Archive for Church Peace Rationale

The Global Revolution – How Does the Church Respond?

In a recent excerpt from his book entitled “Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere”, Paul Mason argues that the protests of 2011 and the times that followed through 2012 marked a ground-breaking shift in which the youth-driven horizontalist protests had developed a new mind-set which made the old certainties of the 20th Century as alien to the 21st Century as the 19th Century certainties became during the last.

He argues that:

There is a change in consciousness, the intuition that something big is possible; that a great change in the world’s priorities is within people’s grasp. The impervious nature of official politics – its inability to swerve even slightly towards the critique of capitalism intuitively felt by millions of people – has deepened the sense of alienation and mistrust.

Protest is not always a nice event, but can the Church engage with the new protest movements?

Protest is not always a nice event, but can the Church engage with the new protest movements?

He highlights how the protest movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy, taking in the democracy protests in Russia and other protests from Canada to Chile, mark a profound turn whereby the anti-hierarchical and anti-authority movements are more than simply an expression of young angst – although that is in part its driving force – but a new, levelled form of worldview that eschews the political and economic processes of the present and past and advocates a much more “New Age” view of the brotherhood of man and the being on the cusp of that elusive “glorious revolution”.

Yet what should the Church say to this? Church Peace was founded with a desire to see the Church engage with the protesters, the dissenters, and not in a “do as we say” methodology but by showing love and compassion, seeking to understand the concerns held by so many and drawing alongside.

The battle for social justice, social inclusion, and economic equality are matters of immense concern to the protesters and are also natural fields in which the Church should make its voice and actions heard.

Yet there are also areas where the Church must firmly abide by the words of God, and the revolutionary, anti-authority world-views of many in these protests – which Paul Mason argues are somewhat definitive of the new movements – pose a challenge to the Church, which is often seen as being part of the authoritarian problem and an Old Boys Club of hierarchical institutionalised corruption. The Church needs to remain both true to God’s word and also deal with the perception many have formed about it.

The message of the Gospel is not a system-loving, ruler-pleasing oppressor. No, it is a subversive, revolutionary message which in the first century AD acted in much the same way that these anti-authoritarian movements do today: it “turned the world upside down”.

It is, therefore, imperative that the Church does not become so rooted in its hierarchies and authority structures, built up over centuries of traditions, that it misses the revolutionary tide – a revolutionary tide which it can address with a real message: that sacrifice for the common good, given voluntarily and without selfish demand, is the basis of the most fundamental and greatest expression of love. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13. And it is Jesus who laid down His life for us.

The Gospel message has a rich and massive potential amongst those who now protest against the injustices of this modern, corrupt world. Yet the Church has become the enemy: one of those structures to be torn down. Perhaps that is no bad thing. If the monolithic towering Babels of man’s glory expressed in structures and the lifeless stones of the great cathedrals are torn down, perhaps those in the protest movements will see the Glorious Temple that God is building from the living stones of redeemed men and women – a Church that is not so much an institution but more a real fellowship of God’s people yearning to share and show His love.

This is not to say that the Church should become one with the protests. The Gospel message is one which far surpasses any present world methods or goals: we look to another world, one without end: the glorious Return of Christ and the ushering in of His everlasting Kingdom. The Church must not become limited by focussing on social justice to the exclusion of the Eternal.

In addition, the Church should not be consumed by the anti-authority sentiment swelling the revolts and protests: we must be mindful that it is God who has made the authority structures as He has seen fit, and though we each have a role to play in any reform of those structures we must not become railing revolutionaries whose bitter desire is to tear down those we enviously see as being put “over us”.

The world is indeed at the cusp of something profound. Does the Church step up to the plate?

What are your views? Do you see that the Church can play an important role in the new movements spreading throughout the world? What is the best way in which Christians, and the Church as a whole, can engage with the protest movements?

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He Pitched His Tent Among Us

(Note: I intended on writing and posting this before Christmas Day, due to the topical nature of this post. However I decided that family time was more important, and so it is being posted today.)

This time last year St. Paul’s Cathedral were very busy, at least they were in front of the cathedral where Occupy LSX had set up their camp after being pre-emptively blocked from entering Paternoster Square, the Square upon which the London Stock Exchange is situated.

As some pointed out at the time, Occupy was demonstrating in a very real and actual sense a strong part of the Gospel message, even if the full Gospel was not in the forefront of people’s minds. The impressive part of the Gospel message that was powerfully voiced was this: to change the world one must make personal sacrifice, and the focus of our changing the world must be for the benefit primarily of the poor.

There was another aspect, missed by the great Glory of the Cathedral (though the Cathedral does show the glory of God, and Giles Fraser had preached on the needs of the poor the day after Occupy LSX set up), which is that on that first Noel Jesus, God the Son, gave up His eternal glory and dwelt in a sinful and fallen world amongst sinful and fallen people. A literal translation of John 1 verse 14 would have it that Jesus “pitched His tent among us”.

It is not my desire to any longer continue the battle over the rights and wrongs of the Cathedral’s stance during those days, but perhaps this Christmas season we can look at what the Church can learn from the protest movements, and what the protest movements can learn from Jesus.

