Presented  by  Rev Dr Lord  Leslie  Griffiths

Burns  1  Lecture  Theatre,  University  of  Otago.   Monday 7th   July 5.30pm

I must begin by thanking you for giving me the privilege of delivering this lecture. I’ve read the efforts of those who’ve spoken in previous years with great personal profit. It’s awesome to stand in their shoes, challenging to think I must aim to be worthy of their contributions, and positively terrifying to seek to justify your confidence in me. I’ll do my best.

I was deeply moved, as many of you must have been, by David Lange’s lecture – the first in the series and the last public discourse he ever gave. It’s almost fifty years since the young David Lange spent a sabbatical year in London. Having heard the mighty Donald Soper speak to a large crowd on Tower Hill on the subject of “turning the other cheek”, he found himself invited to have tea with this warrior for peace. This led the future Prime Minister to throw in his lot with the work of Methodism’s West London Mission, an extraordinary piece of work being run by Soper with its string of projects dealing with social need,- addiction, street homelessness, young offenders, people on bail and so much else, work which I was myself to become responsible for a generation later. It was here that he met Naomi who would later become his wife. Soper’s biographer suggests that Lange “was struck by Donald’s contention that the key to making good the Christian social ethic of helping the underprivileged lay in the political arena with a socialist party committed to an extensive programme of practical reform.” Soper remained one of Lange’s mentors for the rest of his life.

The Challenge.

One of my intellectual mentors is Terry Eagleton, a cultural guru whose acerbic wisdom has inspired me for years. I remember my attention being drawn to his review of a collection of essays by a scholar named Homi Bhabha entitled The Location of Culture. I was grabbed by the very first line of Eagleton’s piece: ‘Post-colonial theory,’ he wrote, ‘is written on the hoof, a language of migration and displacement, of split locations and fractured identities.’ I went out the very same day, bought the volume and devoured it. It is, indeed, as fine as its reviewer claimed. As I read, I found myself making an index of what seemed to me to be the key words in Bhabha’s analysis, and the results were fascinating. The post-colonial world is fractured and fragmented all right. Our cities are wonderfully yet bewilderingly multi-ethnic. The London borough in which I live has hundreds of ethnic and language groups living within its borders, all needing education, health care and social services. Bhabha identifies three ways (or are they levels) of responding to multiculturalism. The first, and we’ve all done this, is simply by admiring its exoticism, loving its food, its dress, its carnivals and its colour. The second purports to be more profound. Scholars and commentators have compared and contrasted the teachings of our different religions. We’ve seen the emergence of departments of “comparative religion” in our universities, an arrangement that allows us to keep religions in hermetically sealed compartments. For Edward Said, in his monumental book Orientalism, this approach to difference was a barely disguised device for “othering the Other.” “This is preposterous,” he wrote, in his usual trenchant way, “since one of the great advances in modern cultural theory is the realization, almost universally acknowledged, that cultures are hybrid and heterogeneous and….so interrelated and interdependent as to beggar any unitary or simply delineated description of their individuality.” It’s this reference to hybridity that brings us to Bhabha’s third point and raises the subject in a way that he would want to leave imprinted on our minds and hearts. The challenge of post-colonial societies, according to his argument, should evoke a response beyond the merely aesthetic or academic; it should rather create an awareness of how the various elements within a cultural matrix overlap, are inter-dependent, belong together. It’s the idea of ‘cross-over’ that permeates Bhabha’s book and the index I’d compiled turned out to offer a veritable thesaurus of words and metaphors to illustrate this. Beyond, side-by-side, in-between, negotiation, the Third Space, hybridity, split, mimic man, displacement – all these words and phrases suggest in one way or another the fundamental mixed-upness of contemporary society.

Terry Eagleton’s praise for Homi Bhabha has the practical aim of bringing an agenda of great importance to the awareness of the more general reader. “Few post-colonial writers,” Eagleton writes, “can rival Homi Bhabha in his exhilarated sense of alternative possibilities – of a world in which ‘hybridity’, ‘in-betweenness’, a culture in permanent transition and incompleteness, may be embraced without anxiety or nostalgia. The very process of Bhabha’s writing – intricate, thickly layered, veering from poetry to theory to rhetoric – enacts this dissolving of familiar co-ordinates”.

