Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The World Methodist Council has learnt with great sadness and shock of the tragic death of
your spiritual leader, The Right Reverend John K. Yambasu on 17th August. We understand that
Bishop John sadly succumbed to an accident on his way to attend the funeral of a colleague,
The late Revd. Edmund Kamara, in Northern Sierra Leone.
On behalf of the World Methodist Council, representing some 80 million people called
Methodists across the globe, I convey my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the
United Methodist family at large. I pray that the Almighty bind up your broken hearts and souls
as you prepare to come to terms at your devastating loss.
And yet, we give thanks to the Creator for the gift that was Bishop Yambasu, for his Ministries in
Christian Education and Youth, for founding the Child Rescue Center in Sierra Leone and for his
leadership as Bishop of the United Methodist Church since 2008.
We pray too, during this time of grief, when brokenness of heart and spirit forcefully remind us
that death is woven into the very fabric of our human existence, that Bishop Yambasu’s wife,
Millicent and children, Rebecca, Adima, John, Emmanuel and Elizabeth will know God’s love
and comfort in a very special way.
The Lord is near to those who mourn; he lifts up those who whose spirit is crushed. Ps 34:18;
The Lord binds up the brokenhearted, Isaiah 61:1-3
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Ivan M Abrahams
BECKLY LECTURE 29 JUNE 2020
PEACE, PANDEMICS AND PLASTIC BOTTLES – PRIORITISING THE FUTURE?
GREETINGS AND OPENING REMARKS
It is generally being realised everything must change.
Covid-19 has brought us globally to imagine a new world.
It is never too late to commit oneself to building a better world, a world
governed by justice, mercy and humility.
In church, it is always urgent to nurture the church as the body of Christ, where
bruised, broken and beautiful, all are equally welcome, equally valued, belong
equally, truly reflecting us all with all our wondrous diversity in congregations
and leadership; where all are worthy, and no one is made to feel unworthy;
where we rejoice in the fact that we are all human beings made in the image of
God, one human race, one in Christ.
I greet you all in the Name of Christ and wish upon you the peace and blessing
Behind me is a cross made for me by Desi, Mr Do It All for many years in the
Corrymeela Community centre in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.
Below it is an image of a mother and child which I bought in Lampadusa. The
refugee mother drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, and gave birth to the child
as she drowned. Both were dead when they were lifted out of the water. Such
things are still going on and break my heart.
I want to share a few modest reflections with you, to add to discussion.
I will be speaking on the wide-ranging theme of peace, pandemics and plastic,
and suggest that the values of justice, mercy and humility direct how we
prioritise future action.
I have retired, but am currently working with Churches Together in Britain and
Ireland to develop and promote the idea of Church of Sanctuary which
envisages every church as a community that values and welcomes diversity,
and is inclusive of all people, especially those who feel most marginalised, not
least refugees. This is now my contribution to the City of Sanctuary movement.
I was ordained forty years ago.
I was President of the Methodist Conference twenty years ago.
It is time there was another President of Methodist Conference whose roots
are elsewhere. Perhaps that will happen this year.
THE THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE
Within the coronavirus pandemic, and the mirror it has held up before us to
see ourselves, the world has seen in full view the heart rending and horrific
murder of George Floyd under the knee of a policeman, gasping “I can’t
breathe”, exposing a killer in what the Rev Al Sharpton has called the
“pandemic of racism”. This has rightly given rise to a global Black Lives Matter
protest within the restrictions of Covid-19. In the context of social distance
people have been willing to take incredible risks to stand together peacefully,
black and white, for justice.
All peace organisations have to relate peace to the global pandemic and anger
in matters of racism and air.
Black Lives Matter has become a global message.
The largest groups on the streets prior to the Black Lives Matters protests
centred on climate change.
Greta Thunberg (2019) draws the attention of the world to the pandemic of
climate crisis. “Treat climate crisis like the crisis it is and give us a future”, she
Young Methodists repeatedly call for climate justice.
Life and clean air matters to us all.
The agenda is immense, but these are two important priorities.
Within Covid-19 and the racism and injustices on which it has shone a light, we
have witnessed remarkable responses which fill us with hope and with horror.
I express my deepest sorrow to families of all those who have died in hospitals,
at home, in care homes, in streets, in deserts, in the sea.
We need wisdom now for ethical choices (Ord, 2020) on what is good and
what is wrong, learning from history that what we choose to do or not to do
now will affect generations to come after us.
Peace-making can be seen as passive and a soft option, but as Barak Obama
said in a meeting I joined in Belfast, “peace-making is harder work than war
I begin with thoughts on peace making.
