William Wilberforce was a British parliamentarian and social activist who was chief among abolitionist in the 1700’s and worked hard to end the Slave Trade. Yesterday, July 29th, was the day of his commemoration in the church’s calendar. Wilberforce was a great Anglican who stood proudly in support of what we today would call Justice Ministry. He had a strong theology of liberation and understood well the need for respect and dignity for all persons. Hear his words;
“Is it not the great end of religion, and, in particular, the glory of Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the violence, to control the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends; and to render us active and useful in the discharge of the relative social and civil duties?” [Remember that this was mid 1700’s – I believe that Wilberforce would have certainly today used language inclusive of men and women of all orientations]
We can today, for certain, take his advice understanding that the fabric of our baptisms should be woven with threads of compassion, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance and respect. It is good that we should have opportunity to hold up the lives of the saints who have walked before us who remind us of who we should be. He believed it to be his mission in life to make people better. “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” Let us take a moment today and seek to find a way that we might better live the principles that Wilberforce reflected to us.