Anglican Archbishop urges Government to recognise community work of faith groups

 The Archbishop of York has called upon the Government to give fuller recognition to the work carried out by faith groups in the delivery of social services in England.

Speaking at Westminster Central Hall event organised by Youth for Christ, Dr Sentamu said Christian organisations were making a vital contribution in local communities and was often at the forefront of the provision of community services.

"We must resist any trend in national or local Government where the decision as to whether a solution works is not based on results but upon the intolerance that sees a project motivated by faith as being tainted and unsuitable for receipt of funding. Rather there should be a recognition of the valuable work being carried out by groups motivated to serve the common good by a belief in dignity of all as God's creatures in which his divine spark resides."

Dr. Sentamu said that many Christian groups "are working at the coalface of pastoral care and social practice motivated by nothing more than their love of God and the love for their neighbour. The belief of the unique worth of every individual, the belief in the sanctity of every life, the belief that each is loved and each is valued. These are the drivers and motivators which produce results."

The Archbishop also warned of "a chill wind that blows around grant makers and managers of funds at the mention of faith groups as those capable of delivering social change and transformation. It is a chill wind that has been blowing through the corridors of the so called 'faith schools' in recent weeks and it is an chill wind that brings no good to the nay sayers nor to those schools which are dedicated not to creedal indoctrination as their critics would have it, but rather to serving their local communities, serving children of all faiths and none in some of the most deprived areas our country as well as in some of the more well heeled. The concept of faith schools is a recent invention; religious schools is a better term"

"Of course there will be those who will say the Church has no role to play in service delivery and that faith has no part to play in the solution. But the facts tell a different story".

"Whether it be the 22,000 religious charities working in England and Wales today, the 540 organisations who worked alongside each other in the Make Poverty History campaign and who continue to campaign on Millennium Development goals or even just those members of the Church of England who contribute over 23 million hours of voluntary service each year."

Quoting from a report into the work of faith groups in the West Midlands, Dr. Sentamu said: "Far from fitting into the stereotype of proselytising organisations which seek to bang each other over the head with their holy books, the report found that people of faith were involved not to score points or claim spiritual scalps, but simply to help those in need."

"The Church has a role to play because it is based in the community. It does not drive in to places of strife in the morning and leave before the lights go down. The Church remains as part of the community and where there is hurt, the Church shares that hurt, is part of it, and is hence uniquely placed to be part of the solution."

"As the chief executive of Tearfund, Matthew Frost, recently commented: "The local church is uniquely placed to make some of the greatest impacts on the lives of the poor. It is right in the heart of their communities and knows those most in need."

In his speech Dr. Sentamu spoke of the lives which have been transformed by the work of organisations such as Youth For Christ and the work of the organisation with young people in prison and in the community.

Source: CoE Comms

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