Bishop Paul Speech to Community Money Advice Envision Conference

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham has used his presidential address at the Diocesan Synod to talk about priorities for the Diocese, the region and thoughts on national and international matters.  Speaking Saturday 9th May at a gathering of the synod of Durban Diocese, Bishop Paul said: “Blessing our Communities in Jesus’ name is partly about recognising [ blessing often comes from one another. God’s blessing becomes seen in and through people]. God blesses through us. He blesses us through others. “Our core priorities of Growing Church, Children and Young People and Poverty have to be worked out in practice. They need priorities within themselves; just where will we put our energies? Which bits do we think should be tackled first? This plan shows that we are serious about believing that God has called us to this, and that when God calls He gives us the wisdom, strength, gifts and resources that we need to fulfil that calling. “All of this will need resourcing. The primary resourcing is God’s by the Holy Spirit as he equips and empowers his people. This needs all of us to show our abiding in Christ by keeping his commands; living his way. It also needs us to give in response to God’s amazing grace given to us, and in response to the need of our communities. So giving from our monetary resource is essential. Looking to wider matters he said: “Yesterday morning those who had not stayed up watching the election results awoke to a shock. Everyone expected an indecisive election. Instead we have a Conservative government with a clear, though small majority. The new government have the responsibility to govern the whole nation. This will be a major challenge. “In the North East we voted for something different; other regions did so too. So it is essential that the government recognise the will of all the people in all the regions. They need to demonstrate generosity to those regions who least want them to govern. It is required of governments to care for the neediest in the land; for those most in need – whether that need be of homes, education, jobs, healthcare, public transport. It is not that government should supply all of these; that form of State control and ownership has been seen not to really serve the poorest to the best. But it is that government ensure that the investment, the opportunities and the responsibilities are shared justly between us all. It is for government to listen carefully to the people of each region and work for the good of all. Failure to do so in our new situation will only lead to further fragmentation of our nation, even its end as one united kingdom.” In conclusion he said: “In Christ God has blessed us beyond measure. His love is wonderful. but he blesses us that we might be a blessing to others, who in return, even unknowingly, bless us. It is a virtuous circle of blessing. In this God will always surprise us; take us into unexpected places. We have always to be open to God’s different ways. But he also calls us to use our minds, hearts, skills and wisdom to plan how and where we think God might be calling us to respond to his call.” Short Summary Interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b133aHJM1jM&width=600 Full video of the address https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWo9N6jdZBQ&width=600 A full transcript is below. 

Presidential Address Diocesan Synod – May 9th 2015

Last Monday I was at the Citizens UK General Election Accountability Assembly in Central Hall, Westminster. Immediately before my 2 minutes on Hope a rabbi prayed a Hebrew blessing upon us all. Before he did so he reminded us that blessing often comes from one another. God’s blessing becomes seen in and through people. Blessing our Communities in Jesus’ name is partly about recognising this truth. God blesses through us. He blesses us through others. Remember the great covenant promise to Abraham, ‘I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing … in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ (Gen 12.2-3) Blessed to be a blessing. Indeed as we bless we will find ourselves also the recipients of blessing; perhaps beyond anything we can imagine. Today we have before us a clear Plan on a Page of how this blessing could work out in reality. The 3 core priorities of Growing Church, Children and Young People and Poverty have to be worked out in practice. They need priorities within themselves; just where will we put our energies? Which bits do we think should be tackled first? This plan shows that we are serious about believing that God has called us to this, and that when God calls He gives us the wisdom, strength, gifts and resources that we need to fulfil that calling. It does not just happen; we all, everyone of our churches and every single one of us across our diocese need to engage with it. Underlying the Plan on a Page with its specific proposals is the Christian gospel for which we stand and the values by which we do things. We are loved by the Father, rooted in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our regular engagement in the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer upholds it all. This is the undergirding of everything on this plan. To bring the whole into reality step by step will mean we will need to be bold and courageous; we will need to be faithful, caring and respectful. We will need to abide in Christ; be still before Him, allowing his life to flow through us so that we bear his fruit, and fruit that will last. It will be important that we make these underlying values plain so that everyone who sees this plan knows it is not a business management exercise but a plan discerned, we trust, under God and executed for the glory of God, not the church. Some will ask if it is realistic? Well Yes I believe it is when we recognise it as a faith commitment not a management exercise. I take Jesus words to his disciples in Samaria seriously; recorded for us because they were not only true at the time but remain true today, ‘my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.’ (John 4.34-35) GROWING CHURCHES Do people come to faith in Jesus Christ today? Well yes they do; for example tomorrow evening I will confirm 25 people of all ages in Shildon. Reading their testimonies tells us Jesus changes people today. Can completely new churches be started? Well research carried out by David Goodhew, of St John’s College, which will be published in the autumn, shows that there are many new churches across the NE. These have been started and grown over the past few decades. It shows that new churches can be started. We will look to play our part in this. Can churches grow? Well we have examples amongst our own parishes where growth is happening. We know of growth in other churches. So Yes they can. This growth will vary widely; in some places it will be growth of existing congregations simply loving God, one another and the world seeing growth as they are. In others it will be in new congregations emerging within existing parishes; Messy Churches are one example of this but congregations in old people’s homes, in schools, for ex-offenders, immigrant groups and others besides will emerge. Growth is possible in all types of communities, using all our church traditions and amongst all ages. We need to be intentional about praying for growth; intentional about seeking growth and intentional about sustaining growth. POVERTY We cannot resolve all the deep poverty issues around our region and communities. But we can play our part working alongside others. Yes we must keep on encouraging practical response to those in need. So foodbanks, luncheon clubs and so on must go on. But we can help a great deal with the development of more Just Money projects through Credit Unions, debt counselling advice etc. We should work where we can with businesses seeking to create good apprenticeships and jobs. We can encourage employers to move to the Living Wage. Our schools can be at the forefront of poverty proofing. We can be a blessing to our communities by working with them to take responsibility for themselves in seeking the common good; not sitting back and waiting for it to be done to or for them. Neither being done to or having something done for really resolves poverty in the long term. It must be about empowering communities to take responsibility for themselves. it is about helping individuals recognise their own worth as human beings and seeing where and how they can live life in all its fullness. We can set an example by each of our churches demonstrating taking responsibility for itself; as so many already do. CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE Then what of Children and Young People? There are over 14,000 in our own church schools. Many other schools open their doors for clergy and church members to visit; they visit churches, and engage in community events. We can bless the lives of children and young people through serving them in their schools. All our own schools need to be places of blessing. We need to seek to be a blessing to all schools, colleges and universities. We can build too on our own provision for children and young people through church groups and clubs. There is brilliant stuff taking place for pre-school children. There are growing opportunities once again for Uniformed organisations; so the Church Lads and Girls Brigade groups, our connections with other uniformed organisations like The Boys and Girls Brigades, Scouts and Guides are all potentially areas of growth. Many churches run excellent Holiday Clubs or regular Fun Days. Messy Churches continue to grow as do @4s and other all age worship events. We can look to grow all of this. If every church that has contact with children and young people regularly simply aimed to grow their group size by 2% each year we would touch many more lives. We can help those who have lost contact to start from scratch. But we also must look beyond the walls of the church and schools and see what can be done with the young. People who feel they have nothing better to do than hang about on streets. Here partnership with people like Youth for Christ will be essential. Indeed partnerships working with all the organisations in our region working with children and young people will be essential. We have also identified very specifically the need to do some fresh work with those aged 18-25. Around 40% of this age group are higher education students so chaplaincy in Universities remains important alongside churches where students live reaching out specifically to them. But what might our work look like in relation to Further Education colleges with apprenticeship schemes and young adults in work? Where this age become parents how will we support them in their responsibilities? We have identified we need help to find some possible answers and try some fresh approaches here. RESOURCING All of this will need resourcing. The primary resourcing is God’s by the Holy Spirit as he equips and empowers his people. This needs all of us to show our abiding in Christ by keeping his commands; living his way. It also needs us to give in response to God’s amazing grace given to us, and in response to the need of our communities. So giving from our monetary resource is essential. We believe God is calling us to this plan so we believe God calls us to be generous. We will need to grow our regular income by an average of 5% across the next 5 years. To begin with we need to grow by at least 3% in 2016 and then by 5 and 6% in subsequent years. This is entirely achievable. In doing so we can keep the number of posts as they are now; no more cutting stipe diary posts; although there will be a changing mix of clergy and laity filling those posts. It is people that take up 80% of our costs and always will. Our vision is clear. Increasing our giving is about investing in people so that together we can truly be a blessing to all our