Rule of Life: sent to give

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

In his book “Arabian Sands”, an account of his travels among the Bedu (Bedouin), the nomadic people of what is now Saudi Arabia, Wilfrid Thesiger tells the following story:

Two days later an old man came into our camp. He was limping, and even by Bedu standards he looked poor… [My companions] pressed forward to greet him: “Long life to you, uncle. Welcome – welcome a hundred times.”

I wondered at the warmth of their greetings. The old man lowered himself upon the rug they had spread for him… while they hurried to blow up the fire and to make coffee. I thought, “He looks a proper old beggar. I bet he asks for something”.
Later in the evening he did and I gave him five riyals, but by then I had changed my opinion. Bin Kabina said to me: “He is of the tribe of the Bait Imani, and famous”.
I asked, “What for?” and he answered, “His generosity”. I said, “I should not have thought he owned anything to be generous with”, and bin Kabina said, “He hasn’t now. He hasn’t got a single camel. Once he was one of the richest men in the tribe, now he has nothing except a few goats”.
I asked: “What happened to his camels? Did raiders take them, or did they die of disease?” and bin Kabina answered, “No. His generosity ruined him. No one ever came to his tents but he killed a camel to feed them. By God, he is generous!”
I could hear the envy in his voice.

The capacity to give without reserve is not common, even among people like the Bedu who value giving. How much more difficult is it to be a person of generosity in a culture where giving is not valued; where increasing what you have is valued more. In 2016 when Hillary Clinton said that her Republican rival Donald Trump had paid no federal income tax in some years, Trump didn’t deny it. He said: “That makes me smart.” He was elected for many reasons, but his generosity was not one of them.

In our Rule of Life we believe that God calls us to pray, and read, and learn; and sends us to tell, and serve, and give. We want to live that way. On the inner and the outer journey each and all of the six dimensions is important, And “sent to give” may be last, but it is not least.

A generous lifestyle is profoundly counter-cultural and gospel-centred, in the spirit of the Lord Jesus: “Although he was rich, he became poor for our sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Our Rule of Life reaches into every aspect of our lives, including the use of our time, our talents and our money – and giving each and all of these is not least in our Rule.

It is important not to avoid the reality of the call to be generous, nor the call to establish a culture in the Church where generosity is valued as highly as it was among the Bedu in Thesiger’s story. The phrase “time, talents and money” recalls many a stewardship campaign, and catches well the breadth of the giving we are sent to perform. But holding all these three aspects together is the generous life, as a response to our generous God. We are sent to give; in other words giving is part of our mission. It does us good to give since it detaches us from an addiction to “our” time or talents or money. And it does the world good if we give these things, in the service of the common good.

At the beginning of this brief series I asked you to embrace the life of prayer and to begin each Lord’s Prayer by saying in your heart: “Together with all disciples in the Diocese of Liverpool, as our Saviour taught us so we pray…”. In the same way now I ask you to embrace the generous life, and when you give your time or your skills or your resources, to say in your heart: “Together with all disciples in the Diocese of Liverpool, I thank God for what I have received, and I offer it for the needs of the world God loves”.

As my brief introductory reflections on the Rule of Life come to a close, let me repeat again that in the next few months we will be offering resources for those who need them, in this area of giving as much as in any other of our six areas.

In the meantime, please keep things simple. Align your life with the purposes of our Diocese within the framework of your parish, or school, or fresh expression, or chaplaincy. And may God bless you as together with the 60,000+ people in our Diocesan family you make this Rule your own. You are called to an inner journey; called to pray, read and learn. You are sent on an outer journey; sent to tell, serve and give. May God bless you as you set out on these journeys once again.

Rule of Life: sent to serve…

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

Above the doorbell in the porch here at Bishop’s Lodge is a tile, with words from Adrienne von Speyr.  It reads “Holiness in the Church is always service”. I wanted these words to greet visitors to this house, and to nudge me each time I came home myself.

“Holiness in the Church is always service”. The inner journey and the outer journey are closely linked and are often indistinguishable. We are called and sent to serve the world God loves, and in particular to serve those who for whatever reason are on the edge of things. And so I hope that each individual disciple in the Diocese of Liverpool, and each one of our parishes, schools, fresh expressions and chaplaincies, will have a clear sense of what it is that they are doing, and can do, to act as servants.

