Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why we gave away £10,000 to another church

(I wrote this in response to a number of people contacting me to ask why we had done this today. This is not meant to be a boast, but we pray it would challenge and inspire. If you feel it's boastful then please forgive me and leave a comment and I'll pull the article )

 This morning my colleagues and I dropped into the staff meeting at All Nations church to take a £10k gift from our church to theirs. Our church Meeting (we are Baptists remember...) had talked it through and felt that this was the level of gift we should give.

Are we awash with cash? No.

Are we planning our own rebuilding programme soon? Yes.

Would it have been easier to hold onto that cash as we build up our own reserves to rebuild? Undoubtedly, yes!

So, why did we do it?

Firstly, we are aware that as we enter our own programme of rebuilding there is a strong temptation to focus solely on our own need. In giving away first we remind ourselves that we serve a God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Our rebuilding will not be done just because of our own abilities, but because God guides us and provides for us.

Simon Pearce, our Finance Manager,
hands a cheque to Pastor Steve Uppal
Secondly, we worship a God of incredible generosity. He held nothing back in coming to earth, living as a human, demonstrating how to live, how to love, how to serve, how to win the victory over sin and death. He gave everything for us, and continues to provide all we have, all we need. Our decision to give is a reflection of the generous nature of the one we follow.

Thirdly, we were very keen to express something of what it means to build God's Kingdom, rather than establishing our own empires. In giving this gift we want to demonstrate that competition has no place in the family Jesus is building, that the success of one congregation is a success for all churches in the city. 

Finally, we love the folks at All Nations, and we honour them for pursuing a big vision of what God can do in the city. There is simply no way that they will see the fulfilment of their vision without the Church across the whole city being blessed.

Today was a good day for them, but also a good day for us, and a very good day for the work of Jesus in the city of Wolverhampton.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reparations from Britain to Jamaica, justice, righteousness and responsibility

Today the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, arrives in Jamaica for a short visit, where he will hold talks about trade, and lay wreaths in honour of the war dead.

In 2013 the Jamaican government approved a motion to call for reparations from the British government following the affects of slavery, empire and massacres. There is some doubt that this will be part of the conversations he has on this visit. It's important that the issue is raised, and given proper time and discussion.

There will be many who say that the past is the past, that saying sorry is meaningless now, and that any reparations are really the Jamaican govt trying to extract some extra finance from what remains of the once great empire.

To think this way is to deny certain realities.

The legacy of slavery in the UK is seen in the industrial advantage that was won, and still to a large extent remains today. Slavery meant great wealth was then reinvested in other industries which in turn thrived, and continue to generate income and wealth today.

The legacy of slavery in the UK is seen today in the way our history books have largely avoided this evil part of our past, choosing to gloss over the realities of history, and instead focus on those we think ended slavery (we quite rightly know William Wilberforce's history, but how many heard at school about Nanny of the Maroons, or of the Rt Hon. Sam Sharpe, or Paul Bogle?)

The legacy of slavery in the UK is seen in rich port cities like Bristol and Liverpool, with their grand buildings and infrastructure built with the conspicuous wealth of those involved in the slavery-powered business of sugar and tobacco.

The legacy of slavery in the UK is seen in the way British influence around the world far exceeds the size and resources of our island. This was not some fluke, or some stroke of economic or military brilliance, this is a global reach that was established, fuelled and maintained by slavery.

And every single day the legacy of slavery is seen and felt in the UK and internationally as racist attitudes and actions doggedly continue to blight our communities. The only way that slavery can be justified in the oppressor's mind is through making the enslaved person "other" and less than human. Those attitudes and mindsets seem to persist, like a generational curse. I find myself asking if our nation's actions had been towards another European country whether we'd so quickly dismiss the notion of reparations, or indeed whether the global community would continue to turn a blind eye.

For generations wealth was extracted from Jamaica. Whilst other nations we reinvesting wealth and profit in infrastructure Jamaica saw hers getting taken to the UK and other parts of the empire. And when slavery finally ended, it was the slave-owners who were financially compensated for their loss, with no payments made to enslaved persons for the years and lives taken in gruelling labour in the cruellest of conditions.

The grand houses of Jamaica are those built by slave owners (some of which were built by slaves on their "sabbath" so they didn't have their daily work interrupted...), often these now crumbling reminders of a bitter history stand in the starkest of contrasts to the simple houses most Jamaicans call home.

The legacy of slavery in Jamaica then is a very present reality. How does a nation make up for centuries of wealth being extracted? How does it build and provide when those industries other nations have were never developed to be based in that nation and plough back profit into the nation?

And how can two nations walk in partnership, when one has so grievously abused the other, and the legacy of that abuse continues?

It's not a matter of "dredging up the past", but rather dealing with the present. For the UK, the stain of our past lingers, and we have dealt unjustly with Jamaica. It is the responsibility of the generation that is aware of the injustice to fix it. For us in the UK, it;s a matter of righteousness. We cannot lecture the world about how to govern their affairs when we ourselves have left unfinished the matter of once and for all dealing with slavery.

David Cameron must listen with an open heart and mind to the call for reparations, and have the courage to do what is right.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Responding to the mass movement of people through Europe

Today in church we considered some of the ways we might respond to the current situation that is filling news broadcasts and publications; the mass movement of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants through Europe, the largest movement of people on this continent since World War 2.

Here I reproduce a handout we gave to church, and include links to agencies you might consider supporting, and also a video from Krish Kandiah of Home for Good.

You'll see that I add a little detail to his 5 suggestions then add a sixth too.

If you would like to add further ideas in the comments section, I'd be pleased to read them, thanks.

Refugee crisis : an urgent call to action from Home for Good on Vimeo.

Responding to the mass movement of refugees,
asylum seekers and migrant people
1.       Pray
a.       For the protection of families and individuals taking desperate measures to flee war and persecution
b.      For safety for those who are economic migrants, seeking to share the better life we in North and Western Europe take for granted
c.       For our government, that they would act justly, generously, wisely
d.      For peace and reconciliation in the regions of the world where war and poverty have caused mass movements of people.
2.       Connect people and property
a.       Some have rental properties that could be made available to house a refugee family
b.      See citizens uk and their work linking councils and landlords
c.       Pray and consider whether you can welcome an individual or family in your home
3.       Foster an unaccompanied minor fleeing persecution
a.       See “Home for Good”
b.      Let Jonathan or Kenton know if you are considering this
4.       Welcome
a.       Into our homes, streets and church activities
b.      Especially in our Dunstall Rd and City Centre sites
c.       Develop “Places of Welcome”
5.       Give
a.       Open Doors are helping Syrian Christians 
b.      World Vision Syrian appeal on homepage of their website
c.       Christian Aid have a special Syrian appeal too.
6.       Write
a.       To your MP encouraging them to make sure that the Government welcomes refugees, and receives a fair proportion of those seeking safety in Europe.
b.      Email them too.

c.       Sign online petitions calling for a better response, and those calling for an emergency debate in parliament.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Wolverhampton church leaders write an open letter to Rob Marris MP opposing his Assisted Dying bill

The Assisted Dying bill will come before parliament again soon. It has been put forward by Rob Marris, MP for Wolverhampton South West.

We respect the great work he has done as a constituency MP in his previous term of office, congratulate him on his recent return to parliament, and rejoice in his close connection to us as individuals, churches and a network. Nevertheless, as ministers and churches in the city that Rob Marris represents we felt we needed to make some kind of response to the issues raised by this bill, and the threat we see in it to some of the more vulnerable members of society who may find themselves the unintended victims of its consequences.

Below is the text of an open letter we have addressed to Rob, along with the current list of signatories. Other Wolverhampton Ministers wishing to sign can comment below, with the name of their church and I will add them.

An open letter to Rob Marris in response to his Private Member’s Bill on Physician Assisted Suicide and his article published in the Express and Star 6th August 2015
Dear Rob
Your Private Members' Bill proposes to allow doctors to prescribe and administer drugs to prematurely end the lives of 'terminally ill' patients. We appreciate that at the heart of your Bill is the desire to reduce undue suffering in the last days of peoples' lives. Although this is a noble aim we believe the Bill will introduce far worse consequences for our society in the years to come.

What is dignity?
Before examining the arguments, let’s begin with the word most associated with assisted suicide and euthanasia – dignity. The pro-euthanasia lobby do not have a monopoly on the word dignity! They persistently claim that the assisted death of a terminally ill person is somehow more dignified than that of the person who dies naturally. It is an attempt to apply emotional pressure on us all to permit assisted suicide lest we should be viewed as heartless and uncaring. It seeks to portray the death of someone who in any way suffers as somehow ‘undignified’, something we should be ashamed of permitting.

