Bishop’s Letter: The Discipline of Love
Last autumn I was delighted to be invited to speak to the Sunday meeting of the Christian Union at the school where I was a pupil. Now well over a century old, it has been run for all those years by Old Boys of the School and has been a huge influence for good in the lives of many. I am one of several of my generation who went forward for Ordination. I received so much from those who showed me what it was to follow Christ, to know his love, and to come to his cross.
The recent news of the horrific abuse inflicted on some of those schoolboys who went to the Iwerne Minster camps was deeply saddening. The Archbishop of Canterbury issued an ‘unreserved and unequivocal’ apology. It reminded me of several contemporaries at university for whom those camps had been formative, and who must now feel deeply let down. It angers me that it casts a slight of uncertainty on all those good people who work faithfully and safely with young people. Above all it draws concern and compassion for those who were abused.
At the heart of these sorry events in my view, was one man’s corrupted and perverted understanding of discipline, that is neither Christian nor legal.
The season of Lent, those forty days of fasting and preparation that match the forty days of our Lord in the wilderness, and which prepare us for Holy Week and Easter, invites us to develop our personal disciplines of prayer and discipleship. Rooted in love, not punishment, those will be very different understandings of discipline. They will be a part of our seeking to become more like Christ. It is St Paul’s analogy of the athlete (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) who trains so that they might better seek the prize.
It is those spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration explored by Richard Foster in his 1980 classic ‘Celebration of Discipline’; an exploration of the path to spiritual growth. A personal discipline that Richard Foster emphasises is not just for the spiritual elite but is for each of us in our daily lives. ‘We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach …. Far from it. God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings.’
This Lent let us attend to our relationship with God; use the opportunities for prayer and study; and take up offers like that from the Abbey to undergo a spiritual MOT (and if your church isn’t offering something like that, why not ask your Vicar to review your spiritual life with you?) Let us seek to be more like Christ; to live under the true discipline that is love.
Bishop Richard, Bedford
Three Bishops respond following General Synod Debate
Our bishops have issued a joint statement following the General Synod debate on “Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations,” which can be read on the diocesan website.