Friday, 24 April 2009

Government criticised for gambling legislation change

On 21st April Parliament agreed to double the amount of money that can be staked and won on the kind of fruit machines found in pubs and amusement arcades. This means that the prize limit on fruit machines will be higher than weekly benefit levels, at a time when many families will be struggling to make ends meet.

In response, an alliance of nine UK Christian organisations has issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed, though not surprised, by the decision of Parliament to accept the Government’s proposals to increase stakes and prizes for category C and D gaming machines. The Government had promised that no such increase would be made until a further gambling prevalence study had been published and has reneged on this promise. We do not know what effects this legislation will have on the levels of problem gambling or on the lives of those already addicted to slot machines, but we have always urged the Government to act with caution.

“We will continue to campaign for the protection of those vulnerable to the harmful effects of gambling and to call on the government to put people before profits. We particularly call on the Government

· to prohibit children from gambling and to research the effects of allowing them to do so. Britain remains the only developed country that allows children to play on fruit machines, and the substantial increase in prizes for children will add another hazard that should be evaluated;

· only to increase future stake and prize values in line with inflation, at no more than 3 yearly intervals;

· and to undertake research into the impact of these changes, with a promise to reverse the decision if this research demonstrates a likely increase in problem gambling.”

The Methodist Church, The Church of England, The Salvation Army, The Church of Scotland, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, The United Reformed Church, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, the Evangelical Alliance and Care.

Toby Scott, Director of Communications and Campaigns for the Methodist Church added, “Although we are disappointed with this decision, we are extremely grateful for the level of support we have received and to all those who have added their voices to this campaign.”

Source: Methodist News Service 21/04/2009

Churches urged to take action ahead of European elections

Election pack highlights BNP threat

On 4 June 2009 every adult in the UK will have the opportunity to vote in the European Parliament Elections. There will also be some English County Council elections.

A briefing from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church explains the importance of citizenship and participating in democratic processes.

A new toolkit has also been produced by the three churches to help equip and affirm local church leaders to take action to counter far-right and racist politics.

Methodist President Revd Stephen Poxon said, “Voting isn’t just a right - it is a privilege that carries great responsibility. A high turnout at the ballot box is good for democracy and society and will make it harder for extremist parties to succeed.”

“The European Union directly influences many aspects of our lives,” added Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, “The European Parliament is the only EU body elected by its citizens, and it is a powerful and important legislature for all 27 member countries.”

The briefing and toolkit are available online at

Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said, “The toolkit for local church leaders is designed to help equip ministers and lay people alike with ideas and information about what they can do to counter racist politics. The appropriation of Christian language and imagery by the BNP is deeply offensive – we need churches across Britain to live out a faith that is open and inclusive, rooted in a commitment to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.”

Source: Methodist News Service 20/04/2009

Looking for ways to make your mark?

Are you looking for ways to make a difference to the world's poorest communities? Do you want to find out how you can empower people to escape the poverty trap?

Come to an MRDF Make Your Mark Conference and be inspired to take simple actions on crucial development issues. The event will give you the tools and information you need to do something extraordinary for some of the world's most vulnerable people. Conferences will be held across the UK.

The events will include:

two workshops on key global development topics*
updates and first-hand accounts of MRDF's life-changing work
ideas for individual and group action
preview of MRDF's 2009 Harvest pack.

*Workshops will be facilitated by development experts from Fairtrade Foundation, Stop Climate Chaos, Jubilee Debt Campaign or Trade Justice Movement.

There is a £5 registration fee – MRDF Coordinators get in FREE. The events will run from 10.30am to 4.30pm and lunch will be provided. They will be held at the following locations:

London 23 May 2009
Birmingham 30 May 2009
York 13 June 2009
Stockport 13 June 2009
Exeter 20 June 2009

Reserve your place now - call us on 020 7467 5132 or download the registration form (Word Doc 75KB) on

donate now
make more small miracles possible sign up
and receive regular updates from MRDF

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Methodist Church welcomes the Chancellor’s measures to help recession victims

Methodist responds positively to the budget

The Methodist Church has welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment to provide work or training for under 25s who have been jobless for more than a year.

In previous recessions, youth unemployment has posed a major challenge, as have longer term social problems which flow from it.

Mike Seaton, Director of the Children and Youth Team, said: “It is vital to create opportunities that afford young people choice over their long-term prospects as well as fulfilling their personal aspirations.

“We look forward to seeing the detail of how this will be implemented and recognise that this could offer new and exciting opportunities not just for young people but for employers. Faith-based voluntary sector organisations, such as the Methodist Church, have much to offer and we would want to encourage and assist the Government in the development of this initiative.”

