Annual Members Meeting and Brexit Aftermath, Nov 2016
Over 30 Green Christian members met in St Aloysuis Church Hall, Euston London on the afternoon of Saturday 6th November 2016.
Annual Members Meeting
Our Chaplain Chris Walton opened the meeting with prayers from “Praying with the Earth” by John Philip Newell.
Our Chair Paul Bodenham, spoke briefly about the last year drawing out the theme of ‘how do we best organise ourselves to meet the call coming to us from God together with our own frustrations/aspirations for our society today’. He spoke of the Xistence project, where Green Christian recruited three young women to help us to engage with a new generation of under forties, considering how we adjust to changing culture and aspirations. Paul thanked Simon Court for his supervision of the project and his bringing it to a successful conclusion. We are continuing to work through the Xistence report and take on board its suggestions.
Tony Emerson spoke briefly about the Joy in Enough (JiE) project which promotes a sustainable economic model, the adoption of which would lead to social justice and environmental care. Tony outlined the work done on JiE during last three years. Paul in responding to Tony situated this hugely ambitious project at the heart of Christian mission, suggesting it may be out of our grasp needing more organisation and infrastructure than we could currently provide. However it could gain its own momentum and grow independently as in the way of Operation Noah.
George Dow spoke about the Way of Life which Green Christian has developed over the last two or three years, evolving particularly from a Ringsfield retreat in 2015. The Way of Life seeks to foster and support the way we live as individuals and now has 25 companions who have committed to following the Way of Life’s four principles. Way of life is supported by a working group of seven who have recently sought to ensure that companions are able to support each other in twos and threes and they have produced a form of commitment which we will share at our next gathering in January 2017.
Paul Bodenham then reported the financial support we have received from the Passionists and how over the coming four years it will enable us to develop and deepen projects such as these, adding that Green Christian never stands still and hopes that is a sign of our responding to God’s call.
He finally summed up by mentioning the Noddfa retreat, Greenbelt, our category of electronic membership for ordinands, and two excellent editions of our Green Christian magazine from the new editorial team.
The accounts were presented to the meeting and accepted.
Paul Bodenham introduced this session by asking:
- How can we speak ‘Good News’ into the Brexit situation?
- What makes a better humanity, in our own country, in Europe, worldwide?
He said how he had found inspiration and solace in Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach the morning after the referendum result. Now we know Brexit is a reality we are discovering new things about our fellow country folk. As a clue to understanding our cultural moment, Paul referred to an article in the Church Times by Stanley Hauerwas entitled ‘Countering the Politics of Resentment’ and went on to ask ‘How do we find a good life in the context of this?’ What are the connections between Green Philosophy and the Nationalist movement, how do we welcome outsiders?
How do we use our faith in this strange land?
Speaker: Chris Walton, Green Christian’s Chaplain.
Chris entertained us with a few ambiguous headlines: “The fasting and prayer conference includes meals”; “Don’t let worry kill you off, let the church help”.
What do we say? We want to say it correctly but can it be interpreted another way? We are in an alien land. How can we sing the Lord’s song in an alien land asked the exiles in Ps 137? We are disciples of Jesus asking the same question. Chris cited biblical history where the people of God consistently struggled with the consequences of being God’s people: from the beginning in the Garden of Genesis, through slavery and exodus and in to the promised land: leaders and prophets reminding the people of God that their role was to bear witness to the responsibility God had given them to care for the whole of creation and all peoples (Isaiah 61, the Lord had anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor and the stranger…) As soon as Jesus, quoting the same words of Isaiah, pointed out how it was not ‘chosen people’ but a Syrian and another Gentile who were healed the Nazareth congregation angrily rejected him (Luke 4). So given our alien land what and how do we witness against, and what do we witness for and how?
Jesus went before us and in his life experienced anguish alongside heavenliness. Our commitment is to follow what he did which will mean we suffer anguish alongside heavenliness. The Brexit campaign and vote have revealed the divisions, the greeds, racism, the phobias, the high mindedness, fears, where the delusions of competitive growth economics rules all in a world without the servant love of God
In some ways makes it easier for us because of what it reveals. Competitive growth economics serves the wealthy and not the poor. Prophetic witness needs us to act justly and walk humbly with God. We need to live as if the Kingdom is present now. Just do it!
We need to be part of the prophetic cycle of seeing, grieving, hoping and acting.
- seeing– not judging but entering into the difficult truth
- grieving– anguish, shocked into weeping, a theologically grounded act of resistance, so close to that which is wrong that it hurts
- hoping– take the consequences of that resistance, do what is right for the kingdom
- acting– living as if the kingdom was here. The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me – said Isaiah and Jesus
Chris used a reading of the Casa de Sol Blessings of Jesus (see Praying with the Earth, Philip Newell) a version of the beatitudes devised by a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim) to centre us on the essential characteristics of living ‘as if’ the Kingdom is present. The turmoil of our present culture revealed by Brexit makes it all the more urgent that we live with love and anguish together.
Our vocation as disciples of Jesus in whatever culture we live is to know that whenever we minister to the poor, the hungry, to homeless, the dispossessed we minister to Him (Matthew 25). Brexit changes none of this
How do we use our politics and community in this strange land?
Speaker:Jonathan Essex, a Green Christian member who is an engineer working half time for international development projects and also a local councillor for the Green Party in Redhill.
Jonathan quoted from Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles (Jeremiah 29:11) “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So there is hope but seventy years down the line for the exiles! Where does Brexit sit in the Green context and where does it sit with GC’s Joy in Enough project? Jonathan voiced concern for the present moment where right wing politicians are getting angry because the judiciary has taken an opposing view.
He made some suggestions as to why people voted Brexit and what has happened since:
- issues of inequality and being left out
- need to reform the EU democratic process
- there has been no snap General Election
- we lost Cameron and Osborne and gained May
- trade, what do we want, TTIP or CETA
- do we want to shut down our borders
A current media headline: “What could Trump Brexit” from today’s I newspaper, very much a shock doctrine, with the Paris climate deal ratification coming much lower down on page 29! He suggested Brexit had promoted hate and made racism OK, land was being laid waste to fracking and biofuels, many people are on zero hours contracts and living in slums.
The best way for the rich to get richer is to exclude and ignore the poor. Our new political leaders are proposing we go back to grammar schools? In other words not dealing with major issues first.
So how do we respond to all of this? Jonathan suggests we need an aggressive alliance, we are not bystanders in any of this. To not act is to be complicit.
Environmental Limits in the UK: we must look at reality not greenwash – which may say we are cutting our emissions but not taking into account carbon emissions due to transport if it’s outside the UK, or manufacture if it’s outside the UK and so on. London gets rich on the back of globalisation. Since Brexit we have had Heathrow, Trident and Hinkley Point.
We must challenge these ideas and fight instead for localisation. Faith and Hope remain after Brexit and however many stages there are we always include an extra one which says ‘Do something and do it together’
Discussion in small groups
In groups of around 4 we considered the questions:
- What would a good Brexit look like?
- What do we want to witness for and against?
There was a feedback session after about 30mins and it is intended that some of the discussion outcomes will inform our next Strom of Hope publication due in early 2017.
We welcome further comments on this from Green Christian members and friends.
Read a report on the Brexit session by Andrew Norman