Occupy and a large number of other protest organisations from Greenpeace to UK Uncut and even to the Anarchists (by and large a peaceful political philosophy despite government and media portrayals to the contrary) would state that their main and primary purpose is to further justice. Here they meet with God – God, in the Christian worldview, is a God who loves justice and wants His followers to practice justice in the same way that He does, through self-sacrifice. (God is also a God of mercy, and so we must always remember mercy even whilst pursuing justice.)

The Church can learn much from those who climb power station cooling towers in order that those in the poorest nations are not starving due to crop failures, or those who give up the warmth and comfort of a centrally-heated house, duvets and fluffy cushions to live for a few weeks, potentially many months, in a tent during the coldest part of the year. Such self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is highly commendable and one which many Christians (including, alas, this one as yet) fail to perform. The Occupiers and other protesters have learnt to “deny themselves, take up their crosses” (Matthew 16:24).

Yet even so, there remains within a majority of these protest movements a self-seeking and a selfishness that is not good, and here the protesters can learn from Jesus. They have learnt “to deny themselves”, and to “take up their crosses”, yet by refusing to “follow after [Jesus]” they deny the justice and mercy of God, claiming that they themselves are the arbiters of such concepts. (I am aware that this is a rather sweeping generalisation, yet to deal with every protester individually on a blog such as this is not possible.)

There is, in addition to this lack of humility, an aspect of self-seeking – a motivation often of envy rather than true love of mercy. My friend and Christian brother Glen Scrivener visited Occupy LSX with a group of people and he told me he was struck by a conversation he had with one protester. I cannot give an exact quote, but the protester said (after a short conversation) that he was protesting out of the motivation that “he wouldn’t have to be envious of the bankers any more.”

In these aspects the protesters need to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn the love of God, which is equally given to protesters and bankers alike, to come to learn from God, to value His principles above their own, and to love mercy as well as justice.

The Church needs to engage with these movements of protest, for the Church is not a domineering institution of hierarchy (or at least, it should not be) but is a subversive force that “turns the world upside down” and has conquered more hearts with the weapon of love than any amount of militaristic imperialist dominance could ever do.

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Occupy Faith

A new phase in the continuing Occupy movement in the UK has begun with the formation of a new charity, Occupy Faith.

This is a very important development as far as Church Peace is concerned, being as it is a melding of the Occupy protest movement and the faith community.

In part inspired by the Occupy Faith movement in the US (much as Occupy UK was inspired by Occupy Wall Street) the Occupy Faith UK movement has planned a 12 day pilgrimage from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral to highlight economic injustice and solidarity with the Occupy movement.

As a new link to build bridges between the protest and faith communities it is encouraging and inspiring to hear of this new initiative.

I do, however, have concerns.  I know other Christians and Christian groups view these things differently, yet the concept of seeking a form of economic salvation by allying too closely to non-Christian groups is not something I feel entirely comfortable about.

The rationale for Church Peace, as it stands, is to connect with the dissenting community, and though I would like this to include support for moral and ethical protests, an important part of Church Peace is the Christian input it seeks to provide.  The Occupy Faith UK statement of intent prohibits the sharing of the Christian faith and makes clear that there is no purpose to proselytise.  Whilst this is understandable considering their stated purpose of seeking economic justice, to me it seems as though the Gospel is being relegated to second place after carnal considerations of finance.

I am reminded of the situation where Israel was being attacked by the Assyrians and they then made an alliance with Egypt to fight the invaders back, which was robustly condemned by God through the prophet Isaiah.  Is it right that Christians should seek salvation from economic woes (even for the benefit of others) by allying with non-Christian faiths and movements?  Should we not, rather, seek to be witnesses of a better way than that which both Occupy and other faiths purport to be?

Of course, it is a Biblical imperative to speak up for the oppressed and the poor, and in this respect it is highly commendable that Christians should seek to do this.  But is such a close identification with Occupy and those of non-Christian faiths desirable, especially when the movement has banned evangelistic efforts by those Christians involved?

I appreciate that there are other views, and would welcome your comments below.

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What Now After St. Paul’s/Occupy LSX

The question for Church Peace is: what now?

The sad scenes at the eviction of Occupy LSX outside St. Paul’s marked the end of the occupation there, yet the Occupy movement has not given up.  Also, other protest groups are in existence aside from Occupy.

The rationale for Church Peace is to connect the Church with the protest community – how best now to go about this?

The following are some ideas and I want to urge you to contribute to this process of moving forward in the ministry.

  • I have made some links with Occupy Brighton and I am looking at how I can help them there.  If anyone reading this is a resident of Brighton then do get in touch – this may be a good way to support dialogue between the churches and Occupy.
  • If any Christians are willing to take on an administration role for Church Peace, in order to maintain an email list, produce letters, and potentially organise church representatives then do let me know!
  • I would really like to hear from Christians who have their own involvement in protest groups, whatever their particular cause.  There may be an opportunity to learn important lessons from your experiences.

Do feel free to contribute ideas, suggestions and any feedback as a comment to this post!  Thank you!

