Displaying items by tag: church leaders
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, and Church of Scotland moderator Jim Wallace have written to South Sudan's political leaders on the tenth anniversary of its independence. They said that the anniversary calls to mind past struggles and points with hope to the future, and that the nation is blessed with immense potential. They encouraged leaders to make even greater efforts to enable their people to enjoy the full fruits of independence. They also said, ‘When we wrote to you at Christmas, we prayed that you might experience greater trust among yourselves and be more generous in service to your people. Since then, we are glad to see some small progress. Sadly, your people continue to live in fear and uncertainty, and lack confidence that their nation can indeed deliver the “justice, liberty and prosperity” celebrated in your national anthem. Much more needs to be done to shape a nation that reflects God’s kingdom.’
Protestant and Catholic church leaders said the causes of the recent violence were complex and deep-rooted, and have appealed for politicians to provide a unified response to the recent ‘heart-breaking’ scenes of violence. In a joint open letter, they called on them to ‘renew their commitment to peace, reconciliation and the protection of the most vulnerable’. Almost ninety police officers have been injured in rioting in the past week. The leaders' plea is addressed to NI ministers, the British and Irish governments, and the EU. They called for the entire NI executive to approach the EU and UK government to deal with the Brexit fallout and the Irish Sea border, and for politicians to express their support for the police. Much good work on the ground has been undermined as tension has risen and confidence has plummeted.
948 church leaders have sent an open letter to Boris Johnson and the devolved nations’ first ministers, opposing the introduction of vaccine passports, which they call ‘one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics’. They warn of a ‘two-tier society’, divided between those who have had the vaccine and those who will be barred from venues because of no immunisation. They intend to keep church doors open to all, regardless of whether they have had the vaccine. The scheme ‘has the potential to bring the end of liberal democracy as we know it and create a surveillance state with the government using technology to control aspects of citizens' lives’. However recent surveys have indicated a high level of support for passports among the public, albeit with some concerns.
Church leaders from seven denominations have argued that the Government's plan to increase the UK's nuclear warheads ‘takes us in a worrying and wholly wrong direction.’ The UK currently has 195 nuclear warheads and was expected to reduce that to 180 by the mid-2020s. The cap is now 260, due to the threat of state-sponsored terrorism and other states increasing their nuclear arsenals. The leaders said that the fundamental purpose of nuclear weapons is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. A minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, assigned to the defence of NATO, remains essential to guarantee our security and that of our allies. They also said that Trident submarines already carry warheads with an explosive yield equivalent to hundreds of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima, and the Government is committing resources which could be spent on the common good of our society.
A common theme is emerging among church leaders experiencing lockdowns: the importance of connection and how to connect as a church. Refreshments after church, shared events, coffee shop catchups, Sunday dinner get-togethers have been stripped away. Leaders have lost the thermostat of knowing how church people are. Many are wondering if and how online church is translating into everyday life. It is encouraging that this season has produced worship that is decentralised, has moved out of the building, and is more tightly woven into the daily fabric of life. Mission no longer has a visiting evangelist. Evangelism is now central in conversations with neighbours and colleagues. We are sharing our faith. Another common theme is how Christians have taken hold of their own discipleship because of the decentralisation of worship and the democratisation of mission.
Covid-19 and the lockdowns have brought a wide range of new challenges for church leaders in a short space of time, and a significant number are feeling the effects. Savanta ComRes, in partnership with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), surveyed 201 leaders of different denominations during the period between the two lockdowns. They were asked to think about the two years before Covid, then about the period since restrictions began, and to assess their mental health during that time. 93% of them said that in the two years leading up to March 2020, they had very good or fairly good mental health. It is impressive that church leaders overall reported this level of happiness with their mental health. But in the period since then, that went down to 85%, and 15% said it was poor or very poor.
Because of Brexit, the UK must submit its own national climate plan to the UN climate body. Nineteen church leaders have written to Boris Johnson asking him to set ambitious goals when he submits the country’s first climate plan under the Paris Agreement. This agreement commits countries to keeping temperature rises ‘well below’ 2C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit them to 1.5C, which is seen as the threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt. The letter to the Prime Minister was signed by the CofE's bishop for the environment, Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury; the Archbishop of Wales; and leaders from the Church of Scotland, the Baptist Union, Methodist Church, URC, and Quakers, as well as 57,000 others who believe the UK could be a true global leader.
Practising Christian Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, has been endorsed by the largest group of clergy in modern history. His endorsements mainly come from Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants, including Billy Graham’s granddaughter Jerushah Duford, former US ambassador for religious freedom Susan Johnson Cook, Michael Kinnamon, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, and former gay episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. ‘This record-breaking group of endorsers shows that President Trump’s lack of kindness and decency is energising faith communities and will cost him this election’, said the director of the Christian campaign organisation Vote Common Good, which compiled the endorsements. Anti-abortion Republicans defecting from Trump are voting for Biden this year. Four years ago, religious voters looked the other way to give Trump a chance, but after witnessing his cruelty and corruption, a growing number are turning away from him. Biden has frequently spoken of how his faith has sustained him through challenging times.
Christian Concern recently urged the Government to trust pastors to reopen churches, as churches are more than Sunday services. They are food banks, restore people's mental and spiritual wellbeing, and offer many other vital services. If workplaces throughout Britain are trusted to make wise decisions around reopening, why not the church? The one-size-fits-all ban treats gathered church worship as a luxury and wrongly stops responsible pastors from making the decision themselves. The government has asked for more time to respond to the reopening request, saying collective worship could take place next month. See
Now that we no longer gather physically, congregations are navigating church, prayer, house groups, worship, etc with technology, and our church leaders are coming to terms with electronic churches to manage the implications of coronavirus on their congregations and communities. Let us pray that innovative ideas will be birthed through high-tech fresh expressions of church. Pray for those ministering to the bereaved, unemployed, depressed, financially challenged, or living with addictions. The burdens of care that our pastors carry are huge and can be exhausting. May God give them strength, protection, wisdom, and discernment as they pour the fragrance of His purposes and support into challenging situations. Pray for church networking amongst those who are without the internet. Pray for foodbanks as more communities struggle financially. May our church teams have heaven's insights when new trials arise. Pray for church leaders without good internet connections or the gift of being technologically astute. God, bring help wherever it is needed.