I’ve been reflecting back on the 10 years that I’ve had the privilege to lead the Jubilee Centre, as my time as director draws to a close. Back in 2011, the world was slowly recovering from the great financial crisis; the Occupy movement was protesting at the resulting inequality and London burned due to the riots; an earthquake devastated Christchurch in New Zealand and another led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan; the US army finally pulled out of Iraq and Osama Bin Laden was killed by US special forces; the Eurozone debt crisis was in full swing, Djokovic won his first Wimbledon title and Game of Thrones premiered on TV.
During the intervening years, accelerating social and cultural trends have been changing the world dramatically: the social media revolution, the polarisation of public debate, radical changes around sexuality and gender, and recognition of the climate crisis, to name a few.
Over the decade, my conviction has grown that followers of Jesus, called to be salt and light, need a way of thinking about and responding to world events that is deeply grounded in God’s word and wisdom. Jubilee Centre has an important part to play in this, which is why we adopted Romans 12:2 as our slogan: “Don’t be conformed to the world’s way of thinking, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so you understand what God’s will is” - in all of life.
That’s what drives us to work hard at bringing biblical reflection and relational thinking into different contemporary issues, which generates our publications such as the Cambridge Papers and all of the content across our website.
But Jubilee Centre isn’t just a think tank; good ideas alone are not enough to change the world! Social reform needs social reformers – that is the conviction behind the training programmes which we have developed since 2013, including the Bible and Public Life online course, the summer schools/gatherings and the SAGE Graduate Programme.
At the same time, we have dreamed of taking this one step further. Despite the impression some biographies make, the most effective social reformers aren’t a one-man or one-woman show. They are usually part of a team or network in which different people make vital contributions according to their skills, experience or resources.
The Clapham group behind William Wilberforce is perhaps the best example – and still inspiring Christians 200 years after they laboured together to abolish the slave trade and initiate many other reforms. Some were politicians, some bankers, some communicators, some researchers, some pastors, some writers, some organisers – yet they were united in three areas: their faith, their friendship and their commitment to seeing the gospel transform wider society.
So what about today? There are many Christians who are passionate about responding to poverty, brokenness, injustice and other social ills in the name of Jesus and with his kingdom in view. They join campaigns and support organisations seeking change, but there is always room for new initiatives.
That’s why we have been developing the idea of ‘communities of reform’ (still a working title!) as a strategy for biblical social transformation in the 21st century. Communities of reform will be small groups of highly committed people sharing the same overall vision for Christian social engagement, bringing different skills and growing together as friends as they work towards some expression of social reform for as many years as it takes.
These multidisciplinary and intergenerational groups will learn and pray together, support each other’s initiatives around the shared issue and collaborate wherever possible. Whether or not some of them live in the same place, members will work at building their relationships together over time.
The more we have prayed and discussed how to catalyse these communities of reform, the more I thought that someone needs to step up and take a lead. To cut a long story short, I came to the conclusion early this year that I should be that person!
Consequently, I am stepping down from my role as Director of the Jubilee Centre and stepping out to pioneer a community of reform around the whole challenge of housing. The Trustees have appointed a new Director, who will start in December. Although I'll no longer be on staff, I'm excited to see how Jubilee Centre's vision for biblical social transformation will be expressed in this new initiative in the years ahead.