Queen's Birthday Honours include widow who forgave husband's murder

Reuters

The lay Anglican who helped transform the financial fortunes of the Church of England has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Many other leading Christians, ordained and lay, have also been honoured.

Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner, is to be knighted for public service, particularly to the Church of England.

The award follows years of growth by Church investments that have regularly exceeded the benchmark.

The Church Commissioners' latest results valued the portfolio at £6.7 billion and ensured the Church has enough funds to finance ambitious plans for expansion by paying for hundreds more clergy across the nation. The exceptional performance also meant they more than made up the disastrous losses of the several decades ago.

Liberal Democrat politician Simon Hughes, a committed Anglican who lost his seat in the General Election, is to be knighted for his parliamentary work.

Christina Rees, a leading campaigner for women bishops, was appointed CBE for her services to the Church of England.

Another significant honour was an OBE for Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, who has played a leading role in the campaign to raise awareness in the West of the terrible persecution currently faced by Christians in the Middle East. His honour is for services to International Religious Freedom.

Bishop Angaelos, who is leading the inaugural young adult's convention in Vancouver, Canada, said: "I am humbled by this award because I see it as my role and duty to advocate for religious freedom as part of my ministry. While I am thankful for this great honour, it also comes with a sense of sadness that in the 21st century we still need to defend people's God-given rights and freedoms in this way. I consider this an award to every person who has worked with and supported me along the way and pray that God rewards and blesses them for all they have done and all they will continue to do."

Rev Robert Herron, Northern Ireland presbyterian minister, was appointed OBE for services to education. Established writer Karen Armstrong, a former nun who specialises in issues of faith, was also appointed OBE, for services to literature and interfaith dialogue.

MBEs went to Garry Reed, headteacher of Swimbridge Church of England Primary School in North Devon and Joyce Roberts, chair of Liverpool Church of England Council for Social Aid.

Maureen Greaves, Church Army lay preacher and widow of a church organist beaten to death on Christmas Eve was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of her services to the community in north Sheffield. Her husband, Alan, aged 68, was brutally murdered on Christmas Eve in 2012 as he walked to church to play the organ at Midnight Mass.

In July 2014, at the end of the trial of the two men convicted for the murder, Maureen said: "It's through God's mercy that I have been able to extend real and true forgiveness." She prayed also that they would find "true repentance" in jail.

Maureen said: "Alan is constantly in my thoughts and I continue to miss the life that we shared together. I am amazed and humbled that the Queen should honour me in this way and I accept it on behalf of both Alan and myself."

Mark Russell, chief executive of the Church Army, said: "Many people have been impacted by the story of Alan's death and by Maureen's courage in forgiving those who killed him. She is an inspiration and the whole Church Army family is proud of her. We are thrilled that the Queen has honoured Maureen in this way."

Jonathan Venner, organist and choirmaster of the church of St Edward the Confessor, Romford was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to choral music.

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