Thursday, July 19, 2007

I've been to London and...?

...saw that the Church and the Parliament are right next to one another.
Of course the only reason this enormous church stands across the road from Parliament is so that the Government can keep an eye on the Church. This is not a new idea. Constantine did this 1700 years ago, and England’s King Henry Vlll followed suite. Parliament appoints the Archbishops, and the other Bishops, Canons and Deans. And the Queen is head of the Church.

As a South African this is familiar: the Apartheid Government understood the usefulness of a close relationship between church and state. At one time two brothers shared this responsibility – one as Prime Minister and the other as Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church. The political ideology of Apartheid was blessed by the religious leaders of the Christian church.

As I watch this proximity of church and state I am acutely aware of how my Methodist colleagues revel in the close relationship between our Church and the current South African Government. A former Presiding Bishop, was overjoyed to be the pastor who presided over the marriage of Nelson Mandela to Graca Machel. Another former Presiding Bishop left our church to become the leader of the Pan African Congress. And many, many Methodist Ministers currently revel in their close relationship (often by blood and clan) with members of Parliament.

In London the members of Parliament could walk across the road to Westminster Abbey and talk with God… which I suspect would be seen as a novel concept.
Actually asking God about affairs of state…why, it’s preposterous!
Probably as preposterous as the Methodist leadership challenging Thabo Mbeki’s government about the silence on Zimbabwe’s crisis; and Hiv/Aids; and the hardships faced by refugees/illegal aliens in our country; and the greed of the upwardly mobile who are steadily increasing the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Pray for us to find the courage to move the front door of the church a little further away from the front door of parliament – so that we make some space for the perspectives of God to come between us.

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