A PROFILE OF BRITAINS NEW CHRISTIAN PRIME MINISTER
Theresa May will be the first female prime minister of Britain since Margaret Thatcher. After accepting her appointment by her party as Prime Minister May said “I know some politicians seek high office because they are driven by ideological fervour or for reasons of ambition or glory. My reasons are much simpler. I grew up the daughter of a local vicar and the granddaughter of a regimental sergeant major. Public service has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.” May has said that her Christian faith is an important part of her life, and she is a practicing member of the Church of England, but prefers to keep her personal life away from the public spotlight. ” My Christian faith is part of me. It is part of who I am and therefore how I approach things,” she told the BBC’
St Andrew’s Church in Sonning is the parish Church that the new Prime Minister, has been attending every Sunday, when she can, since before becoming an MP in 1997. Shirley Chard, a former Parish Secretary at the church, said “Mrs May and her husband attend every Sunday that she possibly can, when she’s in the country. Local parishioners are expecting May to continue attending the Sunday service each week as usual, despite being made Prime Minister. So who is this un-flashy politician and quiet Christian. To what extent does her faith impact on her politics? Born in 1956, an only child, she was raised in Oxfordshire amid heavy demands on her vicar father. She attended a local grammar school, was drawn to the Conservative party around the age of 12 – and won a place to study Geography at Oxford.
While she was there, she met her husband Philip. She has described him to friends as her rock. Although May enjoyed a comfortable, middle class upbringing, she has experienced pain. In 1981, her father died in a car accident. The following year, her mother, who suffered with multiple sclerosis also died. After that, the Mays discovered that they could not have children. “It just didn’t happen,” she said. Having worked in financial services, May won the seat of Maidenhead in 1997. Although a traditionalist in style, around 2001, she started attending private meetings of the fringe Tory Reform Group. And in 2002, as party chair under then leader Iain Duncan Smith, she surprised and angered some of her own party at their annual party conference by claiming “Our base is too narrow, and so, occasionally, are our sympathies.”
“You know what some people call us: the nasty party” she said. And here lies the contradiction at the heart of May’s agenda: she is at once moral conservative and social liberal. This contrast has been evident during her time as Home Secretary since 2010. A steady hand at the notoriously turbulent Department, May was increasingly tough-talking on immigration. Yet she also did more than any other Home Secretary since Kenneth Clarke in attempting to reform the police, for years finding herself at loggerheads with the conservative Police Federation over police corruption and misuse of stop-and-search. Dismissed as authoritarian and “illiberal” by the evangelical Christian Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, she has nonetheless gained the support of Tory heavyweight civil libertarian David Davis MP.
On conscience issues, May has been on what is known in Westminster as a ‘journey’. In 1998 she voted against lowering the age of consent and in 2002 against gay adoption, though she backed the introduction of civil partnerships in 2004. She has changed her mind over the years on gay adoption, and wrote in 2010 that there needs to be a “cultural change” in Britain to tackle homophobia. In 2008, May voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks, citing scientific advances that allow premature babies born at 24 wees to survive. This mixed picture has left some leading conservatives unconvinced. Peter Hitchens, the Mail on Sunday columnist and a practising Christian says “I see no sign that Theresa May supports socially conservative policies.
May has spoken out against inequality and injustice in society, paying special attention to the plight of the poor and minorities. “If you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black you will be treated much more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else to go to university,” the Conservative leader has said. “If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman you still earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s too often not enough help to hand.” She has also voted against the introduction of assisted suicide in Britain.
May has impressed faith groups, including the Jewish community. The Jewish Chronicle (JC) said that, “As the longest-serving Home Secretary for more than a century, Mrs May is better placed than any other politician to understand British Jews’ concerns on extremism and rising antisemitism.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has hailed her rise as “welcome news for the Jewish community”. On behalf of the Catholics, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who has worked with May on human trafficking issues, wrote to her to say: “I am delighted at your appointment. I know from the work we have done together that you have many qualities to bring to the service of our country at this time. I appreciate the maturity of judgement, the steely resolve, the sense of justice and the personal integrity and warmth you have always shown.”
Muslim reaction however is more mixed. Muslim groups criticised her over her stance against terrorism and last year the Islamic Human Rights Commission named her “Islamophobe of the year.” But May pleased some Muslims with the announcement of a review into the use of Sharia law. Also controversial was May’s refusal to accept a mandatory EU refugee quota system in response to the Mediterranean migrant boat crisis. May had originally refused to accept any refugees under the proposed EU resettlement programme. Yet she outraged campaigners – including some Christians – by also ruling out Britain taking part in any future EU system to relocate asylum seekers who successfully make the journey across the Mediterranean. To this day, May is refusing to say that EU migrants will be allowed to stay in post-Brexit Britain.
