General Synod Mission Breakfast Talk 2016

I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to allow your mind to bring forth as many answers large and small to that question. Are you ready?  What do you value?

Where your treasure is, there your heart is also. What you value, is an integral part of what you build your life on – your principles, your foundations.

Throughout the Bible, and here I reference Psalm 97, God’s foundation, or the foundation of his throne or his Lordship is righteousness and justice. Righteousness is understood here as right living and right relationships.  And without them, there can be no justice.

With that as our base, The Five Marks of Mission are:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation

If I were to summarise those our mission is restoration of right relationships. Right relationships with ourselves, with others, with God and with creation. That is our mission.

And so mission becomes a lifestyle of right relationships, a series of choices founded on values that create habits, a decision to be wholly responsive –  not just as a donor or as an evangelist –  to a God of right relationships and justice.  It is a life of Shalom – of right relationships.

If mission is a lifestyle then it involves us asking ourselves daily: ‘How can I live to love God and love others?’ How can I live a life of doing to others as I would have done to me? and ‘how can I live simply so that others can simply live?’ We were made for interconnection, we were made for interdependence.  God designed us that way.  Our lifestyles must reflect that reality.  Do we value our role as consumers and hoarders and accumulators more than our role as humans or Christians?

I was chatting to several people who work for mission agencies and asked them what mission is ALL of them spoke of mission as journeying together along the way as companions.  I read a great article recently about university students in Kampala Uganda being so moved by gun violence and mass shootings that they –planned to apply for visas, move to the States, set up an NGO and lobby for gun reform.  American students were asked what they thought of such actions.  The responses were that the concerns were sweet and well-intentioned but ultimately ignorant as the issue was so much more complex than the Ugandan students realised.  Yet, this is exactly how Western countries and churches have responded to complex problems overseas for decades!  But here, as I chatted with mission agencies, the imagery of the Road to Emmaus was being evoked: In journeying together we discover Jesus.  But they also spoke of mission being something that takes place and is rooted in its own context – there is no 1 size fits all.   So when we explore the Church of Ireland’s relationship to mission – we do mission in our own context and we walk alongside those doing mission in overseas contexts and in doing so we discover together more about Jesus.

Tearfund gave this wonderful example of how journeying with others allows great things to happen:

MDG 2011 Horn of Africa famine


Although the media is not giving it much attention, there has been a slow onset drought and resulting famine in the horn of Africa. The authoritative Famine Early Warning system has been using a figure of 15 million for Ethiopia alone. Also Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya are affected. Various regions are in a state of Emergency (IPC Phase 4), meaning that they are unable to access adequate food for survival and face an increased risk of malnutrition and mortality.” This is just one step away from famine.

And the situation is complex. The Port of Djibouti, through which most foreign grain must flow, is unlikely to be able to handle the volumes. “It manages usually around 500,000 tons per month. Can it deal with an additional 2 million tons, and with what kinds of delay?”  Ethiopia’s natural gateways to the sea are closed as they are Eritrean ports which have lain idle since the border war between the two countries (1998 – 2000).

Ethiopia’s “biblical” famines of 1973 – 74 and 1984 – 85 left hundreds of thousands dead, probably around 200,000 and 400,000 respectively. Since the first of these tragedies, the population of Ethiopia has quadrupled – from around 26 million in 1973 to around 100 million today. Highland farms (tiny patches of land, eroded by decades of intensive agriculture and subdivided down the generations) can barely feed a family in the best of times.

Even in normal years some 7 or 8 million Ethiopians require international food aid to survive.   This year el-Nino and the drought it has brought has exacerbated the situation. But these droughts are cyclical and it was inevitable.  For Ethiopia, the picture is not entirely negative. The country has enjoyed rapid economic growth in recent years.  The authorities have greater resources to draw upon. And Ethiopia recently signed a border agreement with Kenya that could allow increased aid to be brought in by road.  But no one should underestimate the impact of the drought and the looming threat of famine. There are warnings that the humanitarian caseload could exceed the Syrian crisis.

