THE poor fortunes of Gordon Brown and the sorry state of US politics were lamented by the Revd Jim Wallis, the American social reformer and evangelist, in a lecture in East Anglia last week.
“Politics is broken in my country — and it sounds as if it is here, too,” he said. This was an opportunity for hope, however: “When politics breaks, and fails to resolve the big issues, social movements rise up — and generally, to be successful, they have to involve people of faith.”
Mr Wallis was speaking in Woodbridge, Suffolk, as part of the town’s Alive ’08 festival. He is in the UK for a short tour to promote his new book, Seven Ways to Change the World. The US title of the book, The Great Awakening, refers to Mr Wallis’s view that a new generation of Christians is keen to get involved in social action, especially on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged.
“I haven’t seen this kind of energy in three decades,” Mr Wallis said last week. Half the people who attend his meetings are under 25. And he spoke of his efforts to persuade the large Evangelical churches in the United States to take responsibility for combating poverty in their towns and neighbourhoods.
Alive ’08 was organised by St John’s, Woodbridge, and took place over the Bank Holiday weekend (despite the rain). The Vicar, the Revd Dave Gardner, said that 125 volunteers (from an electoral roll of 325) were staffing the events in church venues around the town.
Among the speakers were the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock; the theologians Dr Elaine Storkey and Dr Alan Storkey; a former Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Gavin Reid; and John Gummer MP, a former General Synod member.