09 January 2017
Time for an authentic shared society
The Evangelical Alliance welcomes Prime Minister Theresa May's commitment to renewing a 'shared society'. The Church in the UK has long championed the need for government to focus attention on fostering civil society and cultivating a sense of common good.
Evangelicals are, and always will be active citizens. Across all the nations of the UK, the vibrant and diverse evangelical constituency is serving and leading in communities long blighted by the "burning injustices" that Mrs May refers to. But we don't just want to pick up the pieces from failed political experiments. We want to play a central role in providing the solutions.
The government has an important role to play in providing practical help and removing unhelpful obstacles in these vital endeavours. The Church needs to be freed to play its part in achieving the shared society envisaged by the prime minister.
The 'Big Society' motif of the previous administration had much to commend in it, but in the end it played second fiddle to the social and economic agendas of liberalism. We hope that Mrs May's administration will move beyond this approach and develop a more grounded vision for really helping those who need help. A shared society means partnering with those in local communities who know about the problems in how to find and fund solutions.
There are many challenges ahead in realising Mrs May's vision. While we commend the vision, a shared society must go beyond warm words. Renewing civil society must start with attention being given to supporting relationships - of marriage, family, community and nation - and the Church has a key role to play in fostering and supporting those relationships. For a deep and lasting effect for people and communities who feel that they have been left behind in recent decades, the government must take tangible action. We recommend that:
- The government do more to practically to acknowledge the vital role that faith plays in supporting social cohesion, and the vast role that the Christian faith has played in cultivating the British values that we have long enjoyed.
- The government has an important role to play in ensuring that freedom of religion and belief (including unbelief) is protected and valued in the UK, and that faith communities are enabled to play a vibrant role in the space where neither market nor state is the best solution.
There are important limits to the roles of both the market and state in fostering a shared society, as the prime minister acknowledged in her speech, the state should only interfere where it is helpful and legitimate to do so.
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Notes to Editors
- The full text of the prime minister's speech is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-shared-society-prime-ministers-speech-at-the-charity-commission-annual-meeting
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK's two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We're here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it's celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK - we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.