Self Help Groups that were set up by local Tearfund staff in 2002 and that have the local churches at the heart of their organisation and expansion have become a source of support for each other during the drought. Over 12,000 groups affecting over 1 million people in 2 districts who have built resilience over several years (funds have been saved, grain stores built, drought resistant crops grown) and there is shared wisdom as they advise each other as a network on surviving this drought.  You cannot tell me, that a visible church, rolling up its sleeves to serve the community and prepare the community for crisis is not a beautiful example of mission and we walked alongside, by supporting them and Tearfund in that process.  And we can learn from them.

That is just 1 example of local mission with which we have partnered. We are journeying with them as they respond in their context by bringing the practical Good News of the Gospel, of a life of flourishing and transformation, even amidst hardship and suffering.  If your parish or diocese is not journeying with companions from around the world in this form of mission and support of mission, can I suggest to you explore that possibility.  Can I also repeat that we cannot know the fullness of Christ without discovering him together with ‘all the saints.’  We need each other.

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Now I want to focus on the 4th and 5th marks of mission – transforming unjust structures, challenging violence and safeguarding the integrity of creation.   Systems and structure built on broken relationships – on abusing power, on exploiting the majority of the world instead of nurturing them – on looking for ways to benefit the few regardless of who suffers, demanding choice and comfort regardless of whose backs are broken or who is enslaved to obtain these wants and comforts – these systems and structures are not glorifying God, are not giving life, are not allowing fullness of life and human flourishing, are not doing to the others as we would like done to the Self.  So then we must say that these systems are dysfunctional and will and DO breed injustice. They are in direct contradiction to the Lordship of God  – right relationship  – there can be no justice without right relationships.

Our economic systems globally are weighted in favour of the rich and the powerful. They often take God’s intended design for interconnection and interdependence and distort them to create disconnection with the only connections are exploitation for personal gain.

Will we ignore the call to be a thorn in the flesh, to have a prophetic rage about such injustices occurring right in front of us – the vast accumulation of wealth and tax breaks and exploitation of workers, the destruction and pollution of creation and the loss of homes and land and livelihoods because of shady landgrabs for cash crops and mining, zero contract hours and greed and hoarding of the 1%?

As a Church will we speak out even when we know that we benefit from these systems and the transformation of them will be costly to us?

Will we speak truth to power even if it is unpopular and even if we don’t feel our own house is in order?

Will we mobilise to take action for the rights of the majority of the world who are oppressed and dispossessed? And will we persist in our mission, even as things are slow to change and make it a lifestyle choice to live in solidarity with the poor and the suffering?

This is what it means to be the Church. This is what it means to be followers of Christ.  This is what it means to be caught up in God’s mission and not busying ourselves with our own agendas.

‘Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the binds that enslave, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?’ Isaiah 58:6

The EU spends 11 billion on icecream per year whilst the global economy spends only 6 billion on access to basic education.   We in the West waste almost same amount of food each year that the entire continent of Africa produces – approx. 222 million tonnes/230 million tonnes.  And when I learnt that fact I was began to explore where we grow this food that we waste – much of it is in developing countries on land that has been acquired by very corrupt deals – making entire communities homeless and exporting for supermarket chains when countries grown in are in drought or food insecurity – much of it to rot in our fridges, to be thrown out of our restaurants and supermarkets.  And then we send funds to the landless communities struggling with food security.  It’s not about being paupers, it’s about being intentional consumers – and multinationals are complex and difficult to trace but as we become more intentional, the market must reflect what we want.

A request for funding was granted by Bishops’ Appeal for a project in Zambia that aimed identify people in several communities, bring them together, form co-ops and produce peanut butter and sunflower oil. The goal of the projects was to see these families be able to earn $1 per day and be food secure for 6 months of the year.  It is difficult not to be moved by such levels of destitution and respond.  At the same time, the Irish Times published an article about sugar tax deals in Zambia.  Large multinational corporations route their profits through the IFSC in Dublin to avail of Ireland’s tax breaks for big corporations and pay virtually no tax in Zambia.  This is literally and legally siphoning millions of euro worth of taxes the Zambian Government could use for social reform to the pockets of the already wealthy and powerful.  We cannot just respond to the destitution, we must be willing to respond to the unjust systems and structures that perpetuate the destitution.  We are a Church that is known for what it is against; it’s time we stood up and spoke out about what we are FOR – we are for the marginalised, the vulnerable and the voiceless.  We are for justice and for the restoration of right relationships as foundations for our global systems and structures.

