Thursday, January 31, 2013

Roman Catholic hospital argues foetuses aren't people


One of His Grace's Roman Catholic communicants, Sister Tiberia, sends this communiqué from the other bank of the Tiber:

I was quite delighted to hear that Colorado's three Roman Catholic Bishops will be reviewing the case quoted in this Denver Post article, in which the lawyers representing a Catholic hospital defending against malpractice have argued that fetuses aren't persons. A statement that made me weep (and hopefully should have made the Bishops weep as well, given the Church's teachings that life begins at conception).

The following is quoted directly from the article in the Denver Post.
Jeremy Stodghill filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in District Court in Fremont County after his 31-year-old wife, Lori, seven months pregnant with twin boys, died of a blockage of the main artery of the lung at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City on New Year's Day 2006.

Stodghill's lawyer argued that her obstetrician, Pelham Staples, never made it to the hospital — even though on call for emergencies — and there was no attempt by any medical personnel to save the Stodghills' sons by cesarian section.The unborn children died in the womb.

The lead defendant is Englewood-based Catholic Health Initiatives, which runs St. Thomas More and hospitals in 14 states.

The Catholic Church has fought for decades to change federal and state laws to protect fetuses as persons. Yet, according to court documents, Catholic Health Initiatives argued in this case that the Colorado Wrongful Death Act requires the death of a person and the statute doesn't include the death of a fetus that wasn't born or delivered.

"The defendants argue that to be a 'person' one must at some point have been born alive," wrote District Judge David M. Thorson. "The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that a viable fetus who dies in utero should be considered a 'person' for purposes of the wrongful death statute."

In December 2010, the court found in favor of CHI and other defendants, as did the Court of Appeals. Stodghill's attorneys have appealed to the state Supreme Court.
We seem to have a case here where God's law and Caesar's law are at polar opposites, but up till now the lawyers acting on behalf of a Catholic hospital have been content to go with Caesar's law and hope that God won't notice. Or that the Pope won't notice. Or at least that the papers won't notice. This case has been ongoing since 2006 so is this seriously the first that the Bishops have heard about it? Yes, we're all aware that they're very busy men, but even so...

"From the moment of conception human beings are endowed with dignity and with fundamental rights, the most foundational of which is life. No Catholic institution may legitimately work to undermine fundamental human dignity," the Bishops have said.

Every Catholic should be delighted to hear this.

Can we then hope that the immediate follow-up to this news will be that the case will be uncontested by the lawyers at the state Supreme Court, and that a suitable rap on the knuckles will be forthcoming from the Bishops to whichever hospital authority chose to defend this case by denying one of the fundamental tenets of the Church's faith?

And let us not forget in our prayers the grieving husband of a wife whose life could not be saved, who is also the father of two little boys – not two foetuses, two children – who at a gestation of 32 weeks had a chance of life by immediate delivery, and were not given that chance. For the lawyers of a Catholic hospital to attempt to defend the case on the grounds that these two little boys were never ‘persons’ is appalling.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

I also find it very sad that in direct contrast to the courtesy of His Grace who kindly offered space on this blog for a Catholic to express concerns, that His Grace is being attacked by Catholic readers both here and on Twitter for ‘attacking the Catholic Church’ without, it seems, ever addressing the concerns brought up.

Might I direct those Catholics to the wise words of His Holiness Pope Benedict who, in his World Day of Communications Message, explicitly calls for respect in social media: "Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own," writes the Holy Father.

He then continues: "In the digital world there are social networks which offer our contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation and sharing the word of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth" (From the Vatican, 24 January 2013, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Court of Protection nullifies marriage without husband’s knowledge


Imagine a superior court, presided over by a solitary judge, empowered by the state to determine the ‘personal welfare issues’ of those who are deemed to be incapable of doing so on their own behalf. We’re talking about jurisdiction over the financial or property affairs of those whom the state determines lack the mental capacity to make informed decisions for themselves. This court also has enduring powers of attorney, such that it may order, in perpetuity, the affairs of all who are appointed to its ‘protection’, such as appointing trustees over an estate; writing a last will and testament on their behalf; determining where they live, how they are cared for, and even who may visit them.

And now imagine that such a judge sitting in such a court determines to nullify the marriage union of one of its ‘protected’ clients, despite both parties having freely consented to that union to the satisfaction of a registrar, legal witnesses, and an experienced professional with 16 years’ experience of working with the mentally incapacitated.

This is not the former Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea or Islamist Iran. It is the Court of Protection in England, today, issuing ‘family court’ judgments which affect husbands and wives, mothers, fathers and children, as though marriage were not so much an honourable estate for mutual companionship, love and the secure rearing of the next generation, but a simple contract for the ordering of material possessions.

Now, certainly, property rights are why states and lawyers began to involve themselves in the business of marriage at all: it is for the common good of society that matters of ownership and legitimate inheritance are properly ordered. But for Christians – indeed, for people of all faiths and for many of none – there is something of rite and ritual about the marriage ceremony, whether secular, sacred or sacramental. The vows of personal promise, of commitment, and the swearing of oaths – before God and/or the assembled community – are sincerely made and deeply felt. It is what makes marriage marriage: it is part of why ‘civil partnership’, which has no statutory inclusion of oaths or promises, fails to satisfy so many gays and lesbians. Marriage is more than a state contract, they insist, and so the mystical element of holy matrimony must be extended equally to patrimony, whether holy or not: it is more, much more than two signatures on a solicitor’s piece of paper.

A case has been brought to His Grace’s attention which he finds somewhat disturbing. In fact, it is outrageous. The transcript of the judgment relating to the brain-damaged husband (SK) and his wife (JK) is long, but Anna Raccoon has the summary details (and not dissimilar concerns). The Court of Protection does not permit the individuals concerned to be identified, so Ms Raccoon calls them Sam and Jane. For convenience, His Grace will do the same.

Jane did not seek the annulment: the case was brought by a ‘local authority’ (– you know, the sort who not infrequently traumatise parents by bringing secret cases relating to child protection or adoption, which can never be reported in the media –) on behalf of Sam’s family, who seem somewhat irked that Jane married Sam in the first place.

Sam tragically suffered two separate head injuries which left him mentally impaired, but by no means incapable of comprehending or expressing himself. Of course, there is some dispute about what he may or may not understand, but (for legal purposes) he is deemed sufficiently compos mentis to consent to medical procedures including surgery. Sam can apparently sign his name, talk and engage in relationship: he is by no means a vegetable.

Jane has known Sam for 35 years – they were teenage sweethearts. Both married other partners and both subsequently divorced. When Jane heard of Sam’s second accident in 2008, she went immediately to the hospital. The court papers inform us that she has visited him there on a ‘more or less daily’ basis over four long years to date. As Ms Raccoon observes: ‘I don’t think anyone can doubt her commitment to Sam’s well being.’ His Grace would go further, not doubting her love and concern, for four years of daily visits is a profound sacrifice.

But Jane is not family: it is Sam’s next of kin who took charge of his care, and they determined that a state neuro-disability unit was preferable to living at home. This is Sam’s brother and mother – who do not visit Sam daily, but might be more inclined to order his care such that it’s not so much of a burden to them. Discussions have taken place and decisions been taken to which Sam was not party because, Ms Raccoon tells us, ‘once someone is deemed not to have capacity to conduct their legal affairs, as “a patient” they cease to be consulted as a matter of course’.

There is some dispute as to what transpired next: As far as Jane is concerned, their four-year relationship of daily encounters blossomed into love, and they agreed to get married and live together happily ever after, she caring for him and meeting all his needs in a domestic setting – care in the home. Since Sam’s family weren’t overly keen on Jane, the decision was taken to do it all in secret. But Jane was careful to arrange an independent advocate for Sam, whom we shall call Robin (an advocate for mentally incapacitated individuals of 16 years’ experience; a former Assistant Director of a Social Services Department, working through the Representational Advocacy Unit of the local Citizens Advice Bureau) We are told:
Robin had several conversations with Sam and Jane. During those conversations he became aware that they wished to marry – and he was of the opinion that Sam had the necessary capacity to contract a marriage. The level of capacity to contract a marriage is considerably lower than that required to handle ones financial affairs.

Robin also became aware that Sam and Jane didn’t want to involve his family – the reasons he was given as to why are not recorded, but as Sam’s advocate, his job was to reflect what Sam wanted.
So, Jane arranged the marriage ceremony with the town’s Principal Registrar, disclosing fully Sam’s brain injury, and that he had been assessed as lacking the capacity to handle his financial affairs or to decide where he lived. She left it to the Registrar to make a judgment about Sam’s capacity to marry. When later questioned by a neuro-surgeon, the judgment was that ‘Sam can’t retain even simple information’, yet when he gives perfectly reasonable answers to a question (such as the meaning of marriage), the medical assessment is that this is ‘retained information’. English case law on the capacity to marry is a not straightforward, but who (really) may be judged as knowing fully what the commitment entails before all the rows, in-laws, money problems and children descend upon the blissful union?

Most importantly – and here’s a principal outrage – Sam was questioned and assessed on his capacity to enter into a marriage union without full knowledge of the reason for the questions, or any awareness at all of the importance to be attached to his responses. As far as he’s concerned, he’s having a chat about the meaning and significance of marriage. In reality, the Local Authority is gathering evidence to attempt to nullify the union.

Just a week before the wedding, Sam required surgery for a bladder operation. All the medical professionals involved were content that Sam had the necessary capacity to consent to this. There was no appeal to the Court of Protection to determine Sam’s ‘personal welfare issues’ where invasive surgery was concerned.

Is the consent to marry of a higher order than life and death matters of surgery?

Well, clearly the Court of Protection thinks so, for the Judge has swept aside the evidence of Jane, Robin and the Registrar, not to mention the professional judgment of a surgeon and an anaesthetist. Sam’s mother and brother were naturally upset to hear that he had eloped (what family wouldn’t be?), and were even more angered that Jane took Sam out of the clinical facility to live with her. Ms Raccoon recounts:
It was by any standard, a brave decision, and not one taken in total ignorance. She was, prior to all this, a specialised support assistant for those with learning disabilities. I am well aware of the enormous stress placed on anyone who cares for someone with a brain injury in a home situation. It is an unenviable job, and one I would suggest that is only possible with a great deal of care and love for the person concerned. There are few rewards.
Robin, the advocate, visited Sam at Jane’s house and a statement of Sam’s desires was taken. Sam made it known that he wanted to live with his wife, and that he wanted his brother out of his affairs. Jane’ lack of cooperation with care professionals led the Local Authority to commence proceedings in the Court of Protection and an interim order was made that Sam be returned to the facility. Jane duly complied with that order.
It is not hard to imagine that by this time the family must have imagined that Jane was the Devil’s spawn, she had not only married their darling son, she had had the nerve to imagine that she could love and care for him too.
So the Local Authority, acting on behalf of Sam’s brother, began proceedings to have his marriage to Jane annulled. As Ms Raccoon incisively reminds us, there are a number of points to consider before making your mind up whether the marriage itself should be annulled:
1) Sam is under the auspices of the Court of Protection; that means that any financial benefits that might accrue to him as a result of his accidents will be held by the Court of Protection who will employ a specialist solicitor to oversee each and every bill paid on his behalf. The money would NOT be handed to his wife, even if they had been married for 50 years.

2) One of the first duties of such a specialist solicitor will be to draw up what is called a Statutory Will for Sam. Such a Will would reflect the fact that Sam has a son from his second marriage and make provision for him.

3) True, if such a statutory Will was made, and if Jane was still married to Sam, then provision would have to be made for her future, as well as bequests to his Mother and his brother – but we are talking about the situation if and when Sam dies. The decision that the marriage should be annulled has allegedly been taken ‘in his best interests’, which is only applicable whilst he is alive.

4) It is an unusual marriage; more ‘in sickness and in ill-health’ than anything more optimistic. Is that not a time when we need the comfort and security of a loving partner more than ever? What exactly is the effect of a marriage, now that we have discounted the financial aspect, that it is in Sam’s ‘best interests’ NOT to have?

5) In view of the fact that Sam has been in care more or less continuously since the marriage occurred, I am assuming that the marriage has not been consummated. It should be none of our business, but someone is bound to bring up non-consummation as a factor. As far as I can discern, non-consummation of a marriage has never been grounds for annulment except where that non-consummation has been wilful. Scarcely applicable in this case.

6) Much has been made of Sam’s answers to various questions as to who visited him, how often, and what provisions he thought it reasonable to make for his son. Since it would appear that Sam is unaware that these questions are being posed with a view to annulling his marriage, then I am reading his answers in line with his stated view that his family should not be aware of the marriage.

7) Whilst Sam is in hospital, Jane holds an automatic ‘right’ to visit him as his ‘next of kin’ – that would not be so should the marriage be annulled. Common law partners, girlfriends, and friends in general do not have automatic access to hospital patients. The ‘family’ would revert to legal ‘next of kin’ – given that they are now all at loggerheads, how likely is it that they would allow Jane to continue to visit Sam daily – or at all?
The judgment to annul this marriage – to declare, in effect, that it never existed – is the very negation of love and a denial of the principal purpose of marriage – that man might not be alone. Mr Justice Bodey’s concerns himself with issues of bureacracy and possessions, and Jane’s unconditional, sacrificial commitment is rendered void. Sam, by order of this court, is now destined to live out the rest of his life alone. It is an outrage that he as not informed of the motives of his inquisitors: it is a far greater offence that he is not now permitted even to know that his marriage to Jane no longer exists. He will live not so much in a mystical union, but a fantasy isolation, because the Court of Protection determines that it must be so.

If questions had arisen in a church context about a person’s mental capacity to understand the meaning of marriage, clergy are not required (or qualified) to make a psychiatric assessment: it would be for a registrar to determine. Sam had satisfied the Registrar. He had satisfied his advocate. For the Church, this marriage would be considered valid, if no longer legal.

According to Canon Law, marriage rests on the intention of the parties to live together in a married state. Certainly, if either party were non compos mentis, that could be grounds for nullity. But what is the measure of this mental capacity? Is being 16 and so ‘too young’ and ‘not understanding the full implications of the undertakings’ valid grounds for nullity? What if one has no understanding of (say) ‘the future’? Could one really validly promise to love someone ‘till death us do part? How does one assess a person’s ‘frame of mind’? This is dangerous territory, for which of us could say we entirely understood what we were letting ourselves in for as we stood at the altar and made our vows before God and the assembled throng of witnesses?

If individuals have the power to form contracts or give assent to invasive surgery without parental consent, they ought to be able to marry. The nature of Sam’s mental incapacity is not such that he is forcibly sectioned.

Nullity – for Anglicans – is a considerably problematic area, not least because of the history of our church. For Roman Catholics it is usually based on ‘lack of due discretion’, and judged by a tribunal of canon lawyers. Their judgment then goes to a superior tribunal, for man may not easily put assunder that which God hath joined together. From the Book of Common Prayer of 1662:
The Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh. It is God's purpose that as husband and wife give themselves to each other in love throughout their lives, they shall be united in that love as Christ is united with his Church.

Marriage is given that husband and wife may comfort and help each other, living faithfully together in need and in plenty, in sorrow and in joy. It is given that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in love and through the joy of their bodily union may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. It is given as the foundation of family life in which children may be born and nurtured in accordance with God's will, to his praise and glory.

In marriage husband and wife belong to one another and they begin a new life together in the community. It is a way of life that all should honour and it must not be undertaken carelessly, lightly or selfishly but reverently, responsibly and after serious thought.
This is the order of creation – God’s business. But increasingly in this country we are seeing the State via local authorities exercise their discretionary powers to act on behalf of ‘clients’, and justice cannot be seen to be done because the courts are secret and nothing may be reported in the media. There have been many apparently capricious and oppressive judgments for some families, reducing one party to a nervous wreck and another to penury.

As for Sam and Jane, the secular state may not recognise their marriage, but it is an exclusive union of love between a man and a woman for mutual companionship ‘for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’. Where a vicar is content with the mental capacity of a couple and duly solemnises their marriage, it remains a marriage in the eyes of God and the Church even if some secular doctor later declares himself not content. Indeed, there are some who might validly question Jane’s mental state, having voluntarily entered into a union which seems to guarantee her an awful lot more of ‘worse’, ‘poorer’ and ‘sickness’ than ‘better’, ‘richer’ and ‘health’. What sane person would desire such a state?

Moreover, Canon Law specifically guards against covert annulment: both parties have the right to be informed and the right of appeal against the judgment. But not so under the Court of Protection. The right to be informed is denied, and the enormous costs of appeal are prohibitive. So here is an example of the Church ensuring and dispensing a higher degree of natural justice than the State, while the State determines that marriage consists of nothing more than banal bureaucracy. Since the Court of Protection operates under the aegis of the Crown, and since Her Majesty is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, perhaps we should assist Jane to take this matter higher?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bishop Justin Welby bids farewell to Durham

The Right Revd Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham and Archbishop of Canterbury Elect, bade farewell yesterday to the Durham Diocese with a message of hope for the people he is leaving behind.

Bishop Justin attended a service of farewell, thanks and celebration at Durham Cathedral in what was his last public appearance in the diocese before he receives his legal title as Archbishop of Canterbury. He will cease to be Bishop of Durham and have the legal title bestowed on him as Archbishop of Canterbury at 12 noon next Monday, 4th February, at a formal service in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. His public ministry will be inaugurated at an enthronement service at Canterbury Cathedral on 21st March (being His Grace's [Lesser] Feast Day; the 457th anniversary of his martydom).

The Farewell service for Bishop Justin and his wife Caroline drew a large congregation from across the diocese and the region and was attended by the Lord Lieutenant Sir Paul Nicholson. Speaking about his new job in an interview before the service, he said: “It is extremely scary and a huge privilege. It’s an extraordinary feeling to look back and see my predecessors, some of whom are extraordinarily distinguished, like my immediate predecessor Rowan Williams, who is breathtaking in his grip and imagination and his intellect and in many other ways. It’s exciting. There is a sense of what is God going to do?”

Asked what effect the possibility of a triple-dip recession could have on the Durham diocese, he said: “It is a huge challenge. Whether we go into a triple-dip or not, whatever does happen it’s going to go on being pretty dark economically. However, at the centre of the Church is Jesus Christ, who is described as the light of the world, and the darker the world, the more obvious the light.

