Common Wealth: Christians for economic and social justice

Abstract

In the face of sweeping public spending cuts and a UK government economic strategy which targets the poor to pay for a crisis produced by the wealthy, a group of Christians in public life (activists, ministers and theologians) have issued this statement calling for Christian unity with others in the movement to resist the cuts in public and welfare provision. It urges the churches to be wary about being co-opted into the Big Society initiative - which it calls 'a big lie' in economic terms. The document articulates a radical theological critique of government policies and the social and economic order they seek to maintain. It is rooted in an alternative vision based on strong Christian roots and wide solidarities, arguing for a Common Wealth that expresses the central dynamics of the Gospel message. The statement is also a call to form a network of discernment, resistance and creativity in the generation of fresh approaches to the shared life of people and planet.

Introduction: the Big Society or the Big Lie?

Christians in Britain today are called to take a stand. Faced with the biggest cuts to public spending for over a generation, it is not enough to retreat into the private ghetto of religious consolation.

As Christians, we are convinced that the actions of the current government are an unjustified attack on the poor [1]. The rhetoric of necessary austerity and virtuous belt-tightening conceals a grim reality: the victimisation of people at the margins of society and the corrosion of community. Meanwhile, the false worship of markets continues unchecked and the immorality of the growing gap between rich and poor goes unquestioned.

We call on the churches to resist the cuts and stand in solidarity with those targeted. We urge them to join the forces fighting back against a distorted ideology. Above all, we commit ourselves not to give in to despair, fear and fatalism. Another world is possible, the world announced by Jesus in his teachings, embodied in the love he took to the cross, alive in the Spirit of his risen strength.

Some might scorn such sentiments. After all, surely the government is sympathetic to Christian ideals? They promote the Big Society, in which the state hands power to individuals, entrepreneurs, charities, and, yes, faith groups. So shouldn't the churches be taking this opportunity with both hands? Shouldn't Christians show they can contribute through this ‘Big Society’ opportunity to easing the pain of these hard times?

We challenge this misconception. Not because we enjoy the luxury of opposition for its own sake, but because we believe that the rhetoric of Big Society is a Big Lie. It masks oppressive business as usual, suffocating all dissent with its phoney 'we're all in it together' soundbites. It is divide and rule dressed up as high-minded community spirit.

We recognise that, on the ground, churches and ministers are faced with difficult choices. We have to work within the current system as a means of trying to get the necessary resources to support the vulnerable and the poor. Sometimes that will mean taking government money with a ‘Big Society’ label to do what has to be done.

When we find ourselves ‘caught in the middle’ in this way we need to help and support each other making the right decisions, never forgetting that we have been placed in this position by a government which takes the side of big business.

It follows that any engagement we have with the Big Society agenda or its equivalents should always be guided - and often limited - by a fundamental critique of the present order. Praying and holding onto the vision of the Kingdom that is revealed in the Church’s sacraments and other symbols of transformation, we are called to speak against the false consciousness of the market driven idolatry in which we presently labour. Nothing should dim the fire of the hope that is in us.

In this document, we briefly set out why we take this position on specifically Christian grounds. We stand ready to work with those in other communities and traditions who resist the cuts.

The Big Society: collusion and sacrifice

In his speech to the Conservative party conference on 6th October 2010, David Cameron continued to press his case for the ‘Big Society’. This, according to Cameron, is to be a society in which government empowers individuals and communities to take responsibility for public services. Rather than being passive consumers, dependent upon a centralising State, we are invited to become active citizens doing things for ourselves. We won’t expect the State to do everything for us. We’ll do our bit, pull together and contribute to the common good.

Christians might be expected to warm to this ideal. Cameron argues that we need to see our relationship to society not simply as a utilitarian transaction, but as a relationship. We are part of a greater whole, he says, and what we feel and think matters. Surely we should agree that the state monolith – bolstered by Labour’s centralisation of power – has to go? And, in its absence, won’t Christian organisations be the first to show what faith in action can really do?

There is, however, a much more sinister dimension to this particular utopian flourish. In the course of his speech, Cameron stated ‘Your country needs you. And today I want to tell you about the part we’ve all got to play and the spirit that will take us through.’ Commentators were quick to note the direct use of words made famous by the World War One poster of Lord Kitchener. In 1915, ‘Your Country Needs You’ meant ‘your country needs you to sign up, fight and die for it’. Your country needs you to sacrifice yourself for the sake of its political, economic and imperial interests.

