The vision at the heart of the Jubilee Centre was born in East Africa in the late 1970s. Pressing questions faced nations in transition and thinking Christians were looking for answers.
- What values hold society together?
- Does Christianity have anything distinctive to say about public policy beyond general goals such as stewardship and justice?
- Is there a Christian-based alternative to capitalism?
Dr. Michael Schluter, amongst others, began studying the Bible for answers and came to the radical conclusion that it does offer a distinctive social model or 'paradigm' that, although modified and given new meaning by Christ, finds its principal expression in the laws given to Israel and in their subsequent national history.
In the Old Testament we find a rich store of insight regarding social, political and economic life. Of particular importance for unlocking its internal logic is Jesus' summary of the law in terms of love (Matthew 22:34-40), or, right relationships.
Having returned from East Africa, Michael founded the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge in 1983 to promote social engagement - in the footsteps of men like Wilberforce - based on careful research. This initially led to the well-known and now independent Keep Sunday Special campaign.
That experience suggested a fruitful model: first biblical research (in this case into the Sabbath principle) then a practical initiative (in this case a campaign) to change society in the direction of the biblical social model. Moreover, the experience also demonstrated the merits of 'co-belligerence', that is, working with people of other faiths or no faith towards a common political objective.
Since the Keep Sunday Special Campaign...
The Relationships Foundation was established in 1994 to spearhead other initiatives and promote a relational agenda (or Relationism). Although firmly based on Judeo-Christian values the Relationships Foundation is not explicitly Christian. Rather it is striving to build a broader consensus around the claim that good relationships are the essence of human wellbeing and the principal determinant of a healthy society. Among current initiatives is the Keep Time for Children campaign which seeks, e.g. through new employment legislation, to protect time parents can spend with their children at weekends.
Before the Relationships Foundation was established, however, in the late 1980s other initiatives, similarly inspired by the biblical social teaching, took flight. The Newick Park Initiative was established in 1986 to help promote peace in South Africa and later in Rwanda. Renamed Relationships Foundation International and now Concordis International Trust, in 1999 a peace-building consultation process was established in Sudan in partnership with the African Renaissance Institute which continues today.
Also, in 1988 Credit Action was established, becoming an independent charity in 1992. Born out of careful research into debt in the Old Testament, its vision is to educate local churches and the population at large in biblical and practical principles of handling money.
Finally, in 1996 Citylife was launched to develop relational responses particularly to urban unemployment. Again, rooted in biblical teaching - in this case into the prohibition upon charging interest (e.g. Exodus 22:25) - its main initiative towards this end is the 'employment bond', a 5-year zero-interest loan challenging citizens and corporations to invest in local regeneration and employment programmes. Renamed Allia in 2010, it also manages Future Business, which seeks to help social enterprises.