There are Christian campaigns for tax justice, for fairer tax policies globally that curb the power of massive corporations and billionaires and ensure they pay fair taxes that can be used for social reform in countries. There are campaigns against Gender based violence, against unfair trade deals and trade policies, against exploitation of labour in the garment industry.  Anglican Alliance has links to many and by the end of the Summer Bishops’ Appeal website will to.  – we can add our voices and our intentional consumerism to those causes.

‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer  who also said that we are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.’

Not another meeting, not another empathetic sermon, not another theology of compassion. Action


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Currently when we talk about speaking out and taking action, nothing is more prevalent in our minds than the refugee crisis. The global refugee crisis has now grown to 60 million people worldwide – over half are children, 86% of whom are living or surviving in developing countries.  6% are in Europe.  There are 3 main categories of forced migrants: economic refugees, environmental refugees and war refugees.  Most is human made disaster, destruction and destitution.  It is the overwhelming but inevitable consequence of human activity.  What is the Holy Spirit saying to us and asking of us in this defining issue of our time?  Spirit of God who hovered over the waters and brought order out of chaos.  The invisible but ever present participant in every encounter always prompting us to a higher calling, to a more sacrificial way of loving.  So often, we ignore that prompting and choose self love, comfort and ease instead.  We quieten and dampen and silence the prompting of the Spirit.  The world sees people as having rights and status if they are a member of a sovereign state and have citizenship.  Those that don’t have these credentials are being treated as ‘illegal’ and are being dehumanised and treated as less than human.  The Holy Spirit is calling us to see those who are fleeing as having rights and status simply because they are humans made in the image and likeness of God.  I believe He is also challenging us to look with fresh eyes at our own sense of deservedness, our own status and possessions, our own sense of entitlement.  And to look beyond ourselves and beyond our own circles and our own boundaries to look for our brother, to look for our sister.

And so we speak out for the rights of the dispossessed. Christian Aid have examples of how you can do that available in the prayer room today.  A press release went out to the Church regarding accommodation.  Local parishes are engaging and collaborating with local refugee response community groups and I cited some examples in an article in Search which is coming out in June.  United Society who were supported by Bishops’ Appeal in their work on behalf of the diocese of Europe are here and can tell you about the ongoing work in Greece and Hungary.  Tearfund and Christian Aid can speak of their work in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, which cannot be ignored – our attention cannot be diverted from the hub of the crisis when World Food Programme budget is less than half what it should be to keep people fed and alive.  We can only ask that God expand the boundaries of our love.  Other agencies such as CMS Ireland are responding to the global refugee crisis, not just the crisis in the middle east.  Our welcome for the stranger remembers that Jesus reached out for the marginalised, the vulnerable, even the illegal and the undeserving and calls us to extend our boundaries of love in the same way.

Mission as relationship and the restoration of relationship. Mission as lifestyle and intentional living.  Mission as journey in companionship with others.  Mission as responding in our own context, speaking out to transform unjust systems and structures even if it is costly.

May we live a life of value. May the things we value be foundations on which we build strong lives of faith and action, free from hoarding and greed and selfishness and entitlement.  May our lives be worthy of the calling we have received.

And may we be willing to engage regardless of the cost so that we can discover Jesus together.

Malawi Monitoring & Evaluation Visit Part 1

The Bishops’ Appeal Advisory Committee has supported the Tearfund IMPACT project on several occasions through multiple donations that have reached €20,000.  The Committee was encouraged by reports of the success of the programme regarding the decrease to the point of eradication of Parent to Child HIV transmission.  The committee was also interested in Tearfund’s approach, which mobilises church and community leaders to identify the needs and the resources within the community to respond through its own means.

