Turning words into realityMonday 12 August 2013
I’ve always liked reading Rudyard Kipling, especially his short stories. But I've never liked his poem IF, even though it may be the best known – and indeed has on several occasions been voted our nation’s favourite. It’s always felt rather patronising and cringe inducing, not least for that last line, ‘And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!’
However, it does include a healthy dose of perspective on success and failure, which I’ve come back to recently.
Over the last few weeks, since I made some comments on pay day lenders, our small correspondence team at Lambeth Palace has been flooded with letters and emails. We receive some 25,000 letters a year, and whether it’s on inter faith or sexuality issues, the tone is often very critical. The sheer volume means I can only deal personally with a small proportion, and the challenge always is to pay attention and ask myself, does the writer have a point? But on this issue, the comments have been overwhelmingly positive.Continue reading
When Christ is present, our differences break downSunday 04 August 2013
Over the past week I’ve visited four very different Christian gatherings. It’s been an experience that has left me humbled and hopeful.
Last Friday I was at Hillsong at the O2 arena in London, speaking to 8,000 people from a Pentecostal tradition. These people were full of love for Jesus Christ and commitment to service. The welcome was extraordinary; I had a great sense of being part of a family. The next day I was in Lincolnshire for HTB Focus. A very different style, and a powerful double commitment to evangelisation and social transformation, but again the core was love for Christ.Continue reading
On World Refugee DayThursday 20 June 2013
On World Refugee Day we are urged to remember the millions of people who have been forced from their homes and homelands, out into a world that is unfamiliar, frightening and dangerous. This year we are especially asked to consider the impact on families who must care for each other despite having left behind every source of comfort and security. Under these desperate pressures families can find themselves pulled apart, creating deep suffering that doesn’t just hurt now, but wounds generations to come.
Providing sanctuary to the stranger has always been a core Christian value. Every day churches around the world care for people who have been forced into becoming ‘strangers’. They offer a welcome to people who have been robbed of their homes, their societies and their cultures.
Local faith communities are often the first to respond in humanitarian crises. They bring blankets, food and offers of shelter – and they remain after international agencies have left. Amid disorientating chaos, churches and mosques become coordination points, places that people trust. We see this in Syria, where churches on the ground are helping with efforts to relieve the profound suffering there.Continue reading
When Aid Works and WhyFriday 12 April 2013
Last weekend a group of religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Westminster and me, wrote a letter urging G8 nations to stick to their targets on foreign aid. Some have opposed this call by suggesting that most aid money gets wasted or sucked up by corruption, and that developing countries are much better helped by growing trade.
These criticisms are important and at one level I don't dispute them. Economic growth is undeniably the key to removing nations from poverty. In fact I have been and continue to be involved in seeking to promote trade with Nigeria – especially from areas of deprivation in the UK – for this very reason. At the same time, no one can deny the existence of corruption and the fact that money has been wasted as a result. This is why, in our letter, we backed Britain’s call for national governments to be more transparent.
But so often the critics ignore the many instances where aid truly works – especially in vulnerable conflict and post-conflict situations. Certainly that was what I saw during more than a decade of working in Africa.Continue reading
Universal and SpecificMonday 11 March 2013
I was away over the weekend in Switzerland at a very long-arranged conference (long before I was here) with a Roman Catholic, ecumenical monastic order on the Baptism in the Spirit.
The scenery was refreshing and wonderful, the friendships warm and encouraging, and the content and worship that went with it all uplifting. When I got back to my room there were a few (!) texts, tweets and emails about the open letter signed by a huge number of Bishops, along with statements from the Archbishop of York and myself, about the below-inflation caps on various social security payments.
It’s a very complicated area, and the first thing to say is that the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has spent hard years turning himself into a leading and principled expert on welfare, its effects and shortcomings. He is introducing one of the biggest and most thorough reforms of a system that most people admit is shot full of holes, wrong incentives, and incredible complexity. Like many parish priests’ families, we got benefits, and it was incredibly complicated. For lots of people in the parishes where I worked, taking some extra hours of work could actually lower income; that is exactly the kind of thing that the move to universal credit aims to change.Continue reading
Moving the FrontiersThursday 07 March 2013
I am still reeling from the recent Faith in Conflict (FiC) conference at Coventry Cathedral. The event had been a dream of mine for years, eversince the Church of Scotland hosted a gathering on the same theme, which a friend attended. The reality was far greater than the anticipation.
The conference aimed to look at what causes conflict in the church, and whether it is necessarily destructive. More than 200 delegates from Christian churches across England discussed fresh ways to view conflict, and different options for intervention.
By nature I am a conflict avoider; I like to keep my head down and get on with the job. So I have always felt that church disagreement was at best a distraction, and often worse.Continue reading