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Opinion >

My faith in the Church of England

David Cameron expresses his pride in its openness, beauty, social action, and pastoral care

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Fellow Christians: David Cameron with church leaders and campaigners at last week's Downing Street reception

Credit: crown copyright

Fellow Christians: David Cameron with church leaders and campaigners at last week's Downing Street reception

LAST week I held my fourth annual Easter reception in Downing Street. Not for the first time, my comments about my faith and the importance of Christianity in our country were widely reported.

Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn't talk about these things. I completely disagree. I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people's lives.

First, being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgement on those with no faith at all. Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too.

Crucially, the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love are shared by people of every faith and none - and we should be confident in standing up to defend them.

People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code. Of course, faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.

Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code - and there are Christians who don't. But for people who do have a faith, that faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction - and, whether inspired by faith or not, that direction or moral code matters.


SECOND, as Christians we know how powerful faith can be in the toughest of times. I have known this in my own life. From giving great counsel to being the driving force behind some of the most inspiring social-action projects in our country, our faith-based organisations play a fundamental role in our society. So, in being confident about our Christianity, we should also be ambitious in supporting faith-based organisations to do even more.

That is why we are not just investing £20 million in repairing our great cathedrals, but also giving £8 million to the Near Neighbours programme, which brings faith communities together in supporting local projects. I welcome the efforts of all those who help to feed, clothe, and house the poorest in our society. For generations, much of this work has been done by Christians, and I am proud to support the continuation of this great philanthropic heritage in our society today.


THIRD, greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a stronger belief that we can get out there and actually change people's lives, and improve both the spiritual, physical, and moral state of our country, and even the world.

I am a member of the Church of England, and, I suspect, a rather classic one: not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith.

But that doesn't mean the Church of England doesn't matter to me or people like me: it really does. I like its openness, I deeply respect its national role, and I appreciate its liturgy, and the architecture and cultural heritage of its churches. My parents spent countless hours helping to support and maintain the village church that I grew up next to, and my Oxfordshire constituency has churches - including some medieval masterpieces - that take your breath away with their beauty, simplicity, and serenity. They are a vital part of Britain's living history.

I have felt at first hand the healing power of the Church's pastoral care, and my children benefit from the work of a superb team in an excellent Church of England school.

Some fault the Church of England for perceived woolliness when it comes to belief. I am not one for doctrinal purity, and I don't believe it is essential for evangelism about the Church's role in our society or its importance. It is important - and, as I have said, I would like it to do more, not less, in terms of action to improve our society and the education of our children.

THE fact that, at a time of great economic difficulty, the UK has met the 0.7 per-cent target of Gross National Income on aid should be a source of national pride. Other countries have dropped that target, or failed to meet it. But every few seconds a child is being vaccinated against a disease because of the decision we have made in this country to keep our promises to the poorest people in the world.

The same is true of our Bill to outlaw the despicable practice of modern slavery. It is happening because we are actively working to bring all the legislation together, to toughen the penalties, and drive out this scourge that is still all too present in our world.

Some issues such as welfare are more controversial. I sometimes feel not enough is made of our efforts to tackle poverty. Of course, we have been through some tough economic times in turning our country around over the past few years. But it is through the dignity of work, the reforms to welfare that make work pay, and our efforts to deliver the best schools and skills for young people, that our long-term economic plan can best help people to a more secure future. And that is why today there are 1.6 million new private-sector jobs, unemployment is at its lowest level in half a decade, and there are more than 500,000 fewer people on out-of-work benefits.

So, I hope that, even when people disagree with specific policies, they can share in the belief of trying to lift people up rather than count people out. I welcome the debate with church leaders and faith communities about some of these issues, because in the end I think we all believe in many of the same principles. Whether it is the support people want to give their families, or the determination not to write anyone off, I believe these values and ideals are really important to all of us.

As politicians, I hope we can draw on these values to infuse politics with a greater sense of evangelism about some of the things we are trying to change. We see our churches as vital partners. If we pull together, we can change the world and make it a better place. That to me is what a lot of the Christian message is about - and it is a confidence in our Christianity that we can all reflect on this Easter.

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