The celebration of Christian saints is a phenomenon which has endured throughout the centuries with an enthusiasm that shows little sign of diminishing. Recent Roman Catholic popes have dished out sainthoods by the bucket load. John Paul II canonised a record 110 individuals over 26 years. Benedict XVI upped the pace with 45 in eight years, and Francis isn’t hanging around, having already managed 17 in his three years as pontiff. The majority of Protestants would argue that biblically every Christian is a saint and spurn Rome’s formalities and arbitrary qualifications, but that doesn’t stop them having their own heroes. John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King among many others are still revered almost as much as St Paul and the other Apostles.
There are some individuals whom deserve to be remembered for their outstanding examples of great faith and deeds, serving God and advancing His Kingdom. When Jesus said, ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these‘ (Jn 4:12 NIV) he knew that once his Spirit was poured out upon the Church, some would run and run with it burning in their hearts. That fire has never diminished and we see God’s Spirit as much alive now as in the days of the Early Church – if we have our eyes wide open and know what to look for. That is why it is such a shame that too often the Church pays more attention to the ‘saints’ of the past who long departed this earthly realm.
To rejoice in what God is doing in and through the Church right now is to savour God’s love for the whole world. When we hear great stories of individual Christians following in Jesus’ footsteps, being salt and light in a world full of darkness, they can and ought to spur us on to deepen our faith and respond accordingly. When any of us chooses to pursue God’s calling beyond a self-centred life, we should expect to see wonderful things. This power to transform the world is simply not restricted to a select few.
This was the motivation behind last year’s #CranmerList2014. It was always about sharing the good news of God’s Spirit in action through a democratically nominated and un-ranked list of the Top 100 UK Christians. There are, of course, thousands more who are at least as deserving of recognition, but they can rest assured that in the Kingdom of Heaven the first shall be last and what is done in secret will, in time, receive full reward.
Such a proposition was a chance to provide a counter to those annual power lists rooted in celebrity culture and obsessed with ranking. The notion of a ‘Top 100 UK Christians’ can and does grab attention and headlines, but it is the substance underneath that is of real importance: if this works (and it did) in terms of spreading some Good News, then the irritation of those who see the whole idea as a worldly vanity project is worth enduring.
One of the key notions behind the Top 100 UK Christians was that it would become an annual event with fresh nominations each time ensuring a broad range of names that go beyond any one denomination, tradition or the compilers’ whims. Inevitably, some will delight and others will provoke, but to allow our opinions to be challenged once in a while is no bad thing. Last year there was criticism that there were a lack of women on the list, but the only reason for this was the limited number of submissions. If you wish to see more women (or business people or young pioneers) then do something about it.
So once again we ask for your input to help compile this year’s list. The nomination form is below. Nominees must be living and a citizen of the United Kingdom. Their ministry may, however, be wider than teaching, preaching or pastoring, and may be to anywhere in the world.
You are entirely free to nominate Rosemary for her faithfulness in serving teas and coffees week after week for the last two decades at your local church. But much as this is a commendable service for the kingdom, the point of the exercise is a consideration of spiritual influence in the world, focusing on Christians whose ministry is significant in the public realm; those who labour in the vineyard, contending for the Faith, whose fruits are discernible and compelling.
As you consider your nomination(s), do not just ask yourself, ‘What has this person done for us?’ (where ‘us’ is the Body of Christ and the communion of saints), but also ‘What has this person done for the mission of God and the cause of Christ in the world?’ If their ministry is principally in and to the Church, have they sufficiently inspired others to follow Christ; to go out into the world and reflect upon the treasures of eternity? If their ministry is in and to the world, does it reflect the peace, truth and mercy of a loving God? What, if anything, distinguishes it from secular social intervention? Do they foster unity or division? Are they gracious or conceited? Do they speak, sing or write with divine wisdom, passion and insight, or go on about carnal obsessions and material desires? In short, are their eyes fixed on Jesus?
Nominations are now closed. The results will be published at the end of December to coincide with the New Year’s Honours.