But away from controversy and back in Sonning, there is at least as much good will for May as there is, for now at least, in the Conservative party. Those close to May know she faces her toughest challenge yet. Rev Jamie Taylor, the vicar at St Andrew’s and a friend of May, describes her as a “very supportive member” of the historic church and a “hard-working and respected MP”. Taylor adds: “We pray weekly for Her Majesty and those set in authority under her, and that prayer will take on a little more significance for us at St. Andrew’s in the years ahead…On behalf of all at St Andrew’s Church…I warmly congratulate her as she prepares to take up the daunting responsibilities before her.”
RELIGIOUS LEADERS CALL FOR ACTION TO BRING HEALING AFTER POLICE KILLINGS
Church leaders around America are calling for action to promote healing of the racial wounds ripped bare by police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and the killing of five police officers in Dallas.. In Dallas, a diverse group of local church leaders held a Together We Stand prayer service and a clergy prayer service the same day at Thanks-Giving Square in the city’s downtown and opened their churches to host counsellors seeking to comfort and pray with those who are grieving. One Pastor said “every act of coming together is another stitch in the torn fabric of our community. We will work together “to determine how to practice the peace of Christ in this moment and beyond.” “Today we begin by showing up and praying.”
“There is not a choice between standing with protestors or standing with police,” said Elijah Zehyoue, director of programs and communications for the NBC. “Violence anywhere and everywhere breaks the heart of God just as injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” After two black men were shot by white officers, Jeff Roberts, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., has been reaching out to black pastors “who are my friends,” he said in a Facebook post. He has also reached out to police officers connected with his congregation. “In both cases I had the same message,” he said. “I love you, support you and God is with you. We are all hurting.” Roberts encouraged others to reach out, to “make that call or send that text. Let them know they are loved and you are praying for them.”
Cameron Jorgenson, an associate professor of Christian theology whose student population is about 40% black, had a simple message to all: You matter! He drew parallels between police officers and Catholic priests who labour in their duties under a cloud of suspicion, the former because of perceived racism, the latter because of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. “In both cases good, even heroic, people have their difficult job made harder as they are presumed guilty by virtue of their profession,” he said. “The Christian tradition has a handful of words that are relevant to the crisis we’re in right now: repentance, reconciliation and love. Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship said, “Out of love for God and neighbour, we are commanded to seek peace through justice.”
Paynter is encouraging churches in every community to join with others to host community forums that include representatives of the community and law enforcement. “We know that dialogue and resolution at times can begin and flourish in a sanctuary beyond what we can achieve in the streets.” Ironically, Dallas has a reputation of working on race relations, and of a police department strong on community policing and well trained in appropriate use of force. But no city is immune “when lunatics decide to exploit the moment.” “No matter what we do to build all these trusts and work together in significant ways, it’s almost impossible to reach every deranged, angry and isolated individual and get them to do the right thing.”
Five years ago, South Sudan became the world’s newest country after seceding from the North. Following a lengthy dispute over where a border should be drawn, it was decided that Sudan’s predominantly Christian South Kordofan and Blue Nile states would remain in the mainly Sunni Muslim North. In the five years since, the Sudanese government has waged a bombing campaign against this restive, resource-rich southern region. Sudan’s Christians, who along with indigenous groups are concentrated in the southern regions of the country, are among the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced by the violence, and whose homes, crops, churches, schools and hospitals have been destroyed. In the latest incident the sole secondary school in South Kordofan was destroyed.
In April, the US State Department designated Sudan a “Country of Particular Concern” for the tenth consecutive year under the International Religious Freedom Act, for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”. A new report by Open Doors, says Sudanese Christians – especially those in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states – have been, and continue, to face “ethnic cleansing”. According to the report, successive Islamist regimes have attempted to turn Sudan into a Sharia state that does not recognise other religious groups, with strict punishments for apostasy, blasphemy and defamation of Islam. These laws have been particularly harsh on ethnically African (as opposed to Arab) Christians, notes the report.