This reference to the “dissolving of familiar co-ordinates” will, of course, put religious people on their guard. Maintaining those familiar co-ordinates and defending them against anything that will erode or weaken them is usually thought to be the over-riding responsibility, the number one duty, of believers in any religion. Relativism is often referred to as if it were the sin against the Holy Spirit. It’s that normative defensiveness that I want to call into question this evening. I want to suggest that the religions should be less risk-averse in the way they address and respond to the needs of the world. And to add that such an open approach might well create synergy between the peoples of faith that could make a signal contribution to the peace and well-being of the world.

A Jewish voice.

First, let me make space to show how one leading Jewish thinker startled the world by showing a readiness to open his mind to a way of thinking that might well incur the criticism that he was diluting the faith, blurring its edges and risking its identity. This was what Jonathan Sacks seemed ready to do in his book The Dignity of Difference in which he wanted to recognize the need to make a real contribution to the common good while, at the same time, remaining faithful to the internal agenda of his own faith. Sacks recently stepped down from his responsibilities as Britain’s Chief Rabbi. In the twenty years since giving the BBC’s prestigious Reith Lectures, his voice and his erudition have been key features of Britain’s intellectual and religious horizon. So people jumped to attention when they read passages like this:
“…the radical transcendence of God in the Hebrew Bible means nothing more or less than that there is a difference between God and religion. God is universal, religions are particular. Religion is the translation of God into a particular language and thus into the life of a group, a nation, a community of faith. In the course of history, God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims. Only such a God is truly transcendental – greater not only than the natural universe but also than the spiritual universe articulated in any single faith, any specific language of human sensibility…. Only such a world view could reconcile the particularity of cultures with the universality of the human condition.” (page 55, italics in the original).
This is, of course, ground-breaking stuff especially coming, as it did, from a cautious and orthodox Jewish leader. He put the immense authority of his office and, indeed, his learning into making a statement of this kind. And it was a note he continued to strike as the pages turned.
We encounter God in the face of a stranger. That I believe is the Hebrew Bible’s single greatest and most counter-intuitive contribution to ethics. God creates difference; therefore it is in one-who-is-different that we meet God.” (page 59, italics in the original)
Or again:
“He [God] is a parent, sometimes male (‘have we not all one father?’), sometimes female (‘like one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you’), but always bearing the love that a parent feels for a child he/she has brought into being. The God of the Hebrew Bible is not a Platonist loving the abstract form of humanity. He is a particularist, loving each of his children for what they are: Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Israel and the nations, choosing one for a particular destiny to be sure, but blessing the others each in their own way.” (page 56, italics in the original).
Permit me one final quotation from this remarkable book by Jonathan Sacks, one in which he makes the challenge facing religious believers abundantly and radically clear:
“…nothing has proved harder in the history of civilisation than to see God in those whose language is not mine, whose skin is a different colour, whose faith is not my faith and whose truth is not my truth …. God is only partially comprehended by any faith …..He is my God but also your God. He is on my side but also on your side. He exists not only in my faith but also in yours.” (page 65)
The subtitle of The Dignity of Difference is How to avoid the Clash of Civilisations and it’s fascinating to see how radical the innovative mind of Jonathan Sacks was prepared to be in his attempts to define this end. He advocates taking risks with one’s faith, holding fast to one’s own religion while affirming the truth of (and recognising God in) others. Here is, indeed, a brave stance, a readiness to join forces with others in the search for peace.
With all this in mind, it’s sad to see what happened to the book subsequently.  Once it was off the press, the forces of reaction rose up. Critics within the Jewish community were disturbed by the note being struck by their Chief Rabbi. So much so that copies of the first edition were recalled and pulped and its author put to re-writing the words and paragraphs I’ve quoted and others too. They all disappeared in the second edition. This is a story that illustrates the difficulties facing members of religious communities as, on the one hand, they seek to make common cause with people of other faiths while, on the other, needing to deal with discordant and conservative voices within their own community.