Education Advisor Lydia Monds visited the projects in Malawi to evaluate the work, listen to stories from community leaders and beneficiaries and to hear from the various groups where they would like to see the programmes develop on into the future.


Martha is a mother buddy from Ekwendeni. This means several things.  First, it means she has been trained to work with expecting parents to radically reduce parent to child transmission of HIV through a diligent programme of anti-natal clinic visits, HIV testing, ARVs and nutrition.  Martha is supported by wider voluntary care groups in the community who identify pregnant women for her to visit and through initial and refresher training she receives by Tearfund partners.  She started this role as an understudy before receiving her own clients, numbering 138.  Being a Mother Buddy also means that Martha is HIV positive and her desire to support other mother’s is borne out of the transformation such a programme has brought to her own life.   She shared with us that her 1st child was born HIV+ but after the programme her 2nd child was born HIV-.


One of the most important and difficult tasks that Martha has is convincing the fathers of the unborn babies to attend anti-natal clinic. Within Ingoni culture, pregnancy, birth and young babies are not a man’s concern.  The child is owned by the father and cared for by the mother.  The desire to have both parents involved goes beyond the need to cultivate support networks for an expecting mother.  At the clinic both parents can get tested for HIV/AIDS and syphilis together and can receive counselling if one or both of them are positive.  Women who are tested on their own are not only unlikely to tell their partner their status, but are also unlikely to return to the clinic.  Home births without any anti-natal support drastically increases maternal and child mortalities.

Fathers who had engaged with the programme spoke of fears and suspicions being alleviated as to why their wives took so long at the clinic. Together they were given information on everything from nutrition, rest, hygiene, and family planning and if one forgets the other can remind.  Initially many men went because they heard there were board games available to play whilst their wives were being examined, and because it put their wives to the top of the clinic queue.  Gradually though, with marriage counselling and discussion, they began to see their role in the process.  Several men spoke of collecting firewood or carrying water or even cooking the family meal for the first time, with a new understanding that the unborn baby was their responsibility as well.

Martha teaches couples how to make maize meal porridge with added eggs and legumes for a balanced nutritious meal and prepares mother’s for birth. (This support is also provided by ‘Group Therapy’ run by Care Groups who alert Mother Buddies to a pregnancy in their village She then teaches a strict baby diet of breast milk for the first 6 months only introducing supplements later. She teaches about how to stay malaria free.  New-borns are tested at 6 weeks and then again at 12 and 24 months.  So far, all HIV positive parents in her care have given birth to HIV negative children.

Tricon and Loveness gave birth to HIV negative Catherine in March 2015. Their older child, Benjamin, is 11 years old and HIV positive.  Realities such as these are painful reminders of what life is like in the absence of the IMPACT programme.  The couple were also identified as vulnerable through a Consortium of village chiefs and church leaders (17 denominations work together in this catchment area to identify those most in need of training and support) and were given chickens.  The eggs provide nutrition as well as an income and they use the manure to fertilise their vegetables and maize.

On paper, the IMPACT project phased out after 3 years on 31st October 2014.  However, the structures that were put in place in the community have ensured that it has continued in many forms.  For example, 110 pregnant women have attended the clinic, 98 of whom have been accompanied by their husbands.  Of the 3 women who were HIV+, all have given birth to HIV- babies.  The Consortium of village and church leaders have also been made aware of particularly vulnerable families and have continued to support them through a united effort, irrespective of the needy family’s denomination.  The support is holistic as outlined below.

Emergencies: The consortium provides ox carts and bicycles for expecting mothers who need to get to the clinic in times of emergency.

Conservation Farming: Key village workers attended Conservation farming training in Zimbabwe. After the flash floods that devastated so many homes came one of the worst droughts people can remember in the last decade.  Through simple yet very precise techniques, people who followed conservation farming methods got to reap a harvest, whilst traditional farming methods did not produce any food.  Added to this, conservation farming, called ‘Farming God’s Way’ in some of the villages, replenishes the soil of its depleted nutrients, prevents topsoil erosion and reduces and then eliminates the use of chemical fertilisers, which drastically reduces costs for the farmer.  It also is a lot less labour intensive.  Once your fields have been prepared the first year, the method can be redone without tilling or weeding and so enables elderly and disabled farmers to produce harvests without high levels of discomfort.  In the top left picture Gift is showing us his field covered in dried maize stalks which keeps in the moisture.  All farmers explained the method in the same precise way, with strings used to measure distances between planting stations and rows of maize.  All of them saw the benefits and are now beginning to expand the method to other crops.  Gift is going further and training other farmers, bringing them to his field to show them the differences between the crops grown traditionally and those grown through conservation.

