Sunday, December 05, 2004


You may have noted that that this weblog has been rather sparodic recently. That's because such spare time as I have at the moment has mostly been given to the Ekklesia site, for which I have been a research associate since May this year.

Besides my sort-of-regular column, I've also been contributing news stories curated here.

Ekklesia was really the brainchild of Jonathan Bartley, whose interests in faith and politics moved in an increasingly radical direction in the 1990s. His own leanings are set out in 'The Subversive Manifesto' (BRF, 2003) - a popular booked aimed at local churches of a more conservative persuasion.

The site's values are linked to those of a mumber of partner organisations in the Anabaptist Network UK, a body which has also attracted dissenting, left-wing Anglicans like myself and Chris Rowland, who teaches New Testament at Oxford.

Ekklesia aims to be a radical Christian think-tank, but of late the news service has had a massive response. There are plans to split the site in two soon, one focussing on research and campaigns, the other on news.

One of the important roles Ekklesia can play, I think, is to mess up the 'liberal' and 'conservative' stereotypes that often bedevil attempts to talk about faith and politics in the media.

As it happens, Jonathan is from good evangelical stock - but has been courageous in supporting causes upopular in that constituency, such as Inclusive Church.

On the other hand I have a certain ecumenical pedigree, but have become increasingly convinced that an open, radical Christianity needs the nourishment of its biblical and 'traditional' roots.

That's something Ekklesia can help to get across. To the 'conservatives' we can say, "actually the Gospel is very radical", and to the 'liberals' we can say, "true liberality needs foundations."

As Bishop Peter Selby once put it, when the going gets tough "liberalism is not enough to support liberalism."

On the other hand, a conservatism which mistakes inflexibility for tradition or reaction for orthodoxy has misunderstood the true catholicity of the movement out of which it arises.

Jesus's agenda was not to shore up the fortress of exclusive religion, but to bring it crumbling down in favour of a new heaven and a new earth.

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