344: RED CHRISTIAN DOCUMENTS #31: LIBERATION AT PARISH LEVEL (CHRIS HOWSON, UK, 2011)

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the Christian-atheist polemic, which, amongst other things,  looks at convergences between the teachings of the historic Jesus and the precepts of socialism, whether anarchist, communist or Marxist. In this series of ‘Red Christian documents’ which I have accumulated so far, there has been a lot of wishful thinking, a lot of idealism, but very little on how to get from HERE to THERE.

Anglican clergyman Chris Howson describes what it might look like in a British context to really take Jesus seriously and be on the side of the poor and dispossessed, to embrace creative non-violence and to not piss off the ecclesiastical hierarchy or your parishioners at the same time! Easy, it ain’t. Howson is a self avowed communist who likes to read the ‘Morning Star’ with his cornflakes. He is currently chaplain at the University of Sunderland.

He once wrote online: “Recently my activities as a peace protester brought some intense scrutiny from the intelligence services – so I just thought I would save them some time and write what I think. War is wrong. Nuclear weapons are wrong. There, I’ve said it!” Good man.

I think it’s safe to say that very few clergy in the C. of E. today are seizing opportunities for supporting the downtrodden with quite the same enthusiasm as he is.

You need to read the whole book: when I did, I wrote him a 2 page letter of congratulations and comment; the first time I’ve ever done that!

Here I have extracted some excerpts from Chapter 12 “Liberating Conclusions”. I commend his work to you and I hope this extract inspires you to read the whole text.”
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

Red Christian documents #40:

Liberation at Parish Level

by Chris Howson (2011)

(Edited and abridged by Peter Turner)

The church will only be a sign of God’s love and mercy when it embraces the social justice agenda. Jesus came to liberate, and that is the continuing task of twenty first century Christians. Liberation theology is alive and well and has much to offer the modern Church.

Protest as mission

When people oppose war, environmental degradation and economic inequalities, Christians need to be at the heart of these movements. As well as supporting progressive movements, we have a role in instigating protest, becoming agitators for peace. This involves:-

  • Being at the heart of struggles against climate change and ecological destruction
  • Resisting cutbacks in education, health, social welfare; services that are the backbone of a just society
  • Building alternative models of  living that promote equality, sharing and sustainability
  • Working for peace and reconciliation and opposing all that creates conflict and war
  • Involvement in local campaigns to create just communities
  • Being active in international movements to end poverty
  • Taking human rights seriously
  • Participating in movements of solidarity with oppressed communities and nations who are building just societies.

Jesus as dissident

For Christians, following the will of God means following the rules set out in the Old testament of Sabbath economics (good stewardship of God’s earth) and prophetic justice (redistributing wealth and defending the vulnerable against oppression).  It also means rediscovering Jesus as a radical dissident  who defied an empire in pursuit of truth and mercy. We learn about God’s will through the activities and teachings of Jesus. He is a model for discipleship, and we must strive to understand the context of his life and ministry so that we are able to relate them to our own. This will mean:-

  • Reading the Bible carefully with commentaries that reveal the context of his life and teaching
  • Recognizing the anti-imperial story that is lived out in the Gospel narratives
  • Relating Jesus’ dissident discipleship to our own times and our twenty first century oppressions
  • Creating new ways of living out our commitment to being peacemakers and justice seekers
  • Resisting the logic of materialism, individualism and consumerism
  • Demonstrating God’s love with acts of compassion that build up the common good.

Building the kingdom

Practical liberation theology in the twenty-first century will involve finding new ways of expressing the reign of God. We need to educate faith communities about the realities of sin and oppression, and then have the courage to act in ways that build up a society based on God’s vision for earth and humanity. We need to reflect thoughtfully about our actions, constantly bringing our discipleship to God in prayer and thought. We need to use the tools of contemplation to allow the Holy Spirit to move us and guide us. We need to find ways of sustaining ourselves and our movements when we feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the task before us. Building the reign of God will involve:

  • Creating communities of faith based on respect and acceptance
  • Becoming more attuned to creation, learning to grow things and desiring to protect nature
  • Noticing injustice when it occurs, and working with others to challenge it
  • Building up solidarity with marginalized communities, locally and internationally
  • Welcoming the stranger and building a culture of hospitality, especially towards those in need of sanctuary
  • Worship that is inclusive and encourages our faith to connect with the outside world
  • Working to eradicate poverty and inequality
  • Seeking practical ways of reconciliation and peace in places of conflict, both locally and globally
  • Finding ‘still’ places where we can reflect and remember that we are created in the image of God.

We cannot be over-sentimental about the task that we are committed to. A just Church  is a difficult and potentially dangerous Church. However our faith points us in this direction. In the struggle to build this reign of God, a place of love, mercy and hope, we are sustained by the gentle nourishment of the Holy Spirit, and the hope found in Christ. A counter-cultural life will be constantly challenged by those with power, both inside and outside the Church. But we are not alone on this journey. We are joined by the One who overcomes sin and persecution; the One who cannot be nailed to the cross for ever; the One who desires our eternal liberation. if we still ourselves long enough to encounter the one who journeys with us, we will find the strength to build a just Church.

Source:
Howson, Chris “A just Church. 21st century liberation theology in action” Continuum (2011)

See also:
ajustchurch.blogspot.co.uk
Finally, women bishops. LGBT equality next?

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Liberation Theology – dead or alive?
Prayer and meditation (See, judge, act and review)
Jesus the subversive
Structural sin
Jesus and non-violence
Spiral of violence
How churches suppress dissent today
Alphabetical index for other Posts on ‘Red Christian documents’, ‘Red Christians’ or ‘Crimes of the Bourgeoisie’.

[343, i&l, t&c]

 

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2 comments

  1. Joshua Weresch · · Reply

    You’d probably enjoy Alan Ecclestone’s Gather the Fragments. Ecclestone was a Communist and a Church of England priest.

    1. Thanks, Joshua, I’ll see if it’s in British Library. There was a vicar (of Codicote, Herts) whom I knew in the 80s who was ditto, but I can’t remember his name! I have ‘Red Dean of Canterbury’ Hewlett Johnson and Canon Collins of CND in my sights though; plus Lord Donald Soper. It’s great to get feedback, as you probably know – any more tidbits?
      In solidarity
      PT

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