“The Church is a centre of peace and hope which is completely independent of the circumstances around it so church communities everywhere have to be consciously seeking to be that peace and hope, welcoming and loving, ministering to people, letting them come and experience church life, making it easy for them to do so.

“In this diocese, churches, not just Church of England but churches generally, are organising about 50 food distribution centres. That’s the light of the world in the dark times in very practical ways. The church has often been at its best at times of difficulty because, as people are drawn into worship, they find someone who is faithful, whatever happens.

“If I have had three wishes for the diocese of Durham and its people, you couldn‘t get much better than what St Paul talks about in chapter thirteen of the first letter to the Corinthians, which is faith, hope and love.

“Faith in God and in each other, in the capacity of this area to pull itself up and give itself a great future, which I utterly believe is within the capacity of this area and is being demonstrated. You only have to look at what’s happening in places like the Foundation for Jobs in Darlington (of which he is Patron) and lots of other examples in the north of the diocese. Really very remarkable work is being done.

“Hope that some of the struggles of the present will be ended but also hope in the sense of expectation that there is a really good future out there. Hope shows in how we train people, teach them what to expect and give them a vision.

“Love, knowing the love of God and love for each other. One of the plagues of the Western world, including this country, is the absence of trust in each other but in this area the friendliness, its capacity and the strength of its character and people means that it can set an example on the trust that comes through a genuine love for each other and community and area.

“Three big wishes but I think they’re achievable. You build these things a step at a time.”

Quotes From The Night

Bishop Justin on his farewell service: “It’s not a service that I have been looking forward to for a single second. Goodbyes are not easy and this one is particularly painful.”

On his new job: “I am apprehensive, thoughtful, excited and extremely conscious that it is a great privilege to have been asked to do the job.”

On evangelism: “It is a big priority for the church and will be a big priority.”

On the role of the Church in the North East: “Look around the North East and you will see the Church in most crucial areas of life. The clergy and laity are doing remarkable work.”

On the need that led to the creation of food distribution centres after reports of some North East families going short: “We are seeing things we thought had disappeared in the Thirties. Not on remotely the same scale but traces here and there.”

On resolving the disputes on women bishops and differences of opinion on sexuality: “It’s about finding a way forward for these massive challenges. The church at a national level has to be outward-looking and a body that is engaging, not looking inwards and consumed by its own problems... I am optimistic that we can make progress.”

The Right Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow, on losing the Bishop of Durham: “There is a sadness. People in the North East feel we are losing someone in the corridors of power who understands them.

”If you were told that you only had a Bishop for a year, Bishop Justin is an example of what that bishop would have done.

“There is a real sense in the Diocese that the future must be about continuity of the work that he has done. There is a real sense of a church that is growing in the region. He leaves us with a legacy of hope.”


His Grace is delighted to reproduce Bishop Justin's sermon in full, unencumbered with annotation or comment, for the words to speak for themselves:
This sermon is very under prepared. It needed at least 10 more years in the cooking, and is more an exposure of brevity than a reflection on ministry.

That being said the call of God comes in numerous and often unexpected ways, and His voice and word to us is the constant amongst the changes of life. Whenever we are beset with fear and uncertainty, it is to His voice we must turn, to the constancy that is more solid than unreliability of human beings.

We are in the most powerful symbol of stability in the world. The massive bulk of this Cathedral and the journey from Bede the theological historian to Cuthbert the missionary, turns the changes of human practice, dress, liturgy and interpretation of Christian faith into mere passing moments. Bishops come and go, Priors, Deans change, but the Church is the same. As a building its relative narrowness compared to its length gives a sense of strong shoulders and long journeys, the journeys of Christian faith, and the trials within them supported and given direction.

And yet if we think only that we miss half the message. The building is grand, it draws the eye up to God, it stills anxiety and speaks of peace, the beauty of high rose windows breathes life into tired spirits. But it is also a stage set on which the drama of Christian life is played, and that drama goes on never repeating, never ceasing, always changing. The wanderings of the Israelites in this great passage from Numbers also speaks of solidity and movement. The cloud is always there by day and fire by night. There is the continual certainty of the presence of God. But where it goes is anybody’s guess.

Come with me to a typical Israelite tent, standard family, mother and father and about eight children, a few goats, a great deal of general clobber, and possibly a donkey. It is early morning, the first light of dawn beginning to take the chill off the desert. And what are they talking about? I suspect who is going to look at the cloud. “It’s your turn”, “no, I looked yesterday”, “well I did three days in a row when you had a cold”, and so on. Because if you look out, and the cloud has lifted, it means …… packing! You might have been there six months or one day, but you have to move. And let me tell you, and here I am an expert, packing to move is no fun. We have been doing it all day. It leads to gritted teeth, bad temper, pulled muscles and damaged possessions. And they did it unpredictably for 40 years.

The people of God are always in the midst of change. We look to the Church of England for stability, but we must instead look to God for direction and purpose, for the journey we are to travel with Him, and for vision of our destination. Change is always happening, and my natural instinct of moaning about it does no good. The answer is not avoiding change, but embracing pilgrimage, drawing close to God in worship so that we are filled with excitement about where we are going. The call of God is to move, and the uncertainty of the future is countered by His unfailing love.

Change comes even when we are still. On a journey back from London last week there was a signalling fault. Another train was alongside us. After an hour or so one of us began to move. The scenery changed, even if for a while we did not know if it was us, them or both.

The church may be still but the world around us moves. Culture and expectations of morality change, economics brings destruction or renewal, often both. We have rapid adaptation by brilliant manufacturing in this region, the taking on of interns and apprentices … and we have 40% cuts in local government funding (If you want to see an astute review of the effect of the cuts see what the Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones said to his diocese on the subject. It was with great sadness that I heard that he has announced his retirement today). All around us is rapid change and those struggling to deal with it, change for good and for ill.

The disciples of Jesus are in desolation, reverting to the securities they know, of fishing and locality in Galilee, and finding even that failing them. There is a lostness about the opening of John 21. And the comfort of Jesus comes by surprise, unrecognised. If Numbers calls us to wander on in trust that God is faithful, John tells us how.

He is present, and they do not know Him. My first lesson in a challenging week of silent retreat 10 days ago was to remember the presence of God, which I had neglected. He is here, and often I either turn away or forget. Yet even when they do not know Him, He guides them and restores the normality of life and profession. They catch a lot of fish. His faithfulness does not at all rely on our reception of it, but on His faithfulness. Be reassured.

He calls and they answer: as they see Him they are able to respond, in different ways, with a cry, with encouragement, with collecting what He has given, or with leaping clothed into the water. I wonder if Peter’s wife said when he got home, “clothes ruined, couldn’t you have walked?”.

He brings them into His work; He has fish but asks for theirs. The church is not necessary to the work of God, but in his grace He has made us essential to His loving. He loves us to share in His work, to participate in the providential outworking of His purposes.

And He feeds them, bread and fish as at the 5,000. Provision where there is nothing.

What is this Diocese primarily? It is not organisation or institution, even grand buildings, it is a people called to be loved by God. This Cathedral speaks to us of the everlasting faithfulness of that love, these passages of our call to respond.

It is God’s purpose that we should each be consoled and comforted by that love, present, participative, purposeful, providing, and in the strength that He brings pack and move on. Far more than that as we each and all together grow in knowing and recalling the source of that love, God with us, we overflow to generous and self-giving sharing of it with our communities.

We are called to be pilgrims overflowing with love, spreading it in our journey, and being that is the gift of God, not the work of any individual.
Pictures By: Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunday Times anti-Semitism – on Holocaust Memorial Day


Last week a Liberal Democrat MP by the name of David Ward found himself in a bit of hot water for stating, quite boldly, that ‘the Jews’ (all of them) had failed to learn the lesson of the Holocaust. He wrote upon his blog (now removed):
Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
Outrageous, you may think. But we must remember that the Liberal Democrats have form on this: they are, after all, the party of Baroness Tonge, who not only declared that she might have been a suicide bomber had she been born a Palestinian, but has a tendency to speak of the ‘Israel lobby’ as a worldwide Jewish conspiracy: “Once they have decided to go for you, they will go for you,” she once disclosed. “I bear the scars.” And then she chillingly prophesied: “Israel is not going to be there forever”, she warned, because it ‘will lose its support and then they will reap what they have sown’.

So David Ward and Jenny Tonge are Jew-hating peas from the same Illiberal-Undemocrat pod. To both, there is an undeniable correlation between the current Middle East geo-political conflicts and the systematic slaughter of the Jews by the Nazis. When questioned on his meaning and intention by choosing to juxtapose the two, Ward helpfully clarified, saying: “It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”

So, in summary, Israel is apartheid; the Jews are evil; Gaza is oppressed; the Palestinians are innocent victims. It’s all akin to how Hitler treated the Jews. And what better time to state this than on the approach to Holocaust Memorial Day?

