06 July 2011

Big Society: Engagement not endorsement, says Methodist Church

Today the Methodist Church agreed that, despite many concerns expressed by Methodists about the Big Society, churches must not walk away from opportunities to serve their communities.

A report to presented to the annual Methodist Conference expressed serious concerns about the Government's use of the Big Society initiative to justify cuts in public spending.

"We are already seeing the impact of spending cuts on local charities, hitting the lives of the most vulnerable and making the changes promised by the Big Society harder to deliver," said Rachel Lampard, Public Issues Policy Adviser. "Even if the emphasis on local decision-making and volunteering isn't a cynical cover for spending cuts it certainly makes the 'new austerity' politically possible."

The Conference also raised concerns about how the implementation of Big Society initiatives might benefit some communities while leaving others behind.

"Not everyone will be able to join in the Big Society and benefit from its opportunities to the same degree," continued Ms Lampard. "Communities that lack resilience, confidence, practical and inner resources will be less able to participate, and may end up in competition with more articulate and powerful communities. The Big Society will look very different in Kensington and Chelsea than it will in Kensington, Liverpool. In reality, the Big Society could reinforce the fault lines in an already fractured Britain."

However, despite these concerns Ms Lampard argued that the Church's response should not be one of disengagement: "Methodists don't walk away because things get difficult. We are called to continue engaging, identifying who needs us and who we can work alongside. We are called to live out our faithful, long-term commitment to others. This has to be part of our mission as active followers of Jesus Christ."

This report recommended that the Methodist Church should to continue to speak publicly about justice, whilst serving its communities locally, nationally and internationally. The Church was also encouraged to continue examining its own practices to ensure that it promotes equality and works towards a society in which all can participate. 

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