A regular image of the twenty first century shows the journeys taken by people
who have lost the protection of their own nations, and who take long,
dangerous journeys in their search for sanctuary and security. Wars create
refugees. There are nearly 71 million displaced people now (UNHCR). Ninety
percent of the people crossing borders for safety are people from countries in
or close to conflict. This is the shameful reality of war. Wars are costly.
Peace at the international levels requires an end to war and killing.
Conflict resolution and peace-making in the twenty first century is complex,
and includes negotiations, mediation, bargaining, conflict transformation,
conflict resolution, UN peacekeeping strategies, preventive diplomacy,
humanitarian interventions, justice and reconciliation work, disarmament,
non-violence and interfaith peacebuilding initiatives.
What does peace mean to you?
It is often said that the best biblical word for peace is “shalom” which can be
translated as wholeness or completeness. This suggests that peace is shattered
when someone or something is missing, and that brokenness, not least in body
and mind, is the opposite of peace.
The bible outlines many contexts of human conflict arising mostly from
brokenness and fracture in relationships, symbolised for example in the hurt
and broken relationships of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Sarah and Hagar,
Isaac and Ishmael, and different nations.
Stories around Noah and the flood and the rainbow suggest that the
relationship between humans and the environment is integral to peace and
There are religious tensions around which is the most favoured faith in the
eyes of God. One suggestion explores “sibling rivalry” and the choices held out
in the situations of “Isaac but not Ishmael, Jacob but not Esau” (Sacks, 2015).
These stories raise the question, who is best? They hold up the option of
superiors and inferiors.
The stories in the Hebrew Scriptures pose the question, can it be true that
though we are all made in the Image of God, I am good but not you, God loves
me but not you?
Perhaps the key insight in the Adam and Eve story is that mutuality is central to
all relationships, and is bruised by selfishness, seeking only my satisfaction.
Human beings have this in common that selfishness mars our highest ideals.
The question raised is, how can we build peace and the best for ourselves, and
also for others? What is required to “love your neighbour, as yourself”?
Two teenage women from Syria had no hesitation in stating what would make
life better there. “Stop the killing”. An eleven-year old pupil from South Sudan
gave me his vision for the future. “A world without war”.
For those in situations of war and killing, peace means cessation of war and
Greta Thunberg makes the protection of the environment the most urgent
World War Two was seen as the war to end all war.
In 1989 with the demolition of the Berlin War symbolising the end of the “cold
war” there was hope of entering a new peaceful era.
In 1990 Iraq invaded the neighbouring State of Kuwait.
The air attacks on the World Trade Organisation on 11 th September 2001
unleashed new wars including the Iraq War of 2003, and the so called “war on
terrorism”. There have been conflicts in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Britain and
Ireland. There is war in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia. Israel and
Palestine remain locked in conflict.
New wars loom. China and USA and India are baring their knuckles.
There is conflict over most borders, much of it around displaced people fleeing
danger and crossing over for safety.
Some analysts say the world is more peaceful than ever before. Others say we
are in a state of wars without end.
There are important challenges that face us at local, national and international
level to pursue the path of peace.
We can all play our part for example by being human and hospitable, and
always challenging hatred.
See the image of God in “the other”, “the stranger”, try to experience conflict
from the perspective of the “victim”.
Learn and always seek non-violent means to conflict resolution.
I am thankful for all those who over the years have opted for non-violence and
borne witness to peace-making.
PANDEMICS: STORM AND WIND
I want to turn now to the storm of the pandemics.
Covid-19 has clarified for me wider pandemics, deeper diseases and wounds in
human beings and the environment around us, namely, hatred and climate
Jesus applied the words “peace, be still” to the stilling of the storm (Mark
In the words of an Indian poem (Amar Prem), Spring blossoms, but if autumn
overwhelms spring how will the flowers grow; water puts out the fire, if water
becomes the fire how will fire be put out; a boatman rows your ferry, but if the
boatman sinks the boat how will you survive; don’t blame the waves for the
The cause of the storm is not in the waves.
The storm is in the winds, which move in unpredictable ways.
There has to be international cooperation to find cures and ways through the
coronavirus pandemic, and ways to prevent the spread of similar outbreaks of
This is important and urgent. But to focus entirely on the virus in this pandemic
is to look for the cause and the cure of the storm in the waves, rather than the
direction of the wind. Jesus “rebuked the wind” to still the storm (Mark 4: 39).
What is the wind we are to rebuke to achieve some semblance of peace?
For me the wind to rebuke includes two deeper pandemics:
Hatred between human beings, based on difference, and iniquitous
Climate degradation and change that threatens us all
Let’s look at these two pandemics, wounds that cry out for healing.
