Thinking Anglicans

Joanne Grenfell to be next Bishop of Stepney

10 Downing Street has announced that Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown in the Diocese of Portsmouth, is to be the next Bishop of Stepney in the diocese of London

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Dr Joanne Woolway Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown, in the Diocese of Portsmouth to the Suffragan See of Stepney, in the Diocese of London in succession to the Right Reverend Adrian Newman, BSc, MPhil who resigned on 31st December 2018.

Background

The Venerable Dr Joanne Woolway Grenfell was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, where she was also Lecturer in English. She trained for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. She served her title at Kirkby Team Ministry in the diocese of Liverpool, and was ordained Priest in 2001. In 2003, Joanne was appointed Priest-in-Charge of Manor Parish in the diocese of Sheffield with responsibility for Ripon College Cuddesdon’s urban theology placement programme. In 2006, Joanne became Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Residentiary Canon, and in 2008 she took on the additional role of Dean of Women’s Ministry. Joanne became Archdeacon of Portsdown in 2013.

The diocese of London website carries this story here.

10 Comments

Dagmar Winter to be next Bishop of Huntingdon

10 Downing Street has announced that Canon Dagmar Winter is to be the next Bishop of Huntingdon in the diocese of Ely.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Dagmar Winter, DrTheol, Rector and Lecturer of St Andrew, Hexham, in the Diocese of Newcastle to the Suffragan See of Huntingdon, in the Diocese of Ely, in succession to the Right Reverend David Thomson who resigned on 31st October 2018.

Background

Dagmar was educated at the universities of Aberdeen and Heidelberg and she trained for ministry at Herborn Theological Seminary. She served her title at St Mark, Bromley in the Diocese of Rochester and was ordained Priest in 1997. In 1999, Dagmar was appointed Associate Vicar of St Andrew, Hexham, and Deanery Training Officer, and in 2006 she became Priest-in-Charge of St Bartholomew, Kirkwhelpington with Kirkharle, Kirkheaton, and Cambo, and also held the role of Diocesan Officer for Rural Affairs during this time. She was made an Honorary Canon of Newcastle Cathedral in 2011. Additionally, she has been a member of General Synod since 2005, served as Area Dean of Morpeth between 2011-2013, and has been the Bishop’s Advisor for Women in Ministry since 2012. In 2015, Dagmar took up her current post of Rector and Lecturer of St Andrew, Hexham (Hexham Abbey).

The diocese of Ely website carries this story here.

7 Comments

Death of John Habgood, former Archbishop of York

The death has been announced of John Habgood, who served as Archbishop of York between 1983 and 1995, and before that as Bishop of Durham for 10 years. He was 91, and died on Wednesday, 6 March.

There is a statement from Archbishop John Sentamu here:

The sad news of the death yesterday of former Archbishop of York, John Stapylton Habgood, comes as northern bishops gather for a Diocesan mission in Liverpool. As a hugely distinguished scientist, theologian and philosopher, Archbishop Habgood’s faith in Christ gave him a particular perspective and a persuasive witness both to church and nation for his time. His many books simplified big and complex questions, revealing an incredibly perceptive intellect. I’m very glad to have confirmed his grandchildren and dedicated a room in his honour at Bishopthorpe Palace.

His towering presence, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, was a gift to all who knew him. My prayers are with his family at this time. May he Rest in Peace, and rise in glory.

Further coverage at the Church Times and the BBC.

48 Comments

New Bishop of Truro announced

The appointment has been announced of Canon Philip Mounstephen as the 16th Bishop of Truro.

Downing Street reports:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Philip Ian Mounstephen, MA, Executive Leader of the Church Mission Society, for election as Bishop of Truro in succession to the Right Reverend Timothy Martin Thornton, MA, following his resignation on 31 August 2017.

There is more information on the Truro diocesan website:

Philip is currently the executive leader of Church Mission Society, a role he has occupied since 2012. Prior to that, Philip was chaplain of St Michael’s Church, Paris. He has also previously worked for the Church Pastoral Aid Society in a number of roles, serving as deputy general director from 2004 to 2007.

Philip, 59, was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1988 and priested the following year, serving his curacy in Gerrards Cross and Fulmer in the Diocese of Oxford. From 1992 to 1998 he was the Vicar of St James’ Church, West Streatham, in the Diocese of Southwark.

