Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Archbishop and persecution claims

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued an ecumenical Easter Letter to fellow church leaders: Christians need to “witness boldly and clearly”. The press release says:

In his ecumenical Easter Letter to fellow church leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury urges those living in politically secure environments to offer practical support as well as prayers for suffering Christians around the world, particularly in Zimbabwe, Mosul, Egypt and Nigeria.

“We need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy to become consumed with anxiety about the future of the Church and society. We need to need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger or fear; we need to show that we believe what we say about the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his faithfulness to the world he came to redeem.”

The full text of the letter is below the fold.

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph reports this as Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes claims of ‘persecuted’ Christians in UK.

Riazat Butt in The Guardian has Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes clergy over ‘persecuted’ Christians.

Ekklesia has Archbishop of Canterbury issues challenge over ‘persecution’ claims.

Full text of the letter:

When St John tells us that the disciples met behind locked doors on the first Easter Day (John 20.19), he reminds us that being associated with Jesus Christ has never been easy or safe. Today this is evident in a wide variety of situations – whether in the terrible communal violence afflicting parts of Nigeria, in the butchery and intimidation of Christians in Mosul in recent weeks, in the attacks on the Coptic faithful in Egypt, or in the continuing harassment of Anglican congregations in Zimbabwe. As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, we acknowledge that Christians will never be safe in a world of injustice and mindless fear, because Christians will always stand, as did Archbishop Romero, for the hope of a different world, in which the powerful have to let go of privilege and rediscover themselves as servants, and the poor are lifted up into joy and liberty.

This hope is rooted in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. His rising from the dead shows the world that death does not have the last word – whether the death of love, the death of security, even physical death itself. On the first day of the week, the first day of the new creation, God walks once again in the garden and begins to re-shape the whole world of our experience and our possibilities; the Second Adam wakes under the tree of the cross and promises fresh life, freedom and forgiveness, to the entire human world.

Wherever fear prevails, this promise will be seen as dangerous. But people still have the courage to identify themselves as Christians because they know that the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is beyond all human power and violence, that ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ is given to him (Matthew 28.18). The Christian may suffer and die witnessing to this truth, but death itself cannot extinguish the abiding power of Christ to transform and renew; the martyr knows this and fixes his or her eyes on that joyful vision.

We who live in more comfortable environments need to bear two things in mind. One is that fellow-Christians under pressure, living daily with threats and murders, need our prayers and tangible support – by personal contact, by continually reminding our governments and media of these things. To a Christian experiencing these threats, it matters more than most of us could imagine simply to know that they are not alone and not forgotten. But the second point to remember is that we need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy, even in comfortable and relatively peaceful societies, for us to become consumed with anxiety about the future of Church and society. We need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger and fear; we need to show that we believe what we say about the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his faithfulness to the world he came to redeem.

The world will not be saved by fear, but by hope and joy. The miracle of the joy shown by martyrs and confessors of the faith is one of the most compelling testimonies to the gospel of Jesus. In whatever way we can, we must seek to communicate this joy, however dark or uncertain the sky seems. All authority belongs to Jesus, and into his wounded hands is placed the future of all things in heaven and earth. To him be glory for ever.

Rowan Cantuar: +

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 at 9:49pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | News | Opinion

"Dr Rowan Williams called on those who live in 'comfortable environments' to keep their fears 'in perspective' and not become obsessed by the 'future of Church and society'. He reminded them that Christians in countries such as Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt and Zimbabwe are facing 'butchery and intimidation', and are in desperate need of support."
- Martin Beckford, Telegraph article -

Thank God people like Martin Beckford and Riazat Butt are publicly chastising the former Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow bishops (some of them ex-bishops) of the Church of England who had the gall and temerity to accuse the British government of the 'intimidation of Christians' in the U.K.

Thankfully, they give the credit to the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, for their inspiration in this instance. This should show Anglicans around the world that Archbishop Rowan is not afraid to challenge his predecessor, and others of the elite re-asserters of the Church of England, that they are talking a lot of rot. Perhaps these signatories to the complaint need to divest themselves of some of their comforts.

The ABC had need to quell the rhetoric of Lord Carey and the other conservative lordly bishops, who were taking an opportunity to assert their illiberal opinions about what the British government is actively doing in the social sphere to allay the effects of their homophobia.

Perhaps now the Church of England will be able to
fulfil it's true reformation character by moving forward in Faith Hope and Love towards the ethic of freedom in Christ that we will be celebrating in our Churches of the Communion this Eastertide.

The fear-mongers of the Church need to repent of their craven cowardice, and move into resurrection mode - ready to acknowledge the freedom of Christ - not to persecute, but to help in the task of redemption in the Gospel. "By their fruits, ye shall know them" : "They will know you're my disciples by your love." : "Perfect Love casts out fear!" - the words of Jesus to his disciples.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 at 10:43pm BST

I wonder if the ABC has the same concern for those who are persecuted by those who call themselves Christians in places like Nigeria.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 1 April 2010 at 12:05am BST

It's time to pack up Carey and his buddies and send them to Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Sudan, or any number of other such countries and let them see what religious persecution is all about.

It is obscene for some of the most privileged people on earth to claim persecution when millions of devout, faithful people are enduring the real thing.

Posted by: JPM on Thursday, 1 April 2010 at 3:32pm BST

In 1838, one of the Tolpuddle Martyrs wrote:

As far back, sir, as recollection can carry me I have heard it exclaimed that “the church is in danger!” and from that period to the present time, bishops … clergyman … and high church pamphleteers, have continually reiterated the cry “The church is in danger!” I wonder not, sir, at the low repute in which the church is held. What intelligent person commencing his religious inquiries, would think of joining a church that, according to the testimony of its own bishops and clergy, is in perpetual danger? What sensible person who finds himself by birth and education a churchman would not, for the sake of his peace of mind, come out from a church which is always in danger? Is it not a marvellous thing that a church supported by all the power of the state, and all the wealth of a mighty nation, should always be in danger? What avails the immense revenues, the mitred thrones and Episcopal palaces, the bench of bishops in the House of Lords, the acts of Parliament, and all the buttresses and bulwarks, if, nevertheless, “the church is in danger”?

The Church may not be as rich as it was, and individual christians may feel they are being treated unfairly, but on the whole not much as changed in the past 172 years.

Posted by: Terence Dear on Thursday, 1 April 2010 at 4:27pm BST

Those who routinely take potshots at the Archbishop of Canterbury, even if he says something positive and welcoming such as this, should examine whether they are adding to the fuel of the fire of that persecution.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Friday, 2 April 2010 at 12:57am BST
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