As disgusting and disturbing as this may be, it is astonishing (really, utterly alarming) that Rupert Murdoch’s esteemed Sunday Times decided to commemorate such a sombre day with the same strain of anti-Semitism. The Gerald Scarfe cartoon above features Benjamin Netanyahu as a big-nosed hunchback, constructing a grotesque security wall with the blood of Palestinian women and children (and President Obama appears to be cemented in as well). It carries the caption: ‘Israeli Elections… Will Cementing Peace Continue?’

This is usually Guardian territory (see here and here).The target is not religion, but race. The Guardian rarely misses an opportunity to vent its bile for the only democracy in the region. Now it is joined by the Sunday Times, insulting, denigrating and defaming Jews worldwide. There is, as ever, no mention of the slaughter and bloodshed in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain or Egypt. There is no consideration of the thousands of missiles that rain down daily upon Israel from Gaza, and not a whiff of the terrorist incursions of Hamas or Hezbollah. There is complete ignorance of the need to protect Israeli civilians against Palestinian terrorism. The Sunday Times cartoon legitimates such terrorist attacks; it seeks to justify suicide bombs against the evil Israeli regime, just as Jenny Tonge has reasoned. Like Guardian cartoonists, Scarfe would never dream of portraying Muslim leaders in such vile caricatures, or denigrating Arabs or Islam. 

Questioning Israel’s wholly necessary security policy in this crude fashion would cause offence on any day of the year. But to publish such a cartoon purposely to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day – while Prisoner A26188 is touring schools and media outlets to remind us of the very face of evil – is a blood libel; a vicious assault on the memory of millions, and an offence against all morality.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Prayer Shawls of Auschwitz


Those who have visited Auschwitz are likely to find their thoughts straying back there on this day of Holocaust remembrance.

A visit both underwhelms with the very ordinariness of the buildings, yet at the same time the significance overwhelms, as Auschwitz reaffirms its special place in the pit of human history.

A visit needs to be approached like a pilgrimage, with preparation, otherwise there will be a numbing of the experience, a confusion of conflicting emotions which may encompass anger, indignation, bewilderment and the deepest sadness. The reactions of others around you may mirror your own, yet they may not, and that too can be a challenge. Some seem visibly shocked, some deeply affected, some struggle, whilst others present as merely curious and that response can be a challenge as it may offends one’s own interpretation.

The Holocaust was possible because the humanity of the rejected was stripped away from them as it was, is, and always will be from the unwanted, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, wherever we are in the world.

Holocaust Memorial Day needs its universal dimension.

There, all humanity was killed in a systematic, planned way; not in anger, but simply because that is what the state said needed to be done, and someone had to do it.

It has to be universal, but it also has to be rooted in places like Auschwitz, which shows how genocide moves beyond the personal killing of Abel by Cain. Here it is shown in all its bureaucratic, banal evil. Hair is cropped and piled here, children’s shoes collected and dumped over there.

When I visited, I realised that I would need to take a Bible and that I should find a suitable quiet place to read it. I decided on Psalm 88 and Psalm 10. I invite you to read them. You will find there the anguish of those who wore the prayer shawls captured in verse after verse.
Psalm 88
O LORD God of my salvation,
have cried day and night before thee:
let my prayer come before thee:
incline thine ear unto my cry;
for my soul is full of troubles:
and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
I am counted with them that go down into the pit:
I am as a man that hath no strength:
free among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
whom thou rememberest no more:
and they are cut off from thy hand.
Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit,
in darkness, in the deeps.
Thy wrath lieth hard upon me,
and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.

Psalm 10
Why standest thou afar off, O LORD?
Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor:
let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire,
and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance,
will not seek after God:
God is not in all his thoughts.
His ways are always grievous;
thy judgments are far above out of his sight:
as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved:
for I shall never be in adversity.
These Psalms surely must have been prayed under those shawls.

Psalm 88 is particularly striking because of its steadfast refusal to find any cause for optimism. "Life is grim,” says the Psalmist. “I know it is grim, God - you know it is grim.”

'Let’s not kid each other' is the subtext.

It concludes with no verse of praise, no expectation of redemption, no hope. This is why I think Psalm 88 must have been the Psalm for Auschwitz. The evil was so evil that it takes mortal man beyond hope.

Yet surprisingly Psalm 10 begins to recover from the blow. It ends:
O LORD thou wilt hear the desire of the meek
thou wilt strengthen their heart thou wilt incline thine ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
I chose to read these psalms before I went, and I found the place to contemplate their meaning as I stood before those prayer shawls displayed as if on a gibbet in a cabinet. Surely these psalms expressed the prayers of those who suffered and prayed under them.

Many who are separated from the scriptures by the modern world may be shocked by their candour, directness, and anger. God is no stranger to the outrage of those who suffer. Two things are striking: Psalm 88 is in the same spirit as those who urged Job to ‘Curse God and die’. Psalm 10, which retains hope, pre-figures the ‘Song of Mary’ – The Magnificat.

Contrast:
Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined
For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire
with
He has scattered the Proud
in the imagination of their hearts.
And so God did.

So He did.

The underlying sin of Auschwitz and the genocidal killer is that of Adam himself - Pride. The proud have supplanted the judgment of God with the judgment of themselves. They take to themselves the right to judge and the power of life and death itself, and when Man does that, it leads to places like Auschwitz.

It does not last. If the world hates His people, it hated Him first and God is not mocked for long.

Auschwitz also teaches that early in its story the Atheist Nazi State consigned to the camp the leaders of Polish Church lest it speak its truths, hold its peoples to hope, and challenge the inhumanity of what was to come, and the pride that underpinned it.

As God sent His son, so it sent His Church.

Amongst those was Maximillian Kolbe, ‘The Saint of Auschwitz, who lit a feint light in the darkness by laying down his life in place of another man. His story is worth reading today: it is one of sacrifice and the triumph of faith and hope.

Yet there is another lesson and paradox to be found at Auschwitz today. It is full of living Jews. Young Jews, confident Jews, handsome young men and beautiful young girls, tanned and healthy carrying their flag. They, too, are on pilgrimage and have prepared themselves for it.

They represent the refusal to allow the triumph of those who hated them then and who hate them today. Their presence demonstrates the power of hope in all places of despair, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

God will not have it any other way. As the Jewish singer-poet Leonard Cohen has written: 'There is a crack in everything - that’s how the light gets in.'

It is true about our fractured humanity, our brittle pride, and our broken hearts.

Before the Prayer Shawls of Auschwitz, it is possible to doubt and to cry out, “How can this happen? How can this be redeemed?”

With His living Church and His Chosen People, the answer comes back on this and every other day: 'Because with God - all things are possible'.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It is time to be kinder to hypocrites


Another post from Brother Ivo (who has joined His Grace's cyber-ministry team):

I once sat on the Media Committee of a nationally known institution when we were presented with an impending disaster. The figurehead was about to feature in a front page exposé of a major Sunday newspaper for using the organisation's London accommodation for an extra-marital assignation.

The newspaper had approached the man concerned who had shared the problem with the Public Relations Department. They in turn reported to the Committee and advised us that matters could worsen. The story referred to one lady, but a prudent review of the CCTV revealed that she was perhaps far from enjoying exclusive claim to his wandering affections.

The Committee members could do little more than to wait, read the exposé and hope to limit the damage.

On Sunday morning, the item appeared on the front page as expected, yet half way through the story a simple statement killed the scandal dead; when door-stepped for comment, the miscreant responded with a simple statement: "I am not a moral man"

You could almost hear the collective shrug of the journalistic shoulders. There was no more to be said; the fox was shot/tranquillised. The story died in the original and all other news outlets.

Whatever may have been said of the man's conduct, he was not a hypocrite and in the modern world that is fast becoming the primary secular sin.

How often have we heard that 'all politicians/churchgoers/conservative pundits are hypocrites'?

To avoid this ever present risk of hypocrisy, teachers decline to conduct school assembly. Some young people declare themselves unable to take the Scout Oath or sing the National Anthem. Supposed hypocrisy is the target of choice for the trendy comedian. In consequence, many who live flawed, inconsistent, messy lives dare not risk taking those first faltering steps towards publicly declaring faith. Some feel uneasy entering a Church building. The widespread fear of hypocrisy has become a potent weapon of advancing secularism.

Worse, the tyranny of the accusation easily silences moral or Christian opinion and excludes it from the public space, especially amongst public figures who dare not 'Do God' lest it attract threatening attention. If you profess no standards, you take no risks. Only saints and cynics are safe, and saints are a modest minority.

It cannot be denied that the Bible is a primary source of this opprobrium.

Psalm 26 verse 4 says: 'I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.'

Each of the Gospel writers, save John, records Jesus using this term to denounce opponents, especially the Scribes and Pharisees, who would have been especially wounded by the implied likenening of them to Greek actors who customarily hid their true identities by masking their faces. Mathew uses the insult no fewer than 12 times.

The full force of the accusation primarily wounds those of a religious persuasion; the biblical context reminds us that whoever else we may attempt to deceive, there is no fooling God. It is this which is the primary focus of the sin: not simply attempting to fool other people or ourselves, but the mocking of God. Believers must be sensitive to such things but plainly this aspect is of no interest and carries no force to the atheist.

It is therefore especially paradoxical that the charge of hypocrisy is most frequently used by those disinterested in its theological dimension. When the newspaper editors are throwing around the epithet, few of them are religiously aware, fewer still concerned.

