Re-Launch of For God and His Glory Alone: How Can this Generation of Christians Be Responsible for Reconciliation?

4gahga2This morning at Skainos in Belfast, Contemporary Christianity re-launched For God and His Glory Alone, a document first published 25 years ago by Contemporary Christianity’s forerunner, Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI).

Canon David Porter, a former director of ECONI and now director for reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, urged those present to see the document not as a ‘dead tradition’ from the past, but a source for reflection and an encouragement for this generation of Christians in this society to develop their own contextual, social action-orientated theologies for reconciliation.

There will be an opportunity to hear more from Porter tonight at Contemporary Christianity’s Catherwood Lecture on ‘Justice, Mercy and Walking with God: The Mission of the Church and the Future of Reconciliation in Northern Ireland,’ at Skainos at 8 pm.

As I explained earlier in the week, the document called Christians to a better witness in a violent and divided community through biblical reflections on ten themes:

  1. Love
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Reconciliation
  4. Peace
  5. Citizenship
  6. Truth
  7. Servanthood
  8. Justice and Righteousness
  9. Hope
  10. Repentance

Those who spoke at the re-launch reflected that a quarter-century after its original publication, the document remains strikingly relevant in what remains a troubled and divided society.

4gahgarelaunchIt’s interesting that the 25th anniversary re-launch was sparked by David Smyth of Evangelical Alliance, who only discovered the document 18 months ago. Smyth, who is of a younger generation of Christian activists, had been speaking with one of ECONI’s founders, David Hewitt, who gave him a stack of papers to read.

In that stack was a copy of For God and His Glory Alone, which Smyth said gripped him with its relevance the first time he read it. Then, about six months ago, he was in a public discussion at a peacebuilding event. Having a copy of the document with him, he took it out and remarked that it could be a useful tool today as Christians and church institutions – if they think about reconciliation at all – seem to be struggling to find a meaningful voice and a constructive role. This initiated a conversation with Contemporary Christianity’s Stephen Adams, who was in the audience, and led to the re-launch of the document.

Contemporary Christianity’s Noel McClune remarked that in his re-reading of For God and His Glory Alone he was struck by its emphasis on responsibility, seeing the re-launch as a reminder to Christians of their responsibility to serve others in the world, as Christ had done. Peter McDowell, a member of the board of Contemporary Christianity who also works with the Irish Churches Peace Project, encouraged those present to get the document out again in the churches, starting conversations about the challenges it raises.

The original For God and His Glory Alone went through several printings and more than 10,000 copies were distributed. It was one of the sparks that led to the establishment of ECONI as a solid and effective organisation. As I discovered in research for my book Evangelicalism and Conflict in Northern Ireland (2008), ECONI’s educational activities were instrumental in transforming identities and encouraging peace activism.

Porter remarked that despite invitations (including to the media), almost no one came to the original launch. Today, a healthy crowd of young and older, men and women, had gathered in the Skainos auditorium.

The hope of the speakers was clearly that as community relations seem to be stumbling towards new lows, the re-launch would draw on the reconciliatory actions of our forebears and the example of Christ in the Gospels – inspiring a new wave of activism.

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