For the Souls of Black Folks: Reimagining Black Preaching for Twenty-First-Century Liberation

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We are no longer accepting new suggestions for this list. Prayer Vigil for the Nine Victims of the Charleston Shooting Here is a list of readings that educators can use to broach conversations in the classroom about the horrendous events that unfolded in Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of June 17, Douglas R. Charles P. Charles J. This is the true story of a rising stars exceptional skills and self-sabotage.

The NBA legend-in-the-making, recruited by the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks, paid a high emotional cost after witnessing a doublemurder at age What unfolds is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Self-admitted stubbornness, silence and unchecked fear plunged this gifted athlete into homelessness for nearly five years, sleeping on the trains and living on the streets of New York City. Greene courageously lays his life bare as an example of how anyone can find themselves living beneath their potential. But, there is redemption and new possibilities as Greene pivots and transforms his many blocked shots into a winning season.

For the Least of These is the first resource of its kind. It is a vital resource guide for churches, schools, community organizations, businesses, and others that seek to foster justice in the world. Cari Jackson skillfully presents real-life, entertaining case studies and discussion tips that lead groups to important insights. Using these case studies helps every organization to be more effective in carrying out their missions. These case studies brought our bible study discussion alive. Cari Jackson, helped us to recognize the ways our interactions with others often accomplish the opposite of the meaningful connections that we seek and offered some critical strategies for creating healthier relationships.

Fred Dennard, spiritual coach This workbook is fabulous! CARM has focused its actions around three goals. It has begun cam- paigning against current asylum and immigration legislation which has resulted in increased levels of asylum seeker destitution and has launched a hospitality scheme to provide short-term accommodation for vulnerable, destitute asylum seekers. The network echoes the pattern of urban social movements described by Castells.

It has emerged from the specific experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in Birmingham. It is goal oriented and locally focused, although the marginalization it is addressing is national in scope. The network is reliant on the conscientized action of a small number of political intellectuals, but has yet to evolve into a broader urban movement.

However, during the summer of , the initiation of Rock Against Racism signalled a shift to a more broad-based anti- racist social movement. Its resistance message was perhaps best summarized in the first issue of its magazine, Temporary Hoarding. Rock Against Racism. Love music, hate racism. Could Broad-Based Community Organizing offer a template for a new form of urban theology in the post-religious city?

Broad-Based Organizing is still in its infancy in Britain and is rooted in a pattern of pragmatic activism which stretches back to the work of Saul Alinsky in Chicago during the s. Two of the most sig- nificant groupings of broad-based organizations in the United States are the Industrial Areas Foundation which was initially developed by Alinsky in and the faith-based Gamaliel Foundation which was established in in Chicago. Whereas community organizing in the United States is deep rooted and widespread, this mode of political engagement is much younger and far more fragile in Britain.

Currently broad-based community organizations are emerging in Birmingham, Manchester, North Wales, Milton Keynes and London, although not all of these coalitions operate within the COF network. The model has brought diverse faith and community groups to- gether across guarded boundaries and has the potential to develop into a powerful force for progressive social change in the city.

At the time of writing, however, it is too early to tell whether this potential will be fully realized. Jay Macleod, Paul Henderson and Harry Salmon argue with jus- tification that Broad-Based Organizing BBO in Britain has largely resisted an engagement in theoretical dialogue as a result of its core commitment to pragmatic activism. In spite of this it is pos- sible to align community organizing in Britain with emerging patterns of public theology, discussions about social capital, civil society and the public sphere.

In a fluid society BBO has the potential to offer a model of net- worked praxis to urban theology. The work of Birmingham Citizens has been stimulated by full-time community organizers who can be reasonably described as organic intellectuals. The agenda for action relates to grassroots concerns in inner-city Birmingham and engages with structural patterns of governance, community provision, polic- ing and community safety.

