The Fellowship of Life
Double evangelism is goal for animal welfare worker
by Barry Weetman
From the Methodist Recorder dated December 25th, 1986:
A 'general lack of concern' by Christians for the cause of animal welfare does Christ a great disservice and has earned a bad name for the Church, according to the national coordinator of Animal Christian Concern, whose patrons include Lord Soper.
'A lot of younger animal welfare people are shifting more into Buddhism, Hinduism, other Eastern religions and even some occult sects because they genuinely believe there is nothing for them in Christianity,' said Mrs. May Tripp at her home in Horsforth, Leeds, where she maintains communications with more than 600 members. Some of them are as far away from Yorkshire as Germany, Canada and Japan.
As co-ordinator of ACC, pronounced 'Assisi' in honour of St. Francis, Mrs. Tripp sees herself involved in what she describes as two-way evangelism.
She said of her twin aspirations: 'Part of the reason I began ACC was because I wanted to evangelize Christ among secular animal welfare groups as much as I want to evangelize animal welfare among Christians.'
Mrs. Tripp first came up against criticisms of apathy among Christians when 15 years ago she began voluntary work with secular animal welfare societies. When she attended the various fundraising events she was often faced with the observation: 'Goodness me, it is strange to see a Christian here.'
While she believes people shy away from animal welfare concerns because they demand radical changes in lifestyle, necessitating care in selecting products at the supermarket for instance, Mrs. Tripp adopts what may be seen as an extremely idealistic approach to the issues. But then she expects the cruelties to be stopped.
ACC was born out of concern at humanity's cruel treatment and exploitation of animals, and awareness of the need for a corporate Christian animal welfare voice. The few who gathered together in Horsforth little realized their number would be swelled by hundreds and within a year they would be among 700 people taking part in an ACC service at York Minster, where the preacher was the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev John Austin Baker.
Today she says there is powerful support from twelve Anglican bishops.
The organization has three main aims. The first is to express the view inside and outside the Church that cruelty of any kind is incompatible with Jesus Christ's teachings of love, that love is indivisible, and cruelty towards any sentient creature is a breach of love.
As an ecumenical group it offers prayer support, or active support, to peaceful animal welfare ventures.
The third commitment is to meet annually for a Christian service.
Achievements in the first year included the service at York Minster, raising the ACC profile, promoting change and winning support from a lot of the Church hierarchy. A great number of Christians now have the solidarity of belonging to ACC.
Mrs. Tripp said: 'People are writing to me saying they can now start praying again because of ACC. They had begun to despair of the Church. Some could no longer bear to go through Church doors because they were so angry at the lack of concern for animal welfare. If we have achieved little else, we have restored many people to the Church.'
ACC does not compete for membership with existing Christian groups, but rather aims to work with them and with peaceful secular groups. ACC itself does not claim to be a vegetarian society nor an anti-vivisectionist society, although some members uphold such ideals. All members hope and strive for a more responsible stewardship of God's animal creation.
May Tripp and her husband are members of St Margaret's parish church, Horsforth, and they have a son working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with Youth for Christ after being at Cliff College. Mrs. Tripp said she considers herself a 'born again Christian,' but is particularly critical of evangelicals who 'profess to broadcast the power of the Holy Spirit in the world and yet are so wrapped up in their own spirituality they neglect the welfare of Creation.'
She said: 'Everything God has said indicates care and concern for His other creatures.'
Intensive farming units are regarded by Mrs. Tripp as 'factories not farms.' She questions what she regards as the 'double-think' within politics, farming and the Church which seeks to justify modern methods because of intense economic pressures.
When presented with the constraints of traditional farming methods, she said it was no excuse for inventing modern horrors. She said: "We are a part of a fallen Creation, but that does not give us the excuse to exploit our own worst potential. We must never forget humanity has evil potential as well as potential for good; otherwise we will reap sorry results.'
Animal experimentation and blood sports are other categories of cruelty tackled by ACC.
Mrs. Tripp said she was not motivated by a sentimental love for animals. She sought justice for them through the love of Jesus Christ.
She said: "It was not a concern of Jesus that we should only love nice people, cuddly animals and the more acceptable parts of Creation. His example was to love the unlovable.'
Mrs. Tripp regrets many Christians do not want to know about processes of animal experimentation and turn away from them.
She said: 'Some absolutely horrific experiments are taking place. People tend to shudder and hide away from the truth of them. They just do not seem to want to know what is happening to animals in laboratories. One can only wonder what effects, what desensitizing processes, there are on those who are doing these experiments. It surely must induce an attitude of mind contrary to Christ's teachings, whether they are Christian or not.'
Among the ACC members are scientists, doctors and farmers. At least one member has previously been involved in animal experimentation.
Mrs. Tripp is opposed to the direct actions of the more militant groups of animal welfare enthusiasts who attack premises and persons.
She said: "I believe they are very wrong and one of the reasons we started this group was because animal welfare had become so stigmatised and lost some of its public support. It is wrong such groups should release animals in the way they do. When their militancy reaches the level of sending letter bombs it becomes a matter of denying their own principles. You cannot on the one hand say you concerned about care for animals when you are quite prepared to blow up human beings.
'I believe such actions are wrong, but having said that I do understand why these people feel driven to do these things. When you have seen some of the things I have seen you can begin to understand why these people feel that angry.'
NB. Animal Christian Concern was disbanded in 2004 upon the retirement of May Tripp.
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