Following South Sudan’s independence, many Christians in Sudan, with family roots in South Sudan, left the country, as the Sudanese government embarked on a mission to create a “homogenous nation”, with Islam as the sole religion. The report, which reviews the Sudanese government’s record over the past 30 years and considers current trends, concludes that attacks against Christians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are “systematic” and “widespread” and therefore qualify as “ethnic cleansing”. According to the report, the modus operandi in the 1980s and 90s was to “conquer and convert them, or finish them off”. This has continued till today. The report says that Sudanese military has bombed civilian villages and agricultural land, hampered the planting of crops and forced people to live in caves.
Other studies by Human Rights Watch and Africa Rights Watch are also referenced. These reports state: “Sudanese Air Forces attacked houses of worship through ground offensives and aerial bombardment. Four of Kadugli’s five churches were destroyed and their offices and guest houses attacked. Episcopal pastors in Kadugli described doors and windows torn down, documents and religious papers ripped apart, parts of churches burned and, supplies, vehicles and electronic equipment looted.” Amnesty International has also documented the bombing of hospitals, schools, refugee camps and relief organisations. The report by Amnesty International does not list religious affiliation; however Open Doors’ report says Christians are being targeted specifically.
HIGH SCHOOL KIDS TAUGHT TO ABORT MENTALLY CHALLENGED
High school students in Utah are being taught that aborting preborn children with Down Syndrome is the only option and the right thing to do. After reviewing a test administered to high schoolers in the Beehive State that failed to give a pro-life perspective as a viable option to a question, an education expert suggests this is just another reason why school choice should be available to parents. A final biology exam at Utah Electronic High School posed the following situation: a 40-year-old pregnant woman receives a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, and then offers several possible answers, including abortion – but not one answer was to have the baby. When this question was posed to Melody Wood of the Heritage Foundation, she maintained that the school is teaching children more than biology.
“This question seems to imply that just because a person has Down Syndrome, that person is less worthy of life,” Wood told OneNewsNow. “And because it was a multiple-choice question, there’s the additional reason that it seems like the school is testing the student’s religious, or moral, or political views. So, it’s a completely inappropriate question.” Since polls show a divided America on the subject – even though Americans are increasingly pro-life – Wood suggests that the question should have respected the diversity of America. School officials have subsequently pulled the question from the exam, but Wood suggests there are many private schools that wouldn’t put parents and students in that position.
“School choice gives parents the opportunity of choosing schools that align with their religious beliefs and moral beliefs on issues such as abortion,” Woods points out. “There are really many reasons why parents should consider pulling students out of schools that put questions like this on tests that completely don’t align with their religious beliefs.” Here is an example of brain-washing under the guise of education. We hope the people of Utah will revolt against such blatant politicizing with pro-abortion motives. While individual teachers and even local school boards may be conservative and truthful, the public school systems in America have been infiltrated by those espousing many deviant beliefs. Pray for Christian parents to be alert.
HOW THE CHURCH IS CHANGING ENGLAND WITH FREE EDUCATION
The Church of England is making new waves in the country by opening more than 100 free Christian schools. England’s new initiative to open 500 free schools for underprivileged children has been derided by many critics as a poor decision, but the Church of England sees it as an opportunity to teach children the Christian faith. The free schools are funded by the government but can be set up and run by charities, parents, trusts, businesses, teachers, or religious groups. That is why the Church has set its sights on opening some 125 new faith schools across the country during the next four years. The Church currently runs just 10 free schools, but soon that number will rise exponentially with potentially millions of new students.
“This is a moment to be bold and ambitious and offer more than an apologetic for church schools but a vision for education,” Bishop Stephen Conway, chair of the Church’s board of education in York, said. A report at the General Synod says the government’s free education program was a “unique opportunity for the Church of England to renew and enhance its contribution to the education of our nation’s children.” The new schools will be a way for the Church to have a voice in an increasingly secular government. Despite the push-back from secular groups, Bishop Conway says the Church vows “to ensure that church schools continue to develop their distinctive Christian character.”
A new law came into effect in Russia on 20 July, described to parliament as an anti-terrorism law. In reality, it’s a series of measures that will limit individual freedoms to an extent not seen since the communist era. No longer will Christians be allowed to evangelise outside of churches, hold prayer events, or legally have house churches. In addition, missionaries will be restricted to working for registered organisations with correct documentation. Christians in Russia have previously endured heavy persecution, but the church remains. An Open Doors expert for the region said, “we are not surprised about the Russian move, we saw it already happening in Central Asian countries. We want to look with eyes of faith and with hands of prayer to this new situation in Russia. God is building His church in Russia and Central Asia.
* for Christian Russians who feel they are being marginalised by their government.
* for a change in direction for leadership so churches are not targeted.
* praising God for the time Christians have had to share the gospel in Russia.