Archive for the ‘Contemporary Issues’ Category

Interesting quote on Reformed Catholicism, from Paul Avis’ new book: Beyond the Reformation? Authority, Primacy and Unity in the Conciliar Tradition.

The issue of catholic authority has recently become a growing interest for me (particularily as an Anglican), as it indeed seems like the earliest way of dealing with disputes across the wider church. It seems to me to be a wiser, more Biblical way of dealing with difficult issues, rather than the monarchical system in Roman Catholicism or the every-man-for-himself (or every local church for itself, or every charismatic leader for himself) tendency within evangelicalism.

Check it out here.


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Simply outstanding. And from a secular TV show too. Heads up to Dave Bish for this one.

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UPDATE: The Reformed Catholic shares his thoughts here.

By Colin Bazley, former Archbishop of Chile (and my Grandfather). Talk given at St. Andrews Church, Bebington, 10/02/08. See also David Field’s comments.




It was amusing to see Matt’s cartoon in the Telegraph on St. Valentine’s Day. It went something like:

“Roses are red; I stand here in awe, I’m keener on you than on sharia law”.


Probably we’ve all heard comments on what the Archbishop said in his lecture to eminent lawyers ten days ago. I eventually decided to read it and try to understand it. It was very hard going and left me confused.



The critics told us that he had said that by a process which he called “transformative accommodation”, some aspects of sharia law could be recognised within the British legal system. Muslims could choose under which law they wished to be judged. As I read the lecture, I could see very clearly what the critics meant when they said that he was proposing two parallel legal systems for certain carefully-chosen subjects. However, in his summary of his lecture at the Synod last week, he denied that he had recommended a parallel legal system. British law would always be paramount.


First, what is sharia law? Sharia is the body of laws that govern the lives of Muslims in Islamic countries. Some of the laws are based on the Koran. Most of the laws are developed by Moslem legal experts, and in fact vary from country to country. For a Muslim, sharia is God’s law relating to every area of life. We would find it very oppressive indeed. One example is the way it discriminates against women. It is very easy for a man to get a divorce, not so for a woman. A woman does not have the same inheritance rights as a man, and could be put at a serious disadvantage if she became a widow. And then there is the matter of forced marriages. Further it lays down extremely severe penalties for a Muslim who is converted to Christianity or any other religion – imprisonment, beating, disinheritance and even death. Punishment for theft may even involve the cutting off of a hand. And there are many more.


What was the Archbishop doing by suggesting that any of this could be accommodated into British law, which, for all its weaknesses, is founded on the Jewish-Christian ethics of the Scriptures? As a pastor he wanted to show sympathy towards immigrant groups who come to an alien country with a different religion, language and legal system from their own. He wanted to show his desire to create a greater sense of belonging to descendants of immigrants for whom Britain is now their home. But the fact that he majored on sharia law in his speech caused people to reach conclusions which he probably did not intend.


True, the Archbishop closed the door on the use of the more unacceptable elements in sharia law. But people in Britain know the difficulties we have with that law, as I have already mentioned. They also know how many Christians have suffered severe persecution under sharia law. They know too that many Muslims have come to Britain precisely in order to get away from sharia law and to live in a free society. On top of that there is always the spectre of terrorism which has reared its ugly head through the activities of radicalised British Muslims, who, if they achieved their ultimate aims, would want sharia law to be applied in all its severity to Britain as a whole.


So was the Archbishop right to talk in the way he did? It is true that we do need to show love to our Muslim neighbour. British judges have to ensure that a Muslim understands clearly why he is being disadvantaged in something which the law of his country of origin would allow. For example a man who makes inheritance claims based on sharia law, but which would leave his widowed mother in poverty, would need to be helped to understand why our laws take care of the widow. We as Christians need also to see all immigrant communities as a mission field on our own doorstep. A Muslim who lives here in Britain needs the Gospel as much as any Muslim who lives in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.


But it is interesting that much of the criticism levelled at the Archbishop comes from Muslim MP’s, Muslim lawyers and the Bishop of Rochester, who is of Pakistani origin. Is it that they know that to give the radicalised Muslim an inch means that he’ll take a mile? Are they more aware than the Archbishop that those who would implement his system would not be the Westernised Muslim, but the more repressive elements in Islamic society? Even though Muslims would be given a choice under which system they wish a matter to be decided, they would find themselves under heavy religious pressure from their mosque to take the sharia route.


The Archbishop apologised for what he called his “unclarity” and his “misleading choice of words”. But he needs to recognise also that he was mistaken in even suggesting that the laws governing an evil system could have any place in the legal framework of this country.


So we must pray for our witness to the Gospel of Christ among everyone who counts Britain as home, whatever their ethnic origin. Remember also that both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul were victims of injustice in a nation where both Jewish and Roman law were administered. So we must pray for our nation that its laws will be so just that they bring justice to everyone within its borders. For one nation can only begin to enjoy justice if it is under one law.


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