Canterbury Has No Authority Over Church Of Uganda


On Sunday 1 March, I was privileged to be present for the installation of The Most Revd Dr Stephen Kaziimba as the 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda.

So much was familiar: the warmth, colour and vitality of the worship; the courtesy with which the many guests and dignitaries were recognised; the gospel-centred preaching; and, of course, the length of the service – which at around six hours is normal for such occasions in Africa, but can be quite a shock to international guests!

Significant change

But although the form was familiar, some deeply significant changes in substance were brought into focus that point to how Anglican identity is changing in the 21st century. As was the case in 2012 for the enthronement of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the preacher was the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), then Archbishop Bob Duncan, now Archbishop Foley Beach (notwithstanding that according to the Archbishop of Canterbury he is simply an ecumenical partner).

And now in 2020, that recognition was made quite explicit in the new Archbishop’s Charge. Referring to both the ACNA and the more-recently formed Anglican Church in Brazil, Archbishop Kaziimba affirmed ‘They are not ecumenical partners, but genuine Anglicans’ and they lead ‘Bible-based alternatives to the liberal Anglican Churches that forced out their Bible-believing founding bishops and clergy’.

This shift from an institutional identity to a more consciously confessional Anglicanism, which is at the core of the GAFCON movement, was reflected in the structure of the service itself. Archbishop Welby’s role was simply that of a regional Primate amongst others. As the Church of Uganda’s Press Release stated: ‘Greetings were brought by Anglican representatives from global regions – The Most Revd and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, brought greetings from England, the UK and Europe.’

For the avoidance of any doubt, the press release stated plainly: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority over the Church of Uganda and his presence was not required for a new Archbishop of Uganda to be installed.’

The reason for this need to disassociate from Canterbury’s authority is then made clear: ‘The Church of Uganda is, in fact, concerned about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for homosexuality and same-sex unions. He has consecrated a gay bishop in England, invited gay and lesbian bishops to the upcoming Lambeth conference, and promotes the recognition of same-sex unions in the church, schools, and society… For these reasons, the Church of Uganda House of Bishops will not be attending the Lambeth Conference.’

This is a remarkable statement. The reason given for non-attendance at Lambeth is not the presence of bishops from the notoriously revisionist Provinces, but the actions of Archbishop Welby himself. This should give evangelical Anglicans in the Church of England who claim that no action needs to be taken until the Church of England formally changes its liturgy or doctrine serious pause for thought.

Respect for British missionaries

So why was Archbishop Welby invited? The unofficial answer seems to be that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office severely lent on the State House. The official reason was to distinguish between person and office, past and present, with the observation that ‘the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury represented the appreciation the Church of Uganda has for the British missionaries who first brought the gospel to Uganda, and the respect the Church has for the historic roots of his office.’

So we should thank God for Archbishop Kaziima and like-minded Primates whose unflinching commitment to that historic gospel is set to bring deep change. As the Archbishop urged in his Charge, we need ‘to sharpen our focus so we are single-mindedly focused in everything we do on making Christ known in the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Charles Raven

 

Let’s Talk About Robots…


A few weeks ago, I attended a round table with a panel of experts, exploring a Christian response to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

My primary mission there was to observe and to learn. It was fascinating listening to attendees discuss their fears and hopes for the future. Robotics and AI is a massive subject and it is complicated, too. I suspect the daunting nature of the issue puts many people off. But what is clear is that robots and AI are set to play an increasingly prominent role in our lives. In turn, this will prompt huge questions about the value of work and what it means to be human.

The best and sharpest minds are being employed by global companies like Google and Microsoft to develop cutting-edge technology to enhance and expand things like data collection. An invasive surveillance of everyday life is going on and nearly all of us will be affected by it. Change is happening very, very quickly. For example, it is only 11 years since the first Apple iPhone, and new models come to market with increasing frequency. Just think about the enormous and myriad ways smartphones have changed our lives. Alexa, Android, Apple, iPads, tablets and so on are prominent in families and even among children. Did you know that Silicon Valley’s mantra is ‘move fast and break things’?