Philip has significant family roots in Cornwall with several generations of his ancestors living in Tregony from the mid-18th century, before moving to Truro.

It also quotes the bishop-designate:

Philip said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been called to lead the Diocese of Truro in mission and ministry. With my family roots in Cornwall I am very well aware of what a rich Christian heritage we have. I rejoice in Cornwall’s strong sense of identity and I look forward under God into leading us in what I hope and pray will be a fruitful and exciting future.”

 

12 Comments

We have moved — welcome to our new home

Thinking Anglicans has now moved to its new home.

We hope that you’ll find all functionality and content here. If there are any transitional glitches, we’ll try and sort them out as quickly as we can. Issues can be reported by adding a comment to this article. If commenting itself is the problem then you can email editors@thinkinganglicans.org.uk.

You can take advantage of one immediate improvement, and we encourage you to do so. The site is now available over secure, encrypted, https, as well as over the old unencrypted http. Just access the site at https://thinkinganglicans.org.uk and update your bookmarks. Note the ‘s’ after ‘http’; and you should see the https padlock appear in the URL bar.

We hope to introduce other improvements in the coming weeks and months.

We continue to be hosted by our friends and colleagues at Justus.

25 Comments

We’re moving

Later this week this Thinking Anglicans site will be moving to a new home. We hope to make the move as transparent and as painless as possible, but as it involves a little bit of internet magic (updating the DNS of thinkinganglicans.org.uk) there may be a short period when you can’t reach the new site. We hope this period will be no more than a few minutes, and most readers may not notice it at all.

All posts and comments will be moved across to the new system and no data will be lost. We’ll post a further note here before moving out, and after that point no further comments on the old site will be approved, only on the new site.

This represents the biggest change we have made in the 15 years we have been publishing Thinking Anglicans. From the start we have been hosted by our friends and colleagues at Justus. The new site continues at Justus, and we are grateful for their support.

11 Comments

Towards a Safer Church: Liturgical Resources

On Friday, the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England published “safeguarding resources, for use in churches across the country, including Bible readings, prayers and suggested hymns, chosen in consultation with survivors” under the title Towards a Safer Church: Liturgical Resources.

There is a press release here, and the liturgical resources are available in PDF format here

The Chair of the Liturgical Commission, Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter, in an introduction to the resources has written:

The Church needs to be at the vanguard of fostering a change of culture across society. Safeguarding is at the forefront of public consciousness and the Church needs to embody best practice in safeguarding in our network of parishes, schools and chaplaincies as part of our commitment to excellence in pastoral care.

Many of these resources are already being used widely across our churches, but we thought it would be helpful to gather them into one place for ease of access. Collectively they are neither the first word nor the last word on this subject, but they are offered in the hope that by God’s grace the Church may become a safer place where everyone is valued.

Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport, has also written about the resources here

The resources have been compiled by the Liturgical Commission and staff, in consultation with survivors, who have themselves suggested some of the resources, with the aim providing prayers and other resources for various occasions. This includes use with survivors and others directly affected, as well as events such as the commissioning of safeguarding officers in parishes and dioceses. Most of the material had been previously published (including commended and authorized liturgical texts), but it has been brought together in one place so that it is easier to find and to use.

1 Comment

Death of David Edwards announced

Southwark Cathedral has announced the death of the former Dean of Norwich and earlier Provost of Southwark, the Very Revd David Edwards.

The Very Revd David Edwards OBE 1929-2018
Thursday, April 26, 2018

It was with sadness that we heard of the death of the Very Revd Dr David Edwards, OBE in Winchester on Wednesday 25 April 2018. David, as well as being Sub Dean at Westminster, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Dean of Norwich, had been Provost of Southwark from 1983 until 1994. He was a man of huge distinction, a great academic, chronicling, amongst other things, the history of the church. Those who worked with him speak of his kindness and generosity, a man who lived out the principles of inclusion before they were ever fashionable in the Church of England. He was partly responsible for the first development of buildings on the north side of the Cathedral, work begun by his predecessor, Harold Frankham, but brought to fruition by David. Like a former Bishop of Winchester, Lancelot Andrewes, David would be at his studies and his writing before noon, a real scholar.

