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Posted on Mon 11 March 2013

BBC Letter to Archbishop Justin

Dear Archbishop Justin,

It is an immense privilege to write to you about the future of our Church. As an evangelist and a pastor, you will know that we need to connect with the deepest longings of our people for significance and meaning in the course of a hard life, for love that proves elusive and for justice, often denied.

The good news of Jesus Christ has to be shown to meet their deepest needs. The latest figures reveal unprecedented loneliness, sky-high levels of depression, anxiety about the future and addiction to drugs, alcohol and even shopping to mask emptiness and dread. In such darkness, the Gospel shines out: God mending a broken world and putting us right with himself and so right within ourselves and in our relationships with friends and family, community and Creation. Such good news needs to be heard loudly and clearly today.

If the Church is to do this effectively its people must be properly equipped; the gifts and the calling of each need to be discerned so we can be prepared for giving a good account of our faith and for ministries of counsel, service, prayer and worship and the awakening of people’s spiritual nature. God is giving every local church all the gifts it needs. The clergy will have to make sure that these gifts are recognised and used for ministry. They do not have to do it all themselves but help God’s people to bear witness in the street, at home and while at work. Resources need to be released away from lawyers, experts and civil servants towards such equipping of those in the pew. This will lead to a lightening of bureaucracy at every level and to church gatherings which are characterised by prayerfulness and attention to God’s word rather than the ‘dead hand’ of parliamentary procedure.

We must affirm the equality of women and men and the importance of their ministry together. Equality is not sameness, however, and as a bishop, I was acutely aware that we were pushing women into a male pattern of ministry. Whatever the outcome of the debate on the ordination of women, we must discover forms of ministry which respect both equality and distinctiveness.

The Church of England excels at being ‘salt’, working away invisibly to preserve, enhance and nourish but has the time come to be more like ‘light’ in the darkness, drawing people to Christ by being distinctive?

I have been in favour of Establishment on the grounds that if the State wishes to hear the voice of the Church in its councils, why should the Church refuse? But this must be with integrity and without compromise. As the Convocations said to Henry V111 himself, Establishment is only possible ‘insofar as the law of Christ allows’. It cannot mean that the Church is expected to own every passing fad or every trendy fashion in contemporary society. It must, rather,model being a distinctive moral and spiritual community which is committed, nevertheless, to serving the nation as a whole, whether it is established or not.

The Lord bless you and keep you faithful as you tackle such a challenging agenda.

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