If we are to build a better world, and tackle climate change, we have to work
together as human beings. We have to find ways to address human hatred that
divides us. We can do this by being human with each other, and by
accommodating each other as human with our differences.
This is the first restart button to press.
In my experience in ministry, we have been wrestling with this in the
Methodist Church in Britain for forty years, and the struggle continues.
I commend to you the writings of Professor Anthony Reddie and Dr Mukti
Barton and the Rev Dr Israel Selvanayagam for further illumination of this
When I was ordained there were only 5 Black Methodist Presbyters in Britain.
Five years into ministry I helped to initiate the Black Methodist Minister’s
Group now called the Belonging Together Minister’s Group recognising our
diversity. The primary purpose was to meet together to share experiences, to
further education, and to support each other to be more effective in ministry.
Now there are around 200 Black Methodist Presbyters in the British Methodist
Church, and not only do we need the group more than ever, but I would like to
see it strengthened within the connexional budget, to promote black
The Black Methodist Ministers Group worked with connexional colleagues to
help produce a seminal report entitled Faithful and Equal adopted by
Conference in 1987.
This report named racism as the sin we must tackle, and defined racism as
“allowing prejudice to determine the way power is used to the personal, social
or institutional detriment of ethnic minority individuals or communities”.
The wisdom of Dame Sybille Phoenix, instrumental in racism awareness
training, was central to arriving at that definition.
We were ahead of the game, and the many quite significant reports that
emerged, the most wide-ranging of which was the MacPherson Report of the
Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. It made 70 recommendations for change, and gave
a definition of “institutional racism”.
Stephen Lawrence, a young black Methodist, was murdered in a London Street
on 22 April 1993.
Stephen’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, has championed the cause of
racial justice in Britain, and I was proud to invite her to address the Conference
when I was President. She spoke passionately about the need for justice and
Here we are in 2020.
We have made some progress, but we have an unfinished agenda.
Conference has before it a call to an inclusive church.
We must move beyond the white male dominated model of church, it so 19 th
I would like to see the diversity of the Methodist Church reflected in our senior
George Floyd’s murder has named the endemic inequalities faced by black and
minority ethnic communities daily in health and housing, education,
employment, and immigration, as racism.
Why would our government want to create a “hostile environment” within
immigration, and why treat the Windrush generation with such deep injustice
Why hostile? (McDonald, 2019)
What does that do to fan wider hostility?
The Covid-19 pandemic has uncovered the deep sickness of hatred and
resulting inequalities of racism and the harm it does.
We see this for example in the disproportionate numbers of people Asian and
African backgrounds who have died from Covid-19 in the UK and USA.
These groups of people are more affected not only because they have been
among the frontline carers, and in the words of a Public Health England report,
in closest “proximity to infections” and “in occupations that are more likely to
be exposed”, but also because they were the least well protected.
Many of them are also people from overseas on fragile work visas, who were
also being required to pay an NHS levy for care themselves until this was
reversed following a public outcry.
These are the very people who have been least valued, and often most vilified
in opinions, who have been more likely to be undertaking virus facing care
work in hospitals and care home, and who on Thursdays we applauded.
Those at the deepest end of racist violence and abuse anywhere are black
people. The darker your skin the deeper the hurt. This is a global fact, in every
community and in every walk of life.
For me tackling racism at its worst begins with tackling hatred deeply rooted in
concepts of “racial differences” and in which religious belief is so often co-
opted to sanction hatred.
I delight in human diversity.
Human DNA shows an incredible mixing and intermingling among human
beings throughout history (Rutherford, 2020).
There is a fantastic variety in skin colours, and deep visual beauty in them all.
The skin colour referred to as white is incredibly variable, as is the skin colour
of people of Asian or African or Aboriginal people of any nation.
We reduce the variables to black and white.
This remarkable diversity of people rooted in the “global south” is reduced to
BAME, black and minority ethnic.
It is like labelling all the immense variety of Indian cuisine as “curry”, which is
as ludicrous as calling all British food “gravy”.
There is no scientific basis to the argument that there are different races with
one group superior to another.
Science is affirming what theology has insisted.
Human beings are not people of different races (Barton, 2005).
We should stop using terms like multi-racial, and mixed race.
Of course, we all carry the capacity for selfishness and have our biases, and
prejudices (Agarwal, 2020), and hurt each other, but within our immense
differences we are one human race, and incredibly alike.
Life is precious to us all.
We all require breath and blood in our bodies.
Whoever you are your wellbeing will be checked against the same rate of heart
beat and pulse.
How did skin colour come to be so embedded in discrimination?