With the economy heading for a deeper recession than previously forecast, the Chancellor has today announced a number of measures designed to assist the most vulnerable in our society. As well as measures to help the under 25s, schemes to improve back to work services and Jobcentre Plus have also been welcomed by the Church.

The Get Fair Campaign supported by the Methodist Church highlights the plight of the poorest people who did not see the benefit of the boom years and should be protected as far as possible from the recession years.

Today marked a groundbreaking first Carbon Budget which commits the UK to legally binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Paul Morrison, Methodist Church Policy Adviser, said: “The aim of reducing greenhouse gasses and increasing our renewable energy output must be applauded. We look to the Government to ensure the effectiveness of new schemes to boost renewable energy production and exploit environmentally friendly technologies.

“A recent report from the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Commission – ‘Prosperity Without Growth?’ – asks questions about how we build a sustainable economy that is not based on relentlessly increasing consumption. Christian groups have also been wrestling with questions about how we create an economy that is both respectful to the most vulnerable of God’s people and also to His creation. With both the economy and the environment in turmoil, now is the time to begin working towards a restructuring of the economy. I hope that this budget can be a small step towards this.”

Monday, 20 April 2009

The latest Methodist Podcast is now online!

This podcast is packed with stories from around the world which take listeners from the heart of Europe to the outskirts of Melanesia. Find out what life has in store for mission partners Jenny and Graham Longbottom and Mark Leeming in the Solomon Islands. Anna Drew learns that the caste system in India is far from dead during a conversation with David Haslam, founder of the Dalit Solidarity Network, and Karen Burke talks to Stephen Brown, Managing Editor of Ecumenical News International, when she visits the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

Visit to listen.

Source: Methodist News Srvice 17/04/2009

Will you walk with them?

They need your help. Will you Walk with Them?

I was imprisoned and tortured for six months because of my beliefs... I survived because I knew you were praying for me.

I want to thank everyone who prays for us, fasts for us and supports us. Now I really understand what the Bible means by one body

All over the world, persecuted Christians are crying out for help. And God is crying with them as He sees them marginalised, driven from their homes and jobs, imprisoned, tortured, some even murdered, just because they choose to follow Jesus Christ.

Here in the UK we can find it very difficult to fully understand what it means to be persecuted and in the busyness of our day to day lives we forget the people around the world suffering.

But Open Doors has a dream of a world in which every persecuted Christian is remembered and supported by other Christians.

As a fellow believer, you have a chance to do something of eternal impact today by supporting these suffering men, women and children with your prayers, gifts and actions. Will you Walk with Them?

Open Doors provides Bibles, Christian literature, training, practical help and advocacy to persecuted Christians in over 50 countries.

Take your next step towards helping persecuted Christians around the world today - find out more about how to Walk with Them. Go to or call 01993 885 400

Source: Premier Christian Radio 14/04/2009

Friday, 10 April 2009

Methodist President's message of hope for Easter

In his Easter message the Revd Stephen Poxon, President of the Methodist Conference, speaks of the emotions of Easter and a hope that never dies.

“Life is full of thrills…..some come unexpectedly whilst others we go looking for, perhaps on the latest ride at the theme park or fun fair….the thrill of being thrown around, often uncontrollably, stomach wrenching and cries of laughter or fear! Yet sadly these are also the emotions for many of us at the moment in our daily living and it isn’t quite the thrill we were looking for! We are caught in a recession that is beginning to bite and almost none of us are immune. It evokes feelings of fear and uncertainty, worry and concern within us. We continue to be aware of the unfolding events in Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka with continuing natural disasters around the world and all of this against the backdrop of the recent G20 meeting here. So what has Easter to say to the world and our nations? What is the good news we are called to offer?

“The emotions of that first Easter morning are exactly the same as many of us are experiencing now. The women and disciples came to the tomb feeling empty, a sense of desolation, all their hopes gone….and they find the stone rolled away, the body gone, the tomb empty. This is surely how many people are feeling today. Through the loss of a loved one, worry over a parent with Alzheimer’s; concern over finances or employment…a deep sense of loss, of emptiness. Yet is the tomb empty? There is a message: ‘he is not here, he has risen’ and the women are filled with wonder and excitement – their emptiness is replaced by hope……

“A woman from Brazil shared with me long ago that ‘the last thing to die is hope’ …and as I have travelled this year I have discovered, no matter how dark a situation, wherever there has been hope people have been alive to change and new life. Church people have shown me projects that have come about because they never stopped hoping and I witnessed exactly this at the opening of the new church in Weymouth a couple of weeks ago. 7 years after the original church was burnt down, after just finishing its refurbishment, there was a real sense of loss and emptiness - they never let their hope die and it was a tremendous privilege to share in celebrating their new life.

