack on the city’s courthouse, I said that the perpetrators had shown a callous disregard for people’s lives. On that occasion a group of young people were lucky to escape unscathed.

“Sadly, the outcome that I feared then – if such reckless attacks were to continue – was realised last night, and Lyra McKee, a talented young journalist, paid the ultimate price.

“The people responsible for her murder – the individual who pulled the trigger and the leaders who sanctioned the attack – have this young woman’s blood on their hands. They claim to be liberators of the community. In reality, they are its oppressors.

“Three months ago, I suggested there were only two possible explanations for the recklessness of the Bishop Street bombers. They either didn’t think about the potential consequences or they didn’t care. The same is true of those behind last night’s murderous attack. It beggars belief that anyone would open fire in a built-up area like Creggan, at a time when there were many people on the streets. We are fortunate that more people weren’t killed or injured.

“Today, on Good Friday, Christians remember the bleakness of Christ’s death on the cross but we look forward to the hope that Easter will bring. Today, this city – and our community – are numbed and horrified by what happened in our midst last night; we stand poised between bleakness and hope. The time has come to choose.

“I urge the people of this city to go forward with hope. I urge them to turn their backs on the men of violence, and to reject those who advocate bombing and shooting as solutions to our problems.

“I urge the individual and organisation behind last night’s attack to realise the futility of what they are doing and to end their violence. Their behaviour is in stark contrast to that of the police officers who did their utmost to save Lyra’s life last night.

“Lastly, I encourage the community to assist the PSNI with their investigation into this horrendous murder and to support the Police.” [Diocese of Derry and Raphoe Press Office]

Museum of the Moon in Limerick Cathedral

Museum of the Moon in Limerick. [Photo: Deirdre Power]

Museum of the Moon in Limerick. [Photo: Deirdre Power]

Saint Mary’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Limerick, in conjunction with Limerick City and County Council, was delighted to welcome Museum of the Moon recently. Museum of the Moon came to the city as part of Limerick St Patrick’s Festival 2019. It is a new touring artwork by artist Luke Jerram, bringing together a fusion of lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound. The moon features detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. Tying in with the theme of this year’s parade – ‘One Giant Leap’ – and honouring the lasting effect that the moon landing has had on the world, the Museum of the Moon was present in the Cathedral for a week, during which over 15,000 people visited Limerick’s oldest building. [Church of Ireland Press Office]

World Council of Churches condemns terror attacks on mosques in New Zealand, calls for end to violence

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

It is with deep shock and indignation that World Council of Churches (WCC) received the news that 49 people have been killed and at least 20 were wounded in terrorist attacks at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch and at the mosque in the suburb of Linwood in New Zealand.

Rev. Ray Coster, WCC Central Committee member from Aotearoa New Zealand said, “We share with sisters and brothers in the wider ecumenical family our pain and grief in one of New Zealand’s darkest hours and crave their prayers for the many Muslim families grieving at this time. Some of these families may be migrants or refugees. They are part of us. Many came seeking refuge and safety as Aotearoa New Zealand is perceived as a safe place. As a nation we value compassion, kindness and tolerance. What we have seen today has no place in our culture.”

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, stated: “This terrible crime against women, men and children at the time of their prayers is an attack on all believers and an assault on the bonds of shared humanity and peaceful coexistence which unite us all. The WCC stands in solidarity with all Muslims at this time, especially the Muslims of Aotearoa New Zealand, and expresses the strongest possible condemnation of these actions and of the hateful and dangerous ideologies that stand behind them.”

Dr Tveit expressed his deep condolences to the Muslim community, and all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, for this massacre is an attack on the whole nation and its values of inclusion and respect for all its citizens. He added: “We pray that all the communities of Aotearoa New Zealand will come together to support those who have suffered so dreadfully and to reaffirm the nation’s commitment to the safety and flourishing of all its people”.

He concluded: “At this time the WCC reiterates its long-standing commitment to dialogue and harmony with the Muslim communities of the world. We affirm to all our Muslim friends and partners that we utterly reject such actions and call on all Christian people to follow in the way of Jesus Christ by seeking to live in peace and respect with all our neighbours, and especially committing ourselves to the protection of vulnerable minorities.” [WCC News]

WCC member churches join 'End Violence in Schools' campaign

Photo: Georgina Goodwin/WCC

Photo: Georgina Goodwin/WCC

World Council of Churches (WCC) member churches across the globe are participating in a campaign to end violence in schools, an effort that is part of a larger partnership, called “Churches’ Commitments to Children,” between the WCC and UNICEF.

The #ENDviolence campaign resulted from a September 2018 report, “An Everyday Lesson: #ENDviolence in Schools,” showing that half of the world’s teenagers experience peer violence in and around school.

UNICEF also launched an online poll aimed at 13 to 24-year-olds that gave young people the option to share their views online. Those views helped shape an #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto, completed in December 2018, which will be delivered to education ministers and other decision-makers at critical milestones throughout 2019.

WCC member churches in Mozambique, Germany, Jamaica, South India, Philippines, Nigeria, Uruguay, South Africa, Chile, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo participated in the online poll as well as in workshops with youth that helped contribute their reflections to the manifesto.

One million young people responded to the global poll, and 69% of them said that they had been afraid of violence in or around their school. In the responses, 24,000 youth provided comments emphasizing the need to take students’ concerns seriously and recommending ways to make schools safer.

Church-run schools make up a large percentage of educational institutions worldwide. The WCC also held a workshop, “Ending Violence in and Through Schools,” on 21 November 2018 in Geneva as part of a World Children’s Day celebration. [WCC News]

Churches-EU Dialogue

Church delegation from COMECE, CEC and CROCEU in Bucharest with Teodor-Viorel Meleșcanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania. [Photo: COMECE]

Church delegation from COMECE, CEC and CROCEU in Bucharest with Teodor-Viorel Meleșcanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania. [Photo: COMECE]

A delegation of churches in Europe met in Bucharest on 28 January with Teodor-Viorel Meleșcanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, to exchange views on the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council.

The delegation was composed by representatives of Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Conference of European Churches (CEC) and Committee of Representatives of Orthodox Churches to the European Union (CROCEU), who shared their perspectives on the four priorities of the Romanian Presidency: 1) Europe of convergence; 2) A safer Europe; 3) Europe, as a stronger global actor; 4) Europe of common values.

Romania holds the EU Presidency in a time of transformative changes impacting on the institutional future of the EU, and the lives of millions living in the EU.

The delegation enjoyed dialogue with the Romanian Presidency about the importance of putting the human person at the center of increasingly digitalised societies. They also emphasised the importance of a comprehensive view of security, environmental concerns, and improving religious literacy through education.

The open and transparent dialogue between Churches and the respective EU Council Presidencies is part of a long-standing practice now supported by the Article 17 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

As part of their time in Romania, the delegation participated in an audience with His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and exchanged views on the churches’ role in the EU with Victor Opaschi, State Secretary for Religious Affairs. [CEC News]

Irish Church Leaders’ New Year Statement for 2019

From left: Archbishops Richard Clarke and Eamon Martin, the Revd Brian Anderson, the Rt Revd Charles McMullen and the Revd Billy Davison

From left: Archbishops Richard Clarke and Eamon Martin, the Revd Brian Anderson, the Rt Revd Charles McMullen and the Revd Billy Davison

One of the major themes of the Christmas season is the message of the coming of Light into the darkness of our world. As John says in his Gospel, speaking of the Lord Jesus, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)

Yet some 2,019 years later, there is still much darkness in this world. We see pictures in newspapers and on television that speak of suffering and despair in different countries and regions, and even here on the island of Ireland, both north and south, many live their lives with a lack of security and an absence of hope.

The ongoing uncertainty of Brexit has added to those worries, both for businesspeople and ordinary citizens alike. Many businesses fear for the future, while many families, struggling to make ends meet today, are anxious about what that future might hold.

It is a great encouragement to see the willingness of people in our local communities to reach out to their neighbours in need through initiatives such as food banks. However, the marked increase in people needing to avail of such facilities is a worrying trend. Added to this, in Northern Ireland the lack of a functioning devolved government not only drains hope from our society, but also has meant an ever increasing pressure on our schools, our hospitals, our welfare system and many other aspects of society’s infrastructure. As so often happens, it is the vulnerable and the marginalised that suffer most and they should be at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers as we enter into a new year.

While such situations can be very challenging for many people, today across Ireland there are also glimmers of hope. Up and down the island, neighbours are looking out for neighbours. Ordinary people, community and church groups are caring for those in need. People of good intent are stepping up to the mark and giving positive leadership on the ground, working for the common good. In villages and towns across the island political, church and community leaders are making a difference at a local level.

As Church Leaders we have urged the leaders of our political parties in Northern Ireland to do the same – to make a difference and to bring a sense of hope. We were encouraged by the willingness of party leaders to meet with us last September, as we sought to provide a safe space to facilitate open discussion and mutual understanding. A series of regional meetings is also underway, bringing together local politicians, community and church leaders to talk with one another, to build relationships and again to foster mutual understanding. Such initiatives, along with others being taken by different people of good will at local and regional level, can bring glimmers of hope. For that we want to give thanks – it’s always better to light a candle than simply to curse the darkness.

The Christmas message of the Light coming into our darkness brings us our ultimate hope, for it is the Lord Jesus Christ who remains the hope of the world. No matter how dark our world might be, the Gospel reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5). At the start of this New Year, may we put our trust in Him – as we look to Him in simple faith and in His name seek to bring hope and light to our local community and to this our island home.

May you know the blessing of the Lord in the year that lies ahead.

The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

The Most Revd Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland

The Rt Revd Charles McMullen, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

The Revd Billy Davison, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

The Revd Brian Anderson, President of the Irish Council of Churches

Anglo-German church leaders urge 'fair & sustainable solutions' to future UK-EU relationship

Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace [Photo: Lambeth Palace]

Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace [Photo: Lambeth Palace]

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the leader of the Protestant Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, have issued an urgent appeal “to all politicians to find fair and sustainable solutions for the future coexistence of the UK and the EU”.

The Church leaders made their plea in a joint statement at a time when the British government and the European Commission are finalising a deal to revoke the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Bishop Heinrich visited Lambeth Palace, the London offices and official residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury, for two days last month, during which the Church leaders drew up their joint statement.

“Europe is changing but the Church of God remains constant in its witness”, they said. “The deep commitment that we have to one another is not based on our common membership of the European Union but on our membership of the body of Christ.” [ACNS]

Archbishop hopes Lambeth Conference will be “confident proclamation of good news of Jesus”

Archbishop Justin Welby

Archbishop Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out his vision for the next once-in-a-decade meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, saying that “the world . . . needs the good news of Jesus Christ.” He said that the world “needs to see it in our actions, envy it in our love together, and hear it in our confident proclamation of the good news of Jesus.” He made his comments in a video for the brand new Lambeth Conference website as the dates for the meeting were confirmed as Thursday 23 July until Sunday 2 August 2020.

Most of the meeting will take place at the University of Kent in Canterbury. There will also be a programme day in London and two Lambeth Conference Eucharists at Canterbury Cathedral.

“This conference is about listening to God, through scripture and in prayer and through each other, so we go out with our hearts on fire”, Archbishop Justin said in the video.

He also acknowledged the on-going disagreements in the Anglican Communion, most notably over sexuality and the interpretation of Scripture. “The differences we have are differences within the family”, he said. “They are about how we live as a holy people; how we live in a way that shows we are God’s people.

“We do have very important differences, but we must show that we respect each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, and that we learn to disagree in a way that demonstrates that we love and value each other. . . But whatever views we come with, we come to be under the authority of Scripture, and inspired by the Spirit.”

Last week, a group of leading New Testament scholars from around the world gathered at Lambeth Palace for the St Augustine Seminar – the start of a programme of preparing Bible study and biblical reflection for the Conference.

The main Bible Study text will be on the 1 Peter. In his video message, Archbishop Justin said that it would “lead us into all kinds of key themes. It leads us especially into the theme of being God’s people, in God’s world, for God’s world. ‘Once you were no people, now you are a people’. God has created us, made us, changed us, transformed us, and we are to be key in his transformation of the world around us.”

The Archbishop is currently sending invitations to every active bishop in the Anglican Communion and their spouse. The Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland are working on a “hospitality initiative” to enable bishops travelling from overseas to spend time in dioceses and parishes in the UK and Ireland in the days leading up to the Lambeth Conference.

The ticket price has been set at £4,950. A bursary scheme has been established to ensure every bishop is able to attend. More details are available on the Lambeth Conference website.

A number of Christian leaders from other denominations and church families will also be invited. The list of ecumenical guests is still being finalised.

The programme is being prepared by the Lambeth Conference Design Group, chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba. It is being shaped by reflections from Primates of the Anglican Communion’s 40 Provinces, who are meeting in regional groups this year and next to have their say on the Lambeth Conference agenda.

Regional Primates’ Meetings have already been held in Oceania and Africa. The Americas regional Primates’ Meeting is taking place this week in Toronto, Canada. Primates from Europe, the Middle East and Asia will gather in three separate regional meetings next year. [ACNS]

Role of youth highlighted at International Anglican Family Network consultation

Some of the participants at the International Anglican Family Network regional consultation in the Church of the Province of Central Africa [Photo: IFAN]

Some of the participants at the International Anglican Family Network regional consultation in the Church of the Province of Central Africa [Photo: IFAN]

A delegation of young adults from the Diocese of Lusaka helped a regional consultation on families under pressure to “revisit our thinking about the place of young people in our families, communities and churches”. Each of the 15 dioceses in the Church of the Province of Central Africa sent one male and one female participant to the six-day consultation, which was organised by the International Anglican Family Network (IAFN). They were joined on one day by 26 young people from the Diocese of Lusaka, who challenged them to think about the tensions between “digitally native” young people and older BBCs – people Born Before Computers.

The consultation, “Families under pressure: How can churches respond?” was a celebration of the family as a foundation for human flourishing and the place where Christians can build up resilience to cope with change and challenge in society. The participants looked at a number of issues, such as economic hardship, inter-generational poor parenting, substance abuse, child marriage, domestic abuse, and technology and the generation gap, which can put families under pressure.

They shared information about what steps they are already taking in their dioceses to respond to these issues and reflected on what steps might be taken at diocesan and provincial levels to strengthen families in such a way that every member flourishes.

“Consulting with youth challenged us to revisit our thinking about the place of young people in our families, communities and churches”, Canon Robert Sihubwa, the Provincial Youth Coordinator for Central Africa, said. “They reminded us that not all parents are good role models and sometimes the church is the only place they can run to.

“In families there is often tension around the use of technology and cell phones”, he said. “Our youth are ‘digital natives’ and it is sometimes hard for people ‘Born Before Computers’ to understand how information technology and mobile communication have become normal and integral to their lives.”

“So together we looked at the potential of IT, and the communication it makes possible, to assist in building and strengthening our families, and in building Christ’s Church and serving God’s mission in the world.”

The Bishop of Southern Malawi, Alinafe Kalemba, was the Province’s episcopal representative at the consultation. He said: “Meeting the young Christians challenged us and told us things we hadn’t noticed. They said, ‘you don’t pay attention to us; you want us to live like you but we are us.’

“We have said ‘your time will come’. We haven’t allowed them to participate. But now we have discussed how they can minister to us. My approach will be different now.”

The Chair of the IAFN is David Rossdale, the former Bishop of Grimsby in the Church of England’s Diocese of Lincoln. “The family is always under pressure”, he said. “This is nothing new. When under pressure, as Christians we can’t simply turn away, but we can try to understand how to face the challenges which the modern world brings, recognising the pressures and how to moderate them, whilst at the same time celebrating what is good in and a blessing in what the future offers.” [Anglican News]

WCC calls for prayers, help for earthquake survivors in Indonesia

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As the death toll from an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia soared above 800 on Sunday 30 September, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit urged all people of good will across the world to reach out in support, care, help and prayer to thousands of earthquake survivors coping with the aftermath.

“My prayers are with them and those who lost their lives, and their bereaved families,” Tveit said. “Our lives are vulnerable. Kyrie eleison. God, have mercy!”

The 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck on 28 September on the island of Sulawesi. On 30 September, officials said they expect the death toll to climb as rescuers sifted through the destruction. Aftershocks were still rocking the region, with more than 2.4 million people affected by the quake.

