Ecumenical Patriarch visits the headquarters of the World Council of Churches in Geneva
The Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, delivered a public address at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva last week as part of his of cial visit to Switzerland on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch and the 50th anniversary of the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy.
In his wide-ranging exhortation to the audience, the Patriarch discussed…
‘THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE’
The motto of the Anglican Communion, which today is striving valiantly under the leadership of Archbishop Justin Welby to perform the sacred task of holding Christian people of deeply divided views together in fellowship, is “The truth will set you free” (John 8: 32). It is a stirring motto because it appeals to people’s yearning for honesty in all things as well as voicing the universal longing in the human heart for unfettered freedom. Honesty is to be commended not simply because it is about stopping people from doing wrong or about the guilty owning up to wrongdoing; more importantly, and at a deeper level, it is to be commended because it is about individuals aligning themselves with truth and, consequently, placing themselves in harmony with God.
The Anglican-Orthodox International Commission, in its 2015 agreed statement, touched on the subject of freedom with much insight, stating that it is “an essential part of the divine image in humankind”. The statement continued: “There are two modes of freedom. One mode, formal freedom, is the capacity for self-governance through the ability to choose … Such ability to choose is innate in every human being and, while it can be reduced or distorted, it can never be totally destroyed, for it pertains to the image. The second mode is freedom understood as liberation from sin. This is the freedom to co-operate in obedience with God’s love.” (In the Image and Likeness of God: A Hope-Filled Anthropology, Section 31, pp.74f)
The freedom which the truth allows is the freedom that is found within the life of God himself, as the Anglican- Orthodox statement affirms. Freedom possesses, in fact, the quality of holiness. The sacred life of the Holy Trinity is a life of a totally free, triune ‘society’, at the heart of which is love itself. Indeed, the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United
Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10th December 1948, states that “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”. The Declaration cited “disregard and contempt for human rights” as having “resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”.
The freedom which the truth allows is at the heart of the resurrection faith, which the Church celebrates during these weeks. The Easter faith proclaims the defeat of all those sins which human beings strangely cling to, while also wanting rid of them. St Paul himself could famously write: “For I do not the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7: 19) Sin has such an addictive quality, being deeply destructive and yet also so hard to dispel.
Seeing that the Easter season focuses the minds of Christians everywhere on the resurrection of Jesus, it is incumbent on all to reflect on the meaning of that miracle for all time as well as on its implications for now. The resurrection life is, truly, a life in which the freedom from sin and death which Christ has won leads to the fullness of love and joy and peace. At the heart of this is the truth itself, because God is the God of all truth and because truth leads to freedom. The truth enables freedom and a life that is no longer dominated by fear but, rather, is given the liberty to spread its wings and to fly.
Such is the resurrection life – a life that is thoroughly renewed and refreshed, giving birth to new strength, a new sense of freedom from all that corrupts and a new hope of the life of God’s Kingdom that, in its own sacred and mysterious way, is yet to come in all its fullness.
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Letters to the Editor
Departing Tearfund NI manager, Tim Magowan, expresses thanks for Church of Ireland support
LEAVING TEARFUND NI as manager for the past 14 years, I realise how I have been repeatedly struck over those years by the generous hearts of the Church of Ireland members I have met who have passionately prayed for a fairer world, campaigned for a more just society and helped us at Tearfund to raise over £40 million over that time.
I have been particularly privileged to see how that support has been life-changing for people like Sam, Yvette and Doreen and Jouvllet – people who used to live in extreme economic poverty. As I met them, I was inspired by three ideas which have been changed me and which I will take into the next stage of my journey.
In 2012, I met Sam, a man whose life was changed by a single idea – that God’s call to him was “to be blessed to be a blessing” (Genesis 12). Sam was a HIV+ disabled farmer, who struggled to feed his family.
With Tearfund’s support, Sam’s local church helped him to earn enough money to buy orange trees.
Ten years on, I visited him in his flourishing orchard, which is generating enough income for him to feed his children and send them to school.