communities. NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL MATTERS In our commitment to bless our communities in Jesus name we are looking outwards, not inwards. I believe it is always important that in these Presidential addresses we do not simply think about the church, or just our diocese, but think about our wider world and our nation. Yesterday morning those who had not stayed up watching the election results awoke to a shock. Everyone expected an indecisive election. Instead we have a Conservative government with a clear, though small majority. The new government have the responsibility to govern the whole nation. This will be a major challenge. The obvious one is the extraordinary success of the Scottish Nationalists. But our region illustrates this too. In Scotland the voters clearly want something very different from that for which the Conservative party stand. In the North East we too voted for something different; other regions did so too. So it is essential that the government recognise the will of all the people in all the regions. They need to demonstrate generosity to those regions who least want them to govern. It is required of governments to care for the neediest in the land; for those most in need – whether that need be of homes, education, jobs, healthcare, public transport. It is not that government should supply all of these; that form of State control and ownership has been seen not to really serve the poorest to the best. But it is that government ensure that the investment, the opportunities and the responsibilities are shared justly between us all. It is for government to listen carefully to the people of each region and work for the good of all. Failure to do so in our new situation will only lead to further fragmentation of our nation, even its end as one united kingdom. For our part as a region we should not immediately sink into a convinced despair that it will be 5 years of doom and gloom. We should not see ourselves as set fair for protest and moans. We have a responsibility to work with the government for the wellbeing of the region as part of the whole nation. We must take responsibility for ourselves and together build better communities; see jobs created; make sure our schools are the very best; not misuse or abuse the health service so that it really is there for all of us when we truly need its brilliance and expertise . No falling into the trap of wanting others to do it for us; let us pursue all we can to organise as local communities seeking the very best that we can for every cicitizen I hope we can learn from the work of people like Citizens UK and establish better organising from the grassroots up in the next few years. It is the generosity of spirit towards all that needs also to mark the government’s approach to international affairs. We must never lose sight of just how wealthy as a nation we remain. So when natural disaster strikes, as so tragically recently in Nepal, as a nation we need to continue to respond with generosity; bot through individual giving, and through government aid – which can always deliver much more. The government is committed to maintain Overseas Aid at 0.7% and should resist calls to reduce that in its future budgeting. It is a relatively very small amount in the budget but of great significance to the poorest in the world. It also sets a lead for the international community as a whole. We need to keep considering too how we respond with generosity to the plight of migrants around the world. There are millions of refugees and displaced peoples. Our TV screens have been filled with Syria and Iraq and both the internally displaced peoples camps and the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. For some Iraqis, both Christians and Muslims they are on their second displacement. We are seeing thousands of migrants risking their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. Currently thousands are fleeing Burundi because of the violence there; Rwanda and Congo have both received thousands, even tens of thousands of refugees. People leave their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods out of fear. They leave because of political, ethnic and religious persecution. But alongside the fear they travel also in hope. Hope of life, of a fresh start. In the process families became separated and divided, wondering if they will ever be together again. The pain and sorrow is intense. There are no simple answers but surely when we are one of the wealthiest nations on earth we can do better than offer welcome to 1500 Syrian refugees? The paucity of our response up to now seems to me to be a scandal. We should take more.  Most refugees do not want to come here. They want to return safely and peacefully to their own land and homes. Surely we can support organisations who bring relief to those in camps, and support them until that day arrives. Here we have contributed more than many nations and let us ensure that we do not let up. We have a responsibility to play our full part internationally. The poorest on earth are our neighbours. Generosity should be a mark of this nation in our international affairs. CONCLUSION I return though in conclusion to the main business before this synod today. In Christ God has blessed us beyond measure. His love is wonderful. but he blesses us that we might be a blessing to others, who in return, even unknowingly, bless us. It is a virtuous circle of blessing. In this God will always surprise us; take us into unexpected places. We have always to be open to God’s different ways. But he also calls us to use our minds, hearts, skills and wisdom to plan how and where we think God might be calling us to respond to his call. Our Plan on a Page is I believe exciting and challenging. Let us step forward in faith knowing we are loved by the Father, rooted in Jesus and empowered by the Spirit. Let us be bold and strong trusting God to keep on being the God of enormous blessing.

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