Ekklesia, a UK Christian news agency and policy forum recently rated one of Britain's top think tanks by The Independent newspaper, has announced the arrival of a new co-director to partner Jonathan Bartley, who established it in 2002.
Simon Barrow joins Ekklesia on 1 July 2005 after nearly nine years at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, the official ecumenical body, where he headed up the Churches' Commission on Mission.
Ekklesia seeks to win a hearing for theological ideas within public policy debates, and to challenge Britain's churches to be more creative and daring. It operates on minimal funding through a network of associates.
"Ekklesia aims to move Christian thinking into the post-Christendom era," says Mr Barrow. "Christianity in the UK needs to rediscover its subversive roots by disavowing an establishment role, and by pioneering fresh approaches to such issues as peacemaking, emergent church, economic justice and sexuality."
Between them Jonathan Bartley and Simon Barrow embrace a wide span of Christian thought, from ecumenical to evangelical. They also have different political backgrounds. Barrow was one-time convenor of a national network of the Christian left, while Bartley is former general secretary of the Movement for Christian Democracy.
"We are both tired of the old labels like 'liberal' and 'conservative'," said Simon Barrow. "The Gospel shows that through the person of Jesus our received ideas about God, humanity and society get turned upside down."
"In a world ruled by consumption, inequality and ecological destruction the vocation of the churches is to model hope," he added. "We have to get beyond churchy in-fighting, and beyond defending a nostalgic idea of 'Christian Britain' that gives us a false sense of our own importance."
Simon Barrow is a writer and theologian with a substantial background in politics and media work. He brings international links through World Council of Churches networks, worked as an adult education adviser in a large Anglican diocese, serves on the council of the London Mennonite Centre, and was once on the staff of a Catholic theological institution focussing on spirituality.
Ekklesia is a project of the Anvil Trust and is part of a network of forward-looking Christian organisations, including the long-standing grassroots theological programme Workshop. It takes its name from a New Testament word for church - a term that also denotes the public arena as a zone of participation and change.