By John Martin
Speak Up: The Law and Your Gospel Freedoms reviews how different areas of law apply to telling people about Christianity. It also offers a correction to fears that Christians may have to be quiet about what they believe when sharing the gospel.
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, encourages Christians in the preface of the resource: “The good news of Jesus is something we all need to play a part in sharing. We all have amazing opportunities in our everyday lives to introduce people to him: whether at work, at the school gate, in the playground, at the bus stop or over a cup of tea.”
The report looks at the freedom to share the gospel in public, in private, at the workplace and online, emphasizing the need to combine care and sensitivity with passionate communication of the good news.
“Sometimes it seems as though we live in a society where it is increasingly difficult to share our faith, and hostility can seem not too far away when we do,” said Mark Barrell, executive director of Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship. “There has also been the occasional situation when talking about Jesus has led a Christian into legal trouble.
“Yet we also live in a society where the law provides very substantial protection for our freedom to speak about our faith in Christ, and it’s a society that is multi-ethnic and plural. We are encouraged to embrace religious diversity and tolerance in our multi-ethnic and plural society.”
Said Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at Evangelical Alliance, “Across the U.K., Christians are passionate about sharing their faith, and this is very good news for society. In fact evangelism is a sign of a free and healthy society. So we should celebrate and exercise our freedoms. Some may be worried about whether they will get in trouble if they do so. With wisdom, we want to give Christians the confidence to talk about Jesus. Despite the fog and the fear in our society, this resource shows that Christians have many precious freedoms, and why it’s vital that we use them.”
“We can’t help speaking about what we have seen and heard but it makes sense to know where the law will uphold our freedom to do so and where there are dangers to be avoided,” said Sir Jeremy Cooke, a retired High Court judge. “With guidance, both human and divine, we can seek to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Other Global News
Stealing Backfires: A man caused £40,000 (U.S. $53,000) worth of damage to Winchester Cathedral while stealing £10 from a charity donation box. During his excursion, Paul Wild caused damage to mortuary chests and broke both his ankles as he smashed through stained-glass windows while trying to escape. He was sent to prison for 20 months.
Unhappy Girls: A report from the Church of England Children’s Society says a study of girls from 10 to 15 years old found that 14 percent are unhappy with their lives as a whole. Moreover, 34 percent are unhappy with their appearance. Many reported feeling they are ugly and worthless. The same results were not found among teenage boys.
Figures on England, Wales, and Scotland gathered in 2013-14 indicate a sharp spike in unhappiness among girls compared to the previous five years.
The Children’s Society’s annual “Good Childhood” report has been produced annually for the past 11 years. Its material is extracted for the society’s Understanding Society Survey, which draws data from 40,000 U.K. households. The society has sought help from experts at York University as it seeks to interpret the data.
The study suggests social media are an increasing source of pressure. Further, a difficult economic climate creates a “serious” generation of youngsters.
Lucy Capron of the Children’s Society told the BBC: “This isn’t something which can be explained away by hormones or just the natural course of growing up. Actually this is something that we need to take seriously and we need to address.”
She said emotional bullying such as name-calling is twice as common as physical bullying among boys. The report suggests that girls are more likely than boys to spend long periods on social media and that this is linked to greater risks of mental illness.
Christmas Under Threat: Waves of immigration are changing the texture of British society, and segregation threatens to change the character of state schools. It is leaving celebration of Christmas under threat and leaving some citizens feeling unsettled, according to a forthcoming government review.
A study task force led by Dame Louise Carey says these issues must be faced and not ignored by local councils that fear accusations of insensitivity.
“What did we ever think would be offensive about celebrating Christmas with a tree?” Dame Carey said.
She has criticized councils for “over worrying” about causing offense among minority groups. This attitude led one community centre she visited to use a “festive tree” because the “incredibly well-meaning white manager” did not want to offend Asian and Muslim staff by using the word Christmas.
“We need to be much bolder in not just celebrating our history, heritage and culture but standing up for our democratically decided upon laws of the land,” she said. ““It is not racist to say that the pace and rate of immigration has created a lot of change in Britain and for some people that feels too much.”
Vicars and Beakers: Plans are underway to take Church of England vicars on tours of laboratories in a series of projects aimed at fostering better understanding between science and faith.
“Take Your Vicar to the Lab,” due to begin later in September, is one of eight to in England to receive funding of up to £10,000 (U.S. $13,000) in the first round of a Scientists in Congregations program. It’s part of an initiative to help churchgoers engage confidently with science and raise the profile of Christians working in science-related jobs.
Ely Cathedral will hold a service next year celebrating science, medicine, and technology through café-style discussion evenings between students and science professionals. Another project is to develop 100 scientific activities for use at Messy Church sessions for families and children.
The Cathedral on Isle of Man has been awarded a grant to help fund a series of booklets for children and young people to explore the Cathedral gardens from a science and faith perspective.
Tom McLeish, professor of physics at Durham University and co-director of the Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science program, said: “Helping our communities take delight in understanding the world around them by engaging with scientists is part of the church’s mission.”
“There is a hunger in churches to be able to host and support informed, constructive conversations about the big faith-science related questions,” said the Rev. Kathryn Pritchard, Scientists in Congregations project leader. “These projects are each contributing, in small increments, to a shift in the mood of the faith-science conversation in this country.”
Same-sex Marriage in Australia: The Most Rev. Philip Freier, Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, has said the church “must accept” a change in the definition of civil marriage if a proposed national referendum establishes a civil right to same-sex marriage. He says, however, that the church’s doctrine of marriage will not change.
In a pastoral letter released through his webblog on Sept. 9, Freier wrote that he supports calls for a referendum.
“If the plebiscite does happen it will be important that Christians — and others — vote according to their conscience and their view of what is best for society, and that the Government brings legislation to enact the will of the people. It is proper to expect that the Parliament should honour the results of the plebiscite,” he wrote.
“Should the vote be in favour of same-sex marriage as suggested by the opinion polls, the Church must accept that this is now part of the landscape. We can still stand for and offer holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a sacred ordinance given by God, while accepting that the state has endorsed a wider view of marriage — as, indeed, the state has endorsed de facto relationships by legislating similar protections to those offered by marriage for people in such relationships.
“The doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman, under God, forsaking all others until death parts them. I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage.”
Freier said the church should be “more pastorally sensitive” but it was “not only Christians who have sometimes failed” to refrain from “harsh or vilifying” language.
There is still uncertainty about whether there will in fact be a vote. Recent polls suggest that 63 percent of Australians favor same-sex marriage.