Blogroll: Anglican Ink
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At the conclusion of his 2019 Christmas Eve homily at St. Vincent’s Cathedral,
Bishop Iker made these closing remarks:
This is my last mass as Diocesan Bishop, after 27 years of service. At this time last year, I was unable to be here on Christmas Eve due to my struggles with Stage IV cancer. But God intervened – the Divine entered into the mundane – just as He did at Christmas. By God’s grace and mercy, I have been healed.
Since May, I have been cancer-free, thanks to your prayers and the treatment I received at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston. I thank God every day – many times a day – for how His heavenly power entered into my frail human illness. I am a living miracle.
The second miracle I celebrate tonight is how a farm boy from southern Ohio could become Bishop of the greatest Diocese in the Church, and how God’s grace has sustained me and worked through me all these years.
How blessed I have been – though unworthy as I am – that these frail, human hands have baptized hundreds of children and adults, giving them new life in Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism. How many hundreds I have confirmed, imparting to them the strengthening gifts of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands with prayer.
How many marriages I have blessed – how many sinners I have absolved – how many sick and dying Christians have I anointed with holy oil for healing and peace! How many young men have I had the joy to ordain to the sacred ministry (54 to be exact!).
And how many countless times have I celebrated the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ at the many altars of this Diocese and then administered to our parishioners the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation.
I have been honored and privileged and blessed to serve in these ways as your Bishop, but none of it has been because of my worthiness or gifts, my merits or my talents. It has all been a marvelous gift of grace – of the miracle of God at work in the common, ordinary events of the life He has given us in His only Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Thank you, and God bless you with a very, merry Christmas. May He fill you with joy, peace and love.
The Bishops of the Church of Ceylon have called an island wide consultation asking Anglicans their view on forming a third diocese in Sri Lanka, thereby allowing the church to become the newest province of the Anglican Communion.
Shortly before Christmas, the Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, and the Bishop of Kurunegala, the Rt. Rev. Keerthisiri Fernando wrote to their dioceses asking Anglicans to send their comments on dividing the dioceses to the Church of Ceylon Secretary Arun Gamlath. Meetings have been scheduled beginning 5 January 2019 in Colombo, Galle and Anuradhapura to allow parishioners to ask questions about the plan.
At present the Diocese of Colombo with a membership of approximately 40,000 has four archdeaconries: Colombo, Galle, Jaffna and Upcountry and the East. The Diocese of Kurunegala has 10,000 and one archdeaconry. The church has declined in numbers since independence in 1948 when it counted 100,000 members — losing members to emigration and new Christian groups.
Anglican services were first held in Ceylon in 1796 and the Church Missionary Society began work in 1818. The first bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. James Chapman was consecrated in 1845, and oversaw Anglican work across the island. In 1950 the diocese of Kurunegala was carved out of the western third of the island. In 1970 the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon divided into the Church of North India, the Church of Pakistan, the Church of the Province of Myanmar, and the Church of Ceylon. With only two dioceses, however, the Church of Ceylon did not become a province but was placed under the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
At the 6 Feb 2016 General Assembly of the Church of Ceylon, the synod adopted a resolution asking the Anglican Consultative Council to grant the Sri Lankan church autonomy.
ACC-16 in Lusaka approved Resolution 16:32 “The Church of Ceylon” noting the “aspiration” of the Church of Ceylon to “regulate its own affairs and govern itself independent of the metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury”, welcomed the formation of a Commission in Sri Lanka to explore the autonomy and “affirms its support for the Church of Ceylon as it makes this journey.”
The House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda has postponed the consecration of the Rev. Charles Okunya Oode as Bishop of Kumi. At their 14 December 2019 meeting, the Ugandan bishops reviewed four petitions from lay and clergy members of the diocese alleging marital misconduct by the bishop-elect. The Primate of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali has asked the Rt. Rev. George Kasangaki of Masindi-Kitara Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Bogere Egesa of Bukedi Diocese and the Rt. Rev. Patrick Gidudu of Mbale Diocese to review the charge of marital infidelity and report back to the House of Bishops by 1 Feb 2019. Archbishop appointed the retired bishop of Lango Diocese, the Rt. Rev. John Charles Odurkami to serve as interim Bishop of Kumi.
In a series of BBC interviews, Bishop Robert [Innes] has reflected on Brexit developments during 2019, and looked ahead to 2020.
Bishop Robert noted most people in the Diocese were “sad and disappointed” about Brexit.
The 2016 referendum had been an “unnecessary binary choice” on the issue of EU membership that had polarised the country. “I have British and European identities, and it seems Brexit is forcing me to choose when I want to keep both” he added.
There was now at least, some more certainty on Brexit, following the limbo of the past three-and-a-half years. The next year would be decisive in shaping and re-imagining the UK’s future relationships both with the EU and globally, the Bishop said, and he cautioned that “getting a Withdrawal Agreement in place is the first step in what Boris Johnson calls “getting Brexit done”.”
The real challenge lay ahead with intensive trade negotiations in 2020. “A year from now, we don’t know whether the UK will stay aligned with EU regulations in a close trading relationship, or if we shall set sail for the high seas” the Bishop opined. It would therefore be important to continue to hold the new UK Government to account and scrutinise the detail of the negotiations.
Bishop Robert stressed “we have to avoid a Brexit in which the losers are the poorest and weakest in our society.”
The Bishop was asked about how people in the Diocese were now preparing for Brexit. He responded that many were asking “should I stay, or should I go?” or if they had decided to stay, how they could legally exercise a right to remain in an EU27 country after Brexit. Bishop Robert noted the Diocese was working closely with agencies on the ground in order to start supporting isolated, elderly people with preparing residency applications, especially in Spain and France.
