THE idea for Ekklesia was conceived in 2001. We launched in 2002, initially operating virtually. We were Britain’s first independent think-tank examining and reporting specifically on politics and belief in public life from a progressive, values-driven, change-oriented angle.
Our initial inspiration was the levelling, liberationist and ‘peace church’ (Quaker and Mennonite) strand within Christianity – the part of it that feels “called out (ekklesia) of empire” to be and do something quite different. That is still a strong part of our identity, but we have gone on to make good friends and allies among those of different faith stances, as well as Humanists and others for whom experiences of institutional religion have been abusive, imprisoning or harmful.
In recent years Ekklesia has broadened its base of engagement, analysis and support to look at beliefs, ethics and politics in a broader, dialogical context. That has lead us to speak out strongly on issues such as the need for economic and social equality, practicing nonviolence, racism, sexism, disability rights, support for migrants and refugees, climate justice, alternatives to prison, the dangers of authoritarian religion, inclusive education, opposing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, and more.
As well as briefing, commentary, reports, interventions in public policy, consultations, engagement with the media, academic work, research, events and publishing, Ekklesia has actively supported campaigns for social change and partnered with others in the NGO and ‘citizen think-tank’ sector. We have also raised in excess of £300,000 for good causes over the years, through Fairtrade affiliates and book sales.
Ekklesia is now based in Scotland, with associates in other parts of these islands and beyond. We have therefore taken an increasing interest in Scottish politics, independence, Celtic spirituality and Northern European politics, culture and ecology.
In 2016 we established Ekklesia Publishing and have produced 12 titles and one Kindle book to date, plus a colour title in association with Siglum/Leeds Church Institute, and with more to come. (There are now 36 books featuring the work of Ekklesia staff, associates and contributors overall.)
As of 2022, Ekklesia has been operating for 20 years. We intend to celebrate the landmark of 21 years in 2023. Plans include a collection entitled Thinking Without Tanks: Beliefs, Politics and Ethics Reconsidered.
There is an interview with our founder, Jonathan Bartley, on ‘High Profles’ here.