SKIN COLOUR, RACE AND SLAVERY AND RACISM
Of significance for our reflections is the fact that, to quote a scholar in
genetics, “the emergence of scientific approach to human taxonomy coincided
with the growth of European empires. Characterisation of different
populations before the expansion of Europeans around the globe was more
likely to be based on religion or language than skin colour, but with the birth
and growth of the era of scientific revolution, pigmentation became essential
to the character of humans” (Rutherford, 2020, pg 39).
Skin colour came to be used to exercise power and prejudice, to “other”
human beings of a different and particularly darker skin tone, and to sanction
subjugation of people.
This development was integral to the development of trans-Atlantic slavery
400 years ago, and the subsequent history of racism.
“It is far easier to sell the case for occupation and enslavement if you are
persuaded that the indigenous people are different, have different origins, and
are qualitatively inferior to colonists” (Rutherford, 2020, pg 39).
Scholars in the so-called Enlightenment period of history, the period of empire
building and colonial expansion, helped to formulate the idea of fixed
differences in human beings, primarily based on skin colour, linking skin colour
to character, and ranking of human beings. Those with the lighter skin were
said to be more superior to those with darker skin.
Here lie the roots of the supremacy of the colour white, the idea of different
races based on skin colour was developed.
Contemporary science has rejected these classifications, though they persist in
many people’s mind sets, views and opinions.
Where we are now is that sciences refuse to show linear, discreet
categorisation of human beings. Rather it reveals complexity in human history
and life, which only increases with the movement, meandering and migration
of people across the globe from about 70,000 years ago.
The baseline of the most recent science of human genetics is that “all humans
share all of their DNA (and) of all the attempts over the centuries to place
humans in distinct races, none succeeds. Genetics refuses to comply with these
artificial and superficial categories.” (Rutherford, 2020, pg 55).
While theology insists that we are all made in the image of God, it is a sacrilege
that religion has introduced the idea of clean and dirty, holy and profane, into
People who are like us are clean, others are dirty.
Whiteness is good and pure, blackness is seen negatively.
White has come to be associated with power, privilege and goodness, black
with subjugation, denial and badness. I reject this reasoning. Black is beautiful.
This is why it is important to stand by Black Lives Matter.
To recognise Black Lives Matter, is to agree all lives matter.
Racism is an obscenity, a negation of our humanity. It is a painful form of
violence which is dehumanising, degrading.
We all have to stand and work together, all of us with all our skin variables to
resist and stop racism.
Stop stereotyping people.
Take a persistent stand against racism (Kendi, 2020).
The most repeated command in the bible, to “love the stranger”, challenges us
to see the image of God in those who are different to us.
LIFE AND CLEAN AIR
Let us now turn to climate change and extreme weather, and plastic bottles.
Twenty-five years ago, I visited El Salvador, where I met the Jesuit pastor and
theologian Jon Sobrino (2004). I sat with him in his office, for conversation, and
at one point asked him what the priorities of the Church are now.
“Life, and clean air”, was his immediate reply.
That was not the answer I expected but I found it insightful, and have
remained persuaded by it.
It is the need of our times.
Life and clean air.
The number of deaths around the world from Covid-19 globally is alarming.
However, according to the World Health Organization, seven million people die
because of air pollution in a normal year on planet earth, and as with Covid-19,
the most vulnerable are at the greatest risk, but all of us are affected.
Over 90% of us are breathing unsafe air. This exceeds WHO pollution
Air pollution is a weapon of mass destruction.
We must stop polluting the air.
It is important to arrive at zero carbon emissions much sooner than 2050. This
requires economies and lifestyles that are not fossil-fuel based.
In the name of progress to our own demise, we are poisoning ourselves.
The risk to poorer communities is increased because they are more likely to be
living near more environmentally hazardous sites such as highways and waste
disposal centers (Gardiner, 2019; Hall, 2020).
Air pollution also harms people living in Asia, Africa, the Pacific and Central
America. They are the first ones to feel the heat.
The next 20 to 30 years will see increasing danger from extreme weather, and
an increase in refugees as a result of this.
Plastic is an increasing hazard in the environment.
Plastic is cheap and durable, but deep menace to animal, aquatic and human life.
It is not biodegradeable, and according to one study an average person eats
70,000 pieces of microplastic a year.
Since it was invented in the 1950s, over 8 billion tonnes of plastic has been
produced, and practically every piece of it is still with us in some form.
1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world very minute.
Less than half the bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled, most ending up in
landfills and oceans.
According to the recyclerebuild website only 9% of plastic has been recycled,
12% burned, and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills and the
In your recent walks you may also have come across growing numbers of
plastic gloves discarded along footpaths.
Plastic is the most common form of marine litter worldwide. At least 8 million
pieces of plastic are ending up in the oceans every day.