The network works with a clearly defined strategy and quantifiable goals. Community organizing stretches be- yond confined understandings of identity politics and thus provides the foundation for a transformative politics that is rooted in a new critical multiculturalism and the generation of bridging social capital. The post-religious context of urban Britain demands such an inclusive approach to action for social justice.

During the s and s urban theologians in Britain ap- propriated Latin American liberation theology in an almost exclu- sively uncritical manner. Over the last twenty years liberation theology has become increasingly self-critical. I would suggest that the time has come for BBO to dis- play a similar openness to the constructive critique of potential allies.

Unfortunately, however, at the time of writing, with the exception of academic papers by Mark Warren and Lina Jamoul and Jane Wills, there has been little evidence of the kind of openness that can help BBO to address weaknesses and build on strengths. Second he highlights a tension between national successes and an ongoing struggle to build strong local foundations.

Third he notes a greater focus on large set- piece assemblies than low-key grassroots actions and an inability to develop articulate local leadership. In my experience BBO has: 1. Tended to display an anti-dialogical character that resists networking with other grass-roots movements for urban lib- eration, although Birmingham Citizens has sought to develop informal partnerships with other community agencies.

Listened with greater respect to the concerns of larger member groups than the concerns of smaller faith groups and commu- nity organizations in spite of an emphasis on egalitarianism. Presented an outmoded power analysis which takes no ac- count of the transformed nature of power in a globalized ur- ban age. Been too uncritical of the amoral pragmatism of Saul Alinsky.

Failed to critique the limited writings of Saul Alinsky whose status can sometimes seem to resemble that of a prophet. If these blind spots are addressed BBO has the potential to rein- vigorate radical action for social justice in urban Britain.


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New models of resistance exemplify an emerging global consciousness and the recognition that in an interlinked information age social action must be founded around coalitions and translocal networks if it is to be effective. It is therefore no longer plausible to consign disparate urban struggles to hermetically sealed boxes anymore than it is viable to develop patterns of urban theol- ogy that consider micro-contexts in isolation from wider urbanism.

The struggles of Black Britons for racial justice, campaigns alongside asylum seekers and refugees, resistance to Islamophobia, the struggle against the BNP and campaigns highlighting the scourge of gun and knife crime and gang violence or against poverty on majority white working-class outer-city estates can no longer be viewed in isolation but must be seen as interlocking examples of liberative praxis in a network society. This ethic of interconnectedness echoes central scrip- tural and doctrinal strands within both Christianity and Islam.

In his first letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul compares the Christian community to an interconnected body. When one part of the body is damaged the whole body suffers. The well that we should be drawing on is a commitment to justice and betterment of society — there is a brotherhood in faith and an equally important brotherhood in humanity. Is it possible that the changing face of theoretical reflection on resistance and grass-roots activism embodies the foun- dational values of liberation theology in a post-religious context?

The examples of urban resistance in postmodern diasporan Britain that I introduced above raise challenges which can enrich the work of those engaged in the fashioning of a new cross-cultural urban the- ology of liberation. It is against a backdrop of these challenges and the themes I have explored in previous chapters that I sketch out a provisional flexible template against which examples of urban resis- tance can be measured.

I hope this template might act as a stimulus for further questioning among those engaged in social movements for change and by those seeking to forge a new expression of libera- tive urban theology in a new century. Recognition of the multiple and mutual nature of oppression and liberation. Prioritizing the narratives of marginalized people and communities. Holding local city-space and the global space of flows together in dialogue.

Seeing liberative praxis in inclusive and glocal terms. Recognizing the force of a critical transformative politics of difference. Commitment to a critical new multiculturalism and cosmopolitan solidarity. Contextual class analyses. Movement beyond all forms of raciology and essentialism. Building project-based coalitions that address structural issues. A commitment to the central task of conscientization. A clear vision of an egalitarian and just society around which people can gather. A progressive hermeneutics of liberative difference. Drawing on the insights of West, Sandercock, Spivak and Beckford, new patterns of urban resistance and urban theology need to recognize the liberative potential of coalitions of the mar- ginalized, active subjects re-making history.