Yet there is another side to the coin.

Hypocrisy was described by La Rochefoucauld as the 'Homage vice pays to virtue'.

Samuel Johnson considered:
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that professes zeal for virtues he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions without having yet obtained the victory: as a man may be convinced of the advantages of taking a voyage or journey without having courage or industry to undertake it and may honestly recommend to others those attempts which he neglects himself.
William Wilberforce put a similar idea more crisply when he asked rhetorically who better promoted the public welfare, the honest man who pointed the way to vice or the hypocrite who urged virtue. That presents the issue neatly.

Many defenders of traditional values will be painfully aware in later life of past failures and indiscretions. Within the present 'hypocrisy narrative', they may feel personally queasy about entering a debate knowing their past inconsistencies, some of which may be either secret or barely acknowledged. Yet facing up to adult responsibilities is something all societies need, and a failure to learn from past failures is a source of weakness and, dare I say, degeneration.

On some sensitive issues - drugs use, child sexualisation, ease of abortion, a reduced age of consent, casual or serial relationships - those who have experience and have suffered in consequence are a great resource, and are particularly suited to explore the issues. Learning from our own mistakes should be a source of strength not the occasion for self censorship in the face of trendy abusers.

Unfortunately, with rare exceptions like Ann Widdecombe and Nadine Dorries MP, the public liberals have managed to bully many believers into silence and it is understandable why others have not joined the few. Perhaps it is the very chutzpah that takes those two onto reality television shows that emboldened them to take up causes which others feared to champion. God moves in mysterious ways.

If we are fearful of ridicule or hurt or unpopularity, it is good to remember that whatever our failures, Jesus has already offered his support when he challenged accusers with the words: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." He did not exclude the hypocrite from that protection.

Friday, January 25, 2013

EU Referendum: the 'Outers' can win with i-Democracy


This is not so much a guest post: it has been penned by Brother Ivo, who has joined His Grace's emerging Ministry Team. This blog has been going now for nigh-on seven years, and most of you cannot imagine (let alone appreciate) the sheer effort and thousands of ash-hours that have been poured into bringing the world a daily homily just about every morning. Brother Ivo has come to His Grace's assistance, and to bring a little more Anglican scholastic thought in a latitudinarian manner. He begins by taking up yesterday's important theme:

His Grace has posed the question 'Who is to lead the “No Campaign” in the EU Referendum?' and that remains an important question for the years ahead. Politics will still need its big beasts in the time leading up to that final vote, and for now, we can only trust that a David will be found amongst us to slay the Goliath that is the EU Establishment.

We have however moved on from the days of the Wilson Referendum, and just as David triumphed over the fully-armoured giant using skill, intelligence, fleetness of foot and quick thinking, it is worth reminding ourselves just how well the under-resourced end of the spectrum has performed in making the recently unthinkable happen.

When Britons were last offered a choice in this matter, the entire debate was focused through a limited number of media outlets. There were only three television channels; two of them run by the State. A dozen Fleet Street editors of newspapers and magazines set the agenda and few of them broke ranks against the joint view of the Two-Party Establishment.

It is a scant 18 months since the Prime Minister was declaring the need for his party to 'stop banging on about Europe', and even though the Conservative Party has become more centrally controlled, the earth under the PM’s feet has moved seismically and he could no longer maintain the fiction that people did not see the need for EU reform.

'We the people' saw and understood the issue better than he and the party spin doctors gave us credit. We joined up the dots and detected the relevance of the European monolith across a raft of policy areas from Justice and Immigration to De-regulation and crony Capitalism.

In his book The End of Politics and the birth of i-Democracy Douglas Carswell links chronic national debt to the failure of democracy, a breakdown which exists at both a national and trans-national/EU level.
“The West is in debt because Western Democracy has not been alive to the task of keeping Government small. It has failed to rein in officialdom allowing limited government to give way to Leviathan.”
Yet as he identifies the threat, he draws attention to the weapons of mass destruction in our hands, the very pebbles by which Cameron’s initial disinterest was disturbed and which render the old advantages of the Big Government obsolete.

The critique of the EU developed under the radar in countless discussions, on websites, news feeds, Facebook pages, radio phone-ins, and tweets. None of these existed in 1975. Such technological changes underpinned the Arab Spring and the effects in sophisticated economies will be no less potent.

The People’s Pledge is an organisation that has brought together people from across the political and social spectrum; people as disparate as Bob Crow, Charles Moore, Jenny Jones, and Ian Dale. There were such odd alliances last time with Peter Shore, Tony Benn and Enoch Powell all working together, but the scale of the communications revolution over the next four years is not to be underestimated.

The power of grassroots communication is much greater than it was in the Wilson years: then ordinary folk might have had a typewriter; but only a few even had access to a Roneo machine.

Now we all have mobile phones with the capacity to turn us into instant worldwide journalists via email and YouTube.

Given the pace of technological change hitherto, there is no reason to believe that that is about to slow even as the debate intensifies.

Carswell envisages a future in which more is done by the choice of the individual because the current mechanisms are simply unaffordable. He predicts that 'the digital revolution will do to the grand planners of the West what the collapse of Communism did to the Soviet planners in the Soviet bloc'.

On this blog we are aware of today but we also remember yesterday. The Duke of Wellington remarked that battles are won by the led, but victories are conceived in the minds of leaders. We should not denigrate great leadership if it should come our way, but we need not assume that the power of change will look like it did in the past. We may indeed find ourselves surprised as David himself was surprised.

His motto for success might have been that of the Alabama State American Football Team which worked on the premise that they must all take responsibility for success.

If no leader emerges quickly it will serve as a rallying cry.

To succeed, their coach used to tell them they must be 'Lean, Mean, Mobile, Agile, and Hostile'.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

EU Referendum: who will speak officially for 'Out'?


As might have been expected, the reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement of an In/Out referendum on UK membership of the EU has divided opinion - among both sceptics and philes; politicians, economists, journalists and bloggers. Some say it is a watershed moment in British political history; others that it's a ruse, a sham, a bribe simply to increase David Cameron's chances of re-election in 2015 (not to mention a complete deflection from the whole 'gay marriage' saga about to be unleashed upon Parliament).

All of this was entirely predictable: we've been lied to for 40 years, so it's really no surprise that the Father of Lies should be aroused to crush the glimmer of national salvation. But let us be clear about one thing: UK membership of the EEC was ratified by referendum of the people in 1975: it can only be undone by a further referendum. David Cameron has now promised that referendum, and only he is ever likely to be in a position to deliver on that promise.

You may not trust him because of his previous 'cast iron guarantee' on the Lisbon Treaty, but there were complex reasons for that U-turn, not least the post-ratification context of the 2010 general election. Do not forget that he pledged to take his MEPs out of the federalist EPP grouping in the European Parliament, and he delivered on that. A bit later than promised, certainly, but he delivered. Nigel Farage will not be prime minister in 2015. Neither will Nick Clegg. The choice will be between the Conservatives - who will bring draft legislation to re-negotiate with the EU, and a manifesto commitment to a referendum - and Labour, who yesterday appeared to rule out both.

You may loathe Cameron and despise the Conservatives. You may not trust or believe either, with very good reason. But if you really want to act in the national interest in order to have a hope of restoring national sovereignty and our ancient liberties, you will need to hold your nose in 2015 and vote Tory.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will campaign for the 'In' side. And that is an entirely honourable position, notwithstanding that his 'In' appears not to be contingent on the success or otherwise of his re-negotiated settlement. But let us be clear, if that settlement does not include - as a minimum - repatriated control over borders, fishing, employment, welfare and social policy, justice and human rights, then there cannot be the 'flexibility' he demands. And that will mean that David Cameron will have failed in his negotiations. And that will be more likely to incline the people to vote 'Out'.

Except that the Government, Church, Crown, BBC, Guardian, FT and the entire Establishment will be pouring their time, money and concerted effort into the 'In' campaign. They will be slick, organised and professional. The Prime Minister will campaign alongside the Leader of the Opposition (and the 'third party' LibDems), and the media will fawn at their statesmanlike feet, lapping up every word of their economic obfuscation and political lies. But at least their campaign of deception will be united, and the BBC will know whom to call when they want a spokesperson to argue passionately, intelligently an knowledgeably for the 'In' side.

But who will speak for 'Outers'? Seriously, who will answer the phone for the 'Out' campaign? UKIP? The Democracy Movement? Nigel Farage MEP? The Freedom Association? Dan Hannan MEP? Douglas Carswell MP? The European Foundation? Bill Cash MP? Dr Richard North? Open Europe? Better Off Out? The Bruges Group? The Express? The People's Pledge? Conservatives Against a Federal Europe? Global Vision? The Campaign for an Independent Britain? Peter Bone MP? Mrs Bone?

You see the problem. While the 'Inners' will be disciplined, coordinated and united in their quest, the 'Outers' consist of a ragbag of 'swivel-eyed nutters', 'right-wing xenophobes', 'eccentric little-Englanders', not to mention the 'fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists'. And (here's the important point) most of them simply can't stand the sight of each other. There's backbiting, distrust and an entire dung-heap of mutual loathing.