It is certainly a menace to marine life, as we have seen on Blue Planet
We do not yet know the long-term effects of plastic in our bodies.
Why do we keep producing it when we know it is so harmful to every human
and natural system?
I want to direct you to the Dame Ellen McArthur Foundation (website).
Ellen McArthur learned on her boat expeditions that when she went out on a
boat for three months she only had what she had, and had to survive on that.
She says, on her website, “what we have out there is all we have, there is no
The message of her foundation is that the current systems of the world are no
longer working for businesses, people or the environment. In the current system
we take resources, we make things out of them, and we waste a lot. This is the
linear economy. She argues for a circular economy based on the principles of
designing out waste and pollution and regenerating natural systems.
The onus is on industrial ethics much more than individual lifestyle.
The plastic and air pollution pandemic is part of the racism pandemic.
Stopping plastic and air pollution is part of what it means to love God and your
neighbour as yourself.
God’s first instruction to human beings, according to Genesis 1:28, is to be
fruitful, and to care for creation with wisdom.
I want to turn now to setting the priorities for Peace and Life
I want to stress three values by which we can set our priorities, and help to play
our part to build a better world for all. I turn to the Bible for this rather than any
body of scholarship or scholar. What does God require?
From Micah 6:8 God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does God
require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your
We turn then to the three values outlined here.
First, Do Justice
Justice is the cry of our times.
We have seen many banners with the words: No justice – No peace.
The demand of justice (Song, 2007) is the abundance and benefits of life, the
“fulness of life” (John 10:10) for all, without discrimination and deprivation.
This is the persistent call of the prophets of ancient Israel.
To quote just two sentences from these prophets.
In the words of Isaiah, God is “laying a foundation stone…and…will make
justice the line, and righteousness the plummet..” (Isaiah 28: 16,17).
In the words of Amos, God despises the worship of people who tolerate
injustice and longs for the day when “justice (will) roll down like waters, and
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:2).
Whenever people work in favour of, and are willing to suffer and perhaps even
die for, justice understood as simple fairness, equity, and parity among people
in things that enhance human dignity and well-being, they are standing on the
“foundation stone” established by the God of justice (Song, 2007).
This justice challenges the violence of poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia,
and every form of domination, discrimination, oppression and war.
In Genesis 18: 17-19, justice and righteousness are linked, and mean the same
thing, the “way” of God is revealed as “doing what is right and just”. This is
what brings about the completion of the will of God. Fairness, equity, and
impartiality in the rule of law, and sharing of the benefits of belonging together
is what is held together here (Sacks, 2003). Justice in law. Justice in life.
Jesus revealed his anger and fury at injustice and exploitation in religion and
economics when he turned over the tables in the Temple (Matthew 21:21-13;
I am aware that justice is so often differently understood, and interpreted, and
sometimes it feels as if “there is no justice, there’s just us” (Terry Pratchett)
working out the way ahead with each other from our different perspectives.
Second, love mercy, or as some translations put it, love tenderly.
The Biblical concept of compassion and mercy comes from a Hebrew word that
word literally means movement in the depth of your being (rachamim). It refers
to a deep feeling. There is no deeper experience or more God-like experience
than compassion and tenderness.
We all know the experience of seeing someone in the agony of suffering, and
sharing their pain in the depth of our being. Their pain becomes our pain, and
compels us to respond.
This is the root of mercy and tenderness.
In Jesus we see that often it is his anger at injustice which is at the root of his
acts of tenderness and mercy, in response for example to disease and hunger
(Mark 1:41; 8:2; 3:5).
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus commends the behavior of the one
who “showed Mercy” (Luke 10:37).
The Beatitudes of Jesus include the words: Blessed are the merciful, they will
be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
I have found Holman Hunt’s painting entitled The Shadow of Death a good
meditation on humility, and repays attention.
The painting shows Jesus Christ standing in his carpenter’s workshop, and is
stretching himself. His mother is in the workshop too, and is shown watching
the shadow he casts over a wooden rack, prefiguring his crucifixion on a cross.
The painting hangs in Leeds Art Gallery. It captured my attention, but more
than the painting I was drawn to the words beside the painting.
“He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a slave…and
being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto
death, even death of the cross” (Philippians 2: 6-11, King James Version).
We have to be careful when we read words like “slave” here, whether it is used
in the King James Version published in 1611, or the New Revised Standard
version published in 1989.
The focus is on selfless service, not servitude, or being a doormat.
Humility is what I am focusing on.
Jesus’ humility is reflected in his manner and ministry. Born in a cave, crucified
on a cross, he rode a donkey, he washed his disciples’ feet, he was let down by
people close to him, and spurned by many who rejected his message.