Some Christian thinking.
Christians can be found on both sides of some very divisive issues. Indeed, it’s sometimes a challenge to understand just how this is possible.
Think of the question of slavery. Many of those who organised the trade were Christians. So too were those who benefitted from the labour of slaves whether on plantations where they themselves lived or on estates in faraway places. How could anyone reconcile the subjugation of fellow human beings with the teaching of the Bible? Yet the advocates of slavery did precisely that. They brought forward curious ethnological arguments about “the descendants of Ham.” And they generally subscribed to some form of neo-Calvinist doctrine that allowed them to believe that they had been predestined to be among God’s elect with the concomitant view that all others were doomed for a more shadowy fate. Slavery was about more than theology, of course; but it’s not difficult to see how a theological ethos of this kind could pre-dispose people towards an unthinking acceptance of slavery. Those they enslaved were not civilised or fully developed human beings.
I’ve stood in Cape Coast Castle on the Atlantic coast of West Africa and tried to imagine the huddled masses of men and women awaiting shipment to the New World. Some wit has in recent times written words from Dante’s Inferno over the door of the corral where the slaves were herded before being squeezed, one at a time, through a narrow slit in the castle wall and thence directly into the hold of the ship that would transport them across the Middle Passage: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” it reads. Meanwhile, directly above this dungeon, in a pretty little chapel whose architecture was no doubt intended to evoke the feeling of being in a typical English parish church, the masters and the shippers attended their Prayer-Book services, offered their devotions, thanked Almighty God for his providence and sought his help for all their endeavours. Their Amens would have been uttered within the hearing of the slaves shackled in the gloomy pit below them.
In the United States of America, a whole economy and way of life was built on slave labour and it would take a Civil War, a recent American version of Sunni versus Shi’a, to move things forward. Abraham Lincoln noted the supreme irony implicit in the drastic and tragic loss of life during that war in these words from his Second Inaugural address:
[Soldiers from] “both sides read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.”
The problem continued, of course, right down to recent times. The Civil Rights Movement pitted the same opposing (and Christian) views against each other. Martin Luther King’s non-violent civil opposition, however, ensured that the battles were no longer fought on a military basis. I’ll never forget the visit I made with members of the US Congress in 2005 to mark the 40th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery to get voting rights for African Americans. We walked to the top of the Edmund Pettus bridge. I was in the company of Congressman John Lewis who’d led the 1965 march. With us were Fred Shuttleworth, Harry Belafonte, one of Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughters and many other veterans of that event. From the top of the arch of that bridge they would have had first sight of the dogs and the horsemen, the guns and the batons, and the grim line of police waiting to stop them at all costs. It was an ugly moment.
Christians with an inclusive world view, who saw all human beings as equal in the eyes of God, took on the struggle against fellow Christians who seemed able to deny black people the rights they themselves enjoyed. And something similar was taking place, in a different historical context, in faraway South Africa.
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation. It was upheld almost until the end by the Reformed churches of South Africa. Just consider these words of Daniel Malan (he was speaking in 1954 to a group of Reformed Church clergymen to Grand Rapids, Michigan):
“The difference in colour is merely the physical manifestation of the contrast between two irreconcilable ways of life, between barbarism and civilization, between heathendom and Christianity, and finally between overwhelming numerical odds on the one hand and insignificant numbers on the other. To survive in such a situation, to avoid being submerged in the black heathendom of Africa, the white minority must throw an impenetrable armour around themselves – the armour of racial purity and self-preservation. They are doing this in a Christian spirit. Apartheid is based on what the Afrikaner believes to be his divine calling and his privilege – to convert the heathen to Christianity without obliterating his national identity.” [Sparks 278f.]
There were, of course, important voices on the other side of the argument. Black and liberation theologians were offering a quite different analysis of the situation and brave Afrikaners like Beyers Naudé suffered the hatred of his own community as he stood out against its injustices. Once again, we can only point out here how, in very recent times, Christian voices have been heard on both sides of a very divisive situation which brought untold suffering to countless people. Allistair Sparks entitles the chapter in his The Mind of South Africa that he devotes to this struggle: “A Theological Civil War.” And, when all’s said and done, that’s what it was.
One final example must suffice and I introduce it with great wariness. Too many people have contributed facile generalisations to the discussion of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Mention must be made of the immense suffering of both Catholic and Protestant communities there. There are good explanations for many of the attitudes and declarations of each side towards the other. Injustice has been perpetrated, great anxiety generated, wicked reprisals have followed one another from both sides. Any critical observations must always be made with some idea of the very complex history of Ireland. But when all is said and done, the people of Ireland are gathered around two mutually exclusive narratives, both of them Christian. The Roman Catholics have historically had little sympathy with Protestants. Indeed, after the First Vatican Council (1870) and during the debate on Home Rule, Catholics became increasingly nationalist. Cardinal Cullen, Catholic leader at this time, made no bones about it. “His task was clear,” writes John Dunlop in his A Religious Belonging, “to put the Catholic Church in Ireland on a war footing against Protestantism and every other enemy of the Supreme Pontiff.” [op.cit. p48f.]
This spirit was, of course, reciprocated by Protestants. The description of the Pope in the Westminster Confession as “the Antichrist,” though subsequently modified and softened, has undoubtedly affected the way Presbyterians (particularly) have seen the Catholic Church. Armed, as they were, with a view of themselves as God’s elect, buttressed by what one commentator called “the old comfortable doctrines of election, reprobation, original sin and faith,” the stage was set for an unstoppable Catholic force to meet an immovable Protestant object. There have been various views of the exact role played by religion in Northern Ireland’s recent troubled history. David Stevens, former General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches, was very clear about this. He wrote as follows:
