An idea whose time has come
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Welcome to our Autumn newsletter.
Brexit has unambiguously exposed a country fragmented, unequal and divided. But in the midst of the unfolding political upheaval, we see a space opening up. Common themes are emerging across the parties, between traditional conservative values and the authentic currents of socialism. There is a clear desire for a more meaningful story that engages with the things that matter. There is now an opportunity for an ethics and virtues model of justice: a politics for the Common Good.
This is a turning point for both the left and the right. In spite of the noise from both extremes, neither the narrow preoccupation with rights and utility coming from the left, nor the cute libertarian promises from the right, address what matters most to families and communities. What may be emerging is a new politics, one that resonates deeply with our Judeo-Christian traditions - because it speaks of community, inheritance, fraternity, tradition, faith, virtue, honour, ethics, love, truth, reciprocity, gift, duty, sacrifice, responsibility and relationship. These words, and the actions that must follow, speak to the deepest nature of our humanity, unlike the dry transactional language of a technocratic, utilitarian approach founded on rationalism and individualism.
The churches can play a key role to help bring about this change at all levels, but only if we are true to those traditions. There is no place here for demonisation, sectarianism or ideology. The Common Good is not, as is often misinterpreted, a utopian ideal to be imposed by one 'enlightened' group upon another. On the contrary, it involves working across tribal differences, having honest conversations, respecting the reality of how other people live - and then doing the hard work of negotiation to reach a settlement that balances different interests.
With the party conference season almost upon us, we explore the themes emerging in politics and the transformative potential of Churches throughout this newsletter. We hope you will be encouraged that together, our combined efforts are beginning to show signs of changing the terms of debate. Read on below...
In this newsletter
We are preparing for our annual ‘T4CG Family’ gathering this week where our close advisers and associates involved in our five projects come together, and alongside this we will be making plans with consultants to grow our capacity to meet the momentum around our work. These are significant milestones for us - please spare a thought or a prayer.
A date for your diary
Our next event is on Thursday 6 October 2016 at 6.30pm - a public discussion in partnership with the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, in the City of London. We'll be discussing how markets and business can address the challenges set by Pope Francis in Laudato Si' - his encyclical on climate change and integral ecology: Business, Industry and the Common Good: the Challenge of Laudato Si'. Entrance is free and includes drinks afterwards.
Registration essential - click here to book your place.
What's going on
A few links and downloads collected for you
The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future, a significant piece of work by John Milbank and Adrian Pabst, scopes out the groundwork for the new politics. We were honoured to be involved in some early conversations and we recommend it warmly. It’s been described as ‘a compelling critique of contemporary liberalism with post-liberal alternatives in politics, the economy, culture and international affairs, providing the fullest account so far of the post-liberal alternative in Western politics’. Read what the authors have to say in this blog. You may also like this interview with Michael Sandel - click here.
The Brexit decision exposed deep divides in our society, re-presenting a challenge to Christians on what kind of church we can be: in Building the Common Good: Our Responsibility, Jenny Sinclair argues that the practice of the Common Good and the values of relationship, love and community at the heart of the Christian tradition, can resource the churches to play a crucial role at this turbulent time.
Maurice Glasman asserts that under the leadership of Archbishop Justin Welby, Anglicans have recognised the importance of the Catholic tradition of political economy and its centrality to confronting the problems that beset our country. In The Catholic Moment Has Arrived, he says because of the extreme polarisation we face, mainstream national politics needs to rediscover Catholic social thought, and establish a politics of the Common Good that can reconcile estranged interests and traditions.
One of the reasons why Cardinal Nichols welcomes Theresa May’s leadership is because of their close working relationship in combatting modern day slavery and human trafficking through the Santa Marta Group, an alliance of international police chiefs, bishops and others from around the world working together with civil society in a process endorsed by Pope Francis.
Following the swift despatch of Cameron and Osborne, it is worth taking a moment to understand better the May government’s centre of gravity. Read a piece here written before the General Election by Nick Timothy, one of her co-chiefs of staff, where he speaks about his personal experiences of growing up in a working class family in Birmingham and his view that his party should have “a relentless focus on governing in the interests of ordinary, working people.”
