They’re all fighting over religion. Sure Christians are part of the problem.
Twenty five years ago a group of Northern Ireland evangelicals decided to address the possibility that Northern Ireland Christians could do more to be actively part of the solution. They published For God and His Glory Alone – deliberately mirroring For God and Ulster – and challenged Christians to think differently about how they might live Biblically and contribute positively to a society that was still far from peace.
Rev Dr John Dunlop was interviewed on last weekend’s Sunday Sequence [will start to play 5 minutes in] and spoke about the reason ECONI (Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland) published the booklet:
… it pulled evangelicals out of individual salvation and out of concerns for the church and maybe out of concern for their denomination and took their concerns into the public square and said: what do these Biblical principles mean as they work themselves out in the specifics of Northern Ireland?
The short booklet looked at love, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, citizenship, truth, servanthood, justice and righteousness, hope, and repentance.
For God and His Glory Alone caused a bit of a stir when it was first published. It’s it’s quite self-critical, not afraid to call for Christians to repent of their failings before seeking or expecting societal change:
Love … is to be pre-eminent in the church, and is to be evident in our relationships with our neighbours, irrespective of their culture, religion and background. Distinctively, followers of Jesus are told to love their enemies.
Forgiveness … Pride, bitterness and bigotry have the same root cause as racketeering, kidnapping and murder. They are the inevitable consequences of our rebellion against God’s purpose for our lives …
Reconciliation … As Evangelicals, we must accept our share of the blame for any way in which we have contributed to the alienation felt by many …
Truth … There is no place for bigotry, prejudice or hatred: we must recognise good and truth where they exist in other traditions … We must have the humility to see that the Truth of the Gospel is far greater than any of our formulations …
Justice & Righteousness … A healthy community is one in which the human rights of each individual are protected. In this context, the Christian ethic is not a defence of “my rights” but a concern for the rights of my neighbour. God’s concern is expressed specifically for outsides, the poor and those without power.
Repentance … Many in Northern Ireland hare caught in a face-saving exercise … The essential nature of repentance is losing face. We need to say we have been wrong – not merely that we have been the victims of history. We need to ask for forgiveness from God and our neighbours …
Between 1988 and today, ECONI has morphed into Contemporary Christianity, and is still working to understand and articulate how Biblical principles apply to life in Northern Ireland and beyond.
Twenty-five years on, Northern Ireland is on the other side of the peace-process, and yet has a long way to run before we are at peace with our past and our future. The principles in the booklet and their application still seem appropriate to how churches and their members act in 2013. To an extent our politics have moved on, but have our churches and day-to-day faith?
The booklet has been republished and is being relaunched on Thursday morning at 10.30am at Skainos (39 Newtownards Road, Belfast). Some of two hundred people who co-signed the original will be present, offering it as a continuing contribution.
The full text is available online as well as in print at tomorrow’s launch. Gladys Ganiel has some thoughts on the relaunch over on her blog.
The launch will be followed in the evening by the annual Catherwood Lecture. Last year Johnston McMaster spoke about Signing up to the Covenant: An Alternative Vision for the Future? Previous years have looked at contemporary art and even featured an HBOS whistle blower Paul Moore.
Tomorrow evening, back in Skainos at 8pm, ECONI’s co-founder and former director David Porter – now the Archbishop of Canterbury’s director for reconciliation and a Canon for reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral and was part of the “Eames/Bradley” Consultative Group on the Past – will speak about Justice, Mercy and Walking with God: The mission of the church and the future of reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Both the launch and the lecture are free.
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