On 23rdJune, under the title “Golly! What a lot of jolly lolly!” I published a blog of gratitude — well, sort of – to the six bishops of the Church in Wales who want to give their congregations £10 million to spend on Evangelism. The money is designed for people not buildings. The number of churches being closed down completely, or doing additional duty as village shops, post offices, play centres or holiday lets is increasing all the time. So, if churches are empty then we need people to fill them. I still regret that my little church can’t have a couple of thousand to turn a broom cupboard into a toilet but that is being selfish.
Ten million to evangelise — think Billy Graham — seems almost too good to be true.
Most things that sound too good to be true generally are. Not that I’m saying the bishops have been lying. The money is probably there. It’s just that, after several weeks of cudgelling my brains, I’m beginning to suspect it may be difficult to spend, other than by doing it all officially or by hiring yet more inadequate clerical managers.
What is Evangelism?
Simple answer — The commitment to or act of publicly preaching the Gospel, with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ.
And the first step must surely be to turn to Christ’s own Advice Manual, the gospels themselves, to find out how to set about it.
Sadly, on this subject the Gospels are useless. Certainly, Jesus gives clear instructions when he sends the twelve disciples out in Luke, 9. The trouble is, he specifically forbids them to take any money with them.
Verse 3 “And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bread, nor money;”
Not much help there, then. But in Luke, 10 he sends out 72 people. A big band like that should need more detailed organisation and must surely involve costs.
Verse 4 “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals . . .”
That couldn’t be much clearer, could it? Not even a phone!
However, in verses 2 and 3 Jesus shows that he understands some of the problems we face. He says “the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.” And he also adds a stark warning. “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
He was certainly right, there. A gentleman called Allan Coote can confirm this.
If you stand up on the steps of a great cathedral and start reading from the Bible it’s quite likely that the police will be called. You might think it was because you had offended an atheist or someone from an alternative religion but if it was outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London it’s the Dean and Chapter who are the wolves.
This year, Mr Allan Coote, who believes his voice is a gift given for the purpose of being heard, has started to read the Bible outside St Paul’s Cathedral. So far, no member of the public has complained about Mr Coote, but that hasn’t stopped cathedral staff, who explained they were “just following orders”, calling in the police numerous times.
On one occasion the police officer concerned was heard to say “I am of the opinion that this chap isn’t causing any breach of the peace. This chap isn’t impeding anyone. I’m happy for him to stay. This chap is reading from the Bible. I feel it would be remiss of me to move him on in a place of worship.” Thank God our police still have common sense even as it becomes increasingly clear that many clergy are losing all their sense, not just the common sort.
I can’t believe it makes any difference if you hear the Sermon on the Mount read by a bus driver with a booming voice — Allan— outside the cathedral or a robed cleric inside, except there are many more people outside.
The Dean has compromised. He says they have a policy of ‘limited disturbance’ and they will let Allan read the Bible for 30 minutes a week. I wonder what St Paul himself would think about such a pusillanimous statement. It is entirely lawful to preach the Gospel and hand out Christian literature on the streets to the general public. But Allan Coote wasn’t even preaching; nor was he impeding anyone. He wasn’t even reading controversial bits which some might consider insulting or threatening. He was simply reading the Sermon on the Mount.
If he’d been in Glasgow during the Gay Pride March and had been reading 1st Corinthians 6.v9 he would have been asking to be arrested. Look what happened to Father Mark Morris, the Catholic Chaplain at Glasgow Caledonian University. After the march, he held something called ‘A Rosary of reparation for the gross offence to God which is Pride Glasgow’. This was in his own Roman Catholic church, well away from the GCU campus, and to a mainly elderly and completely traditional congregation. The university, while adamant that it supports inclusivity and diversity, immediately sacked Father Mark. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, supporting this decision, said that, “As a society we must champion equality and fairness at all times.” I presume that means she also champions the motto of the City of Glasgow**.
So, to get back to spending £10 million. Suppose I start by reading the Bible outside St Asaph Cathedral and then move into the streets of the city. Bishop Gregory wants people to concentrate on ‘being the church’ rather than merely ‘going to the church’ so I could argue that is what I am doing. Then, with luck, I will get arrested, and some of that £10m could be spent on bailing me out and paying the fine when I’m convicted. Photos of this eccentric octogenarian would surely appear in the North Wales Weekly and the Daily Post, thus giving much needed publicity to this endeavour at Evangelism. Are there any other octogenarians willing to join me?
**The city motto, “Let Glasgow Flourish”, is a truncated version of the original words attributed to St Kentigern, later called St Mungo. Originally the motto was “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the word and the praising of thy name.” Glasgow Caledonian University doesn’t seem to know that.