New patterns of urban resistance will emphasize the centrality of conscientization in the face of the new global he- gemony. Such urban resistance will be based on a critical multicul- turalism that does not minimize difference and will fashion a shared praxis for liberation that is based on the new hermeneutical prin- ciple of liberative difference. New patterns of urban resistance may begin as defensive actions but must become broader project-based initiatives that move beyond reactive resistance to articulate a proac- tive vision of holistic societal change if the new urban hegemony is to be seriously challenged.

Blaring from cars, simmering in shops, accompanying adverts, floating from open windows, pop music provides urban so- cieties with their beat-driven soundtrack. But does this soundtrack offer anything more than disposable three-minute bubble-gum pop? Tom Beaudoin suggests that it carries an existential significance in a post-religious age. It can offer new re- sources to cross-cultural urban theologies in the twenty-first century when woven together with the insights offered by the social theory of the academy in an integrated urban social theory.

Such an exploration can provide a rich new resource which can ground urban theology in contemporary urban youth culture. However, to date, only Beckford and Lynch have begun to explore this arena of urban reflection. The artists whose music I ex- plore have been selected because they exemplify the changing face of British society; they illustrate the key theoretical and theological themes explored in earlier chapters and the challenges embodied by liberation theology; they are representative of different contempo- rary musical genres and illustrate the characteristics of organic and political intellectuals.

Gilroy and Beckford argue that music has provided a counter-he- gemonic theoretical tool for alienated Black Britons to expose false consciousness and forge contextual insurgent discourses. If we are to get to grips with urban pop music it is important to see it in relation to the broader popular culture which gives it life. Lynch suggests that there are three ways in which popular culture has been understood: as the juxtaposition of so-called high culture, as a displacement of folk culture or as an expression of resistance to the hegemony of dominant culture.

First, popular culture is mass-produced culture intend- ed for consumption by the masses. First, strands of urban pop music can represent the insurgent voice of the people, arising from below, as the emergence of punk rock, Two- Tone, hip-hop and reggae attest. Second, as Stephen Duncombe suggests, urban pop music can provide the crucible within which counter-hegemonic visions of society are forged.

Before reflecting on a range of examples of urban music I want to say a brief word about the tools that can help us to engage criti- cally with the resources it offers. Any use of this approach in the analysis of urban pop music must, therefore, be cognizant of these cautionary questions. A Text-Focused Approach A textual analysis of cultural texts locates the process of meaning- making exclusively within the structure of the text.

In this chapter I will use two text-focused approaches: semiotics and discourse analy- sis. Within urban pop music a signifier could be the lyrics, the beat or the sound- effects and production of a track or a video. The second strand of text-based criticism that I use is discourse analysis which engages with the deconstruction of cultural texts and the social construction of knowledge. Within liberation theologies it has been seen as a mechanism for masking reality with a fabricated narrative which elicits false consciousness among the oppressed.

Ideological criticism has its roots in the Frankfurt School of political theory and argues the need to direct proactive questions at those who exert ideological control to unmask hegemonic false consciousness and stimulate a process of conscientization. From Thatcher to the Brixton Uprising — The years from — signalled a political and a musical shift of seismic proportions in British society as consensus was replaced by conflict. The music of The Jam and The Specials presents a graphic meditation on the economic recession that marked the first term of the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher.

It was during this traumatic period that radical expressions of urban liberation theology began to emerge reflecting the conflict- marked political culture of the time. Steel Pulse should be viewed as organic intellectuals.

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They sing what they know, participate in the struggles of those who are dispossessed and express personal soli- darity with Black urban youth through their articulation of a subver- sive marginalized Black narrative. The oppressed are invested with power which arises from an awakening comparable to the process of conscientization within liberation theology.

The liberative potential embodied by the concept of dread invites other faith communities to explore fresh metaphors of liberation which arise organically from contem- porary urban experience. This social semiotic system invites comparisons with the oracles of the Hebrew prophets. The challenge facing urban theology in the twenty-first century is to find the language which can signify this solidarity in a post-religious context.