Unsurprisingly, in this context, the round table was unanimous in agreeing that Christians must not simply ‘exit the stage’ on this issue. I am thinking especially of those working in tech industries, who carry the greatest responsibilities. But church leaders too will need to think through a clear, biblical position on the use of technology as young and old become increasingly reliant on it. So, what specific insights do we have to offer?

Fortunately, the Bible furnishes us with vital principles and teachings which can help shape the evolving conversation about the ethics of all this. God, the supreme Creator, has blessed humanity with ingenious abilities, and technology is part of our subduing the earth and extending our dominion over it. We do not want to be Luddites and anti-technology for the sake of it. But we must also sound a note of caution. The Christian teaching about the image of God, about humans as uniquely crowned with glory and honour and possessing eternal and immortal souls, must be at the forefront of our thinking. With all the changes happening around us, we need to stand against simulated personhood and simulated relationships and champion instead real, human relationships and the unique worth and value of human life. Ultimately, technology must serve us and not the other way around.

Moreover, our view of human sin means we can more realistically assess what is going on. Humans possess a unique ability to ruin what is good and to turn it to evil. Take Facebook. Its founder was convinced that connecting people around the globe was a good thing. In some ways he was right. But Facebook has also facilitated sin and evil in ways he didn’t imagine. Christians can offer much-needed checks and balances to the ‘tech evangelists’ of Silicon Valley.

We can also champion the need to prioritise protecting the most vulnerable from exploitation and harm. At the moment, power is being concentrated in the hands of a small number of ‘all-powerful’ tech companies. With God’s heart for the most vulnerable on our minds, Christians see the need to break up monopolies where power is too concentrated. We also see the need to protect groups like children, especially maintaining the adult/child distinction online where it is often blurred.

So where is all this going? It’s impossible to say. But what is clear is that the nature of work itself could profoundly change. The nature of meaningful relationships will also be up for grabs. I don’t think we need to fear the future. But we do need to prayerfully discern the times. The Christian faith, in its purest and truest form, has an essential role to play in shaping society’s engagement with new technology. Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters working in this space, for God-given wisdom, discernment and courage. To find out more go to: http://www.care.org. uk/cause/technology

James Mildred

James Mildred is the Communications Manager for CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) www.care.org.uk

Heidi: Loving Life


Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman who has Down’s syndrome (DS), has launched a landmark case against the UK Government over abortion law which allows terminations up to birth for babies with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities.

The case is being brought jointly by Heidi and Cheryl Bilsborrow, whose two-year-old son Hector has DS. The aim is to stop babies with disabilities being singled out by the current law. A Crowd Justice Fund set up to raise money to bring the case to the government, reached the necessary £20,000 within a week. The target was increased to £50,000 to fund the next part of the case which involves appointing a barrister.

Media interest

Heidi’s parents Steve and Liz said to en: ‘When a solicitor approached a friend asking if he could help in any issues regarding DS she asked us if Heidi would be interested in taking a case against the government for discrimination in the womb. The answer was a typically Heidi enthusiastic YES!

‘There was immediate media interest in the story from The Sunday Times, Victoria Derbyshire, and Channel 5, amongst others. Interest was heightened because it was the first case brought by someone with DS challenging discrimination before birth. [As en went to print, the government had not responded to the letter.]

‘The prevailing response was support for Heidi’s campaign from around the world. The DS community responded positively to the campaign and social media began buzzing with #ImWithHeidi.’

In her own words

Heidi said: ‘When I found out that the UK law allows abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome I was really upset and deeply offended. The time limit for babies without DS is 24 weeks. I think this is downright discrimination in the womb. What it says to me is that my life just isn’t as valuable as others.