As Dean of Southwark, I am in awe of my predecessors who were men of stature within the life of the Church of England. They each helped to create Southwark Cathedral as a vibrant, engaged, welcoming and inclusive community in which theology, orthodox and radical, taught and lived, was central and vital. David was premier amongst these in terms of his scholarship.

We extend our love and prayers to his children and pray that he may now receive the reward that awaits him from the God he loved and knew and served.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Andrew Nunn

Dean

3 Comments

Joe Hawes to be next Dean of St Edmundsbury

Press release from the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich

Joe Hawes, currently Vicar of All Saints’ Fulham, is to be the next Dean of St Edmundsbury, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

A priest who substantially increased the number of families and young people worshipping at the major London parish he leads has been chosen as the new Dean of St Edmundsbury.

The Revd Canon Joe Hawes, Vicar of All Saints’ Fulham, who enjoys scuba-diving in his leisure time, will start his new senior role during the summer.

Bishop Martin, said there had been a strong field of applicants with more candidates than usual for a Dean’s post.

“I am delighted that it was a unanimous decision to appoint Joe. He is an outstanding and Godly priest. He is warm, engaging, caring and fun. He brings energy and wisdom, and a huge amount of experience in parish ministry.

“He has been Vicar of All Saints’ in Fulham for 15 years, and increased the regular congregation by 25% to more than 500 each Sunday, with a particular ministry with families and young people.

“In Fulham he has developed worship to be engaging and accessible for people of different backgrounds and ages, and a church looking outwards, engaged in loving service with those in need.

“He has strong leadership and organisational skills, sees the cathedral as serving the whole county, not just Bury St Edmunds, and I look forward to working with him across the county for the greater good.”

Roger Wright, Chief Executive of Aldeburgh Music, who was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead the process of finding a new Dean, said: “It was a pleasure and privilege to chair the panel for this appointment.

“His considerable experience, and his warm and engaging personality will help the cathedral be a beacon of hope for Suffolk as it broadens its appeal to all.

“Joe will be strong and thoughtful leader in this new period of the life of the cathedral and we very much look forward to his presence in the diocese.”

Canon Joe’s parish of All Saints’ Fulham has been developing its broadcasting profile, the Christmas Day the service was live on BBC1, and Palm Sunday Morning worship will be broadcast on Radio 4 on 25 March.

Canon Joe, who will become one of the most senior Church of England figures in Suffolk, said: “I am really looking forward to getting to know the people of Suffolk and to taking my place among the Bishop’s Staff.

“I am keen to see even more people discover the beauty of the cathedral. We need to build our financial reserves so that we can further develop our excellence within music, worship, learning and care to the highest possible standards.

“We need to provide a place which is both sanctuary in an uncertain world, and also a forum for debate and reflection on the major questions which are challenging us as a society at the moment.”

Canon Joe, 52, is in a civil partnership with the Revd Chris Eyden, the vicar of All Saints’ Putney, who will remain serving in Putney for the time being.

Bishop Martin said he is looking forward to welcoming Joe, and Chris when he is able to be in the county.

Canon Joe will be installed as the Dean of St Edmundsbury in the Cathedral on Saturday 14 July.

The Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, acting Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, said: “The Cathedral Chapter are delighted at Joe’s appointment. He will bring many gifts, experience and skills from his present ministry in Fulham.

“Joe will be joining the cathedral at a time when our vision and strategy is taking shape, therefore he will be able to contribute greatly to our future plans for the cathedral, town of Bury St Edmunds and county of Suffolk.”

27 Comments

New Church of England Website

The Church of England website at www.churchofengland.org has been relaunched today with a new design and structure.

screenshot of new website in use

Adrian Harris, Head of Digital Communications at Church House, Westminster, explains the rationale here

[T]he old website received lots of traffic and interest, the confusing user experience and the 75,000+ documents and pages on the site were identified as key issues. These were resolved by content and plain English workshops for staff.