Cameron’s message reads very differently set in this context. Notice that he is telling us ‘about the part we’ve all got to play’ in the times that lie ahead. There are no exemptions, and no choice. There is a pre-determined agenda, something Cameron makes clearer as he uses the Kitchener phrase again near the end of the speech: ‘Your country needs you. And it takes two. It takes two to build that strong economy . . . So come on. Let’s pull together. Let’s come together. Let’s work together in the national interest.’

Cameron is not ‘one of the people’, working out together how best to organise our common life under present circumstances. He is imposing a particular interpretation of those circumstances and their root causes, one which places the blame upon the public sector and those on benefits. Never mind the banking and financial sectors which got us into this mess. His rhetoric is an ideological disguise, designed to maintain the status of the economically and politically powerful.

This much is clear: there is no discussion about what a ‘strong economy’ is, or about the myth that only more and more ‘growth’ is the answer. There is no evading the over-riding claim the so-called ‘national interest’ has upon us. We are to subordinate ourselves to it. The fundamentals of our economy, and of the distribution of power in that economy, were never going to be questioned by Cameron. No: in place of that, we are invited to submerge ourselves in a national identity, to the point where any criticism of our country can be deflected back to us: ‘it’s your own fault, we’ve given responsibility to you.’ And all the time the real levers of power remain in the hands of big corporations and financiers who seem to have little regard for the welfare of ‘the country’, the people.

‘It takes two’ says Cameron, exposing the reductionist logic at the heart of his Big Society. On the one hand there is me, an individual; on the other hand there is the country, the state, the government (it is not clear whether Cameron really distinguishes between these three). In such a ‘relationship’ there can be no question of mutuality. At the end of the day, we must conform. And if we fail to do what the government tells us we have got to do, then presumably we will be counted as on the outside of society, along with all the anti-socials, illegals, benefit scroungers and layabouts who have become the new internal enemy of the state. Meanwhile, the forces which actually control our lives are rendered invisible.

This is the watchword of the Big Society: sacrifice. That might sound extreme, as we are not being asked to fight any literal wars. But remember that the wars initiated by Labour (supported by the Tories and acquiesced in by the Liberal Democrats) were never directed solely overseas. The ‘war on crime’ and ‘war on terror’ were the internal face of that same war, which shows no signs of abating under the Con-Dem Coalition’s watch.

Economic necessity may dictate rolling back some military engagements. But that same necessity becomes a cover for attacks on the dispossessed, children, the unwanted, the poor, the disabled, for all the arts and scholarship that are considered economically unproductive.

Christians also talk about sacrifice, but the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is different. It is a refusal of the sacred power and authority of anything but the love and justice of God. Jesus’ nonviolent resistance to the forces of Empire (Roman, in his day) and the religious establishment set us free from the worship of abstract, impersonal economic forces. It allows us to see through the religious aura such forces often borrow and with which they try to compel our collusion. Jesus stands with the scapegoats, with all those whose exclusion and persecution is a necessary feature of societies of sacrifice.

The kingdom of God – perhaps better translated today as the commonwealth (or kin-dom) of God – is not the domination of the individual by some human authority or order. That kind of dualism is undercut. It doesn’t take ‘two’, it takes a multiple, a holy disorder of God’s restless people to work out what it means to live as people created, loved, restored by God. The kingdom is not the ‘national interest’ – a phrase designed to whip up support for the status quo and any number of imperialist follies. The kingdom is the common interest of God, God’s people and God’s earth.

The Christian God, of course, is not a monolithic Force or abstract Power. God is God-in-relationship, a divine giving and receiving in which there is no domination by some iron necessity. God always creates, and always creates more than enough. There is no economic scarcity of God’s love, no competition for God’s favour, no divine Ego to appease. These aspects of Christian faith suggest a radically different approach to what life, power, economy and community are really about.