‘I love life! I became a Christian when I was about 12 years old and was baptised when I was 13. I love going to church and singing hymns. I moved into my own flat when I was 20 and have a few hours of support each week. I’m getting married in July.’

Discrimination

A UN report by the special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/43/41) noted that the UK was singling out babies with disabilities and recommended a change in the abortion law. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stated: ‘The right to life includes the right to survive and develop on equal basis with others. Disability cannot be a justification for termination of life.’ 92% of parents terminate after a prenatal diagnosis of DS. There were 3,269 disability-selective abortions in 2018 and 618 of these were for Down’s syndrome. This represents a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s syndrome in the last ten years, with figures rising from 436 in 2008. The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have said that this aspect of the Abortion Act ‘is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability … [and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally’.

The law

In 1990 The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 changed the termination time limit to 24 weeks except where ‘there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’. Babies have been terminated up to birth for DS, cleft palate, and harelip under these Ground E terminations. Abortion providers have suggested that the law should indeed be equalised. However for them, this means extending the right to abort up to birth for all pregnancies.

In interviews, Heidi and her mum have been clear that this campaign isn’t about abortion choices per se, but about the direct discrimination being faced by those in the womb who have DS and other conditions or disabilities.

Musical Excellence and Doctrinal Rigour is Awesome


ALL TOGETHER NOW
By 
Awesome Cutlery
10publishing. £10
awesomecutlery.bandcamp.com

For many people, child-friendly Christian music is something to be at best tolerated rather than embraced. But what if instead of twee tunes and theological fluff there was a group that was actually producing musically excellent and doctrinally rigorous music enjoyed by adults and children alike?

Thankfully, three years after the release of their debut album, Gareth Loh and Dan Adams are back with a new collection of songs which will richly serve Christian families and the local church.

Bible truths addressed…

One of the great strengths of Awesome Cutlery is their commitment to addressing a broad range of biblical themes, including some that kids’ song writers are tempted to neglect. Songs about God’s eternity and eschatology, faith union and humanity, natural theology and pneumatology, can all be found on All Together Now alongside a quartet of songs focussed on the life and work of Jesus.

… and grounded

Eponymous heroes Captain Awesomeness and Cutlery Boy are on hand throughout, in a series of brief comic sketches, which provide an opportunity to ground the biblical truths.

As with their debut album, there is certainly a handful of songs that will immediately translate comfortably into use within the local church. The opening track ‘Lift Up Your Voices’ is an energetic God-glorifying call to worship that would be at home at the start of a church service, while the standout track of the album ‘We Are The Church’ overflows with rich allusions to Ephesians throughout. I firmly expect that All Together Now will soon be on repeat in homes across the nation, using catchy tunes to embed God’s truth into the minds of God’s people!

Stui Chaplin, Pastor of Bush Hill Park Community Church and Keswick Convention Kids Team Leader

Sudan: Christmas ban ended


Sudan’s new Minister of Religious Affairs attended the Christmas Day service of a long-persecuted church.

The Sudanese government had announced Christmas as a public holiday for the first time in eight years. Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr al-Din Mufreh accompanied senior government officials at the service of Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church – a congregation that the previous Islamist government had harassed for years.

Sudan has also repealed the strict sharia law that controlled how women acted and dressed in public. Under the previous regime of former President Omar al-Bashir, women could be thrown in prison for letting a little hair show or for travelling on a bus without a man to accompany them.

In a tweet in November, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok paid tribute to women who had ‘endured the atrocities that resulted from the implementation of this law’.

Barnabas Fund is helping fund a prison ministry in Sudan to aid Christian women who were jailed, often with their children, for infringing the laws on public conduct.

At a press conference after visiting several churches in Khartoum on Christmas Day, Nasr al-Din Mufreh sent a strong signal of religious coexistence to Christians in a country where they suffered for their faith under al-Bashir.

‘I tender my apology for the oppression and the harm enforced on you physically by [the prior government’s] bulldozing your church buildings, arresting and falsely imprisoning your church leaders and raiding your property,’ Mufreh said, according to Radio Dabanga.

