This report from ResPublica argues that the Church must become an enabling institution focussed on holistic, interpersonal and local social action. Local government and churches should work together to fight deep-seated poverty and social dysfunction.
Holistic Mission: Social Action and the Church of England reveals that the Church drives social action, and calls for the Government to recognise and harness this power for the common good.
The report demonstrates that the Church has a truly unique place in English society, and is the key to unlocking a revolution in both voluntary and statutory public service provision. It argues that we need new institutions for the 21st century, and that the Church is well-placed to become one.
Drawing on new survey data, specifically commissioned for this research, the report reveals that the Church promotes social action with 79% of Anglican congregations formally volunteer compared with only 49% of the general public and 90% of church congregations informally volunteering compared to 54% of the general public.
The Church is hyper-local with 90% of Anglican volunteers participating in social action within 2 miles of their home and 88% travelling under 2 miles to attend church.
The research also shows that belief drives volunteering, but volunteers don’t proselytise. 61% of Anglican volunteers strongly agreed they were motivated by their faith, but 88% are comfortable helping those with different beliefs or values.
The report argues that the Church is not simply a source of willing volunteers, but also a vital motor of social cohesion and social action. Local churches have access to people on a direct human level and are connected to communities at a level more local and more personal than most government service providers. The report demonstrates that the beliefs of the church are central to its success in this and that the gigantic potential of the church must not be seen as independent from its foundational ethos.
The report makes a series of recommendations for both Church and Government. It urges the Cabinet Office to create a unit to help involve the church in public service delivery, and to help explore alternative models of delivery. Also it should bring forward a new White Paper to investigate a holistic and personalised vision of public service.
The Church is urged to set up a Social Action Unit to co-ordinate social action across dioceses and between Church and government. This Social Action Unit should in turn oversee the creation of diocesan Social Action Teams to work with community groups and local government to tackle local problems and deliver services.