If the 'Outers' are to have any chance of winning in 2017, there needs to be cohesive planning and preparation for victory. But even UKIP can’t coalesce around a single political strategy, with its own (few) elected politicians resigning, defecting and demanding a change of leader. The anti-EU movement is defined by that to which it is antithetical: there is no unifying movement towards any positive vision, and that includes even the idea of a referendum. In truth, there are some very prominent individuals who are so unyielding in their infallible opinions and uncompromising in their dispositions that unity of purpose is an impossible ask: the contempt they have for others is palpable. Even the arch-Eurosceptic Bill Cash MP has been heard to criticise the arch proponent of 'Better Off Out' Douglas Carswell MP - for having 'extreme views' on the EU. And His Grace won't go into what Dr North thinks of Dan Hannan, or speculate on what Mrs Bone dreams about Nigel Farage. 

As far as the 'Outers' are concerned, we not only have the People's Front of Judaea and the Judaean People's front, but the Front and Rear of the People Faffing Around about Semantics in Samaria while the occupation and destruction of Judaea continues apace. The BBC simply won't have a clue whom to phone at which legally-constituted organisation to ensure that the contrary view is expressed fairly and impartially.

We've seen it all before, and very recently. We were told time and again before the AV referendum that there was a ‘progressive majority’ in favour of electoral reform; that the people wanted change, a different politics, a fairer system, a more democratic method of electing their representatives. After decades of wailing and wandering in the wilderness, the Liberal Democrats got their manna and quail.

But they blew the holy grail.

The pro-AV campaign was disunited, poorly articulated, badly led, painfully patronised and hopelessly disorganised. Against all that, its generous and credible funding went absolutely nowhere.

Similarly, on the matter of an EU referendum, we are told time and again that in excess of 50 per cent of the nation would vote to leave the EU tomorrow. And so those who yearn for liberation have demanded a referendum, which has now been proposed. Despite the chronic divisions in the ‘Out’ camp, the demand is still for this strategy – the success of which would be wholly contingent upon unity, charismatic leadership, creative strategy, credible patronage and very generous funding.

And Sir James Goldsmith is, very sadly, no longer with us.

Let us not forget that the 1975 referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the EEC was held at a time when previous polls had suggested a clear majority in favour of withdrawal. That poll was overturned by charismatic politicians, cross-party consensus, an unequally-funded campaign, clever marketing and the erosion of reason by omnipotent pro-EEC forces. We saw it again (and again) in Denmark over the Maastricht Treaty; in France over the Constitution for Europe; and in Ireland over the Lisbon Treaty: if ‘No’ is not an option, ‘Out’ becomes be an unthinkable heresy.

His Grace despairs, and cannot for the life of him work out why those who have long demanded a referendum are not already planning, plotting, scheming, strategising and preparing for victory. Instead, as seen on this blog yesterday, there is cynicism, apathy, contempt and distrust. Where is the media onslaught of the beneficial consequences of our leaving the EU? Let us hear of falling taxes, reduced burdens on business, rising employment, increased standards of living, and a prosperous UK as part of EFTA, the Commonwealth and the free-trade world. Instead of deploying the language of defeat, let us hear talk of ‘Freedom’, 'Democracy', ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Britain in the World’.

Yet getting even that unified message out of anti-EU organisations is like herding cats. The Europhile Establishment is vastly more experienced and far more advanced in strategic thinking. The 'Outers' need to meet immediately, bury their differences, swallow their pride and dispense with their egos. God forbid that a self-appointed elite might already have conspired in secret to determine the future course, and presumed to decide among themselves who will speak officially on behalf of all 'Outers'. Such unilateralism can only serve to entrench obstinate positions and perpetuate the chronic divisions. If the Church of England has to step in to chair a summit of peace, reconciliation and cooperation, His Grace is ready and willing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cameron nails his 95 Theses to the door of Europe


David Cameron's speech on Britain's future in the EU is a game-changer: vote Conservative in 2015 and you will get an In/Out referendum within two years. This is contingent on nothing but his premiership: whether he wins the election outright or leads another coalition, the Prime Minister will attempt to re-negotiate a path of subsidiarity with our EU partners, in which he may or may not be successful. But whatever the outcome, he will be put it to the people, and the choice will be In or Out.

This is seismic. Really, truly momentous. For the first time since 1962, the British leader of a major political party talked in terms of the geography that has shaped our national psyche; of our island history being antithetical to the continental drive for 'ever closer union'. It was exactly 50 years ago that Hugh Gaitskell talked of discarding 1000 years of history, when he warned: ‘You may say, “All right, Let it end!” But, my goodness, it’s a decision which needs a little care and thought.’

And David Cameron has clearly been applying some thought:
From Caesar’s legions to the Napoleonic Wars. From the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution to the defeat of Nazism. We have helped to write European history, and Europe has helped write ours.
But England and the UK has always faced out to the high seas, not gazed longingly at European empires. The Prime Minister is 'not a British isolationist' because Britain never has been isolationist. But he is concerned with the 'lack of democratic accountability and consent' in the EU, which, he says, is 'felt particularly acutely in Britain'. And taking up his Reformation theme:
The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy. In its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point.
Casting himself as Luther, Calvin or His Grace, he called for 'fundamental, far-reaching change' to the Europe steeped in Roman Catholic Social Teaching. He demanded more competitiveness - a healthy dose of the Protestant work ethic supported by the Anglo-Saxon drive for free trade. This is his 'driving mission' - to prioritise 'the tasks that get European officials up in the morning – and keep them working late into the night'. The alternative is 'sclerotic, ineffective decision making that is holding us back'.

Then he talks of flexibility; a kind of evangelical alliance 'that can accommodate the diversity of its members'. There must be, he said, 'a common set of rules and a way of enforcing them'. But he insisted that 'we also need to be able to respond quickly to the latest developments and trends'.

Eschewing rigid catholicity, he expounded: 'We must not be weighed down by an insistence on a one size fits all approach which implies that all countries want the same level of integration. The fact is that they don’t and we shouldn’t assert that they do.'

And striking at the heart of temporal power, he made a momentous 'heretical proposition':
The European Treaty commits the Member States to “lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

This has been consistently interpreted as applying not to the peoples but rather to the states and institutions compounded by a European Court of Justice that has consistently supported greater centralisation.

We understand and respect the right of others to maintain their commitment to this goal. But for Britain – and perhaps for others – it is not the objective.

And we would be much more comfortable if the Treaty specifically said so freeing those who want to go further, faster, to do so, without being held back by the others.
Welcome to the new EEC - the Eurosceptic Eurovision of Cameron. It has vision, but no mechanism for ensuring it. Power must flow back to Member States, but not an inch of subsidiarity has ever been achieved by any British prime minister. He is about to implement a complete audit of EU competences (which is, in itself, a seismic development). This will reveal 'where the EU helps and where it hampers'.

An in this great new Reformation, 'nothing should be off the table'. There must be 'a bigger and more significant role for national parliaments' because 'there is not...a single European demos'.

At last, the truth has been articulated. We are not European citizens, but diverse peoples across many nations, with different histories, traditions and values.
It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.
Power should flow up from the people. He is right to point out that 'people feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to'; that they 'resent the interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation'; and that they 'wonder what the point of it all is'.

He is even more right to observe that many 'feel that the EU is now heading for a level of political integration that is far outside Britain’s comfort zone'.

And he admits the reality of 'referendums promised – but not delivered'.

And so, for the first time since 1975, we are to have a referendum. He will campaign for an 'In', based on the success of his renegotiations. But the inference is clear: if he is not successful, he can conceive of a UK exit from the EU. And there is a simple reason for a post-election referendum:
The European Union that emerges from the Eurozone crisis is going to be a very different body. It will be transformed perhaps beyond recognition by the measures needed to save the Eurozone. We need to allow some time for that to happen – and help to shape the future of the European Union, so that when the choice comes it will be a real one.
Of course the referendum is contingent on a Tory victory. But he was adamant that should another coalition be the result, as long as he remains Prime Minister 'this will happen'.

So, there you have it: a real choice; deep blue water. 'The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament.' After that, there will be an In/Out referendum. And the Prime Minister made it clear: 'Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so.' David Cameron has given eurosceptics (and democratic europhiles) every reason to vote Conservative in the General Election of 2015.

Unfortunately, he has given absolutely no reason not to vote UKIP in the Euro elections next year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Act of Settlement and constitutional terrorism


Today, an amendment to the Act of Settlement is being rushed through the House of Commons by means usually reserved for emergency terrorism legislation. The imminent royal baby appears to represent a threat to the Coalition's equality agenda every bit as serious as that posed by al-Qaeda to the safety and security of the free world. There will be minimal debate and negligible scrutiny; a Commons guillotine and wave at a committee.

It is, in fact, a constitutional stitch-up between Cameron and Clegg; No10 and Buckingham Palace; the Government and the Crown, with the connivance of the Heads of Commonwealth.

His Grace has written on this matter so many times that it feel like Groundhog Day (eg here, here and here).

It is not simply a matter of ending male primogeniture or permitting the Monarch to marry a Roman Catholic: the constitutional ripples will be felt for decades to come. Indeed, today's apparently trivial 'modernising' amendments could lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England, the end of the Union, and even the demise of the Monarchy itself.

