Oxford college banned Christian group from freshers’ fair

As the university academic year kicks off, once again, we see a Christian Union having their activities on campus restricted.  Balliol Christian Union (CU) was banned from attending the Freshers’ Fair by the JCR over concerns at the “potential for harm to freshers” and because they wanted the freshers’ fair to be a “secular space”, according to Oxford’s student newspaper Cherwell.

Eventually the CU was told that a single multi-faith stall would be allowed to display leaflets, though no representatives would be allowed to staff it, according to leaked emails. Balliol CU boycotted this option.

The decision has caused anger at Balliol, where a motion was reportedly passed unanimously accusing the JCR committee of “barring the participation of specific faith-based organisations” and describing the step as “a violation of free speech [and] a violation of religious freedom”. The motion prohibited the barring of official religious societies from future freshers’ fairs.

In an email exchange, JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative:

“We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”

“Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

In a Facebook post, JCR president Hubert Au said the decision to have a multi-faith stall rather than a specific CU stall, was reached “in light of both concerns raised by members [of the Welfare sub committee] and by an undergraduate survey conducted last term, which indicated a lack of familiarity as to where non-Christian societies, events and services were located”, the paper reported.  “We didn’t want to monopolise the presence of any individual faith/belief society at the Balliol freshers’ fair.”

The Rev Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said:

“Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental principle that underpins our country and its great institutions and universities.

“Christian Unions represent some of the largest student led organisations in many universities across the country and to exclude them in this way is to misunderstand the nature of debate and dialogue and at odds with the kind of society we are all seeking to promote.”

The Rev Richard Cunningham (Director of UCCF) said:

“We are however concerned that the current desire to provide safe spaces on campus does not infringe on the core liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of association which are surely foundational to the university experience and indeed to basic human flourishing.”

Archbishop: Church of England schools can help shape ‘hopeful’ society

Archbishop Justin Welby visits St Bartholomew’s CofE primary school, London, 26 January 2016.
Archbishop Justin Welby visits St Bartholomew’s CofE primary school, London, 26 January 2016.

Read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s on the vision for CofE schools in this week’s TES:

Education is at the heart of the work the Church of England does for the common good.  Through its 4,500 primary and 200 secondary schools, it educates around one million children a day. It is estimated that around 15 million people alive today attended a Church of England school.

The fundamental purpose of Church of England education is to nurture people to live life in all its fullness, inspired by Jesus’s message in the Gospel of John: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly.” Non-church schools also have inspiring visions, albeit articulated in different language; to inspire and educate the whole person, building them up to flourish in the world.

Click here for the rest of the article.

A Hopeful Future – Renewal & Reform

The second of four films themed on the vision and narrative of Renewal & Reform. The Bishop of Burnley is joined by Youth Council representative Alexandra Podd, and Archbishops’s Council member Rebecca Salter, in looking to a hopeful future.

Watch the second video in the series here:

Youth Evangelism Officer appointed

jimmy_dale__002_Jimmy Dale has been appointed as the Church of England’s first national Youth Evangelism Officer.

In response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s focus on evangelism. Jimmy will take up the role in October. He will hold a national remit to develop and disseminate models of evangelism among 11 – 18 year olds.

This new role aims to promote the mission of the church to and by 11-18 year olds. In collaboration with Dioceses, Jimmy will develop, pilot and evaluate effective models of youth evangelism that enable young people to reach their peers with the Gospel. Working alongside bishops, clergy, youth advisers and youth workers, he will then ensure that parish leaders have ready access to those models.

Speaking after his appointment, Mr Dale said:

“I’m so excited to be starting in this new role and the potential that it brings. It’s brilliant to see young people as they evangelise to their friends and support them in that, and helping churches reach young people with the good news of Jesus. I am really looking forward to working alongside people across the country as we seek to support and promote where youth evangelism is working well, as well as dreaming together of new ways to reach young people with the gospel.”

Mr Dale will work with both the Mission and Public Affairs Division (MPA) and the National Education Office of the Archbishops’ Council, as part of a small team focussed on youth evangelism.

Jimmy Dale comes to the post having worked as Centre Director and founder of Newham Youth for Christ and with previous experience in youth work. He holds a BA (Hons) in Youth Work and Applied Theology from the University of Gloucestershire.

Welcoming the appointment, the Director of MPA, the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown, said:

“I am very pleased that we have appointed Jimmy Dale to this important new post. It represents a creative response to the priority of youth evangelism which combines the resources of the Education Office and the Mission and Public Affairs Division and will start to address the challenges of reaching out to a generation which can confound our assumptions about how they see the world, the church and the gospel.”

Chief Education Officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, added:

“The priorities set out in Going for Growth include every young person having a life enhancing encounter with Jesus Christ and the Christian faith and recognises the vital need to enable the capacity of young people as agents of change and transformation. We are delighted to welcome Jimmy to bring a specific focus on youth evangelism to this work and look forward to working with others across the church as we seek to enable young people to reach their peers with the good news about Jesus.”

Information about Going for Growth can be found here

Why your church needs to know about Pokémon GO

Pokemon Go

The Church of England has written a very helpful blog post on what your church needs to know about Pokémon GO:

The NSPCC has issued advice to parents of those children playing Pokémon GO in the UK. Whilst we would encourage churches to engage with those playing the game, be they adults or children, we also understand the concerns that the NSPCC have raised with regards to keeping children safe. Our first priority as a church should be to provide a safe place for children and vulnerable adults with regards to Pokémon GO.

Please make sure you read the advice on the NSPCC’s website here:https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/pokemon-go-parents-guide/

If you have any concerns in relation to those playing Pokémon GO, please feel free to talk to your Safeguarding Officer.

