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Report for 2017

Manna Gum exists to promote a wholistic vision of the gospel that pays special attention to our material lives. The underpinning conviction of this work is that the renewal of Christian faith and communities is dependent on beginning to disentangle ourselves from the destructive mode of living that has come to be the norm of affluent consumer societies. This is not only what economic justice and care for the earth demand, it is also imperative for the health of our families, bodies and souls.

Manna Gum is essentially a teaching ministry with three central elements:

  1. A focus on reclaiming a holistic vision of the gospel that continually seeks to integrate our spiritual and material lives, and one that is good news for ourselves and the world, spiritually, socially, economically and ecologically. This requires a combined focus on renewed engagement with the Bible, and a renewed examination of contemporary life and structures from a biblical perspective.
  2. The insistence of combining the theoretical with the practical, whether it be in theology, economics or understanding our place in history. Manna Gum’s appraoch is to always try to comprehend the big picture while asking what the great challenges of life and history demand of us, here and now.
  3. Pursuing this ministry through the vehicles of writing, hands-on learning events, and ad hoc speaking.

Manna Gum is thoroughly ecumenical and committed to working with any and all Christians who show interest. Therefore, Manna Gum is also entirely independent: it receives no funding or grants from any denomination, organisation or institution. Manna Gum’s financial existence is entirely dependent on the generosity of individual donors and supporters. At the present moment Manna Gum’s income does not meet its financial needs (see financial report over the page), so please give some consideration to our annual appeal.

A Brief Report on our work for 2017

Manna Matters Newsletter

This is Manna Gum’s flagship for communicating its message and comes out three times a year. In 2017 Manna Matters has continued a multi-part series on ‘Christianity versus capitalism’. So far this has involved articles clarifying the meaning, history and nature and capitalism; re-examining the relationship of the Protestant Reformation to the rise of capitalism; and two articles interrogating the claim that capitalism is the most effective way to lift people out of poverty. In 2018 the final two articles of this long series will seek to draw all these threads together to present a biblical comprehension of capitalism and a Christian approach to living within the midst of capitalism. Other articles in Manna Matters over 2017 ranged from a description of cooperative food program in Geelong for low-income people, an introduction to the idea of a ‘sharing economy’ through the example of the Brisbane Tool Library, and a critical examination of the idea of ‘green growth’.

A Different Way Exposure Week

In November we ran our A Different Way exposure week – the sixth time we have done it, but the first time in Long Gully (Bendigo) hosted by the Seeds Community here. This week allows a depth of exploring the gospel’s implications for the way we live that is all too rare. It was a rewarding time and the participants threw themselves into the week with great spirit. As well as lots of Bible studies and challenging conversations, we shovelled poo, dived into dumpsters and butchered a kangaroo. A big thanks to the Seeds Community for their generous hospitality.

Speaking and teaching

A highlight of 2017 was Jonathan’s role as keynote speaker at the TEAR NSW Conference in July. The conference took its name and theme from Jonathan’s 2016 book, Coming Back to Earth. Other speaking in 2017 included:

  • A workshop at the Surrender Conference in March on caring for creation, run jointly with Claire Dawson.
  • A Manna Gum discusion evening at the Church of All Nations in April on the themes of Coming Back to Earth, involving Ian Barns, Cath James and Deb Storie.
  • Two lectures in May to the NEXT Course at Whitley College on ‘The Manna Economy’ and ‘Torah and the Promised Land’.
  • A paper presented to the University of Divinity Research Seminar in June: ‘Towards a Theological Reading of Historical Capitalism’.
  • A paper presented to the Australasian Association of Mission Studies Conference in July: ‘Re-imagining Home Economics: The missiological imperative of embodied economic witness in twenty-first century Australia’ (read by Deb Storie).
  • A Manna Gum discussion evening in October on ‘The New Economy Movement in Australia: Where is the Church?’, with Ian Barns and Lauren Ash.
  • A lecture in October to Whitley College’s ‘Mission in the New Testament’ subject: ‘Mission in a Post-Christian Consumer Culture’.

Other writing

In the first half of the year, the focus of writing was the ongoing work of Jonathan’s Ph.D thesis: ‘Christianity and the Moral Narrative of Capitalism’. Work on the thesis was suspended in the second half of the year to allow Jonathan to complete his next book, Coming Home: Towards a Christian Approach to Home Economy. The manuscript is now finished and we are hoping the book should become available sometime in 2018. Other writing included:

  • Article for The Gippsland Anglican: ‘Faith & Work’.
  • Article for the New Urban World Journal: ‘The Cities we Need: Shalom and cohesive territorial development’.
  • A book chapter for the Australian Association of Mission Studies book, Re-Imagining Home: ‘Re-imagining Home Economics: The missiological imperative of embodied economic witness in twenty-first century Australia’
  • A Bible Study for Tear Australia’s Renewed Way of Living group study resource: ‘Let’s talk about money’.

Financial Report

Between 2016 and 2017 Manna Gum’s monthly support base declined by around $2000 and ad hoc donations by around $10,000. As you can see, this creates a shortfall that we could not sustain for another year. If you have found some merit in Manna Gum’s work, please give some consideration to our annual appeal.

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