A large gathering of people from south-west England and across Britain convened in Bristol on Saturday 24 March 2012, to explore visions of a New Economy provoked by Christian commitment and the current crises.
Organised and co-sponsored by the ecumenical ISR (Churches for Work and Social Justice, the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, and Anglican dioceses across the south-west, the conference entitled 'Eye of the Needle: Biblical Clues to a New Economy' heard and responded to substantial keynote addresses on the architecture and history of the current global, European and UK economic crises.
Practical alternatives to current neo-liberal and austerity-driven prescriptions were discussed, ranging from re-doing banking and finance, transition towns, local economies and currencies and green investment, right through to major restructuring of our financial and economic systems.
The speakers were Ulrich Duchrow from Kairos Europa, who is professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Heidelberg and author of Alternatives to Capitalism and Property for People, Not for Profit, alongside Molly Scott Cato, Director of the Cardiff Institute for Co-operative Studies, author of Green Economics and Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at Roehampton University.
They were joined by event facilitator Simon Barrow, from Edinburgh, co-director of the Ekklesia thinktank, who has research interests in theology and economy, and has written 'Is God Bankrupt?' (a critique of the churches' document Prosperity With A Purpose) and co-authored 'Where is the Church of England’s heart invested?'
All the speakers looked, in different but overlapping ways, at the background global recession, the Euro-zone crisis and the Anglo-American debt crisis. But their emphasis was on promoting alternatives and alternative-motivated interventions at the micro-, regional and macro-economic levels, as well as encouraging churches to see 'just economy' as something intrinsic to the biblical tradition and the Gospel, rather than something to be left to expertise disconnected from communal, moral and justice concerns.
The need for churches and Christians, along with people of other faith and no faith, to re-examine their own economic resources, investments, institutions, behaviour and commitments was also highlighted.
Following lively questioning and group work, a considerable amount of material was also gathered from participants. Video and podcast links to the talks, together with papers, responses and wider networking are due to be established next month (April 2012) onwards, through ISR's 'Eye of the Needle' website in partnership with Ekklesia.