Major initiative to explore how Churches can collaborate more on social justice work

A year-long ecumenical initiative backed by leading figures from the Catholic, Anglican and Free churches has been launched, to explore how faiths can work better together for social justice amidst unprecedented economic crisis and inequality.

The Anglican Bishop of Wakefield, the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and the President Designate of the Methodist Conference are among leading figures backing the Together for the Common Good initiative designed to reinvigorate the social mission of faith communities in the UK.

The Together for the Common Good initiative will draw on the Anglican, Catholic and Free Church traditions of social justice to highlight effective strategies for faith-led social collaboration. The inquiry will take inspiration both from current examples of joint working and from the legacy of bishops David Sheppard and Derek Worlock. During the 1980s they, with Free Church leaders, acted as advocates for communities in Liverpool and as ‘honest brokers’ between those communities and government.

Together for the Common Good will:

- Deliver a landmark conference that will draw together church leaders, practitioners, policy makers and faith-based agencies involved in social action from across the country;

- Closely examine the role played by faith groups in working for social justice by commissioning and presenting research on past and present collaborations;

- Show how faith groups can work better together, side by side with communities, to engage with some of the biggest social issues facing us today.

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, said: “Together for the Common Good is an urgently needed prompt for people across the Christian faiths to remember the broader mission of the church and unite to support communities suffering in the face of unprecedented economic crisis and inequality.

“In a world in economic crisis, in an increasingly unequal society, what have the Christian churches got to offer?

“We have both a practical and spiritual role to play: it is about standing side by side with people, understanding and articulating their needs and speaking truth to power. Like Sheppard and Worlock in Liverpool, we see the social imperative as much bigger than the concerns of our individual faiths.”

As the central event in the Together for the Common Good inquiry, a major national conference is taking place in Liverpool in September 2013. Aiming to explore how faith groups can work better together for social justice, the conference will bring together up to 200 leading figures drawn from two distinct groups – those with first hand working experience of the Sheppard Worlock partnership and those who are involved in faith-based social justice activity today. Together they will examine past and present-day case studies and exchange examples of good practice from their diverse experiences.

The Together for the Common Good inquiry’s research process, launched this week, runs to the end of the year. The Together for the Common Good research team is appealing for contributions and case studies. A spokesperson said “Thousands of people from the Christian traditions and other faiths are working up and down the country to make life better for their communities - we want to hear from them.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley commented: “I have been following the development of the Together for the Common Good Project with great interest. It provides a timely reminder as to what can be achieved when people of faith work together for social justice. I am looking forward in particular to the Conference as a time to be with fellow Christians and others who are working creatively for the common good. I hope we can encourage one another, learn from the long experience of good ecumenical relations in Liverpool, and discern new ways of working together in the future.”

Revd Ruth Gee, President Designate of the Methodist Conference said: “This is a great opportunity to discern a way forward for this time, to address the challenges facing our communities today”.

Bishop Stephen Platten said: “People of faith are motivated by a shared concern: the dignity of the human person. This is at the heart of the gospel and the driver behind Together for the Common Good. What is the Christian church if it is not a radical force for good in our society?”

Together for the Common Good is guided by a Steering Group consisting of: Tim Livesey (RC), Revd Dr Peter McGrail (RC), Rt Revd Stephen Platten (C of E, Chair), Professor Hilary Russell (C of E), Revd Professor Nicholas Sagovsky (C of E), Jenny Sinclair (née Sheppard, RC, Secretary).

Names of individuals so far confirmed to take a leading role at the conference (correct at time of going to press): Rt Hon John Battle KCSG, Phillip Blond, Claire Dove MBE DL, Bernadette Farrell, Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Dr Eliza Filby, John Flamson DL, Revd Ruth Gee, Rt Revd David Hamid, Rt Revd Dr Rupert Hoare, Pat Jones CBE, Clifford Longley, The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Revd Dr Peter McGrail, Roger Phillips, Professor Gerald Pillay DL, Rt Revd Stephen Platten, Mary Reath, Max Steinberg OBE FRSA, Dame Mary Tanner DBE.

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