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Cameron’s ‘swarm’

07 August 2015

THE Prime Minister’s remark about a “swarm” of immigrants waiting to enter the UK from the far side of the Mediterranean has been the trigger for criticism by bishops and others. There has been a sense that up till now they have been holding back, in part because church leaders in the Middle East seek to discourage Christian emigration. Dehumanising language has, indeed, no rightful place in discussing how to respond to people who flee poverty even, let alone persecution and mortal danger. The direction in which it tends becomes clear if we compare the situation, as one of our correspondents does this week, to the Jewish refugee crisis of the 1930s. The echoes are from the wrong side of that particular problem. This was a prime-ministerial Enoch Powell moment, to say no more.

The Bishop of Dover’s response does not need a Bletchley Park to decode it: “we need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters.” His implication is that one of the main inferences to be drawn from the Christian faith needs to be relearnt by our rulers and their electors. Refugee policy is not the only issue that it applies to. The strangers, the poor, the disabled, those who cannot help themselves — all are as much in the image of God, and the concern of the Lord Jesus, as those who enjoy security in this small island; and he will judge those who behave as if they are not. How best to achieve the UK’s economic and social welfare, like its capacity to absorb immigration, is a matter of debate; but the moral background to the debates must be kept rock-solid. The only hope of that is if this historic gift of the religious outlook to moral reflection — Christians call it a revealed truth — continues to be robustly set before all in authority.


Chrism masses

MOST Anglicans have, we can say with confidence, not been to a chrism eucharist. It is a clergy-heavy service, held usually on Maundy Thursday. Consecrated oils are distributed, and ordination vows are renewed. Since the ordination of women as priests, it has been an area of sensitivity. Separate services were introduced for the clergy who received extended episcopal oversight under the 1993 Act of Synod. The Act has gone, but not the theological differences that the service by its nature casts into clear focus. A discomfort felt by WATCH was raised with the Independent Adjudicator, Sir Philip Mawer, under the new dispensation created by last year’s Measure. That a complaint was lodged so early on in such broad terms about a widespread practice prompts a sense of foreboding. But Sir Philip’s report is balanced and judicious. Few are as capable and trusted as he. We hope that he will not be overloaded with such adjudications. It is important to let the new set-up work.

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