——————————————

First of all, what is Pokémon GO?
Pokémon GO is a mobile and tablet app game which lets players find Pokémon (Animated creatures, first created in the 90′s, which players have to catch, train and battle with). The game takes place in augmented reality (meaning the game combines real life action with virtual gaming) by using GPS as you walk around towns, cities and other locations to find the Pokémon.

The game has been an overnight sensation with millions playing it around the world.

Why does your church need to know?
Your church might be a ‘PokéStop’ – real life buildings and landmarks that players have to visit to get certain items they need to play the game. Your church could also be a ‘Gym’ where players can battle their Pokémon. (Being Gym means people spend significantly more time battling Pokémon.)

Pokémon Go is therefore giving churches around the country a great opportunity to meet people from their area who might not normally come to church. However, we all need to be aware that this game means that children under the age of 18 may come into contact with people who may present a risk.

How do you know if your church is a Pokestop or a Gym?
Download Pokémon Go on your mobile or tablet. Through the game you will be able to see if your church is a PokéStop or a gym.

You might also spot people standing outside the church on their phones who may be playing the game and at your ‘PokéStop’.

What can your church to do get involved?

  • Place welcome signs outside: encourage them to come inside and offer them drinks and snacks. The game also uses a lot of battery so why not create a battery charging station? If you’ve got it, let them connect to the church’s wifi

  • Speak to players about the game: learn how to play it yourself, it’s a good way to start a conversation that may lead on to other things.

  • Hold a Pokeparty like Christ Church Stonehttps://www.facebook.com/events/246500169067368/

  • Tweet about it: Just like St Stephens Rednal and Hope Church Islington did. Don’t forget to use #PokemonGo

CofE Communications update – August 2016

The latest editions of InReview and InFocus are now available to download

Their aim is to keep people in touch with the activities of the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners, Pensions Board and other bodies which serve the Church at national level.

 

York General SynodInReview

August’s edition of InReview, including news about York General Synod, The Church of England Vision for Education and more is available here.

Pupil Premium awards 2016InFocus

August’s edition of InFocus, including resources for safeguarding, Renewal and Reform and more, is available here (4-page version here).

Reflections on an EastEnders funeral

Rev Canon Dr Sandra Millar who leads work on funerals for the Church of England has written a great blog post reflecting on Peggy Mitchell’s funeral:

This week the funeral of the great pub landlady, Peggy Mitchell, took place in Albert Square. It was full of wonderful East End traditions, like the horse drawn bier led by the funeral conductor and the people standing by in respect. There were hints that Peggy had specified what kind of funeral she wanted – and it was certainly a very traditional, even old-fashioned,  affair in the local church.

But these days a Church of England led funeral needn’t be traditional, whether it takes place in the local church or elsewhere. People can wear brightly coloured clothes, the coffin might be wicker or felt or hand-decorated, it could be draped with a favourite sports shirt, balloons might be released – whatever reflect that unique life and the love of God within a framework of reflection, prayer, thanks and commendation into God’s care. The EastEnders funeral reminded me of the time I took the funeral of a pub landlord – there were nearly 1,000 people present, a wicker coffin, the singing of Waltzing Matilda and lots and lots of tributes. I spent a lot of time with the family discovering what would make this funeral helpful, and to this day I remember them and pray for them.

Whatever the circumstances, the vicar talks with the family beforehand, finding out key family contacts and tensions (that would have been interesting in the Mitchell clan!) discovering what made this person uniquely loved and special to those around him or her.  The vicar may encourage the family to make a tribute, talking about their own personal memories, and will be there alongside on the day, ready to offer a steadying arm or even take over if emotions became too much.  Together with the Funeral Director the minister is responsible for the service, making sure it all works smoothly, offering care and support as needed – and should something go wrong, the vicar will be there.

Christians believe in a God who made every human being uniquely, who knows every step we take, walks with us through our journey in life, so celebrating and giving thanks is a central part of every Church of England led funeral. The camera cut away from the funeral service, but I do hope someone spoke about Peggy with affection. If I’d have been taking her funeral I would definitely have used the line ‘Get out of my pub!” somewhere in the service!  But funerals are more than just thanksgiving: there is grief and loss, sometimes anger or regret, and a church service will also make space for holding those emotions, letting go where appropriate and finding comfort to face the future.

Above all a Church led funeral offers a message of hope – a hope that death is not the end and that both we who have to carry on living and those whom we love but see no longer are all held in the great love of God. Our recent research around Church of England led funerals showed that the timeless words ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life’ have a powerful resonance with people, even though their full meaning will take us all a lifetime to grasp.

A good vicar – and there are many like Revd Juliet Stephenson from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the current Funeral Celebrant of the Year – will offer pastoral care before, during and long after the funeral. Sometimes that’s the space to light a candle, sometimes the space to remember and sometimes a listening ear.  I know EastEnders isn’t real [it isn’t is it?] but I hope that all who are faced with organising a funeral will know that the Church of England is there for them, meeting their needs with compassion, humour, love and grace.

Leaving evangelism to ‘professionals’ is missionary suicide

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury told Premier that any church that leaves evangelism to the ‘professionals’ is committing missionary suicide.

Speaking about the need for everyone to invest in sharing their faith, he said:

“Any church that leaves things to the ‘professionals’ is committing missionary suicide basically.  The responsibility of demonstrating in word and works the love of Jesus Christ, in a way that is deeply attractive is the responsibility of every single Christian. Always. Everywhere.”

Archbishop Justin spoke out about how the Church has failed to equip people to share their faith for too long.

He said:

“If you go back to 1944/5 there was a report for the Church of England called Towards the Conversion of England prepared for William Temple.  It said there will never be a conversion of England until every Christian disciple is equipped to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  That has always been one of the greatest weaknesses in many churches – not just Church of England churches. We do not spend enough time equipping people to share their faith.”