“The religious assemblies of the Irish, Scots and English carry the memories of community experience, North and South. They are entwined with, cannot be separated from, the cultural and political histories of the different communities in Ireland. They have shaped everyone in this society both believers and non-believers…. Religion is that which binds together. It has also brought diversity and division in Ireland.”
With all that in mind, it is good to note the real progress that has been made in recent times. I was consultant to the Belfast Central Mission during its rebuilding phase at the very heart of the most bombed and disturbed part of the city. At the opening service, two bishops (Anglican and Roman Catholic), a Presbyterian Moderator and a Roman Catholic Lord Mayor were all present at a genuinely ecumenical occasion. There is still a great deal to do, however. The Christian witness in Northern Ireland still feels sectarian and suspicious. The Irish still seem possessed of a double focus, able “to live in two places at the same time and in two times at the one place.” [Dunlop p110]
Christian people have to recognise, just like the Jews, that there exist progressive and inclusive traditions within their community as well as others that build walls around themselves, looking at everyone outside those walls with great suspicion as secular, unbelievers, doomed. They cling at all costs to an established status quo, refusing to face present realities let alone future imperatives.
And Islam.
I travelled to New Zealand with what was still the latest edition of the weekly British journal New Statesman. An image of a Moslem warrior holding two AK47s fills the front cover and the headline sums it up: “Sunni vs Shia” it declares in large, bold print with a subtitle that says: “From Syria to Iraq, how Islam is tearing itself apart.”
This is precisely the note struck by a Moslem writer Reza Aslan in his recent book No God but God which offers a sweeping account of the history and ethos of Islam. He shows how women, in the life and teaching of the prophet Muhammad, were far from being denied their rights; indeed, they were as blessed as men. He makes no requirement for the veiling of women or for restricting them to the privacy of their homes. Nor is the prophet intrinsically hostile to Jews or Christians – indeed he took a Jewish and a Christian woman as wives. Reza Aslan gives an altogether more pacific view of Muhammad’s views on jihad than we read about in the press and even shows how the Quran can be viewed through a critical lens in the same way as the Jewish and Christian scriptures.
I found myself particularly captivated by his account of the emergence of Shi’ism after the death of Muhammad’s grandson Huseyn. That was very moving and in direct contrast to the chilling tale of the emergence of Wahhabi teaching from the 18th century. Just consider this:
“Abd al Wahhab’s holy warriors burst into the Hijaz (the Arabian Peninsula), conquering Mecca and Medina and expelling their leaders. Once established in the holy cities, they set about destroying the tombs of the Prophet and his Companions, including those pilgrimage sites that marked the place of Muhammad and his family. They sacked the Treasury of the Prophet’s mosque in Medina and set fire to every book they could find, save the Quran. They banned music and flowers from the sacred cities and outlawed the smoking of tobacco and the drinking of coffee. Under penalty of death, they forced the men to grow beards and women to be veiled and secluded.” (pages 243-4)
Clearly, many of those aspects of Islam by which Muslims are so often stereotyped can be drawn from the radical activities of this 18th century cleric. From that day to this, the Wahabbis, a distinctive and ultra-conservative group of Muslims, have sheltered under the wing of the Saudi royal family who have long been strongly backed by the West as a bastion against communism and purchasers of our weaponry. This is the tradition that radicalises disenchanted Muslims. Out of this body of teaching have come Al-Quaeda and its scion Osama bin Laden. They have always seen the whole world in terms of two groups of people – those destined for Heaven and those doomed to Hell. They place many Muslims, including the Saudi royal family, in the latter group. “They shall be wiped out,” Osama bin Laden is famously remembered for saying.
Aslan ends his book by suggesting that the only acceptable form of government that Muslim countries can embrace is, wait for it, democracy. Not a democracy imposed from outside. Rather, accountable forms of governance with due respect for pluralism and human rights but coloured by the features and experiences, the culture and climate of the country within which such a system operates. It needs to be a breathing form of democracy, something indigenous and organic. Democracy, Aslan argues, is a distinct alternative both to theocracy (the rule of clerics invoking the will of God) and also of secularism (states like Turkey where the wearing of the veil is forbidden). Aslan wants his readers to understand that there is a violent turmoil going on within Islam, a deeply seated struggle between various parts of the great worldwide body of Muslims.
In Aslan’s view, what the West often describes as if it were a clash of civilisations pitting the Muslim world against the Christian world, should be understood quite differently. He writes as follows:
“…despite the tragedy of September 11th and the subsequent terrorist acts against western targets throughout the world, despite the clash-of-civilisations mentality that has seized the globe and the clash-of-monotheisms reality underlying it, despite the blatant religious rhetoric resonating through the halls of governments, there is one thing that cannot be over-emphasised. What is taking place now in the Muslim world is an internal conflict between Muslims, not an external battle between Islam and the West. The West is merely a bystander – an unwary but complicit casualty of a rivalry that is raging in Islam over who will write the next chapter in its story……Fourteen hundred years of rabid debate over what it means to be a Muslim, of passionate arguments over the interpretation of the Quran and the application of Islamic law, of trying to reconcile a fractured community through appeals to Divine Unity, of tribal feuds, crusades and world wars – and Islam has finally begun its 15th century.” (page 248).
This reference to a “15th century” is an attempt to compare the state of the evolution of Islam to that in which Christendom found itself 500 years ago. The wars of religion in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, a dreadful time when there was much bloodshed and suffering, is (roughly speaking), he argues, where Islam finds itself at this moment of time. A proper perspective needs to be maintained by the outside observer. It is too early to know who will write that next chapter in Islam’s story. The prophet Muhammad, in his day, cleansed Arab society of false idols. Aslan concludes his masterly argument thus:
“It will take many more years to cleanse Islam of its new false idols – bigotry and fanaticism – worshipped by those who have replaced Muhammad’s original vision of tolerance and unity with their own ideas of hatred and discord.” (page 266)
The question this raises is, of course, a stark one. How much time have we got? In an age of sophisticated technology and devastating weaponry, can we wait?