Meanwhile the Labour infiltration story continues in a predictable and tragic trajectory. Following a disappointing hustings hosted by Christians on the Left, where passionate speeches by young people of faith exposed the depressing positions of both leadership candidates, Andy Walton here laments the state of the party. In an article on the mortal threat to Labour Jon Cruddas says 'We have failed to build a public philosophy of the common good', and in this keynote at the National Justice and Peace annual conference he expands further on models of justice. It's worth also taking a moment to consider the shifting meaning of the term ‘socialism’ in an article by Geoffrey Hodgson.
Reactions to the serious situation in the Labour party vary across the churches. It's worth remembering the how Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock responded to the same forces a generation ago. They published a joint letter in The Times in 1985 on the morning of Neil Kinnock's challenge to Militant at the Labour Party Conference. The bishops were clear that such a politics of protest, with a tried and tested covert methodology of infiltration and intimidation is incompatible with representative Parliamentary democracy, and also with their Christian convictions. Their experience is a lesson that we should be rooted firmly in our faith tradition rather than hitched to a particular political party. Tragically, many well-meaning people in the churches today are among those taken in by clever narratives of false hope and in due course are likely to be terribly disillusioned.
If you are going to any of the conferences, here are some links for you to check fringe events: ResPublica – click here, CoVi – click here, Joint Public Issues Team – click here, Christians on the Left - click here, Conservative Christian Fellowship – click here, Lib Dem Christian Forum – click here, Christians in Politics – click here.
While Britain may be distracted by domestic political upheaval, our cousins in France are still raw after the events of the summer. Maurice Glasman has been thinking about why some are so reluctant to take sides about ISIS. Indeed, what’s happening in France should be of concern to us all – read Ben Judah’s sober account of life in the banlieues and ‘Le Pen land’. Pope Francis and the French bishops’ reaction to the murder of Fr Jaques Hamel is important - read ‘Breaking the Cycle of Hate’ by Austen Ivereigh.
Being transformational - churches as part of the solution
Almost one in five of us say that we feel lonely often or always. One in ten say we have no close friends., 'Connecting Communities: The impact of loneliness and opportunities for churches to respond' by the Church Urban Fund explores what it means to be lonely and shares three key findings from literature that will enable churches to offer support. Their joint venture at Redcar and Cleveland has hosted a seminar on meditation as a response to austerity, with Fr Laurence Freeman, Terry Doyle and Bethany Eckley of CUF.
Among the first of the exciting strands at the newly formed Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice is a research project on reforming company law in the light of Catholic Social Thought: Dr Mark Hayes (holder of the St Hilda Chair) is working with Clifford Longley and representatives of the Blueprint Trust, the Common Good Foundation and CAFOD. Click here to find out more.
If you’re still not convinced about, or don’t understand, social impact investment, watch this video about the Resonance National Homelessness Property Fund.
Transforming Communities Together has published ‘Asylum Seekers and the Church’ a summary of an event with a group of Christians from across the Black Country and beyond who considered how the church can be a responsible, active and loving support to asylum seekers and refugees.
Responding to the refugee crisis: A guide: refugees, asylum seekers, migrants - this practical, downloadable booklet for all churches across the country is also available hard copy and has been reprinted thousands of times - it was produced by our friend Steve Atherton from Churches Together Merseyside Region.
The church is ideally placed to be an agent of reconciliation. Learn from this inspiring story of The Salvation Army’s Nick and Kerry Coke’s ministry in Stepney.
Pope Francis’ address to this summer’s gathering of 3 million Catholics at World Youth Day challenged young people to be part of the solution. The Pope reminded them that “Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes.” In a recent blog post for Christians in Politics, Dunstan Rodrigues comments that we must not allow the ‘paralysis of comfort’ to invade our political engagement.
‘Step by step we walked together’ - Quaker Social Action’s Down to Earth programme offers free practical guidance and support to people who struggle to afford paying for a loved one’s funeral.
Read about this new ‘Community Listeners’ project inspired by Asset Based Community Development by Communities Together Durham.