He made himself of no reputation, said observers.
What a position for a leader to take as a leader.
This is what elevates Christ and draws so many others to him.
People are drawn to humility more than to arrogance.
The words “he humbled himself” are translated as he “emptied himself” in the
Christ reveals and reflects God who is seen as one whose transcendence
embraces the human body with all its beauty, bruises and brokenness, and who
in the words of the Charles Wesley Hymn, is “emptied of all but love”
Justice, mercy and humility come together in the striking image of Christ on the
The Bible, and the ministry of Christ call for a world, for life, and a leadership
centered on justice, mercy and humility.
LESSONS TO TAKE FORWARD
I discern God calling us to work, walk, and share in prophetic ministries
fashioned by the values justice, mercy and humility, and to reflect and call for
this model in leadership and all walks of life, in the hope that God will bring us
to grow deeper and deeper into the image of God.
As we look ahead, we have an unprecedented opportunity as people of good
will of all colours, creeds, countries and cultures, together to build a better
world for us and future generations. It falls to us to take this opportunity.
What does prioritising the future mean?
What buttons do we reset?
Be human, and call others to their humanity.
Be hospitable, and call others to build hospitality.
Always challenge hatred, and call others to do this.
We challenge hatred when we challenge inhumane and inhospitable
Treat people as human beings and with respect, pay attention to their story.
Let go of stereotypes and anything that dehumanises people.
We must work together to challenge those who are filled with hatred for
others who are different from them, I am especially talking about extremists of
all backgrounds who build fear of others and hold hateful, murderous intents.
We need to hear the message of human nature and the environment around
us, with the rebuke that, if we don’t seek the welfare of all we will fracture
relationships, we will do incredible harm, and we will not help to still the
I support an economy and lifestyle that is not fossil-fuel driven.
I support Gordon Brown’s call for an international fund of £8bn to provide
adequate health for all in every country. That’s £1 per each for the world’s
I support the UN call for a ceasefire in all wars and for nations to work together
to save lives.
In a world defined by justice, mercy and humility we can together build
solidarities to challenge injustices, cruelty, and arrogance, and build better
futures. We can move on from hatred, hostility and environmental degradation,
share resources and weave unlikely affinities.
We can construct a world where suffering is reduced, and dignity of all is
upheld, where we are more precious about the exceptional capacity of the earth
and our environment to give us the gifts of air, breath, nourishment and life.
The importance of international, global relationships and co-operation has been
This is all essential to peace-making.
Change takes time but we remember the words of the tireless campaigner, the
Rev Dr Martin Luther King, which offer wisdom for our times, “we shall
overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards
justice” (King, 1967).
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall
be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
I want to close with some words from Olaudah Equiano. He was born in Essaka,
Nigeria, around 1745, and was sold into slavery at the age of eleven. He
educated himself, and bought his freedom. He was a prolific writer. His
autobiography, entitled The Very Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah
Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, was published in 1789. It became a best seller. In
the book he chronicles his life in slavery, and his many journeys as a seaman.
The book influenced William Wilberforce and inspired his work, and the work
of other Abolitionists.
John Wesley was reading this book on his death bed, and mentions it in a letter
it inspired him to write to William Wilberforce on 24 February 1791, six days
before he died.
The closing words of the book are what I want to leave with you. But read the
He writes, “almost every event of my life made an impression on my mind and
influenced my conduct. I early accustomed myself to look for the hand of God
in the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and
religion; and in this light every circumstance I have related was to me of
importance. After all, what makes any event important, unless by its
observation we become better and wiser, and learn to do justly, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly before God?”
Inderjit Bhogal, 29 June 2020
Agarwal, P. 2020. Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias. Bloomsbury Sigma,
Ardern, Jacinda. 2020. I Know This to be True: On Kindness, Empathy and
Strength. Murdoch Books
Ateek, N. S. 1999. Justice an Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation.
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York
Barton, M. 2005. Rejection, Resistance and Resurrection: Speaking out on
Racism in the Church. Darton, Longman & Todd, London
Basil, P. 2019. Be My Guest: Reflecting on Food, Community and the Meaning
of Generosity. Canongate, Canada
Boff, L. 1997. Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New
Disparities in the Risk and Outcomes from Covid-19. 2020. Public Health
Equiano, O. 1789. The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or
Gustavus Vassa, the African. Published by himself, London
Faithful and Equal. 1987. DSR, Methodist Church, London
Felder, C. H. 2002. Race, Racism, and the Biblical Narratives. Fortress,
Gardiner, B. 2019. Choked: The Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Cleaner
Future. Granta, London
Hall, A. 2020. To Protect Life. New Internationalist. NI 525 May-June 2020
Hiro, D. 1971. Black British-White British: A History of Race relations in Britain.
