Friday, 30 May 2008

"Christians Have Duty to Witness to their Faith"

BRITAIN’s destiny depends on Christianity, the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, said this week, in an article published the day after he responded to questions on a General Synod motion that has called for Christians to evangelise British Muslims.

The private member’s motion, by Paul Eddy, who is training for the priesthood, called on the Church to proclaim Christianity as the only route to ultimate salvation. Mr Eddy said he had been under pressure to withdraw his motion.

“What I have said to journalists regarding the Paul Eddy motion is that we need to respect people of all faiths and none,” Dr Nazir-Ali said on Tuesday. “In the context of our dialogue with them, it is our duty to witness to our faith and to call people to faith in Jesus Christ, whilst recognising that people of other faiths may have similar responsibilities.”

The Christian faith was the basis for welcoming people into the life of the nation, he said. “There cannot, however, be an honest conversation on the basis of fudge.”

On Wednesday, the Bishop helped launch a new magazine, Standpoint, in which he warned that the days of separating religion and public life were over. “The Westphalian consensus is dead,” he wrote in his article, “A Christian Britain in a plural world?” He was referring to the 17th-century agreement that a country’s religion would not again be the grounds for going to war, and which ended the conflict in Europe between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

“We are now in a global context where we will not be able to escape the questions raised by faith for public life,” the article continues. If Britain was to be prevented from wandering too far from the path of its national destiny, then it needed to understand the central part that the Christian faith had played, and still played, in what it achieved. “In a plural, multifaith, and multicultural situation, it can still provide the resources for both supporting and critiquing public life in this country,” the article says.

Christianity had once united England, and had created a “golden chain” of social harmony under God. That Christian consensus had dissolved, and left a moral and spiritual vacuum into which radical Islamism was moving.

“What resources do we have to face yet another ideological battle?” the Bishop asks. Only the restoration of Christian faith and discourse at the heart of the country’s common life was “robust” enough to re-establish the core British values of human dignity, equality, freedom, and a safe and peaceful society, he concludes.

Source: Church Times 30 May 2008

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Churches Praise Governments' Treaty to Ban Cluster Bombs

At talks in Dublin over the last two weeks, governments have drafted the text for a treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs. This week the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has committed the UK to withdrawing the remaining two cluster munitions from its arsenal.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have for some time campaigned for a full ban on cluster munitions. Today they issued a joint statement welcoming the outcome of the Dublin summit.

Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith & Unity, the Baptist Union of Great Britain says; “the churches have been calling for such a treaty for a long time. Cluster bombs kill indiscriminately and continue to do so long after fighting has stopped, harming those who are already living in a vulnerable situation following the conflict.”

In the two months after the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah on average three civilians were killed every day by unexploded cluster bombs. One third of these deaths were children.

Simon Loveitt, the United Reformed Church’s Spokesperson on Public Issues, says; “The agreement in Dublin offers hope for a future without such weapons and the chance to offer improved protection for civilians during and after conflict. In the past, the UK has been a significant user of cluster munitions. The UK Government’s support for a complete ban is therefore particularly important."

However, Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Secretary for International Affairs, warns that there is still much to be done; “The work is not yet finished. The strength of this treaty will largely depend on encouraging more governments to support it and take the important steps to phase out the stockpiling and use of these weapons.”

Information about the Churches’ campaign on cluster bombs can be found at:

While it is very good news that more than 100 countries signed this reaty, it is still worrying that some of the world's main producers and stockpilers - including the US, Russia and China - oppose the move. Our prayers and campaigning are still needed there!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Daily Service

I want to put on record my thanks for the Daily Service on BBC Radio 4 each day and to let those responsible for it, especially the BBC Singers,know how much I appreciate this daily act of devotion. Did anyone hear the wonderful setting of 'Come let us sing of a wonderful Love' this morning? I wish I had it on tape. If you missed it, it is well worth going to the BBC iplayer just to hear that beautiful, uplifting setting.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Holocaust Dropped from UK School Curriculum

I have now found this report in the Times last year, so this is not a new change in the school curriculum. While I can understand the difficulties faced by the teachers of multi-race, multi-faith classes, it should be possible to teach these difficult subjects in a sensitive manner. This is the Times report:-

"Schools drop Holocaust lessons to avoid offence - Alexandra Frean

"Teachers are dropping controversial subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades from history lessons because they do not want to cause offence to children from certain races or religions, a report claims.

"A lack of factual knowledge among some teachers, particularly in primary schools, is also leading to “shallow” lessons on emotive and difficult subjects, according to the study by the Historical Association.

