An invitation from Jeremy Simpkins...

Jeremy Simpkins heads up the ChristCentral international family of churches, which is hosting this year's Churches that Change Communities conference. Here is a short video from Jeremy inviting you to the event...

Natalie Williams, 23/08/2016

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Brexit3-300x225Brexit Britain: what now for the nation?

This is the third in a three-part series of blogs by Martin Charlesworth on Brexit. Read the first part here and the second part here.

From where I stand, here are the four most important and obvious issues that the UK faces in post-Brexit Britain:
The first issue is political leadership.
I’ve been in Westminster recently. The paparazzi and the media circus has been buzzing around Parliament relentlessly in the uncertain and tense circumstance of both major parties concerning their leadership following the EU referendum. Walking past a press photographer poking his lens through the railings of the Houses of Parliament I asked what he was looking for. “Oh just a glimpse of Michael Gove,” he replied half-heartedly and despondently.
It will take extraordinary political leadership in Westminster and elsewhere in the UK to negotiate the multiple political, constitutional, social, legal and economic issues that lie ahead. We have a new Prime Minister, but it’s still an uncertain road ahead with many opportunities and many dangers. Christians need to commit themselves firmly at this time to praying for our leaders.
The second issue is economic stability.
There have been significant economic jitters since the Brexit decision. I’ve been keeping an regular eye on stock markets, business news, investment trends, currency exchange rates and the statements of the governor of the Bank of England. It is too early to say what the economic fallout of Brexit will be, but all the evidence seems to point to high risk of some negative economic factors affecting us ongoing for a time. We need to be aware – and to pray.
The third issue is social harmony.
I’ve discussed this a little in my previous post. Part of this is the issue of attitudes to immigrants. Another part of it is dealing with the social divisions that came to the surface, such as the divisions between London and the regions, between the old and the young, within families where differing opinions are held, etc. Churches need to address this in their congregations, but they also need to be a reconciling force in their wider communities.
The fourth issue is national unity.
I’m in London as I write this. Many Londoners are horrified to find themselves part of the Brexit process that they vigorously opposed. Similar feelings are shared by the majority of Scots and in Northern Ireland. National unity has been severely strained by the EU referendum – another of those many unintended consequences of the referendum. Christians need to focus on these realities and seek ways to relate to those concerns wherever they appear across the UK.
Every challenge is an opportunity: there is no doubt that the Church has real opportunities in the strange new world of Brexit Britain. Jubilee+ is on the frontline. I trust you are too!

Martin Charlesworth, 26/07/2016

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Brexit2-300x225Brexit Britain: what now for the Church?

This is the second in a short series of blogs on Brexit. Read the first part here.

So where do we go from here in the strange surreal world of Brexit Britain? The decision has been made, but the divorce with the EU has not really begun. No one quite knows what is going to happen or how it is all going to work out. It is like a married couple who have decided to split up but are still living in the same house until alternative accommodation is organised for the leaving partner!
We have a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, but political life in Britain remains in turmoil in the wake of the Brexit vote. So what should the Church be doing now?
Here are three things that I think we should address at this time:
Firstly, we need to pray for our nation with urgency and faith! There has hardly been a time of such uncertainty in living memory. We are embarking on a significant change of direction with no certain outcomes. We should not underestimate the power of prayer. Don’t forget the words of Paul the apostle in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanks giving be made for all people – for rulers and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” The peaceful and quiet life that Paul had in mind implied political stability, social harmony and economic security – things we need in the UK right now!
Secondly, we should be proactive and vigilant in promoting social harmony – especially concerning the issues of race and immigration.  Friends all over the country are alerting me to the fact that racial tensions are currently more evident in their communities and that many EU nationals (and others) are feeling particularly insecure right now. The Church has a vital role to play here. Public statements on this issue are important. Reassuring and supporting people we know is important. Many churches will also have the opportunity to work with local authorities, schools and the police to combat any spike in racism at this time. It will take courage and focus – but it needs to be a top priority right now.
Thirdly, the Church remains the voice of the poor. This is a key part of the Jubilee+ mandate. In all the Brexit discussions that are taking place there has been very little said about the poorest sectors in our society and the implications for them of any political changes or economic changes in the months and years to come. As I said in a previous post, economic downturns always lead to greatest pressure on the poorest. This is a significant risk. We need to be alert to this and willing to speak and act on behalf of those who might lose out in the strange world of unintended consequences arising from the Brexit decision in the recent referendum.

Next week we'll look at what's next for the nation...

Martin Charlesworth, 22/07/2016

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Brexit-300x225Brexit Britain: tensions in the Church?