Eyre & Spottiswoode, London
Katopo, M. 1981. Compassionate and Free. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York
Kendi, X. I. 2020. How to Be an Antiracist. Bodley Head, London
King, M. L. 1967. Sermon. Ebenezer Baptist Church
ManPherson, W. 1999. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry,
Home Office, London
McDonald, T. 2019. An Improbable Lie: The Autobiography. Weidenfield &
Mehta, S. 2019. This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto. Penguin,
Obama, M. 2018. Becoming. Penguin, New York
Ord, T. 2020. The Precipice. Bloomsbury, London
Reddie, A. 2020. Theologising Brexit: A Liberationist and Postcolonial Critique.
Reddie, A. 2009. Is God Colour Blind: Insights from Black Theology for Christian
Ministry. SPCK, London
Rutherford, A. 2020. How to Argue with a Racist: History, Science, Race and
Reality. Weidenfield & Nicolson, London
Sacks, J. 2003. The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of
Civilisations. Continuum, London
Sacks, J. 2015. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. Hodder &
Selvanayagam, I. 2000. A Second Call: Ministry and Mission in a Multifaith
Mileu. The Christian Literature Society, Madras
Sobrino, J. 2004. Where is God? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope.
Orbis, Maryknoll, New York
Song, C. 2007. Tracing the Footsteps of God. Fortress Press, Menneapolis
Tagore, R. 1913. Gitanjali. MacMillan, New Delhi
Thangaraj, T. 1999. The Common Task: A Theology of Christian Mission.
Thunberg, G. 2019. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. Penguin, London
World Health Organization, nin.tl/WHOair
Wink, W. 2003. Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. Fortress, Minneapolis
Wink, W. 1992. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance ion a World
of Domination. Fortress Press, Minneapolis
economy?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1IWBtN2V6gIVEM53Ch0xHwQJEAAYASAAEgJrIvD_BwE last viewed
FRCh0Y0gh5EAAYAiAAEgKEkPD_BwE last viewed 22/6/2020
ACTION POINTS TO SHARE IN DISCUSSION
And churches, of all denominations, all around the world, must examine
ourselves, acknowledge with shame our racism, repent, and change with
values of justice, mercy and humility.
Let us build up the church as the body of Christ where with all our diversity,
and all the shades of our skin colour, we are one.
No more committees and commissions, no more resolutions of good intent.
Let us build a whole framework and infrastructure to affirm and uphold black
membership and leadership, and address points of hurt to arrive at healing.
We must raise our voices and act against racial and religious bigotry and
We have seen that people can change and adapt lifestyles very quickly, and
adhere to it, if there are clear reasons, for example, working from home, driving
and travelling less, using corner shops.
We have witnessed a remarkable change in the environment around us. The air
is cleaner, and smells fresh. We have seen wildlife closer to cities and urban
areas. Salmon bridges have been built along the River Don, considered the most
polluted river in Europe a hundred years ago, in Sheffield.
Sales of bikes have gone through the roof.
Opt for non-plastic alternatives.
Carry your own reusable bottles and containers.
Go digital for music and movies.
Help to clean up the plastic and litter where you can.
Gordon Brown called on 6 th April (Radio 4 interview) for an international fund
and asked all G20 leaders to pull together and raise £8 billion to solve Covid-
19, and provide adequate health care for all. This is around £1 per head of the
world’s population. He said that it is important to ensure all people in every
country have access to good health care.
It is unacceptable that we can have a world where one person has enough
money to fund a space programme while so many don’t have food and
I want to promote training in Non-violence and am working on this with MPF
and FOR. I would welcome the support of JPIT.
Insist on non-violence.
Put away your swords.
Let us insist on non-violent ways to life with each other.
Turn weapons into instruments that are healing and life giving.
We need ventilators not weapons.
Police violence is unacceptable, and so is violence towards the police.
We must educate people for non-violence and peace, beginning in schools.
We must develop the theology and practice of nonviolence, and a commitment
to “learn war no more”
This is how we will maintain the witness and voice for justice and peace.
We must rediscover and strengthen the prophetic tradition, and preach Christ
and his message of the Kingdom of God.
The World Methodist Council (WMC), founded in 1881, is a consultative body and association of churches in the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition. It comprises 82 member denominations in 138 countries, which together represent near 82 million people.
Bishop Ivan Abrahams, the General Secretary, warmly welcomed the United Nations Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2532 (2020), which demands “a general and immediate ceasefire of hostilities in all situations, on its agenda.”
