Did Billy Graham break the Church?

Billy Graham came to England in 1954 and again in the Eighties and had a huge impact. He offered a new deal, a contract that was simple to understand and act upon. Believe in Jesus, accept Him as your personal saviour and you will be forgiven, your life will be transformed. The old ways of faith through tradition, culture and community were no longer enough. But the trouble with offering people a new deal is that if – or in this case, when – they eventually find it wanting, or if the thrill doesn’t last, they give up and walk away, losing trust in the people who sold it to them. For a while it looked as if Billy Graham was saving the Church in this country, but maybe he should take some of the blame for its demise. Here’s an extract from my book looking at the changes in British culture and spirituality since the Eighties, ‘Is God Still An Englishman? How Britain lost its faith (but found new soul)’ Continue reading “Did Billy Graham break the Church?”

A Time For Anger

This is the piece I wrote for the last edition of The Independent on Sunday, which closed forever on Saturday 19 March 2016. Hope triumphs over anger just about …

So here we are. This is the end, beautiful friends, and I have to say I’m angry. Not angry at the end of this title’s print version; that’s more of a sadness. But angry at all the things that have not been fixed or that have got worse since I wrote my first piece here more than 20 years ago, despite all the people who have appeared in these pages, promising to make them better.

Angry that successive politicians have broken their promises and our hopes, so that even when the country is in a mess, millions of people just don’t bother to vote, believing it won’t make any difference.

Angry that there is so little outcry when a Chancellor uses a sugar tax (which will hit the poor hardest) to sweeten the bitter pill of a Budget that contains more than  £1bn a year in cuts to the care of disabled people who need help to get dressed or go to the loo. Continue reading “A Time For Anger”

Gay marriage and God: what we need now is outrageous grace

Can you love and forgive someone who appears to hate you? That is a question many of us are having to answer right now, as explored in this piece for the
Independent on Sunday.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high … there’s a place where people live together peacefully, whatever their differences. That is what is represented by the six-colour flag that has become such a potent symbol in recent days. But how do we get there?

The Reverend Sally Hitchiner has an answer that is breathtakingly audacious. “We can’t move forward until lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people forgive their oppressors. That is the big challenge facing the LGBT community. We are never going to reach Utopia until we all get there.”

Forgive their oppressors? That is an outrageous thing for a priest to say, until you know more about her – and not just because the Church has officially condemned gay people for centuries.

Continue reading “Gay marriage and God: what we need now is outrageous grace”

Hold me close: Omar Puente & the late Debbie Purdy, the greatest love story it has ever been my privilege to tell

purdyThere is one woman whose story has touched me the most in all the years I have been interviewing people; one couple whose immense love has been the greatest privilege to witness. The death of Debbie Purdy has just been announced, and the headlines are calling her a campaigner for the right to die. So she was, even unto death. But I am not thinking of that as I remember the trips to see her in Bradford.

Continue reading “Hold me close: Omar Puente & the late Debbie Purdy, the greatest love story it has ever been my privilege to tell”