The five major changes visitors will see from today are:

  • Simple navigation, a good search engine, improved website accessibility, mobile first and a clean design! Over 250 professional new images have been shared by local churches and taken nationally that show the breadth of the Church and activities that go on.
  • A transformed Our faith section that explains Christianity in an engaging way. Built in collaboration with Church House Publishing, new videos form a key part of this project.
  • New Faith in action films that bring to life the missional work of the Church. All of the Faith in action and Our faith videos are available for local churches and dioceses to use on their own websites and social media accounts from our YouTube page.
  • A streamlined Prayer and worship section, including liturgical and prayer resources, thanks to the work of Church House Publishing. Prayer will feature at the heart of the website with the day’s Collect now far more visible.
  • A new Life events section better explaining baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals as well as vocations.

One of the consequences of the redesign is that many old links no longer work. This will apply to previous links from this site. Users are recommended to use the search functionality on the new site to find documents from old links.

21 Comments

Gavin Ashenden "consecrated as missionary bishop"

Christian Today reports that Gavin Ashenden, who left the Church of England earlier this year, has been “consecrated as a missionary bishop to the UK in the Christian Episcopal Church”.

In her report, Ruth Gledhill writes that “he will work closely with Bishop Andy Lines, also recently consecrated a missionary bishop to work with conservative evangelical churches” and that Ashenden was consecrated in Vancouver “during the course of an Episcopal Synod”.

Ashenden is quoted as saying that the Church of England had “not been very generous” in providing conservative or traditionalist bishops. And further: “I will oversee anybody who asks. I have a trail of people coming to my door asking for support, spiritual direction and advice. Obviously my oversight will be informal, it will have no legal basis at all.” He said he was approached by the Christian Episcopal Church, which regards it as a “duty” to help traditionalist Anglicans across the globe.

There is a press release here which is dated “29 September”.

39 Comments

Open Letter to Primates

The General Synod Human Sexuality Group have published the text of a letter sent from them to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion ahead of their meeting next week.

In the letter the Group (which represents 240 synod members and wants the Church of England to be fully inclusive of LGBTI people) reminds the Primates that “the direction of travel” for the church is now “clearer than ever”.

In a press release, Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of the Group said:

Synod has shown both in its non-acceptance of the House of Bishops’ Report on Same-Sex Relationships and in its desire to condemn conversion therapy and welcome transgender Christians, that it wants to be a fully inclusive church. The status quo is no longer an option — people are deeply concerned about the impact on our mission to the nation of the Church’s current stance towards LGBTI people.

Group member Jayne Ozanne said:

The medical profession, including the World Health Organisation, is clear that conversion therapy causes stigma and prejudice towards the LGBTI community. It is critically important that the Church recognises this and takes a lead to condemn it.

The full text of the letter is copied below the fold.

(more…)

14 Comments

Food Poverty in Britain

The Church Urban Fund has issued a report, introduced by its Executive Director, Canon Paul Hackwood …

… that sheds light on the extent of food poverty in the UK. It shows that 1 in 50 British adults used a food bank in 2016. It also shows that 5% of British adults missed meals last year because they could not afford to eat.

These figures offer a deeply troubling reflection of food poverty in Britain. At Church Urban Fund we are calling for a response to this from all sections of society. Government, businesses, and individuals all have a responsibility to make a difference. The responsibility for tackling this issue cannot be left with churches and charities, important though this work is.

I encourage you to take a look at the report and our recommendations for action. We are working hard to bring an end to hunger in the UK and so any contributions you can make to this work will be greatly appreciated.

The full report can be found at the CUF website here.

12 Comments

Michael Perham

The Diocese of Gloucester has this morning announced that Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester between 2004 and 2014, died on the evening of Monday 17 April.

In the announcement, Bishop Michael’s successor as Bishop of Gloucester, Bishop Rachel Treweek writes:

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Bishop Michael died peacefully at home on Monday evening, April 17, following a special Easter weekend with all the family.

I last saw Bishop Michael on Tuesday 11 April during Holy Week. Not only was it good to share together in the Eucharist on that occasion but also to preside at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday knowing that the Dean would then be taking Bishop Michael bread and wine from our service in Gloucester Cathedral with the love and prayers of the Diocese.

14 Comments

Exeter Cathedral

It has been announced that both the Dean and the Precentor of Exeter are to step down, following the critical Visitation report of the Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell. The statement on the Cathedral website says that:

the Dean, the Very Rev Jonathan Draper, has announced that he will retire at the end of August this year.

