ANYONE in Government who discourages open expressions of faith must be challenged, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, said this week.
She was addressing more than 500 church and charity leaders, fundraisers, and philanthropists at a conference at Central Hall Westminster, in London, on Tuesday. The now annual event — “Raising Funds for Christian Charities and Churches” — was organised by the charity Stewardship in partnership with the Church of England, and other Christian organisations.
“Some of you here feel that successive governments and local authorities have wanted to applaud all the good things that you do as Christians, but discourage you from speaking openly about the faith that motivates you,” Ms Crouch said in her keynote speech.
“I assure you that that is not the intention, and I encourage you to challenge anyone in government who makes you feel you need to suppress your faith.”
She called on the Government to ensure that Christian organisations were offered equal access to contracts and grants, without discrimination. She then invited those attending to express any difficulties that they had faced in relationships with national or local government, or official agencies, on the grounds of faith.
“Some faith organisations feel they miss out on commissioning opportunities. I want to make it clear today that any organisation, religious or otherwise, is eligible to apply, and be considered for Government funding,” she said.
“Churches have exceptional local networks that help them understand people’s needs and come up with effective solutions. I would urge you to emphasise this unique ability when engaging with commissioners.”
The conference was hosted by the chair of Stewardship’s conference programme, the Revd David Senior, who is assistant curate at St Paul’s, Howell Hill, near Epsom. “Our aim was to help facilitate a step-change in funding by bringing together Church and charity leaders, Christian funders and experts in fundraising for Christian causes,” he said on Friday. “We are delighted with the response; so [we] will run this conference annually.”
Stewardship distributed about £60 million in charitable grants to churches, Christian charities, and other organisations last year. Its conference included presentations from Christian funding bodies and philanthropists on community action and effective fundraising.
Dr Krish Kandiah, the founding director of the children’s charity Home for Good, spoke on how to communicate vision and inspire people to give more. Fundraising case studies were also presented by Tearfund, Coventry Cathedral, Embrace the Middle East, and Downton Baptist Church in Wiltshire.
Among the other Christian organisations represented at the conference were the Laing Family Trusts, Joseph Rank Trust, Allchurches Trust, Henry Smith Charity, Cinnamon Network, Childs Charitable Trust, Andrews Charitable Trust, and Smith Bradbeer Trust.