No Abiding City: Christian presence, problems and possibilities in the Middle East.” A Lenten lecture at John Keble, Mill Hill by the Rt Revd Michael Lewis, Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf in the Episcopal Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Sponsored by Christians Aware, Church Mission Society and US.
The Primates of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury in January to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Communion. The majority of those gathered reaffirmed that “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union.” A small minority of Anglican Primates were however, unable to do so. This in itself has serious implications, for what divides them is the question of ultimate authority in matters of faith and doctrine. Does it lie with church tradition, with experience, reason, secular cultural norms, or with the Scriptures? Our presuppositions inevitably shape our thinking. Here are five assumed in this paper.
Article 6 of the Church of England
“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
The Scriptures are God-breathed
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Ann Atkins has observed, “Scripture is not important enlightenment about God, but infallible revelation from Him. So we interpret our lives in the light of scripture, instead of the other way about.” Continue reading
Which ethnic community in the UK suffers the most abuse do you think? Nine out of 10 children from this community have suffered racial abuse, and two thirds have also been bullied or physically attacked and are scared to go to school. How do you feel about that? Which community are we talking about? Friday’s Guardian ran a report entitled, “It’s time to end ‘the last acceptable racism’ – against Gypsies and Travellers” How do you feel now you know? Shocked or not surprised?
Having been bullied at secondary school myself I have a low tolerance of bullying when I witness it – and intervening gets me into trouble sometimes. And having helped raise three lovely daughters, I have a low tolerance of discrimination against women as well. Our common imago dei – that is – that we are created in the image and likeness of God means that it is sub-Christian to mistreat, abuse, or denigrate any person, irrespective of their race, colour, age, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Let me repeat that.
That is why I am glad the final Communique of the Anglican Primates meeting in Canterbury last week, spoke compassionately about another group who suffer abuse.
“The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.”
Wheaton College is probably the best known Evangelical college in the USA. And last month, Larycia Hawkins who taught political science at Wheaton, became their best known professor. She had pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbours. But she was suspended after she wrote on Facebook, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” “This statement is unbelievable,” tweeted Baptist blogger Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville. “Really jaw-dropping.” Many others criticized Larycia. “A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you. Peace & respect,” Hawkins tweeted in response to her critics. She linked to her Facebook response, where she stated:
“Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others like the Triune God , the virgin birth and the Resurrection. Let there be unity in our diversity of views about all of the above.”
Wheaton have instituted dismissal proceedings against Larycia. Other Wheaton faculty have defended her.
A sermon preached on 1 Samuel 17 at Christ Church, Virginia Water, Sunday 12th October 2015 during a special Deanery service on the theme of Christian Vocation.
See more photos here
See photos taken at the Lambeth Palace book launch here
Heartened by the recent historic meeting between Prime Minister David Cameron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations, signaling a long-overdue thawing of Anglo-Iranian relations, I was delighted to attend the New Horizons interfaith conference in Tehran last week, as a member of a UK delegation.
The conference addressed issues where faith and politics intersect in the Middle East such as Israel’s war on Gaza, Islamophobia in the West as well as the rise of ISIS and those sponsoring extremism.
“There is no teleology in western society, no guiding morality, only an obsession with materialism,” argued organizer Arash Darya-Bandari. “We believe it is necessary to control the negative tendencies in culture, such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, to strive towards a more moral and justice society.”
One of the contributors, Eric Walberg wrote, “Contrary to the shrill cries in the western media that the conference was anti-Semitic, it was unique in my experience in addressing Zionism and US imperialism forthrightly and intelligently, without a hint of racism. The issue of anti-Semitism was addressed and dismissed, as “There is no issue with Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” explained Darya-Bandari, “but rather with Zionism, that secular distortion of Judaism that itself is racist, and has been used as a pretext to dispossess and kill Palestinians.”
He went on to report, “The conference issued a resolution condemning ISIS, Zionism, US unconditional support of Israel, Islamophobia, and calling for activism locally to boycott Israeli goods and to promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, and to fight sectarianism. “This was a great opportunity to meet anti-imperialist activists from around the world, to bring Russians, Poles, western Europeans, North Americans together with Iranians and other Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in a forum without sectarianism, truly supporting peace and understanding,” said delegate Mateusz Piskorski, director of the European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis in Warsaw and former MP in the Polish Sejm.”