I write this in the week of our deacons’ ordinations. Fourteen women and men will be ordained on Sunday, and in the Cathedral, I shall speak the words of the ordination service and say among other things: “In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.” And I’ll point the congregation to the example of our Lord Jesus, “…as he washed the feet of his disciples, so they must wash the feet of others.”

Jesus was not falsely modest; he knew himself as God’s beloved child, and he knew the love of his Father as an infinite reality. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’” he said to his disciples, “and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.” And he went on, “I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.”(John 13:13-17)

“You will be happy if you do them.” Serving the world God loves can be done in millions of ways, some tiny and fleeting and others involving the offering of your whole life. As with every aspect of our Rule of Life, I do not want to prescribe or limit what our 60,000 disciples can do.

So I simply ask each disciple to “do ten things” in this coming year as acts of service. Ten things? What things? Well, that depends entirely on where God has put you. Just a few examples, then – and none of them may apply to you. So one of these things may be a regular commitment to visit and help a housebound neighbour, or to telephone a lonely friend, or to join a political party and advocate for the kingdom’s values, or to volunteer at your local foodbank or debt advice centre. You will know what you can do, and what the world needs from you.

In the coming months, as with every aspect of our Rule of Life, we’ll be offering resources and suggestions to help you in your service – to help you in your mission to see more justice in the world. But for now it’s enough to take stock of what you’re already doing, and perhaps to add one or two more. Why not talk to others in your community about what might help most?

Do ten things. There will be no penalty if you do eleven! But since holiness in the Church is always service, as disciples in the Diocese of Liverpool our commitment to draw close to the Lord Jesus must issue in action; so do ten things, as you are sent to serve.

Rule of life: sent to tell…

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

As a student I used to take the bus to college. As I was standing at the bus stop with my friend Tony, we had a ringside view of a traffic accident – nothing serious, just one of those slow-motion shunts that happen regularly in any city. We gave our names to the drivers, and a week or two later we received witness-statement forms to complete. After we’d done so, we compared notes, and found that our accounts differed substantially. Neither of us thought that this was a problem. We argued the toss over a coffee, and then we sent our forms off and thought no more about it. We didn’t amend or change what we had written, because we had been asked to give an account as we remembered it. We were not advocates for one or other point of view. We were witnesses.

Being a witness is not a stressful occupation. All you have to do is say what you have seen and heard, as it seems to you. If others have a different perspective, so be it. 

In the Bible the experience is the same. 

1 John begins: “We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete. 

In 2 Peter the writer says: “[Jesus] received honour and glory from God the Father when a voice came to him from the magnificent glory, saying, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.

In the Diocese of Liverpool we’re asking God for a bigger church so that we can make a bigger difference, and we say “More people knowing Jesus, more justice in the world”. And if you choose to be a disciple, and to follow our Diocesan Rule of Life, then among other things you are sent by God to be a witness, in the places you know and to the people you know. More people will know Jesus, as you witness to him. They don’t need to be impressed, and they don’t need to be persuaded. It is the Holy Spirit who impresses and persuades people; the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and assures forgiveness; the Holy Spirit who converts people to Christ. 

They don’t need to be impressed, and they don’t need to be persuaded. But they do need to be told. God has arranged the world that way.

In Romans St Paul says this: 

All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.  But how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent…?

Some are sent to preach, but all are sent to witness. In 1 Peter the writer says this, and he writes for all in his church: “Always be ready with an explanation for anyone who asks you why it is that you’re so hopeful.” Being ready with an explanation, when the witness-statement is requested; that’s a core part of any disciple’s life.

As with every dimension of our Rule of Life, I will be pointing in future weeks to some of the wonderful resources and tools that every part of the Church has developed – resources to help people tell their friends about their faith and about their Lord. But in this short piece, as you’ve seen, I just want to underline two things. Firstly, if you’re a disciple then you’re sent to tell others as a witness would. And secondly, being a witness is easy and light. God asks you to give what you have, not what you don’t have.