 Believers of the world – unite.

Just before I end, I need to go off on a tangent to describe a historical moment that bears many resemblances to the times we are living in. I don’t believe that history repeats itself but I do believe that we can and should learn a few lessons from the past. I want to take you back to the year 1848. And I’m hoping you recognize the similarities I’ve hinted at.

It was a terrible year in Europe. Across the continent, countries were in tumult. An old order was breaking down; ancient empires (Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman) were under threat, new ones in the process of being formed. The Industrial Revolution was at its height with masses of people drawn from previously agrarian societies into the cities. Nations jostled and positioned themselves for power. It was an ugly time. And the disenfranchised, exploited working classes were everywhere groaning under the burdens they were being forced to carry. People were being born in chains and eager to know how to break free from their bonds. And those bonds often seemed unbreakable.

There was widespread dissatisfaction with the political leadership of the times and demands were becoming more and more vociferous for greater participation in government and democracy. The working classes were becoming aware of themselves as a force in their lands. Ugly nationalisms were recognizable in many of the countries eager to take advantage of the fragmentation so evident on all hands; they were thirsty for power. And this development was often coupled with a re-grouping of reactionary forces based on royalty, the aristocracy or the armed forces. The revolutions of 1848 sent shudders across Europe. For a while no one knew where it would all end. The very pillars of society seemed likely to crumble.

This time of revolution was often called “the spring of nations” or “the springtime of the peoples.” The Communist Manifesto appeared at this time and its cry was a simple one: “Workers of the world – unite.” It was an appeal to people who were unlikely to understand what they represented as a force. Their everyday battles were local, personal, particular. If only they could recognize just how strong a force they could become. They could change the whole world. But they could only do that by rising above the local, the personal and the particular and pitting their best energies in a battle to build a better world.

The question is, whether people of (good) faith understand what a force they represent in these bewildering times, whether it might be possible in our day to summon them to rise above the local, the personal and the particular issues that confront them in their everyday lives to engage in the struggle to build a better world, whether there would be any response to the cry “Believers of the world - unite.” First of all, of course, they’d have to know how best to deal with the fundamentalists and recidivists within their own fold.