Press Release: Refugee Crisis

And you are to love the stranger, for you were once strangers’ Deut 10:19

As large scale conflict and economic destitution pushes thousands of people to travel perilously to find refuge, Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Michael Jackson call on members of the Church of Ireland to respond as an integral action of Christian faith and welcome.

The Church’s response is three-fold. We invite parishes and individuals to participate in as many ways as they deem able. We recognise the local responses many individuals and parishes have already undertaken and thank people for their compassion and action.

Pray for the people who are displaced and traumatised, that they receive peace, security and welcome. Pray for all those who have lost loved ones in the conflict or through drowning in the Mediterranean. Pray for empathy and wisdom for the European Governments as they make decisions on how to respond to the crisis.
Engage with political representatives in order to encourage Governments to show courage and leadership in their responsibilities to refugees and to expand provision of refuge and re-settlement to people who are fleeing. You can do this by writing to or seeking to meet with your local TD or MP. You could also join with one of the campaigns organised by charities and agencies working actively in these fields.
Hold a special or a retiring collection on Sunday 13th and Sunday 20th September to respond to the needs of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq both at their own borders and at European borders. These funds can be sent through Bishops’ Appeal and will be dispersed to agencies such as Christian Aid who are responding directly to the need of 12.2 million people in Syria, 4 million refugees in neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon as well as directing funds to NGOs responding to the need in EU countries.
For more information contact Lydia Monds, Education Advisor, Bishops’ Appeal:

Inequality: Facts & Statistics

Thanks to Irish Aid Funding, Bishops’ Appeal has produced a leaflet full of information and guidelines entitled ‘Global Poverty and the Church’s Response’.  Click here for the whole leaflet: Bishops Appeal Irish Aid Leaflet on Global Poverty

One section explores the vast chasms that global inequality breeds.  Here are the statistics from the leaflet…and some more besides…


”And he said to them, ”Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.” 

– The Teachings of Jesus, Luke 12:15

‘‘In the long run men inevitably become the victims of their wealth. They adapt their lives and habits to their money, not their money to their lives. It preoccupies their thoughts, creates artificial needs, and draws a curtain between them and the world.”

Herbert Croly, U.S. political philosopher (1869-1930)

  • There are 27 million slaves in the world today – more than there was during the time of the slave trade.  (These figures were true in 2010.  However, in the past 5 years this number has escalated to 35 million, at the same time as the richest people in the world became exponentially richer – see the first graph below.)
  • 4.5 days of current global military spending is the amount needed to provide basic education for every child on the planet.
  • Today 2.1 billion people are forced to defecate in the open because of lack of toilets and 850 million people are dependent on surface stagnant water for drinking and cooking.
  • The richest 1% own 80% of the world’s resources.
  • In industrialised countries, consumers throw away 286 million tonnes of cereal/grain products. That is the equivalent of 763 billion packets of pasta….and 842 million people are malnourished/half the world is hungry.
  • The billions lost in tax dodging by corporations could fund entire national welfare systems, transform healthcare programmes and develop new industry.
  • 250 million children in developing countries are forced to work, many in sweatshops.
  • Studies show that doubling the salary of sweatshop workers would only increase the consumer cost of an item by 1.8%, while consumers would be willing to pay 15% more to know a product did not come from a sweatshop.

“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”

Scottish political economist (1723-1790)

billionaires graph

inequality pyramid

The super rich can view the lower classes as subhumanIt is very hard to justify your huge wealth unless you see people beneath you as less deserving. Once the wealth gaps become very large, it is easier to get through the day if you see them as less able, less special. When earlier this month the civil society minister Brooks Newmark told people involved in charities that they should “stick to their knitting” rather than concern themselves with what might be causing the problems they were trying to remedy, he was exhibiting just such a “don’t worry your pretty little head” attitude.