The pattern of trans-local re- sistance expressed by Steel Pulse resembles the flexible template for urban resistance outlined in the previous chapter. I learned the importance of community. The track revolves around three interwoven discourses: the economic discourse of neo-liberal capitalism, the social discourse of life in de-industrializing Britain and an existential discourse express- ing the ontological crisis of urban modernity.

Weller sings of wailing police cars, thundering pneumatic drills ripping up the concrete of the city, of apparently meaningless urban lives and the violence of broken bottles and vandalized phone boxes. Weller exhibits an emotional bond with those whose experience he signifies.

It is reasonable to view him as a political intellectual in the sense described by West because he brings the suffering of marginalized urban communities into the light. Images of smashed glass, rumbling boots, the kick in the balls and ripped-up phone booths signify the physi- cality of the contested urban space that I explored in earlier chap- ters. A further discourse contrasts a sense of meaninglessness rain pour- ing down, the boredom of the middle of a working-week, a cold and damp flat and food left uneaten with a narrative of unlikely hope that rests upon the fantasy of holidays and the embrace of a lover.

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As I will show below, both Leech and Beckford broaden understandings of oppression within urban theol- ogy to focus thought on such existential alienation. The track does not present a solution, but invites audiences to adopt an active lis- tening stance, to ask their own questions of those with power and to express their own urban tales. First, the track reflects an early s economic discourse of de-industrialization and the marginalization of previously significant manufacturing centres. Second, the song en- gages with a discourse of working-class youth culture. In the waning of the revolution of punk rock a new musical form emerged which expressed the diasporan hybridity of postcolonial ur- ban Britain.

Two Tone married distinct but overlapping working-class cultural forms: punk and ska. While Two Tone cannot be seen as a Castellian urban social movement for a short period overlapping with Rock Against Racism it embodied a dynamic cross-cultural movement of resistance in the face of industrial decline on the cusp of the globalization processes explored in earlier chapters. The Specials express the interconnection between economic decline in Coventry and a contested and impoverished cultural life, which results from gov- ernment neglect.

Why must the youth fight against themselves? Government leaving the youth on the shelf. Do they represent the reflections of committed but ultimately unrepresentative political intellectuals or the cries of engaged organic intellectuals? The Specials bemoan the nihilism evident among urban youth which is borne of the hopelessness of de-indus- trialization: clubs closed down, bands refusing to play in Coventry and youth-on-youth violence borne of unemployment and the sense that the Thatcher government had abandoned them.

It is a song of its time; an ideologically driven bottom-up challenge to the state. The track validates the experience of marginalized peoples and implicitly warns that oppres- sive urban policy will ultimately lead to grass-roots resistance. Assessment The music of Steel Pulse, The Jam and The Specials reflects the con- flict which marked the first term of the Thatcher government in the years which preceded the flow of globalization explored in earlier chapters.

The music of Steel Pulse exemplifies the strengths and weaknesses of essentialist identity politics and illustrates the capacity of localized defensive identities to become intra-contextual project identities. The model of resistance identi- fied by Steel Pulse and The Specials echoes the central philosophical thrust of liberation theology in its clear expression of a bias to the oppressed and the validation of the experience of the oppressed as the crucible from which counter-hegemonic struggle can emerge.

The s witnessed the marked decline in participation in traditional party politics, the rise of identity politics and the emergence of intra-con- textual urban social movements. In tandem with these economic and political changes the Major years were marked by increasingly normative cultural difference and the re-emergence of far-right raci- ology at the ballot box. Difference arguably replaced class as the single most powerful descriptor of identity and social action. It is in this context that urban musicians such as Apache Indian and Asian Dub Foundation encapsulated the changes which characterized the s, offering new challenges and resources for those engaged in forging new urban theologies.