“As the disciples and women approached the garden that early Easter morning I’m certain they were frightened. This was intensified as they heard the message that Jesus had risen and was alive. A mixture of excitement and fear, what could it all mean?

“We live among a people who are frightened. Fear of the recession, fear of terrorism, fear of growing old, fear of speaking out for justice, fear of…

“As Jesus meets and greets people that first Easter his first words again and again are : ‘don’t be afraid’ or ‘Peace be with you’ for it is only when He breaks through our fear can we see and receive the love He offers us….and then there is only joy. It’s this mixture of emotions I felt whilst watching Wales play England at the Millennium Stadium during my district visit to Wales…wanting Wales to win but the game so close and the fear building up within me and most in the stadium…and as the final whistle blew the eruption of joy…In some ways the fear stopped me enjoying the game to the full and this is perhaps where many of us are in our living – the fears and worries of everyday life are stopping us enjoying fully being alive. The message of Easter is that Christ comes to break through our fear that we might know the joy of life….of being alive and in relationships with others and enjoying all that God provides.

“Easter eggs will abound once again this festive season and I still don’t know the answer as to whether it was the chicken or the egg which came first. Whilst in Wales I preached at a small village chapel in Carew and here is one of the most historic Celtic crosses in our islands. In the Celtic design where is the beginning and the end? We are sometimes guilty of celebrating Easter Sunday as the end, the culmination of Lent and Holy Week. ‘Christ is risen. Hallelujah!’ And what happens next? The stories in the gospels tell us that those who encountered the living Christ couldn’t keep it to themselves and couldn’t wait to tell others. So we celebrate that Easter is not only an ending but a beginning.

“Life for us all is a journey of endings and beginnings. Our task is to help lead people from their endings into new beginnings at whatever age and stage of life they are.

“So the emotions of the first Easter are still very real in our society today. The challenge for us is to know how we can offer the hope, joy and new life that Jesus offers us all. One simple way is to believe and live these emotions in our own life that others may see the risen Christ living in us.”

You can listen to Stephen’s message on the Methodist Web Radio page:

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Truth of the Resurrection

Today is Maundy Thursday and, like many more Christians, I have been to church this evening to remember the night when the Disciples were gathered together for the joyful celebration of the Passover meal. Yet Jesus was upset and then he told them why – ‘because one of you sitting at the table, sharing a meal with me in friendship, is about to betray me.’ So our service included sorrow for the times when we have, often unknowingly, let our Lord down and we left the church in quietness and in darkness (because Judas’ betrayal was at night).

However, when you read St. John’s gospel, you will find that his message is 'glory' in the whole of the weekend’s events, even in this dark hour of betrayal and especially the cross. He writes, “When Judas had left, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified – glory all around!’”

Again, in his last prayer with his Disciples before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prays, ‘Father, it’s time. Display the bright splendour of your Son so the Son in turn may show your bright splendour. You put him in charge of everything human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life that they know you, the one and only true God. And Jesus Christ, whom you sent, I glorified you on earth by completing right down to the last detail what you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendour, the very splendour I had in your presence before there was a world.’(John 17)

Only John records Jesus’ saying from the cross, ‘It is finished.’ On the cross, Jesus offered himself back to the Father, to the glory that once was his. The cross is glory! But the cross was not the end, for in his resurrection and ascension Jesus revealed the source of life and offered salvation to a dying world. He is risen, with all his former glory, and alive to walk alongside each of us. There is no doubt of this wonderful living saviour when you meet a man or woman who, over the years, has drawn close to God, for you can see in them the reflection of Jesus’ glory which sheds radiance all around them. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

Written as part of the synchroblog sponsored by Slipstream and EAUK.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Christianity ‘sidelined’ by BBC - claim

Religious programming at the BBC is in decline, with minority faiths being given ‘preferential treatment’ over Christianity, it was claimed this week. Fears were voiced by members of the Church of England’s Archbishop’s Council after the recent appointment of a Sikh to produce Songs of Praise, and amid speculation that a Muslim may take over as head of religious programmes from Methodist preacher Michael Wakelin, who lost his job in a BBC re-shuffle. Four out of seven executives in the BBC religion department have been made redundant in the past year and the Churches’ Media Council says that Christians are now significantly under-represented at the Corporation. The BBC has said that the changes are intended to strengthen its religious offering. ‘We very much hope this is the case, and will be monitoring the situation closely,’ said Bishop of Manchester the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch.

