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: https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-in-daily-prayer.

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.

+Paul

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,

+Paul

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,

+Paul

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.

Ramsey:

“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.