In the end, for all the debates about how progressive or regressive particular taxation and benefit measures may be, the Big Society is still held in thrall by the capitalist dogma of salvation by markets alone. And the evident effect of proposed cuts is to create further markets, such as we inherited in light of the Thatcher-Reagan era of unrestrained neo-liberal capitalism. It is the markets who dictate to us the terms of our surrender. As Nick Clegg puts it, it is the ‘pinstriped traders in the bond markets’ [2] who ultimately call the shots on government policy. And so, so quickly, we are led to forget the role that chaotic, hubristic markets played in creating so much human and ecological devastation.

The Big Society is a Big Lie. It is a smokescreen, another ideological veil. Its pretence of radical change is simply a means of persuading us to live in submission to the great God Capital.

Of course, there are Christians and Christian organisations who see in the Big Society agenda a recognition of what they are already doing in their social activism, and an opportunity to take it further [3] . However, we believe that the craving for relevance is overriding any more searching critique of what is on offer.

Writing in the Guardian, Luke Bretherton argues that the current government offers two ‘anthropologies’: one which is essentially about empowering individuals, one which accepts that we are always part of a greater whole. He invites the churches to decide ‘which anthropology best reflects their vision of the good life and work out how best to strengthen it.’ [4]

Missing from Bretherton’s approach is any critical distance, any sense that Christians might wish to critique the project as a whole. Ultimately, the Big Society does not offer an alternative to individualism and capitalism, as Bretherton supposes; it is simply a modification of those things. The nation state as a unit of political economy set within and serving unchanging global economic laws, is simply taken as a given. The individual has to conform (and preferably run a school, an old people’s home and a community policing scheme in their spare time).

In the light of this, churches who simply seek ways of working with the Big Society agenda risk colluding with forces and principles fundamentally at odds with the gospel. The question is not ‘what can advance the cause of the churches and make them look more relevant in today’s society?’ The question is, ‘how can churches bear witness to the radical transformation of society called for by their proclamation of the kingdom of God?’

Again, there may well be overriding pragmatic reasons why churches should compromise, drawing on resources available in the present system in order to make life more tolerable and more humane for those they serve. But the critical, cutting edge of Christian witness must never be lost at such times to an accommodation to Big Society ideology. [5]

As Jürgen Moltmann puts it, ‘kingdom-of-God theology intervenes critically and prophetically in the public affairs of a given society, and draws public attention, not to the church’s own interests, but to “God’s kingdom, God’s commandment, and his righteousness,” as Thesis 5 of the Barmen Theological Declaration says.’ [6] This does not mean the churches give up all activism in order to shout from the sidelines. But it does mean their actions and judgements need to be motivated very differently, echoing prophetic voices from the margins and the divine cry from the cross.

It is in that context that we need to question one of the persistent facets of current debate over government spending cuts: the issue of fairness.

Fake Fairness: the ideal which changes nothing

In a sense, fairness is one of those values no one can oppose. Who doesn’t want fairness?

However, this uncontroversial universality of ‘fairness’ is precisely what makes it a slippery and misleading term for framing any debate. Politicians of different parties bat accusations of unfairness back and forth, but the real issue is what ‘fairness’ means, and what its use conceals. If no one opposes fairness, what content does it have? More to the point: whose interests does it serve?

The problem with the government’s claims of fairness is that they leave the essential parameters of economic power and inequality in place. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has argued that the effect of cuts falls disproportionately on the poorest despite the rhetoric which claims ‘we are all in it together’ [7]. Part of the point is that people living close to margins of poverty or homelessness stand to lose far more than those experiencing proportionally similar cuts from a higher base. When we take into account the likely reduction in public services, on which those with lower incomes depend more, the regressive implications of the cuts stand out even more starkly. More specific examples could be added: the attack on those in receipt of housing benefit, or those in care; the targeting of those with children; the disproportionate effect of cuts on women.

However, even such analysis does not go far enough. Christians need to drag the idea of ‘fairness’ into the light, to expose it as the ideological prop that it is. Neither the government nor their Labour party critics are addressing the chaos, exploitation, conflict and inequality endemic to the economic system which has created current conditions. The major political forces of our country have been at one in embracing trade liberalisation and the free-run of financial markets, with little concern for their human and ecological impact.

Why else have companies like Vodafone and Boots been allowed to evade billions in tax through exploiting loopholes? Why do we continue to press ahead with the tens of billions it will cost to replace the Trident nuclear missile system? Why is the cost of unemployment, increased crime and ecological vandalism not factored into the equation? Why are the jobless forced to work for nothing whilst bonuses are doled out to those in the banks whose greed and neglect threw people out of work in the first place? Why else, but that the current agenda of cuts and reforms have nothing to do with ‘fairness’ and everything to do with ensuring that a system founded on inequality stays in place.

