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Synod: ‘Uncommon good’

18 July 2014

'The Uncommon Good'

Uncommon visitor: the Revd Jim Wallis with Dr Sentamu in York

Uncommon visitor: the Revd Jim Wallis with Dr Sentamu in York

A PRESENTATION, "The Uncommon Good", was given by the Revd Jim Wallis on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Wallis said that he was not aware of any Church in the world doing as much work on the subject of the Common Good as the Church of England. The Common Good had become "quite uncommon", and this had become both a "tremendous problem" and "for us, a great opportunity".

The largest growing religious affiliation was the "nones" (those ticking the "no religion" box). Most believed in God, but they "don't want to affiliate with religion because of what we have or have not done". They were attracted, however, to "those who are doing something to change their communities".

The Common Good was an ancient idea that had been forgotten. It was "absent" in Washington, DC, the "most dysfunctional political city in the world". But there was a hunger for it among politicians "who say it has never felt this bad".

He said: "Our life together can be better. We are such a shallow and selfish nation in need of conversion from looking out for just ourselves and our tribe, our party, our bubble, our group, our class, our race, to looking out for one another."

He continued: "Loving your neighbour as yourself is supposed to mean loving other people's kids as much as your own." He gave the example of the thousands of undocumented, unaccompanied minors arriving in the States.

Religion made a "big mistake when its primary public posture is to protect itself and its own interests". It was "much better when we lead and care about the needs of everyone, not just in our own community, but in a pluralist democracy that we inspire and serve in ways that make people say, 'Huh. I wonder why they do that.'"

He regretted that "most American Christians are clearly Americans first. Sociology trumps our theology." The "privatising of faith" had led people to walk away. The Pope was changing this.

He asked: "What will you do in your workplace to provide leadership to implement that mission statement?" Christians had underestimated human sin in economics, politics, and Churches, but also underestimated the "radical power of hope, which is our best contribution to changing the world".

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