The Bishop also drew attention to other issues of concern for the Diocese, in addition to citizens’ rights. These included the ongoing ability to appoint and move clergy around Europe and future data transfer and sharing across borders.
Bishop Robert said while there were some administrative issues being experienced, away from the politics of Brexit, local responses among people in the EU member states continued to be generous, even if local people in the EU27 Member States really struggled to understand Brexit. Bishop Robert cited remarks in the open letter written last week by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, as a typical example of warmth across Europe for the UK. You can read the Commissioner’s letter here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/26/my-love-letter-to-britain-family-ties
Bishop Robert emphasised the need for reconciliation and healing. He recalled the “gift and treasure” of peace in Europe for 75 years, commemorated in D-Day events this year. He also noted it had been 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Both D-Day and the collapse of the Berlin Wall were examples of “strong and timeless messages about our struggles together for freedom from oppression.” The Bishop said he would meet with our ecumenical partners shortly after Brexit day to reaffirm the Anglican presence across Europe and develop further co-operation post-Brexit, reiterating that “the Church of England has been in Europe long before the EU had been created.”
He also welcomed current twinning links and arrangements between English churches and chaplaincies in the Diocese in Europe, and encouraged more work to foster and deepen such relationships.
Bishop Robert offered reassurance on dealing with the divisiveness and rancour of human relationships due to Brexit, within families and among communities:
“Christmas time reminds us of the Gospel message of the angels and shepherds bringing peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased,” Bishop Robert told listeners across the country.
“There is more to life than Brexit. We have our faith and families that sustain, nurture and feed us through difficult times. We should keep a sense of perspective and take Brexit a month at a time as a great deal will happen over the next year to shape our relationships with Europe. Let’s encourage one another through it.”
Bishop Robert emphasised also the scale of climate change, environmental degradation and global warming as challenges for the next decade.
Bishop Robert gave interviews across BBC radio stations in England and the Channel Islands on Sunday. You can listen to his interviews with BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire and BBC Radio Jersey & Guernsey at the links below:
Coventry/Warwickshire: timeline 2:22-2:27 https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07xmp4d
Jersey & Guernsey: timeline 1:39-1:44 https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07wwb6z
The days after Christmas are treated by most clergy as an opportunity to relax a little. Although I have not been caught up in the endless round of services like the active clergy, I did try and get ahead of myself by writing a couple of articles for the blog in good time so that I could try and forget it over the festival time. But the circumstances have changed things. Two events have happened over the holiday period that have thrust clerical abuse back into our attention in a forceful way.
The first event was the publication of David Greenwood’s chronicle of the Peter Ball affair in a privately published book, Basically Innocent. This appeared a day or two before Christmas. It contains a factual and yet horrifying account of Ball’s abuses and the subsequent establishment cover-up of his behaviour. Then on the 27th/28th came the extensive further Telegraph coverage of the Jonathan Fletcher affair. The newspaper and the journalist Gabriella Swerling have evidently been working hard on the story since they published their first exposé about Fletcher back in June. What they have produced is fascinating, not merely for the details of alleged abuses, but for the way that the paper has made many connections between individuals and institutions.
The stories about Ball and Fletcher have proved to be as much about institutional behaviour and misbehaviour as that of individuals. Each man offended in the context of having a senior institutional role. In neither case did the institutions involved seems capable of checking the behaviour of their senior representatives. Nor did they show much remorse after the nefarious deeds had been exposed. These institutional failures will probably be what is remembered by history. Individuals have been seriously harmed, not only by the actions of evil men, but by the subsequent failure of institutions that should have protected them and helped them to heal.
Returning to David Greenwood’s chronicle, I found it quite difficult reading the accounts of naked showers and sexual activity interspersed with spiritual ritual. But the exact details of Ball’s criminal offending are possibly the least important part of the narrative. What the reader may find even tougher to take on board are the deceitful tricks used by Ball’s allies to harass and undermine those who accused him of wrongdoing. The then Bishop of Chichester, Dr Eric Kemp, oversaw a policy of non-cooperation and obstruction of the police in their legitimate enquiries. Questions of truth and falsehood and good and bad seemed not to play any part in his calculations. All that seemed to matter was a determination to protect ‘one of us’, Peter Ball, together with the good name of the institution that he had done so much to dishonour. Obstructing the pursuit of justice by a considerable number of distinguished Ball supporters is a key part of the Greenwood account.
Basically Innocent still has the power to shock even though most of the information contained in it is already in the public domain. The recent Telegraph story on Jonathan Fletcher, however, contains fresh information. The newspaper has succeeded in talking to five victims of Fletcher and these have painted a consistent pattern of spiritually exploitative manipulative behaviour that seemed designed merely to satisfy the narcissistic and sexual needs of the abuser. But, once again the story is remarkable, not just for these actions but for the way that countless other people have been involved as bystanders or protectors. Back in October I wrote a blog piece http://survivingchurch.org/2019/10/03/the-jonathan-fletcher-story-continues/ on Fletcher commenting on the fact that no fresh news since the Telegraph stories of June had emerged into the public domain on the scandal. That said to me that large numbers of people in the Iwerne/ReNew/Church Society group had been ordered to keep quiet on the topic. Since that time the silence has begun to crack open and Fletcher’s old church, Emmanuel South Wimbledon, has agreed to commission a Review under the supervision of Justin Humphries and his independent organisation Thirtyone:eight. That has now begun and there has been a call for victims to come forward to tell what they know.