The government-run Sudan TV on Christmas Day broadcast the services of various churches in Khartoum, including the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, whose members had been subject to arrests on false charges. The church is part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, which has been embroiled in property disputes, with the government appointing a government-run committee to assume control of the denomination.

In light of the advances in religious freedom since al-Bashir was ousted in April, the US State Department announced in December that Sudan had been removed from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). It had been added to this list of countries which engage in or tolerate ‘systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom’ in 1999.

Morning Star News/Barnabas Fund

Last Word: Rest


The lights are back in the loft. The tree has been recycled. The Christmas holidays are long gone. The New Year is but a blur. 2020 has begun in earnest. Do you need another rest? Did you get a good enough rest?

For me it was the constantly reoccurring (and somewhat trying) question of this January – ‘Did you have a good rest?’

How did you answer? What constitutes rest for you? Did you achieve seasonal rest because you managed to read a whole novel, or because your mobile was on silent for a few days? Or was rest realised in the watching of It’s a Wonderful Life at 3pm in your pyjamas? Or is true rest more than all that?

In the opening of Psalm 62, we read, ‘Truly my soul finds rest in God’ or, as the English Standard Version more poetically renders it, ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence’.

Here is a rest that is not just seasonal. Rather, here is a rest that rides above the amount of sleep we had last night and the number of films we watched at Christmas. For in that first verse – penned by King David – we read of a soul at rest.

A modern restlessness

And the lure of this Davidic soul is undoubtedly great. For we live in deeply rest-less times. Indeed, 2020 has already been marked by a restlessness. Whether it be within the Middle East or within the Royal family, it has not been the most peaceful start to the year.

Are we surprised? At the end of 2019 medical researchers spoke of cases of anxiety in the West continuing to rise. According to the education psychologists, in 2019 more British teenagers spoke of fretfulness than ever before. Even the modern interior designers tell us that our souls are craving peace. The American colour experts, Pantone, decided that the colour of the year for 2020 would be a calming shade of azure. The home magazines, hence, tell us to paint our bedrooms ‘anti-anxiety blue’.

In 2020 we may enjoy more days of more seasonal vacation than King David ever dreamed of, but our souls’ search for rest is just as pronounced as his. So where does David’s soul find rest?

Of all the places where men and women seek rest, David finds his rest in the God who made him and saved him. In fact, David not only finds rest in God, but David finds rest in God alone. Truly – he writes – my soul finds rest in Him alone.

An unattainable rest?

As a result, it is rather tempting for many of us to just leave the Psalm there in disappointment. For we recognise that these words are not ours. And, in one sense, of course they are not. They are David’s words. The words of an exceptional king anointed by God. The words of an exceptional man after God’s own heart. The words of an exceptional boy, who famously went to war for God with a peashooter and a few pebbles.

Consequently, it is tempting to think that true rest in God may only be discovered by the super-keen Christian – the bright and bookish Bible study leader, the theological student, the godly pastor, or the remarkable missionary. It is, therefore, tempting to think that this Psalm (and this rest) is not for us.

Yet if we look at the context, we discover that this Psalm may be ours. For although the exceptional David writes it, the often-neglected verse before it tells us that it is for the choir master, Juduthun, who is evidently to play it before the assembly (v. 8).

Hence this song may be the echo of every heart that knows God.

The soul made by and for God

This should come as no surprise. After all, every human heart has been wired by God – has been made for relationship with God. The soul’s rest is found in the maker of the soul.

As the great hymn-writer, John Newton, put it: ‘God formed us originally for Himself, and has [therefore] given the human mind such a vastness of desire, such a thirst for happiness as He alone can answer. And therefore, till we seek our rest in Him, in vain we seek it elsewhere.’

God is not only the resting place for the exceptional Christian’s soul. In fact, God is not even the resting place of just the everyday Christian’s soul. But God – and God alone – is the resting place for every soul.

