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US Christian activist group plans to expand to UK

11 January 2019


Red Letter Christians at a gathering in the US

Red Letter Christians at a gathering in the US

A CHRISTIAN activist group founded in the United States to challenge consumerist values is to come to the UK this year.

The group, Red Letter Christians, is a network of activists who pledge themselves to “take Jesus seriously” by living out counter-cultural values. In the US, the group is led by the Evangelical pastor the Revd Dr Tony Campolo, and the community leader and author Shane Claiborne. The name of the group derives from the practice of printing Jesus’s words in red in many Bibles in the US.

Forty Christian activists, most from non-conformist churches, joined a retreat with Dr Campolo, just before Christmas, to look at expanding the movement into the UK.

Although in the US the group has challenged President Trump and his supporters, in the UK the approach will be less oppositional, and will focus on creating opportunities for the voices of those on the margins in British society to be heard, the Revd Dr Deirdre Brower Latz, theological adviser to the new UK group, said.

“We will focus on how we can support UK activists to respond to poverty and marginalisation. It won’t be top down, but will be a grass-roots movement.

“The reality across the country is that austerity is still biting hard, and that lots of Christians in urban communities are engaging with that, but they are not in the traditional system; so they don’t get heard.”

Dr Brower Latz, who is Principal of Nazarene Theological College, in Manchester, said: “There is already a plethora of Christian voices in charities, but we want to amplify the voice of people at the grass roots, some of whom have been working in this area for years and years already,”

She said that the new group was not here to create division and dissent, but would adopt an approach of “alongsideness”.

The co-ordinator for Red Letter Christians in the UK will be Dr Ash Barker, a lay C of E pioneer minister in Birmingham, where he runs Newbigin House, a community hub and training centre. “We want to amplify opportunities to give young people on the margins a chance to speak up. To allow people to speak for themselves rather than through advocates,” he said.

Dr Campolo and Mr Claiborne will come to the UK in June, when the group will be formally launched. The UK group will take over one of the pair’s weekly shows on Premier Christian Radio, to include UK voices once a month.

Dr Barker said that the group was also looking at carrying out “prophetic symbolic actions in the public square, which might be — in response to knife violence in London — melting down knives to turn into garden tools”.

A Baptist minister in east London, the Revd Dr Sally Mann, is already in conversation with the police about doing this in her area, where knife crime is rife; similar acts of prophetic witness would be carried out across the country, he said.

In the US, Mr Claiborne’s Simple Way community has carried out similar actions, such as melting down guns to make tools.

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