There are a number of parallels between the Fletcher scandal and the Ball affair. The Telegraph story suggested a possible link through membership of the same exclusive dining club, Nobody’s Friends. While Fletcher was undoubtably a member, I do not believe anyone has claimed the same for Ball. What is true is that powerful well-connected people linked to the two men have used their social power to defend and attempt to vindicate them. The 2000 letters sent to Lambeth Palace in support of Ball were in some cases written by people who believed genuinely in his innocence. Other individuals probably suspected that something was awry in his behaviour but in their minds the good name of the Church took precedence over the questions of right and wrong. In the Fletcher affair something rather more blatant was going on. As far as I can determine, almost everybody in the ReNew/REFORM/Iwerne network knew Fletcher and this is particularly true of the leaders in that group. The leaders cannot have been ignorant of Fletcher’s style of ministry and his reputation for spiritually abusive behaviour. If they were surprised at the revelations and the 2017 withdrawal of his Permission to Officiate, why has there been no protestation to this effect? It was also extraordinary that an individual with a very high profile should suddenly almost disappear from any mention on the net. Someone with the authority to do so must have spent hours searching for online references to Fletcher and removing them one by one. That piece of work has now been rendered void by the Telegraph reporting. The publicity machines at both Church House and wherever the centre of ReNew is to be found will be working very hard this week-end to try and undo the enormous damage to the reputation of the Church that has been incurred by the Telegraph stories.
I want to finish by briefly exploring a moral dilemma. In Christian teaching an individual can commit a wrong action but there is always the possibility of receiving forgiveness after true repentance. That is in essence what we understand from the New Testament. A different situation arises to this when we encounter a bystander knowing about and to some extent covering up someone else’s evil activity. When I know about the harmful behaviour of another person, how can I put things right? The simple appeal to repentance does not seem to work. I cannot repent of some else’s behaviour. How can I do anything to put right the evil being done by a member of my own church tribe? To separate myself from that action completely, I would need to abandon all that connects me with the network. That is a difficult if not impossible task. Members of the ReNew network who knew that Fletcher’s behaviour was spiritually and psychologically harmful were to a greater or lesser extent colluding in evil. The bystander is always a sharer of guilt, particularly if harm is in any way intensified because of the inactivity. Looking at the stories of Fletcher and John Smyth before him, the entire ReNew network leadership group seems to have been caught up in a kind of corporate guilt. It is hard to claim that any of them are completely free from Fletcher’s wrongdoing. They knew something and they simply did little or nothing with what they knew to protect the vulnerable. The typical motivation for this kind of behaviour seems to be one of idolisation of a charismatic leader and the protection and defence of their tribe against other types of Christian who are regarded as threats to their vision of the faith. How will the leadership of ReNew deal with the institutional guilt that is now seen to be pervasive within their constituency? The world is watching the conservative network of ReNew to see how it deals with this appalling legacy. At the same time, it is looking to the wider Church of England to act positively and decisively in this matter but also over the disastrous legacy of Peter Ball and of those who enabled and protected him over decades.
Widespread reports of beatings, firing rubber bullets at people’s heads and faces (in clear breach of international norms), indiscriminate use of teargas and water cannon against largely peaceful crowds celebrating Christmas in Tsim Sha Tsui and other areas represent yet another example of the escalating human rights crisis in Hong Kong.
In horrific scenes, a protester chased by police fell from one level of a shopping mall to another and sustained very serious injuries while another fell from a rooftop after police shot at him multiple times as he clung to the edge.
Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and Chairman, Benedict Rogers, said:
“Hong Kong witnessed truly outrageous police brutality on Christmas Eve. Are Hong Kongers now not even allowed to gather to celebrate Christmas peacefully, to shop and sing carols? The level of violence in Hong Kong has reached such severe and sustained levels that an international, independent inquiry should be urgently established.”
“We also call on the United Kingdom to lead the international community by establishing an international contact group of like-minded nations to co-ordinate a global policy response to the crisis.
“Furthermore, we urge the British Prime Minister to speak out clearly and urgently, and we call on the British government and others to introduce targeted Magnitsky sanctions against those responsible in Hong Kong and China for severe human rights violations, including officials in the government and the police.
“It is time for immediate international action to stop the crisis in Hong Kong escalating still further, to end impunity and to move towards peace and the re-establishment of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy.”
The post Hong Kong Watch condemns Christmas Eve police brutality appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
As Islamic State releases a video claiming to show the killing of 11 Christians in Nigeria, persecution watchdog Release International names Nigeria as a country of special concern for 2020. Other persecution hotspots are likely to include Iran, Iraq, China and India.
A splinter group of Boko Haram has produced a video claiming to show the beheading of 10 Christians in Nigeria and the shooting of an eleventh. The video was produced by the terrorist group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Its release on December 26 appears to be timed to coincide with the Christmas celebrations.
ISWAP claimed the hostage murders were in revenge for the death of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself during an attack by US forces in October.
Voice-over commentary to the video stated: ‘This message is to the Christians in the world. Those you see are Christians and we will shed their blood as revenge.’
Nigeria ‘country of concern’
The latest murders come as persecution watchdog Release International names Nigeria as a key country of concern for 2020.
‘Tens of thousands of Christians are being driven from their homes by the ongoing persecution in Nigeria,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘While the death toll is rising, the world simply watches. Nigeria’s government appears to lack the will or the power to prevent the killings.’
Christians in Nigeria are being targeted by three Islamist terror groups: Boko Haram, its offshoot ISWAP, and heavily armed Fulani militia who are killing thousands and taking over their villages.
Release International’s Nigeria partner, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, says: ‘Across the north, the mainly Muslim Fulani have been taking land from predominantly Christian farmers by force and occupying their villages.’
‘They attack, typically, in the middle of the night while people are sleeping. They shoot in the air and create panic to drive the villagers out. When the people flee from their houses into the darkness, the Fulani lie in wait with their machetes and cut them down. Again and again. And the government seems powerless to stop them.’
Writing in a recent book, Neither Bomb Nor Bullet (Lion Hudson 2019), Archbishop Kwashi warns: ‘Nigeria has become the largest killing ground for Christians in the world today.’