"The report, produced with funding from the Department for Education, said that where teachers and staff avoided emotive and controversial history, their motives were generally well intentioned.

“Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes. In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship,” it concluded.

"However, it was concerned that this could lead to divisions within school, and that it might also put pupils off history."

The Holocaust and the School Curriculum

A few days ago I received the following chain email. Can anyone confirm that the Holocaust has actually been removed from the UK school curriculum, please, or throw any light on the sentiments expressed in this email?

"It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photograps to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He did this because he said, in words to this effect, 'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the track of history some b*stard will get up and say that this never happened.'

"'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' (Edmund Burke)

"This week, the UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving in to it.

"Six million Jews,20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated, with the German and Russian peoples looking the other way. Now, more than ever, with Iran, amongst others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth', it is imperative to make sure that the world never forgets."

For myself, I am glad that forgiveness and reconciliation has taken place over the years since the War so that we now have good relationships with the German people, but it should be possible to keep the Holocaust on the school curriculum, teaching about it in the light of this forgiveness and recnciliation, as a dreadful warning of what can happen - and did happen - when national, racial and inter-faith passions are so aroused that they get completely out of hand.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

"Prayer is One of Modern Britain's Best-Kept Secrets!"

Written by Alexandra Frean

Students sitting exams who think they do not have a prayer have been given a message of hope: they do now.

Mindful of its mission to bring divine inspiration to all corners of modern life in these testing times, the Church of England has published a series of prayers online to help students and teachers to cope with exam stress.

Students may find peace in the prayer that gives thanks for “stories in the Bible that show us that being worried and afraid are common feelings”. They may take heart at the appeal for divine intervention “when things seem impossible”. They may even find the inner grace to “celebrate with all our classmates, families and friends as they fail or as they succeed”.

However, they are less likely to find reassurance in the prayer for teachers that begins: “I don’t suppose you have time for this, Lord”, which laments the tendency of pupils to forget “things that normally they know, like their names and the date” and ends with the words “at this moment they really need your help”.

Related Links
School standards have stalled, says Ofsted
The Rev Janina Ainsworth, chief education officer for the Church of England, said that the prayers were intended for use in assemblies but could easily be adapted for personal use by students and teachers seeking peace. “Everyone involved in education knows the pressures of the exam season,” she said. “Whatever one thinks about league tables and the relevance of academic achievement, Christians are called to consider the broader picture.”

The prayers form the latest addition to a regularly updated selection on the Church of England’s website.

The page also offers a prayer for the emergency situations in China and Burma.

The Church has launched several similar ventures in recent months, including a selection of “back to work” prayers released in September 2007 that attracted 10,000 viewings. Prayers for those affected by debt have been viewed 7,500 times since they went online in January.

Surveys conducted in recent years indicate that about two thirds of adults pray, leading the Church of England’s head of research and statistics, the Rev Lynda Barley, to describe prayer as “one of the best-kept secrets in modern Britain”.

The prayers can be found at

Give us this day

Prayers for primary school pupils

“Dear Lord, even when things seem impossible, help me to trust you. Please give me friends I can rely on and help me listen to adults I can trust. Amen.”

Prayers for secondary school students

“We are in the midst of stressful times. Give us grace to see that it is the making of our success, the making of our characters, the making of our selves.”

Adapted from the collective resource produced by the Culham Institute in association with the National Society

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Catching My Tail!

I spent last weekend at the annual conference of Wycliffe Associates and I'm longing to write about it but instead I'm trying to catch my tail to catch up with all sorts of things - not least finding prayers and pictures and various types of crosses for our Prayer Day 'Wayfaring', to help participants coming through the room
'homecoming' (after 'the Fall' in the previous room). Our housegroup is responsible for the 'homecoming' room. Then I've got deadlines to meet in my capacity of media publicist, and I will also need to press on with drafting the Prayer Guidelines for June or they won't be published in time.

My spirits have been lifted today though by the tremendous amount of work that the gardening team of three put in to clear away the debris left by the early bulbs and plant out all my geraniums that have been wintering in my front porch. (Oh,dear! All the front garden will need watering tomorrow - unless it rains.) With the back borders weeded and all the lawns neatly cut, I catch my breath at such beauty whenever I look out of the window, back or front. It's my favourite flowering time of the year just now in the back garden, which is a mass of multi-coloured aquilegia alongside the blossom on the Cox's Orange Pippin tree.