Going deeper into Asset Based Community Development – read Cormac Russell on why ABCD is not ‘a model’ and watch his TedX talk here. Nurture Development are launching a new ABCD training workshop, which you may be interested in commissioning for organisations or individuals in your area. This new workshop will allow participants to review and consolidate their ABCD practice and experience. Find out more information here if you are interested in booking a workshop.
Explore the Street by Street project, whose vision is that people will connect with their neighbours, help one another and make things happen, street by street. This is organised by Civil Society Australia who run a range of great projects. Their council includes Christians of all denominations. Click here to learn more.
Discover useful resources for churches in the Centre for Theology and Community‘s annual report.
Jean Vanier’s past writings and his reflections from a lifetime's experience as the founder of L'Arche are collected in The Gospel of John, The Gospel of Relationship. Just published, this book shows how the message of compassion and companionship at the heart of the gospel is needed to heal our divisions.
Churches working together across their differences
In early October, our friends at The Anglican Centre in Rome are facilitating a meeting on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. At least 17 pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops in ecumenical partnerships from different countries will gather in Canterbury and Rome to share how they work together in difficult situations around the world. They will be joined by Dr Anna Rowlands throughout who will resource their discussions. Key members of the group of theologians known as ARCIC (the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) and IARCCUM (the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission) will also take part. The Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis will join them all for a special dedication service on 6 October in Rome.
With the Reformation's 500th anniversary coming up next year, Catholic bishops praise Martin Luther as a 'teacher of the faith.'
Refugees Welcome held a summit recently bringing together all those involved in training and supporting thousands of communities and churches across the country to be ready to receive refugee families into neighbourhoods. Organised by the National Refugee Welcome Board (convened by Citizens UK) they offer community organising training and support to the government, local authorities and specialist providers, working together to resettle Syrian and other refugees. The NRWB includes representatives of all the major faiths.
We are in the Season of Creation (September 1 - October 4) resourced by a coalition between the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the World Council of Churches and GreenFaith. They are providing liturgical resources for churches and prayer groups, and signposts to take action, from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic traditions. For example, Eco-Congregation Scotland has developed these materials for the Season.
For the first time in its history, St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast (Church of Ireland) has appointed a Catholic Priest to the Cathedral Chapter: the Very Rev Edward O’Donnell has been elected as an Ecumenical Canon. Quoting the Lutheran theologian Oscar Cullmann "our common faith in Jesus Christ commits us to strive for reconciliation and unity, as unity in reconciled diversity” he joins two other ecumenical canons at the cathedral, a Methodist and a Presbyterian.
Read here about the recent international conference, Beyond Ecology – Integral Ecology as the new road to Reconciliation, organised by AIESC (L’association Internationale Pour L’enseignement Social Chrétien) in association with the University of Aristotle in Thessalonika. It included contributions from a range of international church leaders.
Requests for contributions to research
What are you doing to build a church of the poor? What help do you need? Our friends at Church Action on Poverty, Jubilee Plus and Word on the Streets are conducting a survey on A Poor Church for the Poor. If you haven't yet done so, please take part (click on the link) and tell them to what extent your church is focusing on people in poverty in your community, and what help may be needed. The results will be published so you can be informed what others are doing.
Help Church Urban Fund’s research team with their new one-year research project Christians in Practice aiming to understand better what drives 'practical' faith; explore fresh ways of helping people grow in faith, increase community involvement and social action. Church ministers, individuals, church networks or regional officers are encouraged to take part. Click here find out more.
We do our best to bring you a range of updates. Do write to us and suggest what we could include next time. We archive selected items from our newsletters in our Further Study Materials pages on our website.
EVENTS LISTINGS: Click here or on the calendar for listings of related events held by our friends and partners, including: Faith for the Climate, Redeeming Our Communities, Gather, Diocese of Liverpool, St Mary's University, London Quakers, T4CG, Benedict XVI Centre, Jubilee+, National Estate Churches Network, Locality, ForMission College, Christians in Politics and others... Please tell us if there is an event you would like us to list.
We hope you find this newsletter helpful - please tell us what you think - email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have an idea to discuss - after all, we're working Together for the Common Good.
Every good wish,
Together for the Common Good