I’m writing this piece two weeks after the EU Referendum. It was a referendum with multiplied unintended consequences. Here’s one of them: it has exposed tensions and differences within the Church that are going to need addressing and, in many cases, healing.
Here are a few of the issues…
Most important of all, the differences of opinion have been painful. Yesterday I was approached by a man who is a passionate 'remainer' struggling to know what to say to his mother who is an equally passionate 'leaver'. On the same day, I also had a conversation with another man who is sharply at odds with his wife over the referendum and whose children won’t even speak to him because he voted 'leave'.

Then there are the people I know who are EU nationals in UK churches and who suddenly feel insecure in our country.

Then there are those who are genuinely relieved and happy at the outcome, but are afraid to express it due to being linked to some of the extreme right-wingers who were on the same side of the debate.

Then there are those who simply feel that it is like a divorce – it makes them emotional and insecure to think of all the changes that are shortly going to get underway.

Then there are those who are confused.

Then there are those who feel deeply betrayed by the two campaigns and the half-truths that were bandied around.

Then there are those in places such as London and Scotland who feel that they are swimming against the tide…
It is all confused by the fact that there were three major issues tied up in one question. Leaving the EU is partly about national sovereignty, it is partly about immigration and it’s partly about the future of our economy. Which question were people basing their vote upon? It is complicated. Most people focused on just one of those three questions. This makes it all very confusing.
So there is work to be done in churches: talking things out, focusing on the future, respecting differing views – and prayer.
The Church must now face the future and absorb the impact of impending Brexit and start working out what its role is.
More on this is the next post...

Martin Charlesworth, 12/07/2016

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A few words from Krish Kandiah...

One of the keynote speakers at this year's Churches that Change Communities conference is Krish Kandiah, founder and director of Home for Good and president of the London School of Theology. Here are a few words from Krish about the conference...


Natalie Williams, 06/07/2016

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Pollingstation300x225Brexit: the nation decides

I remember as a teenager experiencing the great sense of significance that surrounded the referendum on Britain’s membership of the Common Market in 1975. At that time the arguments were almost all economic ones. Also, at that time there was no EU, no Euro, no full single market, no European immigration issues… It was less complicated. I was too young to vote, but I do remember the feeling that it was a 'once in a generation' decision. And so it has proved. Forty-one years later Britain has voted again – and dramatically voted to change direction and leave the European Union.
This time around the decision was much more complex. It involved not only economic issues, but substantial questions about political sovereignty, security and immigration. Opinions polarised around these issues with influential voices on both sides. Many voters seemed unsure how to vote until the last minute!
Noticeably, there was no consensus among Christians. No single argument proved convincing to the Christian public. Christians were divided in the way they voted. Many objected to the negative tone of the campaigning and the apparent lack of reliable facts on the key issues.
So what now for our nation? We enter a period of profound uncertainty and the long and complex process of renegotiating our relationship with the EU begins. We need to pray for this whole process and the many people involved in it. It will be hard work.
So how should we view the process of 'Brexit'?
Firstly, it’s a long-term decision. We need to respect the decision whether we like it or not.  Many committed 'remainers' are devastated by the result of the referendum. This was another of those 'once in a generation' decisions. There is no foreseeable circumstance in which Britain could rejoin the EU. We are leaving the EU – and it looks like that is final. We need to adapt quickly to the new reality with both its opportunities and its challenges.
Secondly, on the positive side, we can still build on the cultural, relational, educational, technical, linguistic and economic ties that have developed between us and the rest of Europe during the past few decades. I have witnessed these ties developing as a real and positive cultural change during my lifetime. Such ties have served to reduce cultural hostilities between many European nations and have helped to heal the remaining wounds of the two World Wars. There is another important point too – these ties also provide a strong basis for the mission of the UK church into Europe which is still just as viable after the Brexit vote. The UK may be leaving the EU, but it doesn’t have to turn its back on its cultural connections across Europe.
Thirdly, we need to be concerned for our own economy. There are likely to be setbacks in the coming years as the UK adapts to new economic realities. If our economy falters then the most vulnerable in our society will be the first to suffer. This could come in the form of job losses, reduction in government financial capacity, further welfare cuts, pressure on some remaining EU immigrants and changing attitudes to refugees. No one yet knows whether and to what extent such developments will takes place, but most agree that there is a significant risk of them happening.
Fourthly, there is a particular social danger arising from Brexit: the danger of the decision accidentally fuelling forms of nationalism that are hostile towards other nations and, particularly, towards immigrants to the UK. It is over this issue that the Church has a key role. We are going to have to step up our involvement with existing European immigrant communities, as well as with refugees and asylum seekers from other parts of the world. The UK must still be a welcoming nation for those who have legitimately come to live here from other nations.
Jubilee+ has a mandate to speak up for the poorest in our society and to mobilise the Church to care for the poorest. Britain’s forthcoming departure from the EU highlights the urgency of this task in a new and changing political and economic landscape in which the poorest are likely to be particularly vulnerable.
Watch this space.

Martin Charlesworth, 27/06/2016

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An invitation from Jeremy Simpkins...
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