But what is dignity? At its heart dignity means ‘worth’ or ‘respect’. It has a moral component. Dignity is therefore measured by the way we actively treat people. An assisted suicide is not a more dignified end to life than one which has taken its natural course. It is we; it is society itself that endows a person with dignity regardless of their health or sickness, not by bringing their life to an end.

Who is protected?
The main argument for your Bill is predicated on the basis that the law as it stands is being broken by anyone helping the terminally ill to die and that those who do so deserve to be protected by the law. The fundamental principle that they are breaking is that all human life is valuable and should not be taken away.

To quote Judge Robert Rolf’s adage, ‘Hard cases make bad law’. The law as it stands values every life as intrinsically worthy of our protection. In seeking to offer a means of ending the life of a tiny minority who wish to claim that right, your Bill does the opposite. It legally protects the practitioners of assisted dying and removes legal protection from those who most need it; the sick, the weak, the disabled. They are immediately deemed of less value than the rest of us. That is why your Bill has been opposed by every disability group in the country. Those who have given their lives to help the needy and disabled, some of the very people you say you want to help, have emphatically stated that they believe this is wrong. They more than anyone understand the implications of your proposals and it is their voice you should be listening to.

Good intentions, bad consequences
You are extremely confident that the safeguards proposed in your Bill will be sufficiently robust to prevent any loosening of the terms of assisted suicide. But in practice such 'treatment creep' will be inevitable. As Dr Karel Gunning, a Dutch General Practitioner, states: “Once you accept killing as a solution for a single problem, you will find tomorrow hundreds of problems for which killing can be seen as a solution.” (1) Where legislation similar to your Bill has been introduced, for example in Oregon in 2013, the common reasons given for ending the individual's life have been very broad 93% cited “loss of autonomy”, 89% “loss of enjoyment of life” and 73% “loss of dignity”(2)

There are other examples where removal of the legal protection of life has led to tragic and unforeseen consequences.  Euthanasia for ‘extreme cases’ was first introduced in the Netherlands in 2002, but year by year it has been practised on more and more individuals, now including people with dementia and depression. In Belgium euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age was legalised in 2014, through the administration of a lethal injection. Doctors in Belgium are now ending the lives of an average of five people a day by euthanasia, 27% more than the previous year. At the time this legislation was introduced in these countries, the prospect of such outcomes was dismissed in the same way that warnings about your Bill are being today.

In a recent letter to one of us you dismissed this evidence as ‘a red herring’. But your Bill on assisted suicide shares two crucial features with these laws on Euthanasia on mainland Europe; firstly it removes the historic protection of the law at the end of life and secondly, it changes the role of the medical profession on whom we have trusted to heal and care, to now include participating in the taking of life.

Unwelcome pressure
Your Bill will introduce very unhealthy tensions between patients and their carers. Patients will feel the need to give in to unwanted pressure to end their lives from family and carers, most obviously because of financial concerns or a sense of being a burden.  In a recent study in Washington in 2013, 61% of those who chose the assisted suicide route cited the reason for doing so was because they felt themselves to be a burden to their family.(3)  Assisted suicide introduced the notion of a life less worthy of continuing. On the carer's side there is the very real risk of complicated grief, where a sense of relief is mixed with guilt and ‘what ifs’.... Dr Edward Trudeau's  aphorism surely still stands:  “To cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always.”(4). Genuine care is the strongest natural elixir to promote hope-filled life. Such an opportunity to care is terminated the moment the fateful final solution is administered.

Measuring life expectancy
There are inherent dangers in seeking to measure how ‘terminal’ ‘terminal’ really is. Your Bill makes provision for a terminally ill patient to take their life if the patient, “as a consequence of that terminal illness is reasonably expected to die within six months”. The body at times demonstrates a remarkable ability to recover. Whilst generally, in the case of terminally ill patients, this doesn't mean that they are cured, nonetheless they can regain useful and even normal living for far longer than might have been anticipated and where the focus is on physical function they might be regarded as being 'normal'. What a terrible thing it would be to deny somebody this possibility, which neither the patient or the carers and doctors thought possible. Society is quick to grasp the concept of there being “just a few months of life left”, but those in the medical profession know how different the reality is.

Palliative Care
In your article in the Express and Star you make the astonishing claim that the introduction of assisted suicide would “put pressure on local authorities to improve palliative care so that patients have a real alternative to assisted dying”. That is like saying it would be good to set some houses on fire in order to improve the efficiency of the fire service! We find this a very disturbing argument for someone to make. Why promote death in order to encourage life? The fact is modern palliative care is already very effective at alleviating suffering of the terminally ill and is improving all the time through the dedication of those who value end of life care, not by the practice of assisted suicide.