In 2015 the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) named Fulani extremists as the fourth–deadliest terror group in the world. By 2018, GTI reported: ‘“Deaths attributed to Fulani extremists are estimated to be six times greater than the number committed by Boko Haram.’
In 2019, GTI reported that deaths attributed to Fulani elements had risen by 261 per cent in a single year. ‘Eighty-four per cent of these armed assaults targeted civilians’. The report continued: Fulani extremists had become the ‘primary driver of the increase in terrorism’ in sub-Saharan Africa.
‘And in 2020, these attacks by Fulani militia are set to continue,’ warns Paul Robinson of Release International. ‘Our contacts on the ground say the government does not have the will to stop the land-grab and provide security for Christians.’
Other persecution hotspots for 2020 identified by Release International include Iran, Iraq, India and China. In each of these countries there is growing evidence of increasing violence against Christians.
Persecution has been increasing in Iran for the past four years. Release’s Iranian partner describes a ‘forced exodus’ of Christians as the government acts to ‘exterminate the Persian-speaking church’.
A national clampdown on Christianity has driven many Iranian church leaders overseas. And the restrictions are getting worse.
More than 100,000 refugees are expected to arrive in Iraqi Kurdistan in the coming year, driven out as a result of unrest to the south of Iraq and instability in neighbouring Syria.
Recent reports that Islamic State fighters are re-establishing a foothold in Iraq will increase the insecurity of the remaining Christians. Around 1.5 million Christians have already fled, leaving only some 300,000 in Iraq.
‘The one bright spot on the horizon,’ says Paul Robinson, ‘is the commitment by UK prime minister Boris Johnson in his Christmas speech to support the growing number of Christians who are being persecuted for their faith.’
In his message, Mr Johnson declared: ‘I want us to remember Christians around the world who are facing persecution. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend your right to practise your faith.’
Mr Johnson’s government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the recommendations of the recent report by the Bishop of Truro, which found that Christians were now the most persecuted minority around the world. Release International and others contributed to research for that report.
‘Release is delighted that the UK government has pledged to put freedom of religion and belief at the centre of foreign policy,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘This could make a significant difference in the coming year, as persecution worldwide looks set to increase.’
Through its international network of missions Release International is active in more than 30 countries around the world, supporting pastors, Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.
The post Nigeria names as key Christian persecution hotspot in 2020 appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
Reports from China indicate deepening persecution of Christians, including the closing of Sunday schools and replacing the Ten Commandments with slogans from Communist Party leader, President Xi Jinping.
Chinese authorities have reportedly become nervous about the rise of Christianity and the protests in Hong Kong, in which Christians have played a key role. Official estimates put the number of Christians in China at 30-40 million, but the persecution watchdog Open Doors estimates there are up to 100 million believers. China is forecast to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030, overtaking the United States.
As well as in larger centres such as Beijing, Christianity is booming in rural regions such as Hebei, Henan and Anhui, with large areas of disadvantage or poverty. The Christian population is split between membership of state-sponsored churches, such as the so-called Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and underground or house churches.
The religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter has reported several recent incidents that show persecution is worsening. The magazine says churches in the central province of Henan have been forced to replace signs showing the Ten Commandments with quotes from President Xi Jinping.
“The core socialist values and Chinese culture will help to immerse various religions of China,” reads one of Xi’s quotes. “Support religious community in interpreting religious thought, doctrines and teachings in a way that conforms with the needs of the progress of the times.”
Church leaders say it is part of eroding Christian doctrine in the official Three-Self churches, which can be blacklisted or shut down if they don’t display the messages.
Another report says the Communist Party has begun to restrict Christian activities for children, in line with a long-standing law against religious conversion under the age of 18.
The Religious Affairs Bureau has reportedly begun to enforce the law by closing Sunday schools and ordering churches to erect signs accordingly.
Police stations have even been given quotas that reward them for the number of Christians they arrest.
One Protestant pastor told the magazine that “The Communist Party’s ultimate goal is to ‘become God’. This is what the devil has always done.”
Kevin Kallsen, George Conger, and Gavin Ashenden sit down to talk about the Jonathan Fletcher story that appeared in today’s Telegraph. They also discuss Anglican Tribalism and Transgendered bullying in England.
As the Queen cryptically talks about “small steps taken in faith and hope” to “overcome long-held differences”, her son and heir Prince Charles has issued a clarion call to remember “all those who suffer persecution for their Christian faith”.
In her annual Christmas message, to be broadcast on ABC Television tonight, the Queen reportedly calls for reconciliation in her divided nation by saying “small steps can make a world of difference” when the path ahead is not always smooth but “at times bumpy.”
“It is of vital importance that we remember all those who suffer persecution for their Christian faith.” – Prince Charles
The Queen does not spell out what she means by “bumpy,” but her admission comes after a turbulent and difficult year for the monarch.
In September, she was dragged into a constitutional crisis by proroguing parliament for five weeks amid an increasingly toxic national debate over Brexit. The move was subsequently proved illegal when it was annulled by the Supreme Court.
Turmoil at her family level included Prince Andrew being forced to withdraw from public life over his friendship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Philip faced a police probe over a car crash, Prince Harry acknowledged tensions in his relationship with elder brother William, and Harry’s wife Meghan admitted she was struggling in the public eye.
Meanwhile, as king-in-waiting, Prince Charles has recorded a video at St James’ Palace on December 19 in which he asserts his Christian identity. He also implicitly made his case to take over as head of the Church of England when he eventually assumes the throne.
The Queen has become more open about her active Christian faith in recent years, but this is possibly the first time Prince Charles has made such a clear declaration of his own faith.
“All around the world as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it is of vital importance that we remember all those who suffer persecution for their Christian faith,” he says in the video.
He mentions a recent meeting with a priest who ministered to people in Sri Lanka who were “so dreadfully injured in the barbaric attacks this year on churches on Easter Day”.
“With nearly 260 killed and more than 500 injured in that appalling atrocity, Sunday the 21st of April was the single worst day of violence targeting Christians in the modern era,” he says.
“But tragically, it was not an isolated example. I also met a religious sister recently who told me most movingly about the situation in Syria where, with immense courage and in impossible conditions, she provides crucial support to Christians and others escaping violence and death.”
In the video filmed for Aid to the Church in Need – a Christian charity Prince Charles has long been associated with – he cites its October report. According to the report, up to two-thirds of Christians have fled Syria over the past decade. He also mentions that in Iraq, Christian communities have shrunk by up to 90 per cent within a generation.
“As we recall how the Christ child fled with his parents to Egypt, let us remember the countless many who endured terrible persecution or are forced to flee their homes and let us strengthen our resolve to prevent Christianity disappearing from the lands of the Bible,” says Prince Charles.
“… Those of you who carry the cross of suffering today, you are in my … heartfelt prayers.” – Prince Charles
“The Syrian sister I met gave me a gift – it was a depiction of the head of the crucified Christ made out of charred wood taken from a bomb blasted church in Aleppo.”
“As we mark this holiest of seasons in the Christian calendar, may I assure those of you who carry the cross of suffering today, that you are in my most special thoughts and heartfelt prayers. And to Christians everywhere may I wish you a peaceful, safe and holy Christmas.”
In her Christmas Day message, recorded last week at Windsor Castle, the Queen includes several thinly veiled references to the national schisms sparked by Brexit.
She emphasises a message of reconciliation by recalling that, in June, the UK hosted an international event to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II.
It was attended by leaders of countries that had been at war, including US President Donald Trump, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Queen says: “For the 75th anniversary of that decisive battle, in a true spirit of reconciliation, those who had formerly been sworn enemies came together in friendly commemorations [from] either side of the Channel, putting past differences behind them.”
What the English Royal Family has gone through this year has prompted comparisons with 1997 when Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed and the monarchy’s popularity plunged.
However, it has not come close to the Queen’s “annus horribilis” (Latin for “horrible year”) in 1992, when three of her children’s marriages broke down and Windsor Castle went up in flames.
She is said to have missed having Prince Philip by her side to offer advice for much of this tumultuous year.
Philip, 98, is currently in hospital undergoing treatment for an undisclosed condition. He retired in August, 2017.
The post King in waiting pleads for persecuted Christians as Queen pleads for reconciliation appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
Midnight Mass – Christmas Eve
24th December 2019
Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr
The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town
Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20 or John 1:1-14
May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.
It’s been a difficult year for South Africans, and two recent encounters have highlighted this for me. First, when we marked the retirement last month of the Diocese’s Vicar-General, Keith de Vos, some of his parishioners brought home to me how many people, instead of seeing the “new dawn” being proclaimed for our country, are instead sensing that, actually, a dark cloud is hanging over us. And that was even before the Eskom power cuts reached Stage Six.
Second, as our family shared a meal around the table in Makgobaskloof last week, my daughter – who is a university student – to my surprise and I admit my chagrin, challenged me by asking, “Daddy, what kind of world, what kind of South Africa, am I going to grow up in?” I was at a loss for words to respond – not such a good condition for an Archbishop. Unpacking her concerns, she explained that she felt on the edge of a precipice, distressed by the lack of trust in the world and by the pressures on her and her peers, hopeful at the end of the Zuma era but upset by the pervasive greed in South Africa, jubilant at the success of the Springboks but despairing at the continuing lack of equality of opportunity for people of her age.
These exchanges shook me. Here we are on the cusp of a new decade and the worries being expressed represent the questions many South Africans are asking. So I forced myself to focus on Christmas, on the readings for tonight, and on the carols we sing at this time of year.
Beginning with that beautiful passage from Isaiah: it tells us that until Jerusalem is established here on earth, all of us ought to be sentinels (in the older translations, they use the words “biblical watchmen”); that we ought to be citizens of God who have a sense of duty not only to God, but who also have a responsibility for the public welfare. And the writer of the passage assures us that even if things are tough, God will remove the shackles that bind us, that salvation is assured and that God will ensure that Jerusalem will not be forsaken. Then the Psalmist talks about a God who reigns, who is the one who designs the whole world, the whole cosmos. I found this image of God as a designer very powerful – a designer of the world, the values of whose reign are values of justice and righteousness.
Finally, the reading from John’s Gospel set for tonight has a beautiful way of describing the Incarnation – the coming of God into the world. It portrays the Incarnation as a form of light. In an interesting twist, it says the Incarnation is light shining into the darkness. Note that it doesn’t say darkness will go. Darkness survives, it continues to exist, but where the light shines, where Jesus comes, it dispels the darkness. The concentration is no longer on darkness, but instead it’s on God’s people who need to be saved. And although God is particular to Jerusalem, and in the psalms God is particular to the Israelites, the Incarnation, the light, says that our God is also universal. God is a god of all, not just for Christians, and the Incarnation calls us to witness to God in almost everything; to bring God’s light to where there is darkness, and to witness to the light wherever we are.
Turning to the carols, I was drawn again to that carol originating in mid-19th century America called “It Came upon the Midnight Clear”. The composer, Edmund Sears, wrote it as he was wrestling with the harsh paradox of celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace at a time when the United States had been at war with Mexico and as it was still gripped by the demonic force of slavery. Sears in his carol recognises that the slaves of that time, as is still true today, live “beneath life’s crushing load”, that they are those “whose forms are bending low, Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow.”