He notes and appreciates the efforts of António Guterres’, the UN Secretary-General’s call on March 23rd, 2020, warring parties across the world “to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19 the common enemy that is threatening all of humankind … silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes to help create corridors for lifesaving aid to open the windows for diplomacy and to bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” When Guterres made this call, the World Health Organisation recorded 300,000 cases of the virus and 12,700 deaths globally. As of July 9th, 2020, the total number of cases stands at 10,185,374, with 503,462 deaths globally.
The UNSC Resolution 2352 called for a “humanitarian pause” of 90 days to enable the safe, undeniable, and safe delivery of lifesaving equipment …” Abrahams, however, expressed regret that no ceasefire would apply to ongoing military operations against “extremist groups such as ISIL, often known as Da’esh, Al Queda, the Al Nusra Front and other designated terrorist groups.”
Abrahams points out that the WMC is historically clearly built on honoring a commitment to global peace co-existing with social, economic, and political justice for poor, vulnerable, and marginalized people, especially women and children. He cites the Rev. Dr. Inderjit Bhogal, a former President of the British Methodist Conference who, upon hearing that he was the recipient of the WMC 2018 Peace Award, said, “The primary form of violence and cause of conflict, and the biggest killer is poverty, and increasingly environment degradation. We must challenge our governments to divert money and investment from war to the ending of poverty and tackling climate change and pollution. In our personal lives, we need to find ways to live with greater grace and generosity with those who are different from us.”
The WMC joins other World Communions and faith leaders in their appeal to the Permanent Five members of the Security Council together with the General-Secretary to implement resolution 2532 (2020).
Abrahams says an opportunity exists for all governments to cooperate with all organs of the United Nations to implement this “people-centered and prevention-oriented response that strengthens the protection of all people.”
The World Methodist Council together with many other faith communities around the world will respond to an appeal from Pope Francis and Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity to observe Thursday, May 14 as a “special day of prayer, fasting, and charitable work to implore God to help humanity overcome the Coronavirus pandemic.”
COVID-19 offers us an opportunity to stand together and push the reset/recalibrate button to work for a transformed world in which we share resources, walk softly on the earth, and affirm the dignity of all humanity.
As we navigate the future through unchartered waters, we need to tap into the spiritual resources of all religions and persons of goodwill.
Let us also express solidarity with the Thursday in Black Campaign against gender-based violence. Many women and children have to spend this time of lockdown with their abusers. Let us build a caring and compassionate Human Family as we cry for Divine Justice, Healing, Restoration, and Wholeness. (Matthew 5:21: Luke 18:3,7; James 2:6; 1 Corinthians 6:7)
In our Wesleyan tradition, it is customary to fast on Thursday evening through to Friday mid-day. John Wesley observed this practice most of his life.
May this be a time of spiritual reflection, engaging in acts of compassion and justice as we together support each other to overcome the pandemic.
Together we can and will overcome.
A different world is possible.
Ivan M Abrahams
Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary (left) of The World Methodist Council, is shown working with Ruben Richards in South Africa, to assist in providing much-needed fresh fruit through Project Orange to vulnerable populations.
Everyone around the planet is affected by COVID-19 and the Council is working diligently to provide positive effects to traumatized communities. The Council and its member churches are involved in many ways, including prayer and hands-on efforts.
Click on the following link for more information:
After a series of meetings with the Conference Host and Program Committees to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on General Conference schedules of member churches, the Steering Committee decided to postpone the Gothenburg 2021 Conference to August 10-14, 2022.
The Council, since its inception in 1881, has learned that we always need to be prepared for the unexpected. Whether it is the forces of nature, changes in the global economy, pandemics of other factors, we know that we will get through these challenges as we have before.
We are living through an unprecedented time in history. It is not the first time that a World Methodist Conference has been postponed. During World War II, the 1941 Conference was shifted to 1947.
We want you to know that the WMC values you. The coronavirus may not have infected you and your loved ones, but no matter where in the world we find ourselves, we are all affected. Our most important task is to work together to overcome the pandemic. The best way, according to the authorities, is to stay at home.
We continue to pray for your health and well-being, may God bless and keep you safe.
Yours in Christian love and service,
Your help is needed! The Planning Team seeks to identify speakers and workshop leaders for the 2022 ‘On the Move’ Conference, particularly in relation to the three main themes: ‘Migration,’ ‘Pilgrimage,’ and ‘Illumination – lights that guide our way.’
Workshop Leaders and speakers should bring challenging and inspiring input to the Conference. Please share the names of people who can do this with us! The Conference should reflect and celebrate the World Methodist Council’s commitment to racial, age, gender, geographic and denominational diversity.
The deadline for potential speakers and leaders is 30 June 2020.
Please send any names to Dr. Martyn Atkins at the following email address: email@example.com