New resource to help us love our neighbours from different faiths

P&E logo

From Toby Haworth:

I’m writing to introduce to you the new website for Presence and Engagement - http://www.presenceandengagement.org.uk/, which you may of course have already visited since it went live a few weeks ago. The website aims to bring together resources for clergy, congregations, chaplaincies and schools who want to follow Jesus in loving their neighbours of different faiths.

Key features include religious demographic statistics from the 2011 Census mapped to dioceses and parishes which can be used as a tool in developing strategies for inter faith engagement. Other parts of the website provide stories and other resources for that engagement.

We intend the P&E blog to be a place for lively and thoughtful debate about inter religious issues and events which overlap with the Church’s work in our multi faith society. For example, a recent blog post from Birmingham (also published in the Church Times) focussed on the Trojan Horse investigations.

Please do be in contact with me if you would like to offer a blog post, update us on particular work in which you’re engaged or with any feedback on the website in general.

This comes with my warm good wishes,

Toby

The Revd Canon Dr Toby Howarth | Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and
National Inter Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England
Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU | Tel: + 44 (0)20 7898 1475 | Mobile: 07811 467 999
toby.howarth@lambethpalace.org.uk | http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org

Talk on Psalm 84

Psalms

Tonight as part of our Psalms, Pudding and Prayer series, for our 11-18 year olds, I spoke on Psalm 84 – you can download the powerpoint here:

You might know the words of this Psalm from the Matt Redman song that we sing at Soul Survivor. The Psalm is the musing of one unnamed pilgrim as he makes his way up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. He’s longing to get to God’s house – he has this intense desire for the House of God. He longs to be with God’s people, worshipping. We read about it in vv1-2.

 

This traveller is even jealous of birds! The Temple courtyards were open to the sky, and the great eaves provided a place for good nesting, so there were always these birds in and around the Temple.

 

Do you have a love like this – a longing for God’s house?

 

As we read through the Psalm I think there are four key things to reflect on. Firstly:

 

  1. Look to God alone for your strength

How many have found that the Christian life is impossible without God’s strength? Yet so often our greatest battle is about learning to trust Him instead of doing it on our own steam. That’s human nature.

 

We do not have enough resources in ourselves to make the whole journey. Christians burn out because they strive in their own strength. And you know, you can get so far, but you’ll never finish without God’s strength.

 

At some points there has to be refuelling. Refilling. It’s why it’s so important to stop each day to read the bible and pray – to live daily in God’s strength.

 

2. Put your heart into the journey

Put your whole heart into the journey. We shouldn’t be people who are just letting life pass us by – being dictated to by our circumstances – “waiting out” our time until Jesus comes – we must have our eyes on the finish line, but our energies, our heart, our hands and feet, ought to be occupied with making the journey count – living for Jesus – Paul wrote: “For me to live is Christ”.

 

3. See the opportunity in every trial

Trials are on nearly every page of the Bible. The Bible talks about them a lot, because they are common to every person on the face of the earth. And if some well-meaning person has suggested to you that Christians aren’t supposed to have trials – that we’re never supposed to ever have a cold, that we won’t ever experience sadness or loss, that we shouldn’t ever feel a financial difficulty – then I think you should go back to that well-meaning person and invite them to read their Bible through again.

 

The 3rd key is not to pretend trials don’t exist but rather to see trials as opportunities. “The Valley of Baca” is literally: “The Valley of Weeping”. Haven’t we all passed through some Valleys of Baca? Some Valleys of Weeping. But here it says that, if the Lord is your Strength, and if your heart is set on the journey, you can see the Valley of Weeping become a spring. What to others is a place of bitterness can to you become a place of blessing. A place of growth.

 

It might not always be apparent, but the opportunity for growth and blessing is always right there in the middle of the trial. It’s not always easy, but with God’s help, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can use trials as opportunities.

 

We all love the “mountain top” experiences; times of blessing and sunshine – but where does the fruit grow? You won’t find many orchards on mountain tops – oh, the view is nice up there, but the fruit grows in the valleys. And it’s those trials in our lives that God can use best to bring us on “from glory to glory” by His Spirit.

 

And this leads us into the fourth, and final, key:

 

4. Remember that God is in control

He’s always in sovereign control. He will never surrender His position on the throne to any person or any thing. He cannot be defied. God is in control!

 

Let’s read together verse 6 of this great 84th Psalm … [Read]. Here is the promise of God. If I am (1) looking to God alone for my strength, and (2) if I’ve put my heart into the journey, and (3) I’m looking to see what opportunity God might have in every trial, then the sovereign God will do two things for me:

a)     He will direct my steps in strength, and

b)    He will bring me right through to my eternal destination

 

He will direct their steps in strength: When you allow the Holy Spirit free reign in your life, you will go from strength to strength, until you bear the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Oh, let God do that in your life! Submit to Him, I urge you today.

