Christian Concern Seeks Support in Norwich: “There is Stuff To Do”

From Network Norwich:

On Wednesday 14 March, Norwich charity, Call to Prayer hosted two events with the Founder and CEO of Christian Concern and the Director of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams.

At a lunchtime meeting Andrea, a barrister, spoke to an invited gathering of Christian leaders from the city and in the evening spoke passionately to a group of around 100 Christians at an open event held in the House of Prayer, Fishergate. 

….Christian Concern is one of the founding partners of the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ campaign which encourages Christians to petition against the redefinition of marriage. 

…Another campaign promoted by Christian Concern is ‘Not Ashamed’, a declaration proclaiming ‘Jesus Christ is good news for our nation, that he is the only true hope and solid foundation for our society’. The declaration is supported by the wearing of wristbands and lapel badges displaying the cross. 

…In Norwich, the gathered audience seemed in full support of her message and went away with her final challenge ringing in their ears: “There is stuff to do…be creative. You don’t need to be involved in every campaign. Find your thing and do it. Don’t be overwhelmed and do nothing”.

The same site has further details of the “House of Prayer”:

A House of Prayer was officially opened in Norwich yesterday (February 2) at the Fishergate Centre as the culmination of 18 months of prayer and effort.

An audience of around 70 church leaders and supporters of Call to Prayer, which is the organization behind the Centre, heard from director Jill Gower and Jane Holloway, from the World Prayer Centre in Birmingham.

Gower previously headed “Eden Ministries”, which in 2005 helped to organise a protest in Norwich against the BBC broadcast of Jerry Springer: The Opera. According to a profile:

Two years ago Jill Gower was moved to “bless and build up the churches” through John McKay’s in-depth Bible teaching, The Way of the Spirit.

She studied the course with regular homework and Bible school attendance, noting that “God was speaking directly to his people which provided life rather than just head knowledge”.

McKay (who died in 2001) was a pastor at Kingdom Faith Ministries, which is led by Colin Urquhart in Horsham, West Sussex; Cornerstone Church in Norwich has a “covenant relationship” with KFM.

The Jerry Springer protest notwithstanding, this sort of neo-Pentecostal/evangelical church tends to be very different from the American “Christian Right” organisations with which Minichiello Williams has been making links; I doubt there would be much enthusiasm for the kind of rhetoric associated with, for instance, the EDL-supporting Tennessee Freedom Coalition, which Minichiello Williams met with in November.

However, the Norwich events are a good example of Minichiello Williams’ activism among ordinary Christians, and it remains to be seen whether her efforts will have any kind of politicizing effect. The “Coalition for Marriage” has had some success in framing the debate on same-sex marriage as an attack on religious conscience, while demands that Christian jewelry and accessories be given the same workplace exemptions as marks of religious observance by members of minority faiths has appeal in an era of assertive identity politics. (1)

In 2008, Minichiello Williams appeared in a Channel 4 documentary about conservative Christian activists in the UK; at that time, her public profile was relatively low. Now, her media presence is such that journalists seek her out for her opinion on what kind of person should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. The 2008 documentary also introduced a fairly obscure back-bench MP with whom Minichiello Williams was working: Nadine Dorries.

(1) Christian Concern’s US allies are ratcheting up resentment by claiming that the purported inconsistency is evidence of a Muslim conspiracy to impose shariah; according to William Murray, writing on the Sharia Awareness Action Network website:

The conference [“Constitution or Sharia” – see here] was truly an international event. Barrister Paul Diamond from the United Kingdom spoke of the Islamization of London and his struggle in the courts to represent Christians whose rights have been taken from them.  He presented the case of British Airlines which permits employees to wear Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other religious clothing, but prohibits them from wearing any cross or other item identifying them as Christians. The courts actually upheld British Airlines’ right to discriminate against Christians. Diamond has founded Christian Concern in the United Kingdom to assist Christians who are persecuted as the United Kingdom becomes more Muslim oriented.

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