CHURCHES must not be
"sticking plaster" for an "ailing" Big Society, but should act in
partnership with Government to deliver social projects, a new
Holistic Mission: Social action and the Church of
England, published by the think tank ResPublica, was
launched at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday. It says that, while the
Church "will always be there to fill the welfare gap during hard
times", it is "profoundly damaging" when the Government takes the
work of the Church's "unpaid volunteers" for granted.
The report calls for a
"new settlement" between the Government and the Church. Its
recommendations include: the Cabinet Office's setting up a new
"unit or taskforce" to look at "how Government can better work with
the Church and church-based social venture"; the Archbishops'
Council and the Church Commissioners' establishing a national
"Social Commission", tasked with "setting-out a vision for the
future of the Church's social action and role in delivering public
services"; and the Mission and Public Affairs Council's setting up
a Social Action Unit, which would "encourage each diocese to set up
designated Social Action Teams".
The report states: "Local
churches are distinctive in their geographic spread across the
country, their commitment to social service and their ability to
catalyse a local network of volunteers. Churches therefore provide
a critical platform for deep social transformation and could
generate even greater social impact with bolder vision, resourcing
A survey of about 600
Church of England churchgoers, carried out by ResPublica, found
that 90 per cent volunteered "informally"; 88 per cent said that
they were happy to help those with "different beliefs or
The director of
ResPublica, Dr Phillip Blond, said: "The Government's plans for
decentralisation, localism, and community empowerment will never .
. . be that effective without the support of the Church."
The research director of
Theos, Nick Spencer, has written a blog about the report.