Until the end of August the Dean is on holiday, and then on sabbatical leave. Additionally:

Canon Victoria Thurtell has resigned from her post of Precentor with immediate effect, and is looking forward to a new ministry in due course.

The announcement continues:

To help the Cathedral continue its worshipping life, Bishop Martin Shaw has been appointed Acting Precentor, with immediate effect. The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, will provide pastoral oversight to the Cathedral during this time. Canon Dr Mike D Williams will Chair Chapter.

BBC News has a report here.

19 Comments

Scottish Primus to retire

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, is to retire at the end of July. He became a bishop in 2005 and has been Primus since 2009.

The official announcement can be read here on the SEC website.

With the recent retirement of the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, there will soon be two new Anglican primates in the British Isles.

15 Comments

Bishops' report – BBC radio coverage

As the General Synod started its meeting today, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had an item on the Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships, and the forthcoming ‘take note’ debate. The piece featured a discussion between Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans and Chair of LGBTI Mission, and Susie Leafe, General Synod member and Director of Reform.

The 7-minute discussion can be heard here and begins at 1:21:45 in.

11 Comments

New name for merged Changing Attitude and LGCM

Following the recent announcement that LGCM and Changing Attitude are to merge, the two bodies have consulted on a new name for the combined body, which will be known as OneBodyOneFaith.

Details on the background to the choice of name can be read here.

Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the LGCM Board writes:

We are proud to announce that from 14th February we will be known as

OneBodyOneFaith

We will also use an explicatory strapline to help people locate what we do more easily. This is:

Affirming sexuality and gender in Christ

We will also be unveiling a new logo, and you’ll see a gradul change in our identity online, on social media and in the resources we produce to support our work.

13 Comments

New Bishop of Sheffield announced

The Rt Revd Philip North, currently suffragan Bishop of Burnley, is to be the next Bishop of Sheffield. The announcement from Downing Street reads:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Philip John North, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, in the diocese of Blackburn, for election as Bishop of Sheffield in succession to the Right Reverend Steven John Lindsey Croft, MA, PhD, on his translation to the See of Oxford on 6th July 2016.

The Right Reverend Philip North (aged 50), was educated at the University of York and trained for the ministry at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his curacy at Sunderland Saint Mary and Saint Peter, in the Diocese of Durham from 1992 to 1996. Since 1997 he has been a member of the Company of Mission Priests.

From 1996 to 2002 he was Vicar of Hartlepool Holy Trinity in Durham Diocese and also served as Area Dean of Hartlepool from 2000 until 2002. From 2002 to 2008 he was Priest Administrator at the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham and from 2004 to 2007 he was also Priest-in-Charge of Hempton in the diocese of Norwich. From 2008 to 2015 he was Team Rector of the Parish of Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London. Since 2015 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Burnley.

His interests include current affairs, cycling and walking.

The diocese of Sheffield carries further details here.

Comment and welcome from the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda is here.

61 Comments

The Manifestation of Christ 

or Good news for non-believers


Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas, and tonight at evening prayer the Church begins the celebration of the Epiphany. The Christmas story in Matthew tells how the Magi, wise men, came from the east to visit the infant Jesus, and this has long been interpreted as showing the Christ-child to the wider world of non-Jews near the start of his human life, as well as a recognition by them of his birth. During the next few weeks of the Church’s year there is a continuing focus on the story of how Jesus first came to public attention and how he began to teach his message or good news.

Many of us, perhaps all of us, can look around at our lives, at our relationships, at the state of the world, and wish it were better — whether for ourselves or for others. We can all dream of living in a place where it is good to live. A place where everyone has security and shelter and enough to eat, where everyone has value and is treated fairly, where no one holds grudges against other individuals or groups. In short, a society that is not “broken” and that lives at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Jesus’s message is that this place can exist, and that we have it within ourselves to choose to live there, at least in part. Each one of us can make the choice to live in that place of reconciliation and trust, peace and social justice. If we choose to live our lives in that way then we will be citizens of that place.

In Jesus’s language this place is the “kingdom of God”, because it is the place where God’s will is done, and that will ultimately is “love”. Jesus’s good news is that this kingdom, this “living in love”, is already at hand, here and now — it has already begun. All that we have to do is open our eyes and see the simplicity of it.