The quake comes weeks after a 5 August earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing more than 430 people. [WCC News]

New Zealanders celebrate 150 years of “glad tidings of great joy” – the Bible in Maori

Leonard C Mitchell’s depiction of the first Church service in New Zealand, on Christmas Day 1814, as the Revd Samuel Marsden delivers a sermon on Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

Leonard C Mitchell’s depiction of the first Church service in New Zealand, on Christmas Day 1814, as the Revd Samuel Marsden delivers a sermon on Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

The 150th anniversary of the first printed edition of Te Paipera Tapu – the Bible in the Maori language – is being celebrated in New Zealand.

The work that led to the Maori language Bible began years before-hand, when Anglican priest Samuel Marsden, working as a Church Missionary Society (CMS) worker in Sydney, was given permission to establish a mission in New Zealand.

He preached at New Zealand’s first Church service on Christmas Day in 1814, introducing 300 Maori to the Gospel, using as his theme Luke 2:10 – “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.”

Edited versions of the scriptures – the books of Genesis, Exodus, Matthew and John – were printed in Sydney and shipped to New Zealand; before CMS arranged for a printing press and printer to be shipped to the islands from London. This resulted in the first ever book printed in New Zealand: a 16-page edition of Ephesians and Philippians in Maori, in 1835.

Between 1836 and 1837, the press printed some 5,000 copies of the New Testament in Maori, before the first full Maori Bible was published in 1868.

To mark the sesquicentennial anniversary, that first edition has been made available in digital form, “and this digitised version will be one of the many tools used to help produce a new translation in more contemporary language for today’s Te Reo Māori speakers,” the Bible Society in New Zealand said.

Since that original 1868 edition, three further versions were published in 1889, 1925 and 1952. In 2012 the 1952 edition was published in a reformatted version.

“Translation of any significance takes time, and anecdotal evidence suggests that contemporary Maori usage is already considerably different from the language of the current Maori Bible,” the Bible Society’s Translations Director, Dr Stephen Pattemore, said. “So we need to be pro-active.”

The Bible Society is developing a Maori language Bible app, which will feature the 2012 Maori Bible text, alongside English Bible translations for people who want to compare the two languages. The new app will launch early next year. [ACNS]

WCC honours the legacy of Kofi Annan

WCC General Secretary Olav Fyske Tveit (left) with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan  in 2013 (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)  

WCC General Secretary Olav Fyske Tveit (left) with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan  in 2013 (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)
 

Calling Kofi Annan - who died on 18th August and was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 - a leader with hard-won wisdom and maturity in our time, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary gave thanks to God for Annan's life, which he described as a gift to the United Nations and the whole world.


“He will be recalled as the leader who acted to unify and transform the United Nations,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC general secretary. Tveit added that Annan was a “liberator who by force of his personality inspired the political leaders and grassroots movement to work for just peace in the world.”


In her reaction to Annan's death, Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, said, “We thank God for giving us Kofi Annan for 80 years. Through his life and works he has become an icon of just peace and freedom for all human beings.”


Abuom said: “We will remember Annan for his strong commitment to just peace and mutual accountability. We have lost a great leader and diplomat who served with humility and purpose of the task. As a mediator we in Kenya remember his historic role as he helped save Kenya from the brink of civil war in 2007/2008.  May God rest his soul in eternal peace.”


“Our prayer is all that Annan stood for may become part and parcel of our global values for justice, peace and dignity for the whole humanity,” added Abuom.


WCC President in Europe, Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Weyryd commented: ”Kofi Annan was a credible and much needed revitaliser of the UN. His integrity and commitment arose respect and renewed the will of many to support the UN and its mission.”


Annan's life was also described by the WCC’s general secretary as “consistent with the best teaching of  nonviolent leadership”. Calling him one of the well deserved Nobel peace laureates, Tveit added that Annan's leadership ideals inspired a new generation and transformed the United Nations during his leadership. Annan also strengthen the role of religious leaders in peace building. [WCC News]

Rare 700-year-old Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, five centuries after it was removed

The Lyghfield Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, much to the delight of (left to right) the Canon Librarian, the Revd Tim Naish; Head of Archives and Library Mrs Cressida Williams; and the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis. [Photo: Canterbury Cathedral]  

The Lyghfield Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, much to the delight of (left to right) the Canon Librarian, the Revd Tim Naish; Head of Archives and Library Mrs Cressida Williams; and the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis. [Photo: Canterbury Cathedral]
 

A rare medieval Bible has been returned to Canterbury Cathedral some 500 years after it was removed.

