By John Ellis
In the far corner of what the Archbishop of Canterbury calls his “secret garden”, he has five beehives. The community of bees went about their tidy and highly ordered lives while inside Lambeth Palace two communities, who often meet only to sting each other, were debating the untidiness of disordered life in human communities. The leaders of the world’s major mining companies were discussing with the British Churches their ethical dilemmas.
The mining companies know they have a bad reputation for destroying communities in poor countries where they impose their mines. Church representatives, especially through our ethical investment work, have told them so loudly. Church leaders know they will be criticised if they appear to cosy up to multinationals. But both sides swallowed their doubts and engaged in serious debate.
This Day of Reflection was the culmination of a careful process, in which the URC has played a full part, to ensure the day was well-informed and that personal relationships were strong enough to cope with frank talking. The fact that the mining companies had asked for the process was crucial. The fact that the leaders of companies representing 90% of the world’s mining industry turned up was remarkable. The fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury used to work in the oil industry was a providential bonus.
Justin Welby ensured the day was held within a pattern of worship and prayer and the mining company people all joined in. A Eucharist in the Palace Chapel at the heart of the day was jointly led by the Archbishop, the President of the Methodist Conference (the grandson of a miner) and this Moderator of the URC (the great grandson of a miner).
Such extraordinary days rest of course on the faithful work of local churches which nurture those who serve as church leaders and pray for them. It has been good to resume visits to local churches, some of which witnessed for many years before anyone created a multinational. So at Fareham URC in Hampshire we celebrated the 323rd anniversary, including a lunch as good as that at Lambeth Palace; while at the oldest Baptist Church in Exeter we even managed a 358th anniversary. What will our demand for mined metals make the landscape look like in another 358 years?