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Meeting with Local Evangelist

Yesterday I met with a local reverend who is now working as a full-time evangelist with the Hour of Revival Association.  The main purpose of this meeting was to discuss Church Peace.

The meeting did go very well indeed, and I shared how far Church Peace has developed and where it is at now, and he came back with a number of very good points.

Glen Scrivener, who is ordained in the Church of England and was formerly a curate at All Souls Church, Eastbourne, spoke a number of very good points.

He was very clear that Jesus should never be used as a “mascot”.  We discussed that Jesus can be appropriated by any number of political leanings and movements, but the aim in true Christianity is not to attempt mold Jesus around our beliefs but to mold our beliefs as we get to know Him better.  Linked to this was an interesting discussion on the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement and two points were raised: one, it should be more about What Jesus Has Already Done, and two, that can we really know what Jesus would do in a situation?  Do we really know Him that well as to say we know what He would do about, say, the Euro crisis?  Surely our task is to get to know Him better rather than appropriating Him for our ends.

These are challenges to Church Peace, the Church itself, and the dissenting community.

Glen is an evangelist, and obviously coming from that perspective he is very keen to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he was clear on the great opportunity for this that the Occupy movement has brought; St. Paul’s initial failure; and the possibility of a different approach from the Church elsewhere.  We spoke about Occupy Brighton and may be making a visit there and he, like I, was keen to draw alongside the protesters and facilitate Church input in both a practical serving of demonstartors and in sharing and listening to the issues involved.

We also spoke of the role of the bankers, and we were clear that in Jesus’ eyes the rich banker is just as precious as the poor and needy beggar.  We warned ourselves about “religious self-righteousness” also.

Would do others think?  Do protesters actually want any input from the Christian community or should the Church just “butt out”?  Is practical service to Occupy appropriate?  Does drawring alongside the demonstrators show a bias?

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Thoughts, Prayers and Considerations

I have had some feedback from asking for input into the “where now” question for Church Peace.

Andrew commented on the previous post saying that the Church Peace group should continue in order to provide a “common man’s input into the churches”.

I would be hesitant of having a pressure group aimed at altering the views of the Church and churches, yet, providing that good arguments that fit with Biblical principles can be put forward, then it is possible that Church Peace could play a role in enabling a more social-justice activist Church.  Church Peace would, in that instance, continue the initial vision to speak for reconciliation and dialogue between #OccupyLSX and St. Paul’s and then widen it to other protests and churches.

I also have received feedback from George Pitcher, who has written for the Daily Telegraph.  He advised that Church Peace is a vital ministry and a profound witness.  He also advised that I write to the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, and that letter is being posted today.

I have also made contact with the Vicar at my own church and am awaiting a reply.  In addition, I have learned that a curate at a church in my home town has already visited the OccupyLSX camp.  I contacted him, and he shares my concern for the “the oftentimes non-conformist, sidelined and “church-reluctant” members of our society.”  He added that “it was a good time with the protesters last Sunday and I would be up for another visit before Christmas.”

These developments, along with my own prayers and seeking after God’s will has led me to firmly believe that Church Peace should continue.  I have altered the Twitter account name and profile, and have also altered the profile and name on Facebook, to better reflect current status.

Input is still very much required.  I myself hope to visit Occupy Brighton very soon, with looking to visit OccupyLSX in early December.

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Eviction of Occupy LSX has been Halted – What Next for Church Peace?

The news has come in today that first St. Paul’s Chapter suspended its pursuit of legal proceedings against Occupy LSX and then the City of London Corporation announced a “pause” in its own proceedings.

Neither of these announcements, and especially the City of London’s stance, is a renouncement on the possibility of a forceful eviction in future, yet they are to be rejoiced over and very warmly welcomed.

St. Paul’s decision seems to be mainly based upon the desire to enter into dialogue with Occupy LSX, which St. Paul’s claimed was not legally wise during the legal process.  Yet even so, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, gave hint that the huge public response to the prospect of the Church of England taking part in a forced, possibly violent, eviction had swayed the thinking at St. Paul’s when he said that: “The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul’s has now heard that call.”

These developments, as welcome as they are, do not bring to an end the prospect of scenes of riot police and protesters being dragged away by the hair with the grandeur of St. Paul’s Cathedral as a backdrop.

The question that must now concern me and those involved in the Church Peace campaign must be: what do we now do?

In my view, three possibilities now exist:

  1. The Church Peace project is ended.
  2. We remain in place, but enter into a “dormant” state.
  3. We use these developments as an opportunity to become a grass-roots source of input into the relationships of the Church with the protest, demonstration and activist community.

I would very much like those who have supported Church Peace by following on Twitter or by liking the Facebook page to give a good amount of input into which option we choose.  If we do opt for the 3rd option then I will need continued support and input.

I had always felt led by God to use my passion for Jesus and my passion for the civil liberties and freedoms of the UK to campaign for those freedoms and act, in some small way, as a peace-maker in these situations, and started Rabel Christian Civil Liberties because of that.  It is possible that Church Peace may be a big part of that mission, but I do not see that it can continue unless others also feel that it is something worth taking forward.

I would, therefore, ask all those involved or who may want to be involved to make input at this stage.

Thank you.

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