His fusion of the Punjabi folk music form bhangra, dancehall, hip-hop, ragga toasting and an- glicized Jamaican patois offers an example of the hybridity of popular culture during the Major years. His music is infused with a multifaceted cultural, religious, linguistic, musical and political discourse which signifies the fluidity of contemporary Britain, the dialogical charac- ter of urban popular culture, the fallacy of raciology and ongoing debates about Britishness. Apache Indian embodies the cultural hybridity to which Hall re- fers.

He paints a picture of a dialogical solidarity of difference which is not submerged beneath a new fused identity. The track can provide resources for those within urban theology such as Beckford, Reddie and Baker who are grappling with debates about cultural roots and diasporan routes in urban Britain. His music serves as a powerful reminder to those who would caricature the Asian-British community as either apolitical or fundamentalist that Asian Britain is dynamic and not static, a lesson that most urban the- ology has still to learn.

If they hurt one of you and you hurt one of them innocent are going to suffer like the young children. The track draws on four broad signifiers. A third pattern of signifiers roots the track in the fabric of one specific time and place. Such a model of urban resistance parallels the Christian empha- sis on the interconnectedness of the body of Christ and the ethical thrust of the umma within Islam.

A dub urban theology can draw upon this process to empower marginalized urban communi- ties to fashion new forms of liberative praxis which realize the latent potential of urban popular culture. ADF invite theorists, theologians, politi- cians and communities to dub difference on the basis of a dialogi- cal ethic of liberative difference.


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This multilayered discourse ex- presses the interconnected character of global urbanism, dialogical identities in trans-local societies, the aspirational nature of diasporan movement and the hegemonic force of raciology in a Britain ap- proaching a new millennium. Lyrically the track resembles an onto- logical journey from childhood in India to conscientization in urban Britain. This discourse of aspiration and alienation signposts two further interconnected socio-cultural themes: the nature of belonging in translocal Britain and the character of raciological exclusion.

Finally ADF allude to the dialectical rela- tionship between internalized oppression and existential liberation. Assessment Progressive urban pop music in the Major years reflected the trans- formation of urban Britain during the s.

The Dead Are Not Dead: The Future of Black Theology and Black Church Theologies

Both songs reflect the tension between the cultural hybridity to which Baker, Hall and Gilroy refer and the cultural politics of difference and critical multiculturalism upon which West and Sandercock re- flect. Both ADF and Apache Indian prefigure debates during the New Labour decade about the nature and limits of Britishness and increasingly dialogical modes of nationhood and identity. Apache Indian articulates the counter-hegemonic power of glocal social movements, which adopt a strategic essentialism as a means of solidarity in the face of racist violence within a context where the formal political process is seen to have failed the oppressed.

However, the New Labour landscape which gives rise to their chal- lenging music would hardly have been recognizable to Steel Pulse or The Jam. Over the past three decades, difference has become nor- mative but has also been the focus of resurgent raciological politics on urban streets and within the political establishment. The binary definitions of identity which characterized the music of Steel Pulse have increasingly been superseded by the dialogical multilayered identities to which Beckford, Gilroy, Sandercock and Baker point. In the globalized and diasporan world of the twenty-first century ques- tions of belonging and Britishness have become contested themes, shaping the lives of millions of people.

In the field of urban theology the past ten years have seen the emergence of cross-cultural Black theology and patterns of urban theology which engage with popular culture and economic and cultural globalization. The music of Ms Dynamite is also shaped by UK garage. The term garage originated in the s New York house music scene. Although they do not fit the neat template described by Castells, hip-hop and UK garage can usefully be seen as fluid urban social movements that find their origins on the housing estates of diasporan urban Britain. As Gilroy has shown, Black British urban music rep- resents a specific mode of self-affirmation, resistance and codified subversion in an alienating society.

Cross-cultural urban theologies need to follow the lead of Beckford and Reddie and engage with urban music as a central source of truth-telling in a post-religious urban world if they are to enter into meaningful dialogue with con- temporary urban youth cultures. Her debut album A Little Deeper in did not provide the pop industry with lightweight love songs. The track connects the individual experience of alienation with edu- cational, communal, criminal and economic structures of oppression. A further grouping of signifiers points to the dialectical relation- ship between oppression and liberation.

The existential liberation made possible through love is expressed as something the woman cannot contemplate and is juxtaposed with a deep-seated sense of delusion and self-hatred. Ms Dynamite sings too of the oppression of the oppressive drug-dealing father who has concluded that this is the only way to forge a path out of poverty for his own family. The track goes on to allude to potential psycho-social liberation in the midst of oppression. Even in the face of wasted potential, libera- tion is possible.

The track essays the ripple ef- fects of marginalization and re-configured patterns of inequality and expresses the self-destructive consequences of nihilistic responses to urban alienation. Ultimately, however, it validates the experience of the oppressed as a legitimate source of knowing. Their music invites a critical exploration of White identity in twenty-first-century Britain, a challenge that has yet to penetrate most urban theology, with the partial exception of Beckford.

Both artists should be placed within the context of British hip- hop. In the forefront of the grime move- ment have been two Londoners, The Streets, whom Gilroy suggests symbolizes an inclusive model of Britishness,64 and Dizzee Rascal. The music of Skinnyman addresses the listener in direct and dis- turbing terms. Instead the music is slick, classic sounding hip-hop. These discourses echo the hermeneutics of suspicion which characterizes liberation theology. Skinnyman implicitly uses this radical suspicion to respond to the impact of New Labour urban regeneration programmes and initiatives to combat social exclusion and anti-social behaviour.

A discourse of urban alienation within the track rests on a rich sensory semiotic system that signifies the multifaceted character of urban oppression and the ontological crises it feeds. This discourse is rooted in personal experience. The focus of much urban theology has been trained on inner-city Britain. The witness of Skinnyman can il- luminate a neglected and, arguably more alienated, outer-city White working class context for liberative theological reflection.

The fight to survive amidst the post-industrial debris of estate life is shown to feed multifaceted patterns of social exclusion, which, in turn, stimulate drug dealing, prostitution and homelessness. Skinnyman identifies the desperation to escape from the physical setting and the internalized ontological oppression it breeds.

The experience Skinnyman raps about is not only intense; it is hidden from view on the estates that ring many British cities.

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This is not a preferential option for the oppressed. It is the oppressed articulating their own story through the intra-contextual vehicle of popular culture. The insights offered do not correspond to settled patterns of urban theology. They challenge the discipline to engage honestly with the messy, post-religious struggles and hopes of a gen- eration for whom organized religion is alien and irrelevant.

In the face of such alienation Skinnyman identifies a second dis- course of urban violence illuminating themes I explored in Chapter 1. In light of this signification of hopelessness Skinnyman hints at a third discourse which revolves around his awareness of structural inequality. Implicitly appealing to insights which can be drawn from ideological criticism, Skinnyman raps about the inter-subjective and intra-contextual character of social exclusion and apparently hope- less dream of escape by those who are left behind to rot.

Lady Sovereign uses comedy to signify the dilution of class consciousness in a de-industrialized information age but also critiques the reductionist depiction of the White work- ing class as inherently alienated and violent. Lady Sovereign exposes an England of the imagination. Assessment Artists such as Ms Dynamite, Skinnyman and Lady Sovereign should be taken seriously as emergent artisans of a new pattern of urban reflection.

Ms Dynamite hints at a post-religious expression of the hermeneutical privilege of the oppressed. The New Labour decade has seen the emergence of increasingly fluid urban theologies, which focus their gaze on the economic and cultural processes of globalization, popular culture, post-religious spiritualities, diaspora and fluid urban identities.

Contemporary mu- sic has music has the potential to resource new cross-cultural urban theologies which strive to engage coherently with a post-religious urban population. I have sug- gested that incarnational urban theologies must engage in critical but empathetic dialogue with popular culture if they are to claim to be authentic expressions of contextual theology. Such an approach can unlock previously untapped resources for the forging of new models of urban theory and urban theologies of liberation and dif- ference in the contested post-religious world described in earlier chapters.

Therefore it is im- portant not to overplay the analytical potential of urban pop music in a misguided attempt to demonstrate the coolness of new urban theologies. Aware of these key limitations I still want to suggest that the or- ganic, open-ended and passionate evocation of the depths of the urban experience found within urban pop music offers urban theol- ogy a new chance to engage with the shape-shifting of twenty-first- century urbanism. The artists explored above represent a new cadre of political and organic intellectuals.

I will ask if these models express the core values of liberation theology but I will also consider whether they engage in the kind of critical dialogue that I have mod- elled in previous chapters. It is to these models of urban theology that I now turn. In the chapters that follow I will explore five current mod- els of British urban theological reflection and introduce the work of key figures who exemplify these differing approaches to contextual theological reflection in the city. In the twenty-first century the city represents a normative con- text for theological reflection.

It is in the city that the specific but interlinked histories that feed contemporary contextual theologies are shaped and challenged, providing a unifying backdrop for the models of theological reflection that I explore. I recognize that each one of the models arises from its own history and its own journey.

This distinctness is fully recognized but it is also important to see these models of theological reflection as diverse responses to the challenges embodied by urban life. In a translocal urban world, discourses of meaning are intra-contextual and inter-personal. The fluidity of the contem- porary city demands a new and holistic pattern of cross-cultural ur- ban theology that escapes the confinement of enclosed camps and the attendant camp mentality that has inhibited urban theological reflection in Britain over the last forty years.

Only then can liberative urban theologies speak from and to the totality of the city. Only then can diverse liberative struggles, each reflecting the divine bias to the oppressed, unify the people of the city in a search for integrated and mutual liberation. The critical survey that follows might appear to suggest that dif- fering models of urban theological reflection are distinct and fully formed. This is far from the truth. In reality models overlap and change with time.

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There are, of course, other theologies that arise from the fabric of urban life. I will reflect on just five models that point towards the greater variety of urban theological reflection. Andrew Bradstock and Christopher Rowland suggest that this stream of witness includes, but is not confined to, the praxis of early Anabaptists and the Levellers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the struggle of the Tolpuddle Martyrs to form an agricultural trades union in , the witness of the Christian Socialist movement in the East End of London during the nine- teenth century and the worker priest movement that emerged in the s.

During the early s, urban liberation theology first began to find its way into print in Britain following the establishment of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield in A second period of development emerged from the debris of the economic recession in Britain that marked the first term of the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher, particularly from onwards. It was during the s that urban liberation theology articulated its defin- ing motifs: a bias to the oppressed, an option for the oppressed and ecclesiologies marked by solidarity with inner-city communities.

A third, and still unfolding, phase of development dates from the late s in re- sponse to the election of the centre-Left New Labour government in Britain in , normative cultural and religious diversity and the new urban geography that began to form in the wake of globaliza- tion. Figures such as Vincent have struggled to respond to these new realities, as I will show below.

It is a contextual theology of and for the excluded. Consequently, ur- ban liberation theology utilizes an epistemology which validates the experience of the oppressed as the point of theological departure and the stimulus for transformative urban discipleship. It largely remains wedded to a modern- ist frame of reference which has inhibited its ability to grapple with dynamic cultural and religious diversity and the transformed urban landscape of postmodernity. Can urban liberation theology engage in-depth with normative diversity, dynamic diaspora and glo- balization?

Furthermore, is it capable of engaging in critical dialogue with the insights offered by social theory and the reflections found within conscientized urban pop music? These crucial questions form the backdrop for the following illustration of the model as developed by its leading practitioners, Vincent and Leech.

Exploring the Urban Liberation Theology of John Vincent Since the beginning of the s John Vincent9 has been a foun- dational figure in the development of British urban liberation the- ology.



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