Christians are called to a different perspective, because, put simply, the gospel is not about ‘fairness’. It is about revolutionary, excessive grace.

The parable of the labourers in the vineyard draws us into this drama. The labourers are all paid the same, paid the whole amount even though some only joined the work late in the day. When those who have worked all day complain, the employer asks them ‘are you envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20.15).

The story is not a literal prescription for how to pay workers. It is a re-imagination of what economy means. First, everyone is given the full amount. There is no discrimination, no competition for more. Secondly, this giving is not dictated by an impersonal law of supply and demand, but by a conviction that the contents of all our transactions are ultimately rooted in divine gift. Thirdly, the equality of the workers is not based upon some kind of envious class hatred. Rather, it is the desire for inequality that is exposed as driven by envy.

Neo-liberal capitalism may not have been the economic form of Jesus’ day (though a form of commodity capitalism clearly was, and all those traders selling their luxury wares are weeping and gnashing teeth in Revelation), but it is the very spirit of competitive inequality, mutual suspicion and envy. Christians live in the world and have to deal with the world as it is, but that should not blunt the edge of their critical voice and actions. Pursuing ‘fairness’ in the context of a system which is built on establishing inequality (not to mention exporting it to other countries and visiting it upon the earth itself) is at best tinkering around the edges and at worst a cynical deception.

Fairness is the fancy dress put on by a corrupt system. In short, it is seen as the best way of dividing up the scarce spoils of a market driven economy. But what if the way the market drives that economy creates the appearance of scarcity and the need for unequal outcomes in the first place?

Again, Christians need a more radical perspective, not conforming to the world as though its current state were inevitable, natural or divinely sanctioned; but being conformed to Christ, who speaks a word of judgement upon our systems of violence and exclusion. The Christian claim is that the earth and all that is in it belong to God. It is not ours by right of possession, to do with what we will. We cannot own the earth or any aspect of the ecology of which we are a part. Property is never an absolute right, only a relative one, a means to the end of universal human flourishing. As Anthony Reddie argues, ‘fairness’ simply leads to the reification of the status quo. Instead, the God revealed in the Judeo-Christian Tradition is one of Equity - which doesn't treat people all the same, but treats them according to their need. [8]

God did not create people to be the pawns and slaves of economic powers, shifted around by the political arbiters of ‘fairness’. Nor did God make the earth to be the spoilheap and raw material for ever-increasing consumption. So we don’t start from the assumption that people are naturally unequal and we have to iron things out a bit with a dose of philanthropy; we start from the conviction that creation is gift, to be stewarded in common. The early church put this vision into practice: they held things in common, as a natural expression of the prayer and breaking of bread which they also shared.

This confirms our original claim: Christians must not retreat into a private religious sanctuary, because our faith is always earthed, always embodied, always political. Our faith is not merely words and ideas. It is food and drink for the hungry ’without money and without price’ (Isaiah 55.1).

Common Wealth – A Biblically Rooted Alternative to Capitalism

The Bible is not a simplistic set of facts or rules. We can find in its pages a variety of viewpoints about the value placed on wealth, and how people should organise their life together. The Bible needs to be interpreted, to speak to the context of our questions, dilemmas and passions today. Nevertheless, the Bible can still speak a word of judgement, a word of crisis, which calls our values, our economy and our politics to account.

We believe this is possible because there is guiding thread running through the scriptural story: the earth is created by God and belongs to God. It is a gift. And no amount of human power-grabbing can change that reality.

We therefore claim that there is a trajectory running through the Bible: from the created gift of the world to the laws which challenged debt enslavement and dispossession; from the wisdom tradition which looked sceptically on wealth and thankless labour, to the prophets who directly challenged the oppression of the poorest members of society, and the injustice handed out to paid workers; from the early Christian community, holding all in common, to the vision of a ‘New Jerusalem’, a world freed from exploitation.