The greenhouse hasn't been doing so well this year. Perhaps it's been too cold, but at last the runner beans are big enough to be planted out next week and the peas that we'd almost given up on are just peeping through. There are three very good tomato plants and two marrows (all given to me by a neighbour) but my own sowing of tomato plants are much smaller than they should be for the time they've been
a-growing! However, I have some magnificent broad beans outside, with tiny beans and lots more flowers so I shall have a surplus of broad beans soon. I cooked three tiny ones in their shells today to celebrate.

I'm also being pressed to search all my cupboards and drawers for old church magazines and photographs (as soon as possible) so that one of our members who is the archivist at the main Reading Library can write a book for the church's Millennium next year. This always takes longer than you think it will. That's one disadvantage of having lived such a long life!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Prayer update from Burma (Myanmar)

‘Give thanks to the Lord because he is good; his love is eternal.’ 1 Chronicles 16:34 (GNB)

Tonight I am glad to share this encouraging update from the Bible Society:-

In our previous email, we asked for your prayers to help the people of Burma in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.

‘For the first time in over 30 years, Church leaders were standing alongside ministers and other government leaders as they waited to receive aid for their people,’ Mike Freeman, Bible Society’s Volunteer Recruitment and Development Officer said. Mike is part of an emergency response team with Samaritan’s Purse. ‘The Church has operated discretely for decades. This is the time for their voice to be heard in Myanmar,’ he continued.

Over 7,000 Christians are recorded dead and 300 churches destroyed. Official figures put the death toll in Burma at 78,000 – but the Red Cross and the UN say the disaster could have claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.

As humanitarian needs are being addressed, Mike is assessing the need for Scriptures among those who long for encouragement from God’s Word during these difficult times.

Please thank God:

That the relief team has been able to get aid into the country.
For Bible Society staff who are working with other organisations to meet the needs of their people.

Please pray:

For the spiritual needs of the people of Burma, that Bible Society and its partners are able to provide the support they need.
For the steadfastness of the Church in Myanmar. And that, even though they have suffered great loss, their faith is a great encouragement to others.
That other trips to Rangoon with relief consignments are successful in getting much needed aid into people’s hands.
Please make a gift today to help the people of Burma

Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Bible Society Response to Burma Crisis caused by Cyclone Nargis

I would like to share this e-mail from the Bible Society and ask you to join me in prayer as indicated, and to help by making a donation. In such a time of desperate crisis the Burmese people will need the Bible more and more.

"Reports indicate the fatalities in the Burma (Myanmar) cyclone include at least 7,000 who were Christians, among them ten church pastors. In addition, more than 300 church buildings were destroyed.

As part of a Samaritan’s Purse emergency response team for Burma, Bible Society’s Volunteer Recruitment and Development Officer, Mike Freeman, is in Bangkok, Thailand.
Once humanitarian needs have been addressed, Mike will lead an assessment programme to identify the need for Scriptures in the context of a comprehensive aid and reconstruction programme.

Please pray:

For the people of Burma who are in desperate need of the basic necessities – water, food and shelter

For God’s comfort and encouragement to bereaved families and those undergoing treatment for injuries

Concerning reports of another cyclone approaching Burma, that the country’s people are kept safe, come what may

For those working to meet both humanitarian and spiritual needs, for divine help at times of great adversity

For relief materials such as food, water purification kits and clothing to reach the people who need them most as speedily and effectively as possible

For the Bible Society of Myanmar whose staff have been badly affected by the cyclone but are still working on behalf of their people in such difficult times.

Please give thanks:

That despite difficulties some of the emergency response team were given access to the country

For the willingness of volunteers to get involved. Please pray that their work is successful in reaching those who need help

Please make a gift today to help the people of Burma

Bible Society exists to make the Bible heard. We aim to show how the Bible connects with life. We make Scriptures available where there are none and we work with the Church to help it live out the Bible's message. We do this because Bible poverty is real. And fighting it matters.

Bible Society, Stonehill Green, Westlea, Swindon SN5 7DG T: 01793 418222
F: 01793 418118 UK Registered Charity No. 232759 "

Monday, 12 May 2008


While thoughtful non-Christians should be encouraged to ‘change their beliefs to fit their practices’, the Church also needs to be evangelised so its members ‘change their practices to fit their beliefs’, Sri Lankan theologian Vinoth Ramachandra told delegates at this year’s Baptist Assembly. Taking Matthew 5.43-48 as his text, Dr Ramachandra said, ‘The Gospel is not about my need and how God sorts it out. It is about the world and what the triune God will do for the world – heal it, restore it, and reconcile the world to himself.’ Dr Ramachandra also called on delegates to build friendships with neighbours of other cultures and traditions and to be aware of the impact of the world’s economic systems upon the global climate.

