Foundational Documents

5 01 2012

Our Foundational Documents are now available here as PDF files:

How We Co-Operate

Rule of Life

Theological Statement

solidarity with Occupy LSX

31 10 2011

Christian solidarity with the ‘Occupy London’ movement 

As Christians, we stand alongside people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active nonviolence. We offer our greetings to people engaged in occupations of financial centres throughout the world.

We seek to witness to the love and justice of God, proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Jesus said that he had come to “set free the oppressed”. His gospel is good news for all people. It is a challenge to all structures, systems, practices and attitudes that lead people to exploit and oppress their fellow human beings.

The global economic system divides people one from another and separates humanity from creation. It perpetuates the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. It fuels violence and environmental destruction. It is based on idolatrous subservience to markets. We cannot worship both God and money.

We are inspired by Jesus, who protested against exploitative traders and moneychangers in the Jerusalem Temple. Christianity began as a grassroots protest movement. Nonviolent direct action can play an important and ethical role in resisting injustice and achieving change.

We stand in solidarity with the ‘Occupy London’ movement and regret that they have not been able to make their protest closer to the London Stock Exchange. We applaud their commitment to co-operating with St Paul’s Cathedral and to ensuring that their camp is safe for everyone in the vicinity. We were pleased by the cathedral’s initial welcome to the camp and hope that difficulties between the occupiers and the cathedral can be speedily resolved, keeping the focus on the need to challenge the financial injustices perpetuated by the City of London.


Signed by:

Fellowship of Reconciliation (Europe)
London Catholic Workers
Society of Sacramental Socialists
Speak network
Third Way

rowan williams and “subversive” christianity

31 10 2011

The whole Christian tradition, all the way back to Paul (Romans 13) seems to pulsate in that tense place between obeying lawful authority as a way of getting on with serving Christ, and disobeying authority when the need to follow God’s prophetic call to justice gets strong enough – the limits are seen as different by various traditions, but the basic tension is there for everyone. It may come as some surprise then to see an Anglican Archbishop reported critically in the Telegraph last month for his involvement with Christian social justice groups as young man in the 1980s:


In my view, the Archbishop of Canterbury clearly has a role in public life beyond that of most Christian leaders, for centuries his predecessors have provided commentary on British political life, for good or ill. Even more interesting is what the article criticises Dr Williams for. He stands accused of being involved in setting up a ‘left-wing Christian group . . . identified as a “problem” neo-Marxist organisation’ by intelligence services. This group is none other than the now widely known Jubilee Group, co-founded by Ken Leech (speaker, SCM Conference 2011), which was a Christian activist/social justice group with its roots in the Anglo-Catholic movement. From that perspective, Williams, Leech and others provided a pointed critique of the injustices of the global market, the social effects of poverty in Britain and the continued use of weapons of mass destruction.


According to the Telegraph:


The group helped oversee a series of campaigns against the introduction of the poll tax, the violent trade union dispute over Rupert Murdoch’s decision to move his newspapers to Wapping and the US nuclear base at Greenham Common.


It’s this that seems to be brought into question. How can the Archbishop of Canterbury make public pronouncements on government policy like that in the recent New Statesman, ask the writers, when he has a proven track record in such groups? Do we have to accept the writers’ reasoning that Dr Williams’ relationship with the Christian left makes his contribution to the Christian view of politics suspect?


I think not. I suspect that behind this article there is the predominant myth of ‘private’, individual religion – the harmless kind which involves attending a few religious services and keeping quiet, perhaps? Historically, things have never been that way in this country or anywhere else: Christians have always found that their faith, for good or ill, has had a dramatic impact on what they feel called to do in public life. This runs across the whole body of traditions, from Quaker pacifists and philanthropists, to Liberation theologians, Anglo-Catholic slum priests to Salvationists, to name but a few. Will the Telegraph provide the same view about different kinds of ‘Christianity-inspired’ political movements, like the ‘Tea Party’, Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, or David Cameron’s vision of a church-run ‘big society’? Maybe not . . .


We cannot get away from the realisation that being a disciple of Jesus in our troubled times involves sometimes being seen as subversive, even when this involves personal cost, nor can we escape the enduring, sometimes harmful, influence of faith and theology on politics – political theology abhors a vacuum. As humble successors of the Jubilee Group and of the saints, martyrs and workers of the Christian tradition throughout the ages, we must witness afresh to the activity of the God of love in the whole of creation – the corollary of which is that we cannot artificially separate the service of the marginalised from the intense questioning of the social and economic arrangements which create that suffering and injustice. In my view, the ethos of such a radically open, aware and challenging tradition of Catholic Christianity such as inspired the Jubilee Group is grounds for considerable hope, and a catalyst for other social justice movements in and beyond the Church. As followers of the crucified and risen Lord who himself suffered the burden of humanity’s injustice and sin, we must constantly ask ourselves whether the faith we are living out today is consistent with God’s vision of justice, for individuals and for society: God who asks of the oppressor ‘What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?’ (Isaiah 3:15). A Christian leader who tries to follow that call, however flawed, has my trust.


