25 July 2008
How many demonstrations in London end with a rally addressed by a Prime Minister and member of the G8?
After a remarkable piece of logistics, we all decamped to London today to march through the heart of the capital city calling for renewed energy to be put into achieving the Millennium Development Goals as promised by the year 2015.
The Millennium Goals are about justice and I can’t really describe how I felt to be walking alongside Bishops from places where justice is an elusive quality, where poverty is the norm and where corruption blights the lives of millions. To me this is what needs redeeming in this world and this is what God’s mission in Christ is all about – the flourishing of humanity.
Over lunch I talked with a Bishop from east Africa who told me how his mind was on his son who had been beaten up and left deaf in one ear by the police, just before he left his country to come to the Conference. It was a horrific story and as he shared it, the pertinence of what we are about was reinforced – how can anyone flourish when they are the victims of corruption and injustice.
One march does not change much, but we needed to demonstrate that we are united in the cause of justice. The flow of purple cassocks caught the attention of the press, media and passers-by enabling us to remind people that eight years ago promises were made by the rich and powerful in the world to address poverty, injustice and the chronic economic imbalance which so blights the lives of many. There is much to do to deliver on those promises and only seven years are left to do it.
I talked with a number of Bishops and their spouses and heard how they were immensely encouraged to hear the Prime Minister’s passion about achieving the Millennium Development Goals. They also recognised that it is only a worldwide Communion, such as ours, which would receive the attention of a world leader.
The day continued with the Bishops and their spouses receiving hospitality both from the Archbishop and then from the Queen at a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. In the beautiful and peaceful setting of the Palace Gardens I took a moment to reflect that we had spent a day immersed in the contrasts and complexity of life. During our day we have travelled together, witnessed to our faith, shared in hospitality, engaged with the powerful and promoted the cause of justice – we must try to do more of this!
13 June 2008
I have just been reading a really challenging book by Brian McLaren called ‘Everything must Change’. In the book McLaren looks at the values which are around in contemporary life and sets them against the life of Jesus. He argues that the core message of the gospel actually addresses the economic, political, environmental and social problems of our age, but for it to speak into our age, the church has to move away from talking about the externals of faith and concentrate on what Jesus was actually trying to say.
In many ways he is stating the obvious, but I have sat through so many sermons (and preached a few of them myself I fear!) which are brilliant about the finer points of doctrine, or biblical criticism, or church life, but which don’t actually address the gospel themes of justice, peace, forgiveness or hope. Too often we assume these things are known and understood, forgetting that we are in a culture which doesn’t really understand that this is the stuff we are about. What McLaren reminded me was that this lack of understanding is to be found amongst those who are part of the church, as well as amongst those yet to include themselves in our number.
If you really want to be challenged about the Christian faith – what it means and how we have allowed the practice of faith to divert us from the core message of Jesus, then this is the book for you.
2 June 2008
One can hardly believe amidst all the natural disasters which bring so much grief and heartache in the world and especially at present to the people of China and Burma, that the weight of pain and grief is constantly added to by human folly. This weekend’s announcement by the Israeli government that they plan to build 900 homes in East Jerusalem is hardly the action of those who are thirsting for peace.
I am constantly drawn back to the young Palestinian scouts and guides whom we encountered in Manger Square in Bethlehem on our pilgrimage last year. They were demonstrating in their thirst for peace – “we deserve peace” they kept telling us as we mingled amongst them and their passionate thirst for it came through. Peace in the Holy Land will always be elusive until their is a thirst for peace and justice on both sides.
The future for peace is very bleak whist there is a government in Israel which is prepared to build houses in one of the most contentious parts Jerusalem. On the pilgrimage I am planning for next February (2009) we will have an opportunity to offer our prayers and support to the peoples of this troubled land.
The work of Sabeel – The Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem makes a vital contribution to mediating for peace. The Friends of Sabeel in the UK provides a good way for us to support and encourage a thirst for peace in the land which cradled the Gospel of Peace.