Source: The Baptist Times (8/5)

Friday, 9 May 2008

'Christian and Evangelical Groups Often Ignored and Derided'

I have been reading on several blogs of the dismay some Christians are feeling at the recent election of Conservative Boris Johnson as the new Mayor of London. Perhaps this comment posted by Matt Cresswell on 7th May on will bring a little comfort to these bloggers, but time will tell how much the new Mayor uses these sentiments in the governing of London.

"BORIS JOHNSON, the new Mayor of London, has claimed that evangelical faith communities are being shunned in modern society.

In an interview with, he said that the good work done by many Christian and evangelical groups is often just ignored and derided. “I think there is a culture now in our society where if something is even vaguely Christian, if there is a whiff of evangelical fervour about it then it’s almost somehow verboten to fund it,” he told the paper at a hustings event in the lead-up to the election.

He continued: “I think that’s quite wrong because if you look at the good that these groups do and you look at the way we’re going to transform society and undo the breakdown that we’ve seen in family life, the growing-up of kids without boundaries and all the rest of the things we’ve been talking about in this campaign, the Christian groups are essential.”

He also told us that he wanted to be a “mayor who campaigns for all Londoners and Londoners of all faiths”.

He added that he would not be campaigning for a “narrow Christian agenda” but did believe that his message was “appealing to Christians”. He also noted the good works done by the growing faith-based voluntary sector. “Everywhere I go in London -- and I go to boxing clubs, reading groups, Ray Lewis’ Eastside young leaders -- I see people who have faith who are transforming kids, steering them away from crime.”

Johnson was baptised a Catholic but admits he has a fluctuating faith. “I suppose my own [faith] is a bit like trying to get Virgin Radio when you’re driving through the Chilterns. It sort of comes and goes.” He added: “Sometimes the signal is strong and then sometimes, I’m afraid, it just vanishes. And then it comes back again. That’s where I am.”

Johnson beat his main opponent Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral race by 139,772 votes last week. The result completed a victorious day for the Conservative party in an election which saw the greatest Labour losses countrywide in 40 years. Johnson is now viewed by critics as the most powerful Conservative politician in Britain today.

He has promised to work “flat out” to fulfil his electoral promises. He has so far spoken of a tough approach to crime and has signalled the go-ahead for weekend boot camps for troubled teenagers."


Thursday, 8 May 2008

Burma Crisis Appeal

As the death toll from the Burma cyclone continues to rise, the Methodist Church and the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) have launched an emergency appeal for funds.

Michael King, World Church Team Leader, says; ‘The cyclone has created a humanitarian emergency that is unprecedented in Burma’s history. Hundreds of thousands of people are cut off from clean water and shelter, and prices for basic foodstuffs are escalating. We are asking people to offer whatever support they can, both financially and through their prayers’.

The Church sent an immediate solidarity grant of £10,000 to the Methodist Church in Myanmar and has launched a joint appeal with MRDF. To donate via the World Church Office please visit or send a cheque, made payable to the Methodist Church Fund for World Mission, to:

Burma Appeal
Fund for World Mission
Methodist Church House
25 Marylebone Rd
London NW1 5JR

To donate via MRDF, call the MRDF hotline on 020 7224 4814.

Funds received will be channelled through Church World Service, which is working in the most affected areas.

The Christian Conference of Asia has appealed ‘to member churches and councils, ecumenical partners and friends to remember those affected people in your daily prayers, and extend assistance to help the people affected by this natural calamity.’ The Revd Mar Gay Gyi, the General Secretary for Myanmar Council of Churches will be meeting with the staff in-charge of the Emergency Relief Unit and sharing updated information with the churches.

People are also urged to keep those affected in their prayers. A special prayer has been written for the crisis and can be found online at

Monday, 5 May 2008

Come to Birmingham for Journey to Justice

Ten years ago I went to Birmingham as one of the 70,000 people forming a human chain round the centre of Birmingham at a time when the politicians from the 8 Summit nations were gathering there for a conference. As a result, $800 billion of debt has been cancelled - but there is $4,000 billion debt that needs to be written off. The momentum has slowed down now and the pressing need for cancellation must be highlighted once more.

So come to Birmingham on 18 May to mark ten years since our 70,000-strong human chain in 1998, and to celebrate what the Drop the Debt campaign has achieved so far and to demand that politicians finish the job.

