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Christian Socialist Movement: what’s in a name?

by
25 January 2013

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From Mr Stephen Beer
Sir, - Professor Bob Holman need not be so worried that the Christian Socialist Movement is considering changing its name (Comment, 18 January). I agree with him that labels do matter. That is why we have asked our members what they think about the name.

As a fellow Christian Socialist, I, too, would not countenance any departure from our values. Indeed, we are proposing to affirm our commitment to Christian Socialism more explicitly than ever.

The Christian Socialist Movement (CSM), whatever its members decide it should be called in future, will always be committed to equality and egalitarianism. Professor Holman notes that CSM was co-founded by the Revd Donald Soper in 1960 (though Christian Socialism dates back to 1848 at least).

The constitution dating from Lord Soper's time did not actually mention equality, though, of course, it was implicit. It was only after a review of our statement of values, which I led ten years ago, that members inserted into our constitution the principle that each person is of equal worth.

CSM contains many members fired up by an active commitment to seeing this principle become reality. Like Christian Socialists of old, some are deliberately living as Christian witnesses in unfashionable areas. Yet we also know that, when we talk to like-minded people in churches, we have to spend much time explaining what the words in our name mean, rather than talking about what we believe.

Moreover, we find that people who would be natural members - that is, Christians who agree with our values and who often vote Labour - are turned away by the name. Most people regard "socialism" as a term that is outdated and irrelevant: it evokes the past. Perhaps we should try to change how the term is perceived.

I would rather change the name, and focus resources on campaigning for equality and social justice. For example, CSM has campaigned in recent years for banking reform and a relationship-based economy, as outlined on our website (www.thecsm.org.uk).

Our AGM in March will discuss our membership consultation and we will ballot members on any change. It is highly likely we will retain the word "Christian" as part of our name, and make an explicit commitment to Christian Socialism. I am certain that we will continue to be a vigorous and growing voice in politics, campaigning for a world that better reflects the values of the Kingdom of God.

STEPHEN BEER
Political Communications Officer
Christian Socialist Movement
PO Box 65108
London SW1P 9PQ

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