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Parish Pump – August/September 2017



After the General Election: a still small voice of calm 
Sharp increase in numbers training to be priests 
Loretta Minghella announced as next First Church Estates Commissioner
Publication of Mission and Ministry in Covenant
Thailand’s harsh welcome for Christian refugees
Eritrea tightens crackdown on Christians
Starvation haunts East Africa


After the General Election: a still small voice of calm 

The Church of England is providing a “still small voice of calm” at a time when the people of Britain face “unprecedented questions about the future”, according to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The recent General Election has left many questions unanswered at a “critical time in the nation’s history,” and Christians should therefore pray for political leaders to have courage but also give thanks for signs of political apathy receding, they say.

The call came in the text of a motion debated at the Church’s General Synod, which met in York in July.  The archbishops used their legal powers to change the published schedule to include an urgent debate on the state of the nation. 

Entitled ‘After the General Election: a still small voice of calm,’ it took place on the opening afternoon of Synod, Friday July 7. 

Also before General Synod was a paper setting out the process for compiling a major new teaching document on human sexuality, and the work of a new Pastoral Advisory Group to advise dioceses on pastoral provision for same-sex couples.  It follows a vote in February in which Synod opted not to ‘take note’ of the House of Bishops’ report on sexuality.

The paper, also issued by the two archbishops, reiterates a pledge to base the new teaching document on a “radical Christian inclusion” to be “founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has
received it.”


Sharp increase in numbers training to be priests 

A 14% increase in numbers training for the priesthood has been welcomed by the
Church of England. An anticipated total of 543 men and women will begin studies this Autumn at colleges across England.

Welcoming the increase, the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, said:

"I am delighted at both the number and the range of those whom God has been calling into ordained ministry over the course of the past year. Here are men and women who are choosing to put their faith on the line, so as to bring hope and spiritual nourishment to individuals and communities alike. In an increasingly uncertain world, nothing could be a greater privilege than walking alongside people in their joys and sorrows, from birth to grave."

An increase of 17% in women coming forward for ordination was welcomed by Catherine Nancekievill, Head of Vocation for the Church of England:

"The Church’s aim is to reflect our diversity in the priesthood and whilst we have a long way to go in achieving this, I am delighted that increasing numbers of women now feel that a life in ordained ministry is for them. This is a big step in breaking down the stereotypes, which is crucial in order to attract underrepresented groups."

The figures show that 25% of the cohort beginning training this year are under 32. The increasing age profile of clergy has been a significant motivator for the Church in focusing on growing ordained vocations.  Catherine Nancekievill said:

"The Church takes seriously the signs that God is calling Millennials to consider careers that offer the opportunity to work for the common good. We now have an officer working to raise awareness of what training for ministry can offer to young people. Our popular scheme which offers on the job ministry experience is to undergo substantial growth this year."

Commenting on the support of Allchurches Trust for the ministry experience scheme, Chairman, Sir Philip Mawer, said:

"Young people are known to care deeply about finding a role in which they can help make the world a better place and for an increasing number that means going into ministry. We look forward to working with the Church as they develop the Ministry Experience Scheme to offer a path to lay or ordained ministry for a greater number and ever wider range of people."

This increase in people coming forward for ministry training comes after the launch in 2015 of Renewal and Reform, a body of work which aims to breathe new life into the Church through growing lay and ordained vocations, increasing flexibility in funding and reducing red tape to enable local churches better to serve their communities.


Loretta Minghella announced as next First Church Estates Commissioner

Loretta Minghella, the Chief Executive of Christian Aid, is to be the next First Church Estates Commissioner, Downing Street recently announced.

The First Church Estates Commissioner is the Chair of the Church Commissioners’ Assets Committee, a statutory committee, responsible for the strategic management of the Church Commissioners’ £7.9 billion investment portfolio.

Welcoming her appointment, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: “Loretta Minghella is a hugely skilled and distinguished leader with an exceptional record of service. She has significant experience in the financial markets, law and charity sector and has an outstanding track record in business, investment and economic affairs.”
The Church Commissioners support the mission and ministry of the Church through the effective stewardship of their investments and support of transformative projects across the country, based around the Church of England’s unique network of parishes, schools, buildings, chaplaincies and dioceses.