Some people worry that they’d better have all the answers ready before they dare admit to being a Christian. Good luck with that. Some of the simplest questions – a child’s questions – can’t be answered snappily and glibly. If they are answered that way, the answers will not be believed, and will not deserve to be believed. If a six-year-old asks “Why did my granny have to die?” or if a sixty-year-old asks “Why are people suffering if God is good?” then the mystery of existence opens up right in front of you. And yes, great minds have thought about this and great books have been written to explore and advocate the answers. But for a witness the response can be as simple as “I don’t know. Life’s a mystery to me too. But what I do know is that God is real, and God’s love makes a difference to me, and I meet other Christians to worship God and to help people all I can”. And in the moment of witnessing, God will take your answer – yes, yours; your own, honest answer – and will use it to grow the church.

Being ready with an explanation. Being sent to tell, and to be honest, and to bring your friend to meet God and to meet God’s people. That’s part of our Rule of Life. I shall pray for you, and I ask your prayers for me, as we do that together.

Rule of Life: called to… learn …

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

Our Rule of Life tries to point towards a rhythm, like breathing, that will focus our lives as disciples in worship and mission. Called…Sent…Called…Sent… – the inner and the outer journeys which enrich and complement one another as together they move us forward in the life of the Spirit.

We’re called to pray, and called to read, as I wrote over the past couple of weeks. In the first instance called to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and to read Holy Scripture. As a daily rule, these things are often – though not always – solitary activities. But when I speak of being called to learn I’m pointing to something that happens in community.

You can find wisdom about learning in many places. The silent cowboy-movie star, Tom Mix, is reported to have said: “If you’re talkin’, you ain’t learnin’”. The Rule of St Benedict begins with the word “Listen”. In my own family those of us who talked too much were silenced by my Grandma who would point to her face and say “Oi. Remember. Two ears, one mouth”.

Learning, then, begins in listening, but it doesn’t end there. The tremendous and richly-deserved success of the Alpha Course, and of other courses like it, depend on the opportunity to hear significant teaching – and then to be able to question it, to engage in dialogue, to put our point of view, to bring our own insights to the party, to have our questions answered and to ask new ones, in short to have a conversation. 

As a parish priest I used to worry about the people we called “Alpha-holics”, who wanted to do Alpha over and over again rather than coming to church on a Sunday. It was only over time that I came to see that they wanted dialogue and conversation as a normal part of the Christian journey, and that our regular patterns of worship and life gave them no opportunity for that. When the BBC Sunday Programme went on to the streets of Manchester a few years ago, to interview young people about “Back to Church Sunday” the responses were not encouraging: “I’m not going back to church if it means I have to sit quietly while some vicar rabbits on and I can’t even ask questions”. It was a fair point, and it presents us with a challenge. To be a learning people means to be a people in conversation, and whether or not it’s on a Sunday morning, we need to make space for conversation in our weekly rhythm as Jesus people if we are to grow.

The Gospels are full of dialogue, as the disciples share their own thoughts and reflections in response to the words of Jesus, and as Jesus gives them time and space to share. “Lord, how many times…?” “Never, Lord!”, “Lord, tell my brother…” – all these and so many others become openings for Jesus to respond, and teach in conversation, and for his followers to learn by listening and speaking and listening again.

In my work for the national Church, which began over fifteen years ago, we undertook research which made it clear that if a church provided opportunities for this listening-speaking-listening rhythm then its people grew in faith, and that churches that grew in numbers were almost always providing these opportunities regularly. As the Rule of Life unfolds I’ll be looking at the application of this principle to our evangelism, as we find ourselves sent to tell. But here at the beginning of the journey I simply want to encourage you to find a regular opportunity to listen, and speak, and listen – where you are.

Many of our parish churches have a network of small groups, set up for discussion or bible study or friendship, often combined with worship and (of course) with a cup of tea. For others the regular organisations of the Church – for example the Mothers’ Union branch – provides the same opportunity. In our schools, dialogue and conversation is a central part of the teaching process. In our chaplaincies, the opportunity to ask questions and to hear opinions is greatly valued by those who encounter the chaplains in the course of their everyday lives. All these moments are to be treasured and developed, as we become a community of learning.

Listen-speak-listen. If you are already doing this, simply continue, knowing that tens of thousands of others across the Diocese are doing the same thing in all their different ways. If you’re not, why not begin? Talk with your friends and with the lay and ordained leaders of your community about the best way to start those conversations weekly, and to learn together.