For Christians, at the centre of this lies the person and story of Jesus. In his teachings, he reversed people’s assumptions about wealth, value, forgiveness and purity. In the way that took him to the cross, he confronted an imperial system keen to preserve its ideological and idolatrous status as the salvation and peace of the world. In the light of the resurrection, he offers a real peace, a shalom which embraces earth, body and spirit in community.

The law, the prophets and the gospels are complex texts. But they continually lead us to the point of scandal, where the sheer otherness of God and the sheer gratuity of God’s love pass judgement upon our worship of what is limited, and upon the ideologies and systems which keep the powerful in place at the expense of all others.

It is this point of scandal that we take as the interpretative clue to reading the scriptures in our day. In each particular context, communities will work out what that means for them, guided by the Spirit. What follows is simply suggestive of how we in the UK today might release the scriptures from their bondage to religious individualism and political conservatism.

It is clear that much of the Biblical tradition is very sceptical about the value of accumulated wealth, the basis upon which our contemporary system is built. Indeed, rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures is the notion that no one should have too much and no one should have too little.

Leviticus 25 makes clear that the primary resource for existence - land - is God’s. In verse 23 it says ‘the land shall not be sold in perpetuity because the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants’. No one should own too much and no one should be without for long. The earth’s resources should not be exploited excessively and should be managed to maintain an ecological balance (25:4).

Equally, accumulation of wealth and exploitation of labour is frowned upon: the year of Jubilee is proclaimed as a time for redistribution of wealth, the cancellation of debts, liberation from bonded labour and an acknowledgement that God hears the cry of the poor (Leviticus 25:39-43 and Deuteronomy 15:1-15).

The prophet Amos is clear about the need to be aware of how our standard of living may be built upon the back of exploitation and oppression (2:7) and Ezekiel 34 warns of the dangers of false leadership that seeks to ensure the maintenance of the property and profits of the rich at the expense of the poor. Isaiah is scathing about the hypocrisy of his society, in which economic injustice sat side by side with a false piety: ‘you serve your own interests on your fast day and oppress all your workers . . . Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the things of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?’ (58.3,6)

Jesus picks up on this tradition. We see in the synoptic gospels particularly, his radical appropriation of this concept of economic justice rooted in the Hebrew Bible. In Luke, drawing upon Isaiah 61, he proclaims himself at his opening sermon in Nazareth as bringing in Jubilee (4:16-21) and throughout his ministry and teachings he articulates what this means in living reality.

Pivotal examples include the story of the rich fool (12:13-21) where Jesus critiques accumulation; the story of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31), where Jesus radically overturns assumptions about the rich when the poor man is named and the rich man goes unnamed. The judgment on the rich man in this story is not because he failed to offer charity to the man at his gate, but because of his role in building up his own wealth at the expense of pushing the likes of Lazarus into poverty and total destitution.

In this story Jesus raises the question: why did the rich man become so rich that he ate sumptuously every day and wore purple (an incredibly expensive dye at the time) and why did the poor man become so poor? The people listening to Jesus would have known the answer: the rich man accumulated land at the expense of impoverished peasants who then had to hire their labour and when work was scarce in the country moved to the city to find further work, often failing to do so and falling into increasing destitution. It is a story that is still lived out today throughout the world. The implication is that charity alone is an insufficient response, and may even mask the distorted relationships which are at the heart of inequality.

What was shocking to Jesus’ contemporaries in this story, and is equally shocking to our own wealth-obsessed culture, is that for Jesus it is not the rich who are spiritually blessed but the poor. This theme is continued in Jesus’ encounter with the rich man who asks him how to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18-30). Jesus’ challenge to the rich questioner is to give all he has to the poor, again with the assumption that his wealth has been built on the exploitation of others. This ends in the rich man leaving with a heavy heart.

But the telling part of the engagement is what happens afterwards in the conversation with the disciples in which Peter, astounded when Jesus declares his pun about rich men, camels and needles, asks ‘ Who then can be saved?!’ Peter’s exclamation reveals a commonsense belief that the rich are blessed by God and the poor cursed. Jesus challenges this notion throughout his ministry by declaring the exact opposite, that is at the heart of the Biblical tradition: it is the poor who have favour with God and the rich who stand under God’s judgment. The early Christian song attributed to Mary celebrates this reversal: ‘He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’ (Luke 1.52-53).

