Conferences and Events
Come and meet other like-minded Christians at one of our conferences or events.
Jubilee Centre’s story began in East Africa in the 1970s, where a group of Christians were engaged in an ideological discussion about development and nation-building. Which of the different approaches to national and economic development around them was the closest to the Bible? Was it the African socialist model in Tanzania, the capitalist system pursued in Kenya or the radical Marxist approach in Ethiopia? Contemporary Christian reflection in Britain centred on identifying biblical principles to critique public policy. The Left stressed justice; the Right stressed stewardship. However, such general principles were inadequate to evaluate newly independent nations in post-colonial Africa.
A young economist called Michael Schluter, amongst others, began studying the Bible for answers. They came to the radical conclusion that the Bible does indeed offer a coherent vision for society, and it is set out mainly in biblical law. In the Old Testament we find a rich store of insights 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), which places the focus on right relationships.
In 1983, on his return from East Africa, Michael founded the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge in order to set out policy responses to economic, social and political issues from a biblical perspective. With a focus on getting relationships right in public life, this way of understanding and applying the biblical social vision came to be called relationism, or Relational Thinking.
In the mid-1980s, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the UK put forward legislation to deregulate Sunday trading — allowing regular commercial trading to take place on Sundays. Christians in the UK were divided in their response: some believed the Sabbath restrictions were no longer binding on Christians, whilst others saw Sundays as the Christian version of the Jewish Sabbath. The newly created Jubilee Centre took a different approach, setting out a mid-way, relational position in the booklet, Why Keep Sunday Special? (Townsend & Schluter, 1985) which presented the economic and social arguments for Sabbath and articulated its relevance for national life. This research played a crucial role in giving churches the confidence to resist the government’s proposals and provided a foundation for the independent ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign which was then created.
That experience suggested a fruitful model: first biblical research (in this case into the Sabbath principle) then a practical initiative (such as 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 none towards a common policy objective.
From the lessons learnt, over the next two decades a number of campaigns and initiatives, similarly inspired by biblical teaching, were born. The Newick Park Initiative was established in 1986 to help promote peace in South Africa and later in Rwanda; it eventually became Concordis International, whose peace-building consultation processes continue across Africa today. Following careful research into debt in the Old Testament, Credit Action was established in 1988 to educate on the dangers of easy credit; today it is known as The Money Charity. In 1994, a major shift occurred with the creation of our sister organisation Relationships Foundation. Although firmly based on Judeo-Christian values, the Relationships Foundation did not employ explicitly Christian language; they built a broader consensus around the claim that good relationships are essential for a healthy society. In the years that followed, we continued to provide the biblical support and insight for the Relationships Foundation’s new initiatives, including Citylife (later renamed Allia) and The Marriage Foundation.
With Relationships Foundation articulating a vision around relationships in public policy to a broad audience, Jubilee Centre has focused on helping intellectually curious Christians connect their faith to public life. Through high quality research, publications, training and events, we help Christians to develop a biblical perspective on the most challenging issues in contemporary society and find their role in social transformation. This involves laying the foundations for biblical and relational thinking, demonstrating the relevance of the Bible today through its application to specific sectors and issues, and setting out a positive strategy for engagement with the wider culture.
In 2015, we relocated to 59 St. Andrew’s Street in the heart of Cambridge in order to better connect with the university, businesses and churches in the city centre. We continue to publish new research and communicate our findings and recommendations through media and events.
Since 2014, over 80 Christians from different nationalities and sectors have taken part in our online course, The Bible and Public Life, to explore how the Bible connects with the economic, social and political challenges of the 21st century. And in 2020, we are launching the communities of reform initiative, to bring together and equip like-minded Christians who want to work towards long-term social transformation founded on their faith.
Jubilee Manifesto: A Framework, Agenda and Strategy for Christian Social Reform, ed. by Michael Schluter and John Ashcroft (2005)
The R Factor, Michael Schluter and David Lee (1993)
After Capitalism: Rethinking Economic Relationships, Paul Mills and Michael Schluter (2012)
God, Justice and Society: aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible, Jonathan Burnside (2011)
Cambridge Papers (1992-present): a non-profit quarterly publication which aims to contribute to debate on a wide range of issues from a Christian perspective.
Visit our books page to find out more.
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Thoughtful perspectives on today's social, political and economic challenges