Once again we will be providing resources in the coming months to enable this learning, for those who will find them helpful. But there will be no pressure to use any particular ones. As with all the aspects of the Rule of Life, I’m asking you to make your own sense of this in the place where you are. Not an additional burden on time and energy, but an intentional desire to receive from God the treasure of wisdom that the Spirit has placed in the church, and in the wonderful and rich experience of our friends who also pray and read and learn together.

And when you meet your friends to learn, whether over coffee for ten minutes, or in a house group for an evening, or in your church’s nurture course, or wherever, just begin your meeting by saying quietly in your heart or aloud: “As disciples together in the Diocese of Liverpool and around the world, we learn from our God who loves us and who gives us one another…”

Rule of Life: called to… read…

Called to pray, read and learn; sent to tell, serve and give.

Our Diocesan Rule of Life is easy to say and easy to remember, but as we practice it we can expect our lives to be transformed. Last week I said that the first step on the road to aligning yourself with the 60,000 other people in our Liverpool Diocesan family was to pray the Lord’s Prayer, to pray it just as you normally do, but deliberately to remember that you are doing so as a disciple in the Diocese of Liverpool. As you do this your heart beats with the heart of the Church, as join us all in saying the prayer that Jesus gave us all.

And the next step in transformation is to read. To read what? To read scripture.

Hundreds of years ago Augustine of Hippo was a bright young man, and a bit of a wild child. As he studied philosophy, and as he met significant Christian leaders, and as he became aware of his mother’s prayers for him, he began to question his riotous youth. While working as an academic, he spent time in reflection, and philosophising, and repenting, and exploring.

And then, at the age of 31, in turmoil of heart, he experienced a deep Christian conversion, and eventually became one of the very greatest Christian leaders of any age. He did so because he read. He read what? He read scripture. In his “Confessions” he wrote about what happened. Let him pick up the story himself:

So I was speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read. ” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book…”

A child’s voice, calling him to open the book. I think this wonderful image is for all of us. Holy scripture is a gift for anyone who wishes, as Jesus says, to turn their lives around and become as a little child (Matthew 18:3), and take, and read.

The study of scripture is unfathomably deep. We will always be able to to know more, as we read and learn together, and in the next weeks and months I shall be sharing many resources and ways of studying and deepening our knowledge, for you to use if it helps.

But here at the beginning of our Rule of Life I wanted to remember Augustine with you – Augustine to whom God spoke in the voice of a child, and simply said – “take and read”.

The scriptures themselves tell us that they are inspired by God and are useful (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians differ about the interpretation and meaning of the words of the Bible, and this too is a gift from God, as we learn together how to deepen our love and our understanding.

We do this together, as I shall be saying next week. Bishop Rowan Williams has said: “When you are reading the Bible you need all the help you can get, so invite a lot of people in…Invite in the people who have read it before you, invite in the people who are reading it now in different environments – get them into the room with you.”

But just as I think we should begin our prayer-journey together very simply, so also I believe we should begin our corporate journey as Bible readers very simply too.

Some of you will have regular patterns of Bible reading, perhaps through the saying of the offices of the Church, or through a regular quiet time, or in other ways. If so, don’t read any additional passages, unless you want to! But as you read, say to yourself at the beginning, “As a disciple in the Diocese of Liverpool, I open myself to God’s inspired word”. And read expecting God to speak to you, just as God spoke to Augustine; and read with the heart of a child.

If you don’t have a regular pattern of Bible reading, don’t worry. There are lots of patterns to choose from. It’s not necessarily helpful just to open the Bible at the beginning and read through to the end. So if you’re online, why not look at this page, choose one of the options, and read one (or both) of the Bible passages included there:

Or if you prefer to read from your printed Bible, why not begin with one of the gospels? St Mark’s is the shortest, and in many ways the most direct. Read a short passage each day. But look out – reading this book can be dynamite. The great Orthodox leader Metropolitan Anthony used to tell the story of his own meeting with Jesus in the Bible, in words not too far from Augustine’s. As a young man Anthony was sure Christianity was rubbish. He wanted to look at one of the gospels because he was sure he could disprove everything in it. He continues the story:

“… I counted the chapters of the Gospels because as I expected no good from the reading I thought that the shortest would be the best and so I was landed with St. Mark’s Gospel, a Gospel written for young ruffians like me, the youth of pre-Christian Rome.