This is not simply about rich and poor exchanging places, but the transformation of the world to reflect God’s created gift. For example, Peter, who is so shocked by Jesus’ radical economics of salvation, becomes the leader of the early church communities in Acts (2:43-47), who live out Jubilee amongst themselves having been transformed through a living encounter with the risen Christ and filled with the power of His Holy Spirit. The ‘new creation’ of which Paul speaks is not just a collection of individuals who are saved, but a community which breaks bread together in justice and hope for liberation.

On the cross, Jesus stands in solidarity with those who have nothing but their own bodies: bodies upon which the forces of empire inscribe the wounds of servitude, suppression and fear. But he does not let these things have the final word. In utter helplessness, he reveals the other power that is God’s loving justice, the free gift of grace.

We believe this is God’s way, the ‘foolishness’ of God measured by the world’s standards, the weakness of God measured by the world’s strength. It has always been there, calling for a reversal of values, be it with the chosen people of Israel struggling to free themselves from slavery and build a new society, the Biblical Prophets calling that same people back to the economic justice of God or the early disciples of Jesus, those ‘people of the Way’ attempting to live the radical economics that he taught. The disciples knew through their experience of the resurrection that the commonwealth of God was actually on its way and sought to live it.

And this is the relevance we should seek today. For we are people of the resurrection who have been resurrected from the fatalism and lies of the false gods of death and destruction whose claim is that capitalism is the only way. We are people of hope who believe that God’s commonwealth will come. We seek to live it now in our faith communities. We join with others of goodwill beyond the church in supporting movements where people become agents of change for a world where no one has too much and no one has too little, a world on its way to the Common Wealth of God. [9]

We draw our inspiration from deep wells. From the Hebrew Bible, from Jesus, from the early church, and from the radical traditions of Christianity represented by such movements as the Levellers. From the contemporary voices of liberation and ecofeminist theology which have named the forces which desecrate God's earth and God's people. Rumours that this tradition has died in the triumph of liberal capitalism are refuted each and every day by countless acts of resistance and solidarity across the globe. As people of resurrection, we affirm that God's 'Yes' to creation can never be silenced.

This is why we make this call - as Theologians, Activists, Ministers, Contemplatives united in our faith in Christ - to our sisters and brothers in the faith to resist the lure of the Big Society and to work instead with those who resist the cuts to jobs and services and seek with others to build a movement for a radical social alternative.

Our Call

We encourage Christians to:

• Sign this Statement and become part of the Common Wealth Network.

• Read and learn about arguments against the cuts and dominating myths about the need for debt reduction, e.g. http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Countering-the-cuts-myths

• Explore study material arguing for a radical Christian vision for economic justice, based on recovery of Biblical tradition. Check out the resources page on Common Wealth website [and see below].

• Support and work with local anti–cuts alliances and the national co-ordinating bodies facilitating resistance to the cuts for instance The Coalition of Resistance (http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/)

• Support workers to struggle for ways to more fully participate in their own economic wellbeing and that of their co-workers.

• Oppose the waste that spends billions on weapons of mass destruction like the Trident missile system

• Seek ways to share our wealth from rich churches to ones based in poorer communities in funding projects to alleviate the worst excesses of the cuts and to assist organizing grassroots community organized resistance

• Support initiatives like Church Action on Poverty (http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/) and its community organising arm ChangeMakers, empowering local communities often at the brunt of the cuts in public services and welfare benefits to speak and act for themselves.

• Find creative ways to resist the cuts and witness to God’s Common Wealth of Economic & Social Justice

Explore Together – Pray Together – Act Together.

Common Wealth (http://commonwealthnetwork2010.blogspot.com/)

References

[1] See http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/news/churchchallenge and http://niallcooper.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/when-the-poorest-and-most-vu...
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/21/nick-clegg-interview-spen...
[3] Note the enthusiastic endorsements reported here, and the more cautious welcome offered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/oct/07/big-society-c...
[5] Perhaps ensuring this by making sure any such projects are based on partnering with organisations working with models of real community empowerment - models such as Church Action on Poverty’s ChangeMakers initiative http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/whatwedo/projects/changemakers/changema...
[6] Jürgen Moltmann, Experiences in Theology – Ways and Forms of Christian Theology (Fortress 2000) p.xx
[7] http://www.ifs.org.uk/projects/346
[8] Anthony Reddie, 'People Matter Too: The Politics and Method of doing Black Liberation Theology' Practical Theology, issue 1, No.1, pages 43-64.
[9] See for instance the extremely interesting programme for a Radical Economic policy that challenges both the idolatry of the worship of the market in the austerity programme and the limited mantra for growth from the opposition in http://socialistresistance.org/1081/their-multiple-crisis-and-our-soluti... and also from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas at http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/caroline-lucas-our-patterns-...