I’ve tried to show how all three Abrahamic faiths are riven within themselves. In all of them we can find those prepared to face the world honestly and with a readiness to take risks in the cause of building good communities and a decent world. And yet, they each embrace others who cling fiercely and sometimes violently, to a stubbornly defensive position. It’s as if anything that might expose their faith to modern or secular or critical or scientific or rational or reforming influences constitutes a threat. Such exposure, or talk of it, drives such people into a corner, turns them in on themselves, leads to a laager mentality as they turn their view outwards towards the invader hordes waiting to annihilate them. Dialogue becomes impossible. A book is pulped, believers are anathematised, violence is resorted to.
It is the fundamentalists, the ultra-orthodox, the Taliban who have been calling the shots. They get the headlines and persuade the outside world that religion is a force for evil in our world. Meanwhile, in our inter-faith dialogue, we get little further than the first two stages of Homi Babha’s analysis. We’re still in the romantic stage of our relationship. Surely Hans Küng is right when he reminds us that:
There can be no ongoing human society without a world ethic for the nations. There can be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There can be no peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.
Those of us with a more positive and progressive attitude, who see each other as allies in the cause of peace, who are prepared to take risks for peace, who won’t complain too much if we learn from each other, accept criticism from each other, develop new ideas from the work we do together, - surely we must find a way to wrest the agenda from the hands of those who tear our faiths apart and who inflict division and ignorance on the world. The time has come for us to rise up together and make common cause for the common good out of our deep conviction that the God we all believe in wants no less. God, the God of all of us, is a God of peace. It’s time that people of faith, people of all faiths, rise up together to show how ready we are to work with all of good will to glorify our God and to bring peace to the earth.


Information  about  the Rev. Dr.  Lord Leslie Griffiths.  
The Rev. Dr. Lord Leslie Griffiths is the Superintendent Minister of Wesley’s Chapel, the Cathedral of World Methodism in London, England and a member of the House of Lords, Labour Party, receiving a Life Peerage in 1994.
As a regular columnist and BBC broadcaster, Dr. Griffiths has spoken extensively on various educational and social subjects, including interfaith relationships, euthanasia, the church and civic society, and international affairs, including the complex world of international finance. “The foundation of my awareness of, and involvement in, international affairs was laid in the period I lived in Haiti, 1970 – 1980,” he notes.
His story begins in real poverty in South Wales and leads him, via ordination, to Haiti to work with some of the poorest people on earth. He experienced Liberation Theology before it had been articulated and was the biographer of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Roman Catholic priest and Liberation Theologian who became Haiti’s President.
Dr. Griffiths became a local preacher in the Methodist Church of Great Britain in 1963 and completed a Master of Arts in Theology at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge in 1969 while training for the ministry at Wesley House. He spent most of the 1970s serving the Methodist Church of Haiti, where he was ordained, before returning to Britain to serve in ministries in Essex and Golders Green. In 1987 Dr. Griffiths earned a Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has served as President of the Methodist Conference in Britain, 1994 - 1995 and has been the Superintendent Minister at Wesley’s Chapel since 1996. He is the current Chair of the College of Preachers. He was created Baron Griffiths of Burry Port, in the County of Dyfed in 2004. He and his wife, Margaret, have three grown children, Timothy, Jonathan, and Ruth and one grandchild.



Dr. Griffiths has written numerous books on religious and historical themes. His riveting and intense autobiography, “A View from the Edge” has recently been published. Some people continue to struggle with the link between religion and politics; its clarity shines through this book.
Book Description
Published  16 Sep 2010 | ISBN-10: 1441194290 | ISBN-13: 978-1441194299

Leslie Griffiths' story begins in real poverty in South Wales. Thanks to his outstanding intellect and a grammar school education, he became the youngest ever staff member at the University of Wales, before the call to ordained ministry led him, via Cambridge, to Haiti to work with some of the poorest people on earth. At the height of the Duvalier dynasty's power, he experienced Liberation Theology before it had been articulated and became the biographer of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Roman Catholic priest and Liberation Theologian who became Haiti's President. In England, Leslie Griffiths is one of the very few people to have been elected President of the Methodist Conference whilst still a circuit (parish) minister. Tony Blair appointed him a working peer in the House of Lords.

Principled and outspoken, he has a high media profile, is an impassioned ambassador for multiculturalism and does not shrink from controversy - nor from public criticism of contemporary culture and politics.
Leslie  Griffiths