What Cameron and Clegg fail to realise (if, indeed they understand anything of the Constitution at all), is that those who campaign to end the ban on a Roman Catholic monarchy by focusing on the Act of Settlement are on a wild goose chase. That Act was passed by the old English parliament, which ceased to exist in 1707. The Act was also arguably incompetent, since the English parliament could not unilaterally decide on the British Regal Union of 1603-1707. The Scottish parliament recognised this fact, and deliberately countered the Act of Settlement with a Scottish settlement Act - the Act of Security of 1704.

The Act of Settlement 1701 was superseded by the Treaty of Union 1707, which, in Article 2, also prohibits Roman Catholics 'and persons marrying Papists' from ascending the Throne of the United Kingdom. The Treaty of Union 1707 is the founding charter of the United Kingdom. Tamper with this, and the Union itself is imperilled.

It has been observed that Scottish unionist politicians do not want this truth out. They fear making Scots aware that the United Kingdom is the creature of a treaty between two equal parliaments: a living, legal document, capable of amendment and adjustment to contemporary needs.

These are the unspoken ‘constitutional ripples’ so feared by Donald Dewar. This is why successive prime ministers of the United Kingdom and unionist Scottish secretaries of state had no intention of ending the ban on the Monarch either being a Roman Catholic or married to one, and why they were quite happy to let historically-ignorant and politically-ill-informed people continue harping on about the Act of Settlement 1701.

Until Cameron and Clegg came to power..

"Why," muses Alex Salmond, "should we bother amending the Act of Union this year when the whole thing might be abolished in the next? Indeed, while we're looking at this trivial equality amendment, let's remind ourselves that the Scottish Parliament is not subject to Westminster: it is equal.."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama, Lincoln, Martin Luther King and the Liberal false narrative


This is a guest post by Martin Sewell:

Yesterday, His Grace wrote about the inappropriate adulation for President Obama exhibited by those once twin pillars of the British Establishment, the BBC and the Church of England.

Both in secular and religious British terms, it is indeed intellectually offensive to see such over enthusiastic embracing of a foreign leader of modest achievement - re-election and a Peace prize bestowed for no greater merit than that of not being his predecessor.

His Grace identified the liberal narrative as morphing this President with Abraham Lincoln, and the coinciding release of Stephen Spielberg’s film will no doubt be spawning many more such comparisons as President Obama takes his second Oath of Office.

Mr Spielberg’s political sympathies are well known and it is no accident that his film presents a liberal view of history intended to shape and inform the historical narrative for many on both sides of the Atlantic. It is happening to Lincoln as it has happened to Martin Luther King, so that few will actually know the inconvenient truth, not least that both assassinated heroes were Republicans.

The television trailers for Spielberg’s film presents a montage of high flown passionate anti-slavery rhetoric, with scant regard for the history. This is what Spielberg thinks Lincoln should have been like, though the record is significantly more nuanced.

Nobody can seriously read of the man and consider his words without appreciating that Lincoln was a sincere and life-long Abolitionist. He perhaps put it best in homespun wisdom rather than public oratory. "Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

His first and primary loyalty was however to the Republican form of Government and the Constitution adopted only 23 years before his birth.

Few of those seeing Spielberg’s film will have the historical knowledge and perspective to appreciate how novel and fragile the idea of democracy was in the middle of the 19th Century. The French Revolution had collapsed back into Empire and the only other democratic republic was Switzerland. The idea of fracturing and weakening the noble American experiment in democracy was anathema to Lincoln. It is perhaps sensible to regard him as an idealistic pragmatist.

In 1860, writing to the future Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephen, Lincoln assured him: "Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears."

This same pragmatism ensured that the Emancipation Proclamation, when issued, was only directed to slaves living in the Confederate States, and the announcement itself was delayed until after the battle of Antietam had ended the occupation of border State Maryland and returned its Unionist owned slaves to the control of the North where they remained enslaved for the rest of the War.

Lest there be any doubt, consider:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forebear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."

In the Gettysburg Address there is not a single direct reference to slavery or the Abolitionist cause, though his devotion to the cause of the Republic and its Constitution is embodied in its closing hope that “..this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Martin Luther King would have happily concurred, not least with that important “under God” proviso which plainly offends many secular activists in the modern Democratic Camp.

MLK was brought up in a middle class educated Christian household; his Pastor father was a lifelong Republican and his son followed and was so registered throughout his life.

They both knew that every advance for the African American in both Civil Rights and Education had been built on Republican initiatives in the teeth of Democrat opposition. They would have appreciated that the earliest gun control measures had been enacted in the South to prevent the poor black man from exercising his Constitutional right to bear arms and be disabled from fighting back against the Democratic dominated Ku Klux Klan.

MLK possessed guns for his family’s protection and applied for a concealed carry permit.

You do not hear much about this from the Hollywood crowd.

The advice to his son from “Daddy King” - in many ways an even better man than his more celebrated son - was to secure for himself “an education, a job, and a mortgage”. That is a severely discordant to the current idealisation of the entitlement society.

He did not seek to fundamentally change the principles of the Constitution but rather to secure justice for all by making the USA live up to its plainly declared principles.

Nowhere did that ideal show itself better than in his “I have a dream” speech where he envisioned a society in which a person would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That phrase bears some consideration.

It is plain that Martin Luther King saw himself first as a Christian, second as US citizen and only then as African American. He could express the latter thanks to the empowerments of the former.

Both of those pre-conditions are under threat from the current President, his supporters and his judicial nominees.

MLK would have appreciated the view of the Founding Father John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

President Obama appears to regard American Society and its Constitution as deficient; he might usefully consider with his Hollywood friends whether it is not the Constitution that needs changing but rather the undermining of that moral and religious character.

If he wishes to make the Constitution of Lincoln and MLK function as designed, he could do no better than build up that moral character by following the wisdom of another African American who shares much of President Obama’s academic history.

I speak of the eminent Conservative Academic Thomas Sowell, who is heir to the Lincoln/MLK tradition which believes that there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be solved by what is right with America.

I am sure that MLK would have understood Sowell’s perspective that “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.

I cannot see Lincoln disagreeing with: “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.

Or: “One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”

Both would surely have assented to the proposition that “Intellect is not wisdom.”

I cannot see any founding father dissenting from the idea that: “Since this is an era when many people are concerned about 'fairness' and 'social justice,' what is your 'fair share' of what someone else has worked for?

The inauguration will be a time for rhetoric and hope. My hope is that the President changes and instead of following the dreams of his father he follows the dream of the Founding Fathers.

Martin Sewell can be followeed on Twitter: @martindsewell

Sunday, January 20, 2013

BBC and CofE unite in worship of President Obama


His Grace is all for praying for those in authority - in whatever country, under whatever form of government, of whatever faith. But the Church of England in conjunction with the BBC have gone a little far with the Obamafest broadcast this morning on Radio 4.

Divine Worship came from St Martin-in-the-Fields, and the theme was 'Learning to Dream Again', in celebration of President Obama's second inauguration. Did they ever do this for President Bush? Margaret Thatcher? Or even David Cameron? Is it only Socialist-Democrats who are deemed worthy of a national BBC broadcast in the context of prayer and divine worship? Was there a 'Songs of Praise' comparing the 'troubled times' of the Coalition with those faced by Winston Churchill? Will there be one thanking God for the life of Margaret Thatcher?

The answer, of course, is foregone. Yet the BBC and the CofE unite to worship Barack Obama as Abraham Lincoln reincarnate. The service explored 'the connections between Lincoln's 1865 speech, delivered during the civil war, and the situation facing the world today'. It included 'lively American music and an anthem specially written for this service'.

Would they be talking about 'the souls of the righteous' or 'America’s special vocation', or singing that 'It is well with my soul' if Mitt Romney had won? Would thay have commissioned a special anthem (at what cost and met by whom?) if we now had a Republican back in the White House? Is 'Learning to Dream Again' a purposeful allusion to Martin Luther King? What, in the Name of God, is Obama's dream? And as for ending with 'Come thou fount of every blessing' - was this an appeal to the Lord, or to Obama as Messiah, come to free the captives, heal the sick and proclaim the day of salvation?

The address was given by the Revd Prof Mark McIntosh, Van Mildert Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, who previously served as a chaplain to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, and as canon theologian to the 25th Presiding Bishop and Primate. It was led by the Rev'd Dr Samuel Wells (Vicar). His Grace reproduces the entire Order of Service below, for it goes slightly beyond praying for those in authority: indeed, it is verging on idolatry and blasphemy (score - Obama: 8; Jesus 8):

St Martin-in-the-Fields
Sunday Worship
19th January, 2013
St Martin-in-the-Fields


Please note:

This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

Radio 4 Opening Announcement:
BBC Radio 4. And time now for Sunday Worship which today comes from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. The design for the building was so influential in eighteenth-century America that several hundred churches in the New World were modelled on it and today countless Americans make their way to it as home from home. In honour of these links with the United States, today’s service reflects on the second inauguration of President Barak Obama. The vicar of St Martin’s, the Reverend Dr Sam Wells, leads the service which begins with the hymn, Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace

Sam Wells - Introduction/Prayer
Good morning and welcome to St Martin-in-the-Fields. Today and tomorrow, in Washington DC, Barack Obama will take the oath of office for his second term as President of the United States, rather poignantly on Martin Luther King Day itself. President Obama carries the expectations and good will of so many people across the world, but also the burden of discouraged hopes and broken hearts, from the impasse on Capitol Hill to the massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

148 years ago Abraham Lincoln took the oath for his second term as American President. The Civil War between the northern and southern states was nearly over, but already by that day in 1865, a million people had died in the conflict. Lincoln knew it would take amazing grace to release America not just from the slavery of bonded labour, but also from the slavery of profound social divisions and bitterness. Today we look back at the chaos that Lincoln faced and the grace that he sought, and in his words and his vision find wisdom and strength for the challenges facing America and our world. We’ve all heard of the American Dream – that everyone, regardless of background, can make their life better or richer or fuller. The challenge for President Obama and for us, as it was for Lincoln, is to learn to dream again.

