Tag Archives: social justice

10 Things You Don’t Know about the Clapham Sect


From Wikimedia

Attending the Q Conference in Boston this past week, I was reminded that almost any evangelical who wants to leverage their vocation to change the world takes William Wilberforce’s Clapham group as a sort of knights-of-the-round-table paradigm. But few seem to know much about this remarkable group. So as a public service, here’s my . . .

10 Things You Don’t Know about the Clapham Sect

First the basics: The Clapham Sect was a group of aristocratic evangelical Anglicans, prominent in England from about 1790 to 1830, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery (among many other causes) and promoted missionary work at home and abroad. The group centered on the church of John Venn, rector of Clapham in south London.

Today these activists are frequently held up as an example of Christian social-justice reform to be emulated. It’s always good to know a few things about someone you’re going to emulate, so here are 10 things you probably don’t know about the Clapham Sect:

  1. Aside from the great parliamentarian William Wilberforce and several other MPs, the group also included a
    Wilberforce, from Wikimedia.

    Wilberforce, from Wikimedia

    brewer, a banker, several clergymen, the father of the great English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay (Zachary Macaulay), and the great-grandfather of Virginia Woolf (James Stephen). Two of its prominent members were women: the evangelist Katherine Hankey and the writer and philanthropist Hannah More. . (Read more about More in this wonderful new biography of her by Karen Swallow Prior.)

  2. The term “Clapham Sect” was a later invention by James Stephen in an article of 1844 which celebrated and romanticized the work of these reformers. In their own time the group used no particular name, but they were lampooned by outsiders as “the saints.”
  3. Though they were of aristocratic background and many of held positions of power and influence, the Clapham group’s involvement in the abolition cause brought significant social stigma on their heads. The English ruling classes viewed abolitionists as radical and dangerous, similar to French revolutionaries of the day

Continued at the Patheos Faith & Work Channel

Kingdom work, social justice


Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

The King of the Kingdom

As Scot McKnight says over at his Jesus Creed blog, this is an article in the Associated
Baptist Press
 that ought to get some discussion:

WACO, Texas (ABP) — A rising generation of Christians intent on working for social justice must not confuse that effort with “kingdom work,” award-winning Christian author Scot McKnight said during the Parchman Endowed Lecturesseries at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.

“In our country, the younger generation is becoming obsessed with social justice,” including through government opportunities, politics and voting, said McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. “What it’s doing is leading young Christians out of the church and into the public sector to do what they call ‘kingdom work.’

“I want to raise a red flag here: There is no such thing as kingdom work outside the church — and I don’t mean the building. The kingdom is about King Jesus and King Jesus’ people and King Jesus’ ethics for King Jesus’ people. Continue reading

Poor, black, and female: Amanda Berry Smith preached holiness in the teeth of racism


What follows is this week’s talk in the series I am doing at Messiah Episcopal Church, St. Paul, MN, on people from my book Patron Saints for Postmoderns who model aspects of social justice:

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, Christian revival kindled on the American frontier, drawing new strength through camp meetings and circuit riders. By the mid-1800s, however, the Victorian era was in full swing, and evangelical churches founded in the white heat of frontier enthusiasm were building lavish faux-gothic facades and enjoying the refined preaching of educated, citified ministers.

In reaction, many Victorian Americans yearned to experience again the fiery devotion of their parents and grandparents. Continue reading

Thrift Store Saints: A no-guilt, practical storybook about helping the poor


Friend LaVonne Neff recently blogged her review of a nifty new book. Here’s a sample:

Thrift Store Saints . . . is one book about helping the poor that won’t make you feel bad about yourself and won’t put you to sleep. In fact, it may make you chuckle, if you’re the chuckling sort. And if you’d like to get involved with serving the poor but don’t have a clue where to start, this is the book for you. . . .

Most books about poverty present a lot of facts, data, theory, and theology, interspersing the sober exposition with occasional anecdotes in hopes of keeping the reader’s attention. This book turns that approach inside out. Knuth tells story after story, only occasionally supplementing her tales with commentary, as she gently and with self-deprecating humor leads readers into a new way of seeing.

The full review is here.

“Emergent” is dead, and the leftovers have gone to the Christian Left, neo-Anabaptism, and neo-Puritanism


I’m in day 3 of Acton University. What follows are my notes from a session that took place yesterday, June 17, 2010. The presenter was Dr. Anthony Bradley, an associate professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College in New York City and a research fellow at the Acton Institute. I am oversimplifying his main arguments in the intentionally provocative title of this post, but I think I’ve captured the basics. If you have any relationship to Emergent, you will doubtless find something in what follows to take offense at. However, I think his typology and analysis of the movement is useful.

Dr. Bradley holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. As a research fellow, Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern international forms of social injustice, slavery, and oppression.

[NOTE: the indenting and numbering format problems in the following post have now been fixed]

The Emergent Church, Bradley

Spoke at the outset about King’s College, where he teaches, which is in Manhattan, in the Empire State Building and across the state. Marvin Olasky is provost of King’s College.

Has been with the institute since 2002. Taught at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Then Olasky “siphoned him off.” He presented on Emergent in 2005/6 at a meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. They were in a room half the size of this, then they had to put them in another room, seating 300 people. They didn’t realize how big the movement had gotten. But in 2006 it was beginning to END. Started in 1989.

He wrote an article on World Magazine’s website where he declared the end of the movement. Tony Jones, Driscoll, others are saying the movement is over.

20 years is not “new.” These churches are not dead. There are still Emergent churches out there. No longer provocative, though. Not sexy. These churches are full of 30- 40-something people with kids. Men going bald. Continue reading