And then something happened to me which you may interpret either as a hallucination or as a gift of God – between the beginning of the first and the end of the second chapter of his Gospel, of St. Mark’s Gospel, I suddenly became aware with total, absolute certainty that on the other side of the desk the Lord Jesus Christ was standing alive. There was no hallucination of the senses – I heard nothing, saw nothing, smelt nothing, I looked and my certainty remained as total and as totally convincing. And then I thought that if Christ is alive, if I am in his presence, then the man who died on Calvary was truly what is purported him to be, the man who died on Calvary was God come to us as a Saviour.”

The Bible is a wonderful and profound gift, that can change lives. God has given us that gift, and has given us in the Church of England the freedom to open and unfold the gift each day.

We’re called to pray, read and learn. And as disciples in the Diocese of Liverpool, we open ourselves to God’s inspired word. So, in the simple and curious spirit of a child, take, and read – and meet the living God in the living Word.


Rule of Life: called to pray… and

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

These simple words sum up our Rule of Life in the Diocese of Liverpool. Each person in our parishes, schools, fresh expressions and chaplaincies will make sense of these words in their own way and in company with their friends, and over the next months I and my colleagues will be providing a wide range of resources to help with that, for people to use if they wish.

In these early days of the Rule of Life, though, I want to reflect very briefly and simply on each word week by week, and to give some pointers to the Diocesan family for our direction of travel together. So here goes…

Called to pray.

I said last week that if you wanted to be involved in the Rule of Life, the way to begin was simply to remember, every time you say the Lord’s Prayer, that you do so as part of a Diocesan family of around 60,000 people, and to say to yourself, “As a disciple in the Diocese of Liverpool, I pray: Our Father…”. Why did I choose the Lord’s Prayer for this?

The answer, of course, is that almost every Christian who prays daily will include the words that Jesus gave us as part of those prayers. You can find them in the Bible in two places: in Matthew’s gospel at chapter 6, and in Luke’s gospel at chapter 11. The two versions are slightly different, and this reflects the richness of what Jesus gave us, and the fact that the prayer can illuminate different things for different people.

People who know this prayer by heart will use slightly different versions too, depending when they learned it. Whether you use traditional or modern language doesn’t matter. What matters is that your memory should be comfortable with the words you say, so that the meaning can sink deeper day by day.

Let me underline that I’m not asking people to say the Lord’s Prayer an extra time. I simply ask that you remember your membership of the Diocesan family, when you pray the Lord’s Prayer as part of the prayers you usually pray.

Later in the year I will reflect further on the Lord’s Prayer, drawing on the four Lent Lectures I gave on the Prayer last year in the Cathedral. I will also be pointing you to the enormous, rich resources in prayer of all kinds which the Church provides for us all, so that you and your friends can explore them in ways that are right for you.

But for now, simply say this lovely and profound prayer when you usually do, and with the Diocesan family in mind. Together with all disciples in the Diocese of Liverpool and across the world, as our Saviour taught us, so we pray: Our Father…

With every blessing as ever,


A rule of life

In Liverpool Diocese we’re asking God for a bigger church to make a bigger difference; more people knowing Jesus, more justice in the world.

Over the last couple of years we have been praying and thinking together about how this can best be done.

In our last three Diocesan Synods I have shared some of this thinking, and in particular I have spoken about the inner journey and the outer journey of faith – that is, the life of prayer and study of scripture which forms us inwardly, and the life of proclamation and service which forms us outwardly.

To live such a life is to be a disciple – one who learns from Jesus in the power of the Spirit, one who comes through Jesus to the Father, one who becomes an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, speaking of Jesus, serving and being present to those on the edge of things.

In taking the inner journey we are called by God to be close to Jesus in our hearts. In taking the outer journey we are sent by God to be close to Jesus in the world.

In the inner journey we are called by God to pray, and to read scripture, and to learn from one another.

In the outer journey we are sent by God to tell our friends about Jesus, and to serve those in need, and to give our lives, our time and talents and money, back to the God who has given us everything.

