An Interview with Philip Powell

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How did you first learn about the Jubilee Centre?

I still vividly remember the first time I came across a Cambridge Paper back in 2000. I walked into a colleague’s office for a prayer meeting and there was a heavily underlined Cambridge Paper on world order lying on the table. I borrowed the Paper and quickly read through it. I had studied International Relations as an undergraduate student and reading this Paper challenged me to think about the problem of world order from a biblical perspective. A few months later I was browsing through a bookshop on Oxford Street and came across ‘Christianity in a Changing World’ and immediately bought it. That ‘green book’, as I call it, really became the foundation for my thinking on so many different topics. Ever since, the publications of the Jubilee Centre have been a part of my life and ministry.

 

What held your attention?

Put simply, it was Christian thinking at its very best that grabbed my attention. What came across was not intellectualism, but loving God with the mind at a very deep level. Secondly, there was always careful attention paid not only to what the Bible had to say but also a willingness to study, listen and hear what the world was saying about issues. John Stott called this ‘double listening’ and the Jubilee Centre does this so well.

 

How has it changed the way you think?

First, it has guarded me from going to the extreme, either on the Left or the Right. It has helped me with the task of maintaining intellectual balance by being biblically grounded.  Then I have learned so much about the importance and centrality of law in God’s vision for society. I have a passion for justice, and understanding the role of law in realising justice has been very significant.

 

Can you give an example of how you have applied some of these ideas?

When I started doing advocacy work at the United Nations for the Centre for International Justice and Reconciliation (CIJR),  one of the first things I did to get further equipped for doing this work was to attend the Jubilee Winter School in 2007. I still remember Michael Schluter speaking at the opening session on the ‘Goals of Development’. What he had to share was the complete opposite of what was being discussed at the UN. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the global framework for eradicating poverty, but it was based on the fundamental assumption that poverty was simply a material phenomenon. Western development was held up as the norm and the rest had simply to catch-up, completely ignoring the relational poverty affecting the West. CIJR sought to both challenge this reductionist discourse and promote a holistic engagement with poverty eradication.

 

What contribution do you think the Jubilee Centre can make to the church or the world in the coming years?

I believe the Jubilee Centre can play a very significant role in fuelling a fresh passion for the Bible. A passion for the whole canon of scripture, not just a few verses here and there. Loving God with our minds is a prerequisite for this kind of a passion for the Bible, and is vital for the life of the church.  For wider society, I would mention long-termism. Our society is under the tyranny of speed, meaning everything must happen now. Short-termism and a lack of vision for the future is the societal disease of our age. The Jubilee Centre continues to be a sign-post pointing the way towards a strategy for real change, a prophetic voice addressing contemporary issues from a long-term biblical perspective.

 

 

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Category: News and Reviews

January, 2014

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