Life is sacred
Finally as Christian Ministers we believe that life itself is sacred and that the law as it stands supports that belief. A change in the law would dishonour God’s gift of life and lead into all sorts of unfortunate consequences for which we will be held responsible by a just God. Yes, we will all die, but our role is not to shorten life but protect it for its duration. We also believe that physical death itself is not the end. Through his own death on the cross Jesus Christ holds out the prospect of eternal life to all who believe and trust in him. To deny this truth is to believe that our present existence is the sum total and we are masters of our own destiny – the dismal claim at the heart of assisted suicide. As ministers in the city of the MP proposing the bill, we have no choice but to speak out for the many who disagree strongly with it and feel endangered by it.

22    cmf file 56, 2015
33    cmf 56 2015
44    cmf file 56, 2015

Yours sincerely, 

Revd Adrian Argile, Regional Ministry Team Leader, Heart of England Baptist Association
Revd Steve Faber, Moderator-Elect of the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church
Rev John Howard, Chair of Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury Methodist District
Bishop David McGough – Roman Catholic bishop with responsibility for Wolverhampton
Pastor Emmanuel Kapofu, International Life Centre, Horsely Fields
Rev Richard Merrick, Holy Trinity Heath Town        
Rev Dr. Ian Poole, Acting Rector of Busbury Parish                                                            
Rev Jonathan Somerville, Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton
Pastor Simon Taylor, Christian Life Centre, Blakenhall
Pastor Steve Uppal, All Nations Christian Centre, Temple Street
Pastor Tony Wastall, Lifespring Church, Chapel Ash
Rev Robert Carter, St Aidans Church, Penn
Rev Anthony Henson, Grace Church Wolverhampton, part of Catalyst / Newfrontiers
Rev Jeremy Oakley, St Philip’s Church, Bradmore
Rev Carl Rudd, St Joseph’s Church, Merry Hill, Wolverhampton
Rev Sue Walker, Minister of Lea Road Community Church (URC)
Rev Philip Robertson, St Jude’s Church, Wolverhampton   
Rev Gareth Regan, St Philip’s Church, Bradmore
Pastor Ivy Kapofu, International Life Centre, Horsely Fields
Rev Pippa Goldring, Holy Trinity Heath Town
Rev Samuel Leach, St Alban’s Wednesfield
Rev Alan Vincent, Life Groups of Chorley Chapel in Scotlands & Wednesfield
Pastor Terry Wilkes, Windmill Community Church, Castlecroft
Pastor David Coates-Smith, Lifespring Church, Chapel Ash
Rev Hannah Colk, Tabernacle Baptist Church Wolverhampton
Rev Preb. Ben Whitmore, St Bartholemew’s Church, Penn
Rev Tim Mullings, Tettenhall Wood United Reformed Church
Father Brendan Carrick, St Anthony’s Catholic Church
Pastor Cassius Francis, Wesleyan Holiness Church Wolverhampton
Rev Graham Smith, Church of the Good Shepherd, Low Hill
Bishop Llewellyn Graham, Jubilee Christian Centre
Rev Bill Mash, Team Leader Black Country Urban Industrial Mission
Pastor Leon Etten, The  Potter’s House Church Wolverhampton
Pastor John Price, Kingsway Church, Wombourne
Mr Jon Beckett, Penn Christian Centre        
Bishop Theophilus McCalla, Gloucester Street Church
Pastor Emmanuel Jones, Fountain of Grace Church Wolverhampton
Rev Richard Espin-Bradley, St Luke’s Church, Blakenhall

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Knife Bin opened, 30 weapons off the streets - Catching Up part 1

In July last year, in partnership with West Midlands Police and Word 4 Weapons we unveiled a knife surrender bin on the church premises, you can read a report about it here.

At the time there were many voices who told us it was a gimmick, that it had no chance of working, that people would not surrender knives.

We have now opened the bin for the first time, and after removing litter we discovered approximately 30 weapons, including two guns, a twin-bladed knuckle duster, a particularly gruesome ring with a blade attachment, and many knives of a variety of sizes.

30 weapons off the streets!

You can read a report about the weapons surrendered in our area here.

Here are the pictures from our knife surrender bin