For, as Newton says, without God we seek rest in vain. Without God we trudge through every year bleary-eyed, desperate for a bed for our souls. Metaphorically we go through our days with this infuriating whirring noise in the background. Only the soul made by Him may find silence.

And so, what a delight to be able to truly rest in God, because of Christ. Wasn’t He the seasonal rest you unwrapped again this year?

‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matt. 11:28-29).

Jonathan Worsley, Editor

Jonathan Worsley is also pastor of Kew Baptist Church, London

El Salvador: faith on the frontline


file_pd5tjfa4kxhasrxruwr7c5qkihlazv2wJosué Sánchez, 32, from El Salvador, knows all about risk.

‘I grew up in the most dangerous town in Central America,’ Josué said. ‘There are violent gangs who fight for territory and will kill for no reason. Everyone in El Salvador faces this every day. It’s a matter of knowing how to survive. It’s like: “Welcome to the jungle”.’

Josué was introduced to Christ as a child when a classmate invited him to his house, and the family invited Josué’s mother to church. ‘We started going together, and three years later, I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.’

Aged 17, he committed to serving Christ in a ministerial capacity. At the time, he was in Panama on a short-term mission trip with Operation Mobilisation (OM). Josué volunteered with OM for three years, serving with short-term teams in Central America. He earned a degree in communications, studied English, and worked with a local ministry in El Salvador for nine years, all while serving at his church. He had his own home and owned a motorcycle. It was a fulfilling life.

Trusting God

Then God asked him to give it all up.

It started simply. One day after nine years of ministry, Josué realised he needed a break. ‘I took a two-year sabbatical and worked in a call centre. But in 2018, I felt like God was calling me back to ministry. So, I contacted a friend with OM in Costa Rica and joined them on an outreach to an indigenous jungle tribe.’

At the end of the trip, he was asked to join OM in Costa Rica for three months.

‘I quit my job that week,’ Josué remembered. ‘For the next two months, I translated for short-term teams, and during that time, the support came in for my trip.’

While in Costa Rica, Josué helped with logistics for the arrival of the OM ship Logos Hope, as well as other ministry tasks. Then he was asked to consider joining OM in Costa Rica to help with communications. It was the ultimate risk for Josué. ‘At first, I was afraid to leave everything. I owned a lot of things in El Salvador – my bed, my motorcycle, my washing machine, everything I needed. In Latin American culture, it’s not often for someone to leave their parents’ house and live independently, but I’d been living by myself for almost eight years,’ Josué remembered. ‘I prayed for two weeks, and eventually decided that if the Lord needed me in Costa Rica, He would show me the way. I started fundraising, sold my possessions and God provided everything I needed. Now I’m here for one year, but it could be longer.’

Through this process, Josué learned a powerful lesson: ‘You grow up thinking that by a certain age everything will be figured out, that you will be financially stable, will get married and will have your own house, your own things and things you worked hard for – things that prove that “you can do it”. And then God says to you: “I want to break you down. Come over here and focus on me”.’

Finding fullness in Christ

But Josué said: ‘God has been there and has had my back through it all. Before, I found security in money. But now I have found security in God. We all have bills to pay, things we need or want to buy, or maybe we want things we can’t purchase, like a relationship. It’s natural for us to want these things. But we need to find our fullness in Christ first, and after that, everything will be added to our lives.’

God taught Josué that he doesn’t need earthly possessions. ‘I only need Him. My full mind needs to be concentrated on Him and what He has for me, and He will provide the rest. I lost everything I had, but I gained more than I could ever have on my own, because I am denying myself everyday so Christ can live in me. I might not ever have the means to build a house on earth, but I know I will have a really sweet home in heaven.’

Josué is amazed about the love God has shown him through Christ. ‘I just cannot stop sharing Him with others. Now it’s a matter of showing with my actions what it means to follow Jesus and to love Him.’

OM