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Shades of Grey: Making choices in uncertainty

02 November 2006

Inspire 6.99 (1-85852-316-8)

The siren song of absolute answers: But in the world we live in, issueare seldom cut and dried,says Sarah Mullall
DURING my five years as the Government's Chief Nursing Officer, I oftefelt that the decisions we made were about complex issues for which there wano right or wrong answer. A decision had to be made, and, in the absence of aabsolute answer, it often became "the best way forward". But, as soon as ibecame public, civil servants and politicians defended it as the "right anonly way forward". 
My own view was that this contributed to the loss of trust in politicianby the public
Dudley Coates refers to this type of decision-making process as "makinchoices in uncertainty", and sees it as a reflection of the grey world winhabit, where answers are never black or white. Using his experience as civil servant, a lifelong Methodist, a lay preacher, and Vice-President of thNational Methodist Conference during 2006, he explores how, as Christians, wmake decisions in a world of uncertainty. 
His theological foundation for the book is the incarnation: God has choseto immerse his "God-self" in the complexities and uncertainty of human lifeand to follow Jesus is to do the same
Coates rightly challenges us to consider why we pray for Christians in thcaring professions, but not for those who are, for example, lawyers or civiservants, or even book-makers: the choices made by the bookmaker or lawyer mabe harder. He rightly suggests that the Church needs to enable those beyond thcaring professions and the Church to live their lives, so that the Churcbecomes a launch-pad for them, not a bolt-hole
He reflects on political leadership and the media, and encourages us aChristians to ask questions of the media, and to engage with the difficuldecisions, even if it is only by using our vote
It is refreshing that one of the many civil servants who have a Christiafaith and are working with the system has chosen to share his theologicareflections. I found that the important issue of how the Church should engagin the world and the area of "making choices in uncertainty" was touched on tobriefly: this is an area that may be of interest to a wider audience
The book did, however, bring back memories and experiences of working igovernment. I recom-mend it to those Christians still there; and it will givthe Church an understanding as it prays for them.

The Revd Dame Sarah Mullally is Team Rector of Sutton, in the diocese oSouthwark

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