Sam Gibson


“Capitalism as religion”

18 12 2010

“A religion may be discerned in capitalism — that is to say, capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments, and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers… In the first place, capitalism is a purely cultic religion, perhaps the most extreme that ever existed. In capitalism, things have a meaning only in their relationship to the cult; capitalism has no specific body of dogma, no theology. It is from this point of view that utilitarianism acquires its religious overtones. This concretization of cult is connected with a second feature of capitalism: the permanence of the cult. Capitalism is the celebration of a cult sans rêve et sans merci (without dream or mercy). There are no “weekdays.” There is no day that is not a feast day, in the terrible sense that all its sacred pomp is unfolded before us; each day commands the utter fealty of each worshipper. And third, the cult makes guilt pervasive. Capitalism is probably the first instance of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement. In this respect, this religious system is caught up in the headlong rush of a larger movement. A vast sense of guilt that is unable to find relief seizes on the cult, not to atone for this guilt but to make it universal, to hammer it into the conscious mind, so as once and for all to include God in the system of guilt and thereby awaken in him an interest in the process of atonement. This atonement cannot then be expected from the cult itself, or from the reformation of this religion (which would need to be able to have recourse to some stable element in it), or even from the complete renouncement of this religion. The nature of the religious movement which is capitalism entails endurance right to the end, to the point where God, too, finally takes on the entire burden of guilt, to the point where the universe has been taken over by that despair which is actually its secret hope. Capitalism is entirely without precedent, in that it is a religion which offers not the reform of existence but its complete destruction. It is the expansion of despair, until despair becomes a religious state of the world in the hope that this will lead to salvation… The cult is celebrated before an unmatured deity; every idea, every conception of it offends against the secret of this immaturity.”

– Walter Benjamin, “Capitalism as Religion” (1921)

catholic social teaching

17 12 2010

Curb loan shark excesses for Christmas

17 12 2010

As Christmas approaches and we enter 2011 we should not forget that countless vulnerable families and individuals will face immense pressures on their household budgets (Report, 14 December). In the struggle to put food on the table and presents under the tree, increasing numbers will be forced to turn to high-cost lenders. These are the pay-day Scrooges, some of whom charge in excess of 2,500% APRs for payday lending or up to £82 for every £100 borrowed for door-to-door lending. This means a short-term loan of just a couple of hundred pounds can result in serious financial trouble.


9 12 2010

There’s a good article by Samuel Wells on regeneration, parish ministry and Isaiah 65 here.






Samuel Wells is the Dean of Duke University Chapel and Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinty School. His most recent books are Speaking the Truth: Preaching in a Pluralistic Culture (Abingdon Press, 2008) and God’s Companions: Re-imagining Christian Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006). This is a sermon preached at Duke University Chapel on 14 November 2010. Samuel is not a member of the Society.

Making Democratic Socialism Meaningful

8 12 2010

An interesting article by Alex Andrews on New Left project discussion about the Labour Party and the left arguing that Labour needs the radical left more than the radical left needs it, and that Labour must avoid letting the Tories setting the agenda.He is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham and member of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy. He is not a member of the Society.


Envisioning a Post-Capitalist Future

8 12 2010

The Post-Capitalist Project is a cooperative, nonsectarian venture of left journals, popular education centers, and electronic media. Our goal is to make easily available the wide range of new programs, experiments, and theories analyzing the transition beyond capitalism toward a socialist future, recognizing that “socialism” is a protean concept encompassing many different historical experiences and future possibilities.

The project seeks rigorous interrogations of a wide range of questions, addressing possible changes in literally all aspects of our current way of life—from our vision of the potential development of human capacities, to the specific ways a post-capitalist economy—production, distribution and consumption– could function, role of markets, etc., to how our moral and ethical priorities can help us reshape our society, to our relationship to technology and nature, to our forms of governance/self-governance, to how we organize now for a future world–and much more.

We are also interested in the question of what we can create or have created within capitalism that contributes to a socialist society, as well as why we should be envisioning a future world, especially since we may expect these visions to change and develop in the course of struggle.


4 12 2010

John Milbank is Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of the highly influential Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd edition, 2005) and The Future of Love: Essays in Political Theology (SCM Press, 2009). He is not a member of the Society of Sacramental Socialists.