 

He will bring them through to their destination: This pilgrim is just longing to get to Jerusalem – to the House of the Lord. And here is the assurance – God will bring him through, safe all the way.

 

Can you be sure that you’re going to make it all the way to Heaven? Can you really know? ABSOLUTELY. He IS the Author and the Finisher of our faith!

 

Conclusion

I don’t want to just limp through life – by the grace of God I want to go from strength to strength! With faith in God I believe I can outgrow my difficulties. I believe YOU can outgrow YOUR difficulties.

 

Here again are the 4 keys to a successful passage through life, as we see them in Psalm 84:

 

  1. Look to God alone for your strength
  2. Put your heart into the journey
  3. See the opportunity in every trial
  4. Remember that God is in control

Why don’t we see miracles all the time?

Justin Holcomb:

Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles he performed (Luke 5:25), and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).

Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, we feel there’s something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?

To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.

Read the rest.

Dioceses vote in favour of Women Bishops

General Synod

The Church of England has issued this press release now that all the Dioceses have finished on voting on the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops:

Dioceses vote in favour of women bishops
23 May 2014

The Church of England’s dioceses* have now all voted in favour of the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops. Manchester was the last diocese to vote and they approved the motion at a meeting of their Synod yesterday. In 2011 both London and Chichester diocesan synods voted against the legislation.

The February 2014 meeting of General Synod referred the current Women in the Episcopate legislation to the dioceses.

Diocesan Synods all voted in favour of the motion: ‘That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.’

For the motion to be carried the houses of clergy and laity had to each vote, by a simple majority, in favour.

The table attached records the votes in favour and against, and any recorded abstentions in each house. The draft legislation will now go before General Synod in July for a Final Approval vote.

The Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, Chair of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation for Women in the Episcopate said:
“The dioceses have now expressed their view very clearly and the matter now comes back to General Synod in July. I pray that the Synod will continue to approach this decision in a prayerful and generous way as we move towards voting on the proposal that women may be bishops in the Church of England.”

The table of Diocesan Synod results can be found here.

*Due to logistical constraints the Diocese in Europe was unable to convene a meeting in the three month period allowed for this Article 8 reference.

WATCH has issued this press release.

A clean sweep this time: 100% of Dioceses support Women Bishops legislation
Posted on May 23, 2014

Women and the Church (WATCH) is delighted and hugely encouraged by the overwhelming support given by 100% of diocesan synods for the new Women in the Episcopate legislation. Such a resounding endorsement, including from the dioceses of London and Chichester which voted against last time, gives us significant hope and encouragement for the final vote at General Synod in July.

Chair of WATCH, Hilary Cotton said, ‘This is really, really good news in the lead-up to the Final Approval vote. In most dioceses over 90% of votes were cast in favour: surely General Synod cannot turn their backs on this again?’

REBOOT Youth Apologetics Day

reboot14_web_lg

REBOOT is RZIM’s Youth Apologetics strand for ages 12 to 18.  They launched their first ever REBOOT event last year:

I’m looking to bring the Dibden youth along to this event.  Book now for REBOOT 2014 on Saturday 27th September at St Mary’s Bryanston Square, London W1H 1PQ.

Text your questions to be covered on the day to 07981973740.

Youth Leaders: You can advertise this event in your church! Download the A4 poster here or download the A6 poster here.

reboot13_review

Listen to Amy Orr-Ewing talk about REBOOT 2013 on BBC Radio here.

Listen to Michael Ramsden talk about REBOOT 2013 on UCB here.

China to be ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’ in the Next 15 Years

Chinese church

Research in The Telegraph shows that the church in China is growing at such a rate that in the next 15 years it will be “the world’s most Christian nation”, and by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America:

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.

“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”

A recent study found that online searches for the words “Christian Congregation” and “Jesus” far outnumbered those for “The Communist Party” and “Xi Jinping”, China’s president.

Archbishop Justin Welby’s Easter sermon

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Archbishop Justin Welby - Easter Sermon

Archbishop Justin’s Easter sermon: The one who was dead is now alive. Where there was weeping there is now joy’:

Going through the barrier with a colleague to board my train in a busy station in London, suddenly a loud alarm sounded. A voice came over the public address system advising, no instructing, every person in the station to leave the building immediately. The majority of passers-by stopped, stood still and looked at each other. Visitors to London were already making their way to the exits, Londoners were hurrying their way to their destinations. The message only came once. I looked at the person I was with, we shrugged our shoulders, and went through the barrier to catch our train.

We have, collectively, quite a bit of disbelief and fatigue when we are told that we really must respond, or do something, or change our behaviour or direction.

Mary Magdalene was exhausted by grief. With Jesus everything had died. Who knows why she thought she was going to the garden in which the tomb they had borrowed for him was situated, but who knows why we do lots of things when we are worn out by life? Mary’s emotion represents the emotion of the whole world in the presence of the overwhelming cruelty and irreparable nature of death.

With Mary there are so many that weep. In Syria mothers cry for their children and husbands. In the Ukraine neighbours cry because the future is precarious and dangerous. In Rwanda tears are still shed each day as the horror of genocide is remembered. In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt. Asylum seekers weep with loneliness and missing far away families. Mary continues to weep across the world.

This is the world we live in, a world which each of us has had a hand in creating. A world of crosses. We can comfort one another and treat the dying with dignity. We can make gardens and graves, we can move stones and wipe away tears. But we can do nothing to defeat death.

But listen, hear the announcement. . . The one who was dead, is now alive! The one whose body had been a corpse, lying motionless in the grave, inert, lifeless, lying flat on the stone ledge of the borrowed tomb – he now stands before Mary, speaking her name. This day he speaks everybody’s name to engage them with the news that he is alive.

When Mary hears her name spoken, we are told, she turns towards him. A moment before and she is in the deepest despair, a second after, her life has changed. For death has more than met its match. It has been defeated. Everything changes.

We cannot expel God, nor the life of God, from his world. In fact this new life insists that there is nowhere God is absent, powerless or irrelevant. There is no situation in the universe in the face of which God is at a loss. The one that was dead is now alive. Where there was weeping there is now joy.

Someone wrote recently ‘Joy might be a greater scandal than evil, suffering or death’. [David Ford]. This is what I have been moved by in Christian communities around the world who face the most devastating of conditions. Their certainty that Jesus is alive enables them to face all horrors with joy. Not happiness, but joy. Joy can exist alongside mental illness, depression, bereavement, fear, because the joy of Christ comes from knowing that nothing and no one less than God has the last word.  I remember sitting in a room with the Bishop who had come over from Pakistan soon after the attack in September on a church in Peshawar. I asked how Christians were coping with the fear that such attacks brought, and wondered if there had been anyone in church the week following the attack. ‘Oh yes’ the bishop replied, ‘ there were three times as many people the next week’. Such action is made possible only by the resurrection. The persecuted church flourishes because of the resurrection. I think of women who I met earlier this year who have survived unspeakable sexual violence, yet who lift their arms in prayer and praise to God. I think of teenagers I met in Luton who have hope and joy, in lives that were dominated by self hatred and harm. This has only been made possible because Jesus is alive.

The announcement that Jesus is alive changes everything; not simplistically or even instantly do circumstances and situations change. But it changes us. It gives us hope where we were in despair, faith where we were lost, light where we were in darkness, joy where we were entirely in sorrow. That joy in huge life of Jesus is present in the food banks, the credit unions, the practical down to earth living that the churches are demonstrating across this country.

But Jesus hasn’t finished with Mary yet. It isn’t simply a personal thing for her. She must now become a witness. So Jesus sends her to the ‘brothers’ to tell them. Please notice, in all four gospels the first witness of the resurrection is a woman. So Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles.

Jesus comes to find us all. In all the gospels when anyone meets Jesus they are given a task. The task is to join the announcement. The meaning of our whole existence is to be witnesses to the new life that is offered by Jesus Christ. The persecuted church bears witness in its joy overcoming fear, in worship in the midst of war, of refugee camps. In an IDP camp in Goma in January, the reminder that Jesus is alive was worth more than many sentences of comfort, for he brings joy.

The new life of Jesus is given to us. We witness to it as we insist that money isn’t our ruler, that self- promotion isn’t King, that pleasure isn’t a fulfilling aim, and that the survival of the fittest simply means some die later than others. The new life of Christ has broken into our world, it cannot be contained, nor restricted, nor managed. The church exists to show by its life and work the transforming power that has been set free in the world. All that we need to do is respond in faith and receive the gift of that life.

To fail to respond is like hearing someone crying ‘fire’ and continuing to walk into the building. Or have someone whisper ‘will you marry me?’ and turn the channel to find something interesting to watch. This is an announcement that calls our attention, catches our lives, heals our brokenness, and send us out with a purpose,a hope and a joy. It is news that the world cannot ignore, that we cannot neglect, it is the news of joy immeasurable.

- See more at: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5303/the-one-who-was-dead-is-now-alive.-where-there-was-weeping-there-is-now-joy-archbishop-justins-easte#sthash.xOYgE068.dpuf

Passion Week Infographic

Passion Week is the week starting on Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday when Christ arose from the grave.

Josh Byers has put together this great infographic, cross-referencing each event during Passion Week with scripture — including major location changes “as well as the relative possible timing of the Last Supper, Trial and Crucifixion.”:

Passion Week Infographic