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Church’s social action praised

06 December 2013

THE contribution of the Church of England to social action was celebrated in the House of Lords on Thursday of last week; but bishops were warned about the risks of the Church of England's developing too cosy a relationship with the State.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, tabled a debate on a report published by the think tank ResPublica in July, Holistic Missions: Social action and the Church of England (News, 12 July). The report called for a "new settlement" between the Government and the Church, arguing that the latter could become "a critical platform for deep social transformation".

Bishop Stevens spoke of congregations' contribution to social action. He said that the Church's "great strength is in the creation of local networks" that "reduce the demands for many aspects of state welfare". He called for "a readiness to break up monopolistic power that leaves the churches and the voluntary sector sometimes out of the equation".

In her maiden speech, Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, the mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, said: "Faith-based organisations are an important resource for many communities, providing volunteers, buildings, and a stable network for those in need."

Lord Phillips of Sudbury, a Liberal Democrat, argued that the Church was "better off being less connected with the State than more. . . I see the Church of England - indeed, all Churches - not as great, hub institutions . . . but as seedbeds of individual civic activism - hotbeds even."

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