At the time he wrote, it was night for those slaves in America. Tonight, as we enter a new decade, it is night for so many in our land, for many around the world, for those who hunger and thirst for food and water, and curl up at night hungry. It is night. It is night for those who hunger and thirst for some kind of peace in places of deadly conflict, who hunger and thirst for justice in places where human rights are either ignored or abused. It is night for those who have been the victims of violence and so horribly of gender-based violence. It is night for the 26 million refugees and 41 million people displaced from their homes in their own countries who face untold dangers. It is night for all of them.
But Sears’s carol recognised that amidst that cauldron of human wrong in America, the hovering angels and their celestial songs were in fact words of deep challenge to the status quo. They were intimations of liberation and signs of a new historical epoch, and thus words of hope. He encourages those bowed down: “Look now! For glad and golden hours, Come swiftly on the wing.”
Sears’s hymn, and the other Gospel reading from Luke tonight, tell us that we don’t have to live beneath life’s crushing load. We don’t have to accept the low opinion others might have of us. We don’t have to internalise negative self-images. Listen to our hearts, hear what God is saying, what heaven is ringing out tonight. We can get up. We can walk away from the marginalisation others impose on us. We don’t have to accept other people’s darkness. We can do what the shepherds did on that original Christmas night. They were people without any security, with very meagre belongings, no permanent abode and lacking in any social status, yet they summoned up their courage and did what Christmas always challenges us to do: to leave the familiar, to leave our comfort zones and be vulnerable enough to journey to the margins, to the places of no regard and to discern there the new thing that God is doing that is of such great joy. God bids us find what that new-born Baby represents – a new humanity, our full worth, our incomparable dignity that no one can take from us.
Christmas is always essentially about something new, something unthought of, unheard of, that comes to offer a new dawn. As we enter this new decade, the words “Twenty-twenty” have such a landmark ring to them, marking the beginning of a new decade which invites us to think bigger thoughts, to dream bigger dreams and to scale up our ambitions for what we can achieve, for ourselves, our communities and our society in the next 10 years.
What is for certain is that 2020 will not be short of drama. Many see it as a year of judgment. Certainly in the U.S., the world is in for a roller-coaster year as Americans go back to the polls to pass judgement on President Trump. Brexit in the UK will be resolved, one way or the other – or will it? Whatever happens, it is likely to leave that country divided, damaged and diminished.
Here in South Africa, we hope it is “the year of the orange jump-suit”, a year of reckoning for those whose greed has driven the country to the brink of disaster. On this night, of all nights, I don’t want to appear vindictive. Nor do I want to join the ranks of those who would put undue pressure on prosecutors to rush their work. Shamila Batohi, Hermione Cronje and their teams at the National Prosecuting Authority need to be given the space to do their jobs properly and to prepare watertight cases which secure convictions. Botched prosecutions and widespread acquittals would be a disaster, sending the wrong signals to the corrupt and plunging the country into despair. But there must be consequences for corruption, both for those in the private sector who facilitate it and those in the public sector who take advantage of it. The justice, the peace, the reconciliation and the abundant life which a flourishing democracy promises will be achieved only if those who threaten to subvert it are held accountable. So I pray that our hope is not misplaced.
The leaders of our government have had nearly two years to get their act together, rebuild national and international trust and begin to keep the many promises they’ve made to us. Much as I respect our President, and have said he can’t bring about change with a magic wand, it remains true that he, his Cabinet and Parliament are excellent talkers, good enough to talk a dog down from a meat truck. But when it comes to improving service delivery, delivering basic healthcare and bringing our education system up to global standards to ensure equality of opportunity for all our children, their words are empty and actionless. As Freddy Mercury of Queen once sang:
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio blah blah
Radio, what’s new?
We need to believe we can do better. We need to believe we must do better. We need to believe we will do better. And let us start by examining ourselves: instead of complaining about what the government hasn’t done for us, ask what it is that you can do for your neighbour.
Looking ahead to the next decade, I hope we will abandon old shibboleths and begin to take economically rational decisions about our country. Not only in South Africa, but internationally, the last decade has shown that neither unbridled capitalism and globalisation, nor a centralised command economy will produce the growth and the jobs we need. Across the world, the economic ordering of society and the question of how we develop our material resources is central to the crises that afflict us. In South Africa I have said that the old economic order must go. But inequality is not confined to South Africa, or Brazil, or the United States – it affects us all – and I am a strong supporter of an initiative by the international faith community to advocate a new form of global governance and a new economic framework, one which would transform the market economy from a self-serving mechanism for elites to one which is less exploitative and both serves our environment and distributes resources and income more equitably.
For our Church, 2020 will also be an historic year. For the first time in more than decade, archbishops and bishops from across the world will gather at the 2020 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury to discuss the future of our Church and its role in global and local society. For the past four years, I have chaired the Lambeth Design Group as we have worked collaboratively to build a framework around what we call “Pillars of Relevance”, which reflect the key issues facing our global Church in the next decade.
These pillars challenge us in South Africa to ask a number of questions: What do young people really want out of their church experience? How can the Church motivate and inspire our leaders to focus on creating a South Africa where there is a genuine equality of opportunity? How can we draw families, neighbours, communities and our country into Courageous Conversations around our family dinner tables, boardroom tables and parliamentary cafeteria tables to become a country of active listeners, openly debating differences with the intention of finding bridges of common agreement? And one of the most important questions facing our children and grandchildren today: what leadership role can the Church play in shaping the future in a climate changing world?
Lastly, how do we in the Church restore trust in our institutions, our leaders and ourselves? We are living through an era of historic distrust, in which we are challenged to examine how we can rise up above the clamour of hate and intolerance and address the atmosphere in which people don’t want to listen to opposing views or consider ideas different from their own. It is our responsibility to to look both inside and outside the stained glass windows of our churches and ask: if we don’t work to re-establish trust in society, who will? And if we don’t do it now, then when will it happen?
