Ekklesia is an independent think-tank seeking to examine the social, political and cultural role of religion, beliefs and values in a creatively critical way. It also aims to advance ideas in a range of policy areas from a forward-thinking, theologically resourced perspective.
Ekklesia is deeply rooted in broadly nonconformist Christian traditions, but is ecumenical in spirit and not tied institutionally or financially to any one denomination or church body.
Through its commitment to an open dialogue around faith and politics, Ekklesia is positive about finding communicative ground with people of other convictions (religious or otherwise), while simultaneously advocating its own distinctive outlook.
In the media Ekklesia has been variously described as ‘liberal’, ‘evangelical’, ‘catholic’, ‘protestant’, ‘left-wing’, 'progressive', 'religious', 'secular', and more. This is perhaps the best illustration that the stance we adopt does not fit conventional categories, trying instead to challenge received labels.
Ekklesia’s approach to issues of religion in the public sphere is primarily shaped by a strong theological and political critique of ‘Christendom’ – understood as the historic collusion of institutional churches with top-down governing authority and vice versa.
Instead, through research, publishing, advocacy and commentary, Ekklesia seeks to reinvigorate a different understanding of the church as a ground-up, alternative-generating ‘contrast society’ within the wider civic order: one that is hospitable, politically aware, intellectually curious, spiritually refreshing, theologically rooted, voluntarily associational, actively nonviolent, and radical in its social commitment.
The Greek word ekklesia denotes a people's assembly within the public square. It is also a key New Testament term for the practice (rather than the institutionalisation) of ‘church’, reminding Christians of the inescapably political nature of their existence - and summoning them as followers of Jesus Christ to a fresh form of social life based on mutuality rather than self-aggrandizement.
While remaining committed and involved in a positive exchange between mainstream traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, Pentecostal and indigenous), Ekklesia naturally draws much of its specific inspiration from the dissenting strands within Christianity, not least the ‘historic peace churches’ (Quakers, Mennonites and other Anabaptists), liberation theologies and other nonconformists inside and outside inherited denominations.
Ekklesia is therefore ‘radical’, not in a narrow or aggressive way, but in its conviction that the Gospel subverts power and privilege, both personally and corporately. And it is ‘progressive’, not in subscribing to a myth of progress, but in seeing change as coming through risk-taking hopefulness, rather than through a destructive lust for security and certainty.
In proposing a thoroughgoing post-Christendom renewal of religious-political discourse, Ekklesia is especially concerned to develop the public significance of concrete, communal practices like reconciliation, non-violence and peace-building, economic sharing, hospitality (welcome and inclusion), restorative justice, social equality, forgiveness, neighbourly freedom, the community of women and men, nurturing life as 'gift', environmental sustainability, and global solidarity with all those pushed to the margins.
From Ekklesia’s perspective, the resources needed to signal hope in a fearful world demand far more than has traditionally been imagined by self-styled ‘liberals’ or ‘conservatives’ in the various religious and humanist/secularist traditions.
Life in all its fullness cannot be achieved by the social and natural sciences, technological advance, economic development, democratic accommodation, autonomous reason, ethical theorising and political operation alone - it requires a major change of heart and mind; a turnaround (metanoia) in the basic way we relate to each other, to the world and to God.
From our perspective, engagement in public life is therefore also an invitation to think in a theologically transformative way – that is, to recover the hidden wisdom of the Gospel for a changing world, so that we can begin to see 'the other' in terms of invitation and promise, rather than threat or competition.
That implies more than just 'the separation of church and state'. It urges a radical reformation in the social role of religion - away from the desire to dominate, from cosy functionalism (establishment) and from inward-looking sectarianism - and towards costly witness (living by example) and partnership (seeking the best in others).
Bearing these practice-based and character-based values in mind, Ekklesia's work is currently being developed within and across twelve policy areas: