By the Rt. Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool
Two years ago, I was invited by the presiding bishop to join with the House of Bishops at its meeting in Phoenix. I was immediately drawn in by the warmth of the welcome. The worship was vibrant. The Bible study around tables was theologically stimulating. The theme of migration was explored morally, politically and biblically. The question that permeated everything was: How do we do justice in God’s world?
I was invited to share my own reflections and, in a light-hearted section, referred to the recent biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I told the bishops:
“I am sure you will be interested to know that you yourselves are featured – on page 779! The Queen Mother, who was a great party hostess, told her daughter Princess Margaret about one cocktail party she gave for 200 bishops. She said that by 8 o’clock they were all ‘in cracking form.’ She went on to say ‘they tucked into all the canapés and tossed down martini after martini, especially the Americans!’”
The book goes on to relate how the king and queen forged a close relationship with President Roosevelt and the first lady, and how that friendship served as a bedrock for the transatlantic alliance that eventually led to America coming to the support of the Allies in defeating the Nazi tyranny.
In 1941, Queen Elizabeth did a broadcast to the women of America. “To you, tyranny is as hateful as it is to us; to you the things for which we will fight to the death are no less sacred; and – to my mind at any rate – your generosity is borne of your conviction that we fight to save a cause that is yours no less than ours: of your high resolve that, however great the cost and however long the struggle, justice and freedom, human dignity and kindness shall not perish from the earth.”
As I read those words, I felt that seven decades later they still ring true, not least for the mission of the Anglican Communion, which at its best should be a Christ-centered alliance in the “struggle (for) justice, freedom, human dignity and kindness.”
For the last year, my daily readings have included studying the little known “Divine Institutes” by Lactantius. He was a North African apologist who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
In his essays on justice, he wrote, “The whole point of justice consists precisely in our providing for others through humanity what we provide for our own family through affection.”
Very often in our discussions about justice, we lack precision in our understanding of this virtue and its application. This insight from Lactantius gives a concrete image about how to do justice in God’s world. We seek for others exactly that which we would naturally desire for members of our own family.
As an exercise, consider any issue under the heading of “justice” and apply that maxim to it. The broadcast of Queen Elizabeth to America over 70 years ago, with its appeal to justice and freedom, still rings true for our Anglican Communion. Let us pray too that kindness will also be the hallmark of our relationships.