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

These simple words form our Rule of Life. Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

To live such a life is to be a disciple. And I believe that if we ask God for a bigger church to make a bigger difference, and if we want to see more people knowing Jesus and more justice in the world, then one way that God will answer our prayer is by making more disciples – and by including us in that number. We will be called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

To live such a life is to be a disciple. And no one can be a disciple on their own.

When we take the inner journey we respond to God’s call, and we are not alone.

  • In prayer, as Jesus tells us, we enter the secret place to meet the One he called Father, who draws us close, who sees what is done in secret, who fills us with life.
  • In reading the Bible we meet the inspired writers who point us to God, and we meet those who have interpreted their words over the centuries so that we can read with love and with understanding.
  • In learning the faith we meet the people God has given us in the church, in our parish or school or fresh expression or chaplaincy; we meet them and learn from them how to live.

When we take the outer journey we respond to God’s sending love, and we are not alone.

  • In telling of Jesus we meet our friends who do not know him, as one by one we bring them to meet him for themselves, and to know his love for them, and to be led by Him to his Father and their Father, to his God and their God.
  • In serving others we meet their needs as we meet the people themselves, connecting with them in the struggle for justice and dignity, doing all the many things God gives us to do with them and for them, so as to help and to love them more.
  • In giving our lives we take our place among the hundreds of millions of people who bear the name of Christ worldwide, and (for those in our Diocese) among the more than sixty thousand people who are actively connected to our Diocese of Liverpool, as worshippers in our churches and volunteers in our projects and students in our schools.

As disciples we are connected in every part of our journey. Connected and called to pray, read and learn. Connected and sent to tell, serve and give.

Each and every Christian community is different. I believe God loves and honours that difference, the endlessly creative diversity of people and communities in each place and in every place.

But as a bishop I believe, as so many other bishops across the Church believe, that this is a time for all of us to know that we are not alone, as we submit to Christ’s rule in our lives.

I am glad as Bishop of Liverpool to be saying all this at Pentecost, the festival and the season of the sending of the Spirit on the Church.

And I give a charge to each person in our Diocese in this season of the Spirit. In your own way, and in the way of your own community, consider what it would look like to live according to a rule of life. Consider what it looks like for you to be called to pray, read and learn, and to be sent to tell, serve and give.

Over the next few months a whole range of diocesan resources will be shared, for you to use if you wish so as to help you make this journey. None of them are compulsory for everyone. All of them are designed to help some.

I’m not interested in marketing, or in branding, or in dragooning. I’m interested in Jesus, and in knowing that we are following him on the inner and the outer journey.

What matters is not the resources, but the life.

So this Pentecost the charge is simply this; will you re-commit yourself to this journey, in company with tens of thousands of others across the Church? Will you choose again to be known as a disciple of Jesus? Will you accept a rule of life?

If you will, all you need do is say yes. Soon there will be a chance for you to do so publicly. But as a mark of your commitment for now, I simply ask that whenever you say the Lord’s Prayer, alone or in your family or in your church or in your school, whenever you say the Lord’s Prayer you begin by thinking to yourself, “As a disciple of Jesus (in the Diocese of Liverpool) I pray…”. Then this part of the journey will have begun.

With every blessing this Pentecost from your friend, and fellow disciple, and bishop,


As a disciple of Jesus (in the Diocese of Liverpool) I pray,


Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be your name,

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

On earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

As we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,

Now and for ever. Amen.

Made by God, loved by God

Remarks made at the launch of the Ozanne Foundation, April 2018:

Friends, thank you for coming this evening and for accompanying us as we formally begin this venture together.

Communities of faith have made huge contributions to the well-being of the world. It’s in our nature to have a deep respect for our history and tradition, and often this is a good thing, as when we stand against the commodification of people, or stand for community or for strong personal relationships, or when we seek to help the poor.

But there have been other times in the history of communities of faith when people have found it difficult to accept change, and sometimes difficult to see God’s hand in it. A classic example is the struggle for the abolition of slavery, and the ceaseless advocacy that was needed on the part of Christians to persuade their friends that God’s love for all human beings had social consequences which demanded justice.

And we believe we’re in such a situation today, as we look at the complicated messages that the faith communities send to LGBTI+ people. Looking at my own community I say with pain and regret that many in the Christian churches have not offered the love of Christ as freely as our Lord himself asked us to do.