And because he’s captivated by the idea of blessing others, Sam has set up his own charity, enabling 42 other people who are HIV+ to thrive.
Thousands of years on from making his promise to Abraham, God showed me through Sam that he longs to bless us to bless others.
This idea resonated deeply with me, fuelling a desire to be open to God’s blessing in my own life and to share his blessing through Tearfund, my church, my coaching business and into the wider world.
Last August, I met Yvette who had lost eight of her family in the horrors of the conflict in DR Congo.
For the next eight years, a traumatised Yvette lived on one meal a day – on good days. On the other days, they starved.
Yet, every single day of those eight years, Yvette had God- given potential within her to bring change. Yvette had the skills of a tailor and the brains to establish a little cooking business, but she didn’t have anyone to unlock that potential within her.
As I spent time with Yvette, I was reminded that Jesus fed the 5,000 by using what was in the hands of a little boy – five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14).
Following Jesus’ example, local Christians were able to help Yvette use what was in her hands. They gave Yvette $30, alongside some personal and professional support, to set up businesses making doughnuts and women’s clothes.
Her eyes lit up with dignity as she described how she now could feed her children better, send them to school and live in a better house.
As a leader, I’ve learnt over the years that each staff member, volunteer and supporter comes with unique gifts and abilities to unlock. It’s led me to listen more and talk less, which has opened up some incredible possibilities:
• helping to launch Tearfund Ireland and Thrive Ireland to unlock God-given potential in churches in Ireland;
• mobilising 15 cyclists taking part in our Cycle of Hope raising over £40,000; and
• releasing potential in our incredible team of speakers who help us raise over £150,000 each year.
It’s even inspired me to launch my own coaching business so that I can help individuals and leaders to unlock their own God given potential.
In 2013, I challenged Northern Irish Olympic medalists Richard and Peter Chambers to join Doreen and Jouvllet, two Ugandan teenagers who every
day carry 20 litres of water to the top of a mountain which is a quarter of the height of Mount Everest.
I can still picture Richard sinking to his knees in exhaustion at the summit, describing the walk as one the “hardest training sessions he’d ever done”.
In the middle of this incredibly challenging walk, there was an unforgettable moment of hope. A local teenage boy noticed that Jouvllet was struggling. So, he carried her jerry can for her for part of the way. It was a simple but Christ-like act: he lifted the burden from her and gave Jouvllet a break.
In Mark 12, Jesus calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Like the teenage boy, we are called to love the individual in need in front of us.
As someone who loves to achieve, I found incredible release in realising that Jesus doesn’t ask me to change the whole world by myself; he calls me to play a part in changing the world in small and bite- sized amounts.
As I looked around the hills around me, I saw how our local partner was doing just that – building the kingdom person by person, water tank by water tank, community by community.
Over the last 25 years, this approach has helped 250,000 people living in extreme poverty to thrive.
It has been a tremendous privilege to have partnered with Church of Ireland members to help people like Sam and Yvette, Doreen and Jouvllet.
Thank you, once again, for generously and courageously supporting Tearfund’s work. You have made a tangible difference to so many.
Tim Magowan Tearfund NI, Newtownards Road Belfast, http://www.tearfund.org/ni
IT WAS great to see an article in the Gazette (28th April) on Autism Awareness month. Well done for tackling this difficult issue.
The article does mention that Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. It then outlines lots being provided for children. As a parent of autistic children, I am aware that this is of vital importance but those children grow up.
If the Church really wants to make a difference, it would be nice to do some work in the less glamorous area of Adult Autism Awareness. Adults with Autism find that the services provided for them are few and far between.
Adults with autism often face a real lack of understanding because many people think of autism as something that only affects children.
There is a long way to go in helping society come to terms with Autistic children, but at least the journey has started. I fear that every article that talks about clubs for autistic children, advice for parents of autistic children and young adults and courses for people living with autistic children, as this one did, is in danger of giving the idea that autism is a childhood illness.
People do not grow out of autism. It is not a childhood disorder and autistic adults also need help and understanding.
Alan Barr (The Revd), Sixmilecross Co. Tyrone
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