I am really excited to be joining the Joint Public Issues Team in my new role as the Public Issues Enabler for the Baptist Union of Great Britain. I’ve moved into this job from pastoral ministry; previously I was the minister of John Bunyan Baptist Church, a multicultural church in east Oxford who housed a community arts centre in the building.
There I met many of the ‘public issues’ we deal with here as pastoral challenges. Child poverty, foodbank use, benefit sanctions, unaffordable housing, immigration and the Windrush scandal, amongst many others, were problems that impacted the day to day lives of my congregation and those in our community.
It is through pastoral care that I have discovered the practical injustices people face in society and that has fuelled the desire to do something about it. I know how useful the JPIT resources were to my local church as we navigated through the tricky social climate of austerity and sought to do what we could to work towards God’s coming kingdom, so I am looking forward to being someone who helps create those!
It’s a great privilege to have the opportunity to bring my theology to engage with the social justice challenges I have met in church life, as well as working ecumenically with the different denominations. My study of theology has shown me that God’s heart is always for those who find themselves on the margins of power and society. It has also taught me my own privilege as well: I have been the recipient of an amazing education and social background that has allowed me to get where I am and live the sort of life I live.
I believe that good theology – the study of God – is worship, and therefore enables the church to be faithful in mission in a quickly changing world. So, I am passionate that part of our mission as God’s people, here, in the 21st century, is that we need to be able to talk about and act upon public issues well.
Mission and evangelism can never be divorced from our engagement with our society and culture. The sociological studies of younger generation suggest they are passionate about issues like climate change and that also they are most likely to see the church as a negative force in society. If we want to be a missional church to under thirties, then our evangelism will need to be part of carefully considered engagement with our society.