The initial signatories of this statement are:

* Al Barrett, Anglican vicar, Parish of Hodge Hill, Birmingham
* Anthony Reddie, Methodist preacher, Research Fellow in Black Theology, Queens Theological Foundation Birmingham, author of Black Theology, Slavery & Contemporary Christianity, and editor of Black Theology journal
* Chris Howson, Anglican priest at Soul Space, Bradford, and author of A Just Church: 21st Century Liberation Theology in Action
* Chris Shannahan, Methodist minister, Research Fellow in Urban Theology, Birmingham University, and author of ' Power to the People: A Theology of Community Organising'
* David Torevell, Associate Professor, Department of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Liverpool Hope University
* Gary Hall, Methodist minister and Tutor in Practical Theology, Queen's Theological Foundation, Birmingham, and Co-ordinator of the Open Horizon anti-trafficking group
* Keith Hebden, Anglican priest, St Katherine's Church Matson, and editor of 'A Pinch of Salt' magazine
* Lisa Isherwood FRSA, Director of the Institute for Theological Partnerships, University of Winchester, and executive editor of Feminist Theology journal
* Ray Gaston, Anglican and Methodist minister, Inter-Faith tutor and enabler at Queen's Theological Foundation and Birmingham Methodist District; author of A Heart Broken Open - Radical Faith in an Age of Fear
* Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, writer and theologian, former assistant general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
* Steven Shakespeare, Anglican priest; Lecturer in Philosophy, Department of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Liverpool Hope University, and author of Radical Orthodoxy: A Critical Introduction
* Tim Gorringe, Anglican priest, Professor of Theology, Exeter University, and author of The Common Good and the Global Emergency
* Zoe Bennett, Director of Postgraduate Studies in Pastoral Theology at the Cambridge Theological Federation and editor of Practical Theology journal

If you would like to be a signatory to the statement and become a supporter of the Common Wealth network, email your details to: commonwealthnet2010@yahoo.co.uk

Further signatories are recorded here: http://commonwealthnetwork2010.blogspot.com/

This statement is also downloadable on the Common Wealth site as a Word document through Google Documents (https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B-3wp8wSnE-hMWFlZmZkZmUtZGJjYi00MTVhLWI...).

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Additional resources:

Ekklesia news and analysis of the cuts (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/cuts) and the Autumn Statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ComprehensiveSpendingReview).

Towards an Economy Worth Believing In (2009) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/6015

Is God bankrupt? - a response to a British and Irish churches' report on 'prosperity with a purpose' (2006) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/280205prosperity

Where is the Church of England’s heart invested? (2009) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/church_of_englands_investments

Big society, small cash? by Vaughan Jones - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/big-society-small-cash

Debtonation: the global financial crisis (political economist Ann Pettifor) - http://www.debtonation.org/

ToUChstone (TUC cuts watch) - http://www.touchstoneblog.org.uk/

Countering the cuts myths (Red Pepper) - http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Countering-the-cuts-myths

New Economic Foundation - http://www.neweconomics.org/

The Green New Deal: to tackle the 'triple crunch' of climate change, economic crisis and oil depletion - http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/green-new-deal

Sabbath Economics: investing in community and an alternative economy - http://www.sabbatheconomics.org/content/index.php

Robin Hood Tax campaign - http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/

Church Action on Poverty (CAP) and ChangeMakers - http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/

Oikocredit: microfinance to support the poor and social justice - http://www.oikocredit.org/

Coalition of Resistance - http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/

No 'Shock Doctrine for Britain - http://www.noshockdoctrine.org.uk/

Christian Council for Monetary Justice (CCMJ) - http://www.ccmj.org/

GND Group - http://www.greennewdealgroup.org/

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(c) Common Wealth, 2010. See: http://commonwealthnetwork2010.blogspot.com/ This statement is reproduced under a Creative Commons arrangement (see below).