The Lyghfield Bible – named after the 16th Century monk who once owned it – was amongst a number of items removed from the cathedral’s monastic library at the time of the reformation.

The monastic community at Canterbury was one of many which were dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII as he attempted to assert his authority over the newly independent Church and plunder its assets.


The 690-leaf volume was purchased last month from a private seller at a specialist sale of manuscripts in London. The purchase was funded in part through a £96,000 grant from Britain’s National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and further funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a private donation.


The purchase of the Lyghfield Bible and its return to Canterbury Cathedral means that the rare manuscript will remain in the UK.


“The Lyghfield Bible was written in the latter 13th century on high quality parchment or vellum which is almost tissue-like in quality,” Canterbury Cathedral said. “The fine Latin script and extensive and very fine illumination (decoration) was probably produced in Paris, one of the medieval centres for this type of work.


“The Bible is pocket-sized and as such was designed for personal use, possibly whilst travelling. The volume formed part of the collection of the medieval monastery of the Cathedral in the 16th century, but may well have been in Canterbury well before that time.”


The cathedral’s library and book collection were dispersed following the disbanding of the monastic community, with many volumes destroyed or taken apart for the reuse of their materials. Just 30 volumes of the original library remain at the cathedral.


The Lyghfield Bible is the only complete Bible from the medieval book collection which is now at the Cathedral and is part of a collection which is inscribed on the Unesco UK Memory of the World Register. It is said to be the finest example of a complete illuminated book from that collection.[ACNS]
 

Churches' delegation meets with the Austrian EU Presidency

Austrian and European church representatives with Karoline Edtstadler in Vienna. [Photo: BMI/Berger]

Austrian and European church representatives with Karoline Edtstadler in Vienna. [Photo: BMI/Berger]

A delegation of Austrian and European church representatives met in Vienna on 23rd July with Karoline Edtstadler, Secretary of State for Home Affairs of the Austrian government, to exchange views on the priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council.

Regular meetings of churches with the rotating EU Presidency have been taking place for more than 20 years. They are an expression of the regular dialogue between the EU and churches, religious, philosophical, and non-confessional organisations as established in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
 
The starting point for this discussion was a working document entitled 'Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU - Reflections and Recommendations of the Christian Churches in Europe'.

On the subject of Brexit, the church representatives emphasized the need for efforts to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Church representatives said that “a visible frontier that jeopardises the common achievement of reconciliation and peace, and divides citizens on both sides must be avoided.”

In the field of migration and asylum policy, the delegation invited EU leaders to work for a Common European Asylum System, and to make it an appropriate tool to manage migration. All participants agreed that Europe is in need of migrants for obvious reasons.

In this area, the church delegation presented to Secretary of State Edtstadler interesting proposals, such as “circular migration,” which should open up legal channels for low-skilled workers who meet the needs of receiving countries. They criticised the criminalisation of migrants and the poor respect for their fundamental rights, and called for their humane treatment in every phase of their journey, including when returning to the country of origin.
 
A final topic addressed during the meeting was climate change and the upcoming COP 24 meeting in Katowice in December. Churches and church relief agencies are profoundly involved in this upcoming United Nations climate summit. The churches hope for a further strengthening of EU leadership in the UN climate negotiations and a leading role of the Presidency in preparing an EU contribution to the climate summit COP 24 in December in Katovice. 
 
The delegation was composed of:
DDr Peter Schipka, Secretary General of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference;
Bishop Dr Michael Bünker, Bishop of the Protestant Church A.B. (Lutheran) in Austria;
Fr. Athanasius Buk, priest of the Greek-Oriental Metropolis of Austria;
Bishop Andrej Cilerdzic, Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Austria, Vice-President of the Austrian Council of Churches;
Dr Michael Kuhn, Deputy Secretary General of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE);
Rev. Sören Lenz, Executive Secretary of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
 

[Conference of European Churhces News, abbreviated]