Let us pray.
God of each new dawn, you have anointed prophets and priests and leaders of your people. Look with mercy on the suffering of your children in economic distress, in the aftermath of violence, and in the dearth of hope. Raise us up this morning as a people who look to your new day, that we may each find our vocation in your kingdom – and, in your service, perfect freedom. Amen.

The St Martin-in-the-Fields High School Gospel Choir express the hope of this new day in the spiritual, ‘My Lord, what a morning.’

My Lord what a morning/Burleigh/3 verses - High School Choir

Sam Wells
Dan Kaszeta worked for 12 years in the White House. Here he reads from the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 3.

Dan Kaszeta - Reading
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.

Sam Wells
The Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields sing verses from Psalm 19.

Choir - Psalm 19:7-13 (sung)

Katherine Hedderly - Matthew 18:2-7
A reading from Matthew chapter 18. Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!’

Sam Wells
The people who founded the United States had in many cases fled from oppression elsewhere. They saw the new nation as having a unique destiny in the world. That vision of freedom wasn’t always consistent, as slaves and Native Americans knew all too well. This hymn balances the sense of America’s special vocation with a recognition of God’s call to all the people of the earth.

This is my song/Finlandia/Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness/3 verses

Sam Wells - Introduction to Lincoln
The release of Stephen Spielberg’s film has brought the figure of Abraham Lincoln back to the centre of international consciousness. With the Civil War all but won, Lincoln reflected in his second inaugural address on the mystery of divine providence. He wondered why God had let the war come, and had let it rage so terribly; and how both sides could pray to the same God. And yet he had no doubt about the evils of the slavery that had precipitated the war. Roger Shaljean now reads from this remarkably short address, recently described as ‘one of the most overwhelming pieces of political prose ever crafted in any language.’ Here Lincoln speaks, as he himself puts it, ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all.’

Roger Shaljean - Excerpt from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural
Both [sides in the war] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. … The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

High School Choir - Precious Lord, take my hand

Sam Wells
Our preacher is Mark McIntosh, Van Mildert Professor of Divinity at Durham University and canon of Durham Cathedral.

Mark McIntosh Sermon
At the heart of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address, often thought of as a kind of American testament, is the passage from Matthew’s Gospel we’ve just heard read. There Jesus counsels his agonizing and contentious disciples. He holds before them, and before us all, the image of children, these little ones, whose hopefulness and vulnerability we can hardly bear to look upon sometimes (shaming us by their trust in us as they do) – these little ones, who are, says Jesus, most especially at home in the Kingdom of God. With tenderness and a strong grieving love, Jesus adds, yes, offences and terrible things may come in this world. But woe to those who bring them about, woe to those who cause even one of these little ones to stumble, to lose their way, lose faith, lose hope. ‘Woe unto the world because of offences!’ echoes Lincoln. And the greatest offence would be if, because of the evils that have come, goodness should lose heart, or that the very aspiration for goodness and compassion should come to seem in vain.

What can cause us to stumble most deeply is unclarity about our own faith, about the true foundations of our belief in God. Sometimes our faith and hope are shaken either because God seems apparently unwilling to answer our prayers or those of others. Sometimes because we are scandalized by the dreadful thought that we and others may be praying to the same God for diametrically opposed things. As Lincoln noted with sorrow about his fellow citizens in the North and the South: ‘Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. . . . The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.’

In the mouth of anyone but Lincoln ‘the Almighty has his own purposes’ could seem like an atrocious dodge. But if anything might be bequeathed to his grateful nation down the years, and indeed to President Obama on his inauguration day, it is surely Lincoln’s indomitable hope. Lincoln’s hope was that beyond the brittle certainties of this group or that, and beyond the appalling evidence of our capacity for inhumanity, there shines a great goodness – a goodness mysteriously working out its purposes in this world. Our faith in God’s goodness cannot be shaken when our own idols of certitude are wrenched from us. Nor need we lose faith even when God’s purposes seem too large for us to hold within the current reach of our desire.

We can see that this was indeed Lincoln’s meaning from words he wrote three years before his Second Inaugural, in a letter to the American Quaker Eliza Gurney: ‘The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail,’ wrote the President, ‘though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile, we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.’

Jesus drew the eyes of his disciples to the children in their midst. Here was a faith that, though vulnerable in its trust, was yet dauntless and endlessly renewing in its great openness. Precisely because children trust in a goodness far greater than the measure of our own minds, these little ones leave themselves open to the greater good that God always intends. They show us how to make ourselves the more available to work with countless others – though we may disagree with them about much – for sake of a goodness that far exceeds the more limited views of us all.

So we may wish to ask that some share in this trusting openness to God’s goodness might be granted to President Obama and to all people. This is, of course, a risky sort of prayer, a dangerous thing to ask for, and we might well not recognize the answer God gives to each of us. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked that he might be spared the cup of his suffering and death. It seemed to him, as so often to most of us, that his prayer was left terribly unanswered. But the Father’s answer to his beloved child, to this little one whose trust and hope he would never allow to stumble, was not a longer life-span but the resurrection of Easter Day. Not less than Jesus asked for, but infinitely more. And that is often, it seems, how God does answer prayer: not by giving us the smaller thing we can see far enough to want at any given time in our own lives or in the history of the world, but by leading us onwards into that greater goodness which is the true source of all our desires, that goodness which is simply God. And Christ himself is the sure foundation that no child, nowhere on God’s good earth, need ever hold this hope in vain.

May we all be given grace so to live that no deeds of ours may ever cause one of God’s children to lose this hope. By grace may we each in some small way be a sign and pledge of that greater goodness which is the hope of all the human family.

Sam Wells
In 1873 Chicago lawyer Horatio Spafford sent his wife and four daughters to England for a holiday and went New York to wave them off. Nine days later he received a telegram from his wife with the unimaginably horrifying words, ‘Saved alone.’ He got the next boat to England, and when the ship passed the point of the tragedy that had claimed his four daughters and 222 others, he went to his cabin and wrote this extraordinary hymn.

It is well with my soul/Spafford/Clausen

Sam Wells - Prayers

Let us pray.
God of incarnation, when we struggle with ourselves, with one another, and with you, you come to meet us in your Son. Be close today to all who feel like they are drowning amid the storms of life. Show your face to those who feel they can strive no further. And restore them in your glory.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer.

God of the cross, look with mercy on the American people today. Bless President Obama, the Congress, and all who seek justice, prosperity, understanding and freedom for all in the land. Encourage those who have no taste of the wealth of the nation, any who live in prison or in ghetto or in daily fear, and all who have more to give than society wants to receive. Turn their sadness into joy. Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer.

God of resurrection, you give us not less than we ask, but more. Take our failures and turn them into wisdom; take our regrets and turn them into insight; take our hurts and turn them into compassion. Inaugurate in us a pledge of allegiance to your kingdom, your gospel, and your grace, that we may look back on this day, and name it as the day we learnt to dream again. Amen.

In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we ask God’s forgiveness, seek God’s kingdom, and look for the day when we shall gather together around God’s table in glory, in the words Jesus taught us.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sam Wells
The anthem has been specially written for this service, to coincide with President Obama’s second inauguration. It’s called ‘Learning to Dream Again.’

Learning to Dream Again/Simple Gifts/Appalachian Spring/Copland/Wells

Sam Wells - Blessing
God the Holy Trinity give you a faith of innocence and trust, yet dauntless and endlessly renewing openness. And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you now and always. Amen.

Come thou fount of every blessing/Nettleton/Robertson

Organ Voluntary

Radio 4 Closing Announcement:
Sunday Worship came live from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. The service was led by the vicar, the Reverend Dr Sam Wells and the preacher was the Reverend Prof Mark McIntosh, Van Mildert Professor of Divinity from Durham University. The choir of St Martin’s High School was directed by Clinton Jordan. Andrew Earis directed the church choir and the organist was Nicholas Wearne. The producer was Clair Jaquiss.

Next week, Sunday Worship comes from the Metropolitan Cathedral of St David in Cardiff. That’s at the usual time of 10 past 8, here on BBC Radio 4. [Sunday Worship during Lent takes the theme ‘This is our story’, linking stories of faith from the bible with life today. Resource materials from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland for groups or individuals can be found on the Sunday Worship web page.

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