From the editor: September 19, 2014
The Enduring United Kingdom
St. Vlash [Blaise] Monastery, Durres, Albania, September 12.
I read the news today that the Scots rejected independence from the United Kingdom by a vote of 55 to 45 percent. The 300-year-old union remains intact. An amazing 85 percent of eligible voters turned out. Democracy at its best? And is it always best?
Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church in England, who is here at the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative meeting, has seen democratic attempts in the Middle East go badly. He insists that democracy is a fallible means to an end. To work, it requires competent candidates and knowledgeable voters, who take the measure of the issues, consider their needs and the welfare of the nation and all its citizens, as best they can. If one group insists on dominating another, rights of minorities are threatened, as we are seeing with horrific consequences.
The Scots certainly thought about what they were voting on. They have for a long time carried an identity that seems to rise above location and they are not afraid to be united in a larger Union. Scots can be Scots anywhere, as their many missionaries (e.g., Eric Liddell [Chariots of Fire]) attested, while bringing the gospel to every nation, building a United Kingdom of God.
In some sense Scottish missionaries of bygone years are responsible for this international meeting in Albania. The modern ecumenical movement was born in Edinburgh, because world missionary activity was dominated by Scots. In a sense, this 2014 Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative is a child of that ecumenical movement.
Only Christ can truly bring together the nations in a truly united kingdom, foreshadowed on the day Pentecost. Here at the monastery this week, Christ was confessed by Evangelicals and Orthodox Copts, Syrian Orthodox (from India), Russians, Serbians, Romanians, Albanians, Greeks, Ethiopians, Nigerians—at least 20 countries were represented.
Bishop Angaelos, whom I was privileged to interview for Touchstone earlier today, brings me around full circle when I ask him about the news from Scotland, my maternal homeland, and share with him my impressions of Iona and St. Columba. He surprises me by mentioning the 7 Coptic Monks of Egypt in Ireland in the early Church. The Scots, of course, were originally from Ireland, and the missionary impulse of Columba and his Irish monks on Iona flowed into Scotland, England, Gaul and much of Europe. Perhaps something of that missionary spirit lingered in the land of the Scots, even into modern times. And now, Coptic parishes are flourishing in Great Britain.
The Holy Spirit brings together all nations and tongues into one body, praising the One Lord Jesus Christ. Much of the impetus bringing 60 Christians together here this past week comes from mission work and the concern about how better to work together in serving the kingdom of God, which he alone can build. Independence from the Lord's United Kingdom is not a good idea!
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner