Bishops' hopes for the New Year
AS we enter the New Year, bishops in Essex and Suffolk spoke of their hopes for 2005. EADT religious affairs correspondent JOHN HOWARD reports.THE Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is hopeful that the Church will not be sidetracked from achieving great changes during 2005 by internal political squabbling on issues such as homosexuality.
AS we enter the New Year, bishops in Essex and Suffolk spoke of their hopes for 2005. EADT religious affairs correspondent JOHN HOWARD reports.
THE Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is hopeful that the Church will not be sidetracked from achieving great changes during 2005 by internal political squabbling on issues such as homosexuality.
The matter of gay priests has been a contentious one within the Anglican community and the Rt Rev Richard Lewis said although the issue of homosexuality was a debate that needed to be held, people must not forget to play a part in changing the world for the better.
Bishop Richard added: “I hope that the Church will not get so involved in its own internal politics that it forgets to play a part creating real change in the world.
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“It would be very sad if, when there are opportunities for a very real change, there is a massive internal squabble over such issues as homosexuality.”
He believed that 2005 was potentially a dramatic year and wanted to see people taking the chance to make it happen.
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“If one is into power rather than force, the consumers of this country could literally change the world by the way they make their choices,” said Bishop Richard.
“The diocese is making a concerted effort to be a fair trade diocese, we are working towards that. That means parishes in the diocese looking very carefully at using fairly traded goods, products such as coffee, tea and paper.
“Power can lie with ordinary people to make a difference. Economic power is absolutely enormous; just think how much money is spent locally by church people.”
He added: “It's about being aware of food miles, not buying goods that have come in over thousands of miles, and supporting local producers, although there is the whole world out there. Trade can be fair trade, rather than free trade.
“It's something a lot of local authorities are doing, going in the same direction, looking at the issue of fairly traded coffee, it's not just a Church thing - 2005 is a year of hope.”
On the national, and international stage, Bishop Richard was hopeful that Britain would lead the way in Europe to make a difference and that there may be some progress in Iraq and the Middle East.
The Rt Rev Christopher Morgan, Bishop of Colchester, believed Britain was a bored and anxious nation with a celebrity culture where people were mesmerised by glitz and glamour.
He was concerned to see Christianity become relevant to many people who had no idea of its true message and appeal.
“I long for people to find their lives rooted in prayerfulness and for people to find holiness attractive,” said Bishop Christopher.
“I realize that we live in a celebrity culture and we are mesmerised by glitz and the glitter, but this has a very short shelf life.
“I am conscious that we live in a bored, hungry and anxious nation. There is cynicism too and there are a growing number of people and this is the Church's responsibility, people who have no real contact with the Church or the Christian message in their lives.
“Quite a lot of people have been disillusioned or put off by the contact they have had and we are facing a growing task of connecting with the growing numbers of people for whom the Christian story might as well be in ancient Egyptian.”
Bishop Christopher was also concerned at the Church's obsession with itself and feared that could affect how it related to others.
“I am conscious that the Church has made mistakes and continues to be pre-occupied with itself, too often sometimes. We are not as supple as we might be in our relationships with the wider community,” he said.
Bishop Christopher was keen to see communities able to sustain themselves, as people in Essex were conscious that London was moving ever eastwards and more development was coming.
The bishop was appalled at suggestions that hundreds of thousands of new homes needed to be built in the eastern region and wanted to see the correct infrastructure and communities that could cope with the changes ahead.
But Bishop Christopher was hopeful that the Church could play its part creating sustainable communities as a new wave of people moved in to Essex.
He was also keen to see church buildings used far more than a few hours on Sundays and would like to see them also used by the communities they serve.
“The Church should not be in the business of rubbishing those it disagrees with, but in the business of respectfully listening to one another and, on occasion, agreeing to differ while treating one another with respect,” said Bishop Christopher.
“My hope is that the Church can do its part in creating sustainable communities.”