I will not be able to be there in person because I shall be at the Wycliffe Associates weekend conference in High Wycombe, which will be addressing another urgent world need - the provision of at least part of the Scriptures in their heart language for all people by 2025.

However, one of the members of our house group will be going to Birmingham and returning in time to give a report in our evening service, which that day is being led by our house group. So we have planned the service to highlight the plight of desperate people all over the world and what we can do to help them for Jesus' sake.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Global 'food' shortage - a solution for shortage of God's Word!

In the past I have always been keen to possess the latest translation of the Bible in modern-day English for use in groups or when reading lessons in church, believing that by keeping up-to-date in this way I would be able to improve my communication of the Good News.

A recent post on has, however, pulled me up short. How selfish, how greedy I now feel when I look first at my collection of such translations and then out across the world to see how many people there are who still have no portion of the Bible in their heart language. Yes, I've been concerned about this for some time - enough to spend much of my spare time in sight checking translations of parts of the Bible in various languages. But this post on the Wycliffe blog was a real body blow! This had never occurred to me, and it is surely just as bad as our food consummation in the midst of a global food shortage! Just read the post by Mark, drawing attention to the following written by Phil on -

"As I write this I’m looking through a flyer from Wycliffe Bible Translators promoting their Vision 2025 initiative. It’s a wonderful vision, to have a Bible translation programme underway in every remaining language that does not yet have the Bible available, and to have this in place by 2025. According to Wycliffe, there are 6,912 languages currently spoken in the world: of these, 2,251 — representing 193 million people — do not yet have the Bible available. And yet here in the English speaking world we not only have so many different translations that we now need other books to help us choose between them, but we seem to have either another translation or another super-duper hip-hop trendy hot-water-bottle-wrapped must-have fashion accessory edition published every week.


I put it to you that if a fraction of the creative energy that’s put into hyping up the Bible for English language speakers and readers went into translation programmes, Vision 2025 could be realised by 2012 if not sooner — and what a gift that would be to the world, far greater than Britain hosting the Olympics will ever be!"

Friday, 2 May 2008


TV shows such as Big Brother have been attacked for ‘engendering damaging attitudes in children’. According to research, 50 per cent of children want to be a celebrity, and a third want to be Paris Hilton, Church Army Chief Executive Mark Russell told an audience of 100 church school head teachers. ‘The media, the press, the TV programmes we watch are generating an image of life that is unreal and, of course, children are sucked in’, said former youth leader Mr Russell. ‘Leading a school in an age of celebrity and consumerism requires us to be counter-cultural’. He outlined an action plan promoting different role models among children, and enabling spiritual creativity.

Source: Church of England Newspaper (2.5)

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Are They Lost or Just Too Busy?

There is much talk in Methodism about the 'lost generation' - the 20s to 40s - and we hear of congregations where there are none in this age group. Fortunately, we are not in that situation because we have a number of such couples who worship with us and bring their children to our 'Sunday Starters' on Sunday mornings, but their involvement stops there. So I have just sent the following Letter for possible inclusion in our next church Newsletter. It will be interesting to see if it is printed and if there is any response to it, but there is a deep ache in my heart to see these friends as committed as those I met in droves at the ECG event in Llandudno at Easter.

To the under 50s
We hear that there are some churches that are composed only of older people, with nobody under 50 in their congregations. That is not the case here, for we have a number of families younger than that. Yet there was not one person under 50 at our recent General Church Meeting. This letter is to explore the reasons for this.

Perhaps early Sunday afternoon is not the best time for younger families to come to such a meeting? Well, it doesn’t seem to make any difference in alternate years when we hold this meeting in a midweek evening.

Would it make a difference if we provided a crèche for the Sunday event or a baby-sitting service for the evening one?

Can it be that the under 50s are quite content with our style of worship and the way our church is run and are completely devoid of new ideas or vision of what could happen here?

Or do you who are under 50 feel that, with a large number of worshippers, there is no place for change of the kind you would like to see? I hope this is not the case, but are the older people holding on to office too long and preventing you from trying your ‘wings’? A progressive church needs a healthy mix of input from all age groups, so we need to hear from the under 50s.

It may simply be that life is very hectic for the under 50s and, not having a very clear view of what goes on at the General Church Meeting, attendance there has not seemed to matter. If you think such a meeting will be boring, come and see – and no meeting with under 50ss in it will end up being boring, will it?

The Millennium next year will be looking backwards and forwards, but we need the under 50s to help us plan the future church for our children and grandchildren.