Moderator leads General Assembly in condemning Manchester attack
Published on 23 May, 2017
Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, today led the General Assembly in condemning the attack at the Manchester Arena and in offering condolences to the victims and their families.
Dr Browning led commissioners to the General Assembly in prayer and a minute’s silence for the victims of the bombing.
“When the news of this appalling and brutal act in Manchester came to us, most of us will have been stunned.
That young people and children, with others, could be the subject of what Police are now treating as a premeditated act of violence is beyond comprehension. There is no cause, political or religious, that justifies actions of senseless brutality, anywhere or at any time.
"Today the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland offers its prayer and deepest concern to all who have been caught up in this action. The young people and their families and friends, the emergency and security services, and the people of that great city of Manchester.
"We pray for them and send our sincerest wishes of peace to come in this heart-rending situation.
"In times like this we are not defeated by fear.... God remains with us and all His children."
Church "stands alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters"
Speaking after the morning session the Moderator said the Church of Scotland “stands alongside our Muslim sisters and brothers” following the terrorist attack in Manchester.
“The whole of the General Assembly is reaching out to the communities within Manchester. One of our commissioners from Dunfermline, who has connections with local mosques, has said we must remember at this time that many moderate Muslims will be very frightened and very nervous about any potential backlash.
“We, of course, hope this doesn’t happen. We in the Church of Scotland know that these type of activities are not perpetrated by moderate Muslims, but by extremists.
“We stand as a Christian community alongside our Muslim sisters and brothers at this time as well as with the victims in Manchester and hope that we can move forward from what must be a hugely traumatic event.”
Church and Society express sadness
Introducing a new motion on the Manchester attacks, Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, quoted from the poem Choose by American poet Carl Sandberg:
'The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other. ’
In this time when we have experienced the clenched fist and see all around us more expressions of the clenched fist, Dr Frazer said,
"Surveillance from the cross means looking out on the world with Christ’s hands. His open hands, stretched out on the cross, forgiving a common criminal who was crucified beside him. The asking hand held out and waiting,
"That is Christ’s way, that is the Church’s way, that is our way: the open hand of vulnerability."
He urged the General Assembly to support the motion which asked commissioners to agree to:
"Express profound sadness at the attack at Manchester Arena and the tragic and pointless loss of life; affirm the courage and grace with which Manchester is already responding; call on the Church to continue to foster deep relationships across communities; and commit us to pray for all affected."
Commissioners agreed and Dr Frazer welcomed their vote saying:
"It is so important that we are part of that company that speaks of love and reconciliation and the costly work—the costly work—of being peacemakers in our world. That is our role.”
Miss Iris Maxfield, youth representative from the Presbytery of England thanked commissioners for their condolences and prayers and said:
“While we keep praying I also think it’s our duty to keep going to concerts, as well as yes to offer the open hand."
Canon Dr Jamie Harrison speaks for Synod
Dr Jamie Harrison, a lay Canon of Durham Cathedral , who is representing the General Synod of the Church of England at the General Assembly, spent his early life in Manchester.
Dr Harrison spoke during the discussion to thank commissioners for their words and prayers.
“I wanted to express gratitude for the very profound, helpful and kind words of the Moderator and for his prayers for the people of Manchester,” he said afterwards.
“Many people across Manchester will be shocked and I too am saddened and shocked,”
“I also wanted to share the words of Bishop David Walker, the Anglican Bishop of Manchester who sent out a tweet overnight asking people to hold the people of Manchester in their prayers.
"He said, ‘We have faced terror attacks before and this latest will not defeat us.’
“I think Bishop David was conscious of all the different faith communities in Manchester as well as people of no faith and he asks us to hold them all in our prayers.
“Archbishop Justin Welby too has said that evil cannot overcome Manchester. We as a church are praying for those in sorrow who are embarking on the hard journey of loss, as well as for those injured and those who seek to protect us.
“What strikes me is the sense of the Archbishop wanting to uphold the whole of what he called ‘heroic Manchester'. And it is not just Manchester. This concert brought innocent and vulnerable young people from all over the North of England and beyond.
“It drives home the complete meaninglessness and pointlessness of this attack.”