The focus of attention among forerunning expressions of church is at last shifting from self focus to other focus, from the community of the church to the family of humanity.
Some have been pioneering this for a long time now, as I was reminded only yesterday when connecting with Together for the Common Good http://www.togetherforthecommongood.co.uk an initiative of the late Bishops of Liverpool David Shepherd and Derek Warlock. I’m remembering how much I gained from my associations with the early years of Frontier Youth Trust and the Evangelical Coalition for Urban Mission that David Shepherd was such an inspiration to many moons ago. What is so good is the new alignments now taking place between what used to be called ‘liberal’ and ‘social gospel’ Christians and evangelicals, pentecostals and charismatics, together with lovers of humanity from other faiths and none. Many of us have been longing for this. Once we enter the common human space of the incarnation we rediscover what Jesus was talking about when he distinguished between those who display their credentials for reasons of power and self-aggrandisement and those who do the will of the Father whether or not they fully realise it (Mtt7:21-23).
A profound vocabulary change
Last Autumn my good friend medical practitioner Andy Knox and I were together facilitating a kenarchy course in Mississauga, Toronto’s less well-known twin city. While there we had the opportunity of attending a meeting of the Canadian transformation network facilitated by good friend Richard Long http://togethercanada.org/ and listening to reports of developments from across Canada. It was immediately obvious to us that a profound vocabulary change had taken place. We left acknowledging the significance of the change, to us evidence of the real impact of the prayer movement, the Holy Spirit outpourings of the last three generations and the fulfillment of the voice of true prophets for those with ears to hear. The language was no longer centered around the gathered church, but the needs of the poor and marginalized. With our ears newly attuned and our hopes raised it’s hardly surprising that on our return we read the symbols and heard the statements of Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin as signposts to a dramatic shift in the positioning of the church. With Francis’ warnings about global capitalism and Justin’s about pay day lenders ringing in my ears I attended the UK Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders gathering in December. I like this grouping because of its breadth of representation within the life of the Spirit, having been co-hosted by Catholics and Protestants since its inception forty or so years ago, and bringing together those with a recognition of the centrality of Jesus and his life in the Spirit without dogmatic doctrinal demands. Here once again the shift in vision and vocabulary was obvious. The church is becoming obsessed with the poor and the marginalised once more! There I discovered the impact of FaithAction and their great resource Faith With the Sleeves Rolled Up http://www.faithaction.net/ and the fine example of the Dagenham Community Resources initiative http://www.communityresources.co.uk. Students from the Political Theology for Peace programme http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/centres/richinst/ that I convene for the Richardson Institute in the PPR Department here at Lancaster University, were able to taste the kenarchic politics for themselves at a day workshop in February.
Highly motivated people positioned in the gap created by a government desperate to recover economic stability for the rich and powerful
Lest I start to sound too triumphalistic, the February launch of the Christians on the Left in London did reveal something of the old tension between social action and social justice, something that the testimony of Jesus never divides. However, the room was packed with a very representative cross section of highly motivated people positioned in the gap created by a government desperate to recover economic stability for the rich and powerful amid the implosion of capitalism while trying to hang onto power and the vote. In the enthusiasm of that launch I found my way to a subsequent event co-sponsored by Christians on the Left in Liverpool. Here I connected with Together Lancashire http://www.cuf.org.uk/together-lancashire and discovered encouraging evidence of the same repositioning happening locally right here on my doorstep… here’s one example http://westendimpact.blogspot.co.uk/. Pretty certainly it’s happening on your doorstep too, so please add your evidence to ours by commenting on this post.