At the extreme, the less fortunate may not be seen as people at all. That was the finding of a study from Princeton University in which MRI scans were taken of several university students’ active brains while they viewed images of different people. Researchers saw that photographs of homeless people and drug addicts failed to stimulate areas of the brain that usually activate whenever people think about other people, or themselves. Instead, the (mostly affluent) students reacted to the images as if they “had stumbled on a pile of trash”.

The more economic inequality there is in a country, the more people are prone to instantly size up each others’ status upon meeting. Some quickly cast their eyes down; others look over the shoulders of those they don’t think they need to respect. Social psychologists from Berkeley and Amsterdam have studied strangers in situations where one told the other of a difficult personal experience, such as a death in the family. The larger the social gap, the less compassion was shown. Such behaviour, and the acceptance of it as normal, becomes much more prevalent in those places where the 1% have taken the most.

-Excerpt taken from a Guardian article:

Press Release: Nepal Earthquake Appeal

The Situation:

On Saturday 25th April, a powerful earthquake hit Nepal, leaving devastation in its wake. Bishops’ Appeal immediately became a conduit for any funds donated for rescue and relief efforts. Today, Archbishop Richard and Archbishop Michael have elevated this response to a Major Emergency Appeal.

Currently over 4,300 people are dead with that figure estimated to rise to 10,000 as entire villages remain unreachable at this time. Thousands of injured people line the streets as buildings are either demolished or unstable and hospitals inundated.

Information is still coming in from the major cities, and rural areas near the epicentre have been completely cut off by avalanches. In some areas near Gorkha, it is estimated that 80% of households have been destroyed or severely damaged.

The Government of Nepal has declared a state of Emergency.


nepal c

The Response:

Bishops’ Appeal has released £10,000 and has directed these funds towards search and rescue efforts, the setting up of makeshift medical centres, water purification and shelter. All funds channelled through Bishops’ Appeal will be in support of the invaluable efforts of Christian Aid and Tearfund partners in the most affected areas of Nepal.

Bishop Patrick, Chairperson of Bishops’ Appeal states: ‘We urge individuals, parishes and dioceses to give generously to help the eight million people who have been affected by the earthquake. We pray that those responding on the ground gain access to the resources that they need to bring hope and healing.’

Bishop Patrick also requests that donations to the earthquake victims are given over and above general giving to Bishops’ Appeal so that other impoverished communities do not suffer at this time due to redirected funds.

Christian Aid have highlighted that as little as £5 or €6.85 can provide a hygiene kit and £100 or €137 can provide a waterproof temporary shelter for 4 families.

Donations can be sent to: Bishops’ Appeal, Church of Ireland House, Church Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Electronic donations can be made to Bishops’ Appeal Euro or Sterling accounts with the word ‘Nepal’ in the subject line. If you wish to receive an acknowledgement of funds donated, please Bank details can be found on our

Thank you for your support.


Additional Information:

Christian Aid has estimated the costs of getting different items to people in need:

People need immediate help with food, clean water, warm clothes, blankets, hygiene kits and emergency shelter.

Item Cost £ Cost €
Plastic mugs for a family of 5 £0.85 €1.16
Two cooked meals for one person staying in a relief camp £1 €1.37
100 purification tablets £1.75 €2.40
One Woollen blanket £2 €2.74
15 litre bucket for storing water £3 €4.11
Emergency hygiene kit (soap, toothpaste etc.) £5 €6.85
Blankets for ten people £13 €17.81
Bedding set (Inc. blankets, mats, beds, mosquito nets) £15 €20.55
Waterproof temporary shelter for a family of five £25 €34.25
Cooking utensils for one family £35 €47.95
Two cooked meals for 50 people/ 10 families in a relief camp £50 €68.50
Waterproof temporary shelter for four families £100 €137
Water resistant tent for one family £150 €205.50