We are always clear in our public statements that we oppose homophobia in all its forms, and that we want to welcome all; and I believe that we mean it. Yet at the same time we know that many LGBTI+ people have suffered pain and rejection from Christians, personally and institutionally, to the extent that many have left the churches or in some cases have felt compelled to self-harm or even to take their own lives. And this goes on today. We need to do better.

We need to welcome people properly, and to love our friends as God loves them – in short to love people as God made them. We are called radically to affirm and honour all our friends, including of course all our LGBTI+ friends, as beloved children of God. And that will have implications for our policies and stances as churches. If we are to do better, we need to change.

We need then to look intelligently together at what change might look like in the practice of the churches, for example in our approach to those who ask us for recognition and affirmation of their relationship, or in the advice we give to the churches on welcoming and fully including LGBTI+ people in their lives.

If things are to change then there need to be advocates, and this Foundation proudly advocates for a greater inclusion and equality. We aim to do so courteously and to engage with those who disagree. It is not the purpose of the Ozanne Foundation to destroy anything or to break anything. But we want communities of faith seriously to recognise the need for change in this area of LGBTI+ inclusion and welcome. And we’ll advocate for that consistently and without apology. It’s work which demands patience, but which also calls for a holy impatience.

In the Church we seek to move together, which is why we often move so glacially slowly. But the aims of this Foundation are clear, and we bring them before our friends in the churches with a sense of real urgency. Because while we are talking, people are suffering. And so we feel called to advocate for inclusion and equality now, and for still greater inclusion and equality in the near future.

Our aims are clearly expressed. We aim to establish constructive encounters with those of different views, to educate people on the social and scientific and theological landscape, and to empower people to act as advocates for change if they believe that change should come.

This evening we are honoured by the presence of representatives of other advocacy organisations and networks, and we want to stand with these friends and to complement their work with our own particular emphasis and style.

The trustees of this Foundation are part of Team Ozanne – supporting and helping our director, Jayne Ozanne, in her tireless work of advocacy and conversation and networking. Jayne is a difference-maker and we aim to honour the difference she is making and to support her in her work.

We need your support to see that work done. You’ve offered a huge amount in sheer encouragement simply by turning up tonight. If you’re in a position to help us financially, we badly need that. If you’re a person of faith yourself and you pray, we need your prayers and your love. And as conversations continue, and light and heat all jumble together in the rough-and-tumble of those conversations, we need your wisdom and your care.

Thank you for indicating, by coming tonight, that we stand together in our desire to keep talking, to advocate for the things we care about, to see justice done, and as Jesus said, so simply but so challengingly, to love one another. Thank you.

© +Paul Liverpool 2018

The grace of God in the churches

Just one more Michael Ramsey reference, as I pray from the US for the conversations on Mission and Ministry in Covenant. The quotation copied below is in the context of the “Service of Reconciliation” ideas of the 1960s and 1970s, which of course are NOT on the table in the present Anglican/Methodist conversations.

But in this quotation from Owen Chadwick’s biography, Ramsey clearly states his understanding of the grace of Methodist orders. He values immensely his own episcopal order, and the episcopal order in his Church, as I do, as all Episcopalians should. And he honours the Methodist ministry and is “perfectly certain” that Methodist ministers are “not just lay [people]”. For the rest he is glad to trust to the knowledge and love of God as being greater than his own.

Michael Ramsey, to his Diocesan Conference in Canterbury, October 1968, quoted in Owen Chadwick, “Michael Ramsey: a Life”, p.339.

Not just laymen

I agree with Ramsey in this. This for me is the starting point from which “Mission and Ministry in Covenant” would move us on; from which the Methodist people, if they chose, would then incorporate episcopacy into their life as a church. It is a very different starting point from the one misdescribed as “lay presidency”.

I copy this extract because I hope it will help friends and colleagues who are worried about this.

I hope that Synod will approve the suggestions in Mission and Ministry in Covenant, which will simply pave the way for future debate and future decision. I do so as a confident and settled Anglican who seeks the unity of the churches. I am proud and glad to have advocated strongly for the ordination of women since I myself was ordained in 1979, and I rejoice to see women now as priests and bishops in our Church. I greatly treasure the wonderful gifts of God to our Church in episcopal order and continuity. But I do not believe that this treasuring should lead me to fear any loss. For me the grace of God in the churches can indeed be lost, if the churches cease to worship God, to speak of Jesus and to love as Jesus loved. I cannot see any risk of that in the proposals currently before the Synod.