Despite our challenges, as we close out one decade and open the door to another, I am hopeful. Not because, to quote the eminent South African feminist theologian, Denise Ackermann, I have a “blithe sense that all will end well (or alles sal regkom) because human progress is guaranteed.” No, I am hopeful because to hope is to be determined to name our problems and highlight our differences, precisely in order to mobilise people to overcome them. As Denise adds: “To live out my hope is to try to make that which I hope for come about – sooner rather than later.”
We believe and trust in a God of hope. So let us reflect that in our personal lives, in our Church’s life and in the life of the country as we enter the twenty-twenties.
God bless you, your family and God bless South Africa. God loves you. And so do I.
Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and reformed leader issue Christmas Day appeal for peace in South Sudan
An Christmas Day appeal for peace addressed to leaders in South Sudan has been issued by Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Communion, joined by the Rev. John Chalmers, former moderator of the Church of Scotland.
“In this Christmas season and at the beginning of a new year, we wish to extend to you and to all the people of South Sudan our best wishes for your peace and prosperity, and to assure you of our spiritual closeness as you strive for a swift implementation of the Peace Agreements,” the leaders said.
“We raise our prayers to Christ the Saviour for a renewed commitment to the path of reconciliation and fraternity, and we invoke abundant blessings upon each of you and upon the entire nation. May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, enlighten you and guide your steps in the way of goodness and truth, and bring to fulfilment our desire to visit your beloved country.”
During a meeting at the Vatican in November, the Pope and Archbishop agreed to travel together to South Sudan if the country’s leaders implement their pledge to form a transitional government by late February. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar missed two deadlines for forming a unity government originally set to take place in May and then November. The end of February is the latest target date agreed by the two leaders.
evin Kallsen, George Conger, and Gavin Ashenden talk about the world of global politics, suffering, and Pope Francis’ new idea of ceasing evangelism.
The post Anglican Unscripted 560 – Unwrapping the Gift of Suffering appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
Kevin, George, and Gavin discuss the reaction to President Trumps Impeachment and much much more.
The post Anglican Unscripted 559 – A Viking, a Puritan, and a Pirate appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
A merry and happy Christmas to you!
I’m addressing you from in front of Abney Park Chapel, an historic church built on a piece of property that Isaac Watts, the famous hymn and song writer, used to live. Isaac Watts brought us the famous Christmas hymn “Joy to the World.” “Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98. There are so many good verses in this Psalm, but the overall theme is about singing and praising the Lord and having joy because of the salvation He’s brought to the world.
We find allusions to this Psalm when the shepherds are out in the field and the angels appear to tell them about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. The angels tell the shepherds this, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
Part of the message of Psalm 98 and of this message from the angels is that, because of this salvation that is going to be brought into the world because of Jesus being born, people will have great joy!
When I think about joy in the Christian life, I am reminded of something I was taught early on in my Christian walk about having joy in one’s life as we follow Jesus. It is based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It’s a very simple acronym, JOY: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.
Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In other words, we make him the priority. He’s the first thing in our life. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” Jesus said.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as more important than yourself.” Do not merely look after your own interests, but also the interests of others. It’s so easy in our selfish world to think of ourselves first, but part of having joy is thinking of the other person before yourself.
And the “y” is for yourself. You are so important to the Lord! You are important to His cause and His purposes on earth.
So, here we are at Christmas, and God desires for you and me to have His joy. As Isaac Watts wrote, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing.”
I hope this Christmas you are preparing room in your heart for our Lord Jesus Christ. But not only that, that you’re putting Him first, the other second, and yourself last.
God bless you!
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America
Around the world the Church proclaims with joy the coming of the Lord Jesus: looking back to his incarnation and forward to his second coming in glory. Around the world Christians rejoice that Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, is God with us. Through him we have life, and have it abundantly.
Year by year we dwell on the mystery of the Word made flesh, a mystery that is both encapsulated in a moment in time and of eternal significance, a mystery that reveals God. In Jesus Christ we see and experience the love of God to us through the presence of God with us. In Jesus Christ God comes among us in a form that we can recognise and with which we can engage.
As St Basil the Great preached in a homily on the Nativity:
God on earth, God among us. No longer the God who gives his law amid flashes of lightening, to the sound of the trumpet on the smoking mountain, within the darkness of a terrifying storm, but the God who speaks gently and with kindness in a human body to his kindred: God in the flesh.
God who takes flesh in Jesus Christ saves humanity by his self-emptying and condescension to become one with us. Jesus comes, as he says in St John’s Gospel, that his people might have light – the light of life.
We live in a world, however, where life is fragile and where countless people’s lives are threatened by war, disease, climate change, poverty and natural disaster. Earlier this year I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo where people live between the twin threats of an ongoing war and the tenth outbreak of Ebola. I found there a church in good heart: proclaiming the good news of the coming of God in Jesus Christ and caring for those in need. The church there is working, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring hope of life in all its fullness.
In South Sudan, too, we see the effects of a long war that has claimed thousands of lives and left thousands displaced. This year, at the invitation of Pope Francis, South Sudan’s political and religious leaders visited Rome for a retreat. Along with the Pope and a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland I prayed with and for them, for a lasting and just peace that can enable, enrich and encourage human flourishing in that land. Pope Francis and I plan to make a joint visit to South Sudan in 2020 once a government is in place.
The flourishing of human life within the integrity of all creation is God’s will for his world. God, in his incarnation, lifts humanity up to him. And we, who are lifted up, are called, in turn, to loving service of the world he came to save.
May Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, fill you with peace and goodwill and make you partakers of the divine nature this Christmastide and always.