As one of the largest charitable givers in the UK, the Commissioners' stewardship is matched by ethical and responsible investment practices which seek to reflect and support the Church’s wider responsibilities to society and the common good. 

Publication of ‘Mission and Ministry in Covenant’
The Church of England and the Methodist Church in Britain are to consider proposals that would bring them into a new relationship of full communion, after a period of some 200 years of formal separation.
The proposals are presented in Mission and Ministry in Covenant, a joint report from the two churches’ Faith and Order bodies. It sets out how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate, and how ministers from one church could become eligible to serve in the other.
The report builds on the theological convergence established by An Anglican-Methodist Covenant, signed in 2003, and the subsequent work of the Covenant’s Joint Implementation Commission.
In 2014 the General Synod of the Church of England and the Methodist Conference mandated the faith and order bodies to bring forward proposals that would enable the interchangeability of ministries in the two churches.
The report sets out a way by which the Methodist Church would become one of the churches with which the Church of England is officially in communion, alongside other members of the Anglican Communion and Lutheran churches in the Porvoo Communion.
The report has now been released with the aim of enabling a wider discussion in the Methodist Church and in the Church of England, and to allow consultation with other ecumenical partners.

Thailand’s harsh welcome for Christian refugees

Pakistani Christians in Thailand are being held in desperate conditions, in an effort to make them go back to persecution in Pakistan.

The refugees include people like Ijaz, a 34-year-old who died this Spring at the notorious Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok.  He had applied to the UNHCR for refugee status, but fallen ill at the IDC while waiting for his application to be processed. The IDC refused to allow local Christians to bring him any medicine.

Ijaz was one of around 4,000 Pakistani Christians who have fled persecution and ended up in Thailand.  There they are treated harshly, and held in horrifically overcrowded conditions at the IDC. The medical care in the camp ranges from practically non-existent to actively harmful.

The Barnabas Fund is assisting Pakistani Christians seeking refuge in Thailand. It is providing food parcels for families, food aid for individuals languishing in the IDC, home-schooling materials, and help with critical medical needs.   Food aid for a detainee in the IDC cost £6 per person per month.  A monthly family food parcel costs £22 per month.  Home-schooling materials for one child cost £15. If you would like to help, please go to:  https://barnabasfund.org/donate


Eritrea tightens crackdown on Christians

Security forces in Eritrea have started going house-to-house, looking for Christians to arrest.  In the latest raids, they have taken in 177 adults and 20 children, one a baby. The arrests are continuing, and many Christians have gone into hiding.

This tough new tactic by the single-party state has caused much fear over what happens next. Whereas once Christians were arrested for holding Bible studies or prayer groups, now they are being arrested simply for their beliefs.  Security forces are now looking to arrest anyone outside the state sanctioned ‘faiths’ – Muslim, Lutheran, Catholic, or Orthodox.  In 2002 Eritrea outlawed and shut down the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.  It is thought that 173 such Christians remain jailed indefinitely, without trial, in brutal conditions.

In response, Release International is calling on Eritrea to free the Christians, and has launched a campaign calling for concerted prayer for Eritrea’s prisoners of faith.
Eritrean Christians around the world are praying and fasting.

“Eritrea today is like one giant prison where hope has disappeared and where the majority of people are denied simple freedoms, basic human dignity and human rights,” says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International which supports persecuted Christians.  More details at: www.releaseinternational.org/pray173/


Starvation haunts East Africa

East Africa’s hunger crisis will reach catastrophic proportions without immediate action from the global community, Christian Aid has warned.

The spectre of starvation continues to hang over some 20 million people severely short of food in parts of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. This figure could rise further still, Christian Aid has said.  Ethiopia’s seasonal rains have failed once again, Kenya’s were very poor, and both put yet more strain on national and international relief efforts. In Kenya and Ethiopia, livestock are dying in their thousands, leaving pastoralist families with no animals, no food, and no assets.

Christian Aid is reaching tens of thousands of people with life-saving assistance, but warns that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Through local partners, Christian Aid is providing safe, clean drinking water to over 21,000 people, distributing food vouchers to 600 families, feeding hundreds of livestock owned by nearly 1,250 pastoralists, and providing support cash 1,600 families.

If you can help the Christian Aid fundraising appeal for the East Africa crisis, please go to:  www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/east-africa-crisis-appeal




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