I was invited to contribute to the opening ceremony and present a biblical perspective on Jihad and in particular, a Christian refutation of the Islamic State (IS). Later in the conference I was asked to present a paper on the impact of the Israel Lobby in the UK, especially in parliament and in the media, ahead of the publication of my new book on the subject.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Ambassadors, of necessity serve in foreign countries, where perspectives may be different and at times even hostile to one’s own. But given the dire consequences of any breakdown in relations between countries, dialogue and diplomacy are always to be preferred over war and strife.
In the journal Diplomat, Michael Binyon asks,
“Are Christian church leaders becoming the world’s most active peacemakers? Only a week after President Peres of Israel and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the Pope’s invitation to pray together with him in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a dramatic flight to Nigeria to pray with President Goodluck Jonathan and encourage him to make every effort to find the schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.
The Archbishop’s impromptu trip came hard on the heels of a visit to Pakistan, where he visited a small embattled Christian community and praised their efforts to forge closer links with the wider Muslim community, despite regular attacks by militants, the threats of mob violence and the increasing use of the notorious blasphemy laws to force Christians from their land and property…
Peacemaking and reconciliation – within the Anglican Church and between the world’s main faith groups – were the declared priority for Justin Welby from the moment he became Archbishop. He is well qualified for the role. As an oil executive who visited Nigeria often before his ordination, he has seen at first-hand the conflict raging between Christians and Muslims in Central Nigeria that is now taking a deadly toll. As a former head of Coventry Cathedral’s Centre for Reconciliation, he has himself conducted delicate negotiations between militant groups in an effort to free hostages, often risking his own life.”
A walk through the deserted US embassy in Tehran last week was a poignant reminder of how a failure to pursue diplomacy has fueled not only decades of missed opportunities but also perpetuated misunderstanding and animosity between our countries.
Ironically, the leaders in Jesus day, tried to dictate whom he could and could not meet with, criticizing him for eating with “tax collectors and sinners”. Clearly they considered his actions “conduct unbecoming” a rabbi. Thankfully for us he did not listen to them.
Critics of conferences such as New Horizons should think more carefully about how their inflammatory words will negatively impact on their own communities in Iran.
They would be better served following the examples set by our Prime Minister, the Pope and the Archbishop who, as true ambassadors, are working for peace and reconciliation.
When I travel abroad, I empty my wallet of all my extraneous plastic – there’s my Boots Advantage card, Tesco Club card, Waitrose, Shell and Nectar ‘you deserve it’ loyalty cards, my Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Caffe Nero cards, my Halifax Ultimate Reward Card, my RAC members card and of course, my Wentworth Club card. Into my wallet goes my British Airways Executive Club card and my Passport. I would be very surprised if you are not and never have been a member of various ‘clubs’ at some time in your life. It may be a trade union, professional association, community group, society or charity. Membership is universal. Some are more exclusive, and more expensive than others. But what may surprise you is that ‘Membership’ is actually a Christian word.
In the letter to the Romans it is written, “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5). That means ‘the Church’ is the oldest and largest club in the world. What makes membership of the Church unique however, is this – it is granted freely because Jesus has paid the price.
Would you like to help make history? South Sudanese Christians have asked for our help to fund the translation of the Christianity Explored course into Arabic.
One of our partners I have worked with in Juba writes,
“there is urgent need to translate the CE material to Arabic to benefit mainly those South Sudanese Christians who came from Arabic background. They are taking their discipleship seriously and they have great impact on other believers in South Sudan.”
We need to raise $1,000 US Dollars to facilitate the translation of the course material by this Summer. In August we hope to return to South Sudan and continue to train church leaders to use the course. If you would like to help make this possible, we would be pleased to hear from you. We are working with the charity Fields of Life to make this happen.
Here are photos of some of our adventures introducing Christianity Explored in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and South Sudan.