Opting in is entirely voluntary, and even those who have opted in will get it wrong, perhaps more often than not. So it won’t be perfect, because it is a place inhabited by fallible human beings in a world where not everyone has opted in and where mistakes and natural disasters also happen. Living this way is vulnerable. Jesus’s followers have long said that the kingdom will come at the end of time — and this is a recognition of the fact that the whole world isn’t going to accept the message for a very long while, if ever. So though the kingdom in all its fullness is not yet here, that makes it all the more important to choose to live in it now, and to share the good news and to encourage others to join in. We can still live partly in the kingdom, glimpsing the possibilities of its fullness.

What then is the role of religion in this, and what is the role of the Church? These are good questions. They highlight the problem with institutional religion.

Jesus, in the gospel stories, doesn’t have a lot of time for organized religion, and those who considered themselves holy and religious. He criticised the Pharisees and the Sadducees, whom we might see as typical of local religious leaders and the religious establishment, types that existed then and still exist today. Many in both groups understood Jesus’s concept of God’s rule, God’s kingdom, but (like many others down the ages, and still today) they were caught up in their own concepts of spirituality and nationality and their own priorities, and either failed to grasp what Jesus was saying, or failed to act on it.

Where does this leave the Church? As people used to ask, do you have to go to church to be a good Christian? Certainly the Church has a lot to answer for. Over many hundreds of years it has helped to suppress and control individuals and populations, and allowed itself to be used by states to achieve their aims, or indeed has corrupted states to achieve institutional goals. It has allowed itself to be limited to a “spiritual” life, teaching a personal piety and obedience, and the promise that things will get better, sometime. It has sacrificed individuals and groups to its own ends. And it’s easy for its members to get caught up in its institutional life, serving on its boards and commissions and councils, even carving out a career in church politics. It’s easy too to get caught up in its “religiosity”: in personal piety, personal devotion and personal belief as ends in themselves.

The Church, however, has also preserved the teaching of Jesus, and other great figures, and never lost sight of the centrality of his message, even when it has largely failed to understand or implement it. Individual Christians have led some of the great reform movements, such as the abolition of slavery, moves to racial equality and sexual equality, mass education and healthcare, humane working conditions, prison reform and so on.

The Church, for all its many and profound failings, is the group of people who follow Jesus, and stand in line with him: the community of his followers down the ages, even if a divided community.

The Church is also the primary place where those who commit to trying to live in the kingdom can interact with each other. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where social justice and compassion are preached and practised. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where the hungry are fed, both literally and figuratively, and the homeless and destitute cared for. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where people forgive each other for the wrongs they have done to each other, and are reconciled. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where Jesus’s good news is proclaimed and human beings welcomed to participate in it.

Where does that leave the believer and the unbeliever? No mention has yet been made of belief in God, belief in heaven, belief in the infallibility of this or that, or the special nature of someone or something. The story of the arrival of the Magi shows that Jesus is for Jew and Gentile alike: in today’s language, Jesus and his message are for the believer and also for the non-believer. The gospels do not record that Jesus required belief in any dogma or religious doctrine — only trust in what he was teaching, trust to begin to do it. There is no test of belief to be a citizen of this kingdom. There is no religious creed, no statement of religious belief.

Rather, what is required is to start again: to be willing to recognize (without unnecessarily beating ourselves up about it) that we don’t always get things right; to be willing to both give and receive forgiveness; to act to bring about reconciliation and social justice to all our neighbours, where Jesus’s definition of “neighbour” is “someone who needs our help”; to join with those who are trying to do the same; and to share this good news with others. The kingdom of God is built one person at a time — it is here, it is now, it is indeed at hand; and one day it will exist in its fullness.

What about God? Everyone must come to their own conclusions on that, and about the literal existence of God, because God’s kingdom — the place where the rules are love and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation and social justice for all — is a concept that exists whether you believe in God or not. Just as the arrival of the Magi in the Christmas story indicates that this baby is significant to Jews and non-Jews, so too he, and the kingdom he announced, are significant to believers and non-believers.

God’s kingdom is for all. And it’s there, in part, right here and now. Just open the door, and let the kingdom in.

Simon Kershaw is a founder and editor of Thinking Anglicans.


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

30 Comments