Archbishop Bernard Longley and Bishop David Urquhart, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham held a dialogue last night to inaugurate the five 2011 Edward Cadbury Lectures on the topical theme "Parables for the City", under the auspices of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, at the University of Birmingham.
There was standing room only with students and others sitting on the floor in the lecture room at the Department of Theology and Religion in the European Research Institute Building, yesterday at the start of the open and free admission lecture series.
The Anglican Bishop of Lahore, Pakistan, was among those present for the hour-long lecture. Bishop Alexander John Malik is on a visit to England at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take part in special services for the Pakistan Cabinet Minister of Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was brutally murdered for his Catholic faith on 2 March 2011.
During the lecture "Family and the City", Chaired by the Vice Chancellor, of the University of Birmingham, Professor David Eastwood, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: "There is always something of a tension whenever we decide to work or witness together as Christians. There are some areas of ecumenical co-operation that can achieve results more readily if they are undertaken by two partners, particularly if they represent the major part of the Christian community in a country or a region, or where they already have a similar theology or a united approach to some aspect of the Church’s life and mission.
"Our collaboration on this series of lectures is helping us deepen the commitment of our two communions to the ultimate goal of full visible unity, however remote that may appear at times. It also enables us to make a more significant contribution to the multi-lateral dialogue with other churches to which we are equally committed."
Archbishop Longley then spoke about the significance of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Great Britain last September. He said: "Important literature, religious or secular, helps a people to form a national identity. So do significant historic events and in its own way the visit last September of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain provided a moment for our countries to be aware of their religious roots and the impact of faith on contemporary issues.
"The Papal Visit was a time of extraordinary grace, not only for the Roman Catholic community in England, Wales and Scotland. Pope Benedict set out afresh the central themes of the Gospel, relating them to our own time and experience. In particular he strengthened the resolve shared by people of faith to play our part in public and civic life, confident that the significance of faith can be better understood by those who may not share it.
"As he said farewell to the Holy Father at Birmingham Airport the Prime Minister remarked that the Pope had come to speak to six million Catholics but that a nation of 60 million had listened. The Papal Visit was as much to the people of the United Kingdom at large as to the 10 percent who belong to the Catholic Church. It also demonstrated the impact of a visit from the faith leader of nearly a fifth of the world’s population to what is sometimes described as one of the most secularised societies in Europe.
"Pope Benedict managed to awaken the abiding if impaired memory of the Christian roots that will always be the foundation of our society and he left people of faith with a challenge. How can we understand ourselves as a people and shape our future unless in relation to the God who is our only certain and unchanging point of reference?"
Archbishop Bernard Longley added: "The impact of Pope Benedict’s visit was felt not only by Christians but by many others for whom faith in God provides their compass-point in life. It highlights an opportunity and a challenge that Blessed John Henry Newman, beatified at Cofton Park here in Birmingham, recognised in the changing society of his own time. It is not so much that the truth and beauty of God and the values offered by religion are being ignored or rejected, but our own attempts to express or share our faith sometimes fail to move our contemporaries. Pope Benedict’s visit has encouraged not only Christians but all men and women of faith to search for new ways to touch the lives of others."
The opening lecture was chaired by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor David Eastwood, and on Friday the lecture will be chaired by Sir Dominic Cadbury, Chancellor of the University. This is a clear demonstration of support from the highest leadership of the University of Birmingham for this significant ecumenical collaboration between the Catholic and Anglican Churches in the City of Birmingham.
Today, Bishop David Urquhart will deliver the second lecture: "Soul, you have ample goods" - The Parable of the Barns and Consumption.
Tomorrow, Wednesday 23 March, Archbishop Bernard Longley will deliver the third lecture: “It was only right that we should celebrate and rejoice” - The Parable of the Prodigal Son and Family Values.
On Thursday 24 March, Archbishop Longley will deliver the fourth lecture: “Some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop” - The Parable of the Sower and the Purpose of education.
On Thursday evening after the Cadbury lecture there will be a reception in the Banqueting Suite at Birmingham Council House hosted by Cllr Les Lawrence and Cllr Alan Rudge. Mrs Fiona Bruce MP for Congleton will speak on the importance of Religious Education. Prior to the formal proceedings there will be presentations on the developing Religious Education website, Faith Mapping project.
On Friday 25 March, Bishop Urquhart will deliver the final lecture "Each according to his ability" - The Parable of the Talents and Creativity.
The 2011 Cadbury Lectures are entitled: "Parables for the City", partly in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible), and will deal with various concerns about life in the City of Birmingham.