In the peace of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
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Greetings to my dear Citizens of Hong Kong,
Christmas in Hong Kong takes on a heavy atmosphere this year and Silent Night is no longer filled with happiness and joy. The anti-extradition bill movement has whipped up a political storm that has rocked the city for the past six months. Combined with external forces, the storm has dealt a heavy blow to the economy and people’s lives. Street conflicts have led to the destruction of shops, restaurants, and public facilities. Violence has also affected tourism, retail, and the catering industries, causing unemployment and disrupting people’s livelihoods.
According to a survey, more than ten thousand people in the retail sector will lose their jobs and seven thousand companies will go out of business in the next few months. A newspaper editorial warns that if social order does not soon return, many industries will experience a financial avalanche and its effects will spread to the whole economy.
Facilities that were physically destroyed may be repaired and a fallen economy may eventually recover, but torn family bonds, friendships, mutual trust, and feelings of unease are not so easily restored. Neither is the rebuilding of compromised freedoms, social stability, and the rule of law.
Over the past several months, friendships that have lasted for decades have ruptured because of differing political views. Conflicts and enmity have erupted within families, and among friends and parishioners. Some young people have even run away from home because their parents and family members did not share their views. Many suffer from mental health problems and symptoms of acute stress disorder, including insomnia, anxiety, extreme emotional fluctuation, confusion, and escapism.
This storm has obliterated the hardware and software of the city’s infrastructure. I believe that all Hong Kongers are asking: how should the city move forward? We may have yet to find a way to emerge from the crisis, but no one who loves Hong Kong wants to see this situation drag on.
The coming of Christmas gives us an opportunity to pause and think about how to walk out of this valley of darkness and return to the path of light. Jesus came to earth as the incarnate God on Christmas. He dwelt among us and built new relationships between God and humankind and among human beings. This creates a bond of love and peace, because in Jesus Christ, all the walls that stood between people are taken down. The rich, the poor, and people of different classes, political views, social status, and races live together in mutual love and peace like sisters and brothers. The birth of Jesus Christ not only gave us a new direction in life, but also gave people the power to accept goodness and abandon evil, so that violence could be turned into peace, conflict could be transformed into tolerance, selfishness could become self-lessness and hatred could change into friendship.
Therefore, Christmas reminds us that political views is not above all things, because the core value of Christmas is “Immanuel”, which is “God with us”. “God with us” represents the reconciliation between God and humankind. This reconciliation embodies love, peace, tolerance, mutual trust and mutual acceptance. These are the foundation stones of social stability, harmony and freedom. They are also the essential elements for the peaceful coexistence of peoples.
The government and protestors should take Christmas as an opportunity to sit down and start a dialogue with courage, sincerity and humility, and to admit their own inadequacies and shortcomings. They should explore ways to respond to society in order to break out of the current dilemma because this is more effective than resorting to violence or shouting slogans. The government should not limit themselves to rigid thinking when they respond to voices from society but should instead take practical measures or actions that are relevant to the needs of the citizens. Moreover, the police force and the people need to find ways of healing the rift that divides them. Only through love for Hong Kong, mutual understanding, rational dialogue, walking together, and resolving animosity and hatred through love, can people hope to lead the city out of this difficult situation, and rebuild stability and mutual trust in Hong Kong, so that everyone can live and work in an environment of freedom and stability.
Lastly, I pray to God to let the citizens of Hong Kong observe a peaceful, quiet, and joyful Christmas in this difficult period.
+ Paul Kwong
The post Christmas message from the Archbishop of Hong Kong appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it
In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, sometimes referred to as the prologue to the Gospel, sometimes spoken of as the whole Gospel in miniature the Gospel writer says this. As he reflects on the coming of God into the world in the person of Jesus. As he reflects on Christmas. He says, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
I don’t think it’s an accident that long ago, followers of Jesus began to commemorate his coming into the world when the world seemed to be at its darkest.
It’s probably not an accident that we observe Christmas soon after December 21, the winter solstice. The winter solstice being in the Northern Hemisphere the darkest time of the year.
Undoubtedly, these ancient Christians who began to celebrate the coming of God into the world, they knew very well that this Jesus, his teachings, his message, his spirit, his example, his life points us to the way of life itself, a way of life, where we take care of each other. A way of life, where we care for God’s world. A way of life, where we are in a loving relationship with our God, and with each other as children of the one God, who has created us all.
They also knew John’s Gospel and John’s Christmas story. Now there are no angels in John’s Christmas story. There are no wise men coming from afar. There’s no baby lying in a manger. There’s no angel choir singing Gloria in excelsis Deo in the highest of the heavens. There are no shepherds tending their flocks by night. Matthew and Luke tell those stories. In John, it is the poetry of new possibility, born of the reality of God when God breaks into the world.
It’s not an accident that long ago, followers of Jesus began to commemorate his birth, his coming into the world. When the world seemed darkest. When hope seemed to be dashed on the altar of reality. It is not an accident that we too, commemorate his coming, when things do not always look right in this world.
But there is a God. And there is Jesus. And even in the darkest night. That light once shined and will shine still. His way of love is the way of life. It is the light of the world. And the light of that love shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, cannot, and will not overcome it.
God love you. God bless you and may you have a Merry Christmas and may this world be blessed. Amen.
The post Christmas message from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church appeared first on Anglican Ink © 2019.
Christmas is the celebration of God’s gift of love to the world.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us extend love to one another and practically demonstrate it to restore hope in our hopelessness. For a virgin has given birth to a child, He is Emmanuel, meaning: God is with us. (Matthew 1:23)
Our prayer is for all South Sudanese to forget their hatred and divisions; instead, they reconcile to one another and encourage our leaders to work together in implementing the R-ARCSS [Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan] in love and sincerity of hearts.
May the joy of this new born child, Jesus Christ fill our hearts and may His peace prevail in our nation of South Sudan.
Merry Christmas to all.
The Most Rev Justin Badi Arama
Primate of ECSS and the Bishop of Juba