Sources: Daily Telegraph (29/3), Church of England Newspaper (3/4)

Friday, 3 April 2009

Riding Lights Theatre Company's Production of 'Redemption Song'

The whole congregation met at the foot of the Cross when the Riding Lights Theatre Company, based in York, led the evening of worship at Caversham Heights Methodist Church recently with their powerful and challenging production of 'Redemption Song' This group of touring professional actors amazingly take their own (sloping) stage with them, made from building construction materials for ease of erection and dismantling each day! I have taught for years that Jesus was a Northerner, and I am a Northerer myself, but it still came as a shock to hear Jesus speaking in a strong Yorkshire accent! 'Redemption Song' is in six parts, linked by prayer and music, so that everyone felt personally involved in Christ's earthly ministry, rejection, and suffering on the Cross.

The drama began with Jesus at the Cross, his hands outstretched, trying to imagine what that agony would be like. Satan came to tempt him as he pushed Jesus almost over the edge of the high point of the stage. John the Baptist appeared and baptised two women and Jesus, but Satan returned to taunt Jesus after John had been beheaded.

There followed a moving conversation between Jesus and his mother, Mary, and Elders
of the (Jewish) Tradition, as Jesus applied passages of the Scriptues to himself and so antagonised the Elders and caused his mother much anguish. Judas Iscariot, clearly not understanding, came to offer to follow Jesus and then they were joined by Aviya, a wild, gypsy-like fortune teller who was restrained by keepers with ropes round her waist. She bewailed her madness and made as if to kill herself, but Jesus movingly knelt to gently set her free and comfort her.

By contrast, the next part of the drama took place in Pilate, the Governor's, house where his wife, Diana, tried in vain to get her husband's attention as she eulogised
about a Man she had met, who had attracted great crowds. Later she met and talked with Jesus in the house of Simon, and Jesus asked her 'Who do you say I am?' There was a commotion when Aviya, the wild woman, rushed in with a knife, but Jesus calmed her and then she produced a jar of perfumed ointment with which she anointed Jesus. Back at home, Diana told the Governor of all that had happened and urged him to go and meet Jesus himself.
Next we had an encounter between Jesus and Judas, with Jesus asking that question again, 'Who do you say that I am?' Judas was at a loss to say and when Aviya, the wild woman, came on the scene, Jesus said, 'This woman knows who I am.' - because she was quoting 'And they shall call him wonderful, counsellor....' On the lower part of the stage the Temple traders were selling their goods and Jesus drove them out, scattering goods and people. Judas and Jesus were continuing their conversaton when Aviya snatched the bag that Judas was carrying. Then Jesus used the bread and the wine to tell them that when they shared bread and wine together after he was dead they should think of him as if he were still with them. Just then the soldiers came, asking Judas,'Is this him?'. With Jesus asking, 'Who do you say I am, Judas?', Judas btrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Back in the Governor's house, Judas was thanked and dismissed and, as he left, Diana encountered Aviya, the wild woman. She asked her to explain the prophecies that she kept reciting, Diana wanted to know more about Jesus before returning to her husband, who was judging Jesus before finally ordering him to be whipped 'for appearnces sake'.

In front of the three crosses, Pilate asked the crowd whether he should release Jesus or Barabbas and Diana intervened to try to get him to make the choice for them and release Jesus. Pilate said that he found no reason for Jesus to die and asked him, 'Are you who you say you are?' Jesus said, 'I am who they say I am.'

The trial before Pilate continued and Judas was asked to choose, Jesus or Barabbas. So Judas asked Jesus, 'Show them, show me.' There was a very moving moment when Judas agonised, 'Why? Why won't you show yourself? Who are you? She knows,(Aviya) And her. (Diana) But not me? Why not me? When I've believed in you all these years, why should they know you but I don't?' But his cry was in vain and Jesus was tied to the cross. Then Satan swung between the three crosses, taunting Jesus with, 'Hurts, doesn't it? Come on, you've done enough now - no one would criticise, come down. Die now and you're forgotten.' Jesus did die, and Diana and Aviya were left to console each other. Finally, Pilate returned to announce that a place of burial had been found and Aviya was left preparing the body of Jesus for burial.

The evening concluded with members of the congregation dedcating themselves by signing a cross on their forehead with water from the font. Altogether a very moving evening of remembrance and vivid involvement in the passion of Jesus.