Greenbelt 'shows way forward for church', says think-tank

Update: Jonathan Bartley has had to pull out of Greenbelt -


London, UK - AUGUST 24, 2010 The annual Greenbelt festival of arts, debate and social justice is showing the institutional churches the way forward in a post-Christendom era, says the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia.

"The future of Christianity in a plural world involves living out a fresh, hopeful way for humanity, rooted in critical faith and action for justice and peace," says Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow. "It is not about clinging to privilege, preaching at people from on high and becoming caught up with inward-looking arguments."

Greenbelt 2010, backed by global development agency Christian Aid and a range of other organisations, is expected to attract some 21,000 people from 27-30 August at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Its theme is 'The Art of Looking Sideways', and speakers include theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Richard Rohr, human rights activist Peter Tatchell, politician Clare Short, and poet Roger McGough. It is also a showcase for performing and visual arts, debate, literature, alternative worship and music - this year including legends Courtney Pine and Gil Scott Heron.

"Celebration, exploration, conversation and thoughtful commitment flow naturally together at Greenbelt," commented Simon Barrow, who first spoke at the event himself in 1982. "These are the qualities the Christian community needs for its engagement in, and conversation with wider society, at a time when 'religion' is increasingly scrutinised and suspected."

As in previous years, Ekklesia is one of a wide range of organisations involved in events at Greenebelt, as well as supporting the 'Peace Zone' as a member of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations (NCPO).

Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley, broadcaster and author of 'Faith and Politics After Christendom', is part of the Faith in Politics panel at 11.15am on 30 August, looking at 'What's wrong with our political system? (And how can we fix it?)'. He is also talking about 'The long adventure of rebellion: say goodbye to political apathy' (youth panel) at 5pm that day.

Unusually, Bartley will additionally be wielding the drum sticks with his band The Mustangs on the music stage. Their fifth album, 'Cut Loose', was released in June 2010, and the band have been nominated for a series of awards at the British Blues Awards this year.

Meanwhile, Ekklesia associate director Symon Hill, writer of the newly published 'No-Nonsense Guide to Religion', is debating Christian attitudes to the armed forces with RAF chaplain Mike Elliott in 'Christian warriors: To challenge or to minister?' at 11.30am on 28 August.

Hill will also be a guest on Premier Radio's Sunday Breakfast programme, which is coming live from Greenbelt.


Notes to Editors

1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world. It has been listed by The Independent newspaper among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religion and politics / current affairs websites in Britain. More:

2. Full details of the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival can be found at:

3. Information about the Network of Christian Peace Organisations (NCPO) presence at Greenbelt here:

4. News, comment and reflection on Greenbelt is featured on Ekklesia here:

5. More about The Mustangs here: