Christian Socialist Movement - what's in a name?

My letter in the Church Times

Bob Holman need not be so worried that the Christian Socialist Movement is considering changing its name (Comment, 18 January 2013).  I agree with him that labels do matter.  That is precisely why we have asked our members what they think about the name.  As a fellow Christian Socialist, I too would not countenance any departure from our values.  Indeed, we are proposing to affirm our commitment to Christian Socialism more explicitly than ever before.

The Christian Socialist Movement (CSM), whatever its members decide it should be called in future, will always be committed to equality and egalitarianism.  Bob Holman notes that CSM was co-founded by the Revd Donald Soper in 1960 (though Christian Socialism dates back to 1848 at least).  The constitution dating from Soper’s time did not actually mention equality, though of course it was implicit.  It was only following a review of our statement of values, which I led ten years ago, that members inserted into our constitution the principle that each person is of equal worth.

CSM contains many members fired up by an active commitment to seeing this principle become reality.  Like Christian Socialists of old, some are deliberately living as Christian witnesses in unfashionable areas. Yet we also know that when we talk to like-minded people in churches we have to spend much time explaining what the words in our name mean, rather than talking about what we believe.  Moreover, we find that people who would be natural members – that is, Christians who agree with our values and who often vote Labour – are turned away by the name.  Most people regard ‘socialism’ as a term that is outdated and irrelevant; it evokes the past, not the future.  Perhaps we should try to change how the term is perceived.  Personally, I would rather change the name and focus resources on campaigning for equality and social justice.  For example, CSM has campaigned in recent years for banking reform and a relationship-based economy, as outlined on our website (www.thecsm.org.uk).

Our AGM in March will discuss our membership consultation and we will ballot members on any change.  It is highly likely we will retain the word Christian as part of our name and make an explicit commitment to Christian Socialism.  I am certain we will continue to be a vigorous and growing voice in politics, campaigning for a world that better reflects the values of the Kingdom of God.


Yours etc


Stephen Beer
Political Communications Officer, Christian Socialist Movement

This letter was first published (edited version) in the Church Times on 25 January 2013.

Church Times, 25 January 2013, 25/01/2013

 
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