Prayers and love as ever from New York to all.




Mission and Ministry in Covenant

Study leave is a dislocating experience, literally. My location has been disrupted and at the moment I’m in New York, learning from friends and colleagues in the Episcopal Church and at the same time praying for my Diocese and for our Church of England as usual.

And I really regret that I won’t be at Synod this week, among other things to vote for “Mission and Ministry in Covenant” and to support the journey laid out in that paper.

Here is a non-Episcopal church, the Methodist Church, that is prepared to consider taking into itself the Episcopal order, facing the “bold step” laid down for it by the final report of the Joint Implementation Commission: “The challenge of the Covenant – Uniting in Mission and Holiness”. The Methodist Church may choose not to do so, but they are prepared to consider it, and they are considering it, seriously and publicly and wisely. And here are we in our turn facing the “bold step” laid down for us, which we so lightheartedly affirmed when we affirmed the first recommendation of that report in Synod in 2014 – “reconciling, with integrity, the existing presbyteral and diaconal ministries of our two churches, which would lead to the interchangeability of ministries”.

The proposals now before Synod indicate a direction of travel, final decision on which will come later. The direction seemed very good to me and still does. The main reason for this is that I believe myself to be what you might call a Michael Ramsey Anglican, in this case one who stands with Ramsey in what he said in his first book, “The Gospel and the Catholic Church” (1935) as well as in his struggle for Anglican/Methodist reconciliation in his own day.

And all I want to do as I pray for Synod members is to quote a few passages from Ramsey’s book, together with the fourth of the affirmations of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral as affirmed by the Lambeth Conference in 1888.


“The doctrine of the Church, and its order, ministry, and sacraments will in these pages be expounded not primarily in terms of an institution founded by Christ, but in terms of Christ’s death and resurrection of which the one Body, with its life and its order, is the expression.”

“It will be asked, for instance, what truth about the Gospel of God does the Episcopate, by its place in the one Body, declare? And what truth about the Gospel is obscured if the Episcopate is lacking or is perverted?”

“Thus the Church is pointing beyond theology, beyond reunion-schemes, beyond philanthropies, to the death of the Messiah.”

“The peril, in short, is for the devout Churchman to turn his religion into a “glory to me,” “glory to this movement,” “glory to the Church” religion instead of a “glory to God” religion.”

“Developments [in church order] thus took place, but they were all tested. The tests of a true development are whether it bears witness to the Gospel, whether it expresses the general consciousness of the Christians, and whether it serves the organic unity of the Body in all its parts.”

“The Catholicism, therefore, that sprang from the Gospel of God is a faith wherein the visible and ordered Church fills an important place. But this Church is understood less as an institution founded upon the rules laid down by Christ and the Apostles than as an organism that grew inevitably through Christ’s death and resurrection. The Church, therefore, is defined not in terms of itself, but in terms of Christ, whose Gospel created it and whose life is its indwelling life.”

“For the Bishop does not have a greatness of [his/her] own, [s/he] is the organ of the one Body who represents to the Christians their dependence within the Body, and to the local Church its dependence within the historic family, whose worship is one act.”

“[The Episcopate] speaks of the incompleteness of every section of a divided Church, whether of those who possess the Episcopate or of those who do not. And those who possess it will tremble and never boast, for none can say that it is “theirs.” It proclaims that there is one family of God before and behind them all, and that all die daily in the Body of Him who died and rose.”

And most famously:

“For while the Anglican church is vindicated by its place in history, with a strikingly balanced witness to Gospel and Church and sound learning, its greater vindication lies in its pointing through its own history to something of which it is a fragment. Its credentials are its incompleteness, with the tension and the travail in its soul. It is clumsy and untidy, it baffles neatness and logic. For it is sent not to commend itself as “the best type of Christianity,” but by its very brokenness to point to the universal Church wherein all have died.”

Finally from the Lambeth Quadrilateral as affirmed in 1888:

“The following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards Home Reunion…

(4) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

In the landscape lit by these ideas I